Written by Christopher Kelly
July 21, 2017
Christopher: Before we get into this week’s podcast, I would like to read to you one action item that you could add to your health routine this week. This is from Tommy’s quite brilliant highlight’s email series. I will put the link for you to sign up in the show notes if you’d like to see this in writing with all of the references. The action item is… be the first person to say hello. How simple and beautiful is that?
There are only 2 things that predict happiness: money and social connectedness. However, there is a cutoff beyond which more money won’t make you happier. And luckily, social connection is free. While we should all put into words to be part of a great family and group of friends, social connection should also happen quickly and spontaneously whenever you meet another person. These days’ interactions may be brief, they are biologically very important. The real problem is that once loneliness sets in, it becomes reinforced in a self-perpetuating cycle.
This is because lonely people become hyper-vigilant and react quickly to more negative social stimuli and social threat. In other words, when you’re lonely, you react by becoming more attuned to negativity from others as a self-protected mechanism to avoid danger which causes you to withdraw even further.
Importantly, even small act of social acceptance can reverse these negative behaviors. So, instead of listening to the latest podcast, next time you’re out in public, break with the modern social conventions and say help to your fellow humans. You never know who might benefit. Now, over to the podcast.
Hello! And welcome to the Nourish Balance Thrive Podcast. My name is Christopher Kelly and today I’m joined by Kristian Manietta. Hi Kristian!
Kristian: Hey Chris. How are you doing?
Christopher: I am great this morning! Thank you for asking. For everyone listening, Kristian is a husband. He is a dad; he is a coach. He has Celiac Disease which I know he’s managing extremely well. He’s a life athlete; he’s an entrepreneur and he is a host at the Fat Black Podcast on trispecific.com. I will of course link to those things in the show notes. Kristian, thank you so much for joining me today.
Kristian: Thank you for having me Chris. And I must say this because people are being out on the Fat Block podcast; what the hell? Are you racist or something?
Christopher: That does need clarification I supposed.
Kristian: It usually does because you know, I have been with coffee. I’ve been doing it for many, many years and prior to it becoming invoked.
Christopher: Isn’t that funny? You know, that thought had never even crossed my mind and that worries me a little bit. I’m like autistic in some way; that I only see things in black and white. That’s kind of scary. Well, thank you for that clarification. Kristian, I wanted to start this interview by asking you about your life as a professional snowboarder. How did you get into that?
Kristian: Well, that’s an interesting one. I always skateboard as a kid and a little bit of surfing and I was always very athletic and played a sport in Australia called ‘Rugby League’. And that was my thing! I had grander dreams and everything was focused on that, you know? I played some representative football and I wanted to become professional in that when I was getting into teenage years.
There were few things that happened politically, you know? When coaches don’t like your parents or your dad so I got dropped from a couple of teams and there was a whole bunch of politics in that after playing really well. I was like “Screw this team stuff!” and around about that time, my brother and I watched a Quicksilver video and there was some snowboarding in there and that looks pretty good!
I think I just got my license and I was like “You know what, I’ve never been to the snow” so we pretty much drove down to the snow in Australia. It was about 6-hour drive from Sydney and that was it, I was hooked. And I thought this is fun and I think that somehow over that next year, I kept going back into this snowboard shop in Sydney and got more boards and he was running a trip to Whistler. So I thought, “Hell, I’m going to get to that trip”. It was a 2-way trip to Whistler. I think I was 17 at that time.
Christopher: Oh wow, that was amazing!
Kristian: And I was the youngest! I think I was 17 or 18, I can’t remember. But I think the next youngest person on the trip was 35. So, I had to do a few things like back then, it was the good old go cart driving license and it was 19 drinking age in Canada so I had to go into the snowboard shop when I was over there and got out some numbers and swap them around so I could give it to the bus.
Christopher: You know what, I’ve done that. I could remember doing that when I was 17 in the UK actually. I’ve been doing it for other people as well, come to think of it.
Kristian: So yeah, that kind of was the start. I just felt very hooked for it and I was like “I love this! I don’t want to miss another season of this” and it kind of progressed from there and then I watched a competition once in Australia. And I was like, “You know what, I think I can be as good as these guys” and that hit the trajectory.
Christopher: And what did you see? What type of snowboarding was it that you’re doing?
Kristian: More of the big stuff. I was kind of like sending it. So, the tricks and those kinds of stuff. I didn’t play too much in the half pipe but more of the big jumps. You know, slope style, the end of my snowboard career was coming in but prior to that, we had bigger competitions so I had a one jump stuff and I was playing around. Resorts with friends and then eventually, into the back country.
Christopher: Well, that’s amazing. And you earned enough money to call it a living then.
Kristian: It wasn’t a ton but I did get paid from the sponsors and I got a little bit of money. And at that time, I was young and I didn’t need that much money. You know, you are kind of living the dream, right? You know, lots of people are cramming for houses you know, I got on bunch of trips that I got paid for.
You know, it all started because I got myself onto a trip with a bunch of people going to Whistler and they were going on a trip for a snowboard magazine and you know, it’s 32-hour drive from Whistler to Colorado. They’re like “Just come! Just come!” The other things would be fine so I jumped in this. There’s 8 of us in the Van. When I got there, they’re like “We can’t send you off now”. I’ve got a couch and I’ve made my worth known that very first day when no one wanted to ride and I went up in a horrible condition and did a couple of tricks. He was like “Oh my god, I can’t believe I didn’t have the photography here” and he said “If you do that again, you’ll get a poster in the magazine” but that ended up being a 4-page interview so I did pretty well at it. So here really helped to get some of my first sponsors.
Christopher: That’s amazing. And now you live not in Whistler but in British Columbia, right?
Kristian: We were in Whistler. We moved just down the road into the outdoor adventure capital of British Columbia in Squamish and we’re actually moving back up to Whistler because our son goes to school there. It’s really funny. Full circle, finish snowboarding in 2002. Even though I’ve been back to Canada a couple of times as an endurance athlete, it’s funny that nearly 3 years ago now, we decided to come on a year of adventure and this is when we’re calling home now.
Christopher: Awesome. That’s amazing. I know Squamish. I’ve ridden the mountain bike there several times. It’s a fantastic place to ride a bike if anyone listening here gets the chance. It’s really pretty cold. Whistler is awesome as well.
Kristian: Well, it is awesome. The street I live in Whistler at the moment is called ‘Perth Drive’ and it’s just a continuous stream of mountain bikers riding up the street because the trail heads just at the top of your head so it’s quite good. And then there are the ones off the universities so it’s pretty sweet.
Christopher: Excellent! Well, the main reason that I wanted to have you on today is to talk about your role as triathlete coach which what now takes up all of your time. Am I correct in thinking that?
Christopher: And I thought a really good place to start would be to ask you how on earth do you manage to go from an Ironman Time of over 11 hours, 27 to under 9 hours which I think very few people on the planet will ever achieve. Am I right with those numbers before we go any further?
Kristian: Yes. 11.27 was my first Ironman and 8.57 is my fastest.
Christopher: So, what the heck! Tell me about the first one. What were you doing to get the time of 11.27? So, it’s not just talent, right? You could argue that some people are genetically gifted and you can get them to do jumping jacks and they would get a great time no matter what they did, right? This is obviously not the case here. So, what were you doing in the lead-up in your first Ironman?
Kristian: Probably everything wrong. I was 24. I’m coming off a professional snowboard career. I had a pretty healthy and unhealthy ego as a 25-year old and I knew about the whole Ironman and being that, you want to get from zero to hero really quick in terms of the capabilities. The reality was I hadn’t done the aerobic training, you know, I’ve been hiking in the mountains and snowboarding. You develop a lot of aerobic fitness that you don’t realize in the back country or hiking and kicking stuff.
But I was completely different to swim, bike and run. My wife and I, same with snowboarding, we just fell into this sport. Unfortunately, or fortunately, the group we fell into was all geared towards Ironman, we’re thinking that we’re going to do some sprint races. So, we started training around about August 2002. And that December, we did our first half Ironman or 70.3 as I recall now. That following April, that was the first Ironman.
Christopher: Was it more fun that snowboarding?
Kristian: Oh, it was really a funny guy from super baggy clothes to a biker, look at that.
Christopher: It is quite a harsh transition I would say.
Kristian: It was. But you know what, I’ve always liked to consider myself a life athlete and indeed, I was obviously playing rugby league. I did a lot of running and I did a lot of conditioning and true snowboarding work. When I started snowboarding, all that conditioning stuff just went out the window. It was all about drinking beers, eating crappy foods and snowboarding. So, that kind of disappeared. It wasn’t like this because they’re total opposites. But my wife just wanted to do a marathon and we kind of fell into triathlon and then you get into a community and in a group and this is fun! Look at the toys, you get to ride bikes fast. All this stuff!
So, we kind of went into that path and we had an Ironman coach. I just did what most guys do and just revved it too hard each and every session and let ego get in the way and wanted to progress too quickly. I was just trying to rush performance and ultimately, I got injured about 6 weeks out from the first Ironman. I had ITB really bad and spend thousands of dollars trying to see everyone under the sun to try and fix that.
So, I went into that race with an injury where I really couldn’t run more than 2k. I did meet someone, a therapist who is still a very good friend up to this day and has been integral to what I know about the body now. He treated me and didn’t touch ITB and basically, got me to be able to run 27 km off to swimming a bike before I have the same pain.
There’s a little bit of walking and stuff like that in that backend of the marathon but the injury aside, I think I would have the same result anyway. I would have most likely gone out and gone up too hard and blow myself up. My wife went on and hit it out of the park. She was getting absolutely smashed in every training session by everyone else and then she goes and does it. I think it was a 10.29 or something and can qualify for the whole Ironman and was second in her age group. I was like “Wow, you’ve just beaten all the girls that kicked your ass” and most of the guys, I think there’s just 3 people in the group that beat her. So it was like, “Oh, you’re okay at this”.
And I kind of set that directly. We went to Hawaii that year and I watched that. It kind of developed but it took time. That was 2003 and it was 2007 when I broke 9 hours so 4-5 years of consistent ups and down and changing the type of training that we did and I just liked asking questions. I was like “You know what, I’m not sure that this is that right way” and then trying different pathways and same with nutrition. I was always asking questions. Why are we doing it this way? Is there a better way to do it?
And over that time, I kind of got to a point where I don’t think I’m the most talented athlete at all. Kind of special awareness, I think I have some type of a gift there but the reality is I just put in hard work and I expanded the type of that hard work and showed up when I showed up. And overtime, it works. At first, I tried to rush but when I just think consistently over the long whole, as the saying goes “Hard work trumps talent when talent doesn’t work”.
Christopher: I like that. So, let’s break this down then. You’re a part of the training before so were you literally just smashing it every time you went out or were you doing more kind of gray zone training? That kind of 150-270 beats, maybe not full-out race phase but definitely getting there and hold the conversation or breathe to your nose-tight pace. What was it?
Kristian: It’s more gray-zone. It’s more the zone that everyone trains to because that’s the benefit of what ‘easy’ does for them and what actual true easy is when they’re not bullshitting themselves. So, there was just tones and tones of gray-zone training. You know, you’re training too hard when it’s meant to be easy and you can’t train hard enough when you meant to go for it.
Christopher: Do you what, I paid a coach a couple of years ago. Chris Gavin who said that to me once. It’s true that if you don’t go easy on the easy days then you won’t go hard on the hard days. It’s really important.
Kristian: It is.
Christopher: So, how did the training evolve? Did you immediately… “I don’t want to say ‘Maffetone’ because maybe that’s too much of a loaded question. But he seems very influential amongst many endurance athletes so is that the type of approach that you took?
Christopher: Okay, good answer.
Kristian: I’ve had many, many conversations with Isaac Cullen, the good doctor. I’ve had him on my podcast a number of time. I had him when I tried the world summit. And a whole bunch of offer conversations with him. I absolutely love what he does and math works, there’s no doubt about it. I don’t think it’s to be on endurance, I don’t think you have to do it. I think math needs to be mixed in your training mix without a doubt. So, there’s parts where our worlds differ.
What I started to see was a lot of athletes breaking down all the time and I started searching in and out of the sport and I started to think that the reality is I’m in as a long day. But it’s not necessarily just an endurance sport. It comes down to strength. It really comes down to the ability to hold and manage your risks. And I found some people and we’ve got a different viewpoint where we kind of flipped the good old training pyramid up on its head so I completely put that outside down. Early on in the phase was working strength and little bit of speed to hold on to that natural stuff. Because what we saw on that athlete now, it kind of depends on where you’re coming in because the method on method will work but you’ve got to drop the ego and you’ve got to go really slow to develop those aerobic pathways.
We kind of played around with it. A separate way of doing it where we try to maintain the athlete’s natural speed and develop on their strengths. And aside from that, we weren’t doing key training or smashing it all the time because if you look at the book ends of each session, there’s a lot of easy and you could then say “Hey, this is the part of the session” and then we get to work. And we tried to develop this strength for others to be able to contract forcibly for a long period of time.
And then, we started looking at systems of the body and going “Okay, we can go working in corporate or time for people that get the chunk of their aerobic work done on the weekend”. We could still train on Monday and Tuesday and maybe have some short speed stuff in the pool which creates a little anabolic response and then do a pretty hard trainer set on Tuesday which makes a massive anabolic muscular response.
So, the session’s hard muscularly. But because the reps are so short, it’s not really having an aerobic impact. Because what I’ve seen overtime is that we’d smash out these weekend sessions, have a Monday off and then Tuesday, you go and hitting time trials or hard stuff in a group environment on the bike. And overtime or at first when you get in it, overtime you’re just smashing the aerobic system and that high-end aerobic system. We all know that the muscular system recovers fairly quickly depending on how much damage you do.
Christopher: I was going to say that.
Kristian: 24-72 hours, right. You’re really finished. But if you really whacked your aerobic system, that could take weeks or months to really recover from it.
Christopher: Yeah, that’s true. Everybody know from someone who’s ended their season early by just burning out before it got them really going.
Kristian: Yes. You see, this super compensation could have gone the wrong way. Because at first, you’ll get this big hit on the weekend. You’d take a recovery and then you fairly recover and then you just go on and smash it again and you keep doing that for the rest of the week and over, it just starts trending down relatively quickly. And what we learn in going, especially… this is going pretty deep, you want me to start looking at body types of athletes. But if you have more like myself, I can recruit a lot of muscle quickly and really do a number on myself.
The thing is, if I kept doing that, then I’m going to burn out. I’m going to get injured. And what we found is that if I can put a little bit of usable fatigue on the body or called it an insurance policy, then I could go on and push hard. But because I have a little bit of what I’d consider good fatigue and not bad fatigue, then I kind of put a governor on how hard or how deeply I could recruit or how hard I can go in that session. And therefore, I could recover much quicker and I could get on to some good training.
But it’s definitely a mix of training and there’s a lot of bookend of easy and I could decide which then. That’s where I could consider and I am on it with my athletes these days and pull them all the time. Easy is easy, you can’t bullshit yourself. Yeah, try breathing through your nose. That’s the way to do it when you do a conversation. I do know a few athletes that can hold a conversation more going hard.
Christopher: Yeah, I could do that. I could make this conversation 170bpm honestly.
Kristian: So you know, typically the nose breathing works pretty well but honestly, I think it’s just being honest with yourself. And I love coaching more on intuitive pacing guidelines versus giving hard and fast heart rate numbers or pair numbers. Primarily because as you know, to a world that there’s so many things in the world that impact your heart rate whether it’s nutrition, whether it’s environmental factors, whether you just had a fight with your spouse, got angry with your kids or you’ve lost your job or something like that. There’s going to be impacts of heart rate.
Christopher: Right, right.
Kristian: So you know, that you’re “Hey, I need to sit in 150 or 160 today. That could be completely skewed. You could actually be at the same physiological part of 150 or 160 but you might be at 120 or 130 or you could be at 170 or 180 just because of those impacts. But when I get paid for the goal, you know what, just chill. Understand these intuitive intensity guidelines and stop falling into the mix. If something breaks in the race like when your heartrate monitor doesn’t work, you can still actually perform.
And I think in this age of gimmickry, there’s so much noise and people don’t know themselves so they completely lost. And having to look out there, watch every 5 seconds to see what pace they’re running, it’s like, geez. And pacing point, the first time I broke 9 hours and my wife actually won the race in the female field outright, and I beat it boy. Just 2 minutes. I still hold the house record definitely! That was the first time I beat her. On the bike, we had the good old Fan Dangle back then. I think it had wireless speeding cadence.
Christopher: Okay, nice.
Kristian: So, all we had joined was cadence. And on the run, we have a good old Timex stopwatch. So you know, if we wanted to pace, we’d hope that they put the kilometer markings in the right spot so I could get an idea. But that’s how we paced and just totally enjoyed it. This is how I feel like I can sustain moderate or hard. Which is comfortable or uncomfortable or where I stayed. And you know, there’s going to be edges and flaws when it’s harder in other points like that. You know, I’ve had some pretty in-depth qualifications where each of those are and I just find that you become a healthier athlete for it.
Christopher: Okay. Talk about the peak of the training, like maximum volume maybe a month or so ahead of the big event. What would that look like? I’m just wondering, what the blend of training looks like? Maybe endurance, run, bike and swim versus strength training or something else? Can you do that?
Kristian: Yeah, for sure. When I started speaking before on how I flipped the pyramid on its head, what we’re thinking is if we have developed the speed and strength early on, when it comes to the time to do the longer race or specific stuff, we’re stronger or faster already. So, we’re able to tolerate the demands placed upon us when we need to put the volume.
You know, it’s a million-dollar question of how much volume. It really depends on athletic age and how long they’ve been on the sport and how long they’ve gone. But I’m definitely not a fan as some athletes may hit 20 hours. Some, in that last push to their main race. But typically, we’d see a lot of people. If I had to put an average, it would be in that last number of weeks, depending on how long they can make it. The more consistency, the shorter this period can be. But 6-8 weeks, they may sit between 15 and build up to 18 hours a week of swim, bike, run and a little bit of strength stuff.
I do put a lot of strength stuff within the sessions. So, with the right tools in swimming, we can use paddles and bands so we can effectively strengthen the right pathways we need for those sports. In the bike, obviously there’s big stuff. And on the run, we can use hills and we can also fly around… I’m doing ultra-running at the moment. And I’ve actually employed a very successful ultra-coach and he’s got us doing some lunge, matrixes proto-run and just building leg resiliency. And that’s great. We finish up with some core and extra leg work and it is really time-efficient as some of the stuff that I’m playing with.
Typically, what it really depends on is the athlete-life circumstance because I can write the best plan in the world. But if it doesn’t fit their life circumstance, it’s the worst plan in the world isn’t it, because they can’t do it. So, some people cannot do a double-session day. They just can’t because of work and family. So, we have to blend the training mix to make sure that we get what’s needed done.
I’m not a fan of going “Hey, we’re going to build up your weaknesses to make them a strength”. That typically doesn’t happen. So, what we want to do is have a look at their weaknesses and not make them a liability on race day. And it really works their strength because it’s going to help them in the race. So you know, a lot of people in our sports, they’re weakness is swimming so it’s getting them to understand the true cost of swimming in triathlon and especially in Ironman; is yes, it might be the shortest part of the day but it’s one of the most important. And there’s no shortcuts of doing the work in the pool. So, you don’t get out of the water like a fish out of water.
So, they’re swim an hour to 2 hours or sub-hour to 2 hours for some people, it doesn’t take it out of you because I’ve seen so many people going “Hey, there’s phenomenal blockers and great runners”, they’d never get anywhere near their potential because they’re so destroyed from the swim and they underestimated the course.
Christopher: I’m just laughing because it’s so hard for me to get my head around it. You know, I do some pretty crazy stuff but not that crazy but what ordinary people in the street would think is crazy on the mountain bike. But then, when I look at the start of a triathlon, you would never get me to do that. It’s terrifying.
Kristian: It is, but they’re slowly changing the pace. Not too many races these days have that beautiful mass start, that washing machine. But that creates a whole lot of anxiety and again, when you have a lot of people that underestimate that cost and not doing their swim training, we unfortunately have seen a bunch of deaths in swims. Anxiety is a great way that if anyone isn’t doing something they don’t know, it attacks them during swims.
So, I put a big swim program in place and I still think that people really need to respect the swim and the distance in the work it takes but they do it when rolling starts now and it’s just continuous rolling stuff which I was against. But when I raced in Canada last year, I think I was 4th into the water. It was fantastic. I was actually really nice.
Christopher: Yeah. I think you should think about that in cycle cross. I’ve been so much nicer in the start of cycle cross race and everybody could just soft pedal off the line really sensibly. There’d be less accident so it would be much more fun, I think.
Kristian: Everyone wants to kill each other.
Christopher: That’s nuts, yeah. Especially when you got a bunch of 16-year olds in the race. So, my takeaway from this then, so not the Mafetone approach and it’s interesting because you’re the first person I’ve heard to say that for some time. But just to connect the dots a little bit, I interviewed Martin Nelson whose an exercised zoologist and that was one of his main concerns as well. It was the strength to hold good form throughout the duration of the even, right? You don’t want to be really saggy and floppy like a rag doll as you finish one stage of the race and then you move on to the next. But you’re not using strength training to achieve that form. Well you are but not the type to be on.
Kristian: I do early on. Look, I think the worst thing that we can do, we’ve gone through the last 10 ideas of functional strength. So, we’re going to go at the gym, we’re going to be functionally strong for a sport. And I’m thinking, “Hang on, why train the same pathways that we’re training over and over again in our sport to make more of an imbalance?” Why not fill the holes and the gaps and just be strong in the areas that we need to?
I’m a fan of a full-body stuff. I’m just not a fan of that. The hard thing is when we look at sport that is complicated when you’ve got to try disciplines in there, and then we have time, and time is not on our side for most people that work a full-time job and have families and other commitments, you’re like “Where do I fit in? How many hours can I do it?” I’m majorly big in making sure we do our body maintenance stuff right.
So, if I can build that into a training session… because even that I want you to roll and do this specific rolling prior to this session and then finish with this, that session hour is an hour and a half. So, we have to build that. And when we look at it, if it’s something that has to go, that part’s going to go. That’s the specific in the gym session because people don’t have the time to go there, because we always have to look at that and what’s the time cost to get there, do it, get showered, get back to work or wherever they’ve got to go. So, I am big on building what strength can we build in to do the training sessions that we have and build that overtime.
And if there’s anything that we need to do, some core stuff or whatever, well that’s building into post session after a run or after a swim and get it done and I’m finding that moment. It’s done, it’s finished and it’s good.
Christopher: Yeah. That makes sense to me now. I keep forgetting that you’re trying to do 3 different sports at one which totally blows my mind because I know how hard it can be to do just one sport and I mentioned Martin Nelson. He’s been programming a strength system for me and it was fine until I went to Colorado and then I was away for a while and not answering emails as quickly as I once was. And when I got back, the complexity of it just blew my mind. I ended up doing nothing for a whole week just because I couldn’t get any of it done. I just couldn’t get my head around it.
I wanted to continue. He put together for me a really nice body weight program that I was doing while I was away in hotel rooms in Colorado. And that was fantastic. I was like “Shit Mike, can I just keep doing the body weight thing? That was great!” And in the end, he created a simplified strength training program that I just started this week and it’s 3 exercises per session. It’s fantastic! I love the simplicity of it.
Kristian: I think that’s where we have to come back to. Simplicity. We think this as a secret session of this or that, it’s really just following the process day in and day out. Get to the start line. Focus on getting to the start line and then get focused on the finish line of the goal line or whatever and do what’s required. You know it better than anyone. It’s an endurance sport, it takes a certain amount of work to get to that go-result.
And what I say when someone comes to me that’s time pool, and wants to say “Qualify for the Ironman” or something like that, I’ll say “Well, you’re at odds with your goal but what we need to do... this is not a 6-month thing. This is not a 3-month thing. This is the trials of miles and you’re going to need to just expand the time to goal completion”.
So, if you got 8 hours or 9 hours a week and that’s all you have, cool. Let’s make the best 9-hour program that you can hit week in and week out, just for this progression and to have this whole thing around with great feedback and communication. And let’s roll that out for the long horn. You focus on the process, you’ll get stronger, you’ll get faster, you’ll get fitter and we’ll keep doing that. And I guarantee overtime, you don’t need to do those massive weights. You don’t need to throw a big week here or there, but then you’ll be able to get competitive but it’s over the long horn.
Some people or very few man do Ironman and make it, and they might get away with 1 or 2 builds then they’re going to crash. And just say it over and over again. So, it’s about building a plan that there’s some time and we have to work hard and race a specific phase. Sure, we’re going to get tired but we need to build up to that so the body can handle it so we have the resiliency. You know, I like to go to a lesser program early on and we build as we go through.
Christopher: Right. And do you have a way that you monitor the readiness state of your athletes? Do you get to talk to them or look at them or do you do something else?
Kristian: Yeah. It’s communication and feedback. I use training phase as how I plan out the training sessions. I do not use training phase like methodologies on their fatigue score and all the other odd things that they like to plug in there because that’s their own methodology and that doesn’t fit in with me. Because you know, from their fatigue, how are they making those number based on just an hour or just the duration of what the person is doing on this course or whatever. There’s too many factors that go into that in my mind. Was the session aerobically easy? And then, we have tiny bits prepped in that that has some major work and that major work may be more muscularly focused than tolerance focused so there’s going to be a completely different fatigue levels.
Kristian: So, I just make sure that I’m getting the feedback. If an athlete goes quiet, usually it’s a good red flag to get in-touch and make sure everything’s going well. Or with data these days, everyone uploads the data or have a look at the data. But what’s more important to me than the data, I can use that to cross reference, but it’s how they’re feeling and what their comment are, their post-comments. Their comments are important things and that’s when… you know; I’ve been coaching since 2006. I’ve heard of everyone’s life situation by this day and you kind of get a feel for “Hey, this person needs a bit more a break” and this person is tired but they can push through.
And it’s a learning. It really depends on athlete age, athlete goals and their personality types because I’ve got some pretty tough guys and girls and sometimes you have to pull the ranks. Other times, you don’t know what it is. You think you are, but you’re not there yet. And some people need that lovingly push to be able to get out of their comfort zone.
Christopher: I think I might be the latter these days. Let’s talk about diet because I know that it’s something you’re really interested in. Tell me about what you’ve learned since the 11.27 about fueling and Ironman triathlon.
Kristian: Holy shit. What haven’t I learned?
Christopher: Ah yes. You might have to break it down a little bit.
Kristian: You know, it’s funny leading up to that race. This is when I got sick a lot and I got injured and I continually get injured. I got to about 60 kilos so that is…
Christopher: 130 something.
Kristian: Say 132 lbs. That’s super lame and I get sick and injured a lot. And I found for me over the years 143 lbs. or 65 kilos seems to be the sweet spot where I haven’t lost power, I feel strong and resilient. But what took me away from the Standard Western Diet or standard endurance athlete diet is just highly refined grains and carb, carb, carb, carb. 24/7. You need to smash this. You need carbohydrate load.
Finally enough, my first Ironman is when I said “This is wrong. This is completely wrong. This carbo-loading shit is just bullshit.” I had a coach at that time who was also a distributor of sports supplement company called Hi-5 out of the UK. So, everyone in the group gets discounts and it’s a super-carb drink that we drink 1 bottle like 3days out. 2 bottles, 2 days out. 3 bottles then a day out.
I remember waking up before the race on race morning with my wife and I had to eat about 2 of these bars and I opened in up and I was like “If I ever take a bit of that thing, I’m going to throw up”. To this day, that smell is with me and I could not open one of those bars because I feel like I’m going to be sick. I’m like “I can’t go on a race like this! It can’t be good!” I feel cathartic, I feel heavy, I feel sick. This is not the way!
So overtime, we just started refining and tried to clean up the dots and it took a lot of years. You know, we still went down and the reality was really, my wife lost money on races with some show stoppers. You know, whether she’s on the race and on the marathon after doing really, really well or whatever else getting continuous bloating. We knew that she’s had some level of gluten sensitivity.
So, we just played around with every diet there was under the sun and different ways of eating, from blood typing and all those stuff into just eating more real food. But it really didn’t take until me getting diagnosed with the celiac. I was really on that fat adaptation kind of bandwagon. And I was definitely more towards gluten-free eating but it was like 80-20. So, I’d make a really nice bread but I’d also drink some really nice beer and I’d have some pasta every now and then but outside of that, it was predominantly gluten-free most of the time so I’d say 80-20 or even 9-10.
And then, there were few factors. I had a freaking accident where I perforated myself I guess which put me into a pretty bad state in the hospital for 7 days and it was intervenes antibodies which I believe changed gut biome which then led down to a whole lot of problems and things. I’ve got 4 wisdom teeth out that year and they got infected and more antibodies. I was trying for Ironman again and I think I got in my best state, better than the sub 9s that I’ve been in, I was really feeling phenomenal. And then it was literally race morning, I had my normal pre-race dinner. It was a pizza with a beer, that’s about it.
I woke up that morning and I feel fine. There’s this pretty tough weather condition where they delayed the start and shorten the swim. I got my wet suit on and 5 minutes in, I felt like I had a ball constrictor in my chest and I just got out on the beach and when I came back in, I was like “I can’t breathe”. I got on to the bike and there was nothing. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t do anything and I went around for 90ks and I’m like “This is ridiculous”. It took a few months to find out it was celiac after that. Yeah, and that kind of changed everything.
Christopher: And did you get the actual diagnosis? I feel like I’ve been here. I recognize this story exactly but I never got the diagnosis because I figured out long before that I should stop eating bread and there are really tests that require you to be eating the thing that’s causing the problem which nobody’s doing anymore. Did you actually get the diagnosis?
Kristian: What happen was I was then still going through the process of knowing what it is because during my snowboarding days, I have compression fracture T12. So, I was going down that pathway because my back was hurting again and I had this. Maybe I’ve done something to my back again and that’s causing all that. At this stage, I was training for something that’s called ‘Cold Challenge’ which is 2,000 km, 10 days in the Dolomites.
And I was riding my bike and we’re about 4 hours from home with a buddy of mine and we stopped for coffee. I had a coffee and a croissant with cream. Then the next 4 hours, I was in horrendous pain thinking of how I’d get home. And my guys were in absolute paces. I’m like “Damn, I must have a problem with crème”. He was like “You know what, you should go and see my godmother. She’s a sports doc down in Sydney”.
So, I got in an appointment with her. I flew down and had this. She’s looking all over my scans and everything. And she’s like “You know what, I’m going to get left field here. I don’t think there’s anything muscularly wrong with you. You’ve got something wrong with your gut.” I’m like “Wow, I haven’t said anything about my gut but you know what, I’ve been having some gut pains”. And she’s like “Let’s get you in for an endoscopy”.
So, I flew back up to Queensland and book in for an endoscopy and then went to my GP. He opened up and he’s like “So, you said you were 80-20 gluten-free. Now, you’re 100%”. He’s like “You’ve came back with something that’s consistent with celiac disease. If you want to cross it off, the best thing is to stop eating it completely”. So for me, that was black and white. No gray. I was like “Yup! Done. No problem”. But he said get a gene test anyway.
Both my wife and I actually got the gene test and we both came back positive for celiac. Even if hers, we don’t think is actually switched on, but we both came back with that. So, it’s pretty easy, you know? We went back home and threw out toasters or wooden chopping board or utensils. We went shopping and we’re 100% gluten-free and the hardest part was really the cross-contamination stuff.
Christopher: Right, right. Yeah, I think the genetic test is necessary but not sufficient for the diagnosis. Lots of people have the HLH genotype but not necessarily celiac. So, I definitely have the genotype but that’s still not good enough for a diagnosis.
Kristian: But I think if you have that, for the, that’s a good reason not to eat gluten.
Christopher: Oh yeah, I totally agree. So, you’ve done much better once you’ve made that change?
Kristian: I did. And now I’m backwards again. And then I spent many, many thousands of dollars in the US, the Sunny Ville California with a functional medicine doctor and getting a lot of tests because I felt really good fairly quickly. And actually, I got through that Cold Challenge. I rode strong and finally enough, I’m going to Italy and that’s the worst place to go for celiac but it was actually fantastic. They are on to it.
Christopher: Really? I’ve never been to Italy.
Kristian: Interesting enough, I think at kindergarten age, they test all kids for the genotype. And anyone that’s diagnosed with celiac actually gets rebates from the government. I think they get a day off work or 2 days off work per month to go on source food. And all their pharmacies over there have huge stocks of gluten-free foods and they get rebates on them, it’s amazing. And then every chef in the middle of nowhere in the Dolomites is like “Oh, don’t worry about that gluten-free pasta. I make my own, it’s better!” They’re always on it as long as you say you have celiac and they’re “Okay, no problem!” And you’re fine.
And it was great! I got cross-contaminated once there because I really wanted a pizza and it had gluten free but it still went into the same wood fire so that day after 20km that day afterwards was pretty horrendous.
But yeah, everything was going well and then it started going bad again. That kind of led me down to having adrenal fatigue and stuff like that. It wasn’t just the nutrition. It was a lot of stress and lifestyle stresses as well which is always a big part of it. But what I did find out is that I have MTHFR genotype as well. Then, I also found out that eggs are huge erected for me.
But interestingly enough over the years, I’ve had some problems with eggs prior and maybe reached the ceiling of tolerance and then took them out and brought them back in and was fine. They were causing me some problems. But finally enough these day, you know I had athlete’s foot these years. Anytime I’ve had something with an egg product, this athlete’s foot comes back. As soon as I took the eggs out, it heals it up. It’s the only thing that did it. It was really, really weird. Unfortunately, I love eggs but they go on.
Now, I’m strong and resilient again. I feel great but it took some time. You know, I did draw a number on my adrenals and it was a long process coming back from that. But it was a lot of work and business and other live stresses at that time and training stresses that I put on the body. Celiac is a stress so those things added up. You know, you take yourself out of the picture for a while and that’s a slow process coming back up. There’s a point where I had delayed muscle soreness after walking around the block.
Christopher: Yeah, did you know what, that is a thing! I’ve interviewed a really competitive swimmer that talks about the same thing. And I had it too. Somehow, I was able to do 20 hours a week of cycling. Yet if I was to climb the stairs at my office, my legs would be burning. I mean, it’s not lactic acid, but you know that feeling, right? You’ve dust on some really intense exercise and all you’ve done is walk up the stairs and you’re like “Hmm, this isn’t right. I’m supposed to be an athlete”.
Kristian: Yeah. I remember the first time it happened. I just organized a charity ride from Bondi Beach at Australia up to Susah in between boxing day and nits back in 2013. I rode up strong the whole way. It was fine. We went through some horrendous environmental conditions and got through on New Year’s Eve. It was gold, 1600 kilometers or whatever it was or a thousand miles. And literally, I think it was about 3 days later, I’ve been on a flight to get in San Diego. And then I stayed at my buddy who’s one of the top Ironman professionals in the world, Luke McKenzie. We went for an easy 15-minute jog and I had muscle soreness for like 6 days. I was like “Something is not right!”.
Christopher: Oh wow. Yeah.
Kristian: That’s when I went up to San Fran and got all the testing.
Christopher: Well, good for you. I’m glad you have it all sorted out. Talk about your diet now then. So, you’re doing Ultra Running right now which is obviously a very steady state. How much carbohydrates do you eat?
Kristian: I’m actually playing around because I have so many athletes that are vegan.
Christopher: Why is that? Can you explain why that is?
Kristian: I don’t know. I don’t know. Most of them are girls. But you know, I went to Ghana to do some water work projects with a friend in November and December. I just felt coming back from that, you know? I’m going to try this. I’m going to try and be a vegan now. This is going to be really hard as an athlete because naturally, the carbohydrate amount increases.
But I think I’ve done pretty well. I started somewhat December through now. I’ve got a 50k race this weekend and I want to test it there. And I feel strong, resilient and I don’t feel any different as to how I’m eating before. But honestly, my carbohydrate has increased because of the bean and anything else. I did find through my celiac journey and adrenal stuff recovering from that, I always did better when I had a little bit of starch; whether it’s sweet potato or some white rice every day. If I had a little bit of that, I would be in much better condition. If I didn’t, I would feel horrendous.
So, you know that’s an NA course experiment right there. And just kind of getting to know your body. But typically, prior to this, I still typically don’t eat anything in the morning. I’ll have my fat black coffee. I’ll have a big glass of water with some Himalayan salt or maybe some lemon or apple cider and then I’m at the door running. I’m now doing about 100km weeks at the moment. And that’s about a ramp-up from my first 100mile, I’m coming up.
And I’ll come back and I’ll just eat a real food. I eat a lot of vegetables that don’t have a lot of carbs in them so to speak. And then I’ll have some beans or whatever or a little bit of rice or brown rice at this current stage but I’m still fairly liberal with fat. You know, now I’d say I push in the vegan pathway but I’m still have my coffee.
Christopher: I never picked up from that.
Kristian: I still put butter on some vegetables. I don’t want to be that anal. I don’t want to be someone who’s a pain in the ass more than I already am. So, you know what? I’m fine. So, if someone’s going to put some mozzarella on that pizza, it’s not worth the extra stress in my mind. But I have so many questions. Is this a lifetime thing? I don’t know. I have a whole bunch of questions, I don’t need to get some other doctors and people because we look at studies. And people say it’s science. But then we go, and even the people go and hey, plan everything and look at this and study, they go deeper in the studies. They still buy it. And that’s a lot of my problem with science. It doesn’t matter because it always… you know you’re going to be blessed to the path that you’re following.
So, I’m trying to be non-judgmental in one part but also be non-biased while I’m going down this pathway. You know, I was listening to a podcast the other day and they’re saying that it’s proven that meat is what’s creating diabetes and not sugar. I’m like “Hang on!”.
Christopher: That’s totally not right!
Kristian: That bullshit made is going up and I’m like “Hang on. This is kind of making me angry. Kristian, why are you getting angry here?”. I want to say the facts and I’d go back and take a look at some of those facts and they’ll say “Oh, there’s a vegan scientist”. But to me, it’s like “Yeah, maybe that is the case and they can prove that. But where is the meat that these people were eating coming from?” Is that fed? I want to see the rest of their diet. They’re not just eating meat.
Christopher: Yeah. So, I’m not clear there. Why are you doing it then? Is it just so you can better problem solve?
Kristian: Yeah! I love testing things. I love being in the trenches. And finally enough, I still feel good. I love cooking and so does my wife but we’ve got certainly more dishes now and it’s like “Oh, this is actually cool!”. I’ve got a great veggie burger that tastes phenomenal. This is actually really tasty food!
And to be honest, if I’m sitting here right now and going “What would I think would be the best diet?” I think it would be a lot more plant-based than most people are eating. And I don’t think we need to eat meat protein every single meal. Even every single day for that matter. But I think if we have a little bit of it, I still believe that liver is still nutrient-dense as long as you’re mindful of how you’re getting this stuff from, but if it’s sardines, they’re pretty patenting, everything that you get from them. I know that bone broth was hugely beneficial to my guy healing.
So, there’s some things there and I know how beneficial it is pre-massive racing too. Like before I’m in, I cramp at the best of times. It’s not from lack of conditioning. I know that I’ve got to stay on top of magnesium but if I had bone broth prior to a race or a big day, it didn’t happen. Just didn’t happen. I wouldn’t have figured that out unless I played with it prior to training sessions.
So now, for me, a typical day is I train on and I think just because I’ve done that for years and years, I don’t think it’s right for everyone. Maybe especially some females. I don’t feel like I need to eat straight away but sometimwill e sit just happens. And usually, it’s some sort of cook-up or if I have time to make what I call a breakfast bowl, then I’d use some plant-based protein and I’d use a blender with avocado and some cashew milk or something like that and some grains and maybe half a banana or some blueberries in there for a quick meal. Otherwise, it’s typically always real food.
Christopher: Yeah. I was going to say still a real food-based diet.
Kristian: Everything is all done. We eat a lot of veg. My wife still eats meat, my son still eats meat. It’s just a testing pathway. But this is the thing that I find mind-blowing and interesting. When I made that decision, and I gave the decision a timeframe, I didn’t feel like it. I don’t feel like I’m missing out to be honest. I’m not like “I’m cooking bacon for my son. And I love bacon!” I’m mindful of where our food comes from and where we purchase. But I was like “I find this fascinating! I’m not going to succumb to this” and I feel okay. It’s been an interesting journey so far. I just want to see where that goes.
Christopher: Well, if I sign up for you as a coaching client and I start the McDonald’s diet, so I eat all of my foods from McDonalds, will you do the same so you can help troubleshoot for me?
Kristian: No because I can troubleshoot that without having to do it.
Christopher: That’s funny!
Kristian: You know, I’ve become a bit more relaxed now. I do push heavily on real food. I’m not going to push veganism on anyone. I’m not going to push your athletes that don’t want to go down on a metabolically more efficient diet. Lower carb, high fat and not low carb but people will go and the pendulum swings too far. And you know, I thought I’m fine. I just try and provide the advice and support that they need and if things come up, I’ll say “Maybe you should try”.
So, that’s probably a big reason for me. I can really critique something unless I’ve tried it. And I worked at McDonalds for many years so I can tell you that. Yeah, for me, it’s just like “I’m here. Is it going to benefit my health or not?” Well, there’s only one way to find out. I know eating more vegetables is not going to do any numbers on me, and then we can do testing to see.
But I’m more like “Hey, if there’s one thing I want you to do as an athlete, I want you to eat more real food. I want you to get less reliant on all this refined crap so you don’t need to take as many gels or stuff like that”. So, where we can get smarter on our race nutrition. But I do find at the moment, people getting to a situation where they don’t know their training and they don’t eat that much and they’re still performing well. And then they go and don’t have anything on race day because they haven’t trained their ability to actually take carbs strategically and use them. Because when you are metabolically efficient, those sugary carbs work really, really well in a race situation. But when we haven’t actually trained it, you’re not going to feel like taking these on.
Christopher: Right. I’m glad that you touched on that topic because we talked about it offline. I’m certainly guilty of that one. You know, I’ve been through a 7-day stage race and not eat or really drink anything every single day on like 3 or 4 plus hours’ stages. The reason I didn’t want to do that is because that’s what I do in training, right? I don’t eat anything while I’m on my bike. I think that’s a mistake and I recently started reintroducing the MCT powder that we made and that does have some very small amount of carbohydrates available in it. So, that’s a mistake that you see a lot of people make then.
Kristian: Tons and tons. I think you need to look. You know, we don’t say try anything new on race day, and that’s typically and age-old cry there. But people, they’re not training what they’re going to do on race day in a big-race specific phase. So come to this day, they’re not going to try something new because they haven’t been doing it. But then it’s going to impact your performance.
Because if you want to “Yes, I’m in a long day!” but you can still race pretty fast, you need to support that. Stage racing, you’re on and off and you’ve got days and days and days to back out.
Christopher: You have time to re-feed at least between days.
Kristian: But one day where it’s essentially all from start to finish, you’re going to have to start to put some calories in. It doesn’t need to be a huge amount but you definitely need some. And I even made that mistake. Last year, I was just a bit low over the first 90 minutes and it hurt me at about the 3-and-a-half-hour mark into the race.
And I know it definitely felt like a loss of performance there. So, now you need to go back to drift feeding more in. And finally enough, your body has the ability to take it. And you can always add more rather than just smacking tons or what most typical athletes do. Well then, it’s pretty hard to subtract or it’s not fun to subtract but if you drift stuffs in, it’s good. And when you’re metabolically efficient, you find you don’t need as much. But when you do, it’s going to work really well.
Christopher: Yeah. I think that’s really important and interesting. One thing I noticed, I’ve started a 5-hour ride recently with where I did have nothing. And guess what, I was absolutely fine. I didn’t notice any difference at all. And I feel like in the beginning, the fastest day training was really important for improving my metabolic flexibility. And now that I have that, I can still eat something on the bike and not lose that. I’m not going to backwards just because I started doing what I was doing before.
And it’s interesting that the thing that’s going to take you to the next level is not necessarily the thing that got you to the level where you’re at now. It could be… you know, find the magic answer like “Oh, let’s keep doing this forever” and I’m going to get great results all the time in it. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work like that.
Kristian: You know, I think again we’ve got to come back down to that. We’re all made up of the same essential ingredients. I don’t think there’s many of us that are really unique special snowflakes out there, I don’t think anyone is. But when it comes to fueling and stuff like that, it’s definitely N=1. And when people are like “How much sodium do I need? How many calories?”, I’m sorry! I wish I could give you the formula! But I can’t. I can’t tell you how much. You probably don’t want to be pushing over this and you probably don’t want to be going under that but somewhere in there, you’re going to find the sweet spot. And it could still be off but you’re going to have to test it and you’re going to have to try and figure out what works best for you.
For me, it’s like “What kind of nutrition should I take?” Really? At the end of the day, what works for you? And that’s what you have to use. I’m more blast towards stuff that’s not a chemical shit storm when you look at the back of the packet. Less ingredients is better. But if it works for you, go for it. And use it. If you’re using it 4 or 5 in between, it’s not like we’re living on this stuff and I know a lot of athletes that live on sports nutrition day in and day out and that’s not a good thing.
But if we’re just using it a specific phase or some of those hard decisions, that’s fine because you’re training what you’re going to do in racing if you hardly ever take on fluids during your lone black ride, when you need to take them on, it’s not going to happen. You just forget. You just forget. It’s a process and you’ve got to train the process and I think I went really fast as a carb-dependent athlete but I’m still smart enough that I said “Hey, there’s not enough”. I don’t need that much and if I just drift fade it in, it’s going to work. And ironically enough, I’d look at myself at the end of the day, and I ended the race and I hadn’t consumed enough nearly to what I had planned for.
Christopher: Tell people why they should listen to the Fat Block Podcast.
Kristian: Because it’s awesome!
Christopher: That’s a great answer! Could you give me a longer answer?
Kristian: Look, I have a whole bunch of different topics we speak about. It’s from endurance performance. There’s a lot on nutrition. There’s a lot on the stuff that we share and interest in. We have a lot of interviews on other athletes, the mental game. It’s a good eclectic mix of topics. And the base purpose and goal at the end of the day is to provide our listeners really with some great things that they can take onboard that will help improve their own life.
And some of this stuff is not just about improving our performance, whatever the sport we do. But that it then transfers positively into other areas of our lives. And that’s big for me as a coach as well because if I go like “Hey, if we teach you this lesson through here, you’re going to be a better husband or wife. Or better at your job. Or more inspirational to someone else. You may help that person that you don’t even know you’re helping.” So, that’s a big one for me. That purpose is much more than triathlon; it’s much more than endurance sports? It’s just being about being better every day and for us, endurance sport is just a vehicle.
Christopher: I like it. Do you have any space for coaching clients at the moment?
Kristian: We have space between myself and my wife. I’m never going to turn who I am; good systems and stuffs like that. We do limit it to “I’m never going to go so far where I’m going to drop the ball on what we provide” but I never turned down someone that’s going to be a good fit and to work with. And these days, I don’t even let dollars really get in the way of that. You know, I’ve done a lot of free coaching over the years. Unfortunately, the people aren’t really invested. They don’t do the work; they don’t have skin in the game.
But since moving to Whistler, we have people that can afford my typical rate and people that can’t. But they still want to do that and they are great people so I’m not going to let finances get in the way of looking after someone and helping someone get better at what they want to do. We do a good thing and we love it. I’m just passionate about getting people fit, fast, healthy and push through some barriers that they might even know are there. Most of that is between 2 years, really.
Christopher: Wow, that’s generous and admirable. Well, trispecific.com is the website. I’ll link to that in the show notes. Is there anything else that you’d want people to know about?
Kristian: No, that’s about it. You can catch everything there. You can learn all about us there. The podcast is a great place to go though. If you want to ask questions, we have a private but it’s opened to anyone; a Facebook group. It’s called the Tri Specific Café which you can get to from trispecific.com/tscafe. There’s about nearly 700 people in there and you can ask all questions and different things on that. They’re not all athletes. I have a specific athlete group as well but those are just for anyone. Anyone that’s interested and wants to continue conversations in the podcast or ask specific things, you need some advice, we’re there for you there.
Christopher: That’s amazing. I’ll check that out.
Christopher: Cool! Well, thank you very much for your time Kristian. I really appreciate you.
Kristian: Thank you Chris. And thanks for this opportunity to be on your podcast looking forward to have you back on ours.
Christopher: It’s my pleasure. Thank you!
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