Nils van der Pool's Training

The 5000m / 10000 m speed skating champion released his training today. I can’t take credit - posted to r/velo or reddit but this is something many will find interesting. He did a load of training, and a load on the bike. Some key points.

  1. Season broken into four periods, aerobic, threshold, specific, aerobic 2.0
  2. Trained 5 on / 2 off
  3. Aimed for 33h on the bike during the aerobic period
  4. Threshold work consisted, in part, of 4 x 30m @ 400w !!!

He also talks some about the dangers of doing high intensity stuff for too long. Really good read. You can download the PDF here:


Enjoyed reading that, 3 back to back days of 7h bike rides. He wasn’t messing around.

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Thanks for sharing! I will read it with great interest.

He is quite a character, but with two gold medals he is clearly doing something right. Pretty cool he shared his training program. He’s retiring from long distance skating at 25 y/o to pursue other things. Personally I think it would be amazing if he tried cycling. He obviously got a huge engine.

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Thanks for posting this! I think this manifest deserves a full podcast episode! @ryan @chris @trevor


Hey - that’s a great idea!

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How does this speed skater’s training compare with other endurance sports?

Fast Talk Episode 185: Comparing Training Methods Across Endurance Sports with Dr. Stephen Seiler

With “Threshold Season”, ver der Pool broke all of Seiler’s rules. :slight_smile:

The document is a fascinating read. I’d be interested in hearing the coaches weigh in.



“Seiler’s rules” are derived from top performing athletes. As Seiler says: the athletes and coaches have naturally selected the best way to train.

Nils discovered a new path towards Olympic Gold which might become ‘Seiler 2.0’. Well, at least it worked for Nils.

What struck me most in his book is that his entire approach is designed by his beliefs and experience. Not only with respect to the training program, but also the life outside training and technique. As his log shows, he also regretted some experiments. Great learning experience and honesty!

Some of the things he does are textbook. His “Aerobic-Threshold-Specifik” seasons model the typical cycling base-build-peak.

I think the most surprising elements for me were:

The aerobic season volume - I don’t think most Tour de France competitors regularly hit 33 hours per week of low intensity base.

The volume of threshold training - 90 to 100 minutes of threshold for 5 days straight - the quantity of threshold training is mind boggling. On top of it he’ll do another 3 hours of low intensity aerobic training.

The volume isn’t that surprising, I have a few friends top 8 in the world in cross country skiing, they did 12-1400 hours a year for most of their career. 1400 is an average of 26.9 per week all year, he would regularly do very long days and weeks pole running with a pack mostly uphill 5-6 hours and get a ride back down. So the volume piece isn’t that surprising.

The threshold piece is a bit surprising but knowing one athlete who had a few gold medals in cross country as well, she would go through blocks of threshold training, twice a day with the following pattern;

1 - 2x a day
2 - 1x a day
3 - 2x a day
4 - rest easy
then 2 2 2 rest
then 2 1 2 rest so 15 interval session in 12 days if my math is correct.

So at this level not that surprising either. Variations of this have been done before.

I have only tried this with a few athletes over time, mostly because many just didn’t have the mental capacity. The few who did get through the blocks in a way I would have expected did follow up with a 3rd place at a world cup in u23 / elite, his best finish ever. He was so happy with that finish and recovered just fine from the training and the race, but he never wanted to try again. So the mental side of training this hard is a huge piece of the puzzle.


One would need a whole lot of Fasttalk podcast to make it through so many hours… :slight_smile:

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His thoughts about the benefits of training monotony are certainly interesting.

And the practice of always warming up with the exact same intervals so heart rate response can be tracked is something that I might start doing.

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I’m not a coach, but I imagine it would be something like Lamberts and Lambert Sub-maximal Cycling Test. I use my own home grown variation of this.



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He used a simpler protocol which is why I figured it might actually be something I could stick with :slight_smile:

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I love the idea of a daily test, have been doing this in a few ways for over 20 years.

When you commit to a simple test, and follow the trends over time it is amazing what you can learn.

The one I have been playing around with for about a year is a continuous ramp from 50w to 230w over 30m, but I stop it 5m after peak smo2.

zooming in on the peak, tracking peak smo2, heart rate and power. It is most 165-175w, on good days it has bene as high as 220w, and tired days as low as 135w.

I just feel anyone who keeps track 2 - 3 times a week of a simple test that they can repeat, will really help you understand your training. How did you feel when you see certain results in the test? Then after a period of time you should be able to decide what to do on the day based on your test.

Love it.

The training monotony…this is a big one. I think one of the things we need to pay attention to as cyclists is most of us are just cycling, so we have to be careful of this.

Even taking a different route, riding on a different surface, etc can really help us do the same or similar training more often.

Cross country skiing is a sport I have a big background in, it was always easier to more intensity in a week and feel fresh. Pole run hill repeats one day hard, tempo session on the roller skis another and a fartlek mtb ride another. It just always seemed fun. Trying the same plan on a bicycle can take it’s toll.

Another reason why I often suggest training a little easier than you think more often is because of our limited options for training stimulus compared to a skier.

I have no idea, but I wonder if all of that training on skates would we have seem the same result? AKA I like that he trained another sport.


Setting this up on PerfPro and going to do this warm up daily…

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another option that has some research behind it is called the LSCT or Lamberts submaximal cycling test. It is 17 minutes long and does 3 sections that are held according to max heart rate, ie 60% (6 min) 80% (6 min) and 90% (3 min), then a sit still recovery of 1 to 1:30. These together can provide information on how things are going. and also serve as a nice warm up. There is a paper or 2 written where they used this as a determinant of workout intensity. If things looked good go full intensity if not then reduce intensity. I am thinking it may even be more informative using HRV and DFA a1 as added pieces of the puzzle but only time will tell. The technique is decribed on a page that was set up online by the author Robert Lamberts. Basic interpretation of the LSCT - Science & Cycling - Official website of the LSCT

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I see that Seiler has van der Pool on his youtube channel:


I had a huge laugh when Nils said he trained without a HR during a part of his aerobic period.