Basic Endurance Training Principles With Coach Adam Pulford

About This Episode:

In this week’s episode, Coach Adam Pulford takes us through the basic training principles you should be using to guide the structure of your training plan. 

Episode Highlights:

  • The 6 basic training principles 
  • Fitness vs. performance
  • The different periodization models
  • The single most important part of recovery

Resources mentioned in the show:

Listen to the episode on Apple PodcastsSpotifyStitcherGoogle Podcasts, or on your favorite podcast platform

Thanks To This Week’s Sponsor:

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Episode Transcription:

Please note that this is an automated transcription and may contain errors. Please refer to the episode audio for clarification.

Adam Pulford (00:00):

I took pause last week in the midst of shaping up some episodes in working with athletes, because through observation, conversation emails, online forums, webinars, he YouTube and articles. It seems we can all get lost in the confusion around training with the abundance of opinions that we all have. Therefore, I don’t know if we, as coaches and content creators in this space are always doing a great job of communicating how training works. We seem to do a fair job at discussing the latest research in what’s working. What’s not working and report on the trending topics. And I think all that is important and necessary. We need cutting edge to drive innovation, and we want to deliver on the topics that are timely, no changing that. Okay. We need grounding in the basics though in the basic training principles, because this explains how the latest and greatest works as well as providing a better foundation for how to make decisions on your own training journey as a self coached athlete, or as a coach listening to this, or as someone who just wants to learn more, okay, it’s on the fly decision-making that is very well done.

Adam Pulford (01:24):

When you have a better understanding of the basic foundation in physiology. As I mentioned at the start of the year, the goal for this year’s show was to deliver more simple and actionable training tips with education in different formats. Today, you’ll just have me coach at them, speaking to you on basic training concepts, exploring why we train what we train, how we train and when best to do it. So bear with me as this is my first podcast in audio experience and even video experience. I doing this because we were putting this on YouTube. Now bear with me as we go, and I’ll do the best that I can to deliver the information, uh, as has, uh, effective as I can. So first to get that grounding, the, the question that I want to ask everyone listening here is why do we train? Why do you train everybody has their reason.

Adam Pulford (02:28):

And I, I’m going to challenge you right now just to just think, to ask and answer yourself, why you train, if nothing comes to mind is spent spend more time in that because that’s, that’s, that’s an answer that you will want to ask yourself for various reasons and we’ll get into it. But if, if things do come to mind, okay, right now than then, you’re, I would say you’re you’re, you’re on par. You’re fairly normal. You’ve got some self-awareness going on, which is, which is great, but we all have, we all have our unique aspects of why we train. Some of is, uh, fitness and weight loss is winning a goal race. It’s finishing your first triathlon. It’s uh, doing a bucket list event, doing the gnarly gravel ride, whatever it is. Okay. Now it could go deeper than that. You could have some, some deeper reasons on why you are doing this, why you’re spending all the time and money and hours week after week, grinding through intervals and, and, uh, in, in training your face off.

Adam Pulford (03:36):

Okay. But even if it comes down to, it is just fun to do. I’m fine with that. Okay. But you want to answer yourself why I know it because when the going gets tough and we’re trying to work on some solutions to deciding on training strategies, that’s where we come back to the why to help us answer that and make a decision. Okay. But in the end, we’re all preparing for a future outcome. That’s what training is. Okay. We’re preparing for something that we want to occur relative to where we are now. And now once we know the why of this, we’ll come back to this to help in the groaning of, uh, what we’re trying to do. Okay. So that’s high level, that’s big picture. And in some people will resonate because they read Simon Sinek’s book and, uh, start with why, if you haven’t read it, I suggest going forward.

Adam Pulford (04:36):

It’s a great book. It centers a lot on this, but I think it pertains to many avenues in life, including training and including being an athlete. Okay. So what is training? Okay. That seems like a very basic question, but I think it’s worth diving into here a little bit more because we talk a lot about it, but yet we sometimes can get lost just as I said in the intro. So specifically training is the stress stimulus needed to get tired. We’ll talk about that later in order to, and then with adequate rest, from that stimulus, we adapt to this future outcome. Okay. So the training is the stimulus and I threw out some other words that were with rest and adaptation. Where are these words coming from? And actually comes from the general adaptation syndrome, which goes back about a hundred years now with Huns Sally.

Adam Pulford (05:40):

And he he’s the grandfather of this, uh, stress and rest concept. Okay. The equation that he created was stress plus rest equals adaptation. Now he, he drived this in like, you know, he’s a biologist. Okay. So he was applying this to all organisms. Okay. And not to get into his life history of sorts. But this is where the basic training principles are derived from. Now, we’ll get into those principles here in just a second. But to break that down the stress or the stimulus needs to be applied, you, the athlete then needs to rest. Then we form an adaptation. That adaptation is that future outcome that we are looking for in terms of a higher FTP, a higher VO, two max, a higher sprint, a faster 5k, whatever it is. Okay. That’s the adaptation training is the stress rest recovery and various modalities there that’s, that’s the rest component.

Adam Pulford (06:51):

Okay. And this equation is something that I come back to as a coach on a very regular basis. I’ll even remind my athletes of this as we are training, because the whole purpose of training is to simply get tired. Okay. It is to overload the system. We’ll talk about what overload means, but it is to get tired. Then you rest, you recover. Then we formed the adaptation in a way we go, it’s very, very simple and it should not be overlooked. The simplicity of it. I’m not saying it’s easy because again, it’s, there’s a lot of confusion out there. Okay. And it’s in, I’ve been doing this for a really long time and I’ve done that high levels and I do it on various levels now. Okay. But this is the governing equation. This is the governing kind of principle that I hang my hat on. Okay. So now what do we train? If training is the stimulus to that equation, what do we actually train?

Adam Pulford (07:55):

The way I look at it is just two things that we’re really training or developing. And that is fitness and performance. They’re two separate things. Th they, they interact together. Okay. But they are two separate things. So let me, let me quickly define these two things fitness. And these are the, these are basically my definition, my working definitions for the sake of this podcast. Okay. And this is stuff that I tell my athletes and teach my outfits. So fitness is how much training you are doing or can tolerate during a certain time period. And it’s pretty accepted that training stress score or TSS is a good measurement of that. Now I use training peaks. You’ve heard me use training peaks terminologies on this podcast before I use that in my daily coaching. And, uh, some of you may be using other, uh, calendars of sorts and, and, uh, principles to organize your training.

Adam Pulford (08:55):

But, uh, I think we can all kind of ground in this training, stress score, there’s trim scores and other things out there, but training stress score, that is the way that I measure fitness. And it is simply looking at how much time you’re spending at intensity. And there’s a score derived based on your functional threshold power now to keep it very simple. Every time that you work out, you get points. That’s your train, stress score. That’s your score for the day in that fitness is looking at how well you’re training. Okay. Now that is separate from performance because performance is the execution of specific physical routines within the context of a sport or activity. Okay. I’ll, I’ll say that again. Performance is the execution of specific physical routines within the context of a sport or activity. Okay. What does that mean? Well, simply for the bike it’s power duration.

Adam Pulford (09:53):

How much power are you producing for how long for the run and swim it’s pace? What is the pace that you’re holding for? How long? Okay. Really simple stuff. And then I would say once one step further in terms of performance winning. Okay. And that applies to all sports because when we’re talking about specific endurance athletics here, uh, pace and power prevail, there’s other sports right out there and winning in all sports that’s performance. Okay. And, and there’s, there’s, that’s the game that’s being played, not just a pacer power, however, an endurance athletics, whoever can do really good pace and power high and fast, they have the, the resources to then play the game at the level they want. Let’s just put it that way and we’ll, we’ll keep it, we’ll keep it at that for right now. Okay. So fitness and performance, two separate things.

Adam Pulford (10:50):

And I’ll encourage you to think about it in two separate ways, because it’s going to help you to stay organized with the thought pattern as we go. Okay. So to achieve your goals in, in these endurance sports and to execute your why, here’s what I think you need to know right now to set this plan up. You need to know the current status of your fitness. You need to get a baseline of your performance. You need to develop a plan to improve each of those. And then you need to monitor, monitor those aspects over time to make sure that your plan is working and in accordance with your why. Okay. Now we’re going to unpack a lot of that, but again, simply put in it, know your current fitness status, get a baseline of your performance. I call that field testing, develop a plan to improve.

Adam Pulford (11:50):

Each of them, a lot of people will call that periodization. I call it developing a plan. We’ll talk about periodization here in a bit, and then you need to monitor this over time to make sure that it’s working in accordance to your goals and know your, why come back to that? Okay. So how do we train? Well, there’s so many, anyways, there’s so many ways to train. And honestly, this is where, uh, uh, even myself as, as a, as an athlete, as a coach over time, I mean, still to this day, I mean, I can get confused, uh, from training topics and all this kind of stuff, but there’s literally so many different avenues that you can take someone’s training. And, you know, when I’m trying to justify, uh, what I’m doing to say a board of coaches or to the athlete themselves, or, um, to a team director or a manager or something like this, you gotta be able to back up your plan.

Adam Pulford (12:44):

Okay. And so what is, what is the best plan? In my opinion, there, there is no one best plan. Okay, well, we’ll talk about that. But the different ways of train that is topic, those topics will be part of the future episodes that are coming, which is why I wanted to do this episode in the first place, because we’re going to drill down into what are some of those training modalities that will work for you as an athlete, um, specifically during different time periods. Okay. The main thing for you when you’re trying to ask yourself of like, okay, well, how, how do I train? There are six principles that I would say are the most important things for you to keep in mind when you’re deciding how best to train. So I want to go over those, those six right now, I’ll go through them one through six, and then I’ll explain them a little bit more. So those six basic training, those are overload progression, recovery, specificity, reversibility in individuality.

Adam Pulford (13:56):

What these mean are overload. You need to stress the system beyond baseline. What is baseline? Well, I need to go out and do you need to go follow it and find out what the baseline is? And I’ll talk about that here in a minute, we use field testing in order to do it and, uh, swim, bike, run its power or pace. And there’s a certain way to identify thresholds. Once you identify those thresholds, you can then create training ranges in, carry on. Okay. But an overload is only achieved when you’ve gone beyond what is a current homeotic okay. In terms of like where you’re sitting right now, fitness and performance, and it usually pertains to a short term, uh, like per session type of basis. So we’re looking at a stress or a strain for a one day sort of situation progression. This speaks to a little bit more longer term period, think like week or month.

Adam Pulford (14:59):

Okay. And it’s looking at kind of a bigger picture, a similarity to overload. It’s looking at the intensity of how much stress or strain is going into that athlete for a certain time period. And we want to be gradual with delivering overload to an athlete, meaning we want to chunk it up in throughout a week. Okay. So we don’t want just like one huge Epic 10 hour day to get you super tired and then your rest for six days. And then you do it again, think of progression and overload together, but we’re dosing the training stimulus over time. And that’s how progression and overload work recovery. I already spoke about this in the stress. Plus rest equals adaptation. Recovery is the rest component of that vital equation. Without it, you won’t form an adaptation. Okay. That’s in, in straight up rest is truly that important, everyone.

Adam Pulford (16:02):

Okay. And it it’s, uh, it’s a time period that we’re talking about in, in sleeps included in that. So it’s anything that you’re doing when you’re not training really as well, how I would quantify rest. There are really intelligent ways to do it, and there’s really unintelligent ways to do it. But the best aspect of recovery that I could really stress to you in a very simplistic way is sleep. Make sure that you’re sleeping seven to nine hours per night in that you go to bed and wake up at basically the same time per day. You do that. And that is the best form of recovery that I could honestly give you right now, outside of changing anything else in your, in your life. Okay. So assuming that you’re doing proper training, if you need better recovery habits, start with sleep specificity, simply put, this is the concept of whatever you want to do, do that, because that is the best form of training to get good at something.

Adam Pulford (17:04):

Okay. So if you want to become a better cyclist, you ride a bike. If you want to become a better swimmer, you swim. If you want to become a better runner, you run so on and so forth. Now there’s, you can then get more specific to that. So, right. Um, it’s the demands of the event. It’s looking at the specific things that occur in a bike race, for example, we’re in a triathlon and you want, so if you’re bad at something you want to improve, that you do that thing. Okay. That’s simply what we’re talking about in terms of specificity. Reversability this is the guiding principle of, if you don’t use it, you lose it. Okay. And this is how, this is how fitness works. I mean, think about it. The, you know, if you did training last year at this time, right? There’s certain, there’s certain aspects of that, that there’s chronic adaptations going on, but, uh, to, to make things really simple, you will come back to your baseline if you don’t train it.

Adam Pulford (18:06):

Okay. So you and some of us can, can probably, uh, resonate with that in some regard. Um, but the way I kind of work this in, in athletes, uh, training calendars is we turn things up when we need it. And we turn things down when we don’t need it. One example is threshold training, for example, um, certain times a period or a certain times a year where we need more threshold training. So we do that. And then if we, so we trained threshold and then we get more of it when we don’t need it, we don’t train it. And then it goes down. So just think about it, very simplistically like that

Speaker 2 (18:47):

And your body, I mean, your body. Yeah.

Adam Pulford (18:50):

Maybe I shouldn’t get into this, but your body is kind of lazy. In some regard it wants homeostasis. It wants to be efficient. So carrying a training adaptation that you’re not doing, doesn’t make sense to it. Therefore it’s not going to retain it. That’s the best way I can. I can probably verbalize that concept. All right. And then we have individuality. This is where one size fits all concept that doesn’t work. And in the more, the stronger the analytics are in, uh, monitoring endurance athletes, the better we are getting at devising training to help with that individuality individuality of the athlete. Okay. And this is where in future episodes, we’ll get into this a little bit more so that you can, you can hone in on who you are as an athlete in train, more intelligently in order to achieve your end goal in order to answer that. Why?

Adam Pulford (19:55):

All right. So that those are the six basic training principles that govern, uh, much of how I coach of how I do, uh, build training programs for my athletes and how I think about situations or scenarios that we’re trying to figure out with an athlete. Now, how do I organize all of those, those concepts? This is where puritization comes in. So one thing about periodization is just think of it from a big picture standpoint. It is a way to get and stay organized. Okay. But if you do your research and you read a tutor Mamba, for example, he’s one of the preeminent authors on periodization. However, much of the historical literature and science that comes from puritization comes from the block and the concept of three up one down or three weeks of training, one week of recovery, the reason why that exists and it does work.

Adam Pulford (20:59):

Okay. That’s one, that’s one way of kind of conceptualizing training. The reason why they found that to work was actually born out of, uh, the longer-term cycles who have a think of an Olympic cycle. And then they needed to organize into smaller cycles of training. But that magical three and one actually came along around a lot because of the drugs being used. Okay. And a lot of people don’t know that, okay. They were read about it and I’ll include some of this, uh, historical, uh, information in the episode links. But what they did was they were training these athletes. They had them on drugs, performance enhancing drugs. And what they found was they needed to cycle the drugs out. But yet during that, during that drug cycle, during the time period where they couldn’t have drugs in the system, they couldn’t do as much training.

Adam Pulford (21:53):

So they had to decrease training. Okay. Then the drugs came back up and then the training came back up and they were like, Oh, look, look at that rhythm goes up and down, up and down three weeks up, one week down, that’s how it worked. That’s where it was born from. Now take the drugs away. And we find that the tr that, that training rhythm works in normal athletes as well. Okay. The reason why I tell you that, and it’s not to promote performance enhancing drugs, it is to educate you that there is nothing mythical about periodization concepts. Okay. And in particular, three up one down, what you want to do is figure out a rhythm that flows with you developing good plan, because in my opinion, a good plan based in these basic training principles is better than no plan at all, because it helps you to keep organized.

Adam Pulford (22:49):

It helps you to think about where you’re going, and it helps you to become more self-aware of your training and how it’s affecting you and how much rest you actually need. Okay. I know that was a rant and I know it’s also like edgy, but I think it’s important to talk about because if you think that you need traditional puritization and, and one-year cycles or four year cycles or anything like this, you don’t. Okay. And in another way of, of, uh, another puritization concept or model out there is called undulating periodization. So you can, you can go out and read a little bit more about that. And that would be something where I use on a pretty regular basis in conjunction with traditional puritization with, uh, four year, uh macrocycles and one year cycles and things like this. Okay. So we got down a little rabbit hole, even, even by myself, but it’s a fun rabbit hole to go down. All right. So next, when do we train? Well, I’ll get philosophical here while I take a drink.

Adam Pulford (23:53):

When do we train? I would argue that we are always training. And the reason why I say that is if training is the stimulus that you’re doing for the future outcome. And if you go back to the training principles that we were talking about, one is reversibility. Meaning if you don’t use it, you lose it, right. Everything that you are doing every single day plays into training, because who you are now is part of that future outcome. And I know that’s like a little like a heady for some where you’re like, what, but if you think about it, everything that you do, you know, the, the, the training stimulus, the sleeping cycle, the food that you eat, the thoughts you think all of that plays into your athletic self. And so I think it’s actually really important to think about everything that you’re doing plays into that training outcome.

Adam Pulford (24:54):

Okay. Stress plus rest equals adaptation. What are the stresses that you’re doing right now, physically, mentally, what are the rests that you’re doing right now? Meaning non training, keeping intensity, low sleep cycles, this type of thing in does all of that funnel into the adaptation that you want, or the future outcome. And does that continual future outcome, does that answer your why? Okay. So when do we train? Well, all the time. Okay. How do we get organized with it? We plan, we use periodization concepts. Okay. How best do we do that? Well, we’ll get into that. We’ve got some really cool episodes coming. I’m going to bring Tim Cusak back on. Uh, he did a really great, uh, podcast with us last year, talking about three different training modalities. And he’ll be the next episode, the next guest on, on, um, uh, that I’ll be interviewing where we’ll talk about, uh, some of these things more in depth.

Adam Pulford (26:06):

So if I’m not answering your questions that are being populated in your head, as we go, I’d say, hold tight and wait for that episode, as well as, uh, one with Dr. Stephen Seiler, because these episodes will go in different, different ways that, that you probably haven’t heard before. So, uh, just a little teaser on that. Okay. But now that, that, when do we train? Okay. Think about your training all the time. Are you going in the direction that you want? Only you can answer that. Okay. Now it’s time to take action. Okay. So if, if all of these very basic things that I’m talking about today, if it’s resonating with you, if you’re, if you’re curious to do that more it’s time for you to do something about it, you know, in my opinion. And so it could be to take a hard line, look at the training that you’re doing and why you’re doing it.

Adam Pulford (27:03):

Okay. Um, and it could be to, you know, maybe everything that I said, you’re like, Oh yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Um, and that’s, that’s exactly what I do so cool. Great for you. But for those who are wanting to take the training in a different way and in try some, some different things that I talked about, okay. I would go back and say, answer that why spend some time? I personally, I like to write when I, when I think that’s, that’s how I do my thinking. Okay. And if we’re training 500, 700, 900 hours a year doing this endurance sport, and we’re just going, going, going, and you can’t answer, like why I train, I would put some time into that. Okay. In terms of how it affects you. And it, and again, if it’s just like that, it’s just so much fun to me.

Adam Pulford (27:54):

Great. Fun is your, why come back to that? Okay. But that’s first and foremost, the second is get your baselines that’s field testing. I’ll talk about that real quick. Right now, just very simple. Cause I’ll include some resources in, on the landing page with this, but field testing. Uh, for what I do with my athletes are the very basic things that I do with my athletes for in the swim. It’s a thousand yard time trial. Okay. And I take that average time and I, you know, make sure that they went hard. This is a near max effort, time trials for everyone listening your max effort for the given duration or distance. Okay. So we want to go hard, but we want good pacing over time. I want to look at that average pace in the pool. I then use calculators on training peaks. This is what I’m telling you.

Adam Pulford (28:43):

Very simple stuff for you guys to do online with a training peaks account, get the average pace for that thousand yard time trial. Use the threshold calculator on training peaks, CTS calculator, and away you go for the bike. Typically I use 20 or 30 minute time trials. Okay. If you, if you can go longer, I encourage you to go longer. I even have some of my athletes go 60 minutes. Okay. And what we’re trying to find is a threshold, but we can find in, in estimate thresholds by doing a 20 minute time trial, which for athletes just starting out that haven’t gone hard or need to have something that they can wrap their brains around a little bit more. Yeah. I’d probably start with the 20 minute time trial. You can take 95% of that. Use that threshold number to go into training peaks and create training zones.

Adam Pulford (29:40):

30 is better in my opinion. And if you do 30 minutes, you can simply use that number, go online and create your training zones. If you’re very, very new and in 20 or 30 minutes seems very daunting. And you know, your head explodes at a 60 minute time trial. CTS also has a calculator based around an eight minute time trial. Okay. And I’ll include a link in on that. That’s a two by eight time trial and you can create training zones on there. So there’s many ways to do this. If I were to encourage you to do anything, I do 30 minutes then with the run also 30 minute time trial go large, feel like a nine going on 10, pace it out, find your baselines, find your edge, and then create the training zones because those training zones will then be part of the tools in your toolbox in order to make the decisions to do what you do in your training in order to get to where you want or that future outcome in how you do that.

Adam Pulford (30:43):

Well, you have to get a plan, honestly, because like I said before, a good plan is better than no plan at all. A great plan is best. Some coaches even say a bad plan is better than no plan. And I don’t know if that is necessarily the case because you can, you can really mess yourself up, I guess, with, with a, a bad plan. So I’ll, I’ll say good and great plans for sure. And where to get those good and great plans. Well, uh, get a coach, honestly. I mean, I mean, it sounds like a shameless plug and sure it is, but if these, if you’re not jazzed up to take on a little hobby of educating yourself in physiology and training, and you don’t want to think about it, a coach will help you answer those questions, hire them for six months, 12 months in and just get the basic education so that you can have the awareness and tools to then devise your own methods.

Adam Pulford (31:41):

Uh, but it’s a really good starting point. And if you don’t have the budget for that, uh, w we’ve created a CTS membership as well, which is, um, on, on include a link on that, on the landing page as well. Or you can just go to train, and then you can find it there, um, on online. And what that is is for about 20 bucks a month, you can get access to a lot of different plans. You have access to our coaches through Q and A’s and online forms. And you also get access to discounts and deals that are within the, the endurance sport industry. So it’s, it’s kind of catered and queued up for those who are curious about training that don’t want it, or can’t commit to say a six or 12 month and coaching package. And I think it’s, I really do think it’s a valuable resource for that.

Adam Pulford (32:33):

Now, the other thing I’m not trying to push those aspects on you, but again, if, if those don’t fit, what you’re looking for, stay grounded in basic physiology and stay grounded in these principles that I was talking about and start to plan out and map and think about what you’re doing with your training in, in where you’re going, because you will find so much greater success in the effort that you’re giving to your training. And I think that you’ll find even more joy in doing it that way. When you, when you get a little organized, you find your, your baselines and he finds your why, and then you can carry on your training. So, um, I know that that was kind of a rant in very, um, it’s a new, uh, kind of a new concept for the podcast of, of, uh, just hearing me talk at you as opposed to having an interview. But I thought it was really important to ground us all in, in these basic principles, because it sets a stage for what and who’s to come. And so I hope you enjoyed, uh, I hope you enjoyed this. I hope I didn’t bore you too much. And, uh, I look forward to, I really look forward to interviewing these, these next guests, and I hope you enjoy the car

Speaker 3 (33:55):

Tend as well. So.

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