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October 5, 2021

Podcast 143: Endurance Coach Chris Hinshaw on Increasing Aerobic Capacity and Managing Intensity

This week’s guest is Chris Hinshaw, one of the world's leading experts on aerobic capacity. Simply put: He's the endurance authority.

By Will Ahmed

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Endurance coach Chris Hinshaw has trained 30 CrossFit Games champions, along with a series of Olympians, professional surfers, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champions. He draws on experience from his own athletic career–he’s a world class triathlete and was an All-American swimmer back in the day.

Chris is here to share everything you need to know about increasing your own aerobic capacity and what training missteps you should avoid along the way. He sits down with Mike Lombardi to explain how you should think about strength training if you’re an endurance athlete, the relationship between intensity and recovery, his coaching philosophies, and why he’s in the athlete-empowerment game.

Stay healthy and stay in the green!


Endurance Coach Chris Hinshaw Podcast Quotes and Highlights:

2:36 – Coaching Style. “I wasn’t very good in sport [growing up],” Chris says. “You were always judged by other coaches based on performance. There was a lot of exclusion, and I carry a lot of that with me today. It’s part of my style where I don’t want to leave people behind. I know what it feels like.”

5:04 – Role of Coaches. “I think that coaches are in the confidence-building game. That’s what we do. That’s what it’s about.”

11:00 – Strength Training for Endurance Athletes. Chris shares his philosophy for mixing in strength training for athletes who specialize in endurance sports. “We’re training the brain to free up more of those motor units. Once they become freed up, we have a higher percentage available to us in whatever activity we do.”

15:38 – Ending His Competitive Career. “I realized it was going to always end,” Chris says, adding that doing triathlons for 8 years takes a tremendous toll on the body. “The problem was my body was beginning to fail and I couldn’t do the things I once did. … I could make my body do it, but it hurt all the time.”

21:38 – The Athlete-Coach Relationship. “I will never take advantage of the trust that [an athlete gives me] when they walk in the door. Any coach can write a workout that’s brutal. But can you write a workout that challenges an athlete, gets them to do something that they didn’t think that they can do, and then when they do it, they feel that level of confidence? That’s the trick. That’s what my mission is.”

28:52 – Improving Recovery. “You need to really understand your recovery. In most cases, an elite athlete’s weakness is fatigue. They just get tired. So what you do is you manipulate the quality of rest. You don’t manipulate distance volume. You don’t manipulate speed or intensity. If you want to drive a particular adaptation, in this case, recovery, then that’s your focal point.”

30:36 – Intensity and Recovery. “Your maximum sustainable pace is a relationship between your intensity and your recovery. You can’t just shove more intensity in and hope you improve your maximum sustainable pace.”

41:18 – Transparency as a Coach. Chris says none of his training methodologies are proprietary. “I can’t stand when coaches control athletes and then an athlete is isolated [during competition] and they’re not allowed to talk to their coach,” Chris says. “They’re paralyzed because the coach has trained them to not be able to think on their own.”

44:52 – Feel. “You don’t need your heart [rate] watch. You don’t need to know your pace. You should know by feel. I don’t like pointing out things. I want an athlete to experience [it themselves]. When an athlete figures it out, it’s empowering versus me telling them.”

48:59 – Understanding HRV & Recovery with WHOOP. Chris talks about how new products and technology are helping athletes perform at peaks never seen before. “No one talked about heart rate variability,” Chris says of WHOOP. “And all of a sudden now, it’s commonplace. It changed everything in terms of recovery.”

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Will Ahmed

Will Ahmed is the Founder and CEO of WHOOP, which has developed next generation wearable technology for optimizing human performance. WHOOP today works with everyone from professional athletes to fitness enthusiasts to executives. Ahmed has raised $400 million from top investors and has an active advisory board that consists of some of the world’s most notable cardiologists, technologists, and designers. He wrote “The Feedback Tool: Measuring Fitness, Intensity, and Recovery,” which sparked the underlying physiology and engineering for his work today. Ahmed was named a 2011 Harvard College Scholar for finishing in the top 10% of his class and a CSA Scholar Athlete; he captained the Harvard Men’s Varsity Squash Team. He was also recently named to Forbes 30 Under 30 and Boston Business Journal 40 Under 40.