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The Art of Recovery—How to Balance Training and Rest with Metrics

Dr. Paul Gastin, Brent Brookwalter, Mac Cassin, Frank Overton, and Armando Mastracci join us to talk about the most important part of training: recovery.

resting in a tree offseason relaxing detraining
Photo: Zhang Kenny

It’s often overlooked. Sometimes forgotten. But it never should be. Recovery is just as important to strong performances as your daily workouts and weekly riding volume.

Our guests today are Dr. Paul Gastin, Brent Bookwalter, Mac Cassin, and Frank Overton. We’ll also hear from Armando Mastracci, the founder of Xert training software, about the potential to use training software to give us clues about our recovery state.

Episode Transcript

Chris Case  00:00

Welcome to Fast Talk the Velonews podcast and everything you need to know to ride like a pro.


Chris Case  00:09

Hello and welcome to Fast Talk. I’m Chris Case managing editor of VeloNews joined as always by my refreshed, relaxed and recovered co host, Coach Trevor Connor.

It’s often overlooked, sometimes forgotten, but it never should be. Recovery is just as important to strong performances as your daily workouts and weekly riding volume. Recovery is the other side of the training balance that we often neglect. That is until we’re in a race, the legs start to feel sluggish, and the field rides away from us – then we start asking what happened. In today’s technology driven training world we have easy access to use tools like power meters to track our performance, but tracking recovery not so easy. What’s lacking is that one clear metric or tool to tell us when we’re fatigued. If you discuss the topic with coaches and elite riders, they’ll each suggest a different way to monitor your recovery. Some will point to objective measurable metrics like resting heart rate, heart rate variability, or blood tests. Others will use more subjective measures: how they feel generally, the soreness they experience when they climb the stairs in the morning, or sometimes how much their family wants to avoid them.

In today’s episode, we delve into the question of recovery metrics, a question that comes from listener Greg Gibson. First we’ll discuss why the balance between training and recovery plays such an important role in performing at our best. That doesn’t mean that being recovered all the time is a good thing. So we’ll first address the difference between overtraining and functional overreaching. Next we’ll discuss a recent review comparing subjective metrics to objective metrics of recovery. If you think that a blood test or heart rate measure is necessarily better than answering a few questions every morning about how you feel, think again. In either case, we’ll look at some of the tools for monitoring recovery, including tests like the POMS questionnaire of mood, and the so called RESQ scale. That’s R-E-S-Q scale, as well as heart rate variability. Finally, we’ll hear from several coaches and athletes about what they feel works best when it comes to monitoring recovery.

Our guest today is Dr. Paul Gaston, a professor at the Center for exercise and Sports Science at Deakin University in Australia. Dr. Gaston has spent over a decade working with coaches and athletes in the field. He’s particularly interested in how to best measure recovery outside of the lab and has written an influential review paper on the subject. Our other guests include veteran pro Brent Bookwalter, with BMC racing. Here’s a shameless plug for Brent: While Brent still races full time he also now organizes a charity granfondo in Nashville called the Bookwalter Binge. If you’re interested in riding, chatting with a few pros, maybe asking them some questions about how they recover and how they measure their recovery, check it out. We’re also joined by two excellent coaches here in Boulder, Mac Cassin with Apex coaching and Fast Talk regular Frank Overton, owner of Fast Cat Coaching. We’ll also hear from Armando Mastracci, the founder of Xert training software about the potential to use training software to give us clues about a recovery state. And finally, we’ll get a more medical opinion of recovery from head physician at University of Colorado Sports Medicine and Performance Center, Dr. Jason Glowney.

All that more in this episode of Fast Talk. So sit back, relax, let all those training miles soak in. Let’s make you fast.


Importance of Recovery

Chris Case  03:41

Alright, Trevor, let’s start with an overview of the importance of recovery.


Trevor Connor  03:46

So I’ve said it before this, and I’m gonna stand by this, even though I’m going to get myself in trouble: There is no such thing as too much recovery. And I’m certain somebody out there is now going to spend two months sitting on the couch, never ride their bike and go, “I’m very recovered. Why am I not performing?” Well, so maybe I should put a little qualifier on that statement, but let me explain why recovery is really, really important. We’ve said this before, I will say it probably many times again, but remember that training does damage to your body and it’s good damage, you want that damage. Because what happens is your body says I don’t like that I wasn’t able to handle that so now I’m going to do what it takes to repair that damage. But not only just repair that damage, but rebuild you better and stronger. So the next time you do this to me, I can handle it. The thing is that repair work doesn’t happen when you’re out on the bike, that repair work happens when you recover. So if all you’re ever doing is damaging your muscles, damaging your body, and you don’t give it the time it needs to recover, you’re going to get weaker, you’re going to get slower, you’re not going to get faster. Too many athletes get really really worried about taking time off, getting off the bike, resting. You know, I find it funny that I just did some interviews with a couple top pros and said, “Yeah, I like having a couple times a year where I go and sit on a beach and I don’t even take my bike with me for a week in the middle of the season.” Because they know that’s what gets them through the season. And they know that if they time their training right, they can even get stronger.


Chris Case  05:22

What a life those guys have taking weeks off to go to the beach without your bike and then coming back and racing around the world.


Trevor Connor  05:30

Even better, they get to spend months just absolutely ripping themselves on the bike – it’s more fun than that.


Chris Case  05:35

This is true. We should emphasize that today we’re going to talk metrics, but we’re not really going to talk about how to recover. That is for a different podcast-


Trevor Connor  05:47



Chris Case  05:50

That is how you do it, it’s pretty easy. We’re just going to have a podcast where we say “sleep”.


Trevor Connor  05:55

We are just gonna play some nice music for an hour.


Chris Case  06:00

Pa, pa pa pa pa pa…


Trevor Connor  06:05

So we had a Facebook Live session where somebody did ask us about that, they said, “Oh, yeah, I need to recover. And I don’t want to just sleep all the time. So what’s some active recovery that we can do?” And really honestly, not everything needs to be structured.


Chris Case  06:23

I got it: you sleep, but you dream about doing more bike riding, there you go. That’s your active recovery.


Trevor Connor  06:31

We will have to do a podcast at some point on techniques for recovery. But really, our bodies are amazing at it. Give them the fuel they need, get out of the way, let them recover, rest.


Chris Case  06:42


Stress is stress

Trevor Connor  06:44

Another really important thing to remember about recovery is – well, this isn’t true for training. This is very true for recovery. Stress is stress. So when you are doing damage to your body, that is stress. But when you’re not sleeping well at night, that is stress. When work is beating you up, that is stress – and all of them affect your recovery. So don’t say “Hey, well, I had this week where work was killing me. The kids were sick, so I was up all night with them. I had all these errands to run, all these different things were happening, but only trained six hours so it was a recovery week.” No it all adds up. And if it was a really hard week on you at work or school or at home, that affects your recovery. So it was not a restful week.


Chris Case  07:28

I think it’s you shouldn’t think of all stresses as good stress, though, either like there’s training stress, which is what you want. And then there’s family stress and work stress. And you can’t think of that as productive types of stress. So…


Trevor Connor  07:42

No, that’s why I say stress is stress only when it comes to recovery, right? Not the training. That’s a fantastic point. And when athletes complain that, “Hey, I only seem to be able to handle six, seven hours on the bike, and then I’m beat up, what’s wrong with me?” Look at what all the other stress is in your life. Because likely you have a lot of other things that are going on and you really only have the bandwidth to handle six, seven hours on the bike. If you’re sitting in Hawaii with nothing to do, I promise you, you’ll be able to train 20 hours and feel great by the end of it. Most of us don’t have that luxury.


Chris Case  08:13

So Trevor, you’ve mentioned the fact that you need to do some damage sometimes and then recover to get the adaptation you’re looking for.

Fatigue is Not Always a Bad Thing

Trevor Connor  08:21

Right. So that’s a great point, Chris. There are two sides of this equation. If all you’re ever doing is recovering, you’re not going to be fast on on the bike either. So there is a point where you have to do some damage. So fatigue is not a bad thing. If fatigue is controlled, especially if it’s planned out. And then it’s followed by recovery to allow you to adapt, that’s how you’re going to hit your highest levels. But you do need to have those times where you push yourself or you dig yourself a little bit deep.

Often in the literature, they have two different terms; they have what’s called overreaching and overtraining. Overtraining is something you want to avoid, that’s when you’ve dug really deep, and you’re looking at weeks to months before you can get back to normal levels. Overreach isn’t as severe. And some people see it as a continuum, where overreach is the first step and that leads to overtraining. There was a great study, which we’ll put in our references, that said, “Actually, there’s no evidence of a continuum, that they might actually be two completely separate things.” But overreaching can often be functional, meaning it’s an intentional fatigue with some similar symptoms to overtraining. But if you stop yourself soon enough, and give yourself that recovery, it’s going to lead to those great adaptations. So that’s the idea behind going into a big training camp or doing a week where you really beat yourself up. You are going to overreach, you’re going to be fatigued and slower at the end of it, but hopefully then you get that bump.


Overreaching vs. Overtraining

Chris Case  09:46

Okay, Trevor, so how do you tell the difference between overreaching and overtraining?


Trevor Connor  09:50

So I think that is really the question of this podcast. And in my case, Chris, it’s usually when you see me two, three minutes behind you on a climb, looking like I’m falling off my bike and complaining about how miserable I feel. Yeah, I’m probably very overreached.


Chris Case  10:07

Mm hmm. I mean, sometimes, but sometimes I just drop you.


Trevor Connor  10:13

Well, yeah. Have I ever dropped you on a climb?


Chris Case  10:18

Probably 15,000 feet into a seven hour ride. That’s when you’re kicking my butt.


Trevor Connor  10:26

I did do that last year, we just kept hitting hills until you finally got too tired to keep up.


Chris Case  10:29

Yeah. Well, you know, I have a child now. So I don’t have all day to ride.


Trevor Connor  10:33

Yeah, excuses. excuses.


Chris Case  10:37

Anika needs me.


Trevor Connor  10:40

Yeah, so that’s really the question of this podcast: How do you know from those metrics when you are dealing with good functional fatigue? And when you are starting to push overtraining and need to stop?


Chris Case  10:52

Yes. And we’ve kind of been ignoring Dr. Gaston, but he is a leading expert in this. So let’s get him to help us understand this really important topic.


Trevor Connor  11:05

So why don’t we start right there; in a big picture, one minute, two minute, what’s the key to balancing training and recovery?


Dr. Gastin’s Thoughts on Balanced Training and Recovery

Dr. Paul Gastin  11:15

While the objective obviously is to improve and adapt, so we need to get our training loads, right and that’s not always an easy thing to do. We know that too little load is not appropriate or different for performance, or we also know for injury, we also know that too great a load results in under performance, and you start to get symptoms of illness, under recovery, and often injury as well. So what we’re really looking for is this sweet spot within our training. We need variety in our training, we need to be quite cyclical in how we do it. Sometimes I think particularly in an endurance sport athletes, that almost training becomes the goal and it’s about how many kilometers and how far I’ve gone. Whereas what we’re really looking for is adaptation, and ultimately, improved performance. So it’s working towards that and knowing when to be able to back off, knowing when to push hard. You know, you’re not going to adapt, unless you do train hard, but training hard the whole time is gonna result in stagnation, under performance, and probably illness and injury.


Trevor Connor  12:23

Agreed. One of the things I always tell the athletes that I coach is be as intense in your recovery as you are in your training. If you train that much harder, you got to make sure your recovery is that much better.


Dr. Paul Gastin  12:34

Most definitely. You know, Michael Kellmann who’s done a lot of work in the subjective areas of self reports, he’s got a really nice model. I think he calls it the Season Model. It’s the balance between you’re able to continue to increase your load if you’re able to continue to increase your recovery and maintain that balance. As soon as it gets out of balance, then that’s when you’re likely to struggle, that’s going to be very different for different individuals; you know, your training history, the age of the athlete, the modalities of exercise that you’re doing, there’s a whole host of things that will actually influence that.

Subjective vs. Objective Metrics

Trevor Connor  13:14

Looking at this study you did, and the differences between subjective and objective metrics, it sounds like one of the biggest conclusions was that subjective metrics are a bit more sensitive. Could you give us sort of an overview of the two the two types of metrics?


Dr. Paul Gastin  13:31

Yeah, most definitely. So what we did, what our interest was in, was athlete performance management. And in particular, athlete monitoring. Historically, the physiological and objective measures are very strong in the literature. But there’s really good support for self report measures – but much of it, much of the literature, is actually in laboratory environments. So our interest is, as I’m sure is the case with your listeners, about being applied into their training out of the field. So what we did is we did a systematic review, where we were looking for studies that had both concurrent, objective, and subjective measures. So there’s a whole body of literature in the objective measures, there’s a whole body of literature on the subject images, but we needed to be to be able to answer a question as to which was most sensitive. We needed studies that actually had data on the children being collected at the same time. And they needed to be in the field. So they couldn’t be in a laboratory setting where there was changes in load, either an increase in load or a decrease in load. So that was really looking at acute changes. And then serial monitoring over a longer term which allowed us to look at the sensitivity of these measures in more chronic training. So the measures that emerged out of the review there are in the endocrine and hormonal measures, so things like cortisol, testosterone, epinephrine and norepinephrine Growth hormone insulin like growth factors. So that was some of the endocrine hormonal measures, some blood measures, blood cell counts, inadequates hemoglobins some markers, blood markers that were related to the immune system in leukocytes and immunoglobulins were to name a few inflammation and muscle damage. So quite a few in the physiological area of the object area. So any markers of inflammation or muscle damage TNF alpha and you know, things of measures of oxidative stress creatine kinase was in there, which is one of the objective measures that has some sensitivity, the classic physiological measures, you know, lactate and then moving into your heart rate measures of you know, heart rate vs. wrist heart rate variability, highlight maximum heart rate recovery, the ISO max as a performance metric. And then finally, your true performance measures both either a short performance, or sustained performance.


Trevor Connor  15:56

So these are all the things that most cyclists would think, “Wow, this is for Olympians.” This is really sophisticated metrics, they’d be able to tell everything about you. And when they’re hearing about creatine, kinase, and heart rate variability, and all these different metrics it’s pretty heavy stuff.


Dr. Paul Gastin  16:11

And a lot of it is laboratory or if you are measuring it in the field, you do need to take some sophisticated equipment out into the field. And probably the other consideration around this is that it’s invasive. You know, most of them are blood related majors. Some of them can be taken with saliva, but you know, that’s not for your sample lead, or your recreational endurance athlete, or even, you know, those that are elite athletes, but just in terms of convenience and cost and availability.


Trevor Connor  16:42

But then you are comparing these to subjective measures, which are really almost mood states, right?


Dr. Paul Gastin  16:49

Yeah most definitely. So again, there’s probably a suite of types of niches. So, mood states profile of mood, mood state is a very well known and regarded media. I mentioned Michael Kellmann earlier, you know, his RESQ, that looks at stress and recovery from a 76 item questionnaire, things related to anxiety. There’s another metric that looks at the daily life demands of athletes. It’s called Delta. And then another one we looked at was a multicomponent distress scale, which is at fewer items, but actually looks at you know, three or four different aspects of self report measures.


Trevor Connor  17:32

These are essentially questionnaires getting at what’s going on in your life. How are you feeling? How stressed do you feel? How tired do you feel? This is certainly not anything like the objective measures where you’re taking blood, and as you said, being quite invasive and quite sophisticated on the road?


Dr. Paul Gastin  17:49

Yeah, and, you know, for many, it can be difficult to get your head around this, you know, why are these actually able to be more sensitive and more consistent. So what we found overwhelmingly, the subjective measures were more consistent in their ability to pick up changes that are more sensitive, they provided earlier warning signs, many of the objective measures, were probably you know, better at chronic changes. But that probably changes when you’re really reaching into overtraining. But what athlete monitoring is all about and training prescription is all about is being able to plan on the longer term. But then almost on a daily basis, be able to modify that and tweak that. So you really need these very regular serial measures, and insights that can guide your practice, questionnaires, diaries… there also what we didn’t do in this particular piece of work is we only looked at self report measures that were well validated in the literature. But there’s a whole other suite of – and more of our recent work is supporting this – is a whole other suite in the applied environment whereby some self report measures are much more practically based and perhaps diary like information.


Trevor Connor  19:13

What I find is really interesting is I had a talk with a coach here in Colorado who I have a lot of respect for and we were both talking about with our athletes, we pretty much demand that they give descriptions of their rides, and you can pick up from their descriptions of their rides when they’re starting to push fatigue, when they’re starting to burn out much quicker than any numbers going to show you because their descriptions start getting a little more negative, they start talking a little bit more about mood and lack of motivation. And so you can actually see that, that subjective description before you can see it anywhere else and it seems like that’s not nearly as scientific but it matches up with what you’re saying that these mood states really pick up on it much quicker.


Dr. Paul Gastin  19:56

The great coaches, the really experienced great coaches, will be able to tell you that though. They’ll sense it in all sorts of things in conversations, in facial expressions, in body language, demeanor, engagement, they’ll know. They have a really good sense of where their athletes are at. I think much of where we’re trying to go with this is how can we help others with less experience or still learning, or at a different level, how they can learn from that. So much of this is about education. In early days, we used to do a lot of work with heart rate, wearing heart rate monitors, to have a really good sense of how you’re responding to different types of exercises and different challenges. But then we used to play these games, okay, now we need to get rid of the heart rate monitors, and you need to tell us what you’re actually doing and where you’re responding. So you’re almost training the athlete to self regulate, and to have a really good sense of how they’re responding.

Acute vs. Chronic Fatigue

Trevor Connor  20:56

So you mentioned in the study, one of the things that the subjective measures could do that you really couldn’t do it, the objective is differentiate acute fatigue from chronic fatigue. And it seems like that’s important, because if my understanding is correct, acute fatigue is something you want some of the times, that’s when you do a big hard training block, and you’re a little tired from it. And now you need to rest where the chronic fatigue is, when you’re starting to push that overreach and potentially that overtraining, and it can get into trouble is that, am I reading this right? Is that what you were seeing? And how does it differentiate?


Dr. Paul Gastin  21:30

Trevor was spot on, the nature of the psychological majors is that we’re very sensitive to those early acute changes. And they continue to be sensitive as it moves into more chronic training, which is really where we want to go because as an athlete, as a coach, you might have significant blocks of training, hard training is important. It might be a week, it might be two weeks, might be three weeks, will be longer than that, you know, we have to be mindful of how we balance that load and recovery scenario. Whereas the objective measures acutely will change, there’s no doubt about that. There’s great literature about that. It’s whether they’re sensitive to continue training, and whether they are sensitive enough and taken frequently enough to give you feedback, where you can actually make some changes to your training and your prescription. Taking a blood measure on a daily basis is not going to occur, whereas being able to say how are you feeling, what are your subjective measures, self reports, your questioniares your surveys, your diaries, that’s actually going to give you meaningful information daily. And what I’m equally/increasingly interested in is, how can we take regular, very regular, measures in a really convenient way where we’re not challenged by compliance. It doesn’t become too onerous, too much of an effort. But we can really leverage the fact that we’ve just got almost daily information, and we can start to look at trends, look at responses, compare one cycle to another, one year to another, and progressing along those lines.


Trevor Connor  23:13

Dr. Garrison spent over a decade working with professional athletes and coaches and it shows because he recognizes that some of these objective measures may be effective, but not if it’s difficult to track them. Case in point, we talked with veteran pro Brent Bookwalter, a world tour rider with BMC, about how he tracks his recovery, how he knows when to pull the plug, and what’s different about pros. As you’ll see, he favored more subjective measures that he could monitor day to day.


Brent Bookwalter and How He Tracks Recovery

Brent Bookwalter  23:40

Yes, I’ve noticed there’s a lot of systems now that are tracking recoveries for heart rate variability, or other parameters that are just entered in from the user. And I’ve never consistently used any of those things. For me, you know, I definitely am a big advocate of keeping a training journal and keeping notes and having some consistency in those. And I think that consistency is key, it doesn’t really do any good to have two weeks of the year where it’s super detailed, where you write two pages, but then the rest of the year, you don’t have anything. So I think finding a journaling training log method that’s sustainable and realistic to keep through the year. I think that can go a long way. That’s been helpful for me in managing day to day recovery, but also looking at similar or different training blocks, week to week, month to month, through the season from year to year, even past that. Yeah, I mean, sometimes I’ll chart my resting heart rate, waking heart rate, and then you know, just looking at heart rate to power when I’m out on the bike. But I think the biggest thing is just being intuitive and perceptive of my physical state, how I feel physically, but then also mentally, trying to be honest with how I feel mentally and even relying on some input and feedback from those close to me, whether it’s my wife or my friends. I think those people that are with us they can know if we do it long enough, you can start to see some patterns. And they can tell you like, “Wow, you know, you’re really due for a rest week”or “Gosh, like you’re coming in a good form now I can tell you’re firing, you’re getting sharp, like you’re in a good place. you’re peaceful, you’re zened out.” I try to rely on all this.


Trevor Connor  25:18

How do you know, when you’re going out for a ride, how do you know when to say it’s not in me today I’m going home?


Brent Bookwalter  25:27

Yeah, I think I definitely look at the power numbers, the heart rate numbers, and then I think being on the same page with my coach about sort of an expectation of how difficult the session should be, is this a, I have to feel good the whole ride kind of ride or is this, this is going to be uncomfortable, but I’m going to get through it, or is this, you’re going to feel like shit, and you just got to dig deep and suffer through it and push all the way to the end? And I think most of the majority of the training falls into that middle section. But I think having a good expectation and plan with my coach about knowing what is the anticipated sort of feeling out there and challenge is really valuable when deciding whether to fold within or not.


Trevor Connor  26:13

Any others suggestions or advice for listeners in terms of knowing where their recoveries at or knowing when they need rest and when they’ve had enough rest?


Brent Bookwalter  26:26

When I look at myself and what I do and how I’m racing, you know, we are racing through some pretty deep fatigue zones in these races, and our bodies compensate accordingly. And that’s partly what I think allows a professional rider to gain that added layer of depth. But I think for the general public that people who aren’t able to have training be their life and their main priority during their day, I think, a little more moderation and caution is always, for me, it is the prescription to hand out sort of the when in doubt, leave it out. I can really focus a lot of energy in my day, if I need to on recovery. There’s a big difference between doing a big session or a big weekend, coming back and laying on the couch and just really laying low and feeding myself properly compared to the days when I have to finish those sessions and I’m running to Home Depot and working on some projects around the house and then cooking dinner and having people over and staying moving. So I think being really cognizant of what life outside the bike is going to throw your way and make sure to factor that into the recovery from whatever you’re doing is really important. And if you’re not sure, you know, you can always add training on later, but it’s hard to pull yourself out of a hole if you let yourself slip too deep.

Subjective Questionnaires

Trevor Connor  27:39

It’s great advice. Let’s get back to our discussion with Dr. Gaston and subjective questionnaires that may allow easy and effective monitoring of your recovery.


Trevor Connor  27:47

With these questionnaires, are they meant to be taken daily or pre and post ride, what was the best methods for using the questionnaires?


Dr. Paul Gastin  27:57

Different questionnaires will have different approaches and what they’re actually trying to get at and why they’re trying to get it. Most of the validated ones that have been around the ledger for some time, large number of items, and done less frequently weekly would probably be as good as you get, I would have thought with many of these majors. You know, RESQ for example, as you know, is a 76 item questionnaire – you’re not going to do that on a regular basis. There are versions of the surveys that are becoming much shorter and designed for very regular measurement. So there’s a new one out called the Short Stress Recovery Scale, which I think is about an eight item survey. So a lot of these things are starting to appear on smartphones, very, very easy. You’ve come back, you asked about when you do them, different variations, when they need to be done; They need to be done with a consistent time each day. That’s really important. Often either at the end of the day or first thing in the morning, are good times to do them. Where it’s consistently placed, either before training, before you start your training day or at the end of the training day where you’ve done your training and you’re looking at how you’re feeling and how you’re responding. Some of the more useful questionnaires I’ve got are a combination of mood, stress, fatigue measures. And then there’s also some physical symptoms: Do you have pain? Are you sore/measures of muscle soreness? So there’s a combination. Sleep can feature in many of these.


Trevor Connor  29:33

So if you’re going to pick a couple, that would be a good starting point. I mean, POMS keeps coming up, and that one seems to be kind of a 5-10 minute test are somewhat manageable. Are there other ones that you’d recommend to the listeners to try if they were going to pick one?


Dr. Paul Gastin  29:47

The POMS is focused on mood, whereas some of the some of the others have been more specifically designed for sport. So the Short Stress Recovery Scale which is a new scale, it’s from Michael Kellmann’s group, I’ve mentioned Michael a couple of times as well with looking at Lauano Maine who’s a colleague here on the route review that we did. And actually, I should mention that the review that we did was out of Anna Soul’s PHD and she’s really progressed, this self report work and athlete monitoring work considerably. But Lauano Maine, one of her majors is actually a multicomponent training, distress style. And that’s got 22 items. And that’s a really good one to probably do on a weekly basis. So there are a couple of ones.

Objective Metrics

Chris Case  30:31

So let’s get into the specifics of objective metrics. And maybe you could walk us through some of the pros and cons and how best to apply them for individual athletes. Maybe we start with some of the autonomic measures like heart rate variability.


Dr. Paul Gastin  30:45

Yeah, I think it’s a really important question. Because ultimately, our recommendations are that there’s a suite of measures that athletes and coaches might use that it’s not just you know, we’re not coming from a perspective of subjective is good this is where you need to go. It’s we’ve identified that they’re sensitive and consistent, but I think adding in the suite of monitoring your objective measures becomes really important.

Heart Rate Variability

So we talked earlier about some of the blemishes and the impracticalities of those, whereas heart rate measures have potentially some really good utility, the autonomic nervous system, so it’s really about control of our cardiac respiratory responses. So involuntary nervous system becomes really important. And with our heart rate measures, we’ve got a constant play off between our parasympathetic system and our sympathetic system. So you know, the sympathetic system really drives our increase in heart rate to increase in blood pressure, and it’s in response to exercise. Where is at that wrist, our sympathetic system is really trying to tone everything down and get back to a baseline risk recovery, our parasympathetic system. So it’s really trying to come back to a resting recovery situation. So some of these heart rate measures, tap into that balance.

So probably the three heart rate measures, heart rate variability, which really looks at the distance between each heart rate, each beat to beat, and then tracking that over a series of time and we actually find, surprisingly, sometimes it can be a little bit counterintuitive. Good heart rate variability where there is reasonable variability between beat to beat generally reflects rest and recovery and not in a state of stress or anxiety. Whereas when we start to be fatigued, maybe starting moving to overreaching, our heart rate variability becomes less, I guess, decrease, so we get a very consistent or much more consistent beat to beat time interval. So there are measures out there that are looking to try and mathematically analyze that and provide some feedback to athletes. So that’s, heart rate variability.

Heart Rate Recovery

A couple of the other measures that I use heart rate recovery. So what’s actually happening as soon as if you cease a constant load of exercise, so a constant intensity of exercise, and then you stop is how quickly your heart rate will actually recover back down to baseline levels. And again, there are reports that suggest that a more responsive system in a state of rest and recovery, the heart rate will come down much faster. If you’re more chronically stressed or fatigued that heart rate recovery is going to be delayed.

Heart Rate Kinetics

And then the other one that’s starting to see a little bit of attention in the literature is heart rate kinetics at the start of exercise. So how quickly the heart rate goes, from a resting situation, up to a steady state level. The thing with heart rate recovery and heart rate kinetics is that you need to do a consistent bout of exercise. So it almost becomes a mini test, either in the laboratory or in the field, you know, you have to ride or run at a very controlled pace, to to be able to consistently measure what’s happening with your heart rate on kinetics or your heart rate off kinetics, whereas the right value and the potential and heart rate variability is it’s actually measured at rest. And typically, it’s measured first thing in the morning while you’re lying down and immediately on waking.

How To Factor Fitness Improvement into Objective Metrics

Trevor Connor  34:46

You’re also going to have a bit of a training effect where as you get fitter, you’re going to see a more responsive heart rate at the start of exercise and at the end of an effort. So you need to differentiate that long term improvement of fitness from trying to figure out what’s going on with fatigue?


Dr. Paul Gastin  35:04

Yeah, most definitely, I knew of an athlete as a triathlete who freeze long ride or his daily ride, he lived near a hill, to actually the root of his ride, he had to get off this very consistent, long, steady hill. And he used to use his heart rate response, going up that hill to decide whether to actually do the training session as planned, or whether he makes some modifications to it, or whether he should simply turn around and go home.


Trevor Connor  35:34

That’s a great idea. With the heart rate variability, I know, there’s a lot of different ways of doing it. I know the most common, I’m not going to try to give the long form of this, but they are SSD. In any particular technique that you find more effective than the other. Do you agree with this? Take it supine, and then standing? Or how do you how would you recommend approaching it.


Dr. Paul Gastin  35:59

I don’t have a lot of practical experience with it other than you know, a little bit that I’ve read in the literature, you write about the power in SSD, that’s probably the most appropriate one. There is a recent recent paper out that looked at the lead rows, who would championship rows is effectively a case study of four rows. And they indicated that resting heart rate was important. And the individual responses in these athletes was quite important. So two athletes had very suppressed resting heart rates are really strong, you know, vagal, parasitic, parasitic tone, and they responded differently. And the data suggests that you almost needed to look at a couple of metrics within the suite of heart rate variability, rather than just a single metric.


Trevor Connor  36:53

I’m very interested in heart rate variability, I tried to read some of the research on it. And really what I was hearing is, there’s something to this, we can definitely find indicators of people’s recovery level that we’re still in the early days of figuring out exactly how to best measure it.


Dr. Paul Gastin  37:11

And intuitively, I think it has lots of upside, because it’s a resting measure. And it can be taken relatively easily, not necessarily with you know, really sophisticated equipment, you know, technology that likely to be used for other purposes for the athlete, ie, you know, training and not right measurement, whatever it might be. So very feasible, very practical.

Mac Cassin and Frank Overton’s Use of Objective and Subjective Metrics When Coaching

Trevor Connor  37:35

We were able to ask two top coaches, Mac Cassin, with Apex coaching, and Frank Overton, owner of Fast Cat Coaching, about their thoughts on objective versus subjective metrics. As experienced coaches, they certainly emphasize the importance of listening to your body. But they had an interesting point that the objective measures can help you pay better attention to your recovery or make you a little obsessive.

How do you have your athletes monitor their recovery? Are there metrics? Is it feel? What are what are your techniques?

Mac Cassin 38:07
Pretty much 100% feel for all the athletes I work with. At the end of the day, if you wake up and you feel good, and your Garmin is telling you, you need another 48 hours of recovery, start your workout, and if you feel fine, then keep going with it. I think people get overly obsessed with numbers in a certain interval set. People also get obsessed with their training plan, they see this is the workout I have to do today, and so then they just kind of dig their head in and kind of ignore how they feel. So one of the most important things I always stress with my athletes is just listen to your body. And if you’re tired, you’re tired for reason. You got three hours of sleep last night? Okay, you need to take that into consideration. But I just don’t think that those metrics are accurate enough to just forgo listening to your own body and just listen to what wearable technology stuff tells you to do. I don’t think that there’s enough information there to individualize that to where you should override your own personal feeling on that day.

Trevor Connor 39:12
Frank, how do you feel?

Frank Overton 39:14
I coach recovery techniques, the fundamental sleep, rest, nutrition, well designed training plan… There is a new device that I’ve been using and recommend my athletes use, it’s called a Whoop. And it’s a wearable that is like a combination heartrate monitor and Fitbit, and it produces a recovery score. And so you wake up in the morning, you look at your Whoop, and it gives you a recovery score. And if you’re 80% you’re going to be good to go, but if you know if you got three hours of sleep, your Whoop score is going to be low. If your heart rate is elevated in the morning from past training, that’s going to factor into your Whoop score. And if they’ve got a really nice app and user interface and athletes will use their Whoop score to gauge how well they’re doing at getting good sleep, recovering, it’ll even divvy out your REM sleep and your restless sleep, it’ll tell you how many times you’ve been restless in the night, if you got up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, or if you laid in bed for an hour and a half before you actually fell asleep – things like that. If you drink alcohol the night before, it’ll affect your sleep, and the Whoop score can capture that. So it teaches athletes a lot about their bodies, and how to optimize their recovery from just their lifestyle.

Trevor Connor 40:38
Have you found it’s pretty accurate or works well with your athletes?

Frank Overton 40:42
You know…I don’t know, if there’s enough science out there about that. I mean, you can’t say “Oh it’s plus or minus 1.5%.” I think the value of the Whoop is it gets athletes to start thinking about going to bed early, eating better nutrition, maybe drinking less alcohol if they’re doing that, maybe doing a better job actually sleeping like pulling the blinds or getting a noisemaker to drown out the noise from the city, or just looking at what their quality of sleep is. Because, you know, sleep is so important. I mean why are you only getting five hours of sleep a night? Shut off your computer, go to bed early, get a better bedtime routine. I like it because it teaches athletes. They’re the ones that come back to me and are like “Oh my Whoop score was low and I didn’t feel so hot on the workout today.” And it kind of correlates to well, you got a poor night’s sleep. And that’s that common sense. But it’s a number that’ thought provoking for the athletes.

Mac Cassin 41:51
I think one thing with some athletes can get pretty neurotic. And again, you know, there can be an over emphasis on numbers. And I know that one team I had specifically, like, you can tell he would take his recovery metric really seriously like, “Oh, well, I’m pretty wrecked. So I’m not going to go on the group ride with you guys today.” Well, did you feel bad? Or are you seeing a number that says you should feel bad and now you feel bad? And at the same time there are phases in a training cycle where you should wake up and you should feel tired and beat up and you should go out and ride your bike. And so there needs to be – I don’t know about that specific Whoop, but there needs to be some correlation of, “Okay, if this is a workout you’re doing, then a score of 60 is fine. But if you’re doing some other workout and the score is 60 means don’t do it.”

Frank Overton 42:45
Yeah, there’s times where you got dig in and follow the plan independent of Whoop. Like, we expect you to be knackered.

Trevor Connor 42:52
I fell into that trap with the resting heart rate about 15 years ago, when I was taking it every morning, started getting nervous about what my resting heart rate was gonna be so every morning I woke up, it’s higher, it’s higher, it’s higher. And I’m like starting to have panic attacks over this rising heart rate and thinking I’m burning out like “No, I’m just stressed about my heart rate.

Chris Case 43:11
That says something about your psychology.

Frank Overton 43:16
I sent this like protocol to get my resting heart rate where, because I noticed if I moved to get up, to look, it would go up. So I had this, like, I put the heart monitor on the night table, so I didn’t even have to move – all you have to do is open your eyes and then it would be as low as possible. So that’s entirely neurotic.

Are there any products that help measure heart rate variability?

Chris Case 43:34
Are there any products that are useful here, for example, Whoop, I’m not sure if you’ve heard of that, or have any experience with that. But any products that do a good job of measuring or detecting heart rate variability?

Dr. Paul Gastin 43:50
There’s a lot on the market and they’re increasingly becoming on the market. On one end, you’ve got your large companies that had good historical work in this space, Paula, Firstbeat. And then more newer entrances to the market probably did a lot of things like you know, Iathlete or Sweep Beat, Elite Power, Right Variability…. So they’re range out there.

Dr. Paul Gastin 44:15
What’s hard to determine sometimes is the validity and the right reliability and the robustness of these measures. You know, you beat companies that have been progressing for a period of time, usually they’re big kid is is more validated, and it’s at a higher price points. So certainly consumers need to be really careful and mindful of how reliable and how useful the information is. And over time, the scientists and those out in the field will start to investigate these and publish data on you know, which ones are are better than others.

Trevor Connor 44:48
And that’s why we were specifically asking about the Whoop because the listener who sent us the question that sparked this podcast, specifically asked about it. It’s a wrist strap that claims to measure your heart rate variability 24/7 and it also claims to measure your sleep quality, which I imagine you would say, “Well, if it’s if it’s accurate, that would be amazing.” But I had a feeling that was going to be a response of “Well, how do we know the accuracy of this?”

Dr. Paul Gastin 45:18
Commercially and internationally, there’s a lot of work going into this space, wearables in particular are a huge market. Wrist-worn wearables, in particular, because of the practicality certainly are hot, right? Major from a wrist-worn sensor is not going to match the accuracy and the reliability of a chest strap. Many of your wrist-worn watches are also compatible with your chest straps, you know, your Garmin, that they do that, so you can get good, reliable, objective data. But I have no doubt that the wrist-worn wearables and more consumer products will continue to get better, as you know, research and innovation continues.

Dr. Paul Gastin 46:04
But what’s really important, I think, for the listener or the consumer is that they try and do their due diligence, and in many respects, it’s trial and error. It’s, you know, doing your own pseudo science and trying to control what’s going on, trying to interpret, get a sense whether you’re getting outliers or results, that are just out there, you know, you can’t explain and you don’t know why, and you think it’s probably more likely to be the technology than what’s actually going on. The value of the serial monitoring daily, and that’s the great, advantage of these things, is that you can look at your serial trends so you can almost accept, you know, an outlier, that you can’t really explain. But if you’ve got a consistent trend downwards, or you know, a spike upwards, that’s related to something, then that can actually tell you some really meaningful information.

Trevor Connor 46:57
So look for the trends.

Dr. Paul Gastin 46:58
So some of my advice, I think is, you know, we’re all different, we’re responding in very individual ways and that can be hard to capture in the literature. I think regular monitoring is really, really important. And doing that, and being able to document and record – and again, the nice part about these individual consumer products is that they cloud base, they go up, they can have nice interfaces, where they’re logging this information. The continued education and almost self regulation is a journey, it’s learning, it’s experimenting, it’s really trying to understand your body and how you respond to training. And being smart about managing your load, and why you’re training – some of the early comments were about avoiding overtraining and training hard is important but that needs to be balanced with recovery at various times, both in the short term and in the long term. So how do you get that balance right, and I think part of that is actually you planning, you project, but then you use these types of measures, both objective and subjective to regulate and refine what you’re doing in the shorter time span.

Training Software with Armando Mastracci

Trevor Connor 48:07
One of the product that helps to track both training, load and recovery is training software itself. Most packages have some variation of the performance manager chart. The traditional chart developed by Dr. Andrew Coggan and Hunter Allen has a chronic training load and acute training load and a training stress balance or TSB. Theoretically, TSB indicates when you’re pushing fatigue. We talked with Armando Mastracci, founder of Exert Training Software about how objectively the software can tell when you need rest. It seems what data you are able to collect is a big part of the answer.

Armando Mastracci 48:42
Well, I believe that, up until this point, a lot of the coaches and more enthusiasts have been using the existing metrics, and trying to interpret them to understand how much acute training load and chronic training load, and try to understand what kind of recovery demands they might have as a result of those. But it requires lots of interpretation. And part of that is because of the differences that you’re going to see in results from individual to individual.

Armando Mastracci 49:11
We can start to identify recovery in a more generalized way. So the user, the athlete doesn’t necessarily need to understand all of the ways and how to interpret the numbers, we now interpret them for the user. So one of the things you’ll notice within the software is that when you first log in, you’ll see a number of stars on your screen, we call it training status. And what we do is we combine two dimensions that you would normally get from your PMC or in our case, what’s called the XPMC, which is your chronic training load and acute training load is an interpretation of that information for you automatically. So we show you essentially what your training load is we show you rather than as a number, we give you a star. So people talk about “I want to get to my third star. I want to get to my fourth star,” and all that really means is that they want to accumulate more training load. And so we give them stars so it becomes more motivational rather than chasing a number is to say, “Okay, I’m chasing a certain level,” right? And we associate level three as being a competitive athlete, where you get to reach a certain level of training load.

Armando Mastracci 50:15
So you’ll see that with a number of stars, but then we color code the stars as well, to let you know what’s the software, what’s the data showing about how you should be feeling. So if you just came off big, multiple rides over the weekend, they’ll turn red, right? It’ll show you as being very tired. And we a lot of questions saying “It’s showing I’m very tired, but I’m not very tired.” And we always have to explain no, it’s just what the data is expressing about you. You know, the data can’t know how you feel, it can only say what the data says about how you feel. And we do characterize it in terms to try and match how we expect them to feel, because then it kind of makes sense to say, oh, it says I’m very tired, you know, the software is going to prescribe recovery, this is going to, let’s say give you a couple of days before it’ll prescribe additional training. And these become easy visuals for people to interpret and to follow. So this is kind of how we believe the software can come in is to give an interpretation of what the data says about an individual, and help them identify really how they should be treating their recovery. Again, anybody can do whatever they feel like at the time, but at least the software is giving them some level of interpretation of the information.

Trevor Connor 51:25
So it sounds like the software is using things like the acute training load to say, “Hey, you just hit yourself with a lot of training, that’s beyond what you normally so you might be getting fatigued right now.” But it’s indirect measures at the end of the day…?

Armando Mastracci 51:39
It’s indirect, right. And we can certainly look to incorporate – and there’s a desire to do this – is to incorporate HRV. So if we start collecting HRV date, heart rate variability, which is another interval, there have been actually some of our users that are actually doing that actively monitoring HRV corresponding with the data that they get from our system. So there is a relationship.

Armando Mastracci 52:01
But you know, ultimately, if we’re collecting all the data points, one thing that’s really important is you need a full view of the athlete. If all they’re doing is on the bike, and you’re collecting all the power data, then that’s great, you have all the information, and you can actually do a very good job of saying, “Yeah, you’re probably pretty tired right now you need to take a few days off.” But if they’re commuting on their bike, and you’re not collecting that data, or they’re running, and they’re doing swimming, again, you know, you think about how we’re going to overlay that information in terms of how that’s impacting your cycling and your other sports. tThere’s more information that you need to gather to give a better picture of what the current status is of that athlete so you can better prescribe a training plan.

Trevor Connor 52:42
I had an athlete a couple years ago like that, who decided to start bike commuting to work and didn’t tell me and it was 45 minutes one way. So all of a sudden, he’s not handling the normal training load, and I’m trying to figure out what’s going on. You don’t seem to be handling it well. And I just don’t understand why I can’t see what’s going on. Finally, he’s like, Oh, yeah, no, I started bike communiuty tours. So you just added, what, six, seven hours of training every week and never told me about it.


Armando Mastracci  53:09

Right, exactly. So and that’s something that we see in our software quite a bit. Right. And, you know, how do you deal with sparse data sets? Right? So individuals that are only writing a few times a week, and things like that these can be kind of a little more challenging in terms of how do you best prescribe and identify what’s best for them at the time?


Trevor Connor  53:26

Okay. So it sounds like if you are going to use a metric that can that give a more holistic picture, something like heart rate variability is what you would personally go towards?


Armando Mastracci  53:38

Well, that seems to be one of the recovery. And yeah, that seems to be a there’s a consensus that there’s there’s real value in maintaining and tracking your HRV. So we certainly see that I think, what would be really interesting, you know, we’re big fans of actually analyzing heart rate data. We don’t do that today as part of our plan. But there are markers and there’s information you can gather from playing heart rate data, you as you’re well aware, right, you can see what’s happening to an athlete, in terms of their fatigue in terms of ability to perform right from their heartbeat. Some of that is historically obtained from their power data. So you can look back and the power data saying, well, based upon all these hard rides you’ve been doing, we expect you to be pretty slow and pretty fatigued at this point, right? So you can look back at the power data, you can look back at their heart rate data and their current heart rate data, you can look at their historical HRV data. I think when you combine all those together, you can get a really good picture in terms of what the athlete and where they’re going to be at a given point in time to say, Okay, so, you know, today’s Thursday, but, you know, next Thursday, after all this training, because we have a really clear idea of how these all these into all the power you do interacts with these other systems, that now we can identify that that’s going to be a rest day for you, and we know it’s going to be a rest day and that’s and that’s how we’re going to manage the training


Trevor Connor  54:59

Unfortunatley we ran out of time with Dr. Gaston though we will give him the final say in a minute. In the meantime, let’s get back to Chris and I in the potential dangers of only focusing on training.


Chris Case  55:10

I found that as I’ve gotten a bit older, I’ve gotten a little bit wiser about recovery and I’m kind of one of those lazy cyclists, like, I know that I do well, when I get enough recovery and it’s only become more apparent as I’ve gotten older, when I take the time to sort of rest as hard as I train, if you’re, you’re training intensely, you need to rest just as intensely. It feels good to you know, it’s it’s not fun when you’re in the hole. But when you’re sprightly when you have energy all the time when you when you should have energy. And when you’re overloading yourself and you’re down. That’s also a big piece of the puzzle. But, man, it feels good when you’re when you’re well recovered, because then your training can go better, too.


Trevor Connor  56:01

So Chris, I remember, you actually handed me a copy of your book, The Haywire Heart, and there was a questionnaire in there about exercise addiction, because that can lead to heart issues. And one of the attributes of people who are addicted to exercise is they can’t take a day off, right, they get very nervous about it. And if you are one of those people who feels like I’d taken a day off, I couldn’t handle that. You might have an exercise addiction issue and understand that you are training every day not to your primary objective here might not be to get fitter to do what’s best for your training. It might be to satisfy this addiction. And that’s not necessarily a healthy thing. So you should be able to take time off the bike and be okay with it.


Chris Case  56:48

Yeah, it sometimes it becomes this thing you must do to avoid feeling guilty. And that’s a very bad thing. If you’re just doing it to avoid negative thoughts about yourself. That’s when it’s crossed the line into something you don’t want.


Trevor Connor  57:04

Right. And which reminds me for any of our triathletes out there, you need time off as well. And a rest day is not a day where you go and swim. A rest day is a day where you go and sit on the couch. And I could hear every triathlete listening to this just cringe.

Jason Gladney and How To Incorporate Subjective and Objective Metrics Into a Morning Routine

Dr. Jason Gladney from the CU Sports Medicine Performance Center worked with a lot of top athletes helping them to stay healthy and on top of their games, here’s a few thoughts on how to use both subjective and objective measures to create a morning routine. And also how to know when to stop a workout and go home,

Dr. Jason Gladney  57:38

I think, you know, some of it can be boiled down to subjective things that they can, they can listen for you what I do, when I get out of bed, as I take an assessment of how I’m feeling usually is pretty stiff and sore, and about 10 minutes, laters feel a little bit better, those heavy legs, those things that you can kind of feel when you’re taking those first steps in the morning, you know, that’s an important sign thing that you can kind of look at, I think it’s wise to actually monitor your vitals at home, you can see what your resting heart rate is in the morning. You know, sometimes that’s a precursor or prelude to, you know, some type of overtraining mildly. So we call it like a functional overreach, if it’s a if it’s a short term thing, but also looking at hydration status. When I’m training hard, I like to get on the scale frequently. So you can kind of know, get a good idea of what your fluid status is, unless you’re trying to lose weight, and you’re expecting the numbers to keep going down, you want to try to maintain a body weight and doing it after rides to is quite important, you can get a better idea of how much fluid you lost out. in physiology, we think losing about 2% of your fluid, or plasma volume is probably okay, anything above 4%, there’s actually going to be quite a detriment to your performance, it seems. So those are probably some of the more important things to do. Usually, in these high level athletes, they’re hyper aware of what their bodies feel like. And I think that has played a big role in keeping them out of trouble. We see a lot of athletes and it’s kind of become more and more common to hear about athletes like have this year who had a reactivation of epstein barr, and just the amount of time that he lost as a result of it. We tend to get in the situation when you’re feeling good. You want to do more race more train harder. It’s a thing that you got to listen to your coach and listen to kind of that inner voice and you’re telling it’s probably not a good idea to do this. I see people every other injury that comes in they said I was feeling great. And I kept pushing and pushing and now this happened. So just keep that in mind. And I think learning to be subjective about how you really feeling taking stock in in things every day. I think that plays a huge role with keeping you out of trouble.


Dr. Jason Gladney  58:11

So if you’re going out for a ride or if an athlete is going out for the ride, are there any particular signs that they have those you would say, turn around, go home or talk to your coach or go see a medical doctor.


Dr. Jason Gladney  59:48

I think the biggest rides that that plays in is if you have intensity on your schedule, and I’ll tell my patients that you’re going out there and you’re doing some of the first reps on the set and boys just not coming around. You really Struggling to hit your numbers. That’s not the time to try to push through it, I think you stop the set. Just spin easy. Go home, take a break, eat rest. See how you feel the next day? Talk to your coach, if you do have one, and kind of see what they suggest, is it something that it was a key workout that you got to make up? Or is it one of these ones that wasn’t that big of a deal that you can skip it this weekend, meanwhile, recover and feel good and fresh for the next round?

How To Add Recovery to Your Training

Chris Case  1:00:23

All right, so we’ve learned so much today about recovery, how to measure it. Now it’s time to apply this to our training. So we can get faster. What does it look like to apply all of these things to your training Trevor.


Trevor Connor  1:00:39

So we start by talking about your typical day. And unfortunately, Dr. Gaston couldn’t stay with us for this part. So I hope I represent what he would have said well, but just think about your typical day. Remember that Dr. Gaston said there is no one perfect metric you want to use multiple. So using a combination of those subjective, objective are really going to help you to measure your recovery. So think about in the morning, you can go as far as to use one of these short surveys every day. I’m not sure something like the the RESQ or the POMS with its multiple questions is something you want to try every day. But try one, the shorter ones, and maybe one of the longer ones once a week. If you have the gear, you can do a heart rate variability test in the morning, to get a sense for your recovery as Dr. Gaston was saying resting heart rate not as great. Most importantly, is just get a subjective feel for yourself. If you wake up in the morning, it’s hard to get out of bed, the legs are feeling sluggish. You’re having a hard time walking up the stairs, listen to these things.


Chris Case  1:01:38

if your a zombie, if you’re a zombie,


Trevor Connor  1:01:40

right, which frankly, if I wake up before six o’clock, seven o’clock, I’m always the way I am. But no, when you’re starting to feel unusual signs of fatigue, and also listen to the people around you. If your family is complaining, you’re getting crabby, that’s a sign these are all good signs of fatigue. When you’re out for your ride, there’s a couple things that will give you indicators. And these are good signs of you need to pull the plug. One of them is you you start the ride I often try to do after I’ve gotten a bit of a warm up, get up to about 200 to 220 watts and see what my heart rate is. And if it is exceptionally sluggish and low, that’s a good sign that I’m fatigued and maybe I need to turn around and go home. If I’m still not certain I’m doing intervals at today, I will start the intervals. If I can’t do them at their usual quality, if my heart rate is really low when I’m trying to do them, that is again a sign that my body’s not ready. And that’s where you need to pull the plug. And I will tell you I pulled the plug probably 20% of the time, the few times that I don’t when I get those signs, it was always a bad choice. I’ve said this before, and I’ll keep saying this. I did read Tyler Hamilton’s book. And one thing that really frustrated me about that book is he said that he never missed an interval session that no matter what he had on his plan, he always did it. And I know a lot of people read that and said, that’s the way to be a great cyclist.


Chris Case  1:03:02

Are you talking about the one where he talks about all the drugs he put in it?


Summing It All Up

Trevor Connor  1:03:05

Yes and that’s my point. That’s a bad lesson to learn. Because if you read about descriptions of EPO from riders that were on EPO, they tell you, they feel great every day. When you’re on EPO. Yeah, you can go out and do the hard training every day. And I’m sure Tyler will come back to me and say it hurt because he was doing hard intervals. But still, when you are not on all these substances, you are going to go out and have days where your body is not ready. And you need to hear those signs and not say, what’s wrong with me, I have to push harder, turn around, go home. That being said, there are times when you do need to push through. And one of the biggest points I’m going to make here is if you are fatigued and pushing through intervals, which you need to teach your body, if that is planned, that’s a better sign than if you’re going out. And for some reason your body feels awful you feel beat up. And that wasn’t part of the plan. This is just meant to be a typical week. That’s a sign that you haven’t been monitoring yourself well. And you might be going pushing yourself towards that that burnout. So that’s when you pull the plug. But if you say I’m going to do a fatigue week I have this week where I’m wanting to be tired by the end of this week. And on the fifth day of that week, you go out to do intervals and you feel pretty bad. Well, that was the plan. And it’s a good thing sometimes to push through. So do it. Do it and it’s part of the plan. Don’t keep pushing through when it’s not part of the plan. Remember dropping performance is one of the key signs of burnout. If the performance isn’t there, don’t say I’m getting weak I need to train harder. Tell yourself I need to rest. Got anything to add to that? Just do commutes never do intervals.


Chris Case  1:04:43

Hey that’s, you know even those can tire you out at depending on the length and how hard you ride your commutes. But no, I…


Trevor Connor  1:04:51

The other day Chris rode a full 50 minutes home.


Chris Case  1:04:55

Hey, if you’re riding really hard for 15 minutes, it can be tiring. That is fair. But I don’t do that. I ride for her 20 minutes to warm up 10 minutes really hard and 20 minutes to cool down. That’s my 15 minutes.


Trevor Connor  1:05:11

How do you beat me?


Chris Case  1:05:13

Seven years younger, seven years less work in my body. At least seven years, you’ve been riding a bike a lot more than me. Maybe you just need a year off the bike. None of this two weeks off, you might need a year off.


Trevor Connor  1:05:26

I did that I got slower. So our next podcast with Chris we’re gonna do a whole episode on how to get decrepid like me.


Chris Case  1:05:35

Look, I’m looking forward to that one that is going to be joke after joke after joke at Trevor’s expense, and there are so many. Hey, everybody, did you know Trevor was Canadian was don’t go down that road. So what would be your concluding summary here? Dr. Gaston, what one minute takeaway Can you give us for athletes out there?


Dr. Paul Gastin  1:05:58

I think it’s a combination of objective and subjective measures. The subjective measures are very sensitive. So looking at training diaries, moods and a short scale on a regular basis that you may be able to record and track and monitor. And it’s the serial value over time, it’s looking at trends more than individual daily scores. And perhaps in the objective field, it’s probably in the heart right area, heart rate variability, heart rate kinetics, I think it’s probably still early days, you know, understanding but I think there’s there’s a good practical upside in hard ride.


Trevor Connor  1:06:37

Fantastic, great summary.


Chris Case  1:06:39

Thanks so much, Dr. Gaston for joining us today. It was a pleasure.


Dr. Paul Gastin  1:06:43

I really enjoyed the opportunity. I hopefully provided some useful insights on a practical level as well as some scientific insights for your readers and listeners.


Chris Case  1:06:53

That was another episode of fast talk. As always, we love your feedback. We’ve got a new email address for you to send us all of your lovely feedback. It is that’s f a s t t ta Subscribe to fast talk on iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud and Google Play. Be sure to leave us a rating and a comment. Become a fan of fast talk on facebook at and on twitter at Fast talk is a joint production between velonews and Connor coaching. The thoughts and opinions expressed on fast talk are those of the individual for Trevor Connor, Dr. Gaston, Brent Bookwalter, Matt Casson, Frank Overton, Armando mastretchy.Dr. Jason Galoney. I’m Chris case. Thanks for listening.