Science Behind The Suffering | Fitness Testing At The Sufferfest High Performance Lab

– [Simon] No doubt, you
will remember Dan Lloyd’s incredible transformation last winter from middle-aged beer-drinking
part-time cyclist, to middle-aged beer-drinking
part-time cyclist who was actually pretty darn
fit on just four hours riding per week for 10 weeks. He saw a 15% improvement in three out of the four power dimensions. And his training was
planned and carried out using Sufferfest, which is actually the training platform that
introduced us to the concept of four-dimensional power in the first place, a concept which was created
by it’s Chief Science Officer and coach to the stars, Neal Henderson. He is based, right here,
in Boulder, Colorado. Home to the highest density of professional-endurance
athletes, yoga studios, and also kale juice consumption
in the world, probably. Now, I have come to spend
the day with him at his High Performance Lab, ’cause
we’ve heard that he’s got some great new training insights
specifically the work that he’s currently doing on cadence. I don’t know for certain,
but I have a feeling it’s going to involve some
pain and not just of the green juice variety. Well, that’s a bonus. Now, Neal Henderson has been coaching endurance-sports athletes
for nearly 30 years. From new starters right
up to the elite levels. The best of the best. Some of the biggest names
are Rohan Dennis and Kasia Niewiadoma to name but two. And Neal was also a pro-triathlete but, we won’t hold that against him. So this, is the Sufferfest
High Performance Lab. Hello? Hey, Neal, good to see you again man. – Good to see you.
– How you doing? – I’m good, how are you? Welcome. – Good stuff, yeah, thanks. This place is cool, isn’t it? – [Neal] You know, we’re
kind of into cycling here. – [Simon] Ha! It’s like the ultimate
pancake, those bikes. – [Neal] Yup, those both have
gone and set world records. – [Simon] Nice, Evelyn
Stevens and Rohan Dennis. – [Neal] And Rohan Dennis, yup. – Tell me Neal, I mean I kind
of, I get the feeling this is like a chamber of pain but
what do you do here on a day-to-day basis? – [Neal] We are really looking
at ways to make people faster and so we’ve got a mix of
things were we have our lab, we also then have a fit area,
we’re actually able to look at the 3D dimensions–
– [Simon] Oh, wow. – [Neal] How someone’s riding
and being able to pool that and tweak things and measure
and monitor how somebody’s riding there. And then we also have a little kind of a recovery waiting area here, so if things go south, we can
send you over here to rest for a little while afterwards. – [Simon] That looks like a seat that’s got my name on it now. – [Neal] We do have one
soft, comfortable seat here in the entire joint, that’s
the only one, I guess. – And let’s go no where near that. – Yeah, that’s for swimming,
a swimming ergometer, so we don’t have a pool
in here, but we do have a swimming erg, we also have a
treadmill, we can make you run. – [Simon] Yeah, no,
neither of those actually. – [Neal] You only run when chased? – Well, yeah but even then I’d probably just get caught instantly. – But there’s bears up in
Steamboat, didn’t anyway tell you? And lions, mountain lions, and bears. . – Hopefully Ill have my bike
if I’m going to be chased but the swim thing I can
barely operate my arms, let alone actually swim. – All right, well we won’t
put you on that today. – Yeah, cool. – Maybe in the future
we’ll bring you back. (laughs) (calming music) – So, you’re a coach on your own right but now, also, working with Sufferfest, Chief Science Officer, I believe. – Yup. – How long have you been with those guys? – So, I started working with
the Sufferfest back in 2013. And so, I’ve started to
do a lot more with them in the past year but for several years now, been trying to help people
suffer better and more effectively with purpose. – Yeah, so what kind of
things have you actually put into practice, I guess 40P is
probably the big one, right?. – Yup, in the fall of
2017 we launched 40P, four-dimensional power,
and that’s really about creating and tailoring workouts
relative to an individual. Not just looking at FTP,
which is very important, but also max-aerobic
power, anaerobic capacity, and kind of neuro-muscular
power, sprint power. And so being able to
target all of our workouts using those four-dimensions,
is really one of the things that we’ve been doing to step up what happens within the
Sufferfest, in the app and how people train specific
to their individual abilities. – Yeah, so where did the idea
for that come about then? Is that through what you’ve
done with elite athletes? – Yeah, really, I mean I can
say it goes way back more than 10 years ago, I was
working with a young kid, Taylor Phinney, he was 18-year-old, getting ready for his first
Olympic Games in Beijing. – [Simon] I’ve heard of him, yup. – [Neal] Yeah, he’s done okay. And so he was training for
the individual pursuit, four minute and change long
event and looking at his training data and things
like that, like some of these metrics that are typical,
training stress score, and CTL I noticed that his CTL was like
60-something at the highest and that was really odd to
me because the amount of training that he was doing
was pretty considerable but it was not high-volume,
it was very high-intensity specific to the pursuit
and that kind of demand. And so, I was sitting there
thinking that, well FTP alone is not really describing
the training of somebody who is training maybe only
10 or 12 hours a week but a very high percentage of
that being at a high-intensity and also post-Beijing,
then I was working with Sarah Hammer, coming back from an injury. She actually fell and she had crashed during the Olympic Points Race and broke her collar bone
and so, I was doing some testing in a laboratory
with her but also then doing a field test so we can assess
the progress that she was making again across the sprint
power to the aerobic domain ’cause she was getting then
ready for the 2012 Olympics. And so, we were looking at
how we could test everything really from the lab but out in
the field and kind of compare those two things, and so,
we kind of put together this doing all those types
of power profile efforts that Hunter Allen and Andy
Coggan put together but in one session and doing
so five second sprints, five minute effort, 20
minute, one minute effort, all in one session and really, that’s kind of the basis of
how we started doing things and coaching athletes, you
know at the highest level for cycling and triathlon and
then being able to adapt that into the app and what we
do with the Sufferfest for really the entire spread
of people that use out app. – [Simon] That is cool. How Sarah Hammer ever forgiven you for inventing the 40P test? – I don’t think anybody ever forgives me. (laughs) As you know there’s a little
bit of hashtag out there, right? Everyone hates Neal. It’s very, very common in
the Sufferfest world so, I get my beat downs from people– – Nice. – In that way. (calming music) – [Simon] Right, go for
it mate, what’s going on? – All right Simon, we have you here in the Sufferfest High Performance Lab to take a look at what’s
going on with your physiology. We have Mac Cassin who’s going
to be helping run the test and we’re going to have
you do our Half Monty Test. This is something we
developed, a little bit actually in conjunction
with the folks from “Do the Plan with Dan,”
and really, it’s a two-part test, there is a ramp that
you’re going to go to your absolute maximum, so
no holding back there. Each minute it’s going to get
a little bit harder, little bit harder, little bit
harder and you got to go until you cannot go. – [Simon] Okay. – [Neal] Everyone fails
this test, that’s okay. So that’s the first part of the test. – [Simon] Okay. – The thing that we’re doing
different here than you where at home doing this
workout, so this is one of our sessions that
people can do on their own. We’re going to actually
have you hooked up to our metabolic cart here, so
we’re going to be measuring your oxygen and CO2 levels,
how much you’re breathing in and out, how much you’re
extracting from the air to deliver energy from
that aerobiotic system. At the end of your ramp, we’re also going to be mean and poke you and get some blood and look at blood lactate. Look at lactate at that peak
right after that effort, as well as in recovery,
every couple minutes just to see how the lactate level
is dropping in recovery. The second part of the test is submaximal. So that one, you know, you
don’t have to go as hard. We’re going to have a set target
based on the peak heart rate that you hit during the
ramp, so it’s going to be about 87% of that. The second portion though
we’re going to look and you’re going to have a target heart rate,
you’re going to shift a little bit and just ride a steady
effort for 20 minutes and it’s going to be, you know, clearly
below your threshold but not necessarily an easy all-day ride. The other thing we’re going
to do after that is look a little bit at cadence. So we’re going to do
some really low cadence, and then up to moderate, high,
and even some really high cadence, and we’re going
to continue to do that with the metabolic system
so we can see what’s happening with oxygen consumption as well as energy use. How much of that is
coming from carbohydrate, how much is coming from fat. All right. – [Simon] I’m good. – Good, good. You may go ahead and start peddling, yup. You’re off. (energetic music) If you need anything, just
raise your hand, let me know. We won’t be able to hear
you cry out too much, so make sure you give us a visual
so we can come to your aid. – (mumbles inside mask) – A safe word? (laughs) – Oh no, can’t hear it. (energetic music) – And so it begins, it gets more exciting. Right now, is just rolling along. (energetic music) VO2 so this is the oxygen,
amount of oxygen that’s being used per kilogram of body weight, so right now he’s somewhere
around 29, 30 mls per kg, per minute, so milliliters
of oxygen per kilogram of body weight per minute. And he’s just riding along
at this kind of easy effort, we have a lot of other information here. Right here, is ventilation
rate, in terms of liters of air per minute that he’s moving. Keep in mind, that the air
here has the same percentage of oxygen as it does at
sea-level we’re still at about 20.9% right here as you have at home. It’s under a lesser pressure though. And that’s what kind of the
difference with altitude is so you have to breath a
little bit more over all, as a volume to get the same
amount of oxygen presented to the lungs, every breath. (energetic music) So a little bit of a tempo
effort there, little more work. (energetic music) The average 36-year-old probably has a VO max of right around
40, 42 ml, probably. You’re well above that already. Nice work, next minute
here, coming up 360. Nice work, Simon, yes, yes. Excellent. – Going up, come on, dig, dig, dig, dig! – Just do what you can do,
do what you can do Simon. – Which is more than this, come on! Keep pushing, keep
pushing, come on dig deep. – There it is, good work, good work. Oh yeah, now we’re talking. 12.3, good work. Now we’ll see how quickly
it does or doesn’t come down, pop that off. We’ll just go right here. 10.7, so clearing lactate
after two minutes from that first one, it’s good. Two more minutes here and
then you being the 20 minute sustained effort. Lactate was 6.6 at the start,
so, nice continued drop. And now we see what happens. (upbeat Calypso music) What would you just
rate this effort for ya? Just how it feels overall. – [Simon] About a six. – [Neal] About a five or six, perfect. (upbeat Calypso music) Oh, good one. 3.6 Mac’s the winner of that
round, nice, good clearance. So from 6.6 down to 3.6. (upbeat Calypso music) There you go, thank you, 2.9. (upbeat Calypso music) Good work, in the final five. Survey says, 2.8. (upbeat Calypso music) – [Simon] Oh, man. – Yup, that’s the mental test. – It’s amazing to see after
a full max test like that actually being able to sit
at reasonable intensity– – Yeah. – And then see the results
that it’s clearing lactate. (calming percussion music) – This round what we are
doing is looking at the impact of cadence for a set power
on your body’s response both in breathing rate, in
fuel utilization, carbohydrate and fat, and then also
heart rate, and we’re also going to do some more sticks
for the blood lactate as well. We’re going to go from a really
low cadence for the first effort, 40 RPM, probably
lower than you would typically train at, I’m assuming,
maybe not, depending on the climbs in your area. But we’re going to do four
minutes at each of these. So 40 RPM at 250 watt
up to 60 up 80 up to 100 and last stage shooting for 120. That one’s going to be revving
it pretty high, I know. Power target throughout
is going to be 250 though, so we’re keeping it kind of iso-power but with this broad range of cadence. I’d say, when you’re
ready, you can go, and you’re going to have to get
a big gear rolling here, to get 40 RPM in 250 watts,
might have to drop a little lower, maybe even one gear, and then just slow it down just a touch. 44, now we’re in the the range. (calming music) I’m going to get your lactate in just under one minute. All right, you may now go up to 60 RPM, 50% faster, cadence rate. (energetic music) There you go, good work, 0.8! Dropping, dropping like
it’s hot, all right. It is time to now go up to 80 RPM, still that 250 watt target. (energetic music) One more minute here. 0.7, continuing to go down. How low can it go? Still 250 power target,
100 revs per minute. Very good, heart rate’s
almost 10 beats higher than it was at 40 RPM. (energetic music) Coming in on the 100 RPM, check. Oh, lactate 1.7, it is time, 120. Let’s get some revs. (energetic music) Heart rate 164 versus 148 we
saw, or so, at the 40 RPM. Man, that’s a cost of
doing business like this. Ain’t no free lunch, with the high RPM. (energetic music) And there it is, good, nicely done. I assume 120 is not
your preferred cadence. – [Simon] No, not at that power. – If you look on that graph
you see your resperation rate is the yellow on the right side. You know, the low RPM, you
know, just a little bit of an increase, even at 100
it’s a little bit of a bump, at 120 you just sky rocket,
it is just boom, not good for you from a physiological perspective. Lactate 3.4 millimals, you
doubled lactate from 1.7 up to 3.4, again same power. – Cool, right, so data
crunching to be done, yeah? – Yup, yup, so you get a
little bit of time to recover and get some fuel in you. – Oh, I think I need it after that. (slow calm music) – Well, I’ve had a little
bit of time for me to recover and for you to crunch the data, Neal. What can we see from those tests? – We’re going to talk about
first the Half Monty Test. So, there are two parts of that. There was the ramp and
the sustained effort. And so, with the ramp that
you went to your absolute limit, we’re looking at
power and heart rate for you. We did measure your
metabolic data, so your VO2, the amount of oxygen taking
in and using to produce that energy, and one of
the things we have built into the equation within
the workout, is in an actual predicted VO2 max value. – [Simon] Okay. – So I’m going to give
you this number to you irrespective of body
weight, so this is in liters of oxygen per minute. The predicted from the
equation is 4.72 liters of oxygen per minute. Our measured actual value was 4.71. – So, how do you predict it? – It is an equation that we
put together for using both the heart rate and your
power output during the ramp. – So the fact that heart
rate is very unique to an individual, that doesn’t
actually matter in the grand schemes of things when you’re working out? – Exactly, so each person
has an individual heart rate, where their peak is and
where their threshold is, and then we work from that
individual’s heart rate, and what we see. Secondary to that, we also did
look at your lactate levels ’cause we wanted to see… You know, your peak lactate
was at 12.7 millimals, and after two minutes of
recovery, you were down a little under 10 millimals, so that
shows that you were recovering a little bit. We then did a second test, right? The 20 minute sustained
effort and with that, we chose a target and set
a heart rate limit for you between a 158 and 164 beats per minute. And allowed you to shift and
hold the given power output then for that whole thing. You did average 267 watts
during the 20 minute segment and your lactate from the very
start of it through the end was actually decrease, each
five minutes we saw a little bit of a further decrease
in your blood lactate. What that indicates is that
effort that you sustained is lower or below your
lactate threshold power. – Let’s move on to test
number three, then shall we. The cadence one, which I’m
really, really intrigued about. Because actually doing it, I
mean it was clear that although my power stayed exactly
the same, it was like well below threshold, like the
way my body was coping with the different cadences was
all over the shop, wasn’t it. – Yeah so we started you off
nice and low like probably lower then you’ve sustained
as a cadence for a long time. Started you at 40 RPM, target
throughout the entire thing, 250 watts, we then every four
minutes notched up another 20 RPM, so 40, 60, 80, 100, 120. What we see then from some
of the other values are, oxygen costs, so VO2,
again liters per minute. At the lowest RPM you were down
at 2.98 liters per minutes. As the biggest extreme looking at 120 RPM, that VO2 climbed up to 3.57. – Wow. – That is literally 20% more oxygen cost for the same power output. – [Simon] Okay. – We also have significant
changes in your heart rate then. You were, I believe 148 beats
per minute at the 40 RPM level and you were climbing up into
the 168 beats per minute. – So, face value, you might
then say, well, my optimal cadence is down at 40 because
I’m more efficient, I’m– – Heart rates lower, and
oxygen cost is lower. – Yeah, and I’m burning less carbohydrate you know I’m burning more fat. But clearly that’s not… – That’s not absolutely true. – The whole truth. – It is again a piece of
the thing, and that’s true that your heart rate was
lower, your VO2 was lower but the ability to sustain
that and the force requirements would be significantly different. Again, we can look at things
like the hour record and pretty much almost all the
records in the past hundred years have been set over 100 RPM,
now there is a specific track and velodrome and
you’re in a fix gear that you have to start in. But, that’s kind of the
highest human power output that we often see in that context. And so a higher cadence
to some degree is better, but higher across the
board, that is an absolute is definitely not better. – I mean, this is just a snapshot,
so what is it that you’re actually working on when it
comes to cadence that could potentially have an effect
on how people are training? – So, we’re looking at the
data that we have from people doing workouts and some
of our test efforts, the Full Frontal Test
and the Half Monty Test. – And these people that have volunteered to submit their data? – Yeah, yup, again using one
of our, like our nerds group, we had several hundred
responses of even asking them preferred cadence in addition
to then the data that shows what cadence they actually ride at. – [Simon] Right. – And so, again, there’s a distribution. Some people do tend to ride at
a little bit higher cadence. Some people tend a
little bit lower cadence. Clearly there’s more people
kind of in the middle, probably closer to 80 or
so than 90, I would say as a general rule, we
started to write a lot of our workouts with say closer to
90 as our average cadence and we are definitely starting
to push a little bit on that and say, well actually, I
think we need to take into account where a given
individual’s preferred an optimal cadence is for power output
and then start to make changes to the workout, relative
to that individual value. – Okay, so what would that do
then to someone actually doing one of the workouts? – Yeah. – Obviously they would, they’d
have cadence target based on what is optimal for them. – [Neal] Yup. – [Simon] But then can you go
further and use cadence as a way of getting an extra training stimulus? – [Neal] Absolutely yes,
so for a given effort, just like you saw, with
the same power output, going at a much higher
cadence, creating much more of a cardio vascular strain. So we saw, also the lactate
values, significantly higher at the high cadence, in addition to your VO2 respiration and heart rate, and then we see a bit more of a muscular load strain when we go down
to the lower cadence there. We gave you, again, that
biggest extreme, 40 RPM and 120 RPM, but we
know from the literature that if we varied that
cadence by more than about 15% from your optimal that there
is a change in that metabolic cost, on either side,
going higher or lower. – To a certain extent then,
does your preferred cadence, your self-selected cadence,
but actually you could find out that someone’s self-selected
cadence wasn’t optimal. – Potentially higher
than their optimal is. – So, actually
– Someone trying to reign… – Remembering to change
into an easier gear. – Yeah.
– Okay. – So we have both ends of
that spectrum that we have to address at times. – And is that something
that you will be able to extrapolate from the data? – There’s a bit of that, yeah,
so looking at race results that was something with Kasia
from the early races this spring, I was looking at
kind of critical moments in the race and you know,
certain power band and looking at the cadence, I was like, “Okay, here’s some things
and this doesn’t… This seems to be precipitating
a point where you have fatigue and then you are not
able to match the effort. And so, in some intervals we started to, we’re going to push this value from here up to there, so a higher
cadence target then when we do these type of intervals
that are kind of more specific to that classics, and low and
behold, you look at Amstel and effort that she makes
there, the cadence is higher than some of those prior races that weren’t quite as successful. – Okay, and when you take
yourself out of your comfort zone and you use a cadence that is not optimal, is that going to be of benefit? – Yeah, there’s still an
impact on you in a training stress, just like almost
anything else, if we do the same thing the same way all the
time, we don’t get a change. And so we have to create
some stimulus for change, and again power output is
part of that stimulus but adding then that added
element of cadence, and given power will again
create a new stimulus. – Okay, so training both
too fast and too slow, can definitely be of benefit? – Yes, yup. – Cool. Cheers guys! Good luck, right. I’m off for a cup of tea and a lie down. I’m also going to eat lots of food. One last little gem of
information that those guys just gave me was that
through my metabolic data, they worked out that I
burn a ridiculous amount of carbohydrate every
hour, even at relatively moderate intensities, so fueling is top of my agenda from now on. Of course, a massive
thanks for Neal and Mac and the guys at Sufferfest for helping to make this video happen. If you want to see that video
about Lloyd that I talked about at the beginning, then
why not click on screen, just now, and please just give
this video a big thumbs up.

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