In this episode of the Athletes Compass podcast, hosts Paul Warloski and Marjaana Rakai engage with Dr. Paul Laursen, the multifaceted founder of Athletica, co-host of the HIIT Science podcast, and author. They explore his life story, delving into his past as a triathlete, his academic research, and the eventual creation of AI coaching platform Athletica. Through a candid and personal discussion, they touch on the intersections of endurance training, entrepreneurial spirit, and the role of technology in sports science, highlighting Dr. Laursen’s personal and professional milestones, his approach to coaching, and his vision for Athletica’s future.

Key Episode Takeaways:

  • Dr. Paul Laursen’s transition from an athlete to an entrepreneur and academic.
  • The importance of endurance, resilience, and the influence of his family on his career.
  • The creation and growth of Athletica and its impact on athletes and coaches.
  • Insights into balancing professional commitments with personal well-being.
  • The evolution of sports science and the integration of AI into athlete coaching.
  • Future aspirations for Athletica and the advancement of personalized training.



Paul Warloski (00:37)

Hello everyone and welcome to the Athletes Compass where we navigate training, fitness and health for everyday athletes. Today, today we have a special edition where Marjaana and I get to interview our co -host, Dr. Paul Laursen. Not only is he the founder of Athletica, one of the HIIT Science podcast hosts and the author of the HIIT Science textbook, but he is also an everyday athlete like us trying to manage a heavy workload while maintaining his health and fitness.

Paul Laursen (00:45)

Today we have a special edition where Marjaana and I get to interview our co -host Dr. Paul Laursen. Not only is he the founder of Athletica, one of the hit science podcast hosts and the author of the hit science textbook, but he is also an everyday athlete like us.

Marjaana Rakai (00:55)

science podcast host and the author of the Good Science textbook. But he is also an everyday athlete like us trying to manage a heavy workload for maintaining his health and fitness. Our conversation with Paul Willis -

Paul Laursen (01:06)

Our conversation with Paul will talk about his past as triathlete, his entrepreneurship, his academic training and research, and go end up with the creation of a new career.

Paul Warloski (01:07)

Our conversation with Paul will talk about his past as triathlete, his entrepreneurship, his academic training and research, and go end up with the creation of Athletica, the AI driven training platform. So Paul, I put you into Chat GPT to see what do I know about Paul Laursen? And here's what it says. It's just, I'm going to do this to myself. Dr. Paul Laursen is an accomplished figure in the field of sports science with a rich background as an athlete, coach, and researcher.

Paul Laursen (01:22)

So, Paul, I put you in the Chat GPT to see what do I know about Paul Laursen. Here's what it says.

Marjaana Rakai (01:23)

. .

Paul Laursen (01:34)

a rich background as an athlete, coach, and researcher. With over 30 years of experience, he has significantly contributed to the understanding and application of high intensity interval training and endurance training among other areas. He has published over 140 refereed manuscripts, I don't know what refereed means, I'm assuming peer reviewed, garnering more than 14 ,000 citations highlighting his influence in the scientific community.

Paul Warloski (01:38)

With over 30 years of experience, he has significantly contributed to the understanding and application of high intensity interval training and endurance training among other areas. He has published over 140 RefRead manuscripts. I don't know what RefRead mean, and I'm assuming peer reviewed, garnering more than 14 ,000 citations highlighting his influence in the scientific community. Research Gates, by the way, lists 230 publications.

Paul Laursen (02:04)

Research states, by the way, this is the 200th.

Paul Warloski (02:07)

So Paul, let's start from the beginning. Where did you grow up and what kind of sports were you doing as a kid?

Paul Laursen (02:08)

So Paul, let's start from the beginning. Where did you grow up and what kind of sports were you doing as a kid?

they grew up in the sport of hockey, right? Like that's kind of our national sport. But we were a working class blue collar family. My mom's a teacher, my dad's a firefighter. And hockey was just not in the purse strings for them. So it was soccer. And then continuing from that with a little bit of running in soccer, my dad wound up stopping smoking and to help him with whenever he had a craving for a cigarette

he would go out for a run. So he started running marathons and that was like, and it could be in the middle of the night too, right? Where he's like, you know, he really felt like he had to have a, have a cigarette. He'd go out for a run and it would kind of cure that. Anyways, dad's doing lots of running and wanted to be with my dad so I would, I started following them at an early age, probably, you know, between eight and 10 and turned out I was a good runner as well. And, and that's kind of led me into the, you know, the sports of track and field, but I loved, I loved every sport. Like I,

Paul Warloski (03:05)

Oh well.

Paul Laursen (03:31)

I actually was, there was this award that was given in high school for the most, like, I wasn't the best at anything, but I was the most well -rounded. So there's this overall award and I would always win that award up against with my best friend, Tony. And like, we'd kind of go back and forth. So I had this buddy that I would play everything with, soccer, basketball, tennis, running, track and field.

Paul Warloski (03:44)


Paul Laursen (04:01)

Um, and, and yeah, and then I would also, I would just be very average at everything, but it really, I think it, I mean, you know, kind of going back to the, to the book at the end of the day, I've got a lot of background in a lot of different sports. But you know, eventually I, triathlon was the one that I picked and I had a knack for that. And then I, I wanted to become really like, there was talk when I was 16, that one day there might be an Olympics with triathlon in it. And I was like,

Marjaana Rakai (04:02)

And then I would also just be very out of it. But I think it's my favorite.

I've got a lot of background, a lot of different...

Paul Laursen (04:30)

That's what I'm going to do because no one was doing triathlon back then. I was the, I was the weird kid kind of running around and biking to school and all these sorts of things in little old, uh, new Westminster, which is just out of Vancouver, but that's sort of how it started.

Marjaana Rakai (04:43)

So one sport wasn't enough for you, you had to pick three .

Paul Warloski (04:46)


Paul Laursen (04:47)

I could just, well, probably a bit like some of your kids at Marjaana where they just, they want to be active all day long, right? That was me. Like it was just, and I had this engine too. I can actually remember I was, I got used because there was, we had a wagon and I would, I can actually remember pushing kids in this wagon all around the street all day long. And they're like, like Paul was the motor kind of thing, right? And they would steer the wagon and because.

Marjaana Rakai (04:57)

I can actually remember I was, I got fused because there was, we had a.

I remember pushing his head through his bag and holding him all day long.

Paul Laursen (05:13)

Because yeah, I just had this engine. I really got off on just working hard. I loved hard work. It made me feel really good. To this day, I have to get my aerobic bout of activity on a daily basis.

Paul Warloski (05:31)

all that doing triathlons has led to doing, is it 18 Ironmans now? What got you into doing that kind of serious endurance training?

Paul Laursen (05:37)


So yeah, so what led me to do 18 Ironman, I guess was there was this moment in, I was at the, I went to Simon Fraser University and there is a triathlon club there and a bunch of guys that were in the SFU triathlon club were gonna do Ironman and you know, I'm out training with them when I'm in my first year of university and they,

Paul Warloski (06:01)


Paul Laursen (06:10)

They just said, well, why don't you come and do this? And it was just another challenge. I said, okay. And then it was then this, you know, recently I just interviewed Gordo Byrne for the Training Science podcast and Gordo and I had this kind of, this similar sort of chat about how in the very instant, I guess in the very instant when you decide to do an event, you've almost there made a commitment to yourself, especially when you start talking to others, right?

Paul Warloski (06:24)

Thank you.

Marjaana Rakai (06:24)

similar sort of chat about how in the very instant, I guess in the very instant when you decide to do an event, almost there, you made a commitment to yourself, especially when you started talking to others, right? You made that commitment and that's almost even, that's not.

Paul Laursen (06:37)

And you've made that commitment. And that's almost even, that's almost the hardest part right there. So I didn't know what I was doing, but I said at 18, and you know, I was going to do this 18. Yeah. And then, um, then it was all the battles with them in the mind, right? It was like, can I actually do this? And, um, you know, again, you have to put this in the context of doing this in 1989, 90, right? Like with this is like, you know, now Iron Man's huge now.

A lot of people realize we can do this, but back then it was real unknown for a little, for an 18, 19 year old, even if an 18 year old, 19 year old should even do one. Right? Like, so, so anyways, but I went through that whole process with the, with a great bunch of friends at the SFU Triathlon Club. And then, yeah, I remember breaking that mental barrier at a young age. And after I did, I mean, I was so emotional and I cried and I think it was,

Marjaana Rakai (07:12)

to continue to do that. So, anyways, let's do that.

Paul Warloski (07:14)


Paul Laursen (07:31)

I can remember a time, 1109 was my very first one, which was decent for back then. This is the Ironman Canada, Penticton. And then I was hooked from there on in. I was like, you know, cause I was like, that's not too bad. I did okay for just rocking up and doing this thing, right? So I was like, what could actually become? And then of course, next year was a little bit faster and a little bit faster. But it's interesting cause I got stuck on being able to, I couldn't get past 10 hours.

Marjaana Rakai (07:35)

in our Nintendo. And then, um...

Paul Laursen (08:01)

I really got stuck, like 10 -14 was like my best time for a long, long time, 10 -10. But it was like, I just really couldn't make the same sort of gains from training more. I needed to, I needed to kind of do something else. And ultimately the, my failure led to my career. So it's like being unable and don't forget, I also like, I packed up stakes, went traveling to Australia, lived in a VW combi van.

Paul Warloski (08:04)

Thank you.


Marjaana Rakai (08:30)

and trained with

Paul Laursen (08:30)

I trained on the Gold Coast with some big triathlon coaches that are down there as well. I made a commitment to see if I could really make another dent into this sport. For whatever reason, it wasn't going the way I hoped it would.

eventually recognized I wasn't gonna do that anymore. I was gonna need to devote myself to understanding and helping others. Because yeah, making a career as an athlete wasn't gonna happen for me. So that's when I went into studies and that's at UBC. Yeah, I actually, I mean a little bit of another story was I wound up failing out of university. So it was actually a dropout of Simon Fraser University because I focused too much on girls and triathlon.

Marjaana Rakai (09:22)

other side of the face.

Paul Laursen (09:26)

drop out of Douglas College, same reason, doc. And then finally, in Douglas College, this is actually a little important twist because it was Professor Alan Chin, well -published academic actually. But Alan was really cool because he was all about coaching. And that's really, I know we're gonna get to that because I've seen the run sheet, but that's really where.

Marjaana Rakai (09:44)

That's really...

Paul Laursen (09:51)

my understanding and love for coaching kind of came in as well. And Alan taught me some of the most important principles then, and that's that, you know, his number one rule was coaches have to care. So that's what I learned from him. But again, Alan let me into one class, because don't forget, I'm, you know, I'm on academic probation, I'm, you know, required to withdraw, but Alan signs the paper, he goes, I'll let you into one class. And I got that through help from a friend. I got the interview with Alan.

Back into one class, got the only A plus, because I was passionate. He said, OK, I'll sign the paper for two more. Then I got it. And then I got into two more classes, two more A pluses. And then he pulled me aside after. He says, Paul, you have the ability to do your PhD. This is what you should do. You just apply the same principles that you've been applying in all your triathlon in terms of putting effort into it, putting focus into it.

Paul Warloski (10:26)


Marjaana Rakai (10:26)

I got it. I got it.

Paul Laursen (10:49)

and you just now apply that same focus to your studies like you've been doing here. And there's no reason why you shouldn't be a, you couldn't be a world leader in this thing. So he told me that way back then when, when I only had, you know, two, two college classes and that just woke me right up. And then I was just gung ho and I got into UBC and I got into my bachelor's and I succeeded in my master, in my bachelor's and I got into my master's and I succeeded in my master's and I got me a scholarship.

to Australia and then I just kept it, I was on a roll. Like I was just, as some people have said, I'm a little bit intent and I'm a little bit obsessed. And I guess that really has, nothing has changed since those days. And yeah, I mean.

Paul Warloski (11:26)


Marjaana Rakai (11:34)

Thanks for watching!

Paul Laursen (11:40)

I'm rambling, I'm sorry, but it's like, I even kind of goes back to my, like I was mesmerized by the battle of Dave Scott and Mark Allen. And I think, and I also was mesmerized watching so much Iron Man and whatnot back there, picking up Trathlon magazine. And this kind of goes back to Athletica, but I was also mesmerized when this third place guy, Poly Kuru from Finland, I believe, was wearing this tool and he had this heart rate strap.

Paul Warloski (11:40)

Now this is...

Marjaana Rakai (11:41)


Paul Warloski (11:45)

Thank you.

Marjaana Rakai (12:09)

Yeah, I remember those.

Paul Laursen (12:10)

and a big Star Wars watch around his wrist. And he was using a tool to kind of, a technology to give him the ultimate sort of pacing parameter. And he did really well. And that just caught my imagination too. And I was like, wow, that's super cool.

Marjaana Rakai (12:22)


Paul Warloski (12:24)

All right.

Marjaana Rakai (12:32)

so fascinating, but I want to go back to why triathlon, because I'm imagining in 90s it was even more...

Is it the unknown and the challenges and perhaps the barriers?

Paul Laursen (12:45)


Marjaana Rakai (12:51)

you felt drawn to triathlon or you know putting three sports together it's a puzzle right.

Paul Laursen (12:53)

Honestly, I think it comes down to ego and vanity at the earlier stages, if I'm honest. And I can remember this. I was interviewed by the little local paper in my neighborhood in

in New Westminster. And like, if I'm honest, I even I said it in the interview, I was like, I love it when people watch me do things. And like, because I, you know, again, I was I went through my 20s. And I was Scandinavian, brown, brown skin muscles bulging. All right. Like it was I had a decent look kind of back then. And I was so and I was admittedly liking that attention.

Paul Warloski (13:42)


Paul Laursen (13:44)

So as Martin always reminds me, we are very ego -driven. So I'm no different than everyone else there. It was fun to be kind of, no one cares really but except us, right? But it's like, there was some, I was just drawn to all that sort of, I was a bit egotistical initially.

Marjaana Rakai (13:55)

Like I think all 20 year olds or teenagers are but how have you how have you like navigated like research world and academic world where debates are probably

Paul Warloski (14:08)


Paul Laursen (14:10)


Marjaana Rakai (14:22)

a daily thing or not, maybe not daily thing, but how have you kind of been able to put ego aside sometimes? I'm sure that...

Paul Warloski (14:28)


Paul Laursen (14:31)

Hmm. Yeah, it just I think it just transitions probably in all of us elders, right? Like it slowly bleeds out and it just shifts to something else to just genuine wanting to understand how how we work. And yeah, so I think that's that that trends like, yeah, I was just genuinely really curious about how this process of training to optimize any performance.

Paul Warloski (14:56)


Paul Laursen (15:01)

should go. And it's like more like more back to being a kid. I was TV obsessed and I watched every sport and I was and this even went when I went down to Australia too, right? Like I when I went to Australia, I wanted to even understand cricket and Aussie rules football. And so it's it's just yeah, I was just fascinated with how how it is that we move and then how how others can get involved.

Paul Warloski (15:20)


Paul Laursen (15:30)

to understand process and impact as well, right? Because surely how you skin the cat with training influences how you go about and how you achieve, right? Otherwise, coaches wouldn't have any value. And of course, we know they get paid, you know.

elite coaches across many sports are paid almost as much if not more in some cases than the athletes across major sports. So it's recognized that that whole process is of value.

Paul Warloski (16:08)

How did you get to Australia in the first place? I mean, why did you choose to go there?

Paul Laursen (16:13)

Oh, yes, that was like a miracle. It seemed at least it was. And one of our, you know, like one of our colleagues in Athletica, Phil, just got this as well. Philip got a scholarship. He just got a PhD scholarship, full ride to Griffith University. They're very few and far between, but I was the lucky recipient.

of one of those miracle scholarships where everything is paid, like all your tuition is paid. And like if you look at tuition fees in Australia or any place, they're massive. Plus a generous living allowance too. So I couldn't believe when I got this thing. And then, yeah, I'm sitting in, it's a no brainer now, but again.

I got this scholarship and I was sitting there with one of my masters, mentors and supervisors, Don McKenzie, who's a legend in Canada from the Olympic system and sport physiology, a respiratory expert. And he says, he knew stuff and he's like, Paul, he sat me down. He's like, you got to take this. The Aussies.

are kicking goals and you'd be crazy not to take this opportunity because they were building like the AIS and all that sort of stuff right it was pre Sydney Olympics lots of money going into that so he was yeah he encouraged me to get my ass down to Australia no matter what it what it took so yeah I was I went uh and and also kudos to my supervisor David Jenkins for accepting me and uh without without David uh David's accept

acceptance and blessing, then I wouldn't have got down to Australia. And then I said, yeah, and that's really where hit training, like I needed a topic. I actually didn't know what I was going to work on, but I worked on, because of my problem of I didn't know how to train, my whole thesis was going to be on trying to get the most bang for buck out of any training session. And I designed these studies where I was looking at all these different types of hit sessions where you'd

Some you'd accumulate different amounts of time at your VO2 max. Some would be like repeated sprints. So I really started moving the levers in my training with cyclists. And I also joined the UQ cycling club. I took a stint in being a cyclist and got up to the cat A top level in Australian cycling too, which was really, really fun. So because I needed all, I really needed all of these cyclists from the club and out,

Marjaana Rakai (18:31)

So I really started moving towards in my training with cyclists. And I also joined the E2 cycle. I technically had to distict in cyclists, but to attack a top level in the E2 cycle.

Paul Laursen (18:55)

outside to become my guinea pigs in the laboratory. So that was a super fun little time, but that was my journey down to Australia and that's where it all sort of started.

Paul Warloski (18:57)

Thank you.

You know, right, you are incredibly busy. You have a wife and family. How are you managing your training now as an everyday athlete? Are you training for anything right now?

Paul Laursen (19:10)

How are you managing your training now? I'm training for my health and you know to steal a John Hawley ism or saying I'm trying to keep my vo2 max level above my age so that's that's that's the battle that I'm kind of having right now yeah

Marjaana Rakai (19:19)

That's pretty good.

Paul Laursen (19:37)

Yeah, so that's my goal. So kind of like you, Paul, is I just love the big, when the snow melts here in Revelstoke, the big one is I'm on the bike a lot. I'm riding a lot of mountains, but it's more just continuing that, just, you know, I raced against myself, my own Strava segments and...

Paul Warloski (19:49)

Good. Good.

Paul Laursen (20:02)

Yeah, no specific races per se, but keeping, and again, this is with, as you said, 18 Ironmans, multiple marathons, a lot of running miles. Unfortunately, I have to admit that, you know, I've really worn out some of the chassis of my body and I've got some hips that just won't take the pounding anymore. So, you know, still skiing, I'm still downhill skiing a lot. You know, I've got,

Marjaana Rakai (20:25)

I'm very much jealous, not just a little bit.

Paul Laursen (20:29)

were most the way through the season, but you know, I went up yesterday, I think I'm on 60, 67 ski days in Revelstoke Mountain Resort, which I know Marjaana would be a little bit jealous about, so. Yeah, so I love my downhill skiing and I, yeah, I love my cycling and I love my swimming as well. So my daughter's a.

Paul Warloski (20:40)


Paul Laursen (20:57)

on the swim team here in Revelstoke and she's great little swimmer. Her specialist is fly and I love joining her whenever I can in the pool, even if I'm just in the slow lane or over on the side and watching her fly by me. It makes me proud.

Marjaana Rakai (21:14)

You're not on the slow lane, I know that. So you've been my coach since late 2021. And the first time we had a chat, what made a big impression to me was that you write, your ability to listen even across the screen.

Paul Warloski (21:16)


Paul Laursen (21:21)


Marjaana Rakai (21:39)

So what like, and I felt like that created the trust that I feel like I need in a coaching relationship. Um, what, like, did coaching come naturally to you or at which point did you like start thinking coaching was your thing?

Paul Laursen (21:58)

Yeah, well, probably came back to Professor Alan Chin is just like that's, you know, again, the number one thing, the number one rule for coaching is you must care. So that's first and foremost. But then I think, you know, I also have to thank my, probably my mom mostly. She's just this real nurturer and I don't know, she...

I think I've inherited a few traits that she has and the old rules, we have two ears and we have one mouth. So on this podcast is not a good example because it's been a little bit about me, but in general, like you said, Marjaana, we need to listen and connect with people. Because as a coach, it's not really about you. So back to the ego thing that we mentioned.

There needs to be sort of a transition where when you're 20 something, it is all about you. But when you're 50, 40 or 50 or something as a coach and a little more experience, can't be so much about you anymore. It's gotta be about helping others and listening to do that, to hear what their real problems are. And yeah, I try my best to do that. It's not always easy, but I try.

Marjaana Rakai (23:22)

I think you're doing an incredible job. How did fatherhood change the way you look at coaching and life in general?

Paul Laursen (23:26)


Oh yeah, it's such a positive light because then, yeah, it's more diminishing ego really, because now it's again, it's life is, it's less and less about you, right? And it's although you probably get some ego bounce and pride, right? When you see your kids doing amazing things that make you proud.

So it's just a transition over that, right? And it's like, you've got to nurture this little human for their survival in the world. So there's just that transition. And it's a time thing too, right? It's a prioritization of your time. Like all of us, we have busy things we want to do and get accomplished, whether it's work or...

or our own exercise on all these sorts of things. But our kids have to be safe and progressing in the right direction and all these sorts of things. So it's a shift in prioritization is the big thing that I've noticed. And then that ability to listen and guide and parent, which isn't always easy. And there's no rule book, and we all know. But you got to just.

Always you gotta be trusting your gut that you're doing the right thing. And then realizing you're gonna fail and realizing you're gonna make mistakes, but then doing your best to learn from those mistakes.

Marjaana Rakai (25:06)


Paul Warloski (25:09)

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it does change everything, but yet you are still doing so much. You know, in 2019, you and Martin Busheit published your hit science textbook. And it's become, you know, a seminal source of information in the sports science world. I know that my copy has about a billion sticky notes, dog ears, written notes everywhere. And I keep coming back to it to understand more. How did you decide to write this book? Why, how did it come about?

Paul Laursen (25:10)

Yeah, it does change everything.

Yep, so progressively, honestly, like it's not, you don't put a textbook together overnight, right? It takes a little bit of, so it took, I guess, our entire career. So the other piece of the story, right, after going to UQ and doing my PhD and then bounced around a bit, but eventually got to Edith County University over in Perth.

And there I, you know, fortuitously met Martin, who was a fan of my work, but Martin's at a whole other level, honestly, like this guy is just a machine. So he came over, Ken Nasaka, Professor Ken Nasaka got a grant, flew Martin over to Perth. We sort of started our collaboration there and Martin just started, he had his like his own K3, K4 metabolic portable cart. And he was like,

Paul Warloski (26:29)


Paul Laursen (26:35)

Plus he had his finger in all these various different universities and together his English wasn't as good. So I really piggybacked off a lot of Martin's hard work and genius really. So I think I got very, very lucky. And again, we just kept moving all the levers of HIIT training to try to find out what's optimal in various different contexts. Eventually I get to New Zealand Olympic program.

Martin's at Aspityre in Qatar, which is a sports science kind of place. And we get this message from Roger Olney, the sports medicine editor. Paul and Martin, would you guys write, would you do an invited review in Hit? And we've started saying no, and then we said yes. And...

we wrote this two -part review and it was very, very popular. And sorry, I think it was, did I just say Roger Olney? I think Roger was the human kinetics, it was another Roger at sports medicine. So another Roger, sorry, I've forgotten the editor's name, but Roger, Roger Too basically was from human kinetics publishers and he,

Paul Warloski (27:43)

You did.


Paul Laursen (27:59)

basically saw the popularity of the two -part review and he said, would you guys turn this into a book? I said, no. I said, yeah. And then eventually we moved and you eventually say yes. And then we, when I, but I said, but when I exit and finish with the New Zealand Olympics. So once we arrived in Revelstoke here in Canada, and again, kudos to my amazing wife, Alison, who basically supported us with her teaching job while.

I just sat and wrote the hit science book with Martin and then that's how the book came. So it's basically, it's just leveraging off all the work that we did, all of our colleagues. And don't forget, it's like 10 science chapters and 20 application chapters, which is mostly written by 20 other individuals. So it's this network that came together. Like we don't know really that much hit.

and its application NFL football or NBA basketball, right? Like these, we needed experts to kind of come in and explain how they use the principles that we profess within the science. So this is where it sort of, yeah, it was a, it just kind of came together that way. And it was super, super, super cool to just to have this huge collaborative effort.

Paul Warloski (29:20)

It's not just a textbook that a few people read or dissertation. It does well.

Paul Laursen (29:21)

That's kind of the fun part. It's not just a textbook that a few people read or dissertation. It's...

I'm this for you.

Paul Warloski (29:30)

Um, so you've been doing these Ironmans, you've, you've been doing, you've been, you've trained Olympic athletes. You have published this textbook, you have hundreds of studies, you coach other athletes, but there was this little entrepreneurial spark in you that seems like it kind of brought all this stuff together. You started Athletica in 2015. What was the idea and how did that get started?

Paul Laursen (29:53)

Mm -hmm.

Yeah, so it was off the spur of the cuff. And I guess, you know, credit to Dan Plews and I were doing this Plews and Prof podcast segment on Fitter Radio in New Zealand. And we could just kind of see all of the different technologies that were coming together, whether it's from heart rate monitors to power meters, and then the internet was there.

And we just flippantly said one day, hey, if there's any developers out there that are Ironman triathletes that are listening to this, we'd love to build like an AI coach. Let us know. And Stephen Brown, our CTO, answered that, you know, to his demise back in 2015. And really that's when we sort of started building that thing. And Dan went his own way eventually, but I was like,

Paul Warloski (30:37)

Wow. I had no idea.

Paul Laursen (30:50)

This was so part of my obsession. It always sort of has been. This is what I was gonna figure out a way to do this thing. I don't know. I just feel like I'm in, this is what I wanna do. And it's, I just, I'm not going away anytime soon, right? Like this is just what I just feel destined to kind of do this with, when you listen to my history, whether it was Mark Allen, Pauli Kuru,

the hit science book, technology. I've just kind of been obsessed in this area to see how can we leverage technology to enhance our own professional and personal and physical and mental development and our health. I just love how technology can and can't.

do that, right? It has to, it's, you can get too much of a good thing as we all know. So it's like, yeah, finding that balance is so key.

Marjaana Rakai (31:45)

Right. It sounds like a full circle kind of thing. Yeah.

Paul Laursen (31:56)

Hmm. Yeah, it is. It totally is, right? Like I get, you know, before this podcast, I came, I was telling you about probably like last week was a busy week in my world of Athletica and the various different things that are going on. And I was a little bit overwhelmed. A few social things came into it that added to that, that overall stress. And I experienced my own real.

I just needed to wind down. And luckily I did take a little bit of time away from all the tech. I had a great sleep last night and everything's good again. But if you backtrack 24, 48 hours, it really wasn't a happy brain. And I think we all go there, and myself included.

Marjaana Rakai (32:38)

I'm going to go ahead and close the video.

We totally do. What has been the most challenging aspect of building athletic eyes and time management? Can you tell us more about what's the challenging part?

Paul Laursen (32:52)

Oh yeah. Probably overall is patience is the very, because I know how good Athletica can be based on what we have. And it's been, you know, COVID threw a real wringer in the works as it did for so many other businesses and people in the world, whether it's, you know, it's just, it really was a bit of, it was a...

it was hard to persist. That was the key though, right? Like persisting through the COVID periods and the even the after period there as well because yeah, and like finding funding has been huge. It has been really, really hard. What has been easier, interestingly enough, is finding the good people, like the good people, you know, such as you guys that come together and sort of, you know,

buy in or believe in what we're doing and ultimately work for not too much. This has been the amazing part of Athletica is how much we have done with so little, right? Whether it's our CEO, Mark Bridges, who I know is probably editing these podcasts and stuff, like him coming on board and finding us.

you know, our back end AI guru, Andreas Zignoli, who I met shortly after with Steve, right? And he, you know, him coming in, that's, you know, and the stuff he's doing right now is just honestly, it's just, just amazing what athletic is going to become. And then, but yeah, like, I guess it's so patience is to the answer the question is just being patient with all of this and then sticking to it.

and being persistent. So patience and persistence has been the tough one with everything. And even back to what I was talking about, 24 and 48 hours, that was my own problem with not being patient. Because, well, probably like so many of us, even with our own sport or whatever it is that we're doing, like you want it, you kind of want it now and you can't have it now, but that's okay. You got to be okay with it, right? That race and that,

or whatever that achievement, it's going to come and just let it happen. But that's been the hard part for me, Marjaana.

Marjaana Rakai (35:22)

It's like endurance training. Right?

Paul Laursen (35:25)

It is, yeah. Or your performance that you know is within you, but it's not there yet. You have to be patient with the process and develop that. Even though you probably have something in your head that's six months, a year, two, three years down the road potentially, right? Depending on where you're at. And yeah, just being enjoying, being patient.

Paul Warloski (35:25)

It really is.

Marjaana Rakai (35:29)

Yeah. Mm -hmm.

Paul Laursen (35:55)

And joining the process is a hard thing to do, but it's what we almost work towards.

Marjaana Rakai (36:01)

Where do you want to see Athletica going?

Paul Laursen (36:05)

Well, I wanted to help as many people as it can, honestly. We're starting, Mark and I chat about this a lot, but we're with investors as well. We're starting with sort of the pointy end. Like those that come to Athletica now tend to be already pretty well -established athletes. And they can really see and feel the value of Athletica to be able to train as they do.

on it and the feedback that they're getting. But we want to continue to broaden that. We want to broaden out into as many sports as we can across the hit science discipline and others. We've built the rowing plans right now, for example, and they're in the back end and being processed. So there's another market, but we're going to continue to do that. I know, Marjaana, you're working on cross -country skiing programs and on and on it goes. So we really want to broaden our reach.

And we don't just, we want to inspire and bring on more people that almost couldn't believe that they could do a 5K even, or a 10K road race, or even an Ironman. We want to inspire them and inspire their own imagination. And because we know that movement is such a fundamental tenant of health. And we want to give that,

to as many people as we can. So yeah, I think, you know, just broaden our reach as big as we can get. And that's for both athletes that wanna be self -coached and coaches that want an assistant. Everyone is of value, but we wanna be there and, you know, really merging the physiology, this whole world of AI, synthesizing the data.

telling people what it actually means and what they should do next, or how they're doing broadly across their week, or how they're tracking and progressing. Or if they become derailed as we all do, like I did this weekend, reminding the person about patience and persistence and that tomorrow's another day and we'll be back at it. So almost being that,

that AI friend along the way to guide them towards optimal health and fitness.

Paul Warloski (38:37)

Can you talk about the progress of Athletica? How is it doing?

Paul Laursen (38:42)

Yeah, yeah, it's amazing. And again, I mentioned this from time to time, but it's like, you know, we were a little while ago, it wasn't that long ago, we were almost thinking of throwing in the towel. So thank goodness that we didn't, spoke to many and they said, oh, a lot of times it is, how long can you kind of hold? And we're so glad that we have, because we've grown in paid subscribers by five times in the last 12 months.

Marjaana Rakai (38:45)

I mentioned this before.

Paul Laursen (39:10)

and by two times in only the last three months. So we just doubled again. Now there are more stats, 40 % of all users that sign up for a two week free trial, they go on to subscribe. And on average, subscribers are staying on for 13 months and they often subscribe again for subsequent race seasons. So yeah, it's looking good right now in these early days, but we want to, you know, we're,

We've got some really exciting movements. We've got Andrea who's taken on more time. We've got Levi Schmidt who's come over from today's plan and he's starting on with our front end. So the front end UIUX is being worked on now. And there's even more things from infrastructure that's gonna bore people to partnerships with large scale race organizations.

a lot of things in the pipeline that are pretty exciting, so stay tuned for us for the future.

Marjaana Rakai (40:18)

So sounds like we all have all these devices and data being thrown at us. So sounds like one part of Athletica's goal is to help athletes and coaches shift through all the information and kind of understand it better and help guide their training decisions.

Paul Laursen (40:41)

Yeah, you said it, Marjaana. And a lot of this actually comes back, if I'm really honest, it comes back to my own problems and my own shortcomings as a coach. I've got a fair bit of experience in this whole area, right? And if there's anyone that should be qualified to be on things and understand things,

Paul Warloski (41:03)


Paul Laursen (41:11)

with their athletes. It should be me, but I fail in that. It's too overwhelming for me. So if it's too overwhelming for me, if I make mistakes far too often with 10, like say I'm coaching 10 or 12 athletes, if I'm making mistakes all the time and missing things all the time, then surely there must be others that are missing things all the time or not optimizing their training or, you know, making a session too hard or too easy for an athlete.

Paul Warloski (41:18)


Paul Laursen (41:40)

And it was really my frustration and my dissatisfaction with my own performance as a coach, my inability to keep up that fueled the development of Athletica to know that there is a need. There must be other people. It can't just be me that has this problem. So that's why, yeah, that's the whole, there's a lot there for the reason why.

there's a need for Athletica because again, we want to synthesize and prioritize the things that either an athlete should be looking at or a coach should be looking at, right? Like it's almost, yeah, it's like it's a triage sort of situation for the coach in that context, right? It's like, well, you guys are both coaches, right? Like you got whatever it is, however many athletes you're coaching, whether it's eight or 20, it's like, what do I do first when I wake up in the morning? Who needs the, who needs the,

my attention first of all. We want to help you with making that decision in terms of a red light, green light, yellow light kind of operation. So I'm going on and on, but that's what we're doing.

Marjaana Rakai (42:47)

Now that's brilliant. That's brilliant because that's why I'm happy that you like, where's the ego in here? I don't see the ego because you like you, you say this was my problem. I can't keep up with all the data that is being, you know, uh, through my way. And I felt the same way. Like I've comfortably felt like I could coach five athletes to the level and quality that I wanted to coach.

And I know coaches that have 30. And I'm like, how do you do that in a way that is personalized and that you give enough, you know, attention to each athlete? So when I started coaching with Athletica, it's, it's been so much easier to have those connections with my athletes. Cause I just can't understand how people can handle all the data.

for 30, 40, 50 athletes at the same time. What would you say is the number one thing that helps athletes and coaches using Athletica instead of just a generic plan from internet?

Paul Laursen (44:00)

to your question? What is Athletica doing that can help with this bottleneck? Well, number one, you just remember you connect your wearable, you just get your athlete to connect their wearable. We're downloading two years of data from your Garmin or Strava. We're assessing your fitness almost instantly. And then we're drawing a line from that, who you are as an individual.

to your race that you plug in your race dates that you want to do. And then we're using just classic sports science, banister, fitness, fatigue modeling to give you a plan that would, you know, that makes sense. That's, you know, booked based on the book. That's pretty, pretty solid. And you're going to get similar sessions that are in there and they're going to move and adapt daily, depending on what you do or what you don't

Marjaana Rakai (44:53)

It's a beautiful thing.

Paul Warloski (44:53)

Paul, you are currently also working with the University of Agder. I think that's how you say it in Norway with Dr. Seiler. What are you working on there?

Paul Laursen (45:00)

Yeah, Agdar, yep, yep.

Yeah, so a lot of things. First of all, we want to recognize this, you know,

both of us recognize that things are changing in our landscape and we're not doing as a sport scientist or a physiologist or a technician, we're not going to be doing the same things that we did back 10 or 20 years ago, at least not the same way because tech is everywhere. Wearables are, there's literally thousands of wearables that are connecting and people want to use them.

Paul Warloski (45:17)

Thank you.

Paul Laursen (45:46)

and it means more and more data. So we need to grow the next generation of sports scientists so that they can be relevant in tomorrow's environment. And that's the big initiative that Stephen and others are leading with a grant application from the EU that Athletica is involved in, where we'll be an industry partner in some of the research that's going on, very similar to

the menstrual cycle study that we've ran. We've done a pilot. We're gonna continue that work. That's with MiraCare Fertility Tracker. So we're looking at female metabolites and hormonal profiles and how that relates to the whole training. But on and on it kind of goes, right? From blood glucose and lactate, continuous lactate monitors to...

you know, shirts like respiration shirts, there's a company called Timeware where you can, you know, you basically get respiration in real time. So this is happening. And it's like, Stephen has kind of said, like, in pulling me on, it's like, and he had to have a bit of a debate with his, you know, his people up there, right? Like, because I've got massive conflict of interest being with Athletica. So, but it's like,

Do you want to be with them or against them? Well, we better, you know, you can't beat them. You got to join them. So that's kind of what Stephen and his team over there. And that's why he's accepted me. And yeah, there's going to be more and more studies that are coming out. Athletica is going to be participating in those types of research endeavors. And that R &D is going to kind of come back to allow us to, that whole, you know,

emphasis that we're making on synthesizing and kind of bringing out what actually matters to the individual.

Paul Warloski (47:48)

Wow, Paul, thank you for the time today. You know, I appreciate all that you have taught me through this podcast, through HIIT Science podcast, through your research, through your writing, through the HIIT Science textbook. Thanks for your time.

Paul Laursen (48:02)

Hey, thanks so much Paul for the amazing job that you do, you know, as our real host that kind of runs the whole process with us here on the Athlete Compass podcast. Marjaana, thank you for being you and the incredible job you do. I really value the both of you guys so much. And thank you all listeners to, cause you guys make Athletica without all of you listening to us and being part of Athletica.

We wouldn't be anything, so appreciate your support and yeah, let's all keep her going.

Marjaana Rakai (48:37)

Let's go team. Thank you.

Paul Warloski (48:41)

That is all for this week. Thank you for listening and join us next week for the Athletes Compass podcast. You can help us by asking your training questions in the comments, liking and sharing the podcast and giving us five star reviews and engaging with us on our social media for Marjaana Rakai and Dr. Paul Laursen. I'm Paul Warloski and this has been the Athletes Compass podcast.

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