Stephen Seiler

070 Stephen Seiler on how the best train

I would put this week’s guest into a very select place in the world of endurance, one that has combined four often distinct factors, first quality academic research, second in a topic that contributes to elite performance, third creates a paradigm shift that challenges how most of us think about training, and fourthly has been successfully applied to the non-elites, the serious amateur athletes or training for the general population.

Professor Stephen Seiler’s has captured, described, cross-referenced and validated the unique training patterns of the world’s best athletes and has found a somewhat remarkable, counter-intuitive trend – that the training they do is polarised, that is that the best endurance athletes make their easy training easy and their hard training hard. This has become known as the polarised approach.

Stephen and his research group’s contribution to endurance sport took a bit of time to become recognised, now is widely accepted, considered and underpins the practice and thinking of coaches and athletes around the world.

We have a right old natter in this discussion, and in truth we could have spoken for hours more, we take a good couple of hours to explore, psycho-physiology, training, periodisation, philosophy and we both coin some new markers of over-training. We actually sort of drifted into a fascinating discussion right from the off, before we really started, which is representative of what you’ll hear, much less an interview but much more of a long-form conversation

Show notes

Talking shared book titles, Star Wars

Steve and Stephen discuss children and the role of parenting, ensuring you are mindful of their resilience and coaching them in their chosen field

Stephen discusses his daughter’s eating disorder and the areas he needs to be mindful of. Passing on the mantle of coaching, Stephen’s role will then have been fulfilled.

Gathering teams with different skills sets communicating effectively and putting the athlete in the centre

Stephen discusses the routine, the mundane aspects of high performance and planning for the extraordinary.

Self-doubt and elements of OCD within athletes regardless of achievement or performance level.

Providing positive support to athletes during competition

Getting bogged down in the details whilst forgetting the exceptional work completed over the long term

Interval training relax this is not rocket science!

Confidence versus certainty

Agile periodisation

The cheetah – moments of aggression

The adaptive advantage of the polarised approach

Signal versus stress

Staying under the stress radar

Getting the athlete and the coach on the same page

The relevance of subjective indicators

The hair in the yoghurt indicator!

Evolution and innovation of training

Resistance to change

I have been a gold medallist and I can be one again

Science meets arts and the development of new constructs for explanation


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Dr Steve Ingham is one of the UK’s leading figures in sport and one of the world’s leading performance scientists. He is steeped in high performance and has been integral to the development of Britain into an Olympic superpower. He has provided support to over 1000 athletes, of which over 200 have achieved World or Olympic medal success, including some of the world’s greatest athletes such as Jessica Ennis-Hill, Sir Steve Redgrave and Sir Matthew Pinsent. Steve has coached Kelly Sotherton's running for heptathlon and to 4x400m Olympic medal winning success. Steve has worked at the English Sports Council British Olympic Association, English Institute of Sport, where Steve was the Director of Science and Technical Development, leading a team of 200 scientists in support of Team GB and Paralympics GB. Ingham holds a BSc, PhD and is a Fellow of the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences. Steve is author of the best selling ‘How to Support a Champion: The art of applying science to the elite athlete’, discussing and inspiring the importance of learning and adapting to reach our maximum potential. Steve established Supporting Champions with the ambition of helping ambitious people to find a better way of creating high-performance. Steve hosts the Supporting Champions Podcast on sharing his pursuit of understanding and exploration in performance.

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