Jim Miller is the Chief of Sports Performance at USA Cycling and has coached more Olympic cycling medal-winning athletes than any other coach in US history. Jim is a 5x Olympic Team Member and has coached his athletes to 5 Olympic medals, 6 World Championships, 10 World Championship Podiums and upwards of 60 National Championships, receiving the Order of Ikkos three times and USOC Coach of the Year two times.
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[00:00:00] Jonathan Lee: Welcome to the podcast dedicated to making you a faster cyclist, ask a cycling coach podcast presented by trainer road. I’m coach Jonathan Lee, and we have a special guest with us today. We have Jim Miller from USA cycling. Uh, Jim, before we have you say anything, I’m going to run through your Palmares.
So to speak here, the coaching side of things. So you’re the chief of sports performance at USA cycling. Uh, you’ve coached more Olympic cycling medal, winning athletes than any other coach in the U S which is pretty awesome. Uh, five-time Olympic team. Five Olympic metals, personally, coach and Olympic medalist to four consecutive Olympic games.
I believe that was Kristen Armstrong. Is that correct?
[00:00:36] Jim Miller: 20. Oh four.
[00:00:38] Jonathan Lee: Amazing. Um, then United States Olympic committee, coach of the year and oh three and oh four USC order of ECOS in 2008, 2012, 2016, which is an extremely prestigious award to get six world champion. That you have coached over 10 world championship podiums and somewhere north of Nash or 60 national championships.
You quit counting a while ago. So, um, I have yet to count one of my own in terms of my own national championships. So I can’t relate to that. Jim, you’ve had a ton of experience and I want to talk to you today about habits and traits that you have seen in working with successful athletes. You’ve worked with a lot of them.
And with those talented athletes, this is like the common question that a lot of athletes want to ask. If you were to split up the pie of attribution for these athletes in terms of why they’re so successful, how much of a would you assign to genetics? How much of it would you assign to the training that they do?
And then how much of it would you assign to just the mentality of a champion that they may have?
[00:01:40] Jim Miller: Um, Well, the first thing I’d tell you, if, if they’re going to win at this level or the big, at the big level, they have to have the full package. They can’t have two of the three, one of the three. They can’t be super good at one, but not equally.
Awesome. And another, uh, so you, you have to have the full package and probably, you know, for as many athletes as I’ve worked with it have had the full package, maybe two or three times that number of athletes. That were equally as talented, but didn’t have a full package. And the full packages is genetics, uh, work ethic, um, mentality, what it takes to win.
So it’s, it is a rare, uh, they’re not unicorns, but the full package is rare. It doesn’t come along every day.
[00:02:27] Jonathan Lee: Yeah. So when you mentioned that, uh, the, the odds of them actually achieving that potential and achieving success at the highest level, is there a common. Barrier that those athletes run into this, stop them from achieving that, or is it individually variable?
[00:02:43] Jim Miller: Yeah, it’s individually for sure. It’s individually variable because it’s really, it comes down to what each person wants for themselves in their life. Right now. If you’re Uber Legion, attic, genetically gifted, uh, maybe you don’t have to work as hard and you still achieve results. Um, but that gives you the flexibility of having a little bit of social life.
If you do have a ceiling on your genetics, maybe you have to train and be so diligent about your craft, that you have zero social life. Um, so yeah, it’s, it, it comes down to what each individual person really wants out of life for themselves. And then you get that rare person who has the genetics, who has the work ethic, uh, and has that, that warrior mentality.
Wants to win, uh, above everything else. And that’s, that’s the athlete that wins. Yeah. But we all have them. It’s just, that’s just how it goes. We all, we all are limited in
[00:03:39] Jonathan Lee: some capacity. And, and for those of us listening to this podcast, likely more limited in some, in many aspects in terms of athletic performance, then the athletes that we’re talking.
But at the same time, we can relate to this and we can understand it and learn from them just the same. I want to talk about two different athletes that you’ve coached. They seem like they’re on opposite ends of the spectrum. If Kate, Courtney and Taylor Finney. Right. Um, Kate Courtney’s, Kate Courtney has his brand is being this like hyper driven, very motivated athlete.
Uh, she does everything. She, she leaves no stone unturned. Taylor Finney has this, uh, reputation, uh, during his career. He had the reputation of just dripping with talent and potential. Um, but struggling to be able to fulfill that potential in one way or another, it’s almost like the world had different hopes than what Taylor had.
How did you coach those two athletes differently? Cause it seems like their motivations would be very. Yeah,
[00:04:38] Jim Miller: well, at first I’d say I had different roles with both athletes, uh, with Kate, I do ride her training day-to-day with Taylor. He was just in my in teams I was working with. So whether I was with you 23 road team, junior road team, uh, elite road teams, world championships, Olympics, or track teams, whatever he would come in and, and come in and out of the teams I was working with, uh, on a day to day basis, I think it was well, it was Neil Henderson.
They later bought. Did you look that he primarily worked with, um, but they’re similar, but they’re also on similar. Uh, Kate is very focused and driven and, and, uh, knows what she wants to accomplish and is as good at it. Also sharing it and, you know, storytelling with it. Uh, she does, she, I mean, she absolutely approaches her business with, with turning everything.
Uh, Taylor on the other hand was pretty, he was a ton of fun to be around. If he was in your team, you had a great time with that kid. Uh, just a fun guy to be around. He, he kept everything loose, light non-stop jokes. But the difference was he could flip the switch when it, when it came time to race and he came in time to compete, came time to prepare.
He very much could flip the switch and be that, that hyper focused, hyper driven, uh, triple AAA type athlete that pursues relentlessly pursues, what thereafter? Um, so you know, maybe, maybe a little bit of his, uh, Demeanor isn’t really doesn’t portray or, or characterize who he really was internally or inside.
[00:06:24] Jonathan Lee: Yeah. So it’s not necessarily one athlete is serious and other athlete isn’t serious. They both can, they both can turn it on when they need to be able to turn it on. How do you, how do you motivate athletes to turn it on? Now, once again, if you’re just dealing with pre motivated athletes that are already in that place and you don’t have to do a whole lot of that, but how do you get to that point where you motivate an athlete to be able to.
[00:06:45] Jim Miller: Yeah. Well, I think coaching really coaching is motivation, right? If you can’t motivate an athlete, you actually can’t coach. That’s the truth of it. Um, but I think motivation really comes from the relationship. If you don’t have a relationship with that athlete, you probably can’t motivate them to do something that they don’t think they can do.
Uh, if I were to try to encourage you right now to go. I don’t know, run through a wall. I probably couldn’t talk you into it because you have no reason to believe that on right. That you could run through that wall. And you’re just like, I’m not going to do that. I’m going to get hurt. Uh, however, I think if we work together, uh, and we, we pursued this performance where after, and.
And built this relationship. I could convince you to give it a try. You may not be able to run through it, but I could convince you to try. I can motivate you enough to try. And, and I think coaching a lot of times is, is motivating somebody to believe they can accomplish something that they don’t believe they can do, but they try it because they believe in you so much.
So a lot of times I think. Even if you’re going at a high level. A low level of capital athlete. You’re still trying to convince them and motivate them that they can do something that they don’t aren’t a hundred percent sure they can do. Sure. So I think that’s a big part of it. And for me, that comes back to developing the relationship.
If, if I don’t have a relationship with that person, I have, I have very little leverage to encourage or motivate them to do something they don’t believe they can. Sure.
[00:08:27] Jonathan Lee: Um, I feel like it’s generally accepted that athletes like highly successful athletes set really lofty goals. Um, do you find that to be the case and, and the sense that they set goals that might even seem unachievable?
Is that a common trait amongst successful?
[00:08:46] Jim Miller: Yeah. It is also a common trait among unsuccessful athletes. Yes. And what’s
[00:08:52] Jonathan Lee: the difference?
[00:08:53] Jim Miller: Yeah. Um, anytime I start talking to somebody about goal setting and goal setting, for me, it’s super important because that is your roadmap. That’s your, your roadmap to where you’re headed, what you’re trying to accomplish.
Um, I always want to get down to what really motivates them. What is it they really want to win. If you ask an athlete at the beginning of the year, what do you want to do this year? They’ll tell you three things. I want to climb better. Sprint better in the Tundra. Sure. You’re like, why not? We could make all that happen.
Then I wouldn’t be a genius
or that, you know, if you’re talking to road riders, they want to, they weren’t riding the world to where they want to go to the tour de France. Uh, if you’re talking to guys who’ve won at the U 23 level junior level, U 23 levels internationally, but then they’ll talk about, uh, not just being in the tour de France, but winning something in the tour de France, uh, they want to.
You know, they want to chase something. So it’s, I think it’s all a little bit relative, but I like to, I like to try to drill down to what it is that really motivates them. So yeah. Hit me with the big goal. Talk through it. Let me hear it. Cause put it down, but then let’s, uh, scoot it to the side and then really start drilling down into what motivates you.
What is it you really want to win? Uh, and, and then that’s where we start, but, uh, if they say they want to be into our fans and I’m like, okay, look, let’s, let’s look at your progression year over year, you’ve grown basically 3% for the last four years, uh, in power profile. And then just take FTP as a sort of, uh, example, um, for you to be an tour de France competitor, to make a team you have to get to here.
If you grow 3% year over year for the next five years. Are you now at that level? Or are you still underneath that level? If you’re at that level and I’m like, yeah, that’s entirely possible, but you have to continue to progress and grow. And if that’s the case, then we can, we can talk about the 200 France five years from now.
Um, if you’re not at that level, then I say, then I’ll say for you to get to that level in the next five years, you’re probably gonna progress 4% year over year. And now let’s break that down to what that takes this year. So this year you may have to go from. 330 watt threshold to 350 watt threshold next to the year after that has to be three 70 the year after that, it has to be three 90.
And at any point along that continuum, it starts to, to level out or you hit a plateau, then, then we can come back and say, okay, that tour of France. Might not be realistic for you, but you can get into the world to where you can make a nice living. You can, uh, you probably can ride a Walter. You can ride in a Jiro or you can, uh, ride another races, et cetera.
But, but may we’re changing the goal now and we’ll keep that in the back of your mind. That’s what.
[00:11:44] Jonathan Lee: So it’s a, it’s like a database approach looking at where they’ve come from rather than just pure moonshots. And then trying to go from there. You have to look at where you’ve come from as well. Right. Have you had situations with athletes where they didn’t set lofty goals, you had to light a fire under
[00:12:00] Jim Miller: him.
Yeah. Um, occasionally, yeah. I mean, some, some athletes are afraid to say it, right. Uh, th they may in their mind, know what they want to do, but they’re just afraid to say it. And that’s the same, that’s the same situation that you have to, you have to get it out of them and you have to get them to say it, uh, you know, business that people always talk about.
Uh, what is, what’s the saying? Under promise over deliver. Yeah. Uh, sport is not that way. Sport, if you don’t say it, it won’t happen. So you have to say the goal, you have to write it down. You have to commit to it. If you believe in it, you dream it. You want it. Then you have to say it. If they can’t say it, then they probably can’t get there.
So the same thing with the lofty goals or the moonshot goals and the athlete that won’t say something, I’ll still get them to say it, and then we can leave it alone and go about what it’s going to take to get there.
[00:12:51] Jonathan Lee: Do you typically try to. These successful athletes away from res like results-based goals, race results, based goals, and towards something else, or do you think that those are fine as well?
[00:13:03] Jim Miller: I like results. Um, I mean, at the end of the day, at least at this elite level, it is about winning and losing. Um, doesn’t mean that. You, if you get second that you lost, you can have a phenomenal performance. I think it’s second. And, and just because you ran into a buzz, saw somebody was super formed. You can’t get past them.
That doesn’t mean you had a bad day. It’s just like, what? Look you have to respect that they also work super hard and they also have the same type of goals. And, and that’s why we could be. So I am, I am bear like defining what a performance is or what success is and acknowledging that it’s not always winning and losing and winning as in first place and losing is in second place.
Uh, if it’s a good performance, I’ll say it’s a good performance. If it’s, if it’s not a good performance, I will S I won’t say it’s a good performance. Um, you can win a race in a few tactically when about it. I will still criticize the race. Um, vice versa. You can ride a perfect tactical race, um, get second.
And I’ll be like, Hey, that’s a great race. There’s no shame in what you just did.
[00:14:14] Jonathan Lee: Yeah. Yeah. So it’s being objective about the performance itself rather than just the goal. There’s more to learn from a goal being set and a goal being achieved or not than just simply whether it was achieved or not. Yeah.
[00:14:27] Jim Miller: You know, just like. You meet people who want to win everything right. And they’re unhappy if they win. And I’m just like, that’s just banter. The end of the day. It’s mean this is the most humbling sport in the world. You, you literally train 50 weeks for two good weeks that are, that are phenomenal. Uh, you win three races a year and you’re like, that was a good year.
Uh, right. So it’s like, it’s, it’s inconceivable to think you’re going to win every race. So you have to say, okay, on this day, this is the best race we can do. And if is the best we can do, then that’s a good race, but there’s going to be a time when first is the best we can do and not getting. Is a bad race.
Yeah. It’s all in perspective. And where you’re at in what you’re trying to accomplish. If you want to win an Olympic medal, you, you, can’t also set a goal of, of being a world champion six weeks before that, or four weeks before that, because the form isn’t going to line up for the second goal. So you have to be realistic.
Like if that’s the thing I want, that’s what motivates me. I’m willing to sacrifice everything else for that. Including a world championship this for six weeks before. Yeah. And fourth place at that world championship might signal you’re on track for that ultimate goal. Um, and that’s not failing. That’s just the goal you set,
[00:15:51] Jonathan Lee: it’s a unique sport in that regard, right?
Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. Even at the amateur level, the same thing is just faced on a different scale, uh, for all of us as well.
[00:15:59] Jim Miller: Yeah. And if you tell me you want to be consistent, I’m like, okay, uh, that’s a great goal. If you’re consistently fifth place and let’s just take non bike racing, for example, your fifth place behind.
Keegan Levin’s Riley, uh, maybe Luke Cole, Stephen, the bowels, the guys like this, if you’re always fifth place amongst that group, that’s actually really, really good. You’re you’re a very good bike racer. Uh, and that’s a great goal. That’s a great, those are great performances. You didn’t win, but they’re nonetheless they’re great performances.
Yeah. So for me, that’s, that’s where goal setting has to be really clear what you’re trying to accomplish. Because you can’t come to me after you didn’t win that world championship for six weeks before the Olympics and say, well, I’ve been disappointed. My worlds. They’re like, well, if we go back to the goals, the goals were at the Olympics, not the world.
Right? Exactly. And I think that the same thing happens with anybody that coaches anybody at any level, you have to have the few things that you’re going to try to accomplish. And then there are things you have to give up to accomplish those. And if you give up something to accomplish something that you felt was important, then you can’t come back to the things that you gave up and said, yeah, but I wasn’t very good here.
It’s like, well, yeah, of course not. I mean, that, wasn’t what we were trying to do,
[00:17:26] Jonathan Lee: right. Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. You can’t let that, we talk a lot about race prioritization, right. And not letting it be, become an ASC, become a B that sort of a thing. Certainly not a C become an a yes. You have to stay. Uh, it, speaking of, of things kind of getting in the way and changing, I want to talk about the training aspect and a common thing that all of us athletes that are not professionals, experiences, life getting in the way of training.
What do, are there certain habits or traits of the successful athletes that you coach? Because they are also not immune from this life gets in the way as well. Uh, contrary to popular belief. What do they do when life intervenes and gets in the way of their training?
[00:18:07] Jim Miller: Um, I mean life is life and it happens to everybody.
Uh, for me, I started taking a big picture to it and no single day of training is, is going to make or break you. Uh, if you missed an LT session today, uh, threshold session. Well a week from now, it’s not going to have made you any better or worse, so just let it go and move on and we’ll reschedule. Um, what we’ll change plans.
There’s nothing for me. That’s so set in stone that, that you can’t amend it and change it and move on. Uh, I think, I think if I think of a characteristic, which you’re, you’re getting at, uh, I think in high-performers or successful. People athletes, businessmen, you know, whatever it is that, that you’re a high-performer ad.
Uh, they all have this ability to move on quickly, whether they’re moving on from winning, they’re moving on from losing they’re moving on from a day, going around and they’re moving on from, um, life problems, whatever. Uh, they always quickly move past and move on to the next. Uh, I think that’s a pretty common trait.
It’s like how long do you dwell on a failure? Uh, yes. Learn from it, break it down. Uh, debrief it, uh, talk about it, understand why it happened now. Move on, forget it. And we’re onto the next thing. I think the same thing when you, when you’re successful, it’s like great. This is a bit of a weakness of mine is actually celebrating success.
Uh, I’m so focused on the next thing that as soon as the window’s over, I’m just like, great. We did it. Congratulations. If we’re going to get to this next school, then this is what we have to do now. But I think, I think a successful trade is that they quickly move on from whatever it is to the next thing.
And they don’t dwell on it. They don’t, they don’t live on the high of winning for 6, 7, 8, 10, 12 weeks a year, two years. Uh, but they also don’t, they don’t dwell on a failure for that amount of time either. They just moved.
[00:20:15] Jonathan Lee: Yeah, it’s kind of like Ted lasso says be a goldfish to a certain extent. Yeah. Oh, that’s good.
Yeah. Um, so this is kind of a, this is a broad question. It could be a bad question, Jim, but I have faith that you can pull something good out of this. Um, what do successful athletes do with their training that not successful athletes? Don’t do.
[00:20:43] Jim Miller: I break that down. Two things. One is being consistent, uh, and two is making good decisions, good daily decisions.
Uh, I think great training programs are a collection of great daily decisions. It’s not one decision that was so great that it was a game changer. Uh, it’s just the collection of make good decisions over time. The lead consistency.
[00:21:09] Jonathan Lee: Yeah. Cause that’s the number one thing that we see too. And just the data and mass, when looking at it with millions and millions of rides and athletes around the world, consistency is the greatest driver.
Now there are so many things that make up that consistency. Right. But consistency is the greatest driver of improvement. People are consistent. Improvement goes up.
[00:21:27] Jim Miller: Yeah. And I would look at it, you know, sort of an odd way to look at it is, uh, the flu. If you get the flu, you miss a week of training while you have the flu.
The second week, you, you can just barely ride enough to get out of your own way. The third week you start to feel okay. And it’s not until the fourth week after you’ve had the flu that you actually can train. So for me, when an athlete gets the flu, they’ve missed four weeks of training immediately. If you’re, if you’re training, What, 45 weeks, a year, you’re missing close to 10% of your year, right?
It’s a lot, if that happens this year and it happens next year and it happens the year after that, you, you consistently get the flu, uh, and you compare that to a person who doesn’t get the flu. All of a sudden they have, they have almost. A 12 week train, jump on you and you would never recover from that.
You never come back from that. The flu is actually really simple. It’s like it’s hygiene. It’s a moderating load. If you, if you train too hard to go overboard and you, you do too much, you make yourself successful. Um, you get the flu. Uh, I use that as like a sort of a consistent Margaret. If you consistently don’t get the flu, then we’re managing load really well.
You’re managing life really well with hygiene and, and who you’re around when the flu is geeking. Uh, right. I mean, you’re not going to get the flu in July, but in November, December, Very much. So, especially if you have a training load that’s increasing in your billing base, uh, build a base, build a rubber capacity, you are fatigued.
Uh, if you’re over fatigued, then you become really susceptible. So for me, that’s like a that’s that daily decision that just making good daily decisions and over time they lead to something. But in the short term, maybe, yeah, if you get the flu this year, guess what? It’s not going to ruin your entire season.
If it happens year after year after. Yes, it starts to set
[00:23:31] Jonathan Lee: you back. And the same thing goes for just missed workouts, right. Um, and you know, you miss you miss one workout one week, and then you miss another one, you missed another one, your competition’s one to two weeks ahead of you. Once you get to that big goal event that you have a potentially, I mean, everybody misses, right?
That’s another thing that’s important to remember, but still. Yeah, but still that’s a, that’s a really good way to think of it. And from a cumulative perspective, because that’s what matters on race day. It’s not the, like you said, you don’t worry about one single day, but you worry about the cumulative effect of bad habits.
Right. And what they can do. Yeah. Yeah, that’s right. What do you, um, from a mentality perspective, do you find that successful athletes treat training and racing separately? Like, is there an entirely different mindset? And what I’m getting at here is a lot of athletes mentioned the fact that, you know, they remember those hard training sessions that they had to get them through those tough moments on race day.
But do you find the successful athletes just treat them separately or do they kind of overlap and have the same mentality on those two different scenarios?
[00:24:36] Jim Miller: I think they tend to have the same mentality, but I think that mentality can differ in whatever training cycle you’re in, right base miles. If you’re, if you’re doing a volume build, it doesn’t require you to come out of the house.
Just jacked on motivation every single day. Right? I mean, you can literally. Just throw your leg over the bike and go out and put in your time. And that’s good enough, uh, vice versa. When you started getting the dentist and you start building thresholds and you start building anaerobic capacities, that does take the same sort of psychology to get through the workout.
So I think it is it’s depending on the time of year in what you’re doing, but I also think that if you don’t develop that warrior and training is really hard to find that warrior and racing. So for me, the training, uh, is equal parts, physiology, and psychology. So you do have to find that warrior. You do have to find that, that, that dark spot that you can go to and know you can go there.
Because when you get into racing and you have to go there, you have to be confident in knowing that you can go there and come back.
[00:25:43] Jonathan Lee: Hmm. From that same perspective, you know, we tape our athletes before they get to a big event. Do you taper them psychologically as well? Do you, do you find ways to do that or do you feel like we have a bit more endurance in that regard to, to keep the fight in.
[00:25:59] Jim Miller: Yeah, mentally, I think, I think anytime you start picking an athlete, uh, physically, they feel great. Cause the low, the volume intensity has all come off. So they, they, you know, like for me, the telltale sign was there. They’re actually trying to sneak in and work out or, or interval or rep. They just want to test themselves.
Um, or they’re not sleeping super well because they have so much energy that they just don’t need that much sleep anymore. Um, So I think, I think, uh, physically I always feel really, really good psychologically. Uh it’s it’s just sort of that this is building to this crescendo of what we’re trying to do, and yes, there’s a little bit anxiety associated with it because it’s hard and you’re doing something hard and hard.
Things are hard. That’s why they’re calling. Um, that’s also normal, but I think, uh, the confidence in that comes from knowing that the preparation, the planning was, was tip top and that yes, while they’re nervous or they’re anxious about it, they do know and have that confidence that they’re prepared for the task.
Um, so it’s, it’s, you know, I think that psychology piece hadn’t had to be developed over the course of time and through the training and through the racing. But when you get to the peak, it’s, it should be intact and it should be there. I don’t think you have to do much with
[00:27:19] Jonathan Lee: it. Right. When you’re preparing like the pre-race plan or strategy with your athletes, um, and how they’re going to execute.
Are there, is there a typical model that you follow to get them focused and in the right head space, do you look back on what they’ve achieved or do you just focus on the goal they need to achieve?
[00:27:39] Jim Miller: Yeah, I think, uh, when it comes to goals and racism and, and how you approach the race, uh, to me, it’s, it’s where they’re out of the moment, uh, defines what they tactically can pull off.
Uh, and then also you have to take into consideration their competitors, right? What are, where are their competitors right now and what do they have? What do they have to do to beat you? And what do you do have to beat them? Uh, if you can break down a race into. As simple as you can, and you have like one or two or three things you have to accomplish and it, you can accomplish these things.
They’re going to put you in position. Um, that, that then makes the race less difficult to think about. Cause you’re like, okay, I just have to do these three things in the first lap. We’re talking about 11 minutes. If it’s cross-country, um, If I do that, I’m going to be in a great position to, to pursue my goal.
That gets a whole lot simpler than thinking about, okay, I’ve got to get a good start. I’ve got to get in this position. I got to do this. And then I’ve got six more labs to have to worry about. Right. So I try to break it down to just like, If we want to beat this person or beat these people, these are the few things we have to do.
These are the few scenarios that we want to accomplish. If we can get here, then you’re going to have a great chance and it’ll take care of herself. Um, road racing, same thing. It’s like, uh, how do you make the selection? How do you not spend energy? Uh, how do you fuel. Four hours later. Um, the simple things like you got to make the selection.
If there’s wind, you have to, you have to, you have to get in position for the wind. You have to make the selection. Then you have to sit for two or three hours like creasing. There’s always plenty of opportunities. You can find opportunity everywhere. It’s like bracelets. Super hard. You got through some crosswind.
Everybody’s set up. Hey, great time to attack. Except you have 150. So it’s not just seeing the opportunity to take it. Cause you see an opportunity it’s choosing the right opportunity, uh, and ignoring the other opportunities and that thoughts also kind of life, right? I mean, there’s opportunity everywhere around us.
You just have to know what it is, what you’re trying to accomplish and then choose the right opportunity for.
[00:29:46] Jonathan Lee: That task. Yeah. So this is, uh, you’re breaking down the, instead of putting the weight on you, you’ve got to win the world championship today. Good luck. Go for it. You’ve done it because there tends to be that void where it’s like you look back great.
I’ve accomplished my training. I’m coming into it. And now I still feel like I have this huge goal to achieve, which is winning or whatever it may be. I like that concept of, okay, so what are the necessary moves or things that need to happen within the race to get you there? Super, that’s a great tip.
Actionable for all of us.
[00:30:15] Jim Miller: Yeah. And they’re there, uh, it’s really individual dependent, right? I mean, I think you’ve learned the very, most about bike racing when you have the least amount for them, because now you, you can’t go to power. You have to think through the bike race. Uh, I think this is what.
Average bike racers, many great coaches is because they just couldn’t go to their guns and twist the throttle and, and make a selection. They had actually think how to get into that selection because they didn’t have that, that, that accelerated they could step on, um, vice versa when you have really talented athletes and they’re not on tip top form, it’s like, look, this is your opportunity to learn how to race a bike.
It doesn’t because you’re not in tip. Top form is not. Your chance to say, well, I’m not going to 10th is going to be good for me today. And I’m just going to raise to 10. I was like, no, you still have an obligation to try to win. Uh, you have to think your way through it. You have to try, uh, you have to use your strengths in your, uh, try to eliminate your weaknesses.
Um, if then this day, if you ended up eighth and eighth is the best to do, and we’ll be happy that, but that’s your chance to learn how to fight.
[00:31:25] Jonathan Lee: Yeah, poor fitness. Isn’t an excuse for poor effort, right? It’s in those moments that we tend to learn the most constrained on resources to get real creative right now.
So how it goes, uh, have you noticed pre-race routines or habits? From your successful athletes that are consistent across. Cause you know, you have Kristin Armstrong and she’s doing time trials, and then you have Kate Courtney and she’s doing cross-country Olympic. And then you have somebody like Keegan, who’s doing these days more marathon stuff.
And you have Taylor Finney on the track. See, you’ve seen athletes like all over the spectrum, whether it’s visualization a specific like warm-up format or things they do to get in the zone. Are there specific traits that they do pre.
[00:32:05] Jim Miller: Yeah. So I think pre-race, pre-race days pre-race rituals. I think the more automatic you can make them autonomous the better the day is, uh, the last thing you want somebody waking up at eight o’clock in the morning and then debating whether they should go for a morning spin or have breakfast.
First is life part of preparing part planning is have party worked through that and you know exactly what you’re doing. Yes. If you wanna, uh, you know, you have a C race you want to. You want to think about trying something else? I’m like, great. Let’s try something else. Um, but uh, in a race, absolutely not.
We should have already figured it out. If we didn’t figure it out, then that’s, that’s poor planning. That’s poor preparation on our part. Um, But yeah, race day has to be as autonomous as this and it can be all over the board. Uh, I had a world tour guy that race grand tours. Uh, he would do four or five hours, uh, the two days leading into the grand tour.
And you’re like, well, you’re just extending his. Grand tour. Right. But for him, if he didn’t do that, he wasn’t, uh, he wasn’t metabolically efficient. He wasn’t opened up. He wasn’t ready for those first couple of days. And if something happened in those first few days, there were separations that were splits.
Uh, you had a CrossFit, whatever he would always get dropped. So we, we ended up, uh, figuring out that if we did these four or five hour days, and they weren’t hard, they were just. Um, he fueled afterwards refueled afterwards. It physically wasn’t a cost of him, but he was, his body was turned on and he was capable of making selections or lean races.
If, if you could look at the race and say in this week, uh, this first week, there’s not really anything tough until. Thursday or Friday then? Yeah, you could use those first three days in the race is the opener. But if there was a prologue that was important or a time trial early, or a, you know, you see this in the, in the tours, the grand tours all the time, you see these little five T non top finishes a week.
One that don’t look like a big day, but it turns out to be monstrously difficult. Uh, then yeah, we would add the four or five hours beforehand and he would come into it. Rolling. And good to go, but it is really individual, but it has to be autonomous. You have to do the planning and preparation before you have to experiment, you have to know what works, what doesn’t work.
And then when you get into you’re a racist it’s, it’s just automatic. You don’t bait it. You don’t discuss it. It’s the same thing happens. You wake up at eight, you have breakfast, you’d go for a spin. You take a nap, you have lunch, you go warm up. You go to the start line and it’s everything from I take off my pants, warmups.
I take out my time. Take a swig of this and now I’m on the start line and there’s nothing left to chance.
[00:35:06] Jonathan Lee: Yeah. It’s all intentional and all planned and in place. Yeah. And they’ll say,
[00:35:12] Jim Miller: um, no everything just as automatic as it possibly can.
[00:35:18] Jonathan Lee: Yeah. And, and using those be races or see races, or even just training days to, to refine that is a great opportunity.
Right. Um, with. We kind of talked about the, you know, having a lofty goal coming into it. You talked about achieving those stepping stones that lead to being able to achieve your lofty goal. What do successful athletes do when those stepping stones aren’t achieved? So in other words, when the race isn’t going to plan, and it’s the big moment and it’s their event, what does a successful athlete do in that moment?
[00:35:54] Jim Miller: Well, yeah, it sucks when that happens, but it is. I mean, that’s why we compete. That’s the whole purpose of it. Um, and I think generally it’s, sometimes you’re just going to have to do the best ride you can do that may not have been what you wanted, but it’s the best you could do on that day. And that’s that.
And you know, in those scenarios, it’s quitting for me is never an option. You just don’t. Uh, if you quit, you start quitting, it gets easier, easier, easier to quit. So that’s never an option for me. Uh, the only option is do the best ride you can today and then post race. We’ll debrief this and we’ll, we’ll determine why it didn’t work out.
And that that’s the more important piece to this. But, yeah, it’s, it’s, you know, if peaking were that easy and winning, when you want to win, was that easy, then we would all win all the time. It’s it’s difficult and it’s challenging and it doesn’t always work out. So, but it’s not working out. It is what it is.
And then post race, less debrief and find out why
[00:37:02] Jonathan Lee: do you ever find athletes going into a spiral from those sorts of things where it’s, this is like a common thing where you see one thing doesn’t turn out how you anticipated or hoped it would turn out. So then as a result, you kind of let the whole thing unravel and you spiral out of control.
Psychologically speaking, performance ends up suffering. Uh, have you had athletes that have experienced. And what advice would you give to an athlete when they’re in that scenario? When things start to come unraveled and they lose the plot?
[00:37:32] Jim Miller: Yeah. It happens a lot and it happens to a lot of people more often than, than you realize.
I think. When we look at other people’s performances or years or seasons, uh, we recognize, yeah, they had a bad race. We don’t recognize that they had the batteries before that they had a okay race before that they had a bad race before that we don’t see the totality of the picture. Only, only when we reflect on ourselves, do we see the totality of the picture?
Right. So we think everybody else sees what we see, but really we only see what we see and everybody else’s only looking at themselves as well. For me, I think whenever you get in that scenario, so this is sort of also a bigger picture of the culture you create around you.
I think if you have people that will spiral with you, it’s very hard to control. Uh, if you have a bad, if you start spiraling and that causes the next person in your team to start spiraling and your team could be your training team or coach or nutritionist strength, coach, a team director, whatever it may be friends, uh, friends, uh, then it is very hard to control, but if you have a culture where it’s okay, It’s positive.
Um, people pick you up, they lift you up. Uh, their goal is for you to succeed. Uh, the spiral is hard because you have three or four or five people who aren’t letting you spiral. Um, so I think when you, when you see that happen to athletes, I think you have to look at the totality of the team around them and why that is.
And then, and then find who’s allowing the spiral to happen. Uh, I think culture, you know, people talk about culture a lot and it’s a super big buzzword at the moment. Right? Everybody has culture. Uh, culture is easy and fun thing to talk about, but culture is actually living it. You have to live it right.
And if day-to-day you have a bad workout and I say, Hey, stop. Let’s look at it. You had five reps, one, two, and three were a, a grade reps. Uh, number four was B a number five was a DRF for this. Your workout was good. We can live with that. Right. One rep didn’t crush. You. That’s the that’s living culture.
That’s, that’s part of that positive reinforcement and not allowing people to spiral and lifting them out of that spiral. You have to do that consistently all the time. And that’s, that’s what creates the culture. And that’s what creates that sort of, uh, That magic. That is the secret sauce, the magic around you that doesn’t allow that to happen.
And when it does happen and somebody does spiral and they have a bad day, then they have a bad day than have the bad day. You still have an obligation if you’re part of that team to continue to try with. And continue to try and lift them up, continue to try to lift them up. Uh, you can fail without being a failure.
And, and for me, that’s, that’s what I try to create with, within the teams I work with with, uh, individual athletes. I work with, uh, within the coaching staff that I have at USEC. Is that for me is non-negotiable. If you’re not going to live that type of cool. Then you’re out to just straight away. I, no ifs, ands or buts, no games.
Uh, that’s the demand and that’s expected. Um, that’s how I manage those, those bad situations because life is life sport, a sport you’re going to go through bad periods. There’s I mean, it’s just, it is what it is. And if you’re not prepared for that, or you don’t live that sort of, uh, Then yes, things can get really, really bad now to control.
Um, but if you do live that you can manage that and you can keep it from going super deep or super dark.
[00:41:16] Jonathan Lee: Yeah. Great point. And all of us can build that support system, whether it’s official in the context of a team or not, all of us can, can choose who we surround ourselves with. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Great point.
Um, This may be the last question. Um, I have tons of questions that I want to ask you too, at some other point, we’ll end up asking them, but I want to ask how athletes, cause this one is specifically like athletes, um, examples like Kate, Courtney, as an example in the mountain bike world where she achieved success.
And, and it was honestly, I think for a lot of people, probably not for Kate, because I feel like Kate’s so driven, but for a lot of people and probably not for you, it was like, wow, she’s already there. She’s already world champ. But then it was like, okay. So how do you deal with that pressure? And that is something that I think a lot of amateur athletes on a very different scale, but also relate with in the sense that they had a great day one day and, or they may have some sort of reputation that they feel like they have to live up to.
How do you mentally help your athletes or what should an athlete do mentally to deal with pressure from previous results, pressure to perform that comes to. It
[00:42:29] Jim Miller: is tough and everybody struggles with it. Uh, I don’t, everybody feels it. I dunno if they struggle with it, I find the sport just so, so, so humbling that it’s, it’s really hard to be overconfident at any one time.
Uh, I mean, you lose so many more times than you win when you win. You’re just like, oh, thank God. I’m not terrible.
[00:42:55] Jonathan Lee: Yeah. It’s relatable for me. Yeah. Yeah.
[00:42:58] Jim Miller: And yeah. And so I find the sport just so generally humbling as it is. Um, That the naturally it’s easy not to get too full of yourself. Uh, but at the same time, I try not to believe the high by there.
You’re never, we’re never as good as anybody says, but we’re also never as bad as anybody says as well. Um, for me, uh, you know, I mentioned earlier that the successful people in general are able to move on from one task to the next quickly, whether they win or lose where they fail or succeed. And I think that’s something that I try to instill with anybody I work with too, is like, okay, look great.
You won a. But now we have to keep going, right. Uh, the genius is in not climbing the mountain once, but, but climbing it over and over and over that, that’s where the true genius is. Um, and I do like underdog status, to be honest, uh, I will do everything to. To move somebody off that hill, back into an underdog status.
I think something that, that nobody would ever know about Christian Armstrong was, is successful. She was, is a time trial over 15 years. I mean, she has something like that. 83%, uh, podium rate over 15 years, incredible in trials, you would never expect her to go in a time trial, not as one of the favorites that everybody’s talking about, but if you were to ask Kristin going into every single time trial, she was absolutely the underdog and she, she believed that, that she had to prove it again today that she wasn’t terrible.
Um, and, and so I think with, for me, I liked that position because it’s, it’s easy. Uh, it’s easy to get your mind in the right place and pursue the next thing. I think when you, when, uh, it’s you also forget how bad it hurt, right. You literally do. It’s like, uh, If you could remember how bad that hurt you probably wouldn’t want to do it again, but you immediately forget it.
And you’re like, oh my God, that day I was so good. I felt so good. And it’s like, well, okay, you did, but that’s because you got the outcome. Sure. If you were second or third, you probably don’t don’t have the same reflection, even though it was the same effort. Um, So I think, I think that’s also part of the, I dunno if I’m getting lost in this explanation, but I think it’s, for me, dealing with that pressure is, is just moving past the past result and saying, look okay, we did it once, but we have to do it again.
Or we have to do it a third time, a fourth time, the fifth time.
And, and maybe that’s a little bit of, of my failure too, of not celebrating things. That’s how I manage. As we just move on. Yeah. Innovate, celebrate it. Clap hands. Yeah.
[00:46:02] Jonathan Lee: Yeah. But I mean, the goal is not like that if the goal is progress, right. Like, you know, that makes sense. That’s and that’s what you’re focused on.
You know, Jim. Uh, it’d be fun to have you on the podcast at another point. Uh, it’d be cool to, to even discuss more questions. I’m excited for everything that you’re involved in, especially looking at the growth in junior racing and, and everything that we have in the USA. I, you think we’ll have a world cup champion maybe someday.
And in addition to Kate coming up on, on the men’s or women’s side,
[00:46:32] Jim Miller: man, I’m so bullish on mountain bikes. Uh, I think we have, we have great athletes. I think we have great talent. Uh, I think we have a great, um, development system and, and Nika. They’re producing a ton of athletes, uh, in some of those, some of those athletes love, bike racing, some just enjoy bike racing.
I think that’s great. Um, but if you put, if you, the more you put into the hopper, the more are going to come out and I just think we’re in a great place. Uh, Um, then I think that, that, uh, we’re going to have, I think we’re going to have men world champions, uh, in the next five years, Chris. I mean, Chris has also a short track world champion already.
Right? I think we’ll have a Nexeo world champion. I think we’re, uh, we’ll have Olympic medals in both pairs in LA, in the mountain bike. Um, I just, I think this discipline. Is it a great spot?
[00:47:32] Jonathan Lee: Yeah. Pretty exciting. No doubt. Um, Jim, if people want to follow you, they can find you a Jim Miller time on, on Instagram, correct?
I believe that’s the spot to find ya. Yep. Cool. Jim, isn’t going to be on there every day, but every once in while you get some great nuggets from him, so it’s good stuff.
[00:47:48] Jim Miller: I’m going to have a great follower. Terrible poster.
[00:47:51] Jonathan Lee: So give him a follow on there. Uh, Jim, as a parting note, while people are listening to this, I’m I will be, since it’s being pretty recorded, I will be suffering sucking wheel behind Keegan Swenson.
So please give him an easy week next week, and I’ll appreciate that. I’ll send you a TIF in the mail. So. Yeah, thanks for coming on. And also, uh, it’d be cool for all of us, kind of a, to align in this community behind Jim’s athletes and go and support them. You can see all the different athletes that Jim works with.
He shares content from them and, uh, it’d be cool for us to all go and support them at whatever races they end up doing because they’re racing around the world all the time. So thanks for what you do for cycling gym. Genuinely appreciate it as an American, appreciate what you do for an America for American cycling and actually coming on the podcast.
[00:48:37] Jim Miller: appreciate being here and appreciate the time and good luck next week. Keegan,
[00:48:41] Jonathan Lee: I’m going to need that. Yeah.
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