erin carson

Off-the-Bike Training: Body, Brain, and Breath Training with Erin Carson

Topics Covered In This Episode:

  • Absolute strength vs. Resilient strength
  • The principles of Foundation Training
  • The differences between Foundation Training and Yoga for performance
  • Foam rolling (does it work and should you do it?)
  • The role of movement in hydrating tissues
  • Getting stronger and faster without increasing muscle size
  • Increasing ‘rate of force production’
  • Breath work for spinal stabilization and expansion of rib cage
  • Belly breathing vs. decompression breathing


Adam Pulford has been a CTS Coach for more than 13 years and holds a B.S. in Exercise Physiology. He’s participated in and coached hundreds of athletes for endurance events all around the world.

Guest Bio

Erin Carson is co-owner and operator of RallySport, a Boulder, Colorado training facility and health club. As the head coach for ECFIT she provides strength training programs for endurance athletes seeking to perform at their very best in triathlons, marathons, and cycling events. Her clients include world champions and Olympians as well as everyday athletes seeking excellence.

Erin has also found success as a triathlete, highlighted by her 6th place age group finish at the 2016 70.3 World Championships in Maloolooba, Australia, as well as multiple podium finishes over the last 5 years. Erin is a life-long athlete who attended The University of Colorado on a basketball scholarship where she was one of the top NCAA D1 basketball players.

Erin’s Credentials:

  • B.S. Kinesiology, University of Colorado
  • M.S. Administration,  University of Nebraska
  • Masters Studies, Tulane University
  • NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist
  • EXOS Performance Coach (pending)
  • Titleist Performance Coach L2
  • NASM Certified Personal Trainer
  • NASM Performance Enhancement Specialist
  • NASM Corrective Exercise Specialist
  • PTA Global Certified Personal Trainer
  • PTA Global Advanced Personal Trainer
  • Foundations Instructor L2

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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 (00:00:00):

In the past two episodes, we’ve covered how having a d training period planned out and deployed into your training program can help your body recover from months and months of built up stress and strain from your primary sport. We then discussed how and when to implement strength training into your off season, along with keeping it into your habits year round for the most effective way to have strength training in, in part three of the off the bike training series. I want to go a bit deeper into the muscle physiology, some of the neurophysiology and explore why all of this training that we do off the bike is good, what the actual benefits are to you as an athlete, and also touch on some different techniques that we have not yet discussed on this podcast. To do that, I bring in one of my favorite all time guests.


She’s been on the podcast before and she has just, you know, different angles on training athletes. So we had a great conversation. We went a little long, so you might have to break it up into a couple different listenings, but trust me, it’s super worth it. So strap in, clip in, buckle in, whatever you’re doing to listen and enjoy the show. Welcome back or welcome to the Train Wright podcast. I’m your host coach, Adam Pulford. If you’ve been around the sports of triathlon or cycling, or you tune into this podcast, you’ve heard the name Erin Carson. She’s a former guest on the train, right podcast and owner of EC Fit in Boulder, Colorado. Erin, welcome back to the show.

Erin Carson (00:01:40):

Adam, it’s great to be here. Thanks.

Adam Pulford (00:01:42):

It’s great to have you. So, since we last spoke, which was I think at the, like, the height of the pandemic <laugh>, what’s, which is feels like forever ago, but what’s been going on?

Erin Carson (00:01:56):

You know, the, the pandemic changed so many things. Sometimes created challenges to overcome and sometimes just brought a ton of focus into the time somehow coming down to this anchor that it, that, that time was a gift to all of us to be able to go deeper without so many com competitions. Perhaps getting in the way because training and racing is, is that constant cycle, and even in with a young athlete, you know, we always have to have our athletes prepared for competition, but when there wasn’t any competition, it really allowed the work that, that I do as a as a strength coach and as a performance enhancement specialist to really be able to go deeper without that constant distraction of racing. And now that racing is coming back, it’s pretty exciting to see people in all different all different conditions, whether it be good because they were ready for the competitions, or perhaps it was even bad for some because they were not ready for competition.


So we see a lot of pros with injuries or overuse things, and they just got so excited and perhaps a little bit afraid that the racing would go away again. So I think we’ve seen all kinds of different adjustments being made, but for the most part the athletes that I have the opportunity to work with, and I’ve, and I’ve gotten a lot of new athletes as well through the, through the process. So I’m just glad that I don’t think we’re fully through the pandemic, but I think I’m very cautiously optimistic that people are learning how to function within a new realm of reality around racing and training and wellness and health, and maybe placing a little bit more importance on health, which is probably pretty good.

Adam Pulford (00:03:53):

Yeah, that’s a, that’s a very valid point to make there with the focus on health and yeah, I don’t, I don’t think we’re on the backside of this thing yet. It’s certainly threw in a ripple effect into our little sport of endurance, our little community of endurance. And yeah, I remember talking to you about a little bit of a blank slate of what we’re doing with our athletes to go deeper into those things. So well, for our listeners who may have not have listened to the first episode, could you just give us the 32nd pitch of what EC fit is and what you specialize in?

Erin Carson (00:04:29):

Well, being in Boulder, I’m kind of in the mecca of, of endurance sports, so it’s a blessing for me to have been. I own a gym here in Boulder, 40,000 square foot training facility called Rally Sport. I’m one of a few owners, it’s a big club but I’m also a strength and conditioning specialist and watching how some of the best athletes in the world have gone about their gym work has been both exciting and made me question things, made me question athletes and, and perhaps by the work that I’ve done with a lot of really great mentors and experts in performance been able to bring that level of expertise and perhaps pairing back some of the traditional strength and conditioning concepts to meet endurance athletes, kind of where they are, which is, they carry a high level of fatigue.


So you can’t just throw the kitchen sink of strength work at an endurance athlete because it won’t usually be successful because of the, the amount of training that, that we do. And I’ll say we, because I’m at a triathlete myself, I enjoy cycling and, and I hope to enjoy it for a long time. So I think understanding what, what each athlete needs has been a really fun process figuring out how to individualize the process, but also to recognize that we all should kind of meet in that, in that anchor of wellness and health and movement as probably the first layer towards strength and conditioning that an athlete does in fact move really well before we start adding a bunch of load.

Adam Pulford (00:06:17):

Yeah. Yeah. That’s it. And for endurance athletes, I mean, a little dose goes a long way. And, you know, we’ll get into that a little bit more because it’s, it’s important to keep, I’ve spoke on this on other episodes too, but to keep that at the helm, I, I do think for a lot of endurance athletes, because we wanna just punch through hard training and think hard training’s always gonna happen, but it’s, it’s not, and I think that too helps frame up this episode, which you’re part three in a series of what we’re talking about is training off, off the bike or off the primary sport. And really it started with getting the athlete to de train or hit the reset button to get good rest from a long season in training before they ramp back up. And then from there, start adding in these, these other elements to get them stronger and healthier for 2023 or whatever the next, you know, phase is in your training.


So, you know, and then, you know, go back to our our first episode together that we did the, the original interview. We’ll pull on some pieces that we talked about there too. So it’s not gonna be <laugh> far away from what we’ve said before, but it’s a good reminder and we’re gonna add in some, some new elements here. So to get things properly framed up, I, I do find some athletes getting confused on how much the brain and the body are involved in the process of training. In other words, they think that it’s more about the muscles in the body than the brain giving the benefit. Do you see that as well, Aaron, in what you do <affirmative>?

Erin Carson (00:07:59):

Yes. muscles mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, we, I, I stopped training muscles a long time ago. <Laugh>, we train, that’s an we train movement. Yeah,


Good. Yeah. We train movement and we train performance. And, and through high performance athletes and really talented people the rest of us can learn because the little bit of tweaking that a high performance athlete needs and wants to get to that next level is very, very minute. Then you start working your way down from high performance world class athletes and you start finding that I can make a few errors with someone like myself. You know, I’m an, I’m a a competitive age group where I say competitive because I, I have not been ever in my mind a participant. I’m a competitor and I’m, I’ve got enough physical gifts that I’m gonna probably get on a podium or two each year. So for me, I can make less errors for someone who’s just getting into the sport. We can, we can throw a little bit more of the kitchen sink at ’em, and they’re gonna, they’re gonna get better. But always constantly learning from the pros from the world class athletes. That is probably the most exciting thing for all of us because we, we won’t screw it up too much for a recreational participant. Someone who just loves sport and wants to do it for a long time. We, there’s some room for error there. And it’s not bad error. It’s not like we’re gonna hurt people, but we’re, we’re able to not be as specific per se, and they’re still gonna feel better. Yeah.

Adam Pulford (00:09:41):

Yeah. I couldn’t agree with that more. And you know, when I’m on the topic of strength training or off the bike, off the run, off the swim training type stuff, I, I get a lot of, Hey, that’s, that’s great coach, but I don’t like lifting weights. I don’t like being in a gym. So what else can I do for that? What would be, do you find that as well? And what’s your response to that?

Erin Carson (00:10:07):

There’s a reason athletes don’t like the gym. And it’s funny cuz I, I, we’re, we’re gonna name drop in this podcast cuz drop. It’s okay. It’s okay. And Morgan, Morgan Pearson is a, is one of the top triathletes, short course triathletes. And I’ll, I’ll say pretty confidently in the world. He won a silver medal in Tokyo in the in the team relay in triathlon. And he’s just coming back from an injury, but when he came to me, he had an injury and he said, just so you know, I hate going to the gym. Yeah.


And I was like, I’ll take that as a challenge. Let’s go Kokomo. You know? And it was kind of like after the first two weeks and Morgan’s kind of a quiet introspective young man and I, I kind of went out on a limb after two weeks and I was like do you still hate the gym? And he didn’t even answer me at first. I don’t know if he remembers this, but I do. And I asked him again in two more weeks and he then had started reaching out to me and saying, are we doing Jim on Tuesday? Are we doing Jim? And then I knew we had, we had achieved that he was starting to not only enjoy it, but he was also primarily probably motivated by the results he was both seeing in his wattage and his feeling when he was training.


And also that he was enjoying the process. He understood that we were in a process. And so I think from a, from a coaching standpoint, from my perspective, it is always, always important to earn the trust of the athletes super early in the process. Yep. There’s a lot of strength coaches out there doing what I do working with, with high performance athletes. And I would hope that they’re doing the same thing. First and foremost is earn the trust and and intrigue of from their athletes. So they want to come back. So I always notice when an athlete reaches out to me first and says, are, are we doing gym on Tuesday? Are we, you know, can we do some more of that? They’re starting to really feel it in their performance. So it always has to serve the outcome. The outcome is to make the track session a little bit easier. The outcome is to make the bike feel a little bit better. They start recognizing that they’re, they’re performing better, they’re gonna keep coming back. So I think some of the processes that I’ve been able to put together with myself and, and my coaches has been a really, really good process with, with athletes. They feel it quite quickly.

Adam Pulford (00:12:30):

Yeah. Yeah. So it’s almost like if you, if you achieve better movement and better performance, whatever bias that athlete is bringing in is gonna be gone with whatever the

Erin Carson (00:12:43):

Move is. Yeah. Because

Adam Pulford (00:12:44):

Training pattern that you’re doing

Erin Carson (00:12:45):

Traditional, traditional strength training and weight training mm-hmm. <Affirmative> with, with a strength coach that isn’t, that doesn’t ride a bike or run in the mountains or swim in a pool mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, not to say that that strength coach can’t be really, really successful, but being able to feel it and feel that snap and that quickness and that fire is an advantage as from a strength coaching perspective, if you ask me, I know what it feels like to run off of a TT bike mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, you know, and I know what it feels like to feel good running off of a TT bike. Yeah. So,

Adam Pulford (00:13:16):

Yeah, that’s, there’s a

Erin Carson (00:13:17):

Difference there. That’s, that’s important. Yeah.

Adam Pulford (00:13:20):

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Well, you know, in in framing or in in thinking of this podcast too, there, there was like a third element of, you know, if we think about like the body and then we think of the brain, this third element that is very common in sport in our primary sport, but as well as in strength and yoga and in some of these other aspects is, is breath. And we haven’t, we’ll see where this goes cuz we haven’t really talked about this. I think we’re probably aligned, but am I right to think that breath is kind of the, a common thread that is woven throughout all of the training modalities that we’re talking about and into the sport?

Erin Carson (00:14:04):

Yes. <laugh> 100%. I think that at the beginning of the pandemic and even pre pandemic, because I was introduced to breath work from Dr. Eric Goodman from foundation training, and I know we’re gonna talk about that a little bit mm-hmm. <Affirmative> Eric looks at breath work as the expansion of the ribcage to enhance mobility of the body mm-hmm. <Affirmative> and decompress the spine and increase anchoring within the body. All of those three things we can kind of get into a little bit as we go. When the pandemic came and people’s anxiety, a lot of my athletes really experienced a lot of stress, high, high stress, as did most of us. And we started looking at the autonomic nervous system. I was an aura ring user, or I’m not a whoop person, but we’re Yeah, <laugh>, we’re all, we’re all thinking, how can I be better and how can I go through this incredibly challenging time?


When you start watching heart rate variability and you start to realize your stress load, even though you’re a generally optimistic, happy person, it’s okay to say things aren’t okay. And now we have some data to kind of back that up. And we can also see that some of the things that we’re choosing, some of the activities to be proactive in our own physical recovery and wellbeing mm-hmm. <Affirmative> can be measured in a really easy, accessible way. Is it exact? I don’t know. You know, everybody likes to argue is one more accurate than the other? And really what we’re looking at is trends. And so with the aura ring and heart rate variability and understanding the autonomic nervous system, we started incorporating some breath work to start to stimulate a parasympathetic nervous system to start to decrease anxiety so that we could actually get some performance gains through a very challenging intellectual and emotional time. So breath work became a really, really important component. We were being proactive, we could, we could take control of our, our own destiny of recovery and, and wellness.

Adam Pulford (00:16:09):

Wow. Yeah. That’s huge. And I’d say I’m, I’m kind of aligned right there with you in terms like the terms that you’re using and also just like the pandemic creating a new stimulus for it with the tools and the time to go deeper into it. So this is gonna be a cool conversation. So we, we got the body, we got the brain, we got breath. Let’s, let’s go deeper into those three. Okay. We’ll circle we’ll circle back to the body. Everybody loves muscles. So let’s start there. Let’s start with muscle physiology. When, when we’re training, let’s just say traditional strength training, if you, if you wanna start there or you can go with like what you do, but I’m curious how you would describe what is happening, what are the changes occurring in the muscle physiology when you’re working with an athlete via strength training?

Erin Carson (00:17:05):

Without going too deep in the exercise, pH you know, the University of Colorado kinesiology degree that I got however many thousands of years ago, make it apply. I think the most important way that I’m looking at it now is to build the most resilient athlete we can build. I think in our last conversation, we both agreed that the person who deadlifts the most isn’t usually the best athlete in any sport. Most strength coaches, whether it’s soccer football or anything, they’re gonna have these guys and, and females who perform extremely well in the weight room, who that does not necessarily translate to overall success in, in sport. And I’ve always taken that I, I don’t care what they do in the gym, I don’t care how much weight they lift. The most important thing to me, and coaches love me for this, is that how is your speed feeling when you’re running?


Yeah. How is your speed and strength feeling when you’re cycling and, and do you feel confident to either make a hit or take a hit in the water going around a buoy? You know, so I’m more training the resiliency of the athlete, mostly the connective tissue. We’re gonna we’re gonna apply load into a system within the body so that that tissue, that connective tissue specifically becomes very matrixed and very strong and very resilient and can take on a ton of training load. And I think that that is more important than the absolute amount of weight that an athlete is lifting. So we wanna come at it from 360 degrees of force. I love deadlifting, I love squatting patterns. I, I am not a back squatter. I just took on a brand new athlete from Europe who actually had a tremendous amount of weight on the back of a shoulders and tore a labrum in her hip.


Just totally heard it pop. And that would make sense to me, unfortunately, because we are able to put a tremendous amount of load on our back that we wouldn’t necessarily be able to load in the front. Head position is also really important to me. And back squatting is not conducive to a great head position. Does it build lower body strength? Yes. does it do a lot of other things? Yes. but I’m, I’m much more of a front squatter. I’m not a big absolute load person. I’m looking for resiliency and to apply force from 360 degrees in different, different ways. So that’s probably more important to me. And ranges of motion, you know, the old weight room as to the grass mentality of your butt needs to be below your knees. That has never been part of my story at all. A quarter squat is just fine with me. For most people.

Adam Pulford (00:20:06):

Agreed. So agreed. Pistol

Erin Carson (00:20:08):

Squats Absolutely not my favorite either.

Adam Pulford (00:20:12):

Yeah. A lot of people get hurt doing those <laugh>, so

Erin Carson (00:20:15):

Then I’m very risk averse.

Adam Pulford (00:20:18):

<Laugh> <laugh>. I love

Erin Carson (00:20:20):

To a fault perhaps.

Adam Pulford (00:20:21):

Yeah. Well it’s, well it’s working for you, so keep on with it very much. Yeah. So I, I gotta ask the question then. So if we’re not, if we’re not as interested in the muscle physiology with what you’re doing, and you said, ah, total load and all this kinda stuff, how, how do you maybe quantify training stress in the gym or with what you do? Is it, is it total load or weight moved? Is it time under tension, like counting out all the things? Is it a TSS score? Like how do you quantify that with what you do?

Erin Carson (00:20:55):

I don’t, I, it’s really just about consistency. It’s about consistently being in the gym, you know, we’re going into the off season and I’m definitely gonna be keeping close track of everything that the athletes do when they come into the gym in the off season. In the, in the racing and, and active training sy season, I don’t keep track because I think I’ll just get my feelings hurt, <laugh>, you know, it’s just like, because coaches take the lead at that time of the year and those athletes come in and I might have a full plan ready to go and that athlete comes in and they feel a little niggle coming on. I think understanding and learning your body is really an important part of the process. And if, if something hurts, we don’t wanna poke the bear. We wanna try and unload the, the, the niggle.


We wanna go to plan B very, very quickly and don’t force that. My philosophy as a strength coach, I very rarely get to impose a systematic overload of the body when, when the sport is what’s most important. Then the strength coach shouldn’t be applying progressive overload. The sport coach should. Yeah. but I’m gonna pay attention in the off season for sure. There’s some athletes that are performing at the top of their sport. Those athletes need to maintain where they are. Their coach will get them better and faster. I I will keep them consistent in the gym. I will not trash them physically in the gym mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. But there are some athletes that show a lot of promise and a lot of they need to continue to develop those athletes. Their numbers perhaps matter just a little bit more, but I use a lot of modalities that don’t, you can’t really quantify either.


So if you look at a K Box and Ecentric trainer mm-hmm. <Affirmative> we really have no idea what’s happening in a, in a eccentric loading in a K box. And you’d have to Google that to, to really see what that is. But it basically is a machine that the more force you put into it, the more it gives back to you in the eccentric load. And it, and it’s one of my favorite tools. Same thing with Vipers, another modality that I like to use that isn’t traditional in that it’s not a kettlebell, it’s not a dumbbell and speed of movement is something that we use a lot. So throwing things is hard to measure. So a lot of it is, is very how does that make you feel? And if an athlete enjoys training with a viper or they enjoy training with a med ball, or they enjoy the K box and they start to feel good in a training session following that, that section of gym that we’re doing we’re just gonna keep keep doing it. So lot of it comes from the athlete.

Adam Pulford (00:23:50):

So, you know, we’re, we’re talking about endurance athletes where the, I’d say the habit right now, the trend is to quantify everything, grab all the data you can and, and probably stress out about it. So how do you teach these endurance athletes, these, these alpha nerds, if you will, coming to you and they, they want to see progress, they wanna see progress in the numbers, they want to quantify the, the stress in the gym and tell their coach about it. Like what do you say to that?

Erin Carson (00:24:24):

Well, I, I think we always have to keep coming back to what is the goal. And you see me if you’re, if you’re watching this on YouTube, I’m looking down and I’m looking away and I’m, I might even be looking a little sad cuz I actually lost an athlete in the last couple months because I wouldn’t do that. Yeah, he’s, he’s an up and coming young pro. I’ve worked with him for a long time and he started thinking that he needed to lift heavier and heavier weights. He needed more volume and more intensity. And philosophically I just didn’t feel that health wise that was what he needed. And he pushed me a little bit harder. And I said, I, okay, so if we’re gonna go deeper on this, then let’s include your coach and let’s look at the volume and intensity that you’re doing in your sport as well.


Because if, if she’s willing to bring the volume and intensity of the training back then, then I think we could probably have that conversation about increasing things in the gym. And he wasn’t willing to do that. And so we actually parted ways and that has been really, really hard for me. But it also reinforced that I, I feel very, very deeply about their health they being the people that I have the chance to work with and I’m not gonna apply more volume and more intensity because there might be more patients needed in the process of training. You know, you’re one of the best coaches in the world, Adam, when it comes to high performance athletes. And some athletes are gonna take two or three years to find their very, very best mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. And when we become impatient in the process, or we stop trusting the process of training in all different realms, I think that’s when we start to get in trouble. And I might be wrong, but I probably, like I said, I’m risk averse and I’m, and I’m just so believe in a process that if we’re in one and it’s working and I mean this athlete was achieving podiums, like mm-hmm. <Affirmative> and just wasn’t happening, I guess fast enough.

Adam Pulford (00:26:28):

So Yeah. I mean, you, well if you’re wrong, I’m wrong and a bunch of other people are wrong too. Successful people are wrong. Because yeah, I think that your, your process again, you know, it works. And, and I think that, that the strongest message I can kind of reinforce here is this away from primary sport training is almost the opposite, right. Of that primary sport in, in the way of how to think about the stress and strain and quan quantify everything. And I think when you, when you get a good strength coach or a kind of a body coach like this it, it is very individualized, it’s very kind of aware centric and will get into a little bit more of that here soon. But I encourage all the listeners to maybe even like, move away from the data from this stuff. Sure. Throw in a tss so that kind of maybe counts for something that that makes you feel good, but like it, it’s a lot of the quality of movement and a feeling sort of thing in order to, to get there. So we’ll put a pin in that for a, well, unless you got a further comment on that, Aaron.

Erin Carson (00:27:41):

No, I agree. Okay.

Adam Pulford (00:27:43):

<Laugh>. Yeah, cause we’ll, we’ll pin it, we’ll come back to it because it’s so, it’s so important. But you, you mentioned tendons, bones, ligaments. What is going on like in that structure with what you do in strength work or or in body work here? What’s going on at the athlete level? What’s going inside the athlete’s body and how does that benefit them in the long run?

Erin Carson (00:28:10):

It’s a, it’s basically a fa matrix that begins to form. It’s, it’s, it’s said and short, it’s scar tissue, but it’s healthy because it moves. Yeah. And because when you look at the brain, you have, you cannot talk about the brain without talking about the nervous system and the way that a body moves. So when the body feels safe, it opens up and this freedom comes when the body I think in the work of, of Tim Noakes and he talks a lot about the central governor mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. And, you know, I just believe in that so much that your brain will not let your body override the safety of the system. And so I talk a lot about the movement bubble and we want this movement bubble to be huge. For any athlete. You know, you look at a lot of linear athletes and they move very linear.


And one of my favorite things to do in the first couple sessions with a, a linear athlete is to bring them back to some of their childhood roots. We use a lot of play. We play catch, we do side shuffling, we throw things around. I just started with a, a kid that I’ve worked with and known for quite a while, but I haven’t really dug in with him. Cuz he moves around a lot, but we’re working together right now. And he was a hockey goalie when he was a kid. So I set up a goal and I just started throwing things at him as hard as I could. And I have to stay really fit cuz I have to do this kind of stuff, <laugh>. But it was, he was laughing, he was smiling and he was like, you can’t get it by me.


You can’t get it by me. And he lost all focus of being a triathlete. And in that moment he was 10 and he was a goalie. And all of a sudden where we’re trying to get more thoracic spine mobility, where we’re trying to get more separation of the of the rib cage and the pelvis, and we’re trying to get the pelvis to get a little bit more into neutral from this stuck position of an anterior tilt and the ankles started moving he wasn’t thinking about it. And the, the, you know, again, I mentioned so much the people that have taught me these things. E O E o Dwyer is a wonderful coach. He lives in New Zealand now. He’s an Aussie and he just, the power of play is so powerful. Running backwards, running sideways, pretending you’re a goalie and remembering when you were 10, it’s all in us, you know?


And then does he love swim, biking and running? Without question. That is his passion. He doesn’t wanna be a goalie mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, but it’s in us when we were kids. So it’s developed and it’s fun and that’s okay. And so we’re having a good time and he’s starting to free up in his running is becoming, he’ll get faster cuz he has a very good coach. But now the freedom to run fast without restriction, without distraction of pain or, or tightness is what we’re really, really after. So will we lift weights to enhance that whole process? You bet. But it’ll be a fun process.

Adam Pulford (00:31:13):

Yeah. So really what you’re talking about is like this, this development of kind of like more rigidity in the right way with mobility is going to allow endurance athletes more training availability or more training days to essentially do more at a higher quality movement

Erin Carson (00:31:33):

And know how to undo it. Yeah. You know, you get back from a six hour bike ride up in the mountains there’s gonna be a physical response and a physical tightness that comes with that kind of training. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, but the ability to undo it quicker is, is awesome. Playing Frisbee is one of the best things ever

Adam Pulford (00:31:53):

For sure. I had, I had like a, an example of that, but I’m gonna ask a few more questions and then I’ll circle back to the example cuz it’s actually, I think it’s like super applicable to that like six hour ride in the mountains sort of situation where the brain and the body get a little hung up. However, the first question I have for you before we get into that is, say if an athlete is listening to this and like, Erin Carson, she sounds rad, she sounds like she can solve my problems if they started working with you. Like how, how soon would they start to feel some of these benefits? Or how, how quickly does this like structural connective tissue matrix start occurring

Erin Carson (00:32:40):

Quickly? <Laugh>, it’s, it’s pretty amazing. So the, the use of the foundation training that dot Goodman has kind of put together is usually my first step because there’s such a process, an early process to doing a founder doing a woodpecker. There’s also a lot of half kneeling ribcage expansion, hip flex or opening that, that a lot of traditional strength coaches do. But I might put it together in a package that’s a little bit easier to and accessible to do. The athlete, the European female that I started with last week who had lab hip, hip labrum repair less than a year ago about 11 months. So she’s been racing all summer had had pain in the world championships in St. George didn’t have the best finish. We did one session together. She ran a 10 K the next day. So she’s healthy. She just hadn’t felt great. She did a 10 K the next day and felt really good and she came back the next day and she goes, that’s it. I wanna work with you. This, I, you know, and the work is just beginning, it’s not gonna hold. Right. You know, we’re just starting to open her up. But give her more of that. And I think you used the word stiffness. I like, I like that word. Stiffness rigidity, healthy, healthy stiffness, not tightness.

Adam Pulford (00:34:06):

Yeah. Because listeners have to remember that high performing muscle is not a loose muscle. It, it’s not so rigid that there’s injury. It’s somewhere in the middle, usually a little bit more rigid, but

Erin Carson (00:34:21):

More and or tension. Yeah. You know, that’s the way I, the way, the way I might describe the difference between foundation training and yoga. I needed something, I’m a pretty intense person. As and as a coach, I’m pretty intense. I needed something that was gonna serve me from a leadership standpoint that was not on the, the coaching spectrum. And so I, I was like, am I a yoga person? And I’m like, ah, I don’t think I, I don’t think I’m a yoga person. Nothing, nothing. As yoga, there’s some people who do it really well. But the difference between foundation training and I think the reason it really worked for me was from a leadership and wanting to learn more about it is because it, it enhances performance. It brings tension into the system in a really healthy way versus yoga, which might try and take the tension away. And we don’t want no tension in performance. There’s a lot of principles from foundation training that my athletes will use while they’re racing. So it’s, it’s usable while racing to try and create balance in, in the body and increase performance. And you can also use that same technique after you train to help restore and rebalance the body.

Adam Pulford (00:35:34):

So you mentioned yoga. I, if some of our listeners are doing or have a yoga practice or Pilates, would you say that that is beneficial to their endurance training or is it working against them?

Erin Carson (00:35:49):

Well, that’s not really my place to say one way or the other because I don’t see their data. So if they s if they see their data and they did a yoga class on a Friday night and then went out for a group ride on a Saturday and felt amazing, I’m good. Like that’s amazing. If they didn’t have that connection or that quickness to keep up with the group, or they felt off or they felt sluggish then I’d say maybe there’s a better way to do it. But if there’s no deficit and there is actually lack of deficit, like they feel good, then, then by all means that’s let’s go. That’s, that’s good stuff. And I, I love the way you know, Pilates people are very, very passionate about Pilates. I haven’t seen too many people, there’s not, not too much downside.


I think when you start talking and bringing in all these different options the, the time and energy conversation needs to start being had. Cuz you could do yoga and then have to go to Pilates and then do a foundation class. And before you know what you’re, you’re compromising on some of your social responsibilities with your family or with your, you know, or you’re just living this isolated life around performance that, that in my opinion might not be the, the fullest way to live your life either. So I think finding what works best for you is probably a really, really good journey to be on.

Adam Pulford (00:37:15):

Yep. Yeah. I, I agree. And I think it does come down to feeling and awareness as, as much as it’s abstract and people are like, oh, I want an answer. It’s like, well, you know, that, say it’s yoga for example, if your training volume is super high and you go into like a hot yoga class and you do that three times a week, you’ll probably feel that in your training and it’s gonna start to take away from it. But if you hit some, let’s just say this is same hot yoga classes, let’s just three days a week in December in Colorado with training volume lower. And so if it’s probably gonna like feel good and it’s gonna, so all this will shift. And I think that I’ll speak with myself. I, I do some yoga, I would say more of like a, like a core power sort of yoga sort of situation where it’s not so focused on going deep and holding long poses and all that kinda stuff that is a little bit more beneficial to my endurance training than a a aga yoga, which I think is like, I don’t even know if I’m saying that correctly, but I’ve done that a few times and it wrecks me cuz it’s, you just like hold poses forever and I do not perform well after that.


So you can be a little bit of a witness test in, in a trial and error when you’re trying to figure this stuff out if you’re not a gym person, if you’re not a whatever, you know. And we’ll talk about the foundation training cuz that’s gonna be a very applicable thing for for our listeners too. But yeah, really good answer on that in terms of figure out what works well for you and, and performance is gonna be in feeling good is gonna be a good indicator of that.

Erin Carson (00:38:56):

Yeah. I think that’s why athletes in general are so fun because we know what feeling good feels like. Totally. And through my whole professional career living in Boulder I have very rarely had to help somebody feel good, you know, if they made it to Boulder somewhere along the lines, they did something well <laugh>. So, so they, they know what happy is, they know what feeling good is and there’s, there’s certain gifts that come with taking somebody who has lit, led a relatively unhealthy life and helping them find health and wellness and movement and strength. But that hasn’t necessarily been my, my career. Yeah, I’m usually looking for the next 5% and mm-hmm. <Affirmative> in, in that high performance world. So, and that’s, I have an 85 year old guy that challenges me to do that every day too, <laugh>. So it’s not just the young ones. Yeah.

Adam Pulford (00:39:53):

Super rewarding, super fun. Well what about, since we’re kind of on this body, the last kind of few questions on the, on the body work, do you use foam rollers or scraper tools or advise athletes to do that? And if, if so, what are the benefits there? What are, what are people feeling there?

Erin Carson (00:40:16):

You know, that’s such an interesting question because I don’t think we really know. You know, it’s the same conversation around ice with broken ankles or sprained ankles. It’s like, there’s a whole group of people that say ICE doesn’t work. There’s a whole group of people that say foam rolling doesn’t work. There’s a whole group of people that feel really good when they ice their ankles. There’s a whole group of people that feel bad if they don’t foam roll. So when I was going through my NASM certification, I, I really remember, cuz I, I, I remember a lot of what I studied and I, it, it’s very applicable to my daily life, but they actually had a name for it. It was autogenic inhibition. And they were like, when you foam roll, the muscle spindle becomes inhibited and you must stay on that spot for 30 to 60 seconds and if it hurts, that’s okay.


Just let the tears come, you know, it, it, it’s going to be rewarding. And I can remember being taught that and I was like, okay, this is an important part of becoming a, a high performance strength coach. And then all of a sudden, two years later, I went back to another NA SM course and they were like, yeah, you know, that stuff we talked about with foam rolling and the autogenic inhibition. Yeah. We’re pretty sure that’s wrong. We’re not sure that that actually happens. And, but what we did come down to was, does it feel better when you do it? And we we’re, we’re pretty darn sure that the decision of muscle tank muscle tension and muscle length happens right at that muscular tendon is joint. So it’s probably more important to spend a little bit more time with the foam roller or any kind of tool.


Well, a scraping tool will be very different conversation just physiologically, but, or of the response. But we’re pretty sure that that’s gonna have some impact at the musculo tendonous joint with pressure. And that foam roller is probably the most accessible tool to do that. So if, if an athlete says they hate foam rolling, we don’t foam roll. Most of my athletes probably nine and a half outta 10 of them mm-hmm. <Affirmative> like foam rolling. Yeah. And some of them do things that I don’t agree with. Like, they, they wanna foam roll, they’re quads. I don’t like foam rolling the belly of the muscle. I, I am pain averse. But I will tell you that some of the top athletes in the world jump in the gym and the first thing they do is jump on the foam roller and hit those quads. And I just let ’em do it because they have to have that process and, and I respect their process and it’s not taken away from performance.


Yeah. I’m okay with that. Yeah. The scraping stuff I kind of leave that to the professionals. I don’t want to create disruption in tissue. I’m a strength coach, not a body worker. So I think staying in my lane with regards to a grass in technique, like sometimes we are stealing things from professional people who have gone through a lot of training mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. so if they need, if we feel like there’s, there’s inhibited move or inhibition in movement, we also have to remember that the brain made that decision to take away that motion. And there’s people that are a lot smarter than I am who I would tend to want to bring in for any athlete. If I felt like, like why can’t I get that to move? I’m not gonna force it to move. I’m gonna consult people who are a lot smarter and, and say, okay, let’s see why this isn’t moving. And then if they wanna do grass then to get it moving and then they hand the athlete to me and they say, okay, this athlete can do that. Let’s strengthen the movement then, then I’ll do that. But I tend to, I’m careful with that. I use a little guha tool sometimes just cuz of maybe dehydrated tissue, but I’m not gonna try and I’m trying to stay in my lane. It’s, it’s worked well for me so far, <laugh>

Adam Pulford (00:44:08):

For sure. And, and I guess like we’re circling back to that other like, example question that I have for you. And the answer can also be, we don’t really know, but say we go, I go and do a six hour ride in the mountains, I come back and I’m like, oh man, I am not moving well. But I do a few movements from this foundation training, which we’ll get into here in a second. A few thoracic moves and I’ll hit the foam roller, especially like in, in the, in the glute hamstring sort of area. But then I, I’m, yeah. I stand up and I’m like, whew, I, I’m back and it is like legit I’m back. I am not Yep. Walking with the limp. I’m not like my muscle is not twitching anymore. Like what the heck is going on? When that happens,

Erin Carson (00:44:53):

I would say that you just gave yourself a chance to hydrate that tissue. So if you’re using a foam roller in a way that it’s kind of a gentle massage, like the glutes on the foam roller, you got the right foot on the left knee and you’re just moving through. Yep. Tissue hydration is massively cool. After a six hour ride. I, and then I’d probably be like, Adam hit the, hit the epso salts bath after that, you’ll even feel better. I

Adam Pulford (00:45:19):

Did that last night. I could, I’ve done, I did the incline like three times and then I flew home on a plane and I was like, yep. I, it was like my legs got ran over by a bus last night and I was cooking and I’m like, I can’t even like bend down to get a pot. Kristen’s like, go take my wife. Go take a ep. Salt bath. Did that, did my little meditation thing. Got up. Yeah. Hit the phone or hit foam roll ep, salt bath got out and I’m like, I feel amazing. Good to get Yes. Rode my bike today. Didn’t think I was gonna ride my bike

Erin Carson (00:45:50):

Anyway. Brilliant. Yeah. Yeah. Write that down. Don’t forget it. <Laugh>. That’s salt bath. Happy, happy things. Way, way. Good idea. That’s why I like the foundation training cuz it’s so easy. You don’t have to, you don’t need a video. Yeah. You know, once you know how to do a founder, once you know how to do, you know, you can even make your own weird movements that that can work around some of those principles that, that just are yours and yours alone. You know, you feel feels good. Let’s do it.

Adam Pulford (00:46:20):

Exactly. so before I promise we’ll talk about, we’ll talk the specifics about foundation training, but you said that tissue is getting hydration. What do you, what do you mean by that? Like why, why the movements, I’m doing a little bit of foam roller. Does it just move like a myofacial tissue enough or like the actual muscle fibers enough to allow for some fluid to get in there? What do you, what do you mean by hydration? That’s,

Erin Carson (00:46:46):

That’s exactly what I would describe. Okay, gotcha. Yep. Because I think that, I mean, I live in Colorado, it’s a very dry state. Yeah. And I would say I’m no genius but nine outta 10 of us are dehydrated all the time mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. And when, when a human tissue is dehydrated it’s at risk. It, it, it’s just, it’s gonna become much more vulnerable in that state. So drinking water while I’m sitting here talking to you and I’m not moving that water will go through my digestive system and work its way out mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. But if I take that tissue and I move or I do some kind of modalities that helps tissue facilitate into tissue that might be a little bit compressed, it might be trying to protect. I think that’s a the other thing too, a six hour bike ride, there’s a fatigue state. That’s how we get better. We have to knock things down so they get back up stronger. That tissue needs to, to be moving in order to accept hydration, not just it, it doesn’t find its way into those nooks and crannies. We, we have to facilitate those pathways.

Adam Pulford (00:47:55):

Exactly. And, and that I think is so vital for listeners to get where, you know, hydration is not as simple as drink, drink, drink. It’s the movement is the cue for the circular story system to work all the stuff around for the muscles to activate and be like, oh, I need some stuff in here. Right. And it needs to be, say, in your system in order to get there, but it is not just drinking than you’re hydrated. It’s way more complex than that.

Erin Carson (00:48:24):


Adam Pulford (00:48:25):

Okay. Well, we’ve been skirting around foundation training and all this kinda stuff. Aaron, tell us about foundation training how you use it in your practice and where people can access it.

Erin Carson (00:48:44):

You know, foundation training came to me through Dr. Eric Goodman and through the work that he did with Lance Armstrong, because I think we talked a little bit about Lance last time we talked mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. But the, the biggest thing for me is whether we like him or whether we don’t, he’s one of the greatest athletes that there ever was or perhaps there ever will be. Yeah. And so when I started tracing Lance’s journey from cycling into back to triathlon, I started looking at how he got there from the body of a cyclist in back upright and running. And it was with a trainer in Santa Barbara named Peter Park, and Peter’s very good friend, Dr. Eric Goodman. So I started going deeper on that. And foundation training in a nutshell is a series of exercises designed to bring the body back into balance and natural movement patterns.


It’s not natural to, to be stuck in a time trial position. It is natural to, to move around on two feet and maybe even at high speed. And there’s three key principles. Number one would be anchoring, number two would be decompression. And then the third one is integration to bring it all into one, one place. And this is, I think my fifth or sixth year of incorporating it with most of my athletes. And I say most only because I, I can’t think for a second of people I don’t use it with. So almost all. Yeah. But anchoring is about connecting the pelvis to the femur and the tibia and how they all work together. And anchoring would be to really activate internal rotation of the hips. The natural movement with gravity and ground is to pull the hips into external rotation and get tight on the outside of the hips.


We wanna strengthen and activate the internal rotation to find balance in how the femurs interact with the hips and the decoupling of the pelvis from a neutral position. So anchoring played very, very strongly and plays very, very strongly to bring in more glute activation, specifically glute mead. Which is traditionally an external rotator, but it also is an ex, it’s a, it’s a lateral stabilizer for the body, so it allows you to apply more force in, in a vertical plane of motion. So having that glute medias online and working well is really, really important with both cycling and running and everyday life with decompression. I guess the easiest way to describe that would be is that every single day we have to interact with gravity. And if we’re not actively doing something to decompress the body, then we are constantly becoming smaller and we are compressing.


Doc Goodman actually figured out a way to help himself from a herniated disc in his early thirties. And there’s a great TED talk where he talks about his process of, of bringing his dream of healing himself to fruition. It’s a TED talk and it’s easy to, to Google Dr. Eric Goodman and, and foundation training TED talk. It’s really powerful. And that decompression and the use of the breath to pull the ribcage off the, the hips and create space between the ribs and the hips decompresses the lumbar spine and in turn can actually decompress. If you take a a, a bedsheet and you lift it up from the middle, you don’t just lift the top, everything comes with it. And so sometimes if I’m having a challenge with an athlete, and I’ll call Eric and I’ll be like, Eric, what do you think about this knee pain?


Eric will say, the first thing he always asks me, are they decompression breathing? And I’ll be like, yeah, okay, good. And then he’ll go, we’ll go to the next level and the next conversation I’ll call him and say, I can’t seem to help the plantar fasciitis. Are they decompression breathing? Like the answer is always decompress first. So that’s a big, big part of it. And then of course, just integration so that we can just start to really bring the body together to perform in that fluid natural free state. There’s nothing, you know, when you describe or as athlete to describe a state of flow there, it’s usually not difficult for them to describe that. And that’s magic.

Adam Pulford (00:53:14):

Yeah. That’s, that is magic for sure. And I think when an athlete is, is not moving well and all of a sudden they are moving well through all these like techniques that you like, that is magic to them too, because not moving well is, is so painful. So like inhibiting. Yeah. So, so if people want to do foundation training, I mean there’s multiple ways that you can kind of come out at this, including do they just Google Foundation training and then start hacking away on some videos? Or what do you suggest if people are curious about starting in on this?

Erin Carson (00:53:52):

Well, you know, the, probably the best, the best initial resource is, is Eric foundation streaming site foundation If you ever wanted to incorporate into a practice whether it’s any kind of movement specialist or strength coach or anything the, that, that’s a really good place to start if somebody just wants to incorporate it into their strength training and their performance training. I actually use a lot of foundation training in my on demand app where I teach foundation training classes on my app. So it’s an, it’s a long form video. You just put on your headphones and get on your phone or your laptop or your computer and, and I’ll lead you through a class. So I’m pretty specific and passionate about endurance sports. So everything that I talk about in those classes is guiding towards cycling and running and skiing and hiking and ultra running. And Eric is very passionate about surfing. So him and Jesse, who’s his lieutenant, should I say, is they’re passionate about surfing, so they’re gonna really look at it from that skew skew and the advantages when you’re surfing or when you’re swimming or that kind of thing. So it really depends what people wanna do. But I, I have it at ec fit strength dot com, but also foundation training. We’re a team, we work together. I’m really proud to be part of his, his group.

Adam Pulford (00:55:24):

Awesome. Yeah, and that’s, that’s actually a good reminder to, based on our last conversation that we did the last podcast we did we did make an offering. If, if somebody wanted to utilize your training, either the foundation principles or the extensive online video library that you have to offer can they still do, I mean you created a code that is train right? And I’m still giving that out to my athletes. That’s still active. Right?

Erin Carson (00:55:55):

It totally works. And it’s, it’s just like I said before, Adam, you just have a really engaged audience. And so I think we’ve been doing pretty good work with the people that have taken advantage of that. And I’ve been around long enough that I will continue to add videos. I have over a hundred videos in five different phases including foundation training, which would be the sixth one. It would be its own category. But we do a lot of pre-flight sessions, which is I think I’ve got almost 40 videos now that are less than 20 minutes of things to do before you go train. And then I look at it kind of like airline travel. There’s launch, there’s climb, there’s crews, and then there’s recovery, which I call the lounge, I’m kind of into lounges, <laugh>, I’m a lounge lizard when I travel. So it’s so it’s easy, like when we first start, we might do a lot of launch sessions, which in a traditional sense you would probably call more like strength, endurance, and mobility. Yeah. And then climb, which is strength work. Cruise is a little bit less, I have less videos in cruise because that’s more of the high intensity stuff. Might be stuff that you might wanna play with a little bit. But it’s a tough place to live if you’re trying to become a really good cyclist or a really good triathlete.

Adam Pulford (00:57:07):

Perfect. Yeah. So essentially kind of the, you know, the take home for our, our listeners right now, if you want to start to put a lot of this into practice is either, you know, Google Foundation training and just start to get education there and keep on exploring, or if you want some of the specifics that Erin’s already developed and she practices daily. I, I include this with my athletes too. I’ll put it in their training peaks. Click on that video, go for it. We’ll link to show notes in there, but Google EC fit and use the password, or sorry, the code train write in that is good for the first free month, right?

Erin Carson (00:57:43):

First month. Yeah. That, that’s actually good for the first free month. But since we’ve talked last time, I developed a product called Premium and speaking of training peaks and the ease that athletes like to use it, if you’re part of my premium group and you can kind of explore that and I’d be happy for anybody who listens to this just train, right? For sure. But email me and say, I heard you on Adam’s po on the train right. Podcast. And I’ll give you 30 days of premium, which means I’m gonna dump your weekly schedule into your training peaks myself. And so I definitely have the ability to customize for people. I have another app that is my custom app that’s Easy Fit Boulder. I’ve been using that for years and years and it, it gives me the opportunity to, to communicate really customized sessions for people. Because as you get more high performance, your needs do tend to get a little bit more sniper like and, and we might might wanna do that, so.

Adam Pulford (00:58:46):

Yes, yes.

Erin Carson (00:58:47):

But I’d be happy to. It’s a, yeah. Premium’s a great place to start cuz it really shows you how to use the app and how, and so a lot of people, they’ll spend 30 days on premium and then they’ll go back to the basic membership and just feel like they totally nailed it on their own. And it’s a little bit cheaper and easier. It’s 20 bucks a month to have full access to all that stuff, so.

Adam Pulford (00:59:08):

Awesome. And Aaron, can you give your email address to our listeners, and I’ll also include this on show notes,

Erin Carson (00:59:16):

Aaron ec fit

Adam Pulford (00:59:19):

Cool. So I’ll, I’ll package that all together with links and her email. But yeah, that, that’s a cool, generous offer from Erin and that is, that’s the application to everything that we’re doing. And we’ve spent a lot of time now on the, the body side of things. And we’ve touched on the brain, we’ve touched on the breath work, and I just want to spend some, just a little bit of time on each, the, the, the brain and breath and take some of this home now because I think the body for athletes is a wonderful cue to kind of package the rest of these. But we’re never, we’re never just training the body. We’re never just treating the brain. We’re never just training breath. So Aaron, the question to you is like, through movements, new brain connections are being made. What is just the pure value of making those like brain connections? That’s the best term I can have for it, but like, just from a, what is the benefit there from a health or the, the performance standpoint? Like what’s going on there?

Erin Carson (01:00:24):

The word that comes to mind is freedom freedom of movement, freedom to move, freedom to be pain free at any age. To be able to have the belief that you can get better because you don’t have restriction. Not only in your body but also in your mind the belief that you can get better. You know, the, the other side of the mountain doesn’t have to come too early. And maintaining our health is paramount, especially later in life. Or the ability to recover from injury or illness. When, when the brain knows how to rest, when we have that ability to control not just how hard we work, but how hard we recover. It’s amazing how performance, the performance uptick that comes from that. I can only imagine the, I I know how good I feel when my athletes are happy because they’re performing well and they’re, they’re relationships are good and they, they just, they’re just happy. I think happiness and freedom are, are two kind of woo woo parts of me that as I get older and those are, those are things that are really, really important when it comes to high performance more than we ever thought. No, hard work is always gonna be there, but I don’t think, I think we know more now mm-hmm. <Affirmative> that just the hard work isn’t enough. It actually might actually be a detriment. We need to be able to rest.

Adam Pulford (01:02:11):

Yeah. Yeah. I I say to athletes all the time, just key. Like, if they ask like, what’s the secret? What’s the key? What’s the consistent thing? And I’m just like, keep moving and sleep. Well rest. Well, yeah, movement, sleep, stay hydrated too. That helps three

Erin Carson (01:02:29):

Times. It all helps

Adam Pulford (01:02:30):

<Laugh>. So also kind of per the brain and getting into the nerves, like when we’re moving and focus on that movement pattern and we’re learning new movement techniques, you get better nerve conductivity. Can you just describe like high level on how, how that works and why it’s valuable?

Erin Carson (01:02:55):

You know, falling is a, is part of training the movement bubble I mentioned earlier. It’s, it’s interesting, you’re, you’re challenging me a little bit on this one, Adam, because I’m not a skills coach anymore. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, you know, I used to be a basketball coach. I’m very good at instructing, you know, how to teach a jump shot mm-hmm. <Affirmative> hip elbow, wrist, two fingers sniper. Like, you know how the, how the basketball releases from the, the two fingers and if the third finger comes in, you’re gonna get a weird spin on the ball. And, and I loved that part of my coaching life. But it, but endurance sports are, are much more global. There’s not as much specificity to it. It’s, it’s just much more global. So it, it’s really the fine motor skills aren’t part of my day to day so much anymore. I just wanna keep people really healthy and really big global movements.

Adam Pulford (01:03:58):

Yeah, I,

Erin Carson (01:03:59):

I don’t know. I, i I don’t know how to really address that. I think if I was working in a different sport, it, it might be a little bit different.

Adam Pulford (01:04:06):

Yeah. Well I’ll just say for maybe even like the the purpose of this like question where, where I go to is mountain biking and I’m, and I’m still a skills coach in mountain biking. And when we’re working on solving some problems there, it’s, it’s huge in the way people move and their explosiveness. And the thing that I keep on going back to in muscle physiology and strength and conditioning is the concept of when you, when you fire a muscle and you try to fire more force into that muscle, you are telling the brain to shoot more acetylcholine, acro from that nerve or across a nerve synapse. And the more it’s shooting, the more excitable it’s gonna be and the more forced generation we can do. And I think that that is something to note and something to to learn as an endurance athlete because it’s a primary reason on why we can get strength gains without muscle size. And for me, it, you know, it’s happening when you’re teaching a skill and it’s happening when you are you know, doing that high velocity movement or the dead lift, something like that. And that’s, that’s kind of where I’m getting

Erin Carson (01:05:20):

At. That makes sense. Yep. Yeah, I think when we look at at force production versus rate of force production, that’s kind of what you’re talking about there and it’s really, yeah. So reaction time, power movements. I actually wish I did more of that. I don’t feel in a traditional ized program, you would spend a, a set amount of time in each one of those boxes mm-hmm. <Affirmative> training an athlete, because my athletes tend to race somewhat frequently. We very rarely get to go through a full schedule of rate of force production. And it might actually, because I am risk averse because I am very conscious of athletes being able to perform the work that their coaches give them I will throw that in there very, very delicately mm-hmm. <Affirmative> in their programs. And it usually, I will use it as a tool to excite the athlete if they come in, in a pretty low state of energy. Right. So it, it, the, I I totally understand and I don’t think a lot of mountain bikers tend to come my way very much because I don’t mountain bike, so I’m not really part of that. I fully respect how dangerous it is and how hard it can be, and that makes perfect sense. But gravel now is so big that but is not as much reaction in gravel. It’s not as much single track.

Adam Pulford (01:06:49):

Yeah. Well that’s it. And that’s the difference of, you know, when you’re working with athletes who are racing for four to 10, I mean upwards of, I don’t know, probably 16 hours if you’re working with a unbound gravel athlete versus Right. You know, a cross country mountain biker, which if we’re racing short track, it can be as little as 20 minutes or right around 90 minutes, you know, that’s or criterion racer racing, you know, 60 to 90 minutes with a lot of explosive energy production. So that’s, that’s a difference there, I would say in, in the need for the athlete to shoot that much more acetyl coalmine across that synaps makes

Erin Carson (01:07:26):

Perfect sense. Just

Adam Pulford (01:07:27):

Why my brain. Absolutely. but it’s also in, in every movement pattern. And I think, you know, to, to get to the, the point of moving well and performing better, I think that applies to, you know every athlete out there. And back to your point, Aaron, as long as what you’re doing is making you feel good and perform well in your sport, I I I think you incorporate that movement into it. Right?

Erin Carson (01:07:55):

A hundred percent. Yeah. Yeah.

Adam Pulford (01:07:58):

And so as we kind of transition into this last portion of it, the breath is there. Well let, let’s just go right to it. Like when we talk about breath work, what does that mean to you? How would you define breath work? And then how do you apply it?

Erin Carson (01:08:18):

I use it in a couple of different ways. From a traditional strength and conditioning standpoint, we’re gonna use breath to help stabilize the spine. So that is first and foremost something we don’t, we wanna use it from a bracing standpoint if we’re under heavy load. But I’m also pretty cognizant to have most of my athletes breathe in a very natural state. One of the first things that I will do though is to check on can that athlete actually expand and move their ribcage, because that’s not very common that someone comes to me for the first time and they can actually inhale and expand into my hands. I’ll put my hands right on their ribcage and exhale. So we talk about belly breathing versus decompression breathing in foundation training and decompression breathing is not belly breathing. It’s very different as a matter of fact. So when you inhale with foundation training, you expand and elevate the ribcage away from the hips and you draw the stomach in Hmm. As you exhale, you wanna demonstrate that you can actually hold the stomach in and you don’t want the belly to expand and contract that shows control with the transverse abdominal muscles. It shows good control and bracing of the lumbar spine. So that is a skill that we will start with that expansion of the ribcage and the control of the intra intraabdominal pressure.

Adam Pulford (01:10:05):


Erin Carson (01:10:06):

The sec

Adam Pulford (01:10:07):

Real quick just outta, and maybe listeners can do this too, but if I’m, if I’m gonna try to do that breathing right now and if I’m having a hard time not getting my, or keeping my stomach from going out, like how do you cue that? Like if I’m like, oh my stomach’s out, like what, what should I change?

Erin Carson (01:10:25):

Pull, pull your belly button into your spine. Oh yeah. But I will also say that we need to lay you on your back. Oh, okay. Because most, so we want to, we wanna unload the spine. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, we wanna put the pelvis into neutral. So the cue there, there’s two ways we can cue that. We wanna elevate the pubic bone mm-hmm. <Affirmative> or we wanna drop the sacrum. Gotcha. And we wanna flatten the back. So every Pilates instructor out there right now probably hates me cuz they’re like, what is she been talking about? They’re opposite something. Yeah. So we wanna el elevate the pubic bone, find flat hips and create so that you cannot slide your hand under the lumbar spine. Got it. That is a neutral pelvis. So flat hips, neutral pelvis, drop the sacrum. That’s gonna create the ability to then start engaging the transverse abdominals and be able to breathe from that beautiful neutral spine position. You can go a little bit further with that cuz that sh that demonstrates lumbar control.

Adam Pulford (01:11:32):


Erin Carson (01:11:33):

It doesn’t mean you need to live there, nor should you think that you can perform at a very high level in neutral pelvis. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, I believe that most sport you need to be able to go into an anterior tilt to engage. Yeah. You just need to be able to come back from it. You cannot get stuck there. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, when you get stuck there, that’s when you start to really lose balance in that in the hips and the glutes and you become a little bit less functional or powerful from the glutes. I’m not the kind of person that says that your glutes shut off because I don’t think they do. No. But they might not be optimally working, optimally firing when you get stuck in an anterior tilt.

Adam Pulford (01:12:13):

I’m glad we

Erin Carson (01:12:14):

Are the

Adam Pulford (01:12:14):

Ability, by the way.

Erin Carson (01:12:16):

Yeah. People say, I think when an athlete, it’s like,

Adam Pulford (01:12:18):

No, come

Erin Carson (01:12:19):

On. They don’t. Yeah. I hate that. As a matter of fact. Yeah. We won’t go down that, that rabbit hole. But the most important thing to, to recognize, I think there’s a skill associated with being able to find neutral when you need to find neutral. And that can usually come from the breath if, if you’re out for a run and you start to feel yourself. I ran a half marathon yesterday. I was really ready for about eight and a half miles and it was 13.1 unfortunately. But there, there came very many times in those final five miles when I was thinking, okay, I need to drop my pelvis, drop my sacrum, find neutral and elevate my ribcage because the people that I was running with yesterday, because I broke my ankle in July, so I’m, I’m really only like four months out from from a pretty, pretty severe ankle injury.


And I had signed up for this race already. I wanted to do it and but I really wasn’t ready for it. The, when you run 30, almost 30 minutes slower than you usually run, you’re surrounded by a whole different group of people when you’re running mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. And I was finding myself just assessing what’s happening to that body, what’s happening to that body because they, they were breaking and their, their, I don’t know what their heart and lungs were doing, but their bodies were taken on all kinds of contortions. And I was like, wow, that person’s shoulder blades are elevating and they’re starting to really fall forward and they’re getting very short on the front side and they’re soaz and rec dys femoral and hip capsules are probably really shut down and they’re glutes probably aren’t firing. So I was keeping myself very occupied in the final five miles of this race.


But it was really, really interesting because I was like, I’m becoming a better strength coach right now. Exactly. Because if I can help this group of people, the people from two hours to two 15 that’s gonna expand my ability in a a in a huge way because these, many of these people are gonna really be down for a couple of weeks. Or they’re creating patterns, their, their body’s just becoming so small and so short mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. So the breath always coming back to the breath because it’s so simple to come back forth. That ability to just expand the ribcage, elevate the ribcage away from the pubic bone will really start to lengthen the soaz. And if in an active way, not a passive way, I’m actually, my muscles that are deep within the spine are starting to get long again. And I was able to drop my sacrum and I was able to find my glutes and then I had to make really good decisions that I’m really not ready for this. So I probably shouldn’t push my pace, but it was it, I was able to stay aligned and you know, I I I don’t feel horrible today. I I did just take an eps and salts bath though, <laugh>

Adam Pulford (01:15:04):

The, the secret right there to recovery. Yeah. Yeah. Cool. We went down an interesting rabbit hole with the queuing of the breath. But I think, I think you were onto like point number two about some of this breath Yeah. Before

Erin Carson (01:15:19):

The second part of that would really be that, that parasympathetic stimulation using your breath. Yeah. And I am not an expert in that, but I use many of those techniques. For sure. Inhale, hold, exhale, control, breath in, in an exhale. And I’m really excited to keep going down that that rabbit hole. Maybe not on this podcast cuz I’m not an expert. I think you could probably find somebody who’s way better than me on that. But that recovery and that ability to just switch on and switch off using breath, I think this is going to be an exciting few months in performance and high performance when people we can go deeper on that. I can use it very rudimentary mentally.

Adam Pulford (01:16:08):

Yeah. And I think using it on a rudimental level I think is fine because that’s where I think a lot of us, maybe strength coaches and endurance coaches are using it right now. But I would challenge everybody to just think about it simplistically. Meaning if you take, if you actually pause and take a few slow deep breaths while wearing a heart rate monitor, what do you notice? Heart rate goes down. Right? And so from a pure resting standpoint and from these systems in your body, the rest and digest system, if you are more relaxed, that rest and digest system will work way more efficiently and way more better for you. And if, if it’s a, it’s, if it’s a race of recovery in terms of who’s gonna get the most adaptation, being very good at controlling and, and setting the stage for recovery is paramount.


And I do think that if you’re able to control that recovery condition in your body with breath and queuing yourself to do that, that’s the most like, simple way of doing it and why people should tune into their breath. Now, this is very separate and I’m not an expert on breath. I’ve never taken a breath class and whatever. There’s a lot you can get certified in like breathing techniques and you can buy all these gadgets to like restrict breathing. And I think all that is bullshit for the record, but there is a huge amount of value in recognizing your breath, becoming very aware of it and using it within your movement patterns. Even think about if you’re doing a front squat of just like when you should breathe, when is appropriate to breathe or effective to breathe, let’s use that word versus not appropriate to breathe because that will change the whole dynamic of how the movement looks, how it feels, and how much weight you can move.


You know, it’s, it’s, it’s very, it’s it’s, it’s kind of like silly cool to me in the way that breath can work when, when I’m working with an athlete climbing, right? And they’re just like in the pain cave out of 16% grade out of the saddle or something, they’re just, just going crazy and it’s like, focus on your breath, deeper breaths and they, ew, it, it’s just queuing as simple as that and getting a little bit control because typically that person is very unaware that their breath is out of control. And if you can cue it to become in control, you can then control the effort. And that’s what I mean of just like a rudimentary or a simple way of applying breath work into your training.

Erin Carson (01:18:53):

I think that probably most of the people listening to this podcast care enough about high performance for themselves that they should take your advice because I think not many people are really thinking about this as a really big differentiator. I have a lot of young athletes who hopefully will compete for world championships and gold medals in the coming years. And as young athletes, if I can teach them to, to embrace these kinds of concepts that are opposite of hard work, I think it’s going to be a huge advantage for, for us as a team.

Adam Pulford (01:19:35):

Yeah, agreed. Agreed. A hundred percent. If you’re curious more about breath work I’ll also link to some of this in the show notes, but there’s, there’s some relaxation techniques that you can use and it’s simply like laying down, breathing, relaxing, and then this is kind of a trivial one, but you, you try to feel your heartbeat, so you feel your heartbeat saying your chest at first, and then you try to use your mind to put it into your hands and then your feet. And what you’ll realize is your, your pulse is all over your body. It’s the focus of where you’re putting it. Right. And that’s a mindfulness technique that you can use to kind of take control of your body with breath. And it’s, and it’s a pretty cool way of doing it, but again, it’s just awareness in mindfulness. The last thing that I’ll use, and this is a plug for you can either love him or hate him, but Sam Harris has a pretty cool app called Waking Up and it’s a mindfulness app to play. He uses meditation as well as some other techniques in spurring on mindfulness. And, and you can Google that or download on your phone and try it out. But that’s another tool that I use with athletes to kind of learn a little bit more about breath work and, and becoming aware of oneself.


And I should ask, I mean, is there any, any quick hacks or any breath work hacks outside of foundation training or working specifically with you, Aaron, that you would pass on to our

Erin Carson (01:21:12):

Listeners? Well, I know that in the coming next 30 days, I’m one of my, one of my very, very good friends Dr. Lawrence, Ben Lang, and Lawrence is a sports chiropractor from South Africa, but he, he is just, his, his YouTube channel is called Inner Runner. And Lawrence and I are gonna be doing some work together because he’s always so complimentary that when he puts his hands, he’s a fossil worker. He’s a breath worker. He has some, some crazy ideas about decreasing neural tension within the body. He’s been able to free up. I know I’ve used the word freedom a lot today free up some, some movement and some emotion with a lot of my athletes that are, are a little bit too tense and that tension has gone beyond and it no longer serves them. So Lawrence Ben Lang inner runner on YouTube, and I can share that information with you, but I’m excited to be doing more work with Lawrence in the coming the coming months and years because I think we are all falling to this place of, of maybe slow down a little bit to get faster.


And I’m really intrigued by that. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> and, and surrounding myself with people like that will only make the work that I do even better. So.

Adam Pulford (01:22:37):

Very cool. Yeah, please share that with me and I’ll, I’ll put that kind of in the, the the media goodies for our listeners to Perfect. To check out.

Erin Carson (01:22:44):

Yeah. He’s worth, he’s worth listening to.

Adam Pulford (01:22:48):

Awesome. Well, I guess, you know, to kind of wrap this thing up, you know, it’s, first of all, it’s just been super good to catch up with a friend and fellow coach colleague out there in, in the endurance world. So thank you Aaron for being part of our conversation today. And you know, I think that this excuse for a conversation in catch up is also awesome because it provided a lot of rich information for our listeners and to, to try to recap everything that we did talk about is like, it’s, it’s beyond muscle physiology when we’re talking about movement patterns and some of this off the bike, off the run, off the swim, off the primary sport way of training. And I’ll encourage listeners to get away from quantifying what’s occurring and tune in to becoming more aware of what is actually occurring inside the body. Because all the data, all the metrics, it, it’s getting better, but it’s not there yet in the way of telling us, this is good. Your body and your movement is <laugh>, is the thing that’s telling you is good and its body, its brain, and its breath. And combine those three things together and tuning in and working with good people such as yourself, I think our listeners will have a lot of success in doing this training away from their primary sport. Is there anything else you wanna add onto that,

Erin Carson (01:24:14):

Erin? No, I just wanna say thank you. I, I I just am so passionate about helping people live the most exciting lives they possibly can. And you know, it’s just part of the process and it’s people like you that, that make it all possible and bring the, bring the message. So thank you.

Adam Pulford (01:24:29):

Awesome. Well thank you Aaron. Super appreciate your time and yeah, I look forward to learning more about everything that you are working on right now and, and also just working together with athletes to get them moving better.

Erin Carson (01:24:42):

Thanks, Adam.



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