Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 18 - Dr. Matt Laye - FINDING YOUR NICHE - Part (1) of 3

Yeah, small sample and sometimes statistically significant differences in physiologically significant difference. And sometimes the opposite is true where a non-significant statistical difference is actually physiologically different and important.

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“Yeah, small sample and sometimes statistically significant differences in physiologically significant difference. And sometimes the opposite is true where a non-significant statistical difference is actually physiologically different and important. But I think the tension often lies in the idea of you’re recruiting these untrained athletes which untrained college males, which is what so much of the science is done on. They start from such a low level that they can move up quite a bit. But what we're often interested in is what would happen if you take the elite athlete, and can you nudge them just a little bit further?” This episode of the Smarter Athlete Podcast is brought to you by Solpri, Skincare for Athletes. Whether you're in the gym, on the mats, on the road or in the pool, we protect your skin so you're more comfortable in your own body. To learn more, go to JESSE: Today on the Smart Athlete Podcast my guest is a former Division One runner at UC Davis. He's currently a coach with Sherman Ultra. He has his PhD in medical physiology, and if I can get through this last part, he's an Assistant Professor and a Chair of the Department of Health and Human Performance at the College of Idaho. Welcome to the show today, Matt Laye. MATT: Yeah, thanks for having me. JESSE: Man, are you guys haven't like horrid heat humidity in Idaho like we are here in Kansas City? MATT: No, we're having pretty typical summer for us. So, that's mid 90s during the day and 60s at night. So, pretty nice and comfortable in the mornings. So, right now I'm actually wearing like a long sleeve shirt in the morning and it's comfortable. JESSE: Yeah, we've had a couple days like that. But it's just been horrendous were there been mornings where I get up to go do my run. It's seven o'clock, it's already 85, it's like 80% humidity. And then by the time I'm done, it's already in the - it's just been terrible. So, like the last person I talked to I asked as well, how do you deal with the heat? Do you guys even have to do much heat acclimation with you in the runners you work with? MATT: Yeah. So, I coach a team in Boise, Idaho, the Boise Billy's, and more sort of a post collegiate sub-elite team, just a bunch of guys looking to have fun and try to run fast and get better. And in the summer, well throughout the year, our schedule is we meet on Tuesdays at 6pm. So, that's typically the part of the day in the summer. And so there's not much heat acclimatization to that, it's just getting used to running in the heat, which means being okay with running a little bit slower. Luckily, you're not fighting that humidity here. We're in the teens in terms of the percent humidity, so it's super dry, which at least allows the sweat to evaporate and do a little bit of cooling. And we've moved our runs from the summer away from the track with no shade down to the greenbelt along the river, which has a bit of shade, and also it's actually a bit cooler. JESSE: And get the breeze off the water. MATT: Yeah. And it happens to start at the end of the brewery, so that's a good secondary reason for that as well. But I don't miss the humidity at all. I did my time in the Midwest five years at in Columbia, that’s where I got my PhD. JESSE: We have a team here in town, the K City Smoke and it's a bunch of the post collegiate guys are still like, I’ll call it 5K times. They’re still running 15, sometimes 14 minute 5K's. Do you guys go back out to like open cross country meets? Do you just do road races? MATT: Yeah. So, we're trying to, we're in our second year really developing. And last year, we went to Club Nationals for the first time. And that was up in Spokane. So, competing against teams like Kansas City Smoke. And the team I used to run for in Columbia, Columbia Track Club, when I was there I was able to get them to go to Club Nationals as well. And that's always to me the most fun post collegiate event because it's like 500 dudes who are fit, and you run a 32 minute 10K and your 300th place or something like that. It's crazy how much step there is. And so our goal, try to build up our team well enough that we can be a little bit more competitive than we were this year there. And then the rest of the team, they're pretty split. So, we'll have that one focused event, and then everybody sort of goes off and do whatever they're sort of interested in. So, we have road marathoners, road half marathoners, we have trail guys, short trail guys, ultra trail guys, hundred mile trail guys. So, regardless of what they're doing, I always feel like there's a benefit to getting them all together at least once a week doing some sort of speed session, they can all benefit from the speed. And for some of them, it's a longer speed session than they would typically do. And for some of them, it's a much shorter speed session. So, it has to sort of fit the needs of everyone in the group, which is a challenge but also really. JESSE: Yeah, but actually getting together still, I think, helps solidify that team feeling versus, we're all just guys wearing the same jersey that show up at the same point, you know I think that would help with it being a team instead of just a bunch of individuals. MATT: Yeah, and that's the community part that is hard to build but worthwhile building and it takes time. And it takes sort of a critical mass of getting enough people who are going to be consistently coming for that sort of thing. And that's been that's been the challenge in Boise. Even though we're a great town for being active, we're not really a running city. We don't have great races. We have great places to run. I mean, we have a great college team and BSU, their men and women have been stellar. And now there's another group that starting up in town called the Idaho Distance Project that has Emma Bates and Kinsey Middleton, who are the US and Canadian Marathon Champs, respectively. So, that group has been in really crushing it recently. And is maybe putting Boise a little bit on the map in terms of a place to train. But we’re mostly a mountain biking town. It’s very much the opposite of when I was living in Moran, in terms of the runner to biker ratio -, definitely more bikers to runners at the moment. JESSE: Okay. One of the things I'm curious about is like, so you have a bunch of guys that are obviously still competitive post-collegiately. And I have my own reasons for why I continue to post-college, but I know a lot of my teammates stopped or got burnt out, and I see that all the time. Do you see anything in terms of like a common idea between all these guys that are still interested in being a kind of peak level? What's the motivation, why are they out there? MATT: Yeah, we're a group that's probably 50% of the people are guys that never competed in college and have found the sport afterwards and have kept going after that. And I think that that's one thing that is actually maybe more of a predictor of people willing to sort of get into a group and staying in group because I find this similar thing. We have, the younger guys do skew towards having been competitive and running in college. But they're also the ones that-- they're also only a fraction of the people that run in college. So, if I look back and think about my teammates from Davis, there are only a couple from the four years that I was there, not even just from my class, but from the four years that I can think of that are still running and still trying to be competitive. So, there does seem to be a drop off. And I don't know what accounts for that massive drop off, if people get burnt out or they just were in it for the wrong reasons, initially during college or what. But yeah, our group seems to be a lot of people who are just come to the sport a little bit older, and just want to see what their potential is as they get older. So, we have quite a few people in their 40s. And those guys, they're not necessarily getting a ton faster, but they're still improving, which is pretty cool to see. JESSE: Yeah, and that's always I think there's probably a couple of factors that play with the college. Like I said, I kind of see burnout in terms of where I went, I mean, we were racing all the time, and it just wears on you physically, mentally. And if you don't love it, then it's easy to go okay, I'm done doing this. I kind of dealt with it. I guess one of the guys I ran with gave me what I believe to be the biggest compliment a distance runner could get. He described me as the workhorse of the team. Like I was always willing to work the hardest because I loved it. But I think life gets in the way too. People compete for so hard. And then I know a couple of guys that really loved running. But then now like one guy works for UPS. And he gets up he starts delivering at seven in the morning, he's not done till 7-8 at night. He's just tired, you know. So, I think that's part of it. But it's awesome to see those older guys come into the sport and still getting better. Even if the guys have been running since they were 12 drop off having, I’ll call it new blood, even if they're older coming to the sport, that's really cool. MATT: Where did you go to school? JESSE: I went to William Jewell, it’s a small liberal arts school in north of Kansas City. MATT: I know it. I had two roommates in Missouri who went to William Jewell. JESSE: Yeah, you can't go anywhere without somebody knowing or somebody who went there, even though I think total school enrollment was like 1,000 or so. It’s less than my high school. Somehow we all disseminate like every where. Yeah. MATT: They're actually both runners. They both ran the marathon for William Jewel. JESSE: Okay. Okay. So, it had to been a little while ago, they transition to Division Two and kind of dropped off of the longer distance stuff. I was at the very end of-- My senior year was the last year that they were officially NAIA and then they were Provisional Division Two after that. MATT: Yeah, you might know one of your new Kansas City City Legislators is one of them actually. I JESSE: actually don't, I'm not sure if I-- What was his name? MATT: Eric Bunch. JESSE: Yeah, I knew I saw that. I saw that name on your Twitter feed and I was like man, I know that name. I know. I've never met Eric, but I rain with people who ran with him. So, it's like, a couple of years separate. MATT: It's always like that, yeah. And there’s always a few when you go back either a generation before or the generation after, that's one of the cool things about that community that you build a school is that it still exists. And I still reach out to people who I never ran with who were there at Davis before I was. And then also on the other side, people that I never ran with because they're younger than me, as well. JESSE: Yeah, I'm sure the guy that's now the Head Athletic Director at the college, he was my coach for three of my four years. I'm pretty sure he would have competed with Bunch. I think they're similar age. So, I may have to ask him about it. So, one of the things, so you're at I how did you grow up in Idaho did or how did you find yourself there? MATT: Yeah, so that's like a long academic twisted story, which is mine's probably not as long as a lot of other academics. But I grew up in the Bay Area. So, I grew up in California, and started when I was a sophomore in high school, and was fairly successful, but not so successful that I was getting offers from a bunch of the D One schools. Most of the D One schools were not that interested in me. And I picked UC Davis because it was a very competitive D Two school at the time when I started and it was not too far from home, about 80 minutes or so. And I just really liked the team atmosphere there. So, did my undergrad at UC Davis, switched into an exercise biology minor after entering as a biochemist minor. And I really liked the way Davis had the exercise bio major setup. Basically I had to take all of the same biology core that any bio major had to take, which included like genetics and molecular biology, biochemistry, so it was pretty rigorous. And from there, I went to university, Missouri, where I got my PhD. I was there for five years, and I worked in ?? 14:18> Frank booth. I did a couple of postdocs after that, which we can talk about if you want. And then I just sort of was out of the basic research game, and was just sort of tired of it and looking for something else to do. And I had entered grad school with the idea of maybe becoming like a community college teacher and a coach. And so I ended up actually from that second postdoc getting the position at the College of Idaho, which is actually a very, very small school, similar to William Jewell, about 1,000 undergrads, an NAIA school, and I've been there for four years. So, this will be starting my fifth year of teaching in a month or so. And yeah, so that's how I ended up in Idaho. I was not willing to move anywhere for this type of position, had to be the right sort of setting. And Boise sort of checked all those boxes for us when we're looking. It has great outdoor scene, the cost of living was fairly low. It’s still pretty low, even though it's growing quite rapidly. And yeah, and the college itself was really allowed me to just focus on teaching rather than having to develop and sustain a research program. Yeah. JESSE: That's what I was just getting ready to ask you because I know Jewel has a pretty good balance between-- the professor still do research, but it's not a research mill. It's not a paper mill, it's not published or die, it's teaching is important and the undergrad students are important. MATT: Yeah, that's been the biggest shift for me is going from essentially two postdocs where I did nothing but research. When I started at College of Idaho, I'd never taught a class. I've never written a syllabus. And to get hired in a tenure track position like that, it's pretty rare, felt pretty lucky, aut I also felt like I was really far behind. There are a lot of colleagues who come in, they have years of maybe Visiting Professor positions or instructor positions before they get that first tenure track gig. And I was just thrown into it. I was trying to-- We we're reminiscing about how I was trying to prepare before and I was sort of like, I don't even know how to prepare. I don't even know what I'm going to be doing. So, what the day to day stuff is going to be. So, that first year was pretty rough. But sort of settled in and I'm starting to develop a bit more of a research program and a bit more of an identity and direction in which I hope to direct the research but the important part of the research that I do at the college divided is really to get undergrads involved and excited about research. And that often requires me to sort of cater to their interest rather than the other way around where I do have projects that I'm very interested in and passionate about. But if they're interested in something else, then I want to facilitate that interest and get them interested in doing research and the process of research. And they might not publish a paper, they might not even go to a conference, but just partaking in the process of research is a really valuable experience for them. And then something that I really find important as part of my job more so important than me publishing papers and trying to get grants and things like that. JESSE: So, they actually get to design their own study and go through the whole experimental process. MATT: Yes, yeah. And they often learn about the difficulties of doing research and humans. It's not easy to-- JESSE: ...pass ?? 17:58>. MATT: Yeah, you gotta go through the RB. And then, I mean, just recruiting and then making sure students are sort of following the instructions, the students are often the participants as well. If they're going to do some sort of metabolic testing, I show up fasted in the morning, or they got to at least get up in the morning. You know, to be consistent, and not have to pull an all nighter the night before. And so they they quickly see some of the difficulties and pitfalls of doing human research as well. JESSE: This is one of the things I always have trouble with, and there's not a whole lot of way around, I wish we could get larger sample size for all these athletic studies. It's like we're trying to find significant data, but it's like we can only get 20 people. It's like can you really extrapolate information from 20 people to entire population? I think I have difficulty with that sometimes. Even if the results are statistically significant to a large degree, it's just like, still such a small sample. MATT: Yeah, small sample and sometimes statistically significant differences in physiologically significant difference. And sometimes the opposite is true where a non-significant statistical difference is actually physiologically different and important. But I think the tension often lies in the idea of you’re recruiting these untrained athletes which untrained college males, which is what so much of the science is done on. They start from such a low level that they can move up quite a bit. But what we're often interested in is what would happen if you take the elite athlete, and can you nudge them just a little bit further? And so that differences is hard to find? It's hard to get statistically different. And then, so getting elite athletes, you can't get hundreds of them. Like in Boise I can count on my two hands, how many athletes I would include in that that study. And I'd have to get them all to engage. And so that makes it quite difficult as well, depending on what you're actually looking at. So, we see a lot of these studies that get published and show a training effect of this new modality or an recovery effective something. And yeah, but it's probably done in people that are untrained and don't necessarily look like us who've been training for extended periods of time. JESSE: Yeah. And the last person I talked to, he does kind of similar research in in terms of looking at athletes. And one of the things he mentioned is another issues, not only do they have a small sample size of people willing to participate, but if you're trying to pick up like elite athletes, they're going to be even less likely for you to kind of mess around with their schedule, and try to actually set up an experiment. Because they want to be in control of what they're doing because they're always trying to be better. So, I think it's hard for them to hand off some of that control to you, for you to experiment on them. MATT: Yeah. And it gets in the way of their training and their program. And I mean, when they're dedicating that much of their life to that thing that they're doing; it's really hard to say, yeah, I'm willing to interrupt that for the science or for something else. JESSE: Yeah, yeah. Go to Part 2 Go to Part 3

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