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Ken Vick: What’s Your Why?

Episode 20

Whatever it is, why? Okay, why do you want to do that?


If you had to define high performance, what would you say it is? On this week’s episode of Talk of the T-Town, Joan and Andy sit down with Ken Vick, high performance director and president of Velocity Sports Performance. Their conversation covers everything from Ken’s definition of high performance to assessing athletes to questioning your “why”. Go down the rabbit hole with Ken this week and find our what your “why” is.


Ken Vick


Velocity Sports Performance Website: https://velocityspusa.com/velocity-locations/redondo-beach
Instagram: @coachkenvick
Twitter: @vsp_usa


Transcript

Joan Hanscom:

Welcome to the Talk of the T-Town Podcast, where we discuss all things track cycling. Broadcasting from the Valley Preferred Cycling Center, I’m your host and executive director, Joan Hanscom, along with my co-host, athletic director Andy Lakatosh.

Andy Lakatosh:

Welcome to the Talk of the T-Town Podcast. I’m your host, Andy Lakatosh, with my co-host, Joan Hanscom. We’re here with the high performance director and president of Velocity Sports Performance, Ken Vick. He is my personal strength coach, and I worked on and off with him since 2006. He also has worked with a handful of national teams both in cycling and a tremendous number of other sports. We are currently out in Los Angeles together, working hard with our athletes, and he agreed to join us today, with Joan and Maura sitting in the office, to talk a little bit of shop about strength training and track cycling.

Joan Hanscom:

Well, right on. Welcome, Ken. It’s really nice to meet you via the pod.

Ken Vick:

Same here.

Andy Lakatosh:

So as I said, I’ve known Ken before, going on 15 years or so now. When we came out here for national team camps back in the early 2000s, there were not a lot of high performance gyms. Crossfit did not exist. There were not a lot of place that you could get Olympic lifts, and you had to own your own private setup, or you worked out at the Olympic Training Center. So Velocity, out here, was one of the few places that we could work out at and that was how we wound up meeting Ken and working with Ken. But I’ll let Ken give some of his resume to explain a little bit of the work that he’s done and his background, both in cycling and outside of cycling. Because it is very, very impressive.

Ken Vick:

Well, impressive is a big word. But I would just share, I think it gives perspective that I’ve got to work with a lot of different sports. And for me, that’s a really important part because working in a lot of different sports, you bring in a lot of perspectives. And so when I say a lot of sports, I’ve probably spent more time on the Olympic sport side than the professional. Though, I used to be in professional hockey, minor leagues NHL, some arena football. Had a lot of pro athletes in the major US sports, so I spent my time there. But had athletes in 11 Olympic games, across, and I lose track, but I think including as a high performance director, like 32 different sports and 17 countries.

Joan Hanscom:

Wow.

Andy Lakatosh:

[crosstalk 00:02:41].

Ken Vick:

But it’s awesome because then even when I go into working with track cycling, right, I get to take that in. So we’ve got to work with individual athletes, out here in LA. And obviously we’ve seen some different Olympians, back going to 2012, worked quite a bit with the team, getting ready with Jimmy and with [Njisane 00:03:00] back then, at that point. Then we kept working with some people and we worked with the Chinese Olympic committee up to the Rio Olympics. And we worked with [Ben Wa 00:03:08] and the Chinese coaches over there. And then getting the teams ready and the girls [inaudible 00:03:13], won the gold medal and set a world record.

Andy Lakatosh:

In women’s team sprinting.

Ken Vick:

That was, yeah. And then we continued, again, out here, where we can with some amateurs. And love working with our track cyclists, we just don’t see nearly enough of them. So that’s the one, you know, it’d be really fun to solve.

Andy Lakatosh:

Yeah. No, we… So I sought out Ken when I started riding again, last summer. Because as a cycling coach, we really try to cover all the bases and take care of the strength aspect, and give nutrition advice, and you become a sports psychologist on top of all that, as well. And from my own personal training, I was definitely overthinking it all. So I gave Ken a call and we reconnected, and I was like, “Hey, I want this out of my hands.” I want to hand it over to an expert the same way I do with our psych side of it, and the nutrition side of it. So I called Ken right away. And what I was actually really lucky for is that it was COVID, because Ken was actually around.

Andy Lakatosh:

There’s been many years when… I’ll let Ken talk a little bit about this. But Ken was the man and Ken was in charge, and he has an awesome team of coaches underneath that carry out the daily duties and stuff with all different range of athletes. But Ken would be gone to China for weeks, maybe months at a time, gone to Korea, gone to another country and bouncing all around. So I actually got lucky that, through corona, he hasn’t been able to leave. It’s given me his undivided attention which has been great. But yeah, if you could explain some of what you were doing pre-COVID, with traveling around and working with different teams and how it all worked.

Ken Vick:

Yeah. So our company, Velocity Sports Performance, here in the US, we have a commercial side, and this goes back to like 1999 when it was founded. And so, one of the first companies that was working in the sports performance space, like you said. You know, it’s a lot easier to find these than it was back then. And so we work in sports performance, and that’s mostly youth athletes, some pros, some adults, but primarily youth athletes. So that part’s going on, we have different locations across the country. And then our second side is our high performance division. And the high performance division is just that, it is working with individual athletes, and that might be NFL combine training or just guys in their off-season or rehab. And then it’s team and organizations, such as, you said, like Olympic committees.

Ken Vick:

So that’s kind of a wide range, right? It’s everything from just consulting to going in with a full high performance, one of our integrated support teams with rehab professionals, strength professionals, speed, sports science, nutrition, so forth. But yeah, it’s been a little bit more open, I don’t get to coach very much anymore. Came up coaching, was originally an Olympic weightlifting coach. So it’s nice to be able to get back and do some coaching, even if it’s been forced upon in a surprising way.

Joan Hanscom:

So you said something that I found really interesting, and we’ve talked about it with other people on the pod. And just as a sort of a… But Andy, I’m going to be the one that goes down the rabbit hole this week. You talked about high performance. And I’d love for you to share… And I think people often misunderstand what high performance really is. And so I’d love for, just as the baseline for this conversation, for you to describe what high performance is to you. And I’ll tee this up for you, saying that, I am a huge devotee of a podcast called The High Performance Podcast. And it talks about a whole different host of components that they see, that compromise what it is to be high performance or to live a high performance lifestyle. So I’d love for you to define that, off the top.

Ken Vick:

Well, we could spend the whole time talking about that.

Joan Hanscom:

It’s a good one, right? I love that rabbit hole.

Ken Vick:

It is. No, it’s a great question. Because I would say it’s a term that gets thrown around a lot, poorly understood, often really ambiguous. High performance in all honesty, for me, can break down to whatever environment you’re in, performing at the best possible level you can. And so that, again, still leaves this really wide range. And so in our discussion, when I’m saying high performance director, in our case these are individuals in organizations who have, inherently, tied to their mission, performing at their highest level possible. So when you are a professional athlete, you’re an organization, you’re a military group. Somebody that has to perform well, day in and day out.

Ken Vick:

And to do that, we have to take an entire performance mindset. So kind of one of the ways I would point to this is, look, when we send people in, we talk about integrated support teams. And that first word there is critical, because none of this is a one component deal. It’s not just the sports skills, it’s not just the strength and conditioning, or speed, or nutrition. It’s about the how the whole comes together more than just the one part. It’s not a reductionist view, it’s a holistic view. And we want the sum to be more than the sum of the parts.

Joan Hanscom:

I love that. Like you said, I could talk about this for hours, because it’s fascinating. And I am not Andy, right? I’m not an elite athlete. But I love the topic of high performance, and I love how it can apply to anybody’s life. You can be a junior, who doesn’t ever want to be more than a local amateur racer. You can be a professional, going to your day job. You can be a middle aged lady, like me, who just likes racing bikes. But high performance translates to everybody because I think it’s like just an approach. It’s not just logging your workouts and training peaks, it’s the whole package. And so I find it to be a completely fascinating topic.

Ken Vick:

Well, and you had a great point, it carries over. And while most of us, day to day, don’t have to have to be in kind of that knife’s edge of high performance in an Olympic setting or military and so forth. But it’s about getting the most out of stuff that we want to. And we can all set our goals about what we want to get out of life, and get out of whatever we’re pursuing. But a high performance mindset is just how am I going to do that. It’s the support pieces that let you go after whatever it is. And for some people, that’s starting a new company and their business, it’s having a great career, it’s having a great family. Whatever it is. And so I think, really, the key takeaway, when I’m talking with other people, is, look, can you put together multiple pieces to create a lifestyle?

Ken Vick:

And that’s a really big part. Not just the training time, but really the lifestyle. And then, tends to carry over in everything else you’re doing.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, absolutely. Right on. So sorry, Andy, I took us down a path. But I love the path, and I’m thrilled to hear what your perspective was on that, Ken. Thank you.

Andy Lakatosh:

Well, no, so it’s a… and we were just actually having this discussion, yesterday, here in the gym. Because high performance, it does become so custom to the individual and what that individual needs. I think it’s so easy to blanket and be like, you need a nutritionist, and you need this, and you need massage, and you need all these other things. You need blood work. You can try to blanket apply it, but really, like true high performance, to me, is just very custom. And I’m sure we could go down a rabbit hole with Ken, talking about the differences just between sports within our own country.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah.

Andy Lakatosh:

You know, if we want to blanket it even more so, I know him and I have shared some stories about like the way that the Chinese, as a collective nationality, thinks about high performance, thinks about work loads. Stuff that we look at and go like, are you crazy? Are you really going to do it that way? And they’re just like dead set that that is how it works. So what we were just talking about yesterday is, you know, Maddie Godby has come out here now and she’s working with me, and she’s lifting at the gym. And we got her in with Ken, which is a big, a big change. Maddie [inaudible 00:11:18] gym… What was she say? She’s probably worked with three different gym coaches in the last like four years or so. And so she just [inaudible 00:11:25], herself.

Andy Lakatosh:

And she when got out here and met Ken, we did an assessment and stuff. She’s like, “All right, I definitely want Ken to take over.” You know, I know Ken’s approach is like, all right, well, we’re going to keep doing very close to what you were doing and we’re going to slowly transition this, right? Same thing with how we recover and how we eat and everything like that. Like, it’s a customized thing, it’s not just a blanket like, stop doing everything you were doing, come over and do this one thing. And to me, that’s what real high performance is, and then continuing to evolve it, right? Like in three months, Maddie’s going to be a different athlete, by the time she gets to the games, she’s going to be a different athlete. And so it’s a constant evolution.

Andy Lakatosh:

I think that that adaptation, awareness, measuring, and adjusting is, to me, is a big part of high performance, right? Instead of just going static, change this one thing, do it this way and you’ll be fine.

Ken Vick:

Or even instead of having a cookie cutter program. I can tell you, boy, there’s so many times I wish I just had, I was one of those guys that just had a way of doing things. And this is my program, always do everything this way. It would be so nice, it would make days so much easier, sometimes.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, right? It’s absolutely true, right? Like the cookie cutter thing just doesn’t work. Like Mora and I are about the same height, we both are blonde and have blue eyes, and the same training plan would not work for either of us, right? That’s just… it’s not going, to work. And the higher the stakes get, the more that matters. So yeah, but super cool.

Ken Vick:

[crosstalk 00:13:06] more than one way to get there, right? The saying of there’s more than one road that leads to Rome. Well, there is. But do you know where you’re at? Do you know where Rome’s actually at? And a lot of athletes don’t even have a goal, we find that far too often their goals are very ambiguous. Especially on the power side, when they come into this piece of training. It’s kind of like, well, I need to do that stuff to help my other stuff. And that’s okay. But these are the [inaudible 00:13:32]. So do you know where you want to go? And then, yeah, there’s different ways to get there. You got to listen to athletes and help, one, find the options for them. But kind of, I’m a big believer in guiding. I want to work with the athlete in a collaborative way to figure out the best answer for them.

Joan Hanscom:

So that’s a super interesting topic, and I think it’s one that I think a lot of other athletes would be interested to understand process, right? Everybody always says trust the process. So, which I find to be challenging, sometimes. Like, I trust that there is a process, but I’m going to question every step of the process along the way. Just because I sort of want to make sure that I’m exactly the thing, that the process isn’t a cookie cutter thing. So I’m a road cyclist, I’m a middle aged lady, I’ve raced for 20 years. If I came to you and said, “Ken, I want you to remake me into the fastest middle aged, cat three bike racer lady I can be, using strength and conditioning and a high performance approach.” Where would we start? Like what does your assessment point start at?

Ken Vick:

It is some version of the same thing for every sport, around the world, I’ve worked with. And it is really about a conversation. The most important assessment, the most important thing I can do is ask you questions. You just gave me a bunch of information, you’ve been doing this for years. You know some things you want in your goal, but I want to delve into that. What did you already learn? You’ve probably figured out some stuff about some things that worked great, and others that worked really poorly or were even negative. Like, you’ve learned a lot and if I don’t take advantage of that, I’m just putting myself at a disadvantage.

Ken Vick:

So step one, whether it’s an individual athlete, like yourself, or I was going into a national team in Europe or something, it’s the same thing. It’s, what have you learned? What works? How do you want to do it? I need to listen to you, so that’s really step one.

Joan Hanscom:

Nice. Peel back the layers of the onion.

Ken Vick:

You have to though. It’s like [inaudible 00:15:46] I already know a lot about training, I know a lot about cycling. So I got some ideas, right? There’s some things that clearly won’t work. But in terms of what does work, there’s lots of options. So I got to figure an option that is effective, I got to figure out one that’s safe. But a big piece people forget about is sustainable.

Joan Hanscom:

Yes.

Ken Vick:

It’s got to fit you. It doesn’t fit your personality, what you like, your lifestyle, your time commitment, your availability to a gym, all that stuff. Doesn’t matter if I have the perfect program, you can’t do it and it’s not going to work.

Joan Hanscom:

Right, yeah. That’s key, right? I think… I was listening to another podcast, today, as I was driving out here to the track to do this recording. And it’s with a bunch of high performance cycling coaches, and they were talking about how so many athletes try to focus on the marginal gain, the five percent. Of like, well, I’m just going to focus on this marginal gain, and if I get that right I’m going to be like the magic bullet. And their point was like, “No, man. It’s the 95%.” It’s just what you were saying, it’s the holistic lifestyle approach. Where, as cyclists, we’re such data nerds and we’re so focused on the minutia because we here that Team Sky focuses on the minutia, or Ineos, whatever they’re called now.

Joan Hanscom:

And it’s what you’re saying, right? It’s no, no, it’s not that five percent, for most of us. For most of us it’s the 95%, and that whole cohesive piece that 95% of your life has to be in alignment with this and the little marginal gains will happen on their own, almost. You know, like after you’ve mastered the 95%. Yeah, fascinating. Andy, I’m babbling. Jump in.

Andy Lakatosh:

So what’s interesting is like, you know, because I am a data driven person. And yeah, I was going to say, Ken laughs about this all the time, the number of things that I record, and track, and [crosstalk 00:17:37]-

Ken Vick:

It’s great. It’s awesome.

Andy Lakatosh:

… on a regular basis. But one of the things that I do want to get into is like how much things… Like, everything stays the same, right? We’re still riding bikes, we’re going in circles, we’re turning left. But yet so much changes with the gears and stuff like that. But one the biggest things is the technology side of it, right? And the ability to, talking about going back to square, where do you start, the ability to assess athletes in a much different way than the last time that I was really competing. And like that’s so nice, because it really helps make that custom blueprint. And the thing that’s been super interesting… Because again, I just live in the cycling world, so when I came back out and started working with Ken and saw the way that we assess, and I want him to explain this in a second here.

Andy Lakatosh:

But there’s four girls that are all working out here, that are all in the same kind of category. We’re talking from Maddie down to athletes targeting junior worlds. Roughly same height, roughly same weight, similar builds, right? Range of speed but the majority of them are pretty close. But the way that they produce power and the ways that they produce speed, and energy, and strength are so different. And there is no like one defining thing that’s like, oh okay, they’re really strong, therefore they’re fast. And that’s what’s really, really fascinating. And I’ll even own up and admit, like I get my ass kicked [inaudible 00:19:02] by the girls, right? That they can recoil, jump much better than I can.

Joan Hanscom:

Andy, that’s because you’re old.

Andy Lakatosh:

Yes. Right now, me and one of the girls are on a very similar program, and I regularly get outperformed in watts per kilo. Which is demoralizing as all hell, I just don’t understand how that happens.

Joan Hanscom:

Because you’re old.

Andy Lakatosh:

Yeah. It’s the combination of all those factors and how you put it together that actually get it out on the track. But the assessment, to me, is so interesting. And I’ll let Ken speak a little bit about like how they look at strength now. Because we always used to just be like… And this was the super interesting thing for me. When I came out, quickness has always been my weakness, I’ve never been the most explosive in the gym, I’ve never been the person that can jump the highest, and my standing [inaudible 00:19:52] is not flash, by any means. So when I got back into riding this year, I was like, okay, I need to be quicker, right? So I need my top riding power to come up.

Andy Lakatosh:

When Ken did the assessment, what was really interesting was in the way that they measure it now, in terms of the available quickness I had, I was as quick and as explosive as I could possibly be. And I actually needed to be stronger so that I had more strength to use for my quickness. And that was really like light bulb coming on, for me, and game changing. Because otherwise, I would have spent the next 18 months doing nothing but explosive work, wondering why I’m not getting more explosive on the bike. And we did all this isometric, eccentric, like the horrible stuff that we’re putting Maddie through right now. And nothing that was explosive, and my explosive power got up higher that it’s ever been. So I’ll let Ken kind of talk a little bit about that side of the assessment, and the different ways that we produce power and strength, and what he looks for in that. Because I found it super… [inaudible 00:20:56] down a rabbit hole on this one, for sure.

Joan Hanscom:

I like the rabbit holes. Go, Ken.

Ken Vick:

Well, even without the rabbit hole, here’s the big picture, I think, you can take away pretty quickly. I mean, you said it Andy. First of all, I’ve seen it time and again, just like you described, athletes, same sport, same position, they’re doing the same thing in speed or jump or whatever power measure we’re looking at. And they’re doing it differently. They’re built differently. Within the cycling world, for me, to be honest, I got to see this really dramatically [inaudible 00:21:26] 2012. We had two male athletes, who were both sprinters, and these guys couldn’t be wired more differently, both from how they were in the gym to how they were on the track.

Andy Lakatosh:

And we’re talking about Njisane Phillip and Jimmy Watkins. And Njisane was always a much more explosive athlete, and Jimmy was built, like one of my friends like to say, like me, like a F-250. Right? Like just load up the gear, nice long sprint, we’re good to go, get out of our way. So just putting context of who we’re talking about here.

Ken Vick:

Yeah, so different. Right? But still successful. And this isn’t unique here, I’ve seen this in sports time and again. So one of the things that I had to learn early, as a coach, was that the way people, the way athletes express power and thew way they express movement can come from different places. And that’s really simple but it changes everything. It means I don’t have one formula. It means I have to understand what I’m working with. And to be fair, we use that analogy with other athletes in here, all the time, talking about gears. Because if they had ridden a bike, they might have an idea like this. Look, you can fast, spinning really fast or by grinding out a bigger gear. And when we explain that to our athletes, they go, oh okay.

Ken Vick:

So on one side of the equation, I can put a lot of force and that’s moving slower, and I can still get power. Or visa versa, I can put a lot of speed in with not as much force on each stroke, and I can still get a lot of power. So power is speed and strength, and athletes, both by their genetics, through their parents and grandparents, or how they’ve grown up, how they’ve trained, they have a predisposition and [inaudible 00:23:06]. And the best for them is going to depend on that equation. So we got different parts of the equation.

Ken Vick:

And the other thing I would say, kind of in the broad sense, without going too deep, is that strength, for an athlete, is a lot more than just the weight on a barbell. But that’s the first image, when we talk about strength in training, somebody saw somebody back squatting or like that’s what goes into your mind, that tends to be what comes up. And yeah, that’s one aspect of strength. But strength has qualities of speed, of change of contraction, from eccentric to concentric, to how long it’s being applied. All these different factors are different, we call them different types of strength. And the assessment, like you were talking about, you went through and we take athletes through, it looks at six different types of strength for athletes. And going, okay, what’s your combination? What is your signature?

Ken Vick:

We call it a strength signature, right? Because it’s individual, it’s unique. What does your profile look like and what does that tell us about how we’re going to get you to your goals? And that’s been a lot of years of change and development, but some of this goes back to 20 years ago, stuff we were learning back then and just keeps evolving.

Andy Lakatosh:

Yeah. Which makes it super fun and super… It also, just one of the big… If I think back to early 2000s, right, we were training very much as [inaudible 00:24:33] the Chinese still train, volume, volume, volume, more volume and add a little more volume. And so on the bike, obviously, on the sprint side, we’ve definitely learned that less can be more. And some people take that way to the extreme, and just less is less is less. But one of the big things that I really enjoyed about coming back to work with Ken, was the aspect of like lifting to target speeds. So a lot of what I do in the gym now is measured in terms of how fast I’m moving the barbell. And so while I’m going, and we have a target for that and that target is relative to the day. So it’s not the relative to the weight on the bar.

Andy Lakatosh:

And if I think back, now, to how we used to lift, and we were tired and we were trying to lift more. Because in our heads, and I know a lot of people still do this, if the number on the bar has not gone up, today is a failure. And that’s not at all true. And so it’s really nice, having technology in the sense of we can pick our target, we know what we have to do. And so even when we come in, like yesterday, after the track session, when we’re already tired, as long as that bar’s moving at the correct target speed then we’re accomplishing the goal. And so that’s a big way that the game has changed, on my end. And then we don’t have the overloading in the gym that feeds over to the overloading on the bike. And before you know it, someone can’t handle the volume, right, when really it’s just like, no, we just dug too deep on the wrong day when we didn’t need to.

Andy Lakatosh:

So that’s been a big, a big game changer, for me, for sure.

Joan Hanscom:

That’s so fascinating, right? And I think that’s another just important nugget, right? The learning to walk away from, what you described Andy, as like, well, it’s a failure if I didn’t hit the right number of weights and reps on a day. I know I fall into that mindset all the time. Oh shit, my three sets of 40 20s, I wasn’t exactly where I wanted to be. This whole workout was crap. And I have to really just know it’s a range, right? Like, that it’s a range and on the day, if you hit the range, that might be where you need to be on the day. You’re still getting the benefit. But I think a lot of people do still fall into that mental trap of, it wasn’t perfect, as conceived in my head, that day, so it was a failure. And I think that’s a really important lesson for us all to learn when we train, is that no, there’s still value, as long as you’re doing it right. As long as you’re doing it with the right goal in the mind.

Joan Hanscom:

And the right goal isn’t necessarily a single set of watts or a set weight, it’s a range, it’s connected to a different metric. Which is super cool to really roll into. But, yeah.

Ken Vick:

Well, and I would add to that. So something to think about with this, and this is true, whether you’re talking about your peak power on the bike, your max lift in the gym or something. But when we think about a lot of programs, we base stuff off of trying to hit target percentages, pretty traditional way in strength training. Same thing happens in lots of sports as you’re trying to… You know, I’m going to be at a 90% speed or distance or whatever. Well, those things are based off some idea of what you can do, what’s your peak. And being among athletes, you guys know, your peak on any given day is different than what you can do at your perfect competition day. And competition day, you got competition, you got environment. So potentially, you have a higher competition max, max speed, max strength, max whatever. Then there’s your training max, which on just the best day of training, what can you do?

Ken Vick:

But then we’re humans, so we actually have variation. So if I want to build a program off something I did, where I tested you three weeks ago on a max squat, or a max leg press or something. That’s great, that gives me an idea. But day to day, the variation of most athletes, you can easily vary 12 to 20% on what you can do, on a day. That’s huge.

Joan Hanscom:

That is huge, that’s a vast, vast range.

Ken Vick:

[crosstalk 00:28:44]. Well, and how did you sleep the night before? How was your nutrition? Did your coach or did you, yourself, decide to take that other workout, and it’s one of those days where you felt something happening good and you just dug. Because it was great and you did more than you planned to, you rode farther, or you lifted more, you practice longer. Those days happen and that’s not a bad thing. But then the next day, maybe you’re not at the same place. For all of us that aren’t professional athletes, there’s, yeah, work, life, family, all the other things going on. And for most of our US Olympic athletes, and our US cycling athletes, in a lot small sports, they’re dealing with that anyways. And I’ll tell you, this is something that people in a lot of other countries don’t understand, all over the world.

Ken Vick:

They are shocked when they find out our Olympic athletes are on their own or struggling [inaudible 00:29:35]. They don’t have everything taken care for them. So training plans and… See, I go down a rabbit hole too. But like training plans, in my space, and even for sports, people go and they read, or they watch and they go to a conference. And this is what the Australians are doing. So we had the Australians out for their holding camp, before 2016. They spent quite a bit of time out at our center, training. And we got to spend a good time interacting and learning what they were doing. It’s great. But if I tried to apply that same program and approach with an athlete that’s here, in the US, who doesn’t have the funding, who has to work a job, or who is going to school, who doesn’t have the nutrition support, or physiology, or other stuff. You can’t do it.

Ken Vick:

It just, it’s doesn’t apply. So yeah, individual variability, situations, all of it comes into play. You got to adapt, and means everyday is not going to be a PR. Sorry.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah. With my coach, we refer to that as the life TSS, right? You’re training stress score is you get the life TSS too.

Ken Vick:

Boom, that’s right.

Andy Lakatosh:

So I think you make a really good point, Ken, about like you had the Australian team out here. And like I have friends in the Australian program, and coaches and stuff, and they’re always up to some magic something or other. And at some point, I’ll try to convince [Alex Berg 00:30:56] to come on. I hope he listens to this, so I can wind him up and get him to divulge all of Australia’s secrets, or whatever the secrets are this week. But it’s funny because we do get into a lot, we’ve definitely seen a lot in the track cycling space, especially here in the US. Somebody’s doing something, be it [inaudible 00:31:15] around the track, something in the gym, and god knows the Instagram training plans are running rampant, at all times.

Andy Lakatosh:

But, like I know there’s a coach who says that he got [Matt Glazer’s 00:31:27] training program from the coach in Australia, and that’s what he does. He applies that to everyone. It makes me shake my head for the exact reason Ken was saying. Like, it doesn’t necessarily fit. And like my approach to it is, look at what somebody’s doing, try to understand why they’re doing it and how that fits, and then how you evolve and adapt that into what you’re doing with your athletes. And is that similar… Because obviously, you see someone else trying to integrate something. Before, I would definitely look at it and be like, oh, that’s stupid, why are they doing that? Oh, that’s not how it’s done. But I definitely see it differently now. I was wondering if you could share some of your perspective, Ken, on like what you do when you see something new. Because I mean, you’re definitely more at the cutting edge of knowing a lot of that stuff that’s going on, and happening, and experimenting with it yourself.

Ken Vick:

Yeah. Lot of pieces to unpack there. Where do I go? So here’s what I’d tell you. One of the things I’m pretty good at, one of my strengths has always been taking a lot of divergent pieces of information and trying to put things together in the systems [inaudible 00:32:35]. And my biggest skill as a coach, in all honesty, and as a high performance director, even more so, is being good at asking questions. I am curious. I want to understand why and I want to go beyond the surface level. So it’s one of my strengths, or just kind of the way I’m wired, to ask why. And we tell this story to young coaches all the time. Even when we see something that you think is maybe incredibly stupid, and that’s kind of your first look. You’re like, that’s insane, why would you do that?

Ken Vick:

Well, if they are been having some success doing it, if they’ve been sustaining it for a number of years, if something’s happening there, I need to peel things back and go, why? Now, sometimes you find out it’s because of lifestyle, right, like we talked about. I can remember first seeing this Russian lifting program, years ago, and it was like, oh my god, the volumes are insane. And then I say, separately, the drug program behind it. Oh okay, now I understand why it worked. And yeah, true story, don’t even get me started. But uncovering things. So other examples though. Look for clues of success. And so you just keep looking across different programs, different things, and you keep seeing similarities.

Ken Vick:

And across different cycling programs, you’re going to probably find things that make sense. You have to do a certain amount of [inaudible 00:33:58], you have to do a certain amount of speed. There’s clues to success. And I’ve seen the same thing across sports. I can look at sprinters in track cycling, then we go over to track and field and look what they’re doing with sprinters, then we go over to sprint canoe and we see what’s happening there. And then you get into another… And you start seeing similarities. So I’m a big believer in trying to suspend my judgment, suspend my disbelief, and look for why it might be working. Or, who it’s working with. Does this work for all the athletes that have a certain body type or wired a certain way? But it doesn’t work for these guys.

Ken Vick:

And so I look for that. In our space, his was the discussion that I actually was having this morning, totally different basis, kind of more military wise. But also look for what they’re not telling you is failing. Everything in coaching and sport and what we talk about, we tend to hold up the successes but I want to also [inaudible 00:34:56] who are all the people it failed for. Because that’ll tell me something else. So I don’t think I answered your question, at all, in all that.

Andy Lakatosh:

[crosstalk 00:35:03].

Ken Vick:

But my biggest thing is, look, I have always come at it from just look, keep an open mind. The things that bother you or offend you, maybe throw them to the side for a second. And, can you find something useful? Is there something that can help you have a more fulfilled picture of what’s going on?

Andy Lakatosh:

I wish more of our coaches, domestically, at least in the track cycling space, had that kind of approach and thought process to it. I know they definitely do not. I heard…

Ken Vick:

Track cycling’s not unique.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah.

Andy Lakatosh:

I’m sure. [crosstalk 00:35:40]-

Ken Vick:

[crosstalk 00:35:40]. When we go across Olympic sports and across the world, this is not unique. So don’t feel bad.

Joan Hanscom:

It’s not even unique to sports.

Ken Vick:

Thank you. Exactly.

Andy Lakatosh:

I had a friend tell me that another athlete was criticized on what I used to use as my gym program. They were like, “Yeah, no, that doesn’t work,” blah, blah, blah, blah. It’s for all of his athletes, it’s just not good enough. And they were like, “Oh, you mean all of his athletes that beat you?” Like, it’s interesting to criticize because it seems to be working for somebody. And so I guess that’s definitely where I’ve come from, as a coach. Is, there’s so much customization and then there’s so many times that maybe the athlete/coach relationship just is not the right fit, in this particular thing. And some things just work better. Was there anything, when the Australians were here, that stood out as like something that you went, hmm, we hadn’t thought of that yet, that you now find yourself using? Whether it was a particular exercise or change of mindset or just a different way of looking at things.

Andy Lakatosh:

I mean, granted this was four years ago, now, so that’s ancient history in Australia. Right? That [inaudible 00:36:50] is gone. But anything that stands out in that respect?

Ken Vick:

I don’t know that it’s any one particular thing. There was very clearly some things you could, and that were the trends of how they were lifting. And they were lifting large load, sorry, not volumes, and they were in a tapered phased. So, but the loads were definitely large. They weren’t afraid to train. I think when we sat down, and we spent time going out with the coaches a little bit and talking. I think the bigger takeaway, we had, was around a cultural discussion, if you want to know the truth. The training stuff, it’s always nice like to get into your details. We’re all geeks about it, we get into it. But there wasn’t anything shocking there or any stuff that we didn’t really have a clue about.

Ken Vick:

I think the bigger piece that was the take away there was culture. And when I say culture, I’m not talking about Australia. I’m talking the culture in that team, the culture of the athletes, what they looked at as being willing to do for work, how they approached it, all these pieces that created a culture and a cycling team. And that’s massively undervalued. Yeah, it’s massively undervalued in so many cases. I’ve seen it time and again. We got to teach our coaches… So we’ve had people around the… We’ve had coaches from lots of cultures around the world, lots of countries, on our staff, [inaudible 00:38:12]. And we’ve been in different places in the world. But the most drastic has been, generally, going to Asia, especially working in China.

Ken Vick:

China was a non-Western culture, and most of our staff have been Western staff. Not all of them but most. And the differences in the cultures of the teams there, and how they looked at athletes and training stuff. And a lot of our coaches would want to walk in and be like, no, this is wrong. Or, why is that working? So they came in judging what they saw. And here’s the fact, it’s working, to your point. Right? People are getting results, there’s things happening. Holy crap, that’s amazing, but why? And some of the time, when we sat down and really looked at it, after we thought the training was insane and stupid, we went, oh, wait a second, there’s all these other things. There’s culture of how they work, how they train, what they do. And you can’t separate the two things.

Ken Vick:

And I think this goes back to what we were saying at the beginning, about working with you or as an athlete. Is, you have a lifestyle that you have and we have to address it. That’s your individual culture. Maybe you have a family that’s part of that, as well. So I have to consider that in training. Same thing when we walk into a team, if I don’t consider the culture of that team, doesn’t matter what the training program I have. And so I think, you know, the message I keep kind of talking about here, that I talk about a lot, is you have to consider the whole. Picking pieces of little programs, looking for the best one on Instagram isn’t going to matter if you don’t think about the other stuff going on. Took that a whole different direction, sorry about that.

Andy Lakatosh:

No.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah. No, but I think if there’s a message from this whole podcast, that that’s the big takeaway. I mean, we’ve talked about that probably 10 times already, on this pod. And so if, I think if there’s one nugget that we glean from this whole conversation, it’s just that. It’s going all the way back to the definition of high performance. It’s the whole context. It’s not… The context is greater than the individual part.

Ken Vick:

That’s frightening though. I mean, and to be fair, like I kind of said earlier, I wish it was all simple.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah.

Ken Vick:

And, that’s frightening, right? If someone can tell you there’s not a best way, oh crap, what do I do now? So that can be overwhelming, that there’s not a best way.

Joan Hanscom:

Right.

Ken Vick:

And so I think that’s what we look at, and I look at a lot of times, my job as a coach is to help just guide you through that process. Because when there aren’t one answer, you got to work at it a little bit. And you got to, you guys know, you got to kind of take it really [inaudible 00:40:57]. If they’re a young athlete, developing, I’m going to only have them go through so much of this learning process. If they’re ready to take on more ownership of that, then I’m going to try to guide them to the next level. But that’s what we do in a lot of coaching, coaching’s about teaching people, coaching’s about guiding people. I wish it was easy, just writing down numbers on a paper. That’d be simple.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah.

Ken Vick:

But we actually work with human.

Joan Hanscom:

That’s amazing. Andy.

Andy Lakatosh:

Yes.

Joan Hanscom:

What are you thinking? You have a very contemplative… For our listeners, Andy has a very contemplative look on his face. He’s like stroking his chin, like he’s deep in thought.

Andy Lakatosh:

So I’m out here working with Ken, obviously, for my own training, but then also a number of athletes. And Ken and I, we’ll both regularly have that face on as we stand around and conceptualize things. And it’s a fun… Coaching, to me, is all those things but it’s also a lot of like puzzle problem solving. Right? And like every person’s training is a puzzle, and trying to unlock that, especially on the high performance side. And it can real… I remember when sport science first came around in the world of cycling circa 2005ish or so. Like, trying to talk to the sports scientist, that were involved with the team, was literally like pulling… I might as well have been trying to speak Russian. Like, we were in two totally different worlds, we were arguing about everything. And that’s one of the things I like most about Ken, is that him and I have a really good, good rapport.

Andy Lakatosh:

And so when we’re talking about the whole holistic thing and what high performance really is and all these parts, and I think that that’s one of the biggest thing. Is, being able to communicate in the same language or at least understand each other. Because yeah, it’s really easy to say, oh, high performance, I need a nutritionist, I need a strength coach, I need all these other things. If they’re not working together then you’re not working. Right? And that’s definitely one of the things I like most, for myself, about working with Ken. Is, we do have a lot of those theoretical conceptual thought discussions, and it really goes somewhere.

Joan Hanscom:

So this is actually a point where I think we can actually reach a point of wrapping up. And I’d love to hear your perspective, Ken, on this as like sort of the final, putting the big bow on this conversation. Because I think it’s something that I’ve struggled with, with coaches that I’ve worked with in the past. It’s something that I think a lot of people, honestly, struggle with. So you, Andy, you were just talking about sort of this coach to coach communication, puzzle solving, right? But a lot of the people that are listening to this podcast right now are athletes. They’re probably not coaches as much as we’re talking to an audience of athletes. So in your perfect world, Ken, when you’re working with somebody, it doesn’t sound to me like you’re the kind of guy that would just say, oh just trust this process. I got it, trust the process.

Joan Hanscom:

That doesn’t sound like what your operation style is. Sum up, for us, what the athlete’s communication and participation in the process is, in a high performance setting. Because I think that’s the perfect way to sum this up. We know what yours is, now, but now what’s on us, as the athlete, when we come to you?

Ken Vick:

Yeah, and that’s a great question and a great way to look at it. It evolves, is one of the first things I would say. So what I do expect out of athletes is I expect whatever the status is today, whatever the relationship today, whatever the quest is today, it’s going to evolve. And so an athlete, know that that’s okay. I think, for me, if I can have an athlete come in and share what they want. I’m going to ask them why again and again, and if I have an athlete that can keep answering that why, oh, I want to be stronger. Okay, why? And this is what they should ask themselves, that’s kind of why I’m sharing. You should ask yourself this, as an athlete, why do you want to be stronger? Because I want to ride faster. Why do you want to ride faster? Because I want to get to this event, or make the Olympics, or make the local… Whatever it is, why? Okay, why do you want to do that?

Ken Vick:

And that’s where we usually get stuck.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah.

Ken Vick:

[inaudible 00:45:28] where you get stuck. Because athletes can name all those things, but then, so like, but why do you want to do that? Why do you want to be a pro? Why do you want to go to the Olympics? Now, if you can start answering those questions, why am I still doing when I’ve been doing it 20 years? And, why am I going on riding? Hmm, okay, so that question. Now we’re getting somewhere. And if you, as an athlete, can answer that question, now that can sort of give me a clue, that’s going to give your coach a clue, that’s going to give your nutritionist… Anybody you’re working with, you can start telling them what’s important to you. Because if it’s so I feel good, it’s because I believe this is going to inspire people, I want to see what humans can do. Whatever your answer is, as long as you have an answer, now you can do a better job as an athlete of deciding, is this the right coach for me?

Ken Vick:

Now, as an athlete, you can start thinking through what matters, what you’re willing to sacrifice. Does the path [inaudible 00:46:20] high performance? There’s trade off, there’s sacrifices. You can decide, are you willing to make them? What [inaudible 00:46:26] are willing to make? Is that nutrition choice better than… As an athlete, figure out those why’s and what you’re after, and then you can start making so many easier choices about what you want to do, from training, to who you’re training with, how you approach it, how you spend your time.

Joan Hanscom:

That’s amazing. Yeah, right on. I love that answer. Because it’s, yeah, it goes back to the whole, what’s your why? Right? And yeah, amazing.

Ken Vick:

Why do you train?

Joan Hanscom:

Right. Why do you flog yourself everyday, other than just the joy of flogging? No, that’s amazing. Thank you for answering my question, I really appreciate that. And I think that’s a challenge, right, to everybody that’s listening. You know? Think about that piece of it and come up with that answer. And is, I think, the motivation falls in line and then the rest of the pieces of fall in line, as well, when you understand that.

Andy Lakatosh:

See, my why’s very simple, I just like beating people. It’s all very… I’m in it to win it, 100%. Well, I’ll wrap up on my end by saying thank you very much, Ken. I apologize to any of our listeners who were hoping to get some wild insight to the new fancy lifting technique that they should be doing, isometric versus eccentric versus whatever, you know, to find some secret to become a better cyclist. But I think on the [crosstalk 00:47:57]-

Joan Hanscom:

But I think we just gave them that secret, Andy.

Andy Lakatosh:

Same.

Joan Hanscom:

I think the secret’s the why. I think we just gave it away.

Andy Lakatosh:

Yeah. So anyone who has the answer to their question of why, likes some of what Ken had to say and wants to look into things with him. Ken, what’s… because I’m not going to give out your cell phone number, obviously. What’s the best way for athletes to look more into what you [crosstalk 00:48:23]?

Ken Vick:

Yeah. We have… I mean, on our corporate website, we share a lot of articles for athletes, and that’s velocityspusa.com. So that’s our corporate side. Twitter, Instagram, I’m not… You’re going to more likely find me having coaching discussions on Twitter, and I post those on @CoachKenVick. And yeah, always trying to share information and get people thinking about stuff.

Joan Hanscom:

Right on. Thank you so much for joining us. I think this has been a really great conversation, and I know I appreciate it. I’ll be thinking a lot, over the weekend, as I roll into my own training sessions this weekend. So thank you very much.

Ken Vick:

[inaudible 00:48:59]. Appreciate it.

Andy Lakatosh:

All right, and that wraps it up for this episode of The Talk of T-Town Podcast. Be sure to click subscribe and give a listen to all of our other episodes too, and we’ll see you at the track this summer.

Joan Hanscom:

Bye bye, everybody. This has been The Talk of T-Town Podcast with host Joan Hanscom and Andy Lakatosh. Thanks for joining us for this week’s episode, brought to you by [B. Braun Medical Inc 00:49:27]. Head on over to our website, thevelodrome.com, where you can check out the show notes and subscribe, so you’ll never miss an episode.