Since the turn of the century perhaps no researcher has been more influential in the endurance world than Stephen Seiler. His study of polarized training methods has framed a new discussion on training intensities thanks to an innovative research approach that started by looking at what elite athletes actually do. On this week’s podcast Seiler joins us to dissect his past research, discuss future projects, and more.
Notes and quotes
Seiler is currently a dean at the University of Agder in Norway, which is a long way from his roots in the American south. To start off the episode he talks about his journey to Norway, and how his research evolved in parallel. In addition, he discusses his recent work on high intensity training, general thoughts on interpreting sports science, and more.
- 4:30 – Seiler’s background and career journey.
- 7:00 – Transitioning from power to endurance sports. “To be a good applied sports scientist, you need to feel what you are asking your subjects to do. “
- 14:30 – The genesis of Seiler’s polarized training research. “You have a lot of people talking about threshold training, but that doesn’t seem to be what elite athletes are doing. “
- 22:00 – Continued research in the area. “When they made their hard days harder they got better, but when they made the easy days harder they fell apart. ” “People think I make it look like elite athletes don’t train hard since they do all this easy work, but when the top athletes do the hard sessions they are legendary. “
- 26:30 – What is easy. “The easy must be easy. ” “Easy doesn’t mean mindless. It’s not trash miles. You are always working on some aspect of your performance. Elite athletes have amazing discipline here. “
Recent research and other thoughts on sports science
- 31:00 – Recent research on high intensity interval training (HIIT). “Can we optimize interval training through better prescriptions? There is no perfect interval, but we can help people understand what they are manipulating. ” “Recreational athletes tend to choose short intervals, while elite athletes stretch the intervals out and get more minutes in total. It reels them back to an area they can work more and won’t blow up. “
- 38:00 – Looking at shorter and micro intervals. “I love crossfit, but those guys aren’t going to win the mile. ” “Rest length is more critical with short intervals. “
- 41:00 – Training myths. “We need to get rid of the no pain, no gain mantra. You can’t go out every day and suffer; there has to be variation in the loading physiologically and psychologically. To do the really extraordinary efforts you need to be able to mobilize everything. “
- 45:00 – Concurrent training and strength training for endurance athletes. “You can find an example to fit any belief system. You have to ask how or why it would help and see if that’s what you need. “
- 50:00 – Advice on interpreting research for non-scientists. “Make sure the study is not trying to hide individual variation behind the pretty bar graph. ” “Elite athletes don’t learn much from studying a population where just getting off the sofa will get you better. “
To hear more about these topics you can listen to the full episode above. If you like what you hear on the GAINcast, don’t forget to give us a review and subscribe on iTunes.
The following links were referenced in the podcast or provide some additional reading material on the topic:
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- Also don’t forget to join HMMR Plus. Sign up and get access to numerous webinars, online meetups, articles, our sports science newsletter, and more. This month’s theme is transfer of training; stay tuned for input from a variety of elite coaches on the topic.
- For more endurance topics here on HMMR Media, check out our endurance topic overview.
- You can follow Seiler on Twitter (@StephenSeiler). You can learn more about him on his faculty page and find his articles on Research Gate. You can also watch on of his presentations on Vimeo.
- One topic we did not cover here is the relevance of polarized training concepts to speed/power sports. Listen to Episode 3 of the HMMR Podcast for more on that topic.