Getting Faster with Dan Lorang (Faster by FLO Podcast #55)


Jon: This is “Faster,” a podcast by FLO Cycling. In each episode, we interview industry experts to educate you, challenge you, and even change the way you train, so you become faster. A few episodes ago, we spoke with Sebastian from INSCYD on the amazing work they’re doing with metrics and sports science. Today on “Faster,” we talk with legendary coach, Dan Lorang, about coaching using INSCYD metrics versus a standard FTP plan, how he assesses athletes, typical training blocks, and the athlete-coach relationship.

Dan is a long time coach of Jan Frodeno and Anne Haug, and became the first coach in history to have simultaneous male and female Ironman Kona World Champions in 2019. If that’s not enough, Dan is also the head of performance and coaching for Team Bora with riders like Peter Sagan and Pascal Ackermann. Listen to this episode if you want to think about coaching using metrics other than FTP, and how to find your best coach so you can become faster.

When we’re not creating this podcast, we’re working on other ways to make you faster. At FLO, we design and manufacture some of the world’s fastest cycling wheels that we sell consumer direct to keep more money in your pockets. As a special thank you for listening to “Faster,” we wanted to offer you 20% off your next purchase. Simply use coupon code PODCAST in all capital letters at checkout. Your purchase will also support our give-back initiatives, 1% of all sales supports our Bike for a Kid Program, where we provide bikes and helmets for kids in need. We also plant one tree for every wheel we ship as a thank you to our planet. Enjoy the show.

Training Like A Pro with Dan Lorang

Jon: Dan Lorang, welcome to “Faster.” We’re super excited to have you here.

Dan: Yeah. Hello, Jon. Thank you for having me in your show.

Jon: Excellent. So we’ve been going back and forth a little bit getting…I’ve been super busy. I just had a new baby and you’ve been super busy coaching, doing a lot of coaching. So I’m finally glad we found some time to meet up.

Dan: Yeah, it was not so easy. But you wrote me several times. Sorry for that, that I didn’t answer so quickly. But like you said, it was a busy time, and it still is. But now I’m in training camp in south Nevada with Bora-Hansgrohe cycling guys, and the evenings are quite well for doing this.

Jon: And I think it’s kind of funny, because you mentioned the other day in an email that you run this year in Nevada, which is close to Las Vegas. So I’m saying, “Hey, if you’re in Las Vegas, come see me.” And you’re like, “No, no, this is in Europe,” which I didn’t know there was one. So, you learn something new every day, it’s kind of funny. Listen, I’m super excited to have you here. A lot of people may not know a ton about you in North America, but you are the head performance coach for team Bora. And you are also the only coach in history to simultaneously coach the men’s and women’s Ironman Kona winner. In 2019 it was Jan Frodeno and Anne Haug. So congratulations on all of that, that’s massive success. And you’re also an INSCYD coach, which we’ve recently had Sebastian on from INSCYD. So I think this is gonna be really cool conversation just to discuss things, I know there’s a lot of a North American view on training from an FTP perspective, and that’s definitely not what INSCYD is. So, yeah, just thanks for coming on.

Dan: Yeah, thank you for the nice words. And yeah, I think it’s always nice also to share, to share knowledge, to share how we are working here, and perhaps people out there they are interested in they have some questions, and they are happy to hear a little bit of how in professional sport, which method they are using. And that’s why I’m really open to share this and to give perhaps some inspiration also for other coaches, especially.

Dan Lorang’s Background

Jon: Excellent. I love the sounds of that. So let’s get started. What’s a little bit of background on yourself?

Dan: Yes, so I’m originally from Luxembourg. And I did my sports science studies in Germany with the focus on high-performance sports. So it was not as easy as that because I first did a degree in civil engineering and then I changed to high-performance sports. So I always like to do a lot of sports, I played soccer for eight years and then I changed to different sports. Training cycling, triathlon. But finally, I felt that coaching could be really my job, and that’s why I started sports science studies. And yeah, then already started during this period to start my first athlete and my first athlete was Anne Haug. She also started to study sports science at that time. And that’s where we met.

Jon: So you said, you went to school as a civil engineer. Did you ever study as a civil engineer or did you go right into sports science?

Dan: No, so I made one degree in civil engineer, so like a bachelor, and then I changed to sports science, because I feel that I have some passion for sports. And I always did a lot of sports and I want to stay connected with it. And that’s why I saw the possibility with coaching to be really deep in sport without training. So my job was to really do the job and also perhaps doing life with it, and that’s why I changed to sports study science. And I did in Munich where I met also Anne, so Anne Haug, she was my first athlete, and I met her during my studies.

How Dan Lorang Started with Bora

Jon: Excellent. Yeah, I’m a mechanical engineer. And then I actually turned that into doing stuff in the sports industry. So I totally get it, different, but still coming from the same background. That’s pretty cool. So how did you end up becoming the head coach for Bora?

Dan: Yes. So, before, I was a German national triathlon coach for four years, and in 2016, after the Olympics, the Federation and myself have a little bit different opinion how we should continue about the structures. And then I said, “Perhaps you go the right way, and I’m wrong, so I will just leave the Federation and look for a new challenge.” And then, yeah, I got contact with Bora-Hansgrohe, they were looking for coaches because they stepped up to a level and they are unique coaches in your team. And I had a talk with the team owner, was Ralph Denk, and the only triathlete that he knew at the time was the Jan Frodeno. And that was my luck, because he thought, okay, Jan Frodeno, he’s a world champion, so probably he’s not the baddest coach. And so that’s why he said, “Okay, let’s try.” And from there on, I jumped into the team.

Dan Lorang Working with Anne Haug and Jan Frodeno

Jon: Wow, well, very cool. And then it sounds like you knew Anne from back in your school days, and you met and that’s how you met Jan as well. So did you start coaching Jan right away? Or how did that work?

Dan: No, no, Jan, I met him at the end of 2012. So he had before several coaches, he’s the coach where he won the Olympic Games 2008 was Roland Knoll, a German national coach at this time. And then 2012, I met him in December, and I started as an under-23 coach in Germany. And we met each other and he was looking for change to change coach and change the system. And he talked to me one evening in my office and asked me if I could imagine to coach him. And with two points, one point was that, yeah, he still wants to continue one season on the Olympic distance and then to switch. And the second point was that he wants to win Kona.

And, yeah, it just took me some seconds to say, “Yes, we do this.” And I told him, 2015, you will win Kona. And yeah, it’s finally how we did. But I can tell you that when he left my office, I was a little bit shocked about myself what I did there. And yeah, it was the start of a really interesting journey. And we are still on that journey. And for sure, also, one of my next step as a coach because he was already successful at this time, then he headed down with some injuries, but he had a lot of experience in high-performance sports already. He was a special or he’s a special character, really performance driven. And I learned a lot as a young coach at the time.

Dan Lorang’s Training Method

Jon: I’ve met and hung out at some events with Jan quite a few times, we know each other. And I just have to say, he is one of the nicest individuals I’ve ever met. I love the guy. So I’m super happy for his success and all your success. So that’s great to hear. Let’s talk about sports science and training just a little bit. So North America uses a lot of FTP style training. If you had to define your method of training, how would you define it?

Dan: So, for me, I always wanna start with an athlete, it’s important to know the metabolic profile, and that means how good is his aerobic system working? And how good is his anaerobic system working? And how is this in balance? So that is for me, besides other stuff, for sure also the training history, the stuff about the biomechanical issues, medical issues. So there are a lot of information you need at the beginning to start working on a high-level base with an athlete.

Because you talked about FTP, when we talk about performance metabolism, then, for me, it’s important to make the difference between the aerobic and the anaerobic system because in the end, it has also a big impact on the training and how you approach your training individually with this athlete. So FTP is a value for sure, it’s easy to do, for example, FTP testing, like it is in the books, and you get the value, but I think it’s value and you don’t get so much information about where their performance is coming from. So which system is giving how many percent to this value, and that makes it difficult to plan the training individually. So then it’s more like a 50/50 chance that you stick to the right method, or perhaps you have a method that fits quite well to the athlete, but it could be that it will not work with another one.

Training Metrics Used By Dan Lorang

Jon: Okay. So when we talked with Sebastian over at INSCYD, he talked about like seven key metrics, from your perspective, when you are, you know, you’re training an athlete, do you look at all seven of those, or do you have like a couple that are really your focus points? And if there are, what are they? You talked about metabolic training, but do you use any other ones sort of on a regular basis?

Dan: Also there it depends. So you can imagine like this that I take an athlete and then I look about the key metrics for these athletes. So, for one athlete, it could be five, for the other, seven, for one athlete, perhaps I’m fine with three. And another one, you need 10 to really understand well how the body of the athlete is working. So, for sure, we need VO2 max, we need VLM access lactate building rate. For sure, I’m happy to know how efficient an athlete is running or cycling. For sure, I need simple parameters as heart rate as what during the training, speed. Then subjective perception, so the RPE, stuff like that.

And then you can also have a look at measuring devices like measuring body temperature, measuring HRV. So making blood tests. So, for me, it’s important to understand which are these key values? I will never say…or key metrics, I will never say that it’s seven for every athlete, it really depends on the athlete and that is something that takes some time to find out. And I try to reduce it to as less metrics as possible. Because if you have too much of them, you get just crazy and losing perhaps the focus on what is important. But if it’s necessary to have 10, then for sure, you could also have 10.

Jon: I like that. So each person is a unique individual, you’re not taking like a box plan and applying it to each individual?

Dan: Exactly.

Jon: I like that you’re doing that.

Dan: Exactly, that’s it. Yeah.

What Makes Dan Lorang Successful as a Coach

Jon: Yeah. What do you attribute to your success as a coach then? Is it that sort of view where you’re looking at each person as an individual or do you attribute it to a lot of your background and your training? What do you think it is? Or is it a mixture? What has brought you most of your success?

Dan: I coach athletes from different sports, so, triathlon, cycling, biathlon, running, so I have different athletes there and always thinking about, “Okay, what makes this so successful? What makes these athletes so successful? And what makes our relationship really working? And in the end, I think it’s about 100% commitment to what you are doing. So that you’re really believing in the training plan, in the training routines, in the life that you’re doing for the sport so that you really believe in this. Also believe in your relation to your coach, because everything what we’re doing as a coach, in the…like I said, it is individual approaches, measuring, try to be close to the athletes, try to help and support as good as possible. In the end, I think this leads to this 100% trust and 100% commitment. And I think this is really necessary to be successful.

Because if you’re losing too much energy about doubting every day, if you should now go 30 minutes more or less? Or if you should do five or six times this kind of intervals? Or if some other opponent is doing more training than yourself or less training and if it’s good or not? I think this costs you a lot of energy. And I think there you need to have a really trustful relation to your coach. And it’s never…I don’t see this like coach is saying and you are doing, I always see this as a both path direction.

Jon: Partnership.

Dan: Yeah, partnership, exactly. That’s the right word. Thank you. That’s really the right word. It’s a partnership. It’s the career of the athlete, firstly, so the athlete has a limited amount of time where he or she can be an athlete. That’s why she or he has the responsibility for his career and the coach is one piece who can help to make his career successful. But the athlete should have a big impact on what is done, so what is happening to him or to her.

How Dan Lorang Onboards New Athletes

Jon: Okay, let’s talk about like defining an athlete, let’s just use, you can use it any way, you can use me as an example, or it doesn’t matter who you use. But you’re gonna bring, I’m gonna bring a new athlete to you. And if I was gonna do that in North America, a lot of times what a coach would have you do is go out and they’re gonna have you do an FTP test, you’re gonna get some numbers, and then they’re gonna build a plan around that. So if I was gonna work with somebody like yourself, and I’m a brand new athlete, and I come to you, what are you doing from day one to sort of, like you say, it could be seven metrics, it could be five metrics for me, what do you do to get an understanding of me and who I am as an athlete?

Dan: Yeah, first of all, I would ask about, what did you do in the past? Do you have some test results? For example, kind of have a look at your training history. I would ask you about what sports did you do in the past? Learning a little bit about your experience from the past. And then, for sure, we need some actual data, some new data. And for this, like I said, one main thing would be to find out stuff like VO2 max and lactate building rate.

And if you are using now INSCYD, or if you have different methods to do it, I think that is up to the coach. INSCYD provides a method that you can use in the field, so quite flexible. But yeah, if you have…I don’t say you have to use this, but just, however you get this metrics, I think it’s quite important to have them to get a little bit more go more deep into metabolism, because what happens if I don’t have it, I have an FTP and I make a guess, okay, perhaps he is more the diesel type or perhaps he’s more the Ferrari type, or, and then you start to make a training regime.

And then on the response of the training, you perhaps find out if you are right or wrong, but perhaps you’re losing already some time there. If you go in the wrong direction. So that’s why it’s, for me, important just to get this information quite from the start. And then testing some…so during the training process, if you are really going in the right direction. So if you say we are doing the VO2 max training period, then for sure it will be nice also to test if the VO2 max went up over that period. And if you’re working on, I don’t know, lowering like a building rate or working on strength endurance, then I think it’s always good to really verify if you are achieving this goal with your training. I think that’s some important point that it’s not always easy for a coach because imagine you are doing a retest and you are worse than before. I think it’s not…that can happen.

So it’s nothing…you are not a bad coach when this happen. But you can look why did it happen and then talk openly to your athletes, and find a solution for this. And that’s why I also like to work right transparent. So really be honest to the athlete and tell him, “Hey, that’s what we did good. That went wrong. I think that’s why we have to maybe take these and these steps.” And not to hide information or to keep information just for my own just to protect myself, I think. In our generations that we have now, athletes, they really want to have information, they want to be part of the process. And you have to adapt as a coach on the situation. I have always been like that. But I know also in the past, there are coaches work differently, perhaps with more authority, and they were quite successful. But I think times are changing. And that’s why more knowledge and also transferring more knowledge to the athletes becomes more and more important.

Jon: We also have like a feedback loop going on, right? So you’re testing something, you’re coming up with an experiment, you’re getting the results back, and then you’re changing. And I like the fact that you’re open to making a mistake, right? Because if you’re not pushing or you’re not testing different things, and you’re just going off some sort of box plan, then how do you really understand if you could get something in a different direction if you don’t test it? So that’s a very good way to look at it. I like that a lot. How important is diet when you’re assessing an athlete? Do you look at their diet? Do you make diet recommendations?

Dan: I think there we have to see it diet in training and also diet besides the training, so in normal life. And diet in training, that’s something where I also give my input, giving some suggestions depending on what we want to achieve in training. For example, if you have really intensive training and you want to do this with full carbohydrate tanks that you put it in the session, also when you want to train to use a lot of carbohydrate in the competition. You should also train it at some point. And on the other side, but for the daily nutrition, daily diet plan, all the athletes are working with a nutritionist or they are quite good on their own. And if not, so always the middle way is that I give them some advices and some help when to eat what, but if it goes deeper, I always work together with an expert because it gets…I’m good for the easy and the basic stuff, but it’s quite important. But when it gets deeper, even more scientifically, then I’m happy to have a specialist on board for that to work together with.

Dan Lorang and the Mental State of Atheltes

Jon: I like that. I like that. What about the mental state of athletes? I’m convinced that a lot of times people get things in their heads and they can perform better, either if it’s anger, frustration, you know, fear, nerves. How do you assess that in your athletes.

Dan: So, first of all, I try to have a good relation with my athletes so that we can also have open conversations about quite everything. But sometimes you feel that there could be some kind of limiting factor. Perhaps in competition, thy can’t show what is inside, perhaps in front of the competition, or perhaps some situations when you’re a lot away from home, no matter what it can be, where you have a feeling, “Oh, there we are missing something, the athlete cannot perform 100% mentally,” then I’m also more than happy to help reference you to a specialist, to a sports psychologist.

There should not always be a problem to contact him. But sometimes just they can give athletes the toolbox. The toolbox how to deal with different situation not only in sport, but also in daily life. And I think that’s also a good concept because I like that because it’s different if they talk to the sports psychologist or to the coach. And then you can also use this to really have a full supply of the athlete. But it’s not that every athlete of mine is working with one.

If I see a need or if there is a request, I have people where I can refer them to. But I think it’s really important that you as a coach also have this kind of toolbox to react on different situation with your athletes and to feel, and to hear, yeah, to really have a feeling for your athletes, to really learn to listen, and to get a lot of information out of them, and putting yourself in the background. And there I think the psychology education for coaches is even more important than for the athlete sometimes.

Dan Lorang on Event Specific Training vs Career Training

Jon: I love that. I love that. So let’s talk a little bit about training. So if you are coaching an athlete, sometimes you’ll get a coach and say, “Hey, we’re gonna train for this race, or train for a specific event.” Sometimes people, you know, “I’ll train you for a year.” And then some people look at it from a career perspective, how do you look at an athlete from a training perspective as the coach when you bring them on?

Dan: So you mean which kind of training I will do or how we set up this periodization? Or what do you mean exactly?

Jon: Well, I’m guessing when you bring an athlete on, I mean, you look at somebody, like some of the teams that you work with, you’re probably looking at it more from a career perspective, you’re not focused on a single event. I’m assuming that you’re using events to build a career with somebody, is that true? Or how do you see your relationship from a training perspective?

Dan: So the goal of the coach or the role of the coach is to develop the athlete as far as possible. So to help him to bring the best out of him during the next months, years, whatever, during the career. And it’s a step-by-step process. And I say we always using competition also to see where we are at that moment. So there are not so many competitions that my athletes are using just for training, because training and competition is competition. And I think it’s good to make a difference between that. Okay, in cycling, you have a lot of competition, so that’s not so easy. But even there, we always try to have enough time for preparation, enough time to be ready, and then to compete, and then to see where are we? Did it work out where we are? Or what do we have to improve? And then we look year by year, and as long as we have performance improvements, year by year, I think then we did a good job, then yeah, they did a good job. The coach did a good job, the whole supporting team, not only the coach, perhaps also you have a strength and conditioning coach, perhaps a nutritionist, whoever is involved in the performance team did a good job.

If we come to a point that we have some peaking, or some decrease in performance, or some stagnation, or a lot of injuries. I think then we are at the point to say, oh, all we have here is really dramatic to do changes, or the athletes decide himself or herself to change the system. But I think as long as we can progress, we are on a good way. The result, the competition is always, like I said, it’s a result of their good work. So it’s not that we say, okay, we are just training now for winning at the competition. No, we are training to be the best possible. And then in the end, if you achieve this, and if you are able to perform at your best level at the competition, the result is just, yeah, you cannot really influence this. If you bring the best out of you and somebody else was better, then you didn’t have a bad competition, then just somebody else was better. But if you make a competition and you’re just at 90%, then perhaps you did a mistake, then perhaps you should go back and say, “Okay, why could I not show my potential?” So my goal is always that the athletes show their potential at the competitions, and that we measure also our work on the performances at the races.

Jon: I love your view, I love your view of how it works, you know, you’re building each person individually, and you’re making it more about them as opposed to, did they win that day on the podium, or did they win for themselves? Did they show improvements? Are they building a career? That’s a great way to look at it. When you think of a standard training block, terms that are thrown around a lot are base, build, peak, taper, and recovery. Do you use those five phases? I know you just mentioned a couple, a few others. How do you look at it from a standard training process from your starting until your endpoint?

Dan: Yes, a basic build up, like I said, it’s always, first of all, we working on some kinds of making the body ready for the workload, some kinds of really basic training in all the disciplines. If we’re talking about triathletes, then we go over to some kind of working on VO2 max and working on aerobic endurance, and also preparing some, from the technical side, some speed when we talk about the run. So it’s always important that you prepare fast runs before you run fast, because otherwise, you have some really big issue with injuries, also in cycling, to prepare springs, so to work on your mortoric stuff. And after this phase we have…or I am used to do a strength endurance block to work on this specific topic. And then before the competition, it’s quite race-specific, depending on the race that you’re doing. If you’re doing short course, long course, if you’re doing cycling race, time trial, or whatever.

So this would be quite roughly the plan what I’m doing, and then it’s individually adapted, because what is hard to say is how much time does it really need to improve the VO2 max of an athlete? How much time does it really need to decrease or increase VLR max? And it’s something you can take out from theory, but in practice, it could be completely different. And that’s why I hold quite back with saying this is the standardized plan, like this you should do it. But as a coach, I think it should be logical at some point. So like, how I try to describe it now, I try to bring in some logic that the athletes understand and that also other coaches understand. And then it’s about how you fill this with life. So how you really put the sessions and how you combine the workload.

Dan Lorang on Strength Training for Athletes

Jon: Okay, that’s awesome. So when you are doing strength and conditioning work, I saw a post a while ago, something that Jan was doing and he had P bars, and he was doing some like callisthenic work. Do you incorporate a lot of that stuff? Are you using, you know, weights in the gym? What does your strength and conditioning look like?

Dan: I just had a talk with an athlete and I was telling the conditioning coach about this. So, first of all, my first priority of strength and conditioning is to make an athlete bulletproof. So that the athlete is able to support all the workload necessary to perform at his best level in the target disciplines of triathlon, cycling, running, whatever it is. So that’s the first reason for me to do strength and conditioning training. And then we come about performance gains. So performance gains, because of the strength and conditioning training. And there it’s also, it’s individually based. If you look at cycling, we have good experience with sprinters, for example, or with classic riders to do some…to do strength and conditioning training, to do strength training, to work with heavy loads or with…so on one side with heavy load with…to work with one to three repetitions, for example. So really going to the maximum, on the other side, working with speed, working with velocity, working with low weights and high speed.

So these are the two methods that were quite…where we have really good experience with, the sprinter and classic riders. If we come to the climbers, it’s really, really individual. I have a lot of good experience with climbers, just doing core training, nothing else, doing all the work on the bike, and still having a really, really good performance level. I think important is that you always, first, you start at the goal. So, for example, cycling, first of all, you think about, “What can I do on the bike to strengthen the muscles that I needed to ride fast my bike?” And then you think back, “Okay, and now, what can I do in the gym to support this or even to put a higher load, what I couldn’t do on a bike to make some kind of overloading to have a beneficial effect?”

Because if you are doing squats in the gym, there is no proof that doing squats in the gym makes you fast on the bike, it could be, but it’s no proof. And that’s why it’s an individual thing. And you have to see that you can at least doing a transfer because otherwise it’s a waste of time, a waste of energy to do them. Because in the end, you should just be faster or better in your sport.

But like I said, if the exercise is there to prevent injuries, to protect the athlete, then it’s different. That’s for me really, really important to have good core training, good neuromuscular activation, good body feeling, so that you are really able to feel movements, to control your body. So all that stuff, I think it’s quite important to keep you away from injuries.

Jon: I would definitely agree, you know, the injuries in the sport are huge. And if you can prevent those, that’s definitely a good thing. What percentage of your time, when you’re actually doing work on the bike, are you having people being out on the road versus on like a smart trainer where they’re doing specific loading, specific intervals that you can really control and dial in?

Dan: So my experience with the cyclists is that they don’t really want to go in the roller. So it changes a little bit, and last year’s with the tools where we have now to make online trainings and races, but mainly they train on the road. So I would say 96%, 97% of their training they are doing on the road. And they really like to do that. And the rollers are just in case of bad weather, in case of a recovery ride, in case of specific time trial session. And with the triathletes, it’s completely different. A lot of triathletes that I know and also some of them that I coach now, they even like it to be on the rollers because it’s quite effective. As a triathlon, your days, your time is limited, you have sometimes or a lot of days to do three disciplines. So you don’t want to roll in roll out of a city. So you want to start immediately your training. And yeah, so they use it as an effective tool. So there I would say it’s nearly 50-50%, if I would make an average with my athletes. And so, there it’s a huge training tool, I would say.

Dan Lorang on Training Teams

Jon: Okay. Excellent. One question I have to ask, you know, we do a lot of stuff. We’ve talked a lot about individual athletes and training and individual is one thing. How do you train the team, especially if you’re looking at like your Bora team? How do you train them to work together to be a cohesive unit to accomplish the goal?

Dan: So when you look at the structure of a cycling team, we have 29 cyclists, they are living all over Europe. So a lot of training they are doing on their own. So it’s easy to make individual training. We have in our team four coaches who takes care about all these athletes, and we talking a lot to each other looking at the data of the athlete, sharing ideas, how we can train the different type of athletes. And if we bring them together, for example, in training camps, then we looked at the fit together from the performance level. Or even if we are training in the group, we are still doing individual intervals. So it’s not that everybody always has to do the same kind of intervals. We know that it’s good for the building, group building that some training should really be done in the big group. But as a coach behind or as coaches behind, we are aware of this, we doing the same training for everybody but it has not the same effect. So then perhaps the day after we make some individual trainings again.

So we are away from a system where we are doing two weeks, all the same training, it’s just not possible with 29 cyclists and it makes also no sense. Because you’re just losing their time. And we are aware that, like I said, that the team building is also important, but it could happen that we make the warm up together and then everybody starts his individual programs. But with 29 athletes, we also find guys who can do the same. So it’s not that we have 29 different athletes completely different. No, we can also agree, and as coaches to say, “Okay, you plan now, four times 10 minutes, I plan four times 11 minutes, perhaps we can find us in the middle.” And then we are happy and everybody agrees. So…

Jon: Yeah, I like that. A little compromise for the team.

Dan: Yeah, it’s about communication. And if coaches agrees, then it’s also no problem for the athletes. It’s just a problem when coaches try to fight against each other. And then it could also be a problem for the athletes. But if this happens in a team, I think it’s better to change the structure.

Dan Lorang on What Makes A Good Athlete to Coach

Jon: Okay, cool. I wanna talk about, you know, people finding a coach. I know a lot of people are always sort of looking for somebody, there’s a lot of questions around, you know, “Can I self coach myself? What is the best method for me?” And I think we’ve already kind of covered some of the things to finding what a good coach relationship athlete looks like, you’re really talking about that being a partnership, you’ve really talked about what you offer as a coach, but what does a good athlete offer a coach? So with all the people that you’ve worked with over the years, if you’re saying, you have a really good athlete for you as a coach, what does that look like?

Dan: So the relation between the athlete and coach, it’s important that those signs find what they are looking for. So they are…when as an athlete, when you approach a coach, you have an expectation, or you know him personally, or you know him because of the success, or because somebody makes a recommendation. But you have an expectation about how this working together should look like. And it is for me really important when you start to work with somebody first to ask, what are your expectations? Why do you want to work with me and not with somebody else? And that is a good starting point. And also the other way around, if I coach an athlete, I also have expectations how we want to work together, so, to have respect, to have high transparency, to bring in an high work ethic, so that the athletes know that if you want to achieve something, it’s about hard work, and that we trust each other.

So there are some aspects that are really, really important for me. And it has nothing to do with the training plan, the training schedule, it’s really have to do how to deal or how to work together as human beings. And if this fits well, I think that is a good base to start the collaboration. Because in our days, if you go to a club, you have a coach there, then you kind of choose, or you like him or it’s working or not. But otherwise, if you’re looking, I don’t know, in the…I don’t know how agents look for a coach, in the internet. Or if you get some recommendations, you have a lot of possibilities to inform or you already in advance a little bit, what did the coach done? What are their successes?

But then the personal talk is still really, really important. Because I know that a lot of coaches out there, who are really, really good coaches, and they just didn’t have the opportunity to coach so talented athletes that they achieve the highest goals like world champions, or European champions. So it’s quite hard for you to get a name if you don’t have athletes who have the potential to get there. So that’s why I think it’s not always easy to say this is a good coach or a bad coach. I would always, while I would be in athletes and I’m talking to the coach, I always try to find out. Yeah, how is he working? Is there some consistency in building up? Perhaps talking to some athletes who have been coached by him or by her just to see if I take 10 athletes, how many of them are getting better? If I have from 10 athletes just getting one better and nine injured or they stop it, then perhaps then I think it’s not a good coach. But getting better doesn’t mean to get the World Champion but just to develop, and to be happy, and to be injury-free. So, that’s the thing that tells a lot about the coach, if success is just an exception, or if success is something constant that the athletes…that the coach can deliver. So that is…

Jon: That’s a really good way to put it. I like that. And I also like what you said about, you know, you may be the best coach in the world but you may have athletes that are not bad athletes, but they’re not world caliber athletes. So trying to figure out what that looks like. That’s a really clever way to look at it.

Dan: Yeah, exactly. That is really, really important. That’s why I would always be careful to judge coaches, because sometimes you don’t just have the information. And on the other side, I wanted even to put a tweet yesterday, “What is a high-performance coach?” Because I often read in the description of coaches that they are high-performance coaches. And I always asked me, “What is a high-performance coach?” So I thought I knew what it is. But now I have my doubts, because so many people call them like that.

Jon: Everybody’s a high-performance coach.

Dan: Yeah, at some point, yeah, it seems. So that’s why it’s quite hard for people to find out, if you have a nice web page, put in some references what you did, and then, yeah, it’s hard to find out if it’s a good coach or not. It’s not an easy topic. And also, to be honest, one way is that the athletes are looking for the coaches, but also really interesting is if you as a coach are looking for athletes, that is also a nice way to discover perhaps really good relations. And so sometimes I’m just interested in athletes, how they are working and what they are doing. And just then you get some talk and finally find out, oh, they are looking for a coach, or they’re looking for change, or whatever.

And that is also interesting that sometimes as a coach, you feel like, “Oh, that would be an athlete that I really would like to coach, and this personality that would quite fit really well to me.” And perhaps there is an opportunity. But don’t get me wrong, I go not to an athlete who has a coach and say, “Hey, I’m the better coach, and I want to work with you.” No, no, it’s not this. But it’s more sometimes you feel, oh, but it’s really, it’s a talent, it’s a personality, it’s really a person I would like to work with. And perhaps if there’s an opportunity, then you can also approach the athlete and say, “Hey, I heard that you’re looking for a coach, I think that could be a good match, just let’s have a talk.” So I think there could be both ways leading to a successful coach-athletes relationship.

Jon: It’s funny you say that. I’ve done some coaching outside of cycling and traveling in a different area. But some of the best relationships that I’ve had, I’ve seen individuals that I felt like I could offer something to, and I’ve reached out and some of them we have actually created relationships with and I’ve worked with them. And it’s some of the most successful partnerships that I’ve had from a coaching perspective. I love the way that you look at that. If somebody is trying to find a coach that follows sort of your methodologies, more on the inside approach versus something like FTP coaching, where would they even begin to look for something like that?

Dan: Okay, I could now make publicity for INSCYD. I think on their website, they have coaches who are working with the system. Like I said, I am not paid by INSCYD or something like that. I just like the way to look at people with a view to make like the dealing with metabolic profiling. So if you have different methods, go for it. But I think that could be a starting point. And also, when you talk to your coach, for example, you find a coach in the internet, on training pitch, whoever what you can look for, and then starting to talk about these topics, starting to talk, “Okay, I read something about VO2 max. I read something about metabolic profiling, how do you see this?” And then I think you can get already so much information today from the internet, that you can get some kind of base knowledge. And then if you talk to that coach, and if the coach has no clue about it, or just say…or just blaming it even, I think then you know, “Okay, perhaps that’s not the right person I want to work with, perhaps I should look for somebody else.”

But otherwise, it’s quite…I think it’s one of the possibilities what you have. And then also recommendations, I think this is still one of the best way. If you know athletes, ask them, if you know coaches, perhaps… For example, if an athlete now would contact me, I’m completely full, so I cannot coach any athletes. I also don’t coach amateur athletes. But if somebody contacts me, I can have a look and see, okay, I know this guy, I know this guy, that they are working good. And often this works pretty well. So going on recommendations, and…

Jon: I like that. And you’re open to recommendations. If somebody wanted to write you. I mean, I know you’re full, but if someone say, “Hey, I’m looking for somebody,” you would have recommendations?

Dan: Exactly. Yeah.

Dan Lorang on Self Coaching

Jon: Okay, excellent. And this may be…I think I’m gonna take a guess here and I might know the answer to this based on what we’ve been talking about, but do you think it’s ever good to self-coach versus have a coach? Is there a good time when you wanna self-coach yourself?

Dan: I would say, as a coach, I would say, it would always be good, even if your coaches have to have a second opinion to have somebody have an overview, a look on it. And that is my…because in the end, when you’ve coached yourself, it’s quite hard to be objective, because… I give you an example. You plan a session as a coach, a threshold session, and then the athlete is doing it. And for me, it’s always interesting to see, is the feeling, so the RPE, for example, from the athlete the same than what you expected? And sometimes it’s higher or lower, or in best case, it matches. If you coach yourself and you now putting a threshold session, you go for a threshold session. And then, yeah, for sure you feel something and then you can always say, “Yeah, was it? Was it not? Yeah, I wanted to do this.” Or even during the training, you change.

So you come in that situation, what could be an advantage that you control yourself and adjust. But on the other side, that you also switch, you change your plan, and perhaps always in the direction that fits you a little bit better. But that doesn’t always mean that it’s the best way, it does not mean that if it’s more, like, let me call it comfortable, it’s a hard word for this, but I don’t know how to call it differently. That it’s the best way to do it. And that’s why you need some kind of objective guy, or not a guy, it could be also a female coach, or whatever, to have a look at it. So I think coaching yourself and having somebody to have a look at the data, talk with you monthly over it. I think this can already help and can also be quite successful.

And yeah, I know also combinations where this worked quite well. But generally, I think it’s really good to have a coach, to have a consultant at some point to have an optimization of what you’re doing. And also to exchange yourself, your ideas, just to have somebody to speak to and to get perhaps a different opinion or to get then a confirmation. Perhaps it could also just be a confirmation. What helps you to be more secure about what you’re doing.

Jon: The other think you said that I really liked was, it’s the conservation of energy, right? So, as a triathlete, you’re always trying to conserve energy, because you don’t wanna expend it. So just the thought process and the amount that you put in is a huge component if you’re coaching yourself, if you don’t have to think about it, or you don’t have to worry about it, then your ability to just conserve your energy for training and racing seems to make a lot of sense.

Dan: Yeah, exactly. I can say this, once I had a conversation with Jan about this. I think it was 2016 where he said, “Yeah, perhaps we should do a little bit…” or 2017 I think it was, “We should do more of,” I think he said threshold work or more race-specific work. He heard that other guys are doing intervals of, I don’t know, two times 90 minutes race pace or something like that. And yeah, first of all, I listened and I said, “Mm-hmm. Yeah.” I’m not so convinced about it. But on the other side, doesn’t want really to reject this idea, because there could be something in it. And then, yeah, we tried it but we failed gloriously. So we have no performance improving by doing this. And from that point on, he said, “Hey, you are the coach, you’re doing the program. For me it’s just important that I’m able to do this.”

So it gives him some kind of security. If he’s able to do the workouts, he knows that he’s in good shape. But he’s not like a machine if he feels that he’s a little bit weak, or feels, “Oh, it’s not what they want for me,” for sure he adapts. So it’s not that he goes 100% on it. But I have set the program, and he follows it, and then, yeah, it’s what I said, 100% commitment to the program. Because if you have doubts about the program, you are not at 100%. And I think that it’s impossible. And what you mentioned, if you make the program on your own, I think when things are going good, perhaps you can manage this, but if things are going wrong, I think you can lose a lot of energy on this by just always doubting and investing too much energy by analyzing your data and try to find a new training concept. I think that it’s quite good to have somebody who helps you with it.

Jon: Excellent. So I’ve got some general questions here for you, just some fun ones. Do you think that we’re gonna be back in Kona this year?

Dan: Well, it’s a good question. I really hope it.

Jon: I know, me too.

Dan: Yeah. So I think a lot of people outside are looking forward to that. It’s an up and down when you look at the countries, so, let’s keep it like this, I say, I really hope that we can make it happen. And I think if they’re making Olympic games happen, then perhaps we can also make Kona happen. So…

Jon: I know. I know, you know, I’ve been there like seven years in a row. And I don’t know, it became such a part of my, like, yearly calendar. And I didn’t go last year. And it just felt wrong, something felt wrong. It’s like I haven’t been there too long. So I’m really hoping we get to go back this year, but that’ll be great. So if people wanna learn more about you, your accomplishments, your race teams, and all that sort of stuff. I know you’re on Twitter, you’re pretty active on Twitter, anywhere else they can follow you?

Dan: I’m on this three channels, so, Twitter, Instagram, or on LinkedIn. So that’s where I post sometimes. I have not a system in posting something, just when I come to a situation where I see something, where it could be interesting for other people, too. Or I have some thoughts in my mind, I post it, but it’s not that I have a systematic approach there that I have to post every week, every day, or whatever. No, it’s really it just come by in the moment. It just happens in the moment. But yeah, that’s it.

Dan Lorang on Future Goals

Jon: That’s great. Do you have any big plans or big accomplishments for you? What’s next for you on your list of accomplishments?

Dan: Yeah, the thing with accomplishments is like this. So I dreamt of this situation having two world champions at the same time, I had this dream or this vision during some running sessions before. And I always thought about what would happen if you would achieve this, even if it was a far goal there? And then I was in the moment and I felt it was some kind of really nice feeling, some kind of, wow, the athletes achieve it and you could be a part of it now. And then it was, I think, quite typically in psychology, it needed some time to answer the question now.

And then I realized that you cannot come to a point where you say you’re settled now, you’ve achieved your goals. Because, yeah, if you’ve achieved your goals, still, life continues. So what should I do if I achieve my goals? Stop life or whatever? So that’s why I just continue what I’m doing, try to make athletes better, and help them to realize their dreams. And that’s why I don’t want to focus it on winning some more World Championship title, or being on podium on one of the big tours. I just want to keep on my work, and help athletes, and then the achievement will be a nice result of this. And I think there you can be perhaps happier than waiting for that special point. And then it’s, yeah, it’s…

Jon: I love that. That’s a good philosophy on life, not just work. So, that’s great. And then our final question, we ask every guest this. So, this question started almost three years ago at this point, and it was based on an athlete, average athlete, that’s got some experience, not, you know, they’re a decent athlete, but they could they have room for improvement. And they have a 300 watt FTP. That’s what they come to you with. Now, if they were to take all of your advice, and they were to work with you, let’s say for a year, how much do you believe you could add to that FTP? Now, I know you don’t specifically use FTP, but I’m guessing you could probably come up with a, maybe a rough ballpark number of going with your training style, how much of an improvement they can make?

Dan: If I would be…if I have to answer really seriously, I have to say I have no clue. Because there are so much influences on this number on who this athlete can be, what he did before.

Jon: I love the way your brain works. I love it.

Dan: That is, yeah. It’s a good example because sometimes athletes love and hate me for this. Because they tell me, for example, “How is my shape?” And I tell them the truth. I tell them, it’s good, or it’s really good, or it’s exceptional. And for me, it’s pretty hard to say to them it’s exceptional if it’s only good. If I have to use this for motivation. And the athlete, they feel this and they know this, and that’s why sometimes they hate me for this. But on the other side, they know that I’m quite…that they can believe me. So if I tell them, “You are good, or you are really good,” then they have 100% confidence that they are also really good. And here it’s the same. For sure I can say, on average, let me say 10% for sure, but it’s really guessing, it’s…

Jon: Yeah. So if we’re turning off our engineering brains for a minute, we don’t have all the numbers and we’re just taking a random guess, 10% 30 watts seems like a pretty good answer?

Dan: Yeah, exactly.

Jon: I love it. Listen, Dan, thank you so much for taking the time to be on the show. Funny stories, great information, great advice. And if you’re in Kona this year and we cross each other’s paths, I’ll be sure to shake your hand and congratulate you in all the great work you’re doing.

Dan: Yeah. Thank you very much to have you. It was really nice to speak to you, nice questions. And for sure, if we meet in Kona, we go for coffee. So I think that’s a promise already here.

Jon: All right. We’ll talk to you soon.

Dan: Yeah, okay.

Jon: Thanks for listening to “Faster.” If you enjoyed this episode, please share it, leave a review, or teach a friend what you learned today. For more great episodes on getting faster, subscribe to this podcast. While you’re on your next ride, be kind to one another and ride safe.