ST podcast with J Filliol

So many points mentioned which are part of my own little training philosophy, I need to share this:


Thanks for sharing!

1 Like

Agree 100%

I loved this podcast and have book marked it to re-listen to. I would also check out the show notes if you haven’t. Thanks @Mikael_Eriksson!


Great show. So many questions, I will start with two. I’m sure there are more to come.

  1. No periodisation, no peaking: do they really build up chronic load continuously? At some point before an A-Race they must reduce the work load or is the build up so moderate that no reduction is necessary. Reminds me a little of the training of E Kipchoge before the Berling marathon that got published.

  2. This moderate build up, careful with intensity. This is clearly driven by running. And as we all know running is a different beast. Can we really transfer all of this to cycling-only athletes? The interview was a little short on cycling.

1 Like

I’m in the middle, and I can already see it’s brilliant. Joel is such a no-nonsense guy, and a bit of a myth-buster. @Mikael_Eriksson absolutely at the top of his game, too. Thank you!

Just before Mikael replies, bear in mind Joel’s athletes are the ITU bunch. Do they really have A races the way we do? I don’t think so, these guys race almost all the time from March to September, and longer if they do Super League (which they do).

Thanks guys! I really think it might be the best and most important interview that I’ve done (but it’s entirely Joel’s fault, not mine…)

They definitely reduce training load the week leading into a race, but as @kajet says, they have a lot of very important races, and peaking/tapering in the traditional sense is at least to some extent quite tightly tied into traditional linear periodisation, which in itself is a training tool designed to peak for a single event rather than perform across an entire season.

What Joel means by no peaking I think, is that they don’t really treat the WTS Grand Final or the Olympics that differently from any WTS or Superleague event, they follow a similar “reduce the load and get a bit fresher” pattern every single time.

We probably can’t transfer all of this to cycling, but I don’t think it’s completely driven by running by any means. He mentions doing only 400 m worth of interval work on the swim when getting back into training. If it was all driven by running, why not take moderate approach only for running and treat swimming and cycling differently.

I think the key is that with the exception of a very brief period at the end of the season once they have a break, they have kept a high chronic load for a looong time, probably 10 months or more of high load. And that base doesn’t go away in 2-3 weeks off. They can afford to gradually ease into intensity as the ramping workload driven more so by volume will already bring them fairly close to where they were before, and then when they start doing chunkier intense workouts they will quickly get those last few percentage points back.

My guess is that it translates very well to cycling, but the question is, how well does it translate to us mortals that are less fit, and don’t have that same base. As Joel talked about, the elites are doing those long hard workouts (once they’ve built up to them) under very high chronic load. Doing that for 11 months of the year sounds unsustainable, so they’re smart about the intensity.

Since we don’t have the same chronic load, it might be possible for us to have a much less gradual transition back to our intense workouts and it can still be sustainable.

1 Like

I’m also only halfway through but I think this is the big question:

how well does it translate to us mortals that are less fit, and don’t have that same base.

Is intensity more important for people that can only train 10-15 hrs vs. the 30 hrs for the pros? This is sort of the concept of TR.

1 Like

I’d say the audience here is quite diverse. Yes, the majority of people here have probably a fairly weak base because of time restriction and perhaps because they got late into endurance sports. I started cycling competitively as a 13 year old. I know so many athletes who are life long athletes, the types of athletes we see out there is really diverse.

To be competitive in the age groups you have to train almost pro like. Or - in the older categories - you’re an ex pro who gets away with the training volume. Just got back from Italy where the Gran Fondo scene is really huge. Many ex pros or semi-ex-pros competing there. And many age groupers competing against them.

I find this approach of progressing through chronic load quite appealing. First of all, I like riding my bike. Traditional rest weeks make me crazy. And above all, I don’t really find them necessary. Yes, you need recovery but all this recent talk about how important rest for adaption is and so is going into another new extreme. Same with season breaks. Especially when you get older, loss rate of performance is simply higher. A brutal fact.

So if you can shell out > 15h/week I find this approach really interesting. However, even if you have less time, isn’t this what sweet spot training is all about. As a concept, increase chronic load moderately with a limited time budget.

1 Like

I agree and when you build recovery into the weekly cycle recovery weeks are not that important unless you do not recover quickly or live a high stress lifestyle

I’ve been working through Joel’s backlog of podcasts Real Coaching Podcast — Joel Filliol Triathlon

Try this one for more cycling specific 7: Louis Delahaije: Lotto Jumbo Cycling Performance Manager — Joel Filliol Triathlon

That’s true, and my point wasn’t at all that we shouldn’t try to apply the principles Joel talked about even though we’re not professionals.

On the contrary, I’ve gravitated more and more towards a similar philosophy in many ways over the last couple of years for age-groupers. Mainly, frequency and volume over an extended period of time is key.

Secondly, the importance of really keeping the easy training easy and that should be evident from power/pace and RPE.

And finally, intensity is important (a typical training week for Joel’s athletes would be 2 intense swims, 2 or sometimes 3 intense runs, 1 or 2 intense rides) but doing too much is pointless.

So I disagree with the whole idea of “getting more TSS done in less time”. For triathletes, in my books, If you have 20 hours to train you do 2 hard swims, bikes and 1 or 2 hard runs. If you have 10 hours, you do the same amount. Somewhat simplistically. But I really don’t see the point at any training volume of going over that 2-2-2 hard workouts framework. At best, doing more might get you similar results. But you greatly increase the chances of getting into a hole.

And there are a few interesting studies about this in single sports, at least running, but I’m pretty sure I have seen something from cycling as well, that increasing the number of hard workouts per week from 2 to 3 does nothing to improve performance, but can potentially reduce it a lot.

These things then boil down into what Joel said about making it sustainable week in, week out, which as you point out is a very enticing prospect.

I guess the thing that was kind of “new” to me, and very interesting to hear was the very limited use of above-threshold training (we can call Olympic distance race pace threshold for simplicity I guess), with only one run per week done at faster than race pace. Funnily enough, I’m personally right now trying something of a similar concept, but in the “wrong” discipline, as in running, I focus on frequency and volume, running 6 times per week, 60-80 km per week which is quite a lot for triathlon, but only one key workout. Before, I used to do one faster track-type workout and one threshold run. Now I only do the threshold run. The objective is to recover better and quicker and increase the sustainability of the program. I still get central VO2max adaptations from doing VO2work once per week on the bike and once per week in the pool. The only thing I can say so far is that I really enjoy the training and it feels sustainable, but I haven’t been doing it long enough to give a full report. By the way, for swimming and cycling I also have a threshold-type workout in each in addition to that VO2max workout, so I have 5 intense wokouts out of typically 5 swims, 4-5 bikes, 6 runs.

1 Like

Another great podcast @Mikael_Eriksson :+1:

I think the intensity is less important than the sustainability regardless of whether you are are pro or not. If you have a programme that you can repeat session on session, week on week, while not breaking down that is the key to improvement over time.

There can be a fine line sometimes between being very fit and very injured and the higher the intensity of any training often those risks of injury are magnified and that’s the balance of trying to get in the extra intensity. The question is, is it worth it?

Each of us has a slightly different balance where that is concerned but as Joel said the benefits of consistent training at a slightly sub maximal level far outweigh the risks of going slightly too hard and finding the inconsistency that may come with either potentially injury or the need for extended recovery periods. Endurance gains are a long term project that need consistent inputs.


Exactly. I’d guess 90% of people haven’t been consistent for long enough for there to be any need to add extra intensity to compensate for volume. Just stick with that sustainable program, that should have intensity of course, but not in excess, and do it for longer and longer and longer.

1 Like

I listened to this as well. Not sure what I should make of it. I check a lot of pros on Strava regularily, some Jumobo-Visma riders as well (R Gesink, Sepp Kuss …). All quite open with their data. However, even though I do not know what there exact thresholds are, it is pretty evident that they do a lot of work in the middle zone. According to the podcast they’ve been training strictly polarised for years.

Delahaihe left Jumbo-Visma last year and I know that they changed a lot with training and so. So I don’t know if they have changed their approach now.

Generally I must say that Filliol has clearly moved on from some opinions voiced in these older podcasts. Development does not stop I guess.

A lot of Joel’s ideas and beliefs actually really surprised me listening to the podcast. Great to hear his thoughts as I do follow a few of his athletes in their racing and on social media.

Just thought I’d share something that might be of interest to some folk. One of his athletes posted on Instagram a few weeks ago, a days session that the group did, just a typical day. It would’ve been great to get the previous and following days of training to, to see how it all relates together. But it went as follows;
Sunrise: 30min easy run (they did 6.5km)
Straight into an easy 2hr outdoor ride
Lunch and rest
Key swim session in the arvo (didn’t specify total volume)
Food and rest
Hard run session which was 12km and ended with several hard hill sprints

It’s interesting that Joel is training some of the best triathletes on the planet and he keeps things simpler than most of us age-groupers. There’s definitely a lesson in there :slight_smile:

From memory of one of your older podcasts isn’t this a similar approach used by Arild Tveiten with the Norweigan triathletes?

Absolutely. Matt Dixon talks about this in “The Well-Built Triathlete”:

The classic way of setting up training progression is to do three weeks in a row of hard training, or progressively harder training week over week, followed by one week of recovery. This program of training hard, then recovering for an entire week makes it easy for coaches to build training plans and allows athletes to easily identify each week of training as a “build week” or a “recovery week.” When it is put into practice, the athlete completes too much training with accumulated fatigue, and other training opportunity is wasted by overrecovery. Not only does this formula absolutely fail to achieve my magic word of training success, “consistency,” but also I believe it contributes to a higher risk of injury. In addition, it does not take into account an athlete’s resiliency or speed of recovery, let alone how that athlete absorbs workload.

Table 10.1 considers a typical scenario by breaking down a cycle of three weeks on, one week off…

In Week 1, following a prior week of recovery, the athlete is fresh and demolishes training sessions with gusto. An effective training week.

In Week 2, the athlete is still able to absorb and manage the workload; the progressive sessions are challenging, but the training week remains effective. Fatigue accumulates, as by the end of the week the athlete is likely 14 days into an overall build (not all days are high load).

In Week 3, the biggest training-load week is under way, but many of the training sessions are completed with massive fatigue, not with optimal performance. The athlete is hanging on, desperate for the upcoming rest but determined to finish the block. There is little emotional capacity to focus on form, and aches and pains creep in from the accumulation of fatigue. Training becomes ineffective.

In Week 4, the athlete is so physically and emotionally spent that they fall into the recovery week with delight, often wanting to escape the torture of that last daunting week. The athlete bounces back and feels fresh after three to four days but keeps recovering for the full week to ensure readiness for the next three-week cycle. An entire week of desperate recovery results in ineffective training.

And so the cycle continues, with about half of the total training opportunity providing effective training. The other half is marked by the great peaks and valleys of fatigue that limit triathlon performance. Our mission is to find rhythm and consistency. While you should accumulate fatigue, and you will endure days (or even blocks of days) of feeling tired, the highs and lows created by this approach are what we want to avoid.

There are multiple routes to performance, but I suggest that you abandon this outdated approach and get in front of the fatigue with regular short breaks for recuperation and recovery. These minibreaks can be one to four days of recuperation—just enough to prevent the accumulation of too much fatigue, which leaves the athlete desperate for recovery and devalues training for several days in a row. Because our mind-set is all about achieving long-term consistency and accumulating as much effective training as possible over an extended period, properly integrated minirecovery is critical.


Mikael - it seems to me that over time you have shifted your emphasis, for the typical masters athlete at least, from intensity to volume. That is not to say you dismiss the need for some intensity - clearly you do not - but my impression is that your more recent podcasts and comments in this forum seem on the face of it to be a bit different to the emphasis on the need for intensity you discussed in your podcast no. 16 “The Great Debate: Intensity vs Volume”. Is my impression correct or am I misunderstanding, or missing some subtlety, in your recent comments?

Also, would the Tue, Thurs and Sat workouts in a typical TR build plan count as 3 high intensity workouts - and would this be one too many (assuming bike only training) or when you refer to only 2 high intensity workouts per week as perhaps being the optimum is this relating only to the very high VO2 max type workouts? I know you are a big fan of Trainer Road would be interested to learn your views on this - being 53 I particularly latch onto to anything you discuss that might relate to the masters athlete specifically.

I only recently discovered your podcasts and have been working my way through them and would very much recommend them to any endurance athlete not just triathletes - I for instance am solely a cyclist.


The same thought crossed my mind as well. However, the difference may be that Mikael refers mainly to running while the Norwegians train < AnT for all disciplines (not always but very often).

Excellent text passage, thanks for sharing.

Do you think that’s why Mola always seems to burn out before the grandfinal and why we didn’t see him at all in Rio?

One thing team GB on cycling and Tri seem to get right is the four year peak.