Q: How did the vision for The Breakaway develop?
Christian: It really started with Jordan Kobert, a long-time friend and early Strava user and employee. He moved to a colder climate up into Truckee from San Francisco, so he never really had to ride in the cold weather since he was a kid. [He started] riding the Peloton bike (which he always made fun of me for, by the way), and then some Zwift, and all of a sudden had all these positive results just because he was doing high-intensity interval rides. He is like, “is it that easy?”.
Smack dab in the middle of Covid and he's like, “there has to be something more – a better way to help people distill all this data that we're seeing and make it just a little bit easier to understand”. The average person has kids and family, works, and only has so many hours a week. He says, “I want to make it as fluid as possible and get the best bang for their buck”. So that's really how it all started. [The answers to] ‘I'm riding less but I'm better and stronger now?’ were yes, yes, and yes.
Q: Why did you want to bring this to the general cycling world and was there a problem that you wanted to solve?
Christian: I think the biggest one is really just helping people – as I said earlier, distill what they're seeing. There's so much data out there, from just starting with basic watts. What does this even mean? Then kilojoules, constant blood glucose monitors, the [recovery] score, and…it's so much at one time. The biggest one was that you're riding in different places; maybe you're riding your Zwift, Peloton, outside, on your mountain bike and you want to have this all tracked into one spot.
So really the biggest [goal] was bringing all these different silos all into one and having all the data that you are seeing from different directions at one place – making it easy for you to digest. As a retired cyclist, I love having all my stuff in one spot. I don't want to have to look through five different apps to understand what I did or even look back at what I have done [to see] if I'm getting better or what my PR was last year versus today. I wouldn't say that I'm still competitive, but I still love to see it and I'm still curious to see what I can do. I always try to at least keep up with the teenagers in the neighborhood.
Q: You mentioned it’s a way to compile information, so would you say it’s an all-encompassing platform?
Christian: Yeah, it truly is. [We’re] really just trying to help out and give people a path, which took Mari and me 20, 30 years to realize what we liked and what worked for us the best. And everyone's different. Understanding what is a hard ride for you may not be enough to be a hard ride for me, but this is the way forward for you.
The leaderboards (out there) are all “broken”. Just because I'm not the same person [I was]. If I look at all my KOMs from 2009, I'm never going to be able to touch that, but I want to be the best me that I can be today. Really, it's you against you, people like you, and –if you want– some close friends or training partners. So it's a very personal application as well. That’s what I got behind because I love seeing people get better on the bike and see their true potential.
We have Zwift, Peloton, Wahoo, Garmin, and Hammerhead right now. So, anyone who’s on any of those devices, it’s all coming in. We're expanding daily to new and better and beyond. Now our next frontier is going to be recovery. That’ll [include] things like Whoop and Oura Ring, and Apple Health to tell you what exactly is going on outside of the couple hours that you're giving input to. Because I can only tell you so much from the data that you give me, bringing in the other data is really going to give you the whole picture.
Q: As a coach, how do you specifically use The Breakaway to influence an athlete's training?
Mari: I think that the idea of The Breakaway is that you don't have to be on a training program that is so specific every day. I think it's a way to engage with athletes who may not be able to stick to a schedule that’s super restrictive. But, with the time they have, what’s the best way they’re able to use that time? Then, there are workouts for what you might need to work on and what you don't need to work on as much. So I think that it's a way to keep people motivated and inspired while seeing those changes. As Christian said, we're never going to be hitting the same numbers we used to hit, but I can see where I am right now in comparison to how it's gone recently. I can see improvements.
Christian: It is true, I (and probably Mari) and 99% of the people I know don't want a set schedule. If I'm going to train for something really big in the future, maybe I'll do something like that, but those don't happen to me anymore. So a seven-day-a-week training program is not going to happen. It's whatever I could do throughout the week and try to fill those holes.
Q: For the time-crunched (standard) athlete, how do you suggest they can balance work, family, etc. to train more effectively with this?
Christian: We have a few modes to help with this. The build mode has a progression with week-over-week kJs. I don't want to get too technical in any of this, but really it's just for focusing your efforts, not just going on and riding your bike. Most people just go out, ride, and might ride a lot, but they have no focus. So they have no intention of what they're going to do on that ride. Having a little bit of intention of what should be done. For example, if you're going to do two hard rides and two moderate/endurance rides throughout the week, at least you know that your focus on that day is to try to check off that intensity. Having that mindset alone opens doors to an incredible increase in capacity and fitness.
Mari: The other thing that's interesting is if you have one day where you can do your intervals and [are given] what those would be, then it helps you stay motivated and you don't not want to do the intervals so badly. For example, if you knew you had to do intervals till failure for multiple days until you just can't produce the same watts anymore, then that's not super fun. The setup in The Breakaway makes it more fun.
I keep coming back to motivational, but I think that that's what's important to keep people excited to be out there riding their bikes and not using it to put more pressure on themselves. Like, “oh now I’ve got to do x, y and Z? My coach said on Tuesday I have to do X workout.” No, it doesn't have to work like that in order to still see gains. Some of these programs that we're working on with The Breakaway are really cool for that – to see the gains that you can get in such a short period of time.
Christian: We have both sides, too. We have those that do Peloton or Zwift and they go hard every time, so they need to be pulled back a little bit. Then the people who just ride their bikes and need to be pushed a little bit once in a while. So just trying to meet in the middle somewhere that's realistic.
Q: What are some common mistakes you see when it comes to training?
Christian: On a personal level, it was that we didn't rest enough, ever. We were always overtrained, always getting beat up, probably not eating enough, and the nutrition was not so great. As I said, we have both polar ends of the spectrum with people going too hard, way too often, and never resting. Make your hard days hard and your easy days easy. We see too much intensity and not enough rest or endurance. Then on the other side, we see some people that just need to be pushed out of their nest a little bit and do some intensity rides and really open their eyes to what they could do. It's rare that you have somebody who's really well-balanced.
Q: What’re the two mistakes that you think people, especially with indoor training are making?
Mari: People tend to go too hard on Zwift, even if you have intention [with your training]. think picking and choosing some and then having a strategy of rest in between so that you actually go into those races fresher. It's inside, you can do it all the time, and it's kind of addicting – you just start going down that rabbit hole and then they're exhausted and so you start seeing diminishing returns.
If you're pushing your body and you're trying to make it do something that it hasn't been able to do before, your intervals have to be intentional. You have to be able to get to something bigger than what you've done. So you'd have to be super rested and if you're always at that zone three or whatever, you're not gonna be able to push as hard as you could.
Q: Where do you see The Breakaway going? What is the ultimate goal or kind of vision with the breakaway?
Christian: It's started with cycling ultimately. We'd love to be able to cover pretty much every sport where we're gonna have heart rate or any stress data involved. Cycling was the best place to get the best data and get going. It's really branching out into different sports and giving them the same what we're seeing with cycling for running, swimming, weightlifting, and things like that going forward. Fitness and data are evolving so quickly. We’re just in the first inning here.
One of the biggest things was these monthly Performance Programs. The success rate has been mind-blowing even to me. How many people have gotten so much better with exactly all the things we just talked about: having a little bit of intention week over week.
Interested in The Breakaway’s platform, want to learn more, or try a month with them? You’re in luck. Use the link below to get set up before their February training program kicks off!