Episode 39 – Chris Case, Fast Talk Podcast Host: Every Ride Should Have a Purpose

The strong savvy cyclist & triathlete podcast

Transcript

Speaker 1:

Human Vortex Training and Menachem Brodie present, The Strong Savvy Cyclist & Triathlete Podcast, where we talk strength training, physiology, psychology, check and much more, to help you get fitter, faster and stronger, in and out of your sport, giving you expert insights, talking with other leading experts. And now your host, world-leading strength coach for cyclists and triathletes, Menachem Brodie.

Menachem Brodie:

Hi everyone and welcome to this episode of The Strong Savvy Cyclist & Triathlete Podcast. Today we are joined by fellow podcaster and Fast Talk co-host, Chris Case. Chris has a long history of being in and reliving the cycling lifestyle. He worked as the editor at VeloNews for over eight years and has been a co-host of Fast Talk podcast. And today we get to do what’s quickly becoming one of my favorite things to do as a podcaster, and that is to interview those who podcast themselves. And today is a huge win for you because Chris gets a chance to talk and just share with us a lot of his experience. For example, did you know that he actually started off slicing monkey brains in a windowless room, in a basement at the NHS university. He has quite an interesting history and a bevy of knowledge and experience to share with us. And today we’re going to talk about quite a number of important topics, especially for right now.

Now, Chris is also a co-author on a book called The Haywire Heart, which you can find on Audible, Kindle or in a hard copy, and this is a great book to read because as endurance athletes, we do hear a little bit more nowadays about endurance athletes who have had heart issues and unfortunately passed. So it’s a fantastic read for you. We breeze over this, very briefly the book, because there’s so many other things that we talk about, including why Chris is now aiming to set a PR on the track running as well as his past going through and becoming much more focused and having every ride with a purpose. And that’s pretty much our main focus for today, is how to avoid over-training and burnout and reframe this moment in time so that you are able to use this time to grow and to stay fit.

We cover a lot of ground today and we’ll get into the interview in just a couple of minutes. A few housekeeping items. Here it is the middle of April and a number of you, first and foremost, thank you for the welcome back emails. Really appreciate it. And thank you for the suggestions for future guests. We have quite a few guests coming on the next couple of weeks, including response to some of you coaches, who have been asking, “How else can you grow your business right now, as opposed to being worried and having that lacking mindset.” And we have some fantastic guests coming up to help you improve your business. Coaches, I heard you and we are going to respond. Now today, it is the 17th of April, by the time this is going to release, and I’d like to share with you another response to demand.

We are going to be opening a $47 discount on the 12 week strength training program. This is a home workout program with kettlebells and bands. This is a response to three of you on Instagram who actually emailed me and asking me for a home workout plan, if I had one, and also a couple of you who had seen the Instagram and listened to some of our podcasts, asked if there was an eight week program. There is not an eight week program, but we’re going to discount the 12 week program to $100 instead of 147. And you’ll find the discount code is going to be April 2020. So you can head on over to the strength training for cycling website linked in this show descriptions. Use April 2020 when you check out to receive $47 off of the 12 week home strength training program. All you need is a pair of bands and a kettlebell. If you only have one kettlebell and one band, don’t worry about it, that will work and we will be in contact as you need, as you initiate, to help you make sure you get what you need out of that program.

Second, we are going to open the coaching certification and we are going to have a three pay option. Now that’s going to be the next week or two. I’m going to open it up. A number of you coaches out there have been asking for guests for the podcast, and can I please open the strength training for cycling certification again before the fall. So, because of the unprecedented times, that’s what we’re going to do here. So April 17th, we’re going to open it next week, April 20th, until the end of April, and you will be able to have a three pay option, so three monthly installments to allow you to get access to that product and begin to coaching your athletes even better during this time where strength training can play a great role.

Now one last announcement today, also posted was our first blog post in about two months, talking about strength training. Does it help your cycling improve? And we go a little bit in depth. So if you head on over to the Human Vortex Training website and check that out, there is lots of great information as well as a number of different exercises that you can and should be using right now in order to help you be able to ride better. That’s it for the housekeeping for today. If you have suggestions for guests or you’d like to have me cover a specific topic, either here or over on my YouTube channel with the live almost daily coaching vlog, go ahead and email me Brodie, B, as in boy, R-O-D as in dog, I-E @humanvortextraining.com. We’ll put it into the show description, but without further ado, let’s get into our interview with fellow podcaster, Chris Case, of the Fast Talk podcast. Chris, thank you so much for joining us.

Chris Case:

Absolutely great to be here Menachem.

Menachem Brodie:

It’s nice to get a chance to flip the microphone around with you because in our interviews it’s been a lot of fun and there’s been a lot of gems shared on both. And unfortunately a lot of that gets edited when you go through. But for the listeners out there, on the Fast Talk podcast, there isn’t really a chance to get to know you very much. Can you share with the listeners about your background and where you are these days?

Chris Case:

Yeah. Again, same here, being on this side of the microphone is new. Not that I haven’t done it before, but it’s always fun to flip things around and be the guest. So, yeah. Happy to tell you a little bit more about to who I am, my background. I grew up in Connecticut, went to school, university for neuroscience, did a lot of science in college and then also in clinical research just after college at the National Institute of Mental Health, right there on the campus of the NIH, the National Institute of Health, clinical research first with patients with schizophrenia. So a genetic study of that very complicated, very disruptive disease. And then I transitioned into some research in a model of Parkinson’s disease in monkeys, and I also worked in some clinical labs studying mood disorders in adolescents, some pre psychotic symptomology in college aged students.

So I did a lot of research, a lot of investigation into some pretty significant mental health disorders. And then I made a complete change and I went to school and got my master’s degree in journalism down at the University of Texas, in Austin. And as probably many Fast Talk listeners would know, I served as the managing editor of VeloNews for eight years, that came from my journalism background, but as I spent more time there, I brought in more and more science, not neuroscience of course, but exercise physiology and started working with Trevor Connor, the co-host of Fast Talk. And so to bring it full circle in a way, or bring it to the present, that’s what I do now, I bring science and I bring journalism together. When we do it right, that’s what we do. Whether it’s Fast Talk or some of the other things that we’re doing, and being a science communicator, if you will, is what I am now.

Menachem Brodie:

Fast talk ran three years, I think, with VeloNews. And for those who don’t know, it’s also now hosted on fastlabs.com. So it is still going and the shows just keep getting better. I mean, each one you guys put out it’s like fine wine, it just gets even better as you go along.

Chris Case:

Thank you. Yeah, I think it was actually maybe even four plus years with VeloNews, but yes, we continue on, we’ve spread our wings so to speak, gone off on our own under the Fast Labs company name, Fast Talk continues on. And thank you for saying that, we try to improve in big and small ways with every episode. Right now we’re dealing with technical issues, you probably deal with this a lot too, whether it’s the challenges of WiFi or the challenges of working from home with noises and kids and neighbors and whatever you have to deal with, we always try to improve on the content and that’s really the most important thing.

Menachem Brodie:

It is, and I think that the listeners of any podcast really get that. Sometimes the quality may not be that great, but the content has always been there and that’s one of the things that I’m finding as a Greenhorn podcaster, it’s very hard to put out really solid podcast after podcast where there’s a good take-home, good conversation, that really is an art. And it sounds like you have a full 360 degree approach. We’re understanding rather, both from the physical to the neuromuscular, to the neurological as well. So I’d really like to hear, how did you make that switch from working with mental health to exercise physiology in health, and how does that influence you now having that strong background in that neuromuscular science?

Chris Case:

Yeah, it’s really interesting. I’ll tell you the short version of the story that led me to totally change paths first. I was, and I’m not exaggerating, I was slicing frozen monkey brains in a laboratory, under fluorescent light, basement lab, no windows, no other people in this lab, the post doc would occasionally check in with me and I was doing that eight hours a day, slicing these monkey brains. And it was really ironically, mentally very challenging to do that, and I didn’t see a lot of future for myself in that field at that point. Yeah, I was completely dejected if you will.

So that’s when I thought to myself, I really need to do something different, and that’s when I took the step to go back to school and ended up getting my journalism degree. So, to bring it back to your question and the present time, the work that I did, certainly in neuroscience, seems pretty far removed from exercise physiology, but the big, big piece of connective tissue between them is that they’re science, and science has some fundamental principles that underpin it, that bring it together, that are consistent across fields. And so having that background really helps me when everything from reading journal articles and understanding how good they are or how suspect I should be when I read them, to the principles that underlie the methodology, what do you want to see from one study to another study, to the progression, are they asking the right questions? How solid is this data? Can we take this data and disseminate it to the world and say, “This is factual, or as close to factual as possible in the science world?”

Just having that critical eye is very helpful in delivering solid, well-vetted messages to listeners about the science. And we talk about exercise physiology on Fast Talk. We definitely talk about the psychology of sport on Fast Talk. Certainly my cohost, Trevor Connor, could be having a degree in exercise physiology and nutrition, he often will be the one to take the deeper dives into the science, but I play the role of the curious listener. I try to facilitate a greater understanding of the content by asking some of the questions that I anticipate the listeners have. So I might understand the science pretty well, but I also have to put myself in the shoes of the listeners and say, “Hey, let’s back up a minute. Trevor, help us understand what that means to a lay person or how that can be applied. What’s the practical message here that can be applied to training or the athletic mindset?”

Menachem Brodie:

But you’re no stranger to writing or talking at length about exercise physiology and my own personal experiences. And if I’m not mistaken here, it’s the two year anniversary, either last week or next week for your first book, The Haywire Heart, which talks about doing too much exercise. So you’re taking all of this in, it sounds like, and you’re really able to digest it and put it into a very easily read and absorbed piece, which is a skill in and of itself.

Chris Case:

Yeah, that is always the challenges, understanding how deep to go, how much to simplify, where you can simplify what’s appropriate. So yeah, speaking about The Haywire Heart, the book, that was one of those projects that came out of an article I wrote for VeloNews magazine. To back up a second, the article itself didn’t really go too much into the science, a 5,000 word piece. You want to capture people’s attention, you want to talk about the emotional roller coaster that is being diagnosed with a heart arrhythmia and how that can change your life, and some of the practical things you shouldn’t do when you are diagnosed with that. And of course, a little bit of the science to support the idea that you might be able to actually “overdose” on exercise throughout your lifetime in a cumulative sense. That spurred the idea that there was so much more to talk about, and that’s when the idea of the book came about. And yeah, that was a long process to understand a lot of the science. And of course I was one of three authors.

We did have an electrophysiologist as an author and somewhat like what Trevor and I do on our podcast with this book, we had the electrophysiologist really tackling the deep science and Lennard Zinn, a famous author in the cycling space. He was writing about it from a personal standpoint because he has an arrhythmia. And I was overseeing all of this language, trying to make decisions on the best way to explain some of this really complicated everything from biology, to chemistry, to physiology and anatomy. The correct way to message this content, this material, because we didn’t want to scare people. This wasn’t a book about being alarmist, this was a book about education. And that’s really the approach I take with everything that I do is trying to be as true to the science as possible. And The Haywire Heart, you could certainly criticize it for being one thing or another, but it was at least an attempt in this day and age where we’re seeing more and more of these heart arrhythmia issues in endurance athletes to suggest there could be some connection between too much exercise and heart issues. So, that was the intention.

Menachem Brodie:

I think it came out really well. John Mandrola, I believe, was the other author, is that correct?

Chris Case:

Yes, John Mandrola.

Menachem Brodie:

And that’s available if the listeners want, it’s on, I think, Audible, hardcover and Kindle and paperback, I’m guessing.

Chris Case:

Yeah, both, yeah.

Menachem Brodie:

I mean, the thing that’s really interesting with this, and I think this is a great place for us to really get into things here today is, with the current situation here at the beginning of April 2020, we have worldwide pandemic of the Corona, certain countries are in lockdown. So where I am right now, we’ve been in lockdown, you’re not supposed to venture more than a hundred meters from your house for the last two weeks. And then tomorrow night, we’re not allowed to leave home for 12, 14 hours, whereas where you are in Colorado, they have pretty much, they shelter in place and you can do stuff within certain limitations and within reason.

Now a lot of athletes, looking at the Facebook groups, the Zwift group on Facebook, looking at the TrainerRoad, a lot of people are looking to drastically increase their ride time because they’re home from work or they’re stuck at home, not able to do anything else. Let’s talk a little bit about, in a nutshell, what should the listeners be thinking about, “Oh, I have all this extra free time. Now I can train more.” What are some things that they should be considering before jumping and just increasing their volume?

Chris Case:

Well, I think the first thing you need to consider is what is the end goal here. If you’re just a recreational rider and you need to maybe just release some stress, then getting on Zwift and doing a race and thrashing yourself is exactly what you need. If you’re a racer and your racing calendar has been disrupted, and you don’t know when your next race is going to be, you might decide that maybe going back into base period, for instance, is the right approach to take. Or you might say, “Oh, I was really ready to hit some races right now and I’m bummed that I can’t race.” Well, maybe that’s when you do also get on a Zwift race, get some of that pent-up energy out of your system, do some racing to scratch that competitive itch. Or if you can safely get outside, you go out, you maybe go for a Strava KLM or set a PR. So, it all comes back to your goals. I wouldn’t necessarily say in any general sense that just get on your trainer and start logging as many miles as possible.

A, I’m not a big fan, this just shows my bias here. I’m definitely not the trainer guy, I was on Zwift for the first time in my life last week. Trevor and I invited Dr. Stephen Seiler, who is a famous exercise physiologist, to do a ride in preparation for some riding we want to do through Fast Talk. And that was my first time and it was better than just riding a trainer, but I can’t say I’m going to be a Zwift fan. No offense to people who are, it’s just not for me. So to back up again, really understanding or facing the situation and being honest with yourself, then coming up with goals that fit with your circumstances in your life and adjusting as necessary and then doing what you can training-wise to fit with those goals would be my plan in a nutshell for anybody out there.

Menachem Brodie:

I mean, this is the shallow end as far as I’m considered, for the performance and what people are doing. By the way you beat me to Zwift, I’ve managed to stay off that thing. I was on a CompuTrainer for a number of years. I’m very internally motivated, I don’t need someone else in front of me. It’s very much, “Here’s what we’re doing for the ride today, this is why it’s important. This is where the cutoff is.” And being on Zwift, being in that competitive environment, for me at least, knowing myself, I’d be like, “Oh no, I got to chase this guy. Oh, I got to chase that guy.” And then the next thing you know, you’re looking at TrainingPeaks like, “Wow, my training stress score is 87 and it’s August 30th. Why is it so high?” So what would be some considerations? And this is the shallow end as far as getting on the bike and putting in the physical work. That’s the easy part. Anybody can do that, but really when we’re in a situation like this, there are so many other considerations, let’s get into the neurological, the neuroscience side of things and playing the deep end, how would we look at our training and intention right now in the current situation that we’re in?

Chris Case:

I think you bring up a great point in that, you say you’re internally motivated and it sounds like every ride that you do has a purpose, and that’s really key. That’s my philosophy about training and riding generally, is that every ride should have a purpose. That doesn’t mean every ride should be a workout. Sometimes the purpose is fun. Sometimes the purpose is joy. Sometimes the purpose is release. Sometimes the purpose is kick my own ass because that’s what I need today or intervals or whatever the case may be. But in a way, I think it’s really simple in philosophy. In practice, it’s a bit more difficult. You have to really think about the context, whether that’s your season as a whole, or the month of the year, or a training block that you might be in. And you really have to understand every time you clip into the pedals, the ride should have a purpose that fits into the greater whole and sitting down and coming up with the purpose of those rides can happen beforehand certainly.

The other thing to keep in mind though, is life comes into play here and things might interrupt what you had on that plan. So you need to be agile mentally and physically, but more so mentally in that you need to say, “Okay, these things occurred, I did not anticipate them. Therefore, I need to adjust in these ways.” And then the purpose of your ride might from day to day, need to adjust slightly and your purpose might change.

Menachem Brodie:

Let’s talk about that a little bit because now, especially with the race season, we saw just a race after race for the professional calendar just get decimated. I think they just did last week or this weekend, they did a [Ronde 00:24:22] Zwift, I believe.

Chris Case:

Yeah.

Menachem Brodie:

So, we’re starting to see a little bit of a transition. There’s a number of gaming platforms out there, Zwift is obviously the most popular, there’s also CVRcade, there’s a number of other ones that are coming up, but you mentioned each ride having a purpose. What about now where maybe your peak race is in July or August. Maybe there’s a possibility that it might still happen, but it’s so uncertain right now. Now, how far should someone dig down for that motivation to keep pushing themselves? And at what point do you have to say, “Okay, I need to take a step back and reassess and figure out where I want to go right now.”

Chris Case:

Yeah. I think stepping back and reassessing is really the first thing you need to do. It is very clear that there’s a lack of clarity. That’s a strange way of saying there’s a lot of uncertainty right now. We don’t know when we’re going to race. In some places in this world, there might not be any racing in 2020. Certainly, the season as a whole is not going to be as robust, there’s not going to be as many race days in the majority of the world. So starting from that point of view, I think yeah, stepping back saying to yourself, “Maybe it isn’t a race. Maybe what I need to focus on this year are some weaknesses that I have, or maybe what I need to do is come up with a personal goal or a personal challenge that is detached completely from a race calendar so that I’m not relying in the existence of a race to work towards. My goal is I want to set a new FTP, new high FTP, or I want to… ” in my case, I’m doing more running, so I’m looking at setting a PR in the mile on the track.

Maybe there’s a Strava segment that you’ve always had your eyes set on and you’re like, “Now is the time.” You have, let’s say, anywhere between six weeks and six months to work on that goal, working towards getting in the shape that you need to be to hit that target, whatever that target is. And maybe, I know as a strength and conditioning expert here, Menachem, you might also like to think that there are people out there that need to work on their off the bike stuff a lot more than they normally do. So maybe that’s where they shift their attention. Maybe they’d skip some of that Zwift riding or trainer time, and they start doing more strength and conditioning work and work on some of those things that they’ve neglected for so many years.

I like to think of this time, and I don’t mean to make light of the situation because I know everybody’s circumstances are different. And we’ve been talking a lot about this on our own podcast in Fast Talk right now, but we’re encouraging people to look at their circumstances and say, “Hey, if it’s something you can do safely, maybe now you just reframe this period in your life.” It’s universally disruptive. Everybody’s going through something right now. Reframe it as a positive, make this time an opportunity to do something either you haven’t done before or something you’ve neglected and see it as a chance that you wouldn’t otherwise have had. And I know that that is easy perhaps for some people to do, given their circumstances and much more difficult, if not impossible for others to do, because they are literally on lockdown and have been for the past month. But again, trying to put a positive spin on the time, I see it as a way to get some rewarding new experiences and challenges under the belt.

Menachem Brodie:

And are there certain skills, mental skills or tools that we can work on now to help sharpen or maybe to build up from nothing?

Chris Case:

Certainly the art of reframing is a skill in itself and that takes some practice. Might even take some assistance from either a friend or a family member, or if you have a therapist for instance. So that really has to do with looking more objectively at the circumstances, and instead of seeing them as a negative, reframing things, shifting how you view them from a different angle and seeing them as a positive. So that’s a really powerful way to use the power that you have inside you in your very own brain to see this in a different light and use that to your advantage. Another thing to keep in mind here is this psychological principle called resilience. Again, not to go back to Fast Talk again and again, but we actually just spoke with a prominent sports psychologist named Julie Emmerman on our show, she used to work with Garmin-Slipstream at the time. She worked with that team, she still continues to work with some pro cyclists, NHL players, hockey players, MMA fighters. And she works with all of these professional athletes and one of the biggest things that pro athletes possess innately that amateurs can apply to themselves and benefit from is this sense of resiliency.

So that is almost reframing in the moment, when you’re faced with a challenge, whether that’s an injury, a disappointing performance at a key race for yourself, whether it’s coronavirus. The ability to deal with the situation, face the situation and then as quickly as you’ve dealt with it, you put it behind you and start looking forward, start looking to ways to improve the situation. Whether if you’re coming back from an injury, it would be immediately coming up with a plan about the rehabilitation strategy and what that schedule looks like. Calling the right people, getting the right appointments. If it’s in a time like we’re living right now, it’s doing what I said a moment ago about coming up with or reassessing your goals, understanding the situation, planning for this time with a new set of goals based around those new parameters. And that is a very simple way of describing resiliency and it’s a fundamental way to move past and not be bogged down by the negative energy of the time.

Menachem Brodie:

I think we have a great example of that in the professional ranks in Chris Froome right now. I mean, that was a massive, massive accident he had and the injuries he sustained. Granted we’re not going to see him, unfortunately it looks like, here in 2020. But just the fact that he’s even considering that he’s very close to being ready to do the Tour de France this year is a huge talk about resiliency, not just physical or mental to be able to go through that and come out on the other end.

Chris Case:

Yeah, that’s a great example. And the fact that he had the ability to talk positively just… I don’t know if it was days or maybe it was weeks in his case because his injuries were so severe, I’m not sure if we heard from him days after the accident, but he was already talking about returning to the sport, putting a positive spin on it. And sometimes it is, in a situation like that, it’s words at first, but then you start to live those words. So you start with setting that goal for yourself and you put it out there, you express it. And at first maybe some people are like, “Oh, you’re crazy. That’s not possible. You’re never even going to ride a bike, let alone race the tour again.” But you start with that, just phrasing it, and the momentum builds and you build a plan around it. And yeah, it’s a great example of resiliency for all to see.

I don’t know if this is a perfect analogy, but when a professional bike racer crashes his bike in a race, assuming that they haven’t hurt, like broken collarbone or really hit their head bad, which is a whole other discussion, but what do they first do? They get up off the ground and they look at their bike because they want to get back in the race. They know the time is short, the assessment they need to do to get back in the race is time is of the essence. So maybe it’s a bit foolhardy to look at their bike first instead of their body, but their number one goal is, “I’m a racer, resiliency as a principal is taking over. And I just do everything to get back in the race.” And that maybe is a microcosm of resiliency that can be applied in different ways and on different timescales. That’s what it’s all about.

Menachem Brodie:

And it seems like now might be a time where that resiliency can possibly backfire for some of the listeners, where they just get up… I’m totally guilty of doing this back in 2009, where I burned myself out on the trainer. We had the massive snow storm, I’m pretty sure it’s 2009, 2010, we got two and a half feet of snow in one night, actually I worked on the ambulance that night which was awful and amazing at the same time. But-

Chris Case:

This was in Pittsburgh or?

Menachem Brodie:

Yeah, yeah. Pittsburgh, yeah. But that resiliency can also backfire. Are there warning signs that we should be aware of? Let’s say, hopefully this isn’t the case, but let’s say the whole U.S. goes on lockdown and you’re not allowed to go outside of 300 feet from your house and they really mean it. What are some warning signs that we should be looking at, maybe getting off the bike, getting off the trainer and doing… maybe we’re doing strength training, or maybe they let you do other things within your city, but the burnout on the bike because it’s just not bikeable, is starting to creep in. What are some warning signs that we should be aware of and how can we deal with those?

Chris Case:

Yeah, that’s a great question. I think that certainly if, like you are alluding to, there’s a tendency when people get on a trainer because, and I don’t think this is too big of an assumption. First of all, riding on a trainer is not equivalent to riding out on the road. There’s no coasting on a trainer. So your muscles are constantly engaged in the… The one hour ride on a trainer does not equal the one hour ride outside, they’re different. That has to be kept in mind. Secondly, the tendency, I would say, is when you get on a trainer, you’re riding harder than you would when you go outside for one of two reasons. You don’t like the trainers so much, you don’t want to be on it all that long, so you think to yourself, “I’ll just go a little bit harder, so I don’t have to go as long.” So the higher your intensity is, and if you do that consistently, the danger of burnout becomes greater.

And then the other thing that people do is they get on Zwift because they need the social outlet or social component to riding, and as we all know, Zwift basically turns into a race more often than not and that again, leads to higher intensity rides. So all that being said, it’s a very good point that if you’re staying inside and riding the trainer a lot more than you’re used to, the chances of overtraining or burnout do increase. So you’d have to pay attention to some of the warning signs. Those can come in the form of obviously just assessing how you feel, the feelings and sensations in your legs. You can look at parameters like heart rate variability if you have a device that measures that to see how well recovered you are before a ride or each morning, depending on when you want to take it and have some consistency in when you take it and how you’re looking at that data.

The other thing you can do is, there’s some evidence to suggest that some of the mental health questionnaires that are out there really do a good job of helping you understand how close you are to being burnt out or over-training. One of them is called DOMS, it’s an acronym. If you look that up, you might be able to find an online version of it. And taking those quizzes, if you will, it’s a questionnaire that assesses your mood and mental state. If you do that several times a week and are able to follow the trends up or down, you should be able to give yourself a better sense of where you are on the recovery scale because it comes down to that.

If you’re getting on Zwift three times a week and each of those is a race, then the accumulated time and intensity is quickly going to become too much. If you’re disciplined about it though, and you’re getting on Zwift and one day you’re able to go super easy and you ride for two, three hours, one day is intense session and the other day is somewhere in between, maybe you’re not going to get burnt out. So you really have to investigate your circumstances, analyze them, there’s no general rule to say, “If you do this many minutes above threshold then you’re going to be burnt out by this date.” It doesn’t work that way. It’s very personal. It’s very individualistic.

Menachem Brodie:

The profile of mood state is something that I’ve used with my athletes. Before any of my riders go from the States to Europe or vice versa, we establish a baseline for them because that’s a very stressful change for culture. There really is culture shock and that can really, really make or break a trip, especially if you double flat in your first two races and then the next one, you’re just getting elbowed and pushed to the back, you have that downward spiral, which has happened to, I think, a lot of cyclists out there. But the profile of mood states, is that something that you’ve used with those that you work with? Or having been on the research side, is there a lot of weight that should be carried in that? Or is it more of you establish a baseline and then watch for that variability?

Chris Case:

My experience with it is pretty limited. Again, Trevor has definitely used it with athletes he coaches. So my co-host on Fast Talk, being a coach for many, many, many years has used it effectively. He’ll use TrainingPeaks, he’ll look at CTL, he’ll look at a lot of these other data points, but a lot of times the most telling things about an athlete’s physical state come out in the words they use to describe how they’re feeling. And that’s what some of these questionnaires of mood states will help. They’re not going to ask questions specifically about your state of recovery, which is interesting. They’re going to ask things like, “Do you feel like you’re more irritable? Are you sleeping well?” Things that actually are symptoms of your mental state, are indicative of how you’re dealing with the training stress that you’re applying to yourself. So, I personally don’t have a lot of experience using that with athletes, Trevor does. Trevor relies heavily on that daily feedback in the words that people use to really understand where they’re at, whether it’s leading towards burnout or overtraining, or in the opposite direction.

Menachem Brodie:

You mentioned it asks, “Are you feeling irritable?” And I think the statement that follows may or may not be true for other people. But in my experience, it is either my roommate, girlfriend, or now wife. If I’m training too much or not enough, I tend to get, “You’re being a real captain Ahab.” And that’s not the words they use. Let’s talk about the balancing life and training with family and finding that happy balance where you’re not being a jerk, irritable. Because that’s something I think a lot of people are overlooking, is they don’t realize they’re going that far down, that off-balance because now they have all the time.

Chris Case:

It’s so true. This is a big challenge for a lot of people and I can give examples from my personal experiences on what to do right. I can certainly give examples of what to do that is not right. It is a challenge as I think about it and I’ve had these conversations or this particular conversation with a lot of people, because a lot of people, like you said, are in this situation and it is difficult. For me, it comes down to communication. You have to be a really good communicator in a relationship generally speaking. I think that is key. But when you’re an athlete, whether or not your partner or spouse is also an athlete or not, communicating with that person is essential. So what do I mean by that? Setting expectations for the two of you.

I’ll give my personal experience. My wife loves to run, she loves to ride almost as much as I do or probably as much as I do. We have a four-year-old daughter. So communication on a weekly basis looks like, “Okay, when do you want to ride, when do you want to run?” “Okay, when do you want to ride, when do you want to run?” We have to fit it into this puzzle we call life and you have to communicate it on a daily basis. “Okay, are you still interested in riding today and how long are you going to be gone? Okay, I’ll watch our daughter during that time you go for your ride, you come back.” We also really make a habit of checking in with one another and by that I mean, if I’ve gone for a ride and I’ve been out there for three hours and I come home, sometimes it’s a verbal communication sometimes it’s non-verbal communication. I can see, “Oh man, our daughter was a real pain those last three hours while I was out on a ride, mom really needs a break right now. Okay, I’ll change as fast as I can and I’ll give you a break and then you can do something to revitalize your mind and body while I take some of the stress away by watching our daughter.”

So, the point being you really have to be a good communicator, you have to work at being a good communicator. It sometimes happens smoothly and a lot of the time it doesn’t, but communication is at the heart of everything that we do to make it work where we’re both active and we use that activity as our therapy, or just our release, what we love to do. So it’s a big part of who we are and how we live our lives.

Menachem Brodie:

Are there any tips or anything that you’ve found works? Obviously it depends, couple to couple, or household to household, but is there anything that you found that is really powerful that you’ve done? Is it’s setting five minutes aside every month to realign with your significant other? Is there anything that you’ve found that has been a good habit to help breed that?

Chris Case:

We don’t set aside a time, it’s almost always present. We’re always communicating whether it’s through words or body language about different things when it comes to managing situations and I certainly don’t want to make it sound like our daughter is a little rascal that we are constantly having to adjust. It’s not like that at all. Right now, we’re doing a lot of great things with our daughter and I think we’re fortunate because she’s home, and we get to spend a lot of time with her in this beautiful age that she’s at. So the other day, she went for her first legitimate bike ride with us, which was awesome. She’s been running with us a little bit. She’s four years old, but she loves to run. We are big cyclists in this family, but she really hasn’t been into the bike, then one day she got on her little bike, put her feet on the pedals, just started riding. And every day since then, it’s been riding the bike at all waking hours basically. So we really are appreciating that time.

That said, every little kid has his moments and maybe it’s just us, and we are able to understand each other and each other’s needs and we do it respectfully, which is another obvious key component here, is respect for one another and one another’s times, and being able to shift when somebody needs a break or needs help. So it is possibly a good thing for people to carve out a bit of time to have a conversation on a consistent basis in order to come up with… this will sound kind of arrogant maybe, but if you’re not as good as my wife and I at managing this, then you need to have set aside some time to have a specific conversation about this. That’s probably a very good idea, especially as tensions ramp up, people are stuck at home, we’re all out of our element a little bit. We’re not getting the breaks that we normally get, we’re not getting the distance from one another that makes the heart grow fonder. So sometimes people are probably getting on each other’s nerves a bit more than the normal. So sitting down and discussing it is just going to help. There’s no way around that.

Menachem Brodie:

Well, it sounds like you’re speaking from experience. I don’t think it’s arrogant at all. It’s just finding that happy medium of what’s going to work and communication is key. And I think, especially nowadays, in the pre-interview, you had said, I think, “Close together, but far apart.” Was that what you said?

Chris Case:

We’re all, in a way, alone but together, and together but alone. Everybody’s circumstances are different, but we’re hunkered down where we’ve got this connection with everybody else in the world though simultaneously, because of what we’re going through. Even the people in Antarctica are somewhat disrupted by this. This is one of those rare, rare moments in our lifetimes where everybody is being affected in some way by the same thing.

Menachem Brodie:

I’d even extend that and say in human history, I mean, think about the black plague that was Europe, so South America. There’s all these things and this is the first one, at least, that I’ve seen in written history that has truly affected everybody in a very similar way, as opposed to, “Oh, well, X, Y, and Z didn’t happen because of a trickle down effect.” But looking at things here, just looking back through the notes that I’ve written here, it sounds like there’s a lot of underlying trend of balance, a mix of trying different things, knowing what your North star is or where you’re going with things as well as variety. You mentioned you’re trying to set a PR on the track. You just mentioned that your daughter is now starting to learn to ride a bike. And by the way, for the listeners, Chris did not mention this before, but he also has experienced as a photographer and his Instagram is quite a treat. Yeah. Some of the photos on there are just fantastic. There’s one from the [inaudible 00:50:00].

Chris Case:

Oh, thank you.

Menachem Brodie:

So, chrisjustincase, C-H-R-I-S justincase, is his handle. It appears to me that a lot of where you’re coming from is there, there’s a lot of talk of balance. Well, I started in neurology and then… neuroscience, excuse me, and I wasn’t happy there. So I tried this and then there was that, and it’s just a constant rebalancing it sounds like. Is that a fair statement to say about you Chris? Is that it’s looking for that balance as you go through things and really getting into things, but keeping your eye on the ball, so to speak.

Chris Case:

Yeah, absolutely. That’s a great observation. I think that life in general is a balancing act. We’re constantly making small and sometimes very large tweaks to get back to a state of balance. Sometimes that means changing careers, sometimes that means changing up what you had for breakfast. The changes can be small, they can be substantial, but I think that goes hand in hand with finding the balance, bringing in that variety for the sake of interest, but also because of my fondness for science and experimentation. What you do right now might work perfectly, but there’s a part of me, at least, that is always asking the question, “Well, what if I tweak this? Will that make it better? What if I do this differently, will that improve something?” So you’re right in that I definitely am always seeking balance and at the same time I’m not really always satisfied, I guess. So I don’t know if those two contradict each other, but for me personally, that’s what makes life interesting, is seeking out new things and challenges and trying to fit it into what works for you, trying to take new and add it to old and achieve balance.

Menachem Brodie:

And that’s not an easy thing to do. I mean that rebalancing and going down that path, that’s very hard, at least for me, I tend to get stuck in those ways. You mentioned breakfast, I had a little chuck earlier, because since we’ve been home, my wife and I have had three breakfast, oatmeal, eggs, or what is it? Huevo Mexicano, and that’s it. And to change out of that, it’s like, “Do you want to do this?” This morning we did Popovers, it was a nice little change, but making those small habits, it really changes the tone to the day, but you don’t think of it, right?

Chris Case:

No, that’s it, you get into such routines and habits. And I think this goes back to my point earlier about how to reframe this moment in time, this moment in history, in our lives. And if you are able to see it as a positive, to really try some new things, I think you could actually find it a rewarding time. And of course, again, I want to emphasize for those living in certain places, this, I hope it doesn’t come off as me sounding insensitive, but for others out there that are able to, yeah. It’s a time to try stuff, a time to change stuff, to take this disruption and turn it on its head and turn it into a moment for improvement for experimentation.

Menachem Brodie:

Chris, there are so many diamonds here, both in the rough and finally cut through the interview today. I really wish we have more time. We’ll definitely have to have you back again on the podcast. Thank you for your time today. Can you share with the listeners where they can find you and connect with you?

Chris Case:

Absolutely. So, and thank you for saying that, I appreciate being on the show, it was a lot of pleasure. My handle on social media is, as you have mentioned before, @chrisjustincase, our business is Fast Labs and that website is fastlabs.com. And there you can find our archive of episodes of the podcast, Fast Talk.

Menachem Brodie:

Yeah. I just want to make sure that we point out that it’s been disrupted right now. That’s a hot phrase, right? You guys also do performance camps as well. Do you have an eye on speculative when you might be looking at doing the first one, are you looking at the fall or is that still to be determined?

Chris Case:

Yeah. That, and speaking of disruption, we were supposed to have our first camp in a couple of weeks and certainly that’s not going to happen. We really do think it’s probably best for us to postpone until next year Unfortunately, we haven’t fully made that determination, but given the uncertainty that we’re dealing with in terms of people’s ability to travel, even if some of these orders are lifted, people might be a little bit more shy about, or cautious about traveling. We really didn’t even mention the economic impact this has had on people’s lives and how challenging it might be coming out of that. So thank you for mentioning them, we are really excited about them. I don’t know if we’re going to be able to pull one off in 2020, so we’ll keep you posted on when they do reappear and when we are able to confirm that.

Menachem Brodie:

Awesome, and strongly recommend going, you guys are a bevy of knowledge yourself. There’s again, so many diamonds here from our interview today. And thank you for taking the time out of your day here.

Chris Case:

Thank you so much Menachem, it was a pleasure.

Speaker 1:

That’s it for this episode of The Strong Savvy Cyclist Triathlete podcast, with world-leading strength coach for cyclists and triathletes, Menachem Brodie. Don’t miss an episode. Hit that subscribe button and give us a review. For more exclusive content, visit humanvortextraining.com or get the latest expert videos from coach Brodie on the HVT YouTube channel @HVTraining. Until next time, remember to train smarter, not harder, because it is all about you.

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Menachem Brodie

Menachem Brodie

Coaching since 2000, Menachem Brodie has been working with athletes in a number of settings, and a broad variety of sports.

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