Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 82 - Pete Dyson - ADAPTIVE BEHAVIOR

Yeah, it kind of bridges a gap really. It’s tough because you’re going from like, the really broad-brush stuff of broad principles of training, what’s my why? What’s the strategy?
Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 82 - Pete Dyson - ADAPTIVE BEHAVIOR

PETE: [00:00:01] Yeah, it kind of bridges a gap really. It’s tough because you’re going from like, the really broad-brush stuff of broad principles of training, what’s my why? What’s the strategy? You know, how could I do this much training or how could I change my training to achieve my goal? But then you zoom in from all the really big stuff like that down into the tiny minute details of how to construct a training session, how to keep things interesting, keep yourself guessing, pick the right tire, the right skin suit, race strategy.

So, it’s one of those things that applies at all levels. And that article, how to go about going at some of the basics and then some more out there ones. I seem to remember I wrote something along the lines of these ideas are peer-reviewed. But some of them are also just Pete-reviewed and they’ve just been worked on in my own lab if you like.

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JESSE: [00:01:46] Welcome to the Smart Athlete Podcast. I’m your host, Jesse Funk. My guest today is currently racing as a pro-triathlete. He’s a behavioral scientist, active travel advocate, and probably most importantly, he says he could live entirely off granola if he had the option. Welcome to the show, Pete Dyson.

PETE: Hello, hello. Great to be here and hello about Jesse.

JESSE: [00:02:09] Yeah, thanks for making the time for me. I know it’s in the evening for you. Typically, I would probably be if I was where you are timewise, I would probably at this point be saying, “All right. Like it’s time to calm down and get ready for bed. Like I don’t have time for a podcast.” So, I appreciate you making the time with everything you’ve got going on.

PETE: You’re welcome, you’re welcome.

JESSE: [00:02:37] So, before we got going, you had mentioned, my assistant Ira who found you and got in touch found you through a talk you’d done at an airline conference. Somehow you’re going to help me figure out how we wrap all these– what you do, maybe [inaudible 00:02:54] on airlines, how we wrap that all together?

PETE: Yeah, it was unusual, I must say. So, I work as a behavioral scientist in a consultancy or an advertising agency really. And I found myself in Dublin Airport, annual customer experience conference, but International Airlines. My boss was talking about customer experience, which is something we work on together. But they had got wind of me being a pro-Ironman athlete, and said, “We’d love to hear from you. Give us a talk about that, something motivational at the end of the long day of conferences.” I thought okay. “What can I bring to bear here?”

And I brought along a whole series of thoughts that I’ve been having for years, to be honest about applying psychology, disciplines, and experiments about how people think and feel and behave. And I’ve been applying it to my sport, Ironman triathlon.

[00:03:59] But I thought that was a really interesting sort of cross-cutting issues that you can talk about. They’re actually quite relevant to airlines. So, we talked about the importance of habits and consistency and social norms, and goal setting. All things that were, I think, kind of refreshing maybe for a business audience. But things that I’m kind of obsessed about. So, I was lucky and I was extra lucky that you found me as well.

JESSE: Well, like I said, I’m always happy to talk to people like you. And we do have listeners, so if you’re listening, I know that you’re there. But I just enjoy it myself. So, if nothing else, then you’ll certainly make a positive benefit on my day. But did your talk kind of center around– I saw this article you’d done, try thinking faster and talking about eight different ways to kind of model thinking or to get more out of yourself. Do you know what I’m talking about just right off the bat?

PETE: [00:04:59] Yeah, yeah. That was something that was a long while coming and yeah, it kind of bridges a gap really. It’s tough because you’re going from like, the really broad-brush stuff of broad principles of training, what’s my why? What’s the strategy? You know, how could I do this much training or how could I change my training to achieve my goal? But then you zoom in from all the really big stuff like that down into the tiny minute details of how to construct a training session, how to keep things interesting, keep yourself guessing, pick the right tire, the right skin suit, race strategy.

So, it’s one of those things that applies at all levels. And that article, how to go about going at some of the basics and then some more out there ones. I seem to remember I wrote something along the lines of these ideas are peer-reviewed. But some of them are also just Pete-reviewed and they’ve just been worked on in my own lab if you like.

JESSE: [00:06:03] Right. Well, you’ve got– is it eight? Yeah, eight tips here. One of the ones that really sticks out to me is [inaudible 00:06:10] number three is like avoiding burnout. You mentioned some things just simply take time, you mentioned the physics of it. But we can’t like rush growth, basically. Just simply a certain period of time it takes to grow, you can’t push it any faster. Though we tend to focus on these really hard sessions and that’s what makes us feel gratified, I think. But also has a tendency to lead us towards burnout so that our consistency takes a nosedive.

PETE: [00:06:46] Yeah, definitely. I mean, our minds can be our own worst enemies, right? If we were to set up someone else some goals and set them some targets, it’s unlikely many of us would be as harsh on other people as we are often on ourselves. And yeah, when you talk about growth, I mean, I’m reminded that, like many people this year have been hoarding house plants under lockdown. And getting a hang of growing plants where previously I had a tough time.

But they’re an organism just like us. You got to be patient, you got to water them, but you can never expect them to suddenly flower in just a couple of days. It takes so much more patience. And this is the stuff that goes through with training has to take some number of weeks to make an effect.

[00:07:36] We can’t suddenly develop stronger muscles or bones or blood or heart. Definitely, when it comes to injuries, it’s sort of just tissue that’s growing, and you got to be patient. So, that’s the burnout bit really. Unlike a plant, we have the ability to tie ourselves in knots. And as we reach for the sun that sometimes it gets that way. And I’ve been there and everyone needs to find their limits a little bit. Yeah.

JESSE: Yeah, I can’t recall who, I feel like several guests over the last 80-some-odd episodes now have said something to the effect of, especially when we’re talking about triathletes in particular. Often triathletes are this very like A type personality, they don’t need motivation to go harder. They do need help holding back. Actually, I’m thinking about in particular, former British triathlete Vanessa Raw if you’re familiar with her. I remember her mentioning that and about her own career.

Because she had so many injuries and coaches wanted to just push, push, push. And I was like, she didn’t need to be pushed, she had plenty of motivation. What she needed was somebody to say like, “It’s okay, that we hold back here and avoid those injuries.” And I think that’s almost universal. Have you gone through that? Or do come to the place where you’re like, “No, it’s time to stop,” like much easier than the rest of us?

PETE: [00:09:14] Yeah, you always want to double down. When things are going good, you want more of the good. And it’s hard to take that week off or that time back. But I’ve been fortunate. I’ve kind of been in triathlon for seven years or so which is enough to get perspective but definitely nowhere near like a lifetime, and compared with other guests, you might have had decades of experience and coaching experience, which gives you, is a whole nother galaxy.

But I have had the good fortune to train and race with my brother. And we’re similar physically and similar mentally broadly. And you get that sense of perspective that he’s so hard on himself and you can kind of be the voice that you wish you had.

[00:09:55] And he’ll say things to me where I’d be like, “Yeah, I wish I would say that. I should say that to myself or remind me of things I otherwise said.” So, having people close that are like that can really help mirror those decisions. But for sure triathlon selects for people who are– you wouldn’t do it if you weren’t really motivated. It’s a crazy kind of thing to do. It’s a tough, tough old sport to– mostly the sport is training. And then you get the celebration of training, which is the race itself to really bring it together.

But yeah, it attracts a certain mindset and usually the ingredients are already there for motivation. What you need to do is enhance a few other aspects. And working in behavior change, in behavioral science, and working my job Monday to Friday is to look at issues exactly like that for companies and clients and governments and charities. So, it’s natural I think that way.

JESSE: [00:10:55] Yeah. Well, and this is something that it always strikes me as, not odd, but maybe awe-inspiring, maybe is a little bit too praising. You know what it is, but at the same time, I don’t want to be like, “All hail Pete,” because I feel like you’d be like, “That’s a little odd. Don’t talk to me like that.” But I just have a hard time wrapping my head around people that are able to work a regular job, and then also do a full Ironman, especially at the pro level.

Because as you mentioned, it’s largely training, right? If you don’t put in the training hours, you’re going to be flat on race day, and you basically are wasting your time on race day, having not put in that prep time. So, you mentioned before we got going you still got probably a couple more hours before you actually go to bed. What does your typical day look like? How do you fit in all the training sessions you need to stay in top shape?

PETE: [00:12:00] Yeah. No, it’s a great question. And I listened to so many podcasts and I love it when athletes talk about their day and their week. And maybe we’ll get into why I’m obsessed with the little things like that or the real-life banal things. Yeah, broadly train in the evenings, mostly. But there’s some back to back things; finish up work at six o’clock or so. And I’ll often either jog back easy to a [inaudible 00:12:29] swimming session or– There’s not really a cycle commute.

I live in London so you’re not really doing a lot of cycle training on those kind of roads. But it’s sort of the warm up to then hop on to the turbo. And, yeah, tends to be– There’s no session on a weekday that’s more than two hours, two and a half hours really when you’re– They’re always back to back.

[00:12:53] So, it’s jog to the swimming pool or cycle to go on the bike and then do a run. So, everything’s sort of combined together. I’ve been able to total like 15 to 20 hours a week training. You gotta be mindful of how much you can do on a Saturday and Sunday that’s sensible, that you don’t become a weekend warrior so you can be fresh for the weekdays too.

But yeah, lots of combined sessions, I think is probably the short answer. I might be doing outputs of yeah, 15 or 20 sessions, but things tied together. So, people seem to follow me on Strava. But I do pity them because they must get a lot of updates. [inaudible 00:13:40] lots of little things add up. Yeah.

JESSE: Yeah. People getting confused. Like, “I thought Pete was on a run. Why is he in the pool? I don’t– Why are we doing laps?” It’s [inaudible 00:13:55] made me lose my train of thought. This is why I’m supposed to be taking notes.

PETE: [00:13:59] I can add like, I don’t know, 15 or 20 hours seems a lot. I mean, sometimes that’s like, as much as I can fit in really. I just can’t get to the 20 or 25. But actually, it would be a different model. And that’s why I think it’s worth adding that it’s not just about the – even though I do – I think it’s worth citing the total volume. So, about intensity as well and stacking those sessions in the right order. So, you’ve gone hard on a Tuesday evening, and you’re not expecting yourself to run great on Wednesday or put in an incredible bike session.

So, it’s about any arrangement of those things, which stuff like TSS is okay, but it doesn’t know what you did last– doesn’t know what you did yesterday, doesn’t even know what you did an hour ago. So, it’s not the best. So, you have to kind of take ownership of working out how it goes.

[00:14:50] So, I’d say honestly, I don’t really– even though I agree with the science, sort of the 80/20 rule of 80% easy, 20% hard. If you’ve got a lot of time, I think that’s a great model. And by all means, if you’ve got 30 hours. But if you’re down at kind of 10-15, and you’re trying to compete at the level I’m at, then [inaudible 00:15:11] are the lower zone stuff.

But I’m just doing what I can. I’ve looked at it and I think it works. I’m never gonna say I’m super confident. But it just goes to show you got to work out what you got with the time available.

JESSE: Right. Well, I mean, it plays into a lot of things. It’s the thing that works for you because it wouldn’t necessarily work for me. And then quality over quantity, I mean, that’s always what you focus on when you’re time-strapped. And he’s talking about full Ironman. I mean, you’re working out– I was working out a similar number of hours for like halves.

But I probably was doing, I would guess, obviously, we haven’t sat and compared schedules, I was probably doing more like zone two work, than you’re doing for a comparable amount of time. I don’t think I could keep probably keep up with what you do.

For clarity’s sake, you’d mentioned TSS training stress score for anybody who doesn’t have gadgety stuff and [inaudible 00:16:13] score that’s trying to tell you how hard you worked out pretty much. I do wonder with it being at the end of the day, after day work, or then starting the next day of work, do you ever notice yourself in like a fog with your brain if you work out too hard, or you get off on your eating schedule, or any of that kind of stuff? Do you ever end up in that place?

PETE: [00:16:44] Yeah. Yeah, I think you do. You don’t feel so good in the mornings. And you got to be really careful that you’ve eaten enough in the afternoon to fuel the session that’s coming because you don’t have a great window before. You’re talking about finishing a session at, for me, 09:30. And you’re gonna try and go to sleep two hours later.

So, yeah, I don’t know exactly how much I’m losing out there. The other way would be to get up early and a lot of people, I think, do it that way. When I’ve tried that, I just lose a lot, this trade-off is big at work, probably too big. I don’t like it myself, like I want more balance than that.

[00:17:33] But it does go to show sometimes some novel trading methods that come in and people talk about fasted runs in the morning or you have a glycogen depleted session. I’d go– often just think, “Oh, that’s just a Thursday morning, when I run in again.” I didn’t realize what I was doing. That’s why when I get it on Thursday morning, I’m ravenously hungry for as you know, granola. But sometimes you don’t realize the stresses you’re putting yourself on that might be beneficial.

Like I’m open to the fact that the scarce amount of training and pressure it puts yourself under. I mean, no one thinks that having less sleep is a good stress. But at least the forcing yourself to yeah, you’re up and going, you’re in work early again, there’s some good things to come from that. It’s not all inhibiting.

JESSE: [00:18:25] Right. I mean, we think about, like what is working out. When you break it down, it’s you’re stressing your body to a certain degree and it’s gonna adapt. So, as long as you don’t push yourself over the edge, then there are probably a lot of things that end up being beneficial. I think like with the fasted runs, I know some people are religious on them.

I did it for a while, I’ve kind of backed off of doing it recently. You know, I’m not sure how much benefit you get from them, versus just balancing out your overall calories for the day in terms of like talking about like, fat oxidation and fat adaptation for fasted run or fasted workout. But yeah, there’s a lot of ideas out there.

And I do think it’s probably good, if for nothing else, to have done it every once in a while just for the mental aspect. Because I know at least when I was racing long course, there are times in the race, you’re hungry. And it’s like it’s not time to eat yet. You know, you can’t take any more calories in or you’re gonna be like, you’re gonna have way too much on your stomach. But you gotta still stay at that high level.

PETE: [00:19:43] Yeah, it’s a really hot topic at the moment. The past two years has really kicked off with the interaction between nutrition and performance. And I’ve tried to follow it closely in some of these. we both we’ll be able to go into the depths of it. But it’s another way of modulating it. And a good way thinking of it is don’t leave any stone unturned. And a balanced diet of sometimes sessions are low. And sometimes they’re high. And just in the same way that sometimes they’re super intensity.

And there’s some sprints, and sometimes it’s an easy jog that you could [inaudible 00:20:18] along to. Yeah, I think in the past, I was a– [inaudible 00:20:22] super carb driven athlete. I couldn’t ride my bike for more than an hour or 90 minutes without bonking. There are places near my house where I grew up, where I remember just grinding back up the hill. And it doesn’t seem to matter what I do now, and I can’t put myself in that state, I may just be a more efficient person, or I may have been adapted to burn some of my own fuel a little bit better.

JESSE: [00:20:53] Thinking about not leaving any stone unturned, I don’t purport to be an expert on all of this. I like to talk to the experts. And I try to incorporate things in my own training and say, “Hey, does this work?” And there are a lot of things that are personal. But one of the things that comes to mind that I hadn’t really heard before but I think I’ve kind of done a little intuitively, was when I was talking to Dr. Bob Murray, a couple weeks ago. He wrote this book on Exercise Physiology that we discussed on the podcast. And in the book, one of the things he mentions is that there is a positive benefit to training with heat adaptation.

And that if you train in a more hot environment, even though it’s more likely to fatigue you faster, you will typically have a better performance outcome in any temperature environment. Because you spent the training session in a hot environment. And it got me thinking more because it gets cold here, as I’m sure it gets cold in London, cold and rainy. And I was like, well, you can’t go out and be in the heat all year, it’s not summer all the time.

But I was thinking, hey, maybe if I dress slightly on the warm side for whatever temperature it is, maybe that will end up being just a little bit, just a little extra of that benefit throughout training. I don’t know, it’s a personal experiment, we’ll see. But that just reminded me of that, thinking about that.

PETE: [00:22:34] Yeah, and the research around heat is promising. I think it’s one of the most neglected one. It’s quite easy to do. And let’s compare it to altitude, which is very hard. You know, it’s tough to give your body a chance to find low oxygen air, and it’s a lot of faff, and a lot of travel. Heat is something a lot of people can do, and is a good method.

It’s particularly good, I think as well that it brings your powers down and you’re not really going to do heat training in the pool. But maybe some people are lucky enough to have an overheated children’s pool, public swimming pool. But normally, it’s gonna be an indoor bike or an indoor run. And that’s quite accessible.

[00:23:17] It’s something I’ve tried and did year before last in preparation for Ironman, Texas, which I knew was going to be a hot one. And I did all sorts of running on a treadmill and winter clothes and the hot bath protocol, which some people might be familiar with, 20 minutes in a warm bath. Who knows if it helped exactly. I mean, I completely overheated in the race, but maybe it would have been a downside worse otherwise. But to come to the potential benefit of what–

I mean, there’s another interesting one, that there’s physiological reasons why heat would help; make red blood cells, increase blood pressure, [inaudible 00:23:59]. There’s lots of reasons why you think it might help. But there’s some compelling stuff that I’m also open to that it helps your mind. It makes the session tougher in the session itself. You have to work through, it is more fatiguing mentally, and in these long endurance sports it is your mind that’s giving up. Everyone’s showing it, it’s your mind that gives up before your legs do. So, you wouldn’t want to do all of them. I don’t think like that but again, it’s part of the balance. Yeah.

JESSE: [00:24:33] Yeah, I think, I guess a couple thoughts here. Think about your mind giving up and you’ve probably experienced this at some point in your career, where you get to the finish line, whether it’s a race or a workout, and you stop and it’s like there’s no possible way you’re getting restarted. But if you had not stopped you probably could have continued to compel yourself, but it’s like once your brain shuts off, like, we’re done it your your body’s like, I’m not responding anymore.

PETE: [00:25:11] Yeah. Well, yeah, I mean, I’ve run and just about poured out a low quality sprint finish before and then it’s been several weeks before I felt could even walk properly again. So, it was only at the finish line I happened to arbitrarily be there. Yeah, there’s other times, obviously, it doesn’t even go that far. And you realize, yeah, if you ever stopped, there’s no starting again, everything would seize up.

JESSE: [00:25:40] Yeah. I was thinking as we’re talking about swim training and heat, and this, I’m sure applies to cycling and running as well. But I actually have been in a hot pool to do training before because the pool I’m at, finally, in the last year or so they’ve gotten it under control, but it was variable for a long time. There was actually a point it was too cold. I had to bring my wetsuit to do a pool session, because it was so cold and then it gets so hot. But through all of that, I actually learned and I don’t remember the exact temperature.

It’s somewhere around 85 Fahrenheit, 30 Celsius, that your body is unable to shed heat into the pool any longer when the pool is at that temperature. So, long sessions in a heated pool could potentially be dangerous. So, if you’re listening and you’re thinking about doing it, make sure you’re starting out in a short session if you want to attempt something like that, or have a coach on hand, because if you overheat your body and you’re in the water and there’s not an easy way to get out, it can be a dangerous situation.

PETE: [00:26:51] And I felt it. The sessions are definitely harder [inaudible 00:26:55] a bit too hot. I would say they’re also hard but I’m not so convinced in a good way when they’re too cold. And we’ve got a couple of outdoor pools where I’m at and some of them are heated but then you’re not always going to be heated. It’s great all year round. It’s a windy day, it’s a cold day, they don’t always nail it. But personally, I don’t sign up for this sort of macho, like let’s grim through it, wear as little as we can.

I think triathletes have a tough time there. The swimming community give us a tough ride. I’ll wear a neoprene hat if I want to [inaudible 00:27:34] a bit of warmth going on. I think if you want the best session, generally, you want to execute the best session you can. And being a bit of a shivering mess is not– No, I don’t think that’s a good look.

JESSE: [00:27:48] Yeah. I think it’s a couple things, [inaudible 00:27:50] that culture and swimming, that’s like that’s just what we do. We get into cold pools early in the morning twice a day. Like that’s just part of who they are. And I think all three disciplines, looking inward to triathletes kind of feel this way like we’re dabblers. Like you just dabble a little in the sport.

You’re not really– you don’t really do this thing. I think it’s a little bit of that. But then also just we talked about in the beginning, going back to your article, if I can find it here, I had it up, that people remember that like peak experience right? They remember, hey, it was frigid. Like I could barely keep my teeth from chattering in the middle of a session even though I was going as hard as I could. It’s like that weird type two fun going on. And I think that’s some of it too where it’s like, yeah, I braved the storm like–

PETE: [00:28:52] Yeah, and you could definitely get some satisfaction out of overcoming tough sessions. And sometimes you can’t chalk it up as mental training. When you’ve been out on a session, the weather turns, it’s gone a bit grim. Yeah, I definitely think you can take good things from that. But what you’re citing, yeah, and what I wrote about was the, what’s called the peak-end rule.

And the peak-end rule describes how our memories generally are formed by the peak of that experience and how it finishes. There’s been work done on our medical procedures and how people particularly dislike the ones that end in a tough way. So, they adjust them a little bit and make sure it’s got that sort of a happier ending if you like.

[00:29:34] So, I’ve applied that to training sessions in a way to be mindful to not all tougher sessions try and really empty the tank on it. I could do and there’s a physical reason why you might not want to. Your scores go too high and you know, too much stress. But I think mentally as well, you don’t really want to end on a sour note. And it might well be why it’s nice to train with other people. Because when you get a shared experience of a sort of tough ending, you can talk it through.

So, if you do train on your own, I think it can be worthwhile. And I don’t know that maybe other people would say it’s soft, and you’re holding back. But a lot of the training to get the volume and the consistencies are negotiation with yourself of what you’re willing to do. Are you willing to knit nigh on every other day, put in a hard session where you do push?

[00:30:28] And if you burn your chips too early, then you know, you don’t get to week six at all, you don’t get to week eight. So, I think that’s– I try and take that steady. And that’s often what a coach, like what the role of a coach will be in the various times. They do say they spend various time holding athletes back in a way. We shouldn’t even frame it as holding back versus pushing forward. Even that metaphor feels a bit off, doesn’t it?

JESSE: Right. Because it feels like why would you hold me back? Like if I can go like, I should be allowed to go. But yeah, it means avoiding that overtraining, like we talked about before. Most people don’t need that motivation to go harder, they got plenty of motivation. I could be wrong here. I’m not a pro. I’m certainly not a world champion. But it seems like if you stay consistent, even if you are like taking the easy way out. But stay consistent with your training and do some of those uncomfortable sessions every once in a while to keep yourself sharp, I feel like you’re probably in the long run gonna get more out of yourself, than if you just torture yourself every single day.

PETE: [00:31:45] Yeah, Yeah. Sometimes in work as well, we talked about where people construct fake trade offs. They assume that there’s some trade off between, oh, if you’re advocating consistency, then you’re just one of these people that sort of is settling for a middle ground and you’re never really reaching peak performance. I think that’s a false dilemma, it’s a fake trade off. There’s not really a world out there where if you absolutely bury it, you’ll achieve this brilliant performance.

I think it’s again, [inaudible 00:32:17] were talking about plants earlier, there is an optimum amount of water a plant [inaudible 00:32:24] variety, the right amount of sunlight. It’s not like, “Oh, if I just added another liter and put it into the burning hot sun, I’ll have a way better plant. You just won’t. You’ll have a wilted plant I’m afraid. So, I try and push– I think I’m convinced that’s a more compelling model. Yeah.

JESSE: [00:32:46] Well, it’s, I think that– so how do we get over that culture, right? Because it’s that idea of we need to go harder all the time. That’s how we’re going to be the best that we can be. You know, I know, I can’t speak to British culture, but I know at least American sport culture, like that’s very much the idea. Just go as hard as you can, that’s the only thing you need to focus on.

But then as both of our experiences kind of pan out, I think it’s less that and more consistency. So, how do we change that message? I mean, you’re the behavioral scientist, how do we get people to see, okay, this is suboptimal behavior? You could get more out of it if you don’t subscribe to that philosophy.

PETE: [00:33:36] Yeah, yeah. And, yeah, I mean, I’ve worked with some sports brands, and I’ve been in the good fortune of sports brands that are more on the newer side of a more balanced approach, a more mindful approach, a more sort of, what are you in it for kind of questions. Because, unfortunately, I think we have suffered through some decades of being peddled with messages that sell equipment that’s more about be the Olympian that buries themselves and make sacrifices and doesn’t see their family or trains through horrific conditions.

And there’s some sort of just tying that up with a sort of movie culture that does work well for that company, but it has a bit of a side effect, that if you absorb it and you internalize that, it’s probably not the way, probably not so much the way to go. There’s a certain element of it being a sport and a competition. So, you’re trying to beat other people, bringing a competitive spirit out [inaudible 00:34:44] certain out performance that you need to– and I mean that in the sense of like more theater performance, that you need to feel like you live a certain way. Yeah.

JESSE: [00:34:55] You mentioned movie culture. I think about– I wonder if we’ve seen so many sports montages in movies, if we’re like, trying to fill our own montage with this is this moment. And then I did this thing and like, here’s my whole montage in my head and trying to like build that up. Because it’s like, I think about Rocky, I guess that montage is just him working hard, drinking eggs, which nobody wants to drink eggs, doing all these things that are unpleasant or difficult. And then going to be the champion. Well, depending on which movie spoiler alert, he doesn’t always win. But it’s this idea that if, again, if we just work hard, that’s all you need to do to be the best.

PETE: [00:35:45] Yeah, yeah. Well, the fun thing is that you could– I’m not an anti-work hard person. That’s the [inaudible 00:35:51] thing. I mean, you could make if there was a GoPro in my garage, it’s showing me this, but there’s plenty of tough suffer sessions on the bike, and I would be almost collapse down and I get back from a run, and I’m laid out Rocky style.

But I just don’t think that that would be for me the montage that constitutes success. You could also have a montage of me sat on my kitchen table demolishing a bowl of granola and then lie down sleeping. And I think probably that’s the bit that’s sporting the adaptation that’s leading it. And you could film me on a rest day doing almost seemingly nothing. But that’s the path to success too. So, it depends on which clips you do want to take out. And obviously, the Rocky movie takes a certain snippet of Rocky’s life to pick it out. Yeah.

JESSE: [00:36:45] Yeah. So, you’ve got– this is kind of a hard transition, but thinking about what you’re doing for work, how does that background play into figuring out your own training philosophy? I guess I should ask, are you coached or are you setting up your own stuff?

PETE: Yeah, no, I do self self-coach. Yeah. Yeah. Like many of your listeners, probably I listen to a lot of different sources, listen to other coaches, bring things together that way. Try each year to approach it a little bit differently, doesn’t mean that every year is right. But sometimes you just gotta change things up, otherwise, you’re gonna stay where you’re at.

JESSE: [00:37:31] Right. I think the toughest part is figuring out what is the new thing that you do. You know, when I think about– if I’m writing my own schedule, which I used to, and I’m fortunate enough to have a coach now. But if I’m thinking about writing my own schedule, I know like, I think about what are the peaks in my career? What were my favorite workouts from those times? And it’s like, is that necessarily applicable to where I am right now to get me to the next level?

Probably not because you need that constant change, to force new adaptation. If you’re doing the same thing, you’re gonna get the same results. So, I feel like that’s the toughest part for me in self-coaching is figuring out what do I actually need to be doing. And then on top of that, following through, I always had a tough time second guessing.

[00:38:28] Because you get into a session and you’re like I feel terrible today. Should I go short? Did I assign myself something that’s too long? Did I overload? You know, get that ambitious bug and say, well, I’m gonna just crank out this session. You’re like, really, probably shouldn’t have gone that hard. And then second guessing yourself instead of the workout instead of just focusing on this is what I need to get done.

PETE: [00:38:53] Yeah. Yeah, you got to get to the root of where the second guessing comes from, as well, because I’ve had coach sessions too. And you’re also second guessing why is the coach making this, why are we bearing it here? Is this right? It’s so many weeks out from the race or it’s too close to the race or the session isn’t– So, you end the session and you go, “Hey, coach is that all it was?

We could have gone harder there. And then that, so the second guessing is sometimes about being loss-averse, or having some deeper anxiety. I work in psychology so I am liable to say this. It doesn’t mean that’s how your mom treated you when you were a baby. But it can lead to some deeper question of like, are you bought into the process? Or do you trust how you made that decision to do it, you trust the coach setting the plan? Yeah.

JESSE: [00:39:50] Yeah, I think if I think about it now, very rarely do I question my coach. Every once in a while I will, and it’ll be something small where it’s like, hey and we’ve been working together for a number of years now. But you know, thinking about are you bought into the process? I think some of it’s like, I have an opinion about, especially when it comes to running. Cycling, it’s all his world. I’m never gonna question what he’s telling me on the cycling stuff, because he coaches world class cyclists. So, I don’t know anything. But when it comes to running, it’s like I have this background.

So, I’m like I know that I need basically a certain amount of taper period to hit my peak. And if we don’t do that, if it’s short, if it’s long, like things are going to be off. Those are the things I’ll question like when I’m like, I have this conviction that this is exactly how it needs to go and it’s not. Then I’m like, okay, we need to have a discussion about what’s going on. Otherwise, I think I’m bought into the program. But I think you nailed it, where it’s just like, are you bought in? Or are you unsure of the situation?

PETE: [00:41:18] And it’s okay to be unsure. I mean, it just means that you need some conversation or just need to take stock of it. That’s gonna happen too. Yeah.

JESSE: Yeah. So, for you the listener, maybe this won’t be interesting. But I’m curious so I have to ask Pete before we’re not on anymore. You were mentioning, working previously, at Ogilvy as a behavioral scientist. And so for you that doesn’t know, Ogilvy does advertising, marketing, those kinds of things. So, what were you working on there? Are you using your dark psychology powers to sell us things we don’t need? What was the kind of stuff that you did there?

PETE: [00:42:06] I’ve had the really good fortune to work in a specialist behavioral science practice. And that means the team of a dozen of us or so are all psychologists and behavioral scientists. And we work on three challenges for companies and organizations that are less about selling things and more about behavior change. And that behavior change tends to be things like using, where people aren’t using the product, the way the company would have hoped they would so they misunderstood it.

Or they’re motivated to do something, but it’s not been made easy enough to do. So, we do things on recycling and sustainability where a lot of people are quite rightly pulling the lever of getting people to understand that there are big issues now and coming. But are they doing the things that make it easy?

[00:43:03] So, the campaign we ran a few years ago was called one bin is rubbish sorted out, get a recycling bin. Because in the UK, we’ve got these, a lot of people have got a small kitchen. And for decades, we’ve had just one bin, one rubbish bin we call it. So, the line that we’re working with is actually you don’t need to convince people that recycling is gonna change the world. You just need them to somehow somewhere, go out and get themselves a separate second bin.

So, it makes it really easy and they’re not sort of hanging off door handles and putting it in wine [inaudible 00:43:41] the wine and all the rest of it. And it’s proved really successful, and it’s really helped increase recycling rates. So, we do lots of things in that nature. There’s charitable donations, safety and road safety, factory safety. So, I have a really good fortune to work on lots of different– it seemed like such different industries, but the unifying principle is it’s always about people and people’s decision making behavior, that whole world.

JESSE: [00:44:14] So, this is kind of a, I’ll say, a loaded question. But is your job, basically, to trick people into doing the things that are good for them?

PETE: Yeah. You’ve loaded that [inaudible 00:44:29].

JESSE: I know.

PETE: But I’ve already got a response to it, which is to say, in all the time I’ve been working, I haven’t seen much evidence that we’ve ever been very good at getting people to do stuff they didn’t want to do bluntly. We’re much more about the people are inclined to do it. They’ve said they wanted to do it sometimes. We’re making these– we’re greasing the wheels and making it either physically easier to do mentally, memorable and easier to do, more socially acceptable to do it.

So, I don’t think we’ve been very good at changing– We don’t change people’s minds all that well. It’s tough to get things to work even when you’re in the– and other people might be familiar with the nudge territory of it being a– there’s an inclination to do it. You’re not forcing anyone’s choice either way.

JESSE: [00:45:22] I think that’s the, it comes up, kind of in entrepreneur circles. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it on the show before, just [inaudible 00:45:30] about David Ogilvy in the sense of being a copywriter and learning about copywriting, which is all the words that you read, when you’re on like a product page, and those kinds of things, trying to convince, say convinced, but it’s not really the right word either. Maybe I’m not a very good copywriter, to get people to buy things.

And it’s like, as you mentioned, it’s like, if I want to buy a vacuum, I’m already in the market for vacuums, right? Like I’m looking for a vacuum. I just need to know– I need to be nudged in the right direction to get the thing that actually solves the problem that I want to solve. Right? And so I think sometimes that’s why I say the loaded question, because I know that’s not actually the case. But it does come up. Are people like you playing these mind tricks on us and making us buy all these things? And it’s like, they’re probably not, probably not.

PETE: [00:46:29] Sometimes I’d say we’re trying to fix symptoms of the human condition. So, as I alluded to, I worked in factory safety, actually in the US. And walk around factories and you see this phenomena, and the shift leaders would describe it as the times in the shift where they see red, which is when they’ve set a target of production. And they’re now running the machines and the operators are running on the target. And they use a board, a scoreboard to say, the number of clips per hour or per day. They’ll use a green pen if it’s above, and they use a red pen if it’s below.

[00:47:08] To which when we come in there, and we say, “Oh, so you’re saying you don’t want to see red?” That’s a safety concern. You see people, instigates people rushing and it makes people not follow the procedures that they said they wanted to and we definitely want them to follow. So, we did something as simple as simply get rid of the red pen, change it out, no more red pen, no more board.

The safety leads in this factory said actually, we’re not really sure why we even do the scoreboard at all. The operators just need to follow the procedures. We don’t need them to– I mean, maybe we think they’re getting a motivational benefit when it’s green. Maybe they’re doing good, but we don’t want that if the other side of that coin is that when they see red, we have a safety concern.

[00:47:57] So, actually, this is one where I distinctly remember bringing something in from sport, in this case, the business was that I remember, I’ve set myself race targets. And definitely, if you’re a cyclist or a time trial list, you’ll have entered some kind of event where you have a wattage in mind, a particular watt for that particular event. So, I’ve in the past, agonized over, I’m above target, below target. So, let’s say 300. And the going is great when it’s 302.

And somehow I’m desperately under target when it’s 298. So, instead, I’ve made a window. And what we work with them on was actually to have not a set number of clicks per hour, but have a production window where it’s a good zone to be in. And that way people don’t agonize as being you’re either in a state of above two [inaudible 00:48:48] or below anxiety and stress. And that’s something I would say, usually, I’m trying to bring things in from experimental psychology and things that I’ve read and studied.

[00:49:01] But in this case, I think it’s quite a nice comparison. Yeah, it’s a novel way of approaching a challenge. Oh, and we changed these pens, got rid of these pens, and we’re doing studies of their well being before and after. Reported, I think something along the lines of 25% decrease in instances of people feeling rushed, which is so good to see and are really promising.

JESSE: I mean, you end up probably getting the same or better output, right, when people are stressed because you feel like, I think there’s probably a tendency and I am speaking out of turn a little bit here. But probably a tendency for bosses to be like when we’re behind like we need to push, push, push. But especially in an industry where safety is such a concern, pushing leads to cutting corners which leads to accidents and then people get hurt. So, it’s like if you just– thinking about, again, sport and what we talked about earlier, focus on the process, stay consistent, and like long term, everything will kind of balance out.

PETE: [00:50:13] Yeah, yeah. It’s one of those ones of like, be careful what you measure because what you measure is going to get managed. So, if you measure volume, then you’ll get in a volume game of how many miles or how many minutes am I doing? And that’s natural, but you can know that it’s a powerful force. So, you might want to use it for good when you want to use it for good. Like keep yourself in check and get consistent and pull yourself in that direction. But also don’t let it lead you to bad things of obsessing over numbers that you’d be better off just running with the process. Yeah.

JESSE: [00:50:52] So, right now, I think, and please correct me if I’m wrong, you’re working with the Department of Transport on changes related to COVID and those kinds of things going on right now?

PETE: Yeah, yeah. So, Coronavirus hit and [inaudible 00:51:50] so a temporary position with the UK government in the transport department, yeah, looking at challenges, like we need in the UK, really need people to get out on bikes and get them walking. A lot of people have wanted to for a long time, they felt it hasn’t been safe enough and it hasn’t. But there’s other ways in which we can help them out. So, we’ve got vouchers for bicycle repair, we’ve got cycle to work schemes.

And we’re trying to work with employers to make it easier for when offices reopen so that they get better facilities and they make it more normal that under the new world that it’s okay to cycle and that you get good facilities when doing it. So, trying to bring together, that’s one where it’s sort of like we know quite a few people are gonna be quite motivated [inaudible 00:52:03] a lot of people have been saying they don’t want to go back to the old world. So, how can we give them what they need physically and also mentally to make it happen?

JESSE: [00:52:12] So, again, we’re just trying to nudge people towards behaviors they already want to take on, right?

PETE: Yeah, and it’s one of those ones where, if you have millions of pounds and some governments do, then you can build cycle lanes, but it’s gonna take quite a while, and there’s a few trade-offs. But you can also, when all the bikes are selling out of the shops and the big retailers here, make sure that when someone does buy that new bike, and they’ve got good intentions, you’re also giving them a map of the local cycleways and you’re helping them out about how they can repair it. And you’re making sure that when they buy the bike, they go, “Well if you get a lock, then you’ll be able to also use it for transport.”

[00:52:55] Otherwise, we’re selling bikes that are– it’s great, but they’re just recreational. And they’re realizing how do I cycle to the swimming pool? Or how do I go and do my shopping if I don’t have a lock? So, there’s lots of ones where you’re trying to help people out who, you know, I bought a bike for the first time, I was clueless some 15-20 years ago. I wish someone had helped me out in the beginning. So, we’re trying to play that role. It’s not the whole answer, but alongside cycle lanes and a lot of other infrastructure, you need that whole picture.

JESSE: [00:53:27] Yeah. I mean, it seems like and this goes back to training. I kind of envy your position because you can– Training is like a microcosm of life I always feel like where it’s like, it’s hard to see how, just in the microcosm just a little niche of let’s encourage people to bike. Like, how is that going to help transform our society or our culture? How is it going to positively impact our citizens over time?

But if you have the ability to try to think forward, it’s like, well, maybe in the short term, Coronavirus is going on like, that’s a terrible thing. People are getting sick, people are dying. But among that, that gives us the opportunity to try to, as you mentioned nudge people towards taking bikes, maybe being able to in the long term build up better bike infrastructure, which can lead to lower greenhouse gas emissions, fitter people, dealing with obesity.

[00:54:34] Like, there’s a lot of potential positive benefits that take a long time to take place. But if you start like, start the ball rolling in a very difficult situation right now for everyone, then you may be able to get more long-term positive benefit out of it. And I think that’s tough for people sometimes who, hopefully, you don’t get this question, but if people kind of looked at like “Well, why does it matter that we ride bikes? Like, what the hell’s Pete doing right now? Like, why does the job matter?” You know what I mean?

PETE: [00:55:09] Yeah, yeah. And I think you’ve done a good job of describing the benefits of it. There’s many wins that it occurs on, not least that the– being able to have the freedom to choose. So, really, at the moment, it’s the case that there’s people out there that would want to use this piece of equipment, but they don’t feel like they can. And there’s this sort of a justice part to it there.

I’d be really interested to know how you’re doing over on your side of the Atlantic with e-bikes. We’re talking a lot about e-bikes and it’s a thing we’ve joked that it’s late at the moment, that it’s like teenage [inaudible 00:55:51]. Everyone’s talking about it, but there’s not a lot of people doing it.

JESSE: [00:55:56] Well, I can actually, I wish I’d been able to have him on the podcast. He’s a city councilman now. So, I have a couple experiences. So, my fiance, her brother, loves the heck out of his e-bike. Although he had to sell it, he recently moved and well, he– Yeah, it moved to an island, he had to sell everything to get there. But there is a city councilman here, I live in Kansas City, which is the very center of the US.

And the city councilman named Eric Bunch, who coincidentally went to the same college I did. I tried to get him on the podcast off to try to get him back on. And maybe we can talk about this, and I can follow up with you. But he set up– He’s one of the people that helped set up this whole initiative to get bikes and e-bikes, and scooters and all these things as part of the city public transport situation here in Kansas City.

[00:56:53] And I’m fortunate enough to live in a neighborhood, one of the few neighborhoods that is pedestrian friendly, has a running trail near it, and has those bike stations and stuff set up. And I have seen more and more people on them. The scooters, of course, litter the sidewalk, not terribly, but I find them somewhat silly, but I don’t have to use them. So, it’s a little elitist of me to say that. But they are definitely catching on as more people–

So, we have like city-dwelling, suburbs, and the exurbs, which are even farther out. And in Kansas City, that’s definitely how our geography is built. Like we didn’t go up, we went out because there’s tons and tons of land here in the Midwest, was previously farming land, so lots of space. So, there wasn’t a need to go up. But people want to live in the center of town, where all the things are, where you don’t have to live out in the middle of nowhere and all you have is five chain restaurants and nothing. But that also presents with its own problem, the where do you keep a car? Do I even want to pay for a car, all those kinds of things?

[00:58:14] So, some of these initiatives have had, I think, at least with our cohort, I think we’re of a similar age. And younger people are really a positive benefit because they’ve been able to live more, I’ll say downtown, at least here, and then had mobility that they wouldn’t have had just being a pedestrian. So, I agree on the surface you’re like it’s really a little like silly-sounding or it doesn’t seem like anybody’s doing it. But I think it is catching on a little bit more.

And I know the city has really had pushes towards larger adoption. So, I’ll be curious how it pans out over the next decade. I think that’ll give us a better idea about is it a fad? Or is it actually catching on? [crosstalk] But I can definitely say I’ve seen people on them.

PETE: [00:59:09] I wonder how it will play out because it could be a culture thing because the UK has similar sort of cycle rates to some of the neighboring continental European countries, not the Netherlands, but say Germany. But they’re outselling e-bikes like you wouldn’t believe. There’s E-bikes that’s like 10 times what we have in the UK.

And I just wonder whether it’s sort of a thing of saying like it’s okay to have any bike or whether it’s people holding back like in sports cycles saying like that’s for the cheating. I’m not sure exactly. It clearly would be cheating in a race. You might have to– it has a speed limiter as well, I’m hoping. But yeah, I wonder how it will play out. And I wonder how, in the years to come, it will come with people doing sort of epic ride.

[00:59:56] But there’s also been a battery involved. It probably was also– it will have been an epic ride, you know, 5-10 hours on a bike or something, but it’ll come with that sort of little caveat of saying, “Oh, you did have a motor for a bit of it.” But I think it would be great. I mean, if it could enhance your number of training partners, get more couple cycling, especially with like speed differences or friends that can go out. I mean, I’d love– I’ve got some great mates who aren’t so quick on the bike, but I’d love to do a training ride with them.

Maybe in the future, they will come together. But it’s been– I found myself going in the other direction and I sort of downgrade my bike. I’ve got a road bike with worse tires, it’s not that well maintained, and the aero position is terrible. And that’s sort of like a good leveler, just so that I’m like, “Oh, well, I want to have good– I want to have some training benefits from this ride, too. So, you have your great bike, and it’s not embarrassingly bad. But yeah, it’d be nice if equipment could help us socially a bit more, [inaudible 01:01:00] together, that’d be cool.

JESSE: [01:01:01] Well, it could be too. It’s like, there’s gonna be a limitation here. And I think if everything, kind of like a sales funnel. It’s like, if you get 100 people on e-bikes, not all of them are going to go on to be racing crits, and like really get into cycling. But some people, I think, they get comfortable on a bike or like get reintroduced to a bike because they haven’t been on one since they’re a kid might think, you know, maybe today I’m going to turn off the pedal-assist, and I’m gonna take this hill on my own.

And that turns into like, I’m spending more time actually just out riding the bike without it. Now, I want just a normal bike that doesn’t have the electronic component. I’m gonna go out and rides, it’s, again, when you’re talking about just making little nudges, just try to push our way slightly into areas where people can more easily do the things that they really would like to be doing.

[01:02:03] So, Pete, as we’re starting to wind down on time, I’m asking everybody the same question this year at the end of every episode. So, I’ll ask you too. I’d like to know your thoughts on what you think the purpose of sport is?

PETE: Whoa. Okay. To bring out your best self. Yeah, I think so. You go around, but you can only– and we’re all built differently. You can only be in this world to try and– I know, it sounds schmaltzy and romantic, but it’s to be as good as you can be. But also bring whatever your best character traits out in it. If you’re an introvert then you go and do that thing. You know, if you’re an extrovert and you want to do it to make friends and meet people then great do that. Just bring out your best characteristics, I think, yeah.

JESSE: [01:03:55] Like that one. Pete, if people want to see what you’re up to, follow your races, any of that kind of stuff, where can they find you?

PETE: Yeah, Twitter, I think. Pete_Dyson would be the place to follow. Really looking forward to 2021. I have no idea which races I will be on, what I’ll be doing, just biding my time for now. Yeah, ready to get out there.

JESSE: Well, hopefully it goes well, and good luck this coming season. Hopefully everything goes off without a hitch.

PETE: Yeah. Thanks. Thanks, Jesse.

JESSE: All right. Thanks for hanging out with me today, Pete.

PETE: Cheers.

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