When to Push and When to Pull the Plug, with Kate Courtney

While there are many tools to measure training stress, few measure recovery. Today we dive into how to determine where you're at in the recovery process.

Fast Talk Podcast Kate Courtney
Kate Courtney

We all know how to train hard. Tearing up a set of Tabata intervals, giving it our all at the local Tuesday night training race, or attacking someone from New Zealand on Zwift is what we do. But training — at least effective training — is actually a balance between stressing our systems and recovery. Remember that training does damage. It’s in recovery that we repair and get stronger. This may be why several recent studies have shown that training based on our recovery level can be more effective than rigidly following a structured plan.

This is also why Coach Connor loves to say “be as intense in your recovery as you are in your training.” Train hard, rest hard. Yet, while there are a multitude of tools to measure our training stress – bike computers, power meters, heart rate straps, WKO, Golden Cheetah, Xert and the list goes on – the list of tools to measure recovery is not nearly as robust. But new players such as Whoop – which uses a combination of resting heart rate, heart rate variability, sleep and strain to assess your daily recovery level – are starting to tackle this very important side of the training balance. So today we dive into the recovery side of the training-recovery concept and talk about:

  • This fundamental principle of training also called super-compensation.
  • How to know when the balance between training and recovery goes too far towards the training stress side and is leading to over-training. Interestingly, it starts neurologically which can express as changes in mood and motivation long before it shows up on the training ride.
  • We talk about ways to identify neurological fatigue both on and off the bike.
  • Next we’ll dive into the recovery side of the equation and discuss ways of measuring recovery including resting heart rate and heart rate variability.
  • Why sometimes going into the red on the recovery score is necessary
  • We discuss the new Whoop strap 3.0. Whoop is a sponsor of this episode and Coach Connor and I are excited to have them as part of the show. This isn’t the first episode where we’ve preached the value of recovery and Whoop is the one tool out there really focusing on that value. And their new strap is providing even better metrics including their strain coach to help you decide when to push and when to pull the plug.

Our primary guest today is Kate Courtney, the reigning mountain bike world champion, and winner of the first two rounds of the UCI World Cup this season. Along with Kate we talked with Houshang Amiri, a past Canadian Olympic and National team coach and owner of the Pacific Cycling Centre. Houshang has helped athletes such as World’s Silver Medalist Svein Tuft by focusing on the value of recovery. Houshang talks with us about ways he’s used to assess it. We include a past interview with Phil Gaimon, who talks about the importance of feel and knowing your own body. Finally, we feature an interview with two top coaches in Colorado – Mac Cassen with Apex Coaching and Frank Overton with FastCat coaching. This interview was actually from episode 45 a few years back, but we talked about measuring recovery and it’s the episode where Frank introduced all of us to the Whoop strap.

Let’s make you fast!

Primary Guests Kate Courtney: Mountain bike world champion
Secondary Guests Phil Gaimon Houshang Amiri: Former Canadian National and Olympic team coach Mac Cassen: A coach with Apex Coaching Frank Overton: Owner of FasCat Coaching

Episode Transcript


Welcome to Fast Talk the velonews podcast and everything you need to know to ride letterpress.


Chris Case  00:12

Hello, and welcome to Fast Talk. I’m your host Chris case managing editor of velonews joined by someone who believes recovery is best done while reading the latest Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, which we all know how to train hard, tearing up a set of devadas giving it our all at the local Tuesday night training race or attacking someone from New Zealand on zwift. That’s what we do. But training. At least effective training is actually a balance between stressing our systems and recovery. Remember that training does damage it’s in recovery that we repair and get stronger. This may be why several recent studies have shown that training based on our recovery level can be more effective than rigidly following a structured plan. This is also why coach Connor loves to say be as intense in your recovery as you are in your training. Train hard rest hard. Yet, well there are a multitude of tools to measure our training stress by computers power meters heart rate straps Wk o golden Cheetah exert, the list goes on. The list of tools to measure recovery is not nearly as robust. But new players such as whoop, which uses a combination of resting heart rate, heart rate, variability, sleep and strain to assess your daily recovery level are starting to tackle this very important side of the training stress balance. Today we’ll dive into the recovery side of the training recovery concept and talk about first, the fundamental principle of training also called Super compensation. Secondly, how to know when the balance between training and recovery goes too far towards the training stress side and is leading to overtraining. Interestingly, it starts neurologically, which can express as changes in mood and motivation long before it shows up on the training ride. Three, we’ll talk about ways to identify neurological fatigue both on and off the bike. And for next we’ll dive into the recovery side of the equation and discuss ways of measuring recovery including resting heart rate, and heart rate variability. Next we’ll talk about why sometimes going into the red on the recovery score is necessary. And finally, we’ll discuss the new whoop strap 3.0. Whoop is a sponsor of this episode and coach Connor and I are excited to have them as part of the show. This isn’t the first episode where we preach the value of recovery. And whoop is the one tool out there really focusing on that value. And their new strap is providing even better metrics including their strain coach to help you decide when to push and when to pull the plug. We’re extremely excited today to have our primary guests be none other than Kate Courtney, reigning World mountain bike champion, winner of the first two rounds of the World Cup this season, someone who has skyrocketed in to the international mountain bike scene and we’re really excited to sit down and talk with her today. Along with Kate we talk with houzhang Amiri past Canadian Olympic and national team coach and owner of the Pacific cycling center, who Shane has helped athletes such as World silver medalist Swain tufte. By focusing on the value of recovery, houzhang will talk with us about ways he’s used to assess it. We’ll put in a past interview with Phil diamond. We’ll pull in a past interview with Phil Guymon, formerly of the World Tour, who talks about the importance of feel and knowing your own body. Finally, we’ll pull in interview with two top coaches in Colorado, Matt Casson, with Apex coaching and Frank Overton with fast cat coaching. This interview was actually from Episode 45, a few years back, but we talked about measuring recovery and it’s episode, where Frank introduced all of us to the whoop strap. So kick your feet up. Get that copy of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Sit back, relax, dim the lights. Let’s make it fast.


Chris Case  04:11

Today’s episode of fast Talk is brought to you by whoop we have to thank whoop for bringing Kate Courtney on to the show. As you’ll soon hear, she is a wealth of knowledge. Who is the performance tool that is changing the way people track their fitness and optimize their training, who provides a wrist worn heartrate monitor that pairs the app and provides analytics and insights on recovery strain and sleep. Knowing your body is recovered or when it needs rest by getting to know your nervous system through heart rate variability and quality of sleep. Automatically track workouts and get strain scores that let you know how strenuous training was on your body and see even more data like average heart rate max heart rate and calories burned. Get optimal sleep times based on how strenuous your day was and track sleep performance with insight into your sleep cycles and stages of sleep, sleep quality and sleep consistency.


Trevor Connor  05:00

We’ve just released the new whoop strap 3.0, which includes new upgrades to hardware and locks a suite of new software features to their app. The bootstrap 3.0 now has five days of battery life and improve strap and live heart rate monitoring in addition to a handful of new inap features that helped optimize the way you train, whoop is providing an offer for our listeners to get 15% off the purchase with the code Fast Talk. That’s FA S T. Ta lk. So get those double T’s in there. Just go to whoop.com that’s w


Houshang Amiri  05:34

  1. o opie.com.


Trevor Connor  05:36

And again, use the code Fast Talk FA s t ta lk at checkout to save 15% and optimize the way you train.


Chris Case  05:59

Well, it’s it’s a privilege to have Kate Courtney on the show today. World Champion two time World Cup winner this season alone she started off with a bang. Welcome Kate Courtney to fast stop.


Kate Courtney  06:11

Sam, thanks so much for having me.


Chris Case  06:14

Today, we want to talk to Kate, about when to pull the plug when to push through. And Trevor has a good story that sort of sets the tone for what we want to talk about today. So I’ll kick it over to Trevor now. Just so folks listening out there. No, I’m in Boulder Kate’s in California. Trevor’s in Toronto. So we’re all over the world right now.


Trevor Connor  06:38

And can I just say how committed I am to Fast Talk right now the Raptors game has just started the NBA man, all of Toronto is watching it. And I’m sitting here recording.


Chris Case  06:49

Oh, that’s so sad.






yeah, let’s


Trevor Connor  06:55

let’s start. This could very well be an urban legend. This was something that I was told 1015 years ago, I truly hope that this is a real story. But I’ve never confirmed it. So could be urban legend. But I was told a while back that one of the reason German cyclists were absolutely dominant back in the 80s and 90s. was because so every morning, they would go down to the lab and the doctors and physiologists would do this battery of tests on them. And then tell them, you know, you’re not fully recovered, you need to rest today or,



you know, you’re


Trevor Connor  07:32

you’re in a great place, you’re recovered, go out, do some solid interval work. I that was the reason I was told that the Germans were so dominant that every day, they base their plan based on where their physiology was at. And like I said, I hope that’s a true story. But it really resonates with something that that’s important to me and Chris, you know this because I’ve coached you, I am not a believer in that six week block, let’s map every day out. Because there’s no way we are going to know how you’re going to feel five Wednesdays from now. And I can map out the perfect training plan and say, this all fits together. But that Wednesday, you might not have gotten much sleep, your kid might have kept up all night, you might have had an argument with your boss and getting up that Wednesday, you’re tired, you’re not fully recovered, you didn’t eat well. And whatever was on the plan was the wrong thing. So be able to adjust, be able to say here’s where I’m at today, I either should move ahead with the plan, or I need to adjust the plan or I just need to do nothing today is I think one of the most powerful things you can do in training. And that’s really what this whole episode is about. It’s how to know when you you look at the plan and go Yep, let’s move ahead with today or when to say Nope, that’s that’s now the wrong thing. Today, let’s adjust.


Chris Case  08:51

I hate to think that the Germans might have been doing something else. And that’s why they were so dominant. But I like the fact that taking what they may have had the information and data that they may have had if they did actually use a team of physiologist to conduct a battery of tests every morning and let athletes know is incredibly powerful to think about making those adjustments on a day to day basis. Obviously, we can’t do that. Now the average person can’t do that. Most of the top athletes in the world aren’t training in centers like this anymore. But what we want to talk about today is trying to answer that question, how do you determine what you can and cannot do when to pull the plug when to push through


Trevor Connor  09:31

it? Let’s quickly talk about why this is important. I’m going to do my quick bit of physiology. I’m going to give you the the Trevor nerve bomb. And then I’ll let you guys take it and kind of talk about ways to do this ways to know when to pull the plug in and really give the practical side but the reason this is so important goes to what you’ve heard me say many times on this show, which is the fundamental principle of training is this concept of overload, which is you need to hit your body with a level of stress That’s beyond what your body can normally handle. And then you need to rest and let your body adapt, the whole idea is in training, you do damage. So when you go out and do those interval works, you’re not, you don’t come back from that interval session stronger, you come back from that interval session damaged and weaker. If you do enough stress, your body says, boy, that hurt, I didn’t like what you did to me. So I need to repair this, but not only am I going to repair it, I’m going to repair you stronger and tougher. So the next time you hit me with that sort of load, I can handle it, I don’t have to go through this sort of pain again, that’s really the fundamental principle of training. If you don’t do enough stress bodies is going to say, Yeah, you did a little damage, but I can handle that. So I’m just going to repair you back to where you were before. So as cyclists were really good at that idea of let’s go and just absolutely destroy the legs. I’ve met very few cyclists who aren’t good at Destroying Themselves. But the flip side is that recovery, it’s that time when you let the body rest and rebuild and repair and repair stronger. And we’ll get into the particulars. But talking about this, this overcompensation of this overload principle is really interesting. I found a study where they took 26,000 users on Strava and analyze their data for for a year. We’ll put the reference up for this study on the website. But I think it was around 2011, that they did this. And one of the things they found in that study was that there was no correlation between people’s performance. And they were using hillclimb performance, how they were doing on Strava segments, as a way of measuring whether athletes were improving or not. And there was absolutely, they found basically no correlation between effort and performance, meaning if you just trained harder, your performance didn’t improve. What correlated with improvements in performance was overcompensation, this idea that they trained really hard for a period, then they backed off and recovered, then they trained really hard again, and then they backed off and recover. That’s where they found the correlation, not the overall effort. And sometimes they found that the people that improved the most actually didn’t do the biggest effort. This is where we get into something that I’m a really big believer in. And I say this to my athletes all the time that you need to be as intense in your recovery, as you are in your training the to go hand in hand. So the more damage you do, the more stress you do, the more you need to make sure your recovery is effective. So another thing I often say to my athletes is there’s no such thing as overtraining, there’s just under recovery. And often, we just don’t focus enough on that recovery side.


Chris Case  12:43

It’s amazing to me how simple that is, but how few people take it to heart and get it, at least in my experience.


Kate Courtney  12:52

No, I love the no overtraining, just under cover idea. And that’s something I work with Jim Miller, and I’ve worked with him for the past three years. And when I started training with him, I started training a lot harder than I was before and a lot harder than I really thought was possible. But he basically just has a philosophy that if you’re really treating the recovery as important, and you’re taking it seriously, and you’re balancing the huge strain with adequate recovery, and more important often than physical recovery, for me is the mental side. And just making sure that you have the overall life balance, and you’re resting mentally and staying motivated and training. And that your easy days are mentally really easy. And your hard days are more intense for me than race days. But I think that’s that’s a really great concept. And I think it’s taught me to not not be afraid to push it.


Trevor Connor  13:44

The last thing I’m going to say on the physiology side, and then we can talk about ways of identifying this, this balance between stress and recovery is critical. And if you’re over balanced towards the recovery side, you’re just going to start the training, or you use that to peak a little bit. But when you’re over balanced towards the stress side, that’s when you start getting stale. That’s when that’s when overtraining and burnout starts to set in. And those are the things that you need to watch for. And unfortunately, as much as we had like this, there is no graph and training peaks or any other software that says ahead of time. Here’s the perfect level of stress. Sometimes you can look, you have an in training peaks, ATL and CTL. And these all tell you how much you’re stressing yourself. There are some weeks where you can hit an ATL of 800. And that’s actually not too bad a week. Other weeks were ATL, an ATL of 800 because of other things going on your life is absolutely going to knock you to the floor.


Chris Case  14:39

Mm hmm.


Trevor Connor  14:40

This is again why you can’t just plan it out ahead of time and say, Boy, this looks like the perfect amount of stress in a couple weeks to get me to where I need to be because it might not be the perfect amount when you get there. And Katie, you actually touched on something really important, which is the whole mental side. We actually we did a This was Episode 38, where we talked a bit about fatigue. And one of the the big theories right now is that fatigue starts centrally versus peripherally, meaning a lot of people thinks that when you’re starting to burn out, when you’re starting to fatigue, it’s in your muscles, that’s actually not where it starts, it starts in your central nervous system. So that expresses as mental fatigue it expresses as depression. Other ways it can express, which we’ll talk about in a minute, is just not able to go as hard because your whole neural system is just kind of shutting down in a way. So you really need to watch for that mental side. And if you’ve seen your mood change, that’s one of the actual early indicators.


Kate Courtney  15:40

Yeah, and I actually think this is an interesting thing to mention as well, because I’ve thought a lot about this and worked a lot with my coaching team on this. But I’m, I work really closely with a sports psychologist who her name is Kristin Khan, she works with a lot of cyclists. But one of the interesting things she said, when I first started doing these huge blocks, I’d be doing, you know, 2025 hour weeks, and this is coming from someone who was previously when I was in college, I’d have three rest days a week. So having this big volume, and just training at that level was was really new for me. And she actually mentioned that idea of the mental stress and like basically planning to have like a day of feeling depressed after a really hard training block. And we actually would like acknowledge that ahead of time and plan for it. And so I’d be like, Okay, I have this really hard block, and I have this rest day, and I’d make sure that day, I had lunch with a friend or I went and got my nails done, or I plan to do hike or just something different and fun. And knowing that that day was not just physical recovery, but it was a day to kind of figure out how to recharge that central nervous system and to address those imbalances that develop when you’re you’re really deep in a training block.


Trevor Connor  16:53

That’s great. And yeah, when I was working with Chris getting his nails done, that was critical.



sparkle. Yes, indeed.


Chris Case  17:03

So that begs the question, then, what can you do? or How can you tell,


Trevor Connor  17:09

we kind of made a list here. And Kate, thanks for your help with this. And let’s go into each one’s but just a quick rundown of the list. We talked about that central fatigue, and we’ll talk a little bit about the palm scale, there’s looking at power to heart rate. There’s that loss of neuromuscular power. One thing I look for in intervals is is the quality sufficient? And then there’s one that’s a key, I’m gonna love to hear what you have to say about this. But, you know, intervals hurt when you go out and do hard training, it hurts, but there’s good pain and there’s bad pain, and how do you know which is


Chris Case  17:43

which was just a brief recap of some of the things we talked about in Episode 38. Some of those indicators of Central fatigue, such as the palms, the questionnaire that measures mood mood states, and is this pretty simple survey of of your mood, depression, anxiety, things like that, and how that actually can correlate quite well with your recovery state? And perhaps you could add a bit to that, Trevor?


Trevor Connor  18:09

Yeah, you know, I would say we did a whole episode on this. And again, that was Episode 38. That talked about actually, there’s a pretty good correlation between some of the these mental tests and your recovery level, one of the most popular as palms test, it’s p o m s, you can find that anywhere on the web. And it’s not a bad thing to do every once in a while. And it can tell you when you are starting to get mentally stale. And that’s one of the very early signs that you’re you’re starting to fatigue, you’re starting to overtrain


Kate Courtney  18:38

Yeah, I think the mental side is is really important to me. And I think just overall life balance, and you know, how well you feel like you’re doing in your life overall can be a really good indicator of how well you’re handling your recovery. And, and luckily, you know, for me, I am a professional cyclist, I do get to structure my days around training. And so a lot of it for me is recognizing when those signs of mental fatigue or Central Nervous fatigue might show up and really planning around them. So if you know that you’re going to be in a state of training really hard, and you can kind of take a night off, eat in, go to bed early, those types of things can mitigate the negative effects of that. Whereas, of course, you know, if you’re planning a huge training weekend, maybe you have a job and you have a really important presentation that day, like, it’s important to understand that all of these things contribute to stress and stress is training. So for me, it’s looking at the complete kind of system and and, of course, I have a lot more control than a lot of people might over those life stressors. But those tend to be a really important part for me of managing overall load, and really protecting my time and my energy when I am in this huge training box.


Chris Case  19:50

It’s great to hear you talk about how any stress is is a stress on your body and needs to be taken into account because that’s a message we’ve spoken about numerous As times on the show, I’m curious if through your team of coaches are working directly with Kristen, if she’s actually given you almost like a checklist of things to go through to assess your state, I assume you don’t regularly take the palms survey, for instance. But do you do something other and a more casual way to sort of just go through and say, what’s this? Like? What’s this? Like? What’s this like and take a survey? Yeah, I


Kate Courtney  20:29

would say nothing. So formal, I do a lot of recovery things. And one of those is I meditate every day. And I think that level of self awareness that I get from that helps me understand where I’m at with training. But I think for me, the biggest thing is communication. So when I’m in a really hard training block, understanding what the goal is, so for example, right now, we just had our season break. So I had a week off, that’s my like, big period of time to really focus on that central nervous system stress that builds up throughout the first half of the season, and really get back to baseline and rest kind of all at once. And that actually, I’ve found works better for me different things, work for different people, some people take one day off a week, or one week off a block or something. But for me, it’s really like that one week does lie. But now I’m in a really hard block. And when things are supposed to be that challenging, and we know we’re pushing the edge, I think just having really clear communication with my team. And having my coach and my nutritionist and my sports psychologist in particular, all be in contact, and understanding, okay, we’re really pushing the chair, how’s Kay doing, and they’ll all check in with me and make sure each person kind of has different things, they remind me of, oh, make sure you’re doing this, make sure you’re doing that. And I think having that team around me really encourages me to think really critically about how I’m managing my recovery and understand when it’s okay to be a little over the edge. And when we need to pull back a bit.


Chris Case  22:03

I think Christian refers to that as you as your village,


Kate Courtney  22:06

my village, yeah, gotta have a good village.


Trevor Connor  22:10

I have an athlete, I coach who it’s very hard to burn him out physically, he’s actually is one of these athletes who really doesn’t need to take an offseason, he can just keep going all year round. But anytime he starts to push burnout, it is completely mental. And what I’ve discovered with him is he doesn’t really need a break physically. But a couple times a year, we need a break mentally. And when when I start to see that coming, it’s get off the bike, go out, spend a week partying, eat bad food, just mentally, completely disconnect yourself. And he comes back refreshed and ready to go every time.


Kate Courtney  22:45

Yeah, I’m kind of in that camp, not the partying camp, I’m not really much of a partier. But uh, but I’m definitely in the, the mental rest camp. And I think we found ways to really hack that. So one of the ways we hack that is, when I’m in big volume block, we have come up with the happy hour ride. So have your ride, I think is the key to recovery, it’s we leave at six. And usually it’s a couple buddies that live nearby or my boyfriend when he gets off work, you leave at six, right at the top of the mountain on your mountain bike, you have some kind of beverage, I’m gluten free. So I usually have like a cider or sparkling water if I really if it’s too much, and you descend down really fast, and it’s a 45 minute ride. And that, for me, is like the best form of recovery ever. because it reminds me it’s riding my bike. But it reminds me what I love about riding my bike, which is getting out getting to the top of this mountain, being with my friends. And you know, we just laughing catch up the whole time. And for me, that actually serves a huge training purpose. Because, you know, granted, if I do it a couple times a week, it’s an extra hour and a half of volume. It’s high speed descending on my mountain bike, which is something that’s a goal for me this year to practice. And you know, like adding in an extra 1500 feet of climbing. But really, I finished there i’d feeling more recovered and mentally or fresh than I started. And I think that if you can find something that does that for you, it might not be riding your bike, it might be something completely different. It might be yoga, or going for a hike or having lunch with a friend. But those types of things are always valuable. And Jim has recognized that and as he basically writes on my train schedule, like as many times a week as you want to do the happier ride, go for it. And that’s really helpful. He plays to his audience.


Trevor Connor  24:29

That’s really important. In my early days of coaching, I was all about the training plan I was all about everything’s got to be structured, everything’s got to be purposeful, and I learned really quickly with my athletes. You need to have those fun rides, you need to have that unstructured stuff. You need to have that stuff that’s mentally refreshing. It can’t all just be houses contributing to TSS and creating nice charts.


Kate Courtney  24:53

Yeah, and sometimes I will say that leveraging what’s fun and we have the joke hashtag On our team fun is fast. But I actually think there’s something to that understanding what gets you excited to ride your bike and leveraging that can actually pay off big time in the numbers. So I have often in the fall will text them and say, Hey, a bunch of my friends are doing this adventure i’d and they’re doing this fire road we’ve never done and, and we’ll end up riding six hours instead of four. And I like beg him to do those rides. And I think it’s a fun adventure I get to do but really those are the days that add up in terms of quality of training and where I can get huge volume in without the mental stress of if he put a six hour ride on my train schedule. I’d call him and be like, why did you put this on my schedule? What am I supposed to do. But if it’s an adventure, and I want to do it, all of a sudden, that’s his huge advantage and this really fun thing, but also really valuable, intentional training.


Trevor Connor  25:50

It’s pretty cool. I caught up with former Canadian Olympic and national team coach, and also my old coach who now runs a Pacific cycling center who Shang a mirror. He was always big and knowing when the body isn’t ready for training asmus thoughts and when to push and when to pull the plug? Do you feel that a committed serious cyclist should always follow the plan no matter what or do you think there are times when you go out? You have intervals on your plan you start to do I mean? You say? No, those aren’t right today. And and you turn around? Should you always do them as they’re on the plan? Or is there times to say no.


Houshang Amiri  26:28

This time say no. Absolutely. Even coaches with experience and all the technology and the hand. They’re trying to control the aspects of the fatigue or body’s functioning. But at least they know their body the best. And definitely I go second options. Okay,


Trevor Connor  26:47

so then here’s the second question for it. Because intervals always hurt what you do. So how do you know when you’re just feeling the normal hurt? And you push through? versus how do you know when to say something’s not right today? Turn around go home?


Houshang Amiri  27:05

Yeah, that’s pretty good question. With if we were looking at the height, in, you know, high intensity or on Adobe intervals, usually what I asked athletes, your first one can be about 95 to 90%. Not you’re not doing 105% effort. And your while you’re doing this effort, you’re going to take a look at your heart rate and power numbers. There is a norm that we know and they know, if you pushing 380 watts and your heart rate is maxing that’s something wrong with that day. And sometimes even before that, when they’re waking up, taking their resting heart rate or their heart rate variability in the morning, the stress level should be should indicate the stress level. But usually, for intervals like that, I suggest definitely to do one test run. And if numbers are not what we are looking for, you may they may do one more. And it puts two tests before starting interval Sessions is indicating that numbers are off. They are not doing any intervals at that day. And usually they go for easy, right?


Trevor Connor  28:31

So only thing I’m going to add to that is you work with very high level athletes. So for a lot of the people listening, if you’re doing 380 watts and seeing max heart rate you’re spot on for the athletes that who Shane’s working with not the case.



Yeah. Yeah.



Just head to head, throw that in there.


Trevor Connor  28:54

Let’s get back to the show and ask Kate the same question. So let’s get back to some of these ways that you can tell you get on the bike, you’re heading out for a ride. And you can say this, there’s balance between stress and recovery. I’m on the wrong side of it, I have too much stress, I’m not recovered enough. And it’s time to pull the plug. And we’ve been talking a bit about central nervous system fatigue, which is one of the places it shows up right away or shows up first. So you want to look for those indicators. And I’m just going to give a couple and then maybe you guys can talk to these but one of them that that’s been around for a while is if you have a power meter and a heart rate strap, you look at your heart rate relative to power. When you have central nervous system fatigue, your heart rates going to be sluggish. So if you’re doing 200 watts and you look down and go boy, normally my heart rates 155 and right now I’m barely breaking 145 that’s a real good indicator of fatigue. You have to look for other indicators. If it’s pouring rain out, that’s going to drop your heart rate a bit too but if you’re also feeling a little fatigued and you’re seeing that depressed heart rate, that’s a good indicator you’re Not ready. Another really good indicator. And there’s this great 2014 study that really showed this, that again, will post showing a drop in neuromuscular power. So that’s your kind of 510 second power. If you go out and do these hard efforts and you just can’t hit the power you normally hit. That’s an indicator again of neuromuscular fatigue. And what was really interesting about the study is they tried to overreach athletes. Um, so basically over train them and showed, by the end of this study, all the athletes felt lousy, they were all a little overtrained. They were all a little overreached. But the ones that could still hit the power, they saw big improvements, the ones who couldn’t hit the power at the end of this didn’t see improvements. And so the last indicator, and then you guys take this is, I always tell my athletes, if you go out to do your interval work, and you just can’t hit the intensity you normally hit whether it’s average power, or I might have athletes go and do Hill repeats and look to do a certain segment and a certain length of time. If you can’t hit the wattage, if you can’t hit the speed or the time, that’s usually an indicator that you’re not recovered, and it’s time to turn around and go home. Okay, what’s what are the things that you use? How do you know when you go out for a ride that boy, I’m not ready for the intervals I have in the plan. Today I’m turning around


Kate Courtney  31:22

the discussion of all these different ones is is something important to note that there’s just a lot of indicators. And so for me, it’s about using all these data points to really paint a picture of my recovery, and not just on one given day, but kind of in the aggregate. So if I have many days consistently where I’m under recovered, that’s a different scenario than if I just have one day where I maybe am tired from the day before. So really kind of keeping a good handle on these data points and an understanding over time, how they’re changing, helps me get any given day. But I would say in terms of like going out for intervals, I usually can tell on my warmup how I’m feeling. And often for me, it will be really high heart rate if I’m not as recovered. So if I go out and do my warm up, and my hurry just skyrockets, it’s a pretty good indication that it might not be a great day. And then it becomes a consideration of the quality of the training and the value. It’s pretty rare that I turn around and go home. But it has happened this year, we had a really high intensity workout. And I remember like looking at the numbers and be like, Man, this, I don’t think I can do this. But, you know, Jim has basically never been wrong. So I’ll give it a whirl. And I texted him and I was like, Man, these numbers look really high. And he texted back and said, You know, like, visualize today’s like a World Cup. It’s a day and I’m like, okay, so I got to do this workout. And by interval two, I just I’m, like, just sobbing at the end of the interval. And that for me, it’s a very funny thing. But anyone who’s like really pushed that hard knows that feeling of like, you’re not upset and you’re not like, it’s just your body’s response, you just like start crying. And for me, whenever I start crying an interval, I’m like, Okay, this is not good. This is like, that’s not normal. Normally, I will feel better, or at least just be really tired and feel accomplished at the end so called Jim, he tells me to go home, because if I can’t hit the numbers, it’s not worth doing for a really high intensity ride. So I go home and really bummed about it. And then I get a call later. And what had happened is I hit some numbers in a race and my FTP on training peaks auto adjusted. And Jim was like, I’m gonna go, he’s like, I’m gonna go in and recheck that, and he was getting on a flight. And he for he, like, somehow did go in and check it. And so the numbers were like, you know, 15% higher than they maybe should have been. So I basically killed myself on that workout. But it was very humbling and like, was a really hard day. And what ended up happening is, you know, that workout was my nemesis. And the next time I did it, I actually ended up you know, two weeks later, I was really recovered and ready to go and actually hit the numbers from the first workout. And that was right before I went to the World Cup. So I would say, you know, having an understanding of like, when something is wrong and knowing, okay, you know, if you’re crying at the end of an interval, I don’t know what it is for you. That’s like my towel, but something is not going well. And having the courage and the confidence to track that go home and be ready to completely smoke that interval, then maybe the next day, maybe the next week. Sometimes those days can be the most important in your entire season.


Chris Case  34:44

I think, yeah, you’ve made several really important points. Again, some things that we’ve spoken about on the program in the past, that you started off by saying how a lot of these indicators have to be taken collectively. It’s not just one thing you look at But I can tell and I think Trevor would agree that you are really an athlete who knows themselves really well. And you are thinking about this stuff. And you’re cognizant of all of these indicators. And you’re synthesizing it as you’re writing and trying to understand what it means. And I think the more people can do that out there in the world, the better an athlete they can become. Because these things are, they’re complex, they’re hard to understand. But the more you pay attention to them, the better you get at understanding what they mean. The other thing I’d like to point out is that feeling when you’re out there, and you’re doing a workout, and maybe your coach told you to do it, and you’re feeling like oh, my God, this is really hard. What do I should I pull the plug? Should I not pull the plug that hesitation about if I don’t do it? Is that gonna hurt my training? Because I actually should push through today? You have the luxury in some ways of being able to text a world class coach and say, Hey, Coach, what do I do? Not everybody has that. So maybe I turn it over to Trevor and say, what, what should people go through? Before they make that decision? They they assess all that they can. I guess one thing I’d say is, you’re not going to blow your season, if you skip a single workout is that is that true forever?


Trevor Connor  36:23

No, no single ride is going no single ride is going to make your season but going out and truly destroying yourself on the wrong day that get you get your way off track. So to some degree, you need to err a little bit on the side of caution. But But Kate, I think you hit on the key word, which was if something feels wrong, because when you go out and do interval work, it should hurt. When I get my athletes really high intensity work, like let’s say a two bottle workout, the 2010s the way I described it to him is halfway through this set, you should be praying that an asteroid hits the planet and destroys it, because that’s preferable suffering through another two and a half minutes, it should hurt. But if you’re going out and doing them and going, yes, this hurts, but something about it feels wrong. It’s not the normal type of pain, something’s off. I generally tell my athletes trust that or that’s where I tell my athletes give me a call and let’s talk about it. But if it feels off, if it feels wrong, if you just can’t hit the numbers. That’s where you start to say, I shouldn’t be pushing through today, the stress recovery is not in balance, and better to go home, get some rest. And as he said, Kate attempt this tomorrow or in two days or readjust the plan. But my coach,


Chris Case  37:43

the other major point, obviously here is that you have to know that the numbers that you’re trying to hit are achievable, and they’re not way off. Like you said, those numbers may have been 15% off and that and that’s not good. But if somebody is out there is calculating numbers themselves or trying to hit targets that are way off what they should be. That’s not good, either. So knowing knowing your data is sound is


Kate Courtney  38:10

crucial here, completely. And that was a fluke, a fluke moment, but I will say while that day, I was able to get a hold of Jim, he is also notorious for ignoring calls when his athletes are on really hard drives. Like he will actively like decline calls. And I’ve had a lot of moments. It’s a tactic. But I’ve had a lot of moments where you have to stop and think is this hard. This is hard. It’s supposed to be hard. But is this hard in the right way. And I think getting to the point where you can make those calls for yourself. Because ultimately when I call Jim, I’m giving him information to lead him kind of to a conclusion. So if I call him and say, something’s really wrong, I shouldn’t be doing this workout. How can we adjust that’s very different than calling him just because it’s challenging. And so I think as I’ve gotten kind of more mature as an athlete, the those calls have gone down and I’ve understood that it’s really my call and if I can push through that I should, and no one can do that for me and no one can really make that call for me a


Trevor Connor  39:14

few years ago, I did an interview with now ex pro Phil Gaiman, who’s probably more famous now for a strategy hillclimb hunting and books like ask a pro deep thoughts and unreliable advice from America’s foremost cycling Sage was interviewing Phil about advanced metrics and got a surprising answer that led to a conversation about recovery and knowing the field. Here’s the highlights.


Phil Gaiman  39:37

I’m a believer that you should learn until I don’t look at the weather forecasts, because until you can factor in everything. You can’t really tell me what the weather is going to be. So you can guess, you know, you can guess how somebody’s gonna feel or you could just sit there and think here’s how I feel you Here’s what’s been going on lately. Here’s, you know, you can’t lie to yourself, you could say, you know if, and different things going to build differently. So you can, you know, had to break up with a girlfriend on on 30 watts down a friend of mine breakup with a girlfriend, he’s 40 watts up like it’s just has to know. And that doesn’t get you can’t put numbers to any other really you can’t really You can’t expect it. And so so when I got here from from Utah, like all evidence would have said four days easy your stage race it overseas trip, but it’s really nice out I haven’t been a drone in a while we’re doing my favorite rise, I felt good. And I went straight into 30 hour week cruising and felt fine. I was always always ready to cut it off and go home take a nap. But I didn’t know. It was nice. And then I woke up one day I was like, Okay, now I’m shut it down for a couple days.


Trevor Connor  40:56

So it’s know yourself.


Trevor Connor  41:05

So I guess I have two questions for you. One is, how can more inexperienced mean, you’ve been training for years, you know, your body inside out? For somebody who’s just a year or two into this? How can they learn themselves? To start making these judgments? calls? That’d be the first question.


Phil Gaiman  41:31

They have been alive. Like you should know how you know, when you’re sick. You know, you know, when you’re tired, you know, when you’re hungry, you eat You know, when you’re i think i think you go on the bike and you have, I would say looking at heart rate makes more sense. Yep. That’s, that’s sort of a thing. You can look at your resting heart rate in the mornings. But you can kind of just guess the answer be think about how you feel. And then that would be that that’s the first step would be just, when I get up in the morning, do I I think like, you know, walk around the apartment linked to my, my legs feel like they want to do spreads, or am I left? You know, and it’s not, there’s a lot of gray area you can tell where you go out on the bike, and you start doing a climb. And it’s like, they’re not my heart race not responding today. You know, I’m going slower than my friend to I’m usually going faster than or, or whatever.


Trevor Connor  42:28

Any other suggestions, but I love that that idea of get up in the morning, see how you feel. See how you feel out in the ride? Yeah.


Phil Gaiman  42:36

Thinking about your factors thinking about like, if you have a kid and you and you chase him around the street playing soccer or something like that will affect you, effectively, we’re running half an hour if you missed the flight. If you if you consider what your body has been through, if you went out binge drinking, like guess what your your legs are gonna feel that way. If you if you just consider the factors that are so hard to figure it out.


Trevor Connor  43:12

Now that we’ve talked about the field, let’s get back to the show and talk about ways of measuring recovery.


Chris Case  43:17

All right, so let’s turn this conversation around a bit and talk about how to measure recovery. We all know there’s a lot of tools out there to measure stress to measure training, load, things like that. Obviously, that’s only 50% of the equation when we’re talking about super compensation and all that. So what are the tools that we have out there for measuring recovery?


Trevor Connor  43:40

Yeah, I think this is a really important point that we have all these amazing tools for measuring training stress, tons of software packages, we have garments, we have power meters, we have heart rate straps, the tools for measuring recovery, the whole other side of this equation are relatively small, and only really just starting to appear as something that a lot of people can use. So you know, I would say the the old one, the one that’s been around a while is is mourning heart rate or resting heart rate, which has been shown to correlate somewhat with your recovery level. If you wake up and your resting heart rates high, that’s often a sign that you’re not recovered. But it’s not perfect. And I think the one that we really want to talk about that is really starting to take off and is showing a lot of good correlation is what’s called heart rate variability. And this is the, basically they just measure the length of time between each beat. And how variable is that length of time from beat to beat to beat. This goes back to that central nervous system stress, what controls our heart rate is our central nervous system. It’s a balance. And I’ll tell you this gets really complex. Maybe we’ll go into this in another podcast. So I’m just going to give you the Cliff’s notes version. There’s two sides of our nervous system. There’s the parasympathetic, which slows down your heart rate, and the sympathetic nervous system which speeds up your heart rate. And there’s this constant balancing act between the two. And as a result, when they’re kind of going back and forth, you’re going to see a fair amount of variability between the length of your beats. So that’s that increased heart rate variability. When the nervous system gets fatigued, you see less sympathetic activation, you see less parasympathetic activation, and your heart just kind of becomes this machine that’s just kind of at a steady pace. It’s just there, there’s far less variability between the beats. They’re actually these fascinating studies many years ago, where they took the hearts kind of gross, but they took the hearts out of frogs or disconnected them from the frogs and nervous system, but kept the hearts beating. And discovered when they were disconnected from the nervous system, the hearts would just automatically beat at 100 beats per minute. So to get it below 100 beats per minute, you had to have a really had the parasympathetic nervous system takeover to get heart rate above 100 beats per minute, you had to have strong sympathetic activation. And so it’s it’s the interplay between the two. So when the central nervous system isn’t fatigued, when it’s it’s very responsive, you’re going to see a lot of heart rate variability, and measuring


Chris Case  46:14



Trevor Connor  46:16

Right, you can measure yourself, you have to have a device that measures this. And really interestingly, and again, this so there’s these studies, I gonna butcher this name, but it’s is Kevin naeemi. Dr. Kevin dmem. I apologized to him. If he’s listening right now I know I just butchered your name. But he published two studies in 2007, and 2010, where he took two groups, one group followed a standard periodized pre plan training plan that basically said, here’s what you’re doing each week, here’s what you do in each day, then he had another group, their training was based on their heart rate variability. So every morning, they would measure the heart rate variability, and you would take, you take a 10 day moving average, because you get a lot of change in heart rate variability day to day, but you’re looking for those general trends. And based on where their heart rate variability was that they’d be told that day to either increase their or to go out and do a hard session or to go and do an easy session. And what they found was at the end of the study, or both studies, the group that followed the standard training plan, and the the group that used heart rate variability, they did about the same level of high intensity training. But the group using heart rate variability to determine when they could go hard shows saw significantly greater improvements.


Kate Courtney  47:40

Yeah, I mean, I think that’s super interesting. To see how kind of the quality of your training the time you were training can make a really big difference. And for me, I think the one thing you said that that resonates a lot that I think a lot of people miss is you were talking about the the 10 day average for her availability. And I think when you’re using these measuring devices, it’s so easy to wake up one morning and see the data and, and make really big changes based on that one data point. But I do think it’s really important to recognize that with all these things are indicators and their data points, but that they they gain value and validity over time, and when taken us data points in a trend. So for me, I use my heart variability a lot to influence my training. But you know, I’m not going to just wake up one morning and it went down a lot and done. I don’t train that day. It’s more of having a complete picture of how it’s changing and what that might mean for my training schedule moving forward.


Trevor Connor  48:44

Yeah, remember, we had Frank Overton on the show, he said if he has one beer at night, his heart rate variability the next morning tanks, not Certainly not. Yeah, a


Chris Case  48:56

bit. He’s a bit older than UK. So he’s a poor guy.


Kate Courtney  49:01

I luckily have not seen that that trend. I’m obviously not a beer girl because I’m gluten free. But


Trevor Connor  49:07

yeah, but it’s going to what you’re saying there are a lot of things that can contribute to one morning seeing heart rate variability or resting heart rate, skyrocket or tank and it isn’t necessarily an indicator that you need rest you need to take time off the bike, you’re looking for that trend over time. Whoop is the performance tool that is changing the way people track their fitness and optimize their training. Whoo provides a wrist worn heartrate monitor that pairs to their app to provide analytics and insights on things like recovery, strain and sleep. know when your body is recovered, or when it needs rest by getting to know your nervous system through heart rate variability and quality of sleep. Automatically track workouts and get strain scores so that you know how strenuous training was on your body and see even more data like average heart rate, Max heart rate and calories and Get optimal sleep times based on how strenuous your day was and track sleep performance with insights into things like your sleep cycles and stages asleep, sleep quality, and sleep consistency, whoop monitors heart rate 100 times per second 24. Seven to give you full insight into your days. So you can optimize the way you train. Whoop, it’s provided an offer for our listeners to get 15% off their purchase with the code Fast Talk, that’s fa s t, capital T A lk, just go to whoop.com. That’s w h o p.com. And use the code Fast Talk to save 15% and optimize the way you train.


Trevor Connor  50:46

The we’re really now getting into that this is that German physiologist who’s checking you out every morning and telling you whether you’re ready or not. And heart rate variability, you can now buy devices that will do this. Back then in the 80s, they probably didn’t just have a heart rate monitor that you could put on to measure these things. Okay, let’s let’s talk about the bootstrap, which I know you use. And it not only looks at heart rate variability, it also looks at resting heart rate, it looks at sleep quality uses all three to give you basically a recovery score. So do you want to talk a bit about that?


Kate Courtney  51:23

Yeah, I would love to. So I started using lube as one of the really, really early adopters. So I’ve been using it for about two years. And it was a kind of coincided with when I graduated college and had the opportunity to focus full time on racing every year, we kind of make goals for the year. And what we’re going to focus on in that year, I really wanted to focus on sleep and recovery. And part of the idea behind that was just that, with added time and not being in school, I could train a lot harder. And all of a sudden, I had, you know free time during the day. And I think I really identified recovery as the thing that would allow me to push the limits without getting ahead of myself that year. And whoop, luckily came out right around then. And I was able to get connected with them through my coach and start using their device to measure heart rate variability in my sleep, and to get that data that I’d never been able to get before to really hone in on what contributed to my recovery and what types of things I could do to control it and manage it, and allow me to push a lot harder in training.


Chris Case  52:28

Having used it myself, Trevor, you’ve used it to, for me, one of the critical things is really helping you think about these things. And Kate, it sounds like you came at it from the opposite direction. In some ways, you will you made that a goal to understand your recovery better and to get more sleep better. And then lo and behold, there’s a device that helps you do that. Whereas other people might not really have that as a goal. But they might want to train harder, they get a whoop. And then they’re fascinated in a way by that data. Look at look at what I’ve done, look at what I can do in terms of recovery in terms of strain to improve. How did I sleep last night? What did I do before I went to bed, did that lead to better sleep or sleep is started really, it helps you. If nothing else, it helps you analyze what you do, and what impact that has both on strain and recovery. And I think that in general makes any athlete a better athlete.


Kate Courtney  53:33

I think as an athlete who’s particularly interested in data, potentially to a fault. You know, I love power meters and heart monitors and just analysis over time of that data. Having something to really quantify recovery was really new for me. And it led to a lot of behavior change. So one really big thing that I took out of whoop was napping, which is something I never really did partially because I was in school. But also it just never really occurred to me that can be so important. But mapping the strain on my body and the amount of time that I need to sleep. And how I can also kind of take recovery periods during the day was super interesting to me and seeing. For example, I do a lot of double days, particularly in the fall and being able to do a gym workout and then get 30 to 45 minutes of sleep, and then do my ride. I saw huge differences in my recovery but also in my sleep needs. So it really helped me like get ahead and feel like I was winning this recovery game that we’ve kind of sets up for you.


Trevor Connor  54:41

Chris can tell you because, as he as you know, I’ve coached him on and off through the years. Something that’s really important to me with my athletes is I ask them every week to assess the recovery. This whole idea of that stress and then recover stress and recover is the whole foundation of how I train or coach will also how I train, but it’s also how I coach, my athletes, there are so many tools to measure the stress, we’ve been looking for ways to measure that recovery. And, you know, personally I’ve been I’ve had a few of my athletes use it and found it very valuable. I just recently had this the story with an athlete where I’ve had him using the whoop strap for a while and he’s an athlete, who, he never really understood just how hard this sport is how much it’s supposed to hurt. So when I first started working with him, he was constantly telling me, oh, that really hurt Is something wrong, those intervals really hurts, I’m feeling a lot of fatigue is this wrong, and didn’t really realize that was kind of normal. So I admit, I got a little impatient and just started going, you’re fine, keep pushing, you’re fine, keep pushing, stop telling me about the fatigue, stop telling me about the pain. But we and he’s gotten a lot better about this. But we had this incident about a month ago, where we had done a big 14 week. So again, I really wanted to overload him. Then we did a Recovery Week, and at the end of the Recovery Week, I said, let’s get back to training. He was saying intervals aren’t quite right. Something doesn’t quite feel right. And I admit I normally would have said, okay, you’re you’re over aware of the pain again, push through. But then he pointed out because you’ve been using the bootstrap. bootstrap has me in the red, and it rarely ever had him in the red. So we took a look at that and said, You’re right, you’re not recovered yet, that Recovery Week was not sufficient. And we had him do another about half week of recovery. And then we slowly eased into it. And it kept him on track. If I hadn’t had that data, I would have read him wrong. And that was a real big moment for me. Because sometimes you get caught up a little too much by your own personal biases to have something that can actually show it to you is immensely invaluable.


Kate Courtney  56:58

Oh, I was just curious, because I think this is something we’re all we’re all learning. Like we haven’t had this data previously. And I think something I talk a lot with my coach about is just that idea of overreaching, and when is it okay to be in the red? Do you find with whoop? Are you often seeing athletes like be under covered for a period of time that’s planned? Or are you really responsive to those like red days?


Trevor Connor  57:23

So it depends, it goes back to what I was saying is you have to have those overload periods. So those I plan out, I don’t plan out the day to day, but we’ll have a week or we say, okay, we really want to beat you up this week. And we want you coming out of this week fatigued. And that’s where I actually want to see the whoop score going down. If they’re using a whoop, that helps me a bit to see it saying Yeah, you’re fatigued, and you need to back down. If we’re in a typical week, where I want them to be staying in balance, and you start seeing the whoop score get red, then we need to adjust, then we then we need to do something different, but it depends on on what we’re trying to accomplish with the week. But it does, like I saw with that other athlete is it gives you something a little more objective to say the the stress recovery is out of balance, or it’s in a good balance, more than just going with feeling


Kate Courtney  58:15

completely. And I love that perspective. Because I think that’s something as an athlete who uses whoop, and people know I use it, they asked me a lot about that. And that’s really my coach’s philosophy on it as well. And I think my personal philosophy on it is all the all the hashtags are hashtag in the green and and I feel like I want a hashtag in the red, which is, you know, a testament to those periods of overreaching. And we really use it, I think most in those periods where I’m planning to be under covered but also need to manage it really, really closely to make sure that we dig the right amount of a hole.


Trevor Connor  58:51

And that’s, that is so key because you want to dig into a hole. But there’s a certain point where you go too deep into that hole, and then you can’t come it goes back to what you’re saying before of when they took people to a point of being overreached, but not so deep that they still couldn’t hit the numbers. They they really saw a big jump in their form if they went too deep. And then they really got that neural logical fatigue, they couldn’t hit the numbers anymore. At best, they just eventually returned to their old levels. So you want to find that point?


Kate Courtney  59:23

Yeah, no. And finding that point is is obviously very tricky. And whoop is a huge, valuable data point in that. But I think also, in general, I would say I think I think people are really scared of overtraining and really scared to push themselves. And I think for me, having this data is is something that makes me feel I’m able to more accurately track that overreaching. And so I’m less afraid to push it knowing that we kind of had kind of have a handle on it and are managing it and actually so my biggest training block of the year, usually Is this hilarious thing we came up with called the Kate epic. And this year, it was six days, about 100 plus miles a day 90 to 100 miles a day. So is a 37 hour week. It was pretty challenging. But what actually ended up happening is my weave score tanked day three, you know, I’m going, I’m in the green, I’m in the green. I’m in the orange, I’m in the red. And all the sudden, I’m like, oh, man, is this is this a problem. And what ended up happening is my body actually really adapted to the training. And by the end, I was back in the upper orange and on the last day in the green, and was able to recover really well from that block. So I think being aware and cognizant of the strain you’re putting on your body is what’s really needed for the adaptation, but also not being afraid to get in the red.



Right? Well, I


Trevor Connor  1:00:51

think also, what’s nice is you can look at the different factors that are contributing to being in the red, it looks at heart rate variability, it looks at sleep quality, it looks at resting heart rate, and it looks at the amount of strain that you’re doing. And if you’re going into the read, but but that’s because you’re at a big stage race, and you are putting huge strain on the body, and you’re not seeing those other factors tank a ton, then you can say, Well, this is just because I’m doing big, big training, but my body seems to be handling. Okay, so right now it’s okay, that I’m in the red a little bit is that a good way to look at it? Is that Oh, you would use it?


Kate Courtney  1:01:26

Completely? Yeah, I think that’s a really a balanced perspective. And especially with that, you know, one day and the red thing, I think, having the perspective that it’s the aggregate data, and really, really valuable because maybe you wake up the next day, and you’re still able to train hard. And as I saw in my training block somehow, and who knows physiologically exactly what was happening here, but one day, I’m in the red, I do my hard train day still, and the next day actually improved, felt better and adapted really well to that block. So I think if you if you cut yourself off really early at the sign of fatigue, you’re not allowing that overloading and that adaptation that is really critical to making progress.


Chris Case  1:02:09

That’s a really important point.


Trevor Connor  1:02:12

Back in Episode 45, we have Matt Casson, the top coach at Apex coaching and Frank Overton, the owner of fast cat coaching on the show talking about recovery. They had some interesting points about feel versus metrics. And that sometimes you need to be in the red. Frank actually brought up the loop strap, which the rest of us hadn’t heard of at the time. How do you have your athletes monitor their recovery? Are their metrics is it feel what are what are your techniques? Pretty much 100% feel



for all the athletes I work with that that really, you know, 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, and keep going with it. I think just like people get overly obsessed with numbers in a certain interval set. People also get obsessed with you know, they see their training plan, they see this is the workout I have to do today. And so then they just, they just kind of dig their head in and kind of ignore how they feel. So I one of the most important things I was stressed with my athletes is just listen to your body. And if it’s if you’re tired, you’re tired for reason. You got three hours of sleep last night, then, okay, you need to take that into consideration. But I just don’t think that the those metrics are accurate enough to just forego listening to your own body and just listen to what a lot of the wearable technology stuff. Wow, that what that 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.



Break. How



do you feel? I coach recovery techniques. You know, the fundamental sleep, rest nutrition while design training plan, there is a new device that I’ve been using, and having recommended my athletes is 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 work, and it’s it gives you a recovery score. And if you’re 80%, you know you’re going to be good to go. But if you know, if you got three hours of sleep, your work score is going to be low. If your heart rate is elevated in the morning from past training, that’s going to factor into what score if they’ve got a really nice app and a user interface and athletes will use their web score and to gauge how well they’re doing at getting good sleep, recovering. It’ll even it’ll even divvy out your REM sleep in, you know, just restless sleep. It’ll tell you how many times you’ve been restless in the night if you got in the back in the middle of the night to the bathroom. Or if you laid in bed for an hour and a half before you actually fell asleep. Things like that. It’ll you know, it’s You drink alcohol the night before it’ll affect your sleep and the wolf score can capture that. So it teaches athletes a lot about their bodies, and what maybe you know how to optimize their recovery from just their lifestyle


Trevor Connor  1:05:14

that you found is pretty accurate or works well with your athletes.



You know, it,



I don’t know, if there’s enough science out there about that. I mean, you can’t say, Oh, you know, it’s plus or minus 1.5%, I got an SRM. I think the value of the world is it gets athletes to start thinking about going to bed early, eating better nutrition, you know, maybe drinking less alcohol, if they’re, if they’re doing that, you know, maybe doing a better job of actually sleeping, like, you know, pulling the blinds or getting a noisemaker to drown out the noise from the city, or, you know, just looking at what their quality of sleep is. Because, you know, sleep is so important. I mean, if you look at, you know, like Team Sky, and, you know, marginal gains, they’re like, you know, they’re chucking in pillows and mattresses, you know, to increase the quality of sleep. And this is something that this, you know, device for, everyone can look at, it’s like, I do need a new mattress, you know, do you need to fix the air conditioner? Is it too hot? Yeah. What was what’s, you know, why are you only getting five hours of sleep a night, you know, shut off your computer go to bed early, you know, you get a better bedtime routine. And so I like it, because it teaches athletes, you know, they’re, they’re the ones that come back to me and are like, what score was low? And yeah, it feels so hot on the the workout today, and it kind of correlates to, well, you got a poor night’s sleep. And that’s a common sense. But it’s, it’s a number that gets it’s thought provoking for the athletes, because I’m thinking about the recovery and focusing on the recovered smart. Yeah, does that just does it just measure movement in the night to determine sleep quality?






that’s, you know, I can’t imagine to do anything more than that. I mean, it’s it, you know, it’s heart rate. And that’s got to be in the fact. Somewhere in the science, but it isn’t good one, it’s better than a like a Garmin, like this, or a Fitbit that just measures your movement and equates that to REM sleep, they actually look at your heart rate. And like, you know, does your heart rate elevate? Or, you know, are you in deep sleep? I don’t actually know the science behind it. Because I know that the ones that are just based off of movement, yeah, very, I used one for like eight months. And then like, paper came out that said that he hasn’t actually act. I was pretty devastated. Because, well, if you watch a movie in bed, like you could watch a movie for like two hours in yourself. thinks you’re asleep. Yeah,



yeah. Sweet. hours asleep. But that’s not it. But I think the web does better than that.



Yeah. Yeah. I think one thing with I know, you know, some, some athletes can get pretty neurotic. And again, you know, there can be an overemphasis on numbers. And I know that one team I had specifically like, you can tell he, he would take that his recovery metric. Like, I’ll take it really seriously that oh, well, I’m, I’m pretty wrecked. So I’m not going to go on the group ride with you guys today. Like, I’m just gonna, it’s like, 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 like, you should wake up and you should feel tired and eat up and you should go out and ride your bike. And so there needs to be a Yeah, I don’t I don’t know about that specific. But like, if there is there needs to be some correlation of, Okay, if this is workout you’re doing then a score of 60 is fine. But if you’re doing some other workout and score 60 means don’t don’t do it. Yeah, there’s times where you got to dig in and follow the plan. Yeah, yeah. No, independent of like, we expect you to be knackered. Yeah.



Let’s get back to the show.


Chris Case  1:08:51

Kate, have you been able to use the three point O strap that has this new strain coach feature? Yeah, I


Kate Courtney  1:08:59

have it on right now.


Chris Case  1:09:01

Okay, well, perhaps you could actually speak to that strain coach feature and talk about how it sort of helps you plan out your workouts and it shows? What is it It shows your strain in build up in real time? So you know, when you hit your goal for the day, is that is that correct?


Kate Courtney  1:09:22

Yeah, I think for me, that’s less of a feature that I’m using just because my workouts are pretty planned out. And so it’s more of feedback after the fact for me, but I think for someone who is using woop as their primary kind of coaching platform or their platform to really assess the load they’re putting on their body. It’s an incredible feature. And it’s going to make it a lot more valuable both in terms of understanding their recovery, but again, getting more and more information about what that load is


Trevor Connor  1:09:57

one of the new features in the 3.0 and actually I just read a really good white paper that they put up about this. Is this, what they’re calling their strain coach? And that’s based and let’s see how many ways I can butcher this name given the me so good. They referenced his studies. Here’s another name that I can butcher there was a 2016 study that continued that research by Vesta re re runnin, and then


Chris Case  1:10:27

I love it.


Trevor Connor  1:10:28

We will go these references up. Can we just get some American researchers please?


Chris Case  1:10:35



Trevor Connor  1:10:36

mica burnouts are Canadian, so I can pronounce that. That study found similar things. But they actually found when they had their their subjects do their training based on on heart rate variability, that the heart rate variability group actually did less high intensity training, it was more variable when they did their high intensity training. But again, they saw greater gains. So whoop with this new strap has really taken all this research, looked at how the recommendations were made using heart rate variability using resting resting heart rate, to to modify training to get better games. And they’ve now built this into this 3.0 strap. So if you use it, it’s going to tell you every day, you’re ready to do high intensity intervals today, go out and kill yourself or it’s going to tell you, nope, you shouldn’t break 150 watts go and do a spin and get beat by very attache people on the bike path. That is a nice feature because essentially, this is putting that German physiologist on your wrist. You don’t need to have them crashing on your couch and talking to you every month.


Chris Case  1:11:42

That would be really weird and heavy.


Trevor Connor  1:11:45

Well, be nice to have your own personal German physiologist wouldn’t if


Chris Case  1:11:51

you’re single, Trevor, it might be weird at my house. Yeah,


Trevor Connor  1:11:55

that’s okay. You could do double duty with babysitting.


Chris Case  1:12:00

That’s true. Yes. If the German physiologist would occasionally let my wife and I go out to dinner while he watched onica. That’d be great.


Kate Courtney  1:12:08

Yeah, one other thing with the whip strap that I think is underappreciated, but especially for elite athletes is is critical is that the strain is 24. Seven. So it really assesses not only, you know, the specific workouts that I’m doing, but also just overall life strain. And that’s something that I think I’ve learned a lot about using whoop. And that’s changed some of my habits. So we talked a lot, I talked to my sports psychologist about energy management and understanding that when you get off the bike, you might have used your entire days worth of energy and gotten that 20.5 strain already in that five hour day. And that’s, there’s obviously a lot more than five hours in a day. So being able to manage your recovery time, and keep the strain from maybe non sport related activities low is something that I think is also really valuable.


Trevor Connor  1:13:05

That is such an important point, because I have seen this with athletes where you tell them okay, this is a Recovery Week, and they think Recovery Week, okay, I get off the bike. But then they spend that week running around doing errands party and doing all these other things. And they’re actually still putting a big strain on their bodies just doesn’t happen to be on the bike. And they get to the end of the week. And they say I’m not recovered. I don’t know why. And by the way, I was out dancing for five hours last night, what’s going on?


Chris Case  1:13:30

Yeah, right. Yeah,


Kate Courtney  1:13:31

it’s really, it’s really easy to fall into that trap. And I think something for me, that’s also difficult as athletes, we feel best when we’re moving our body. And when we’re doing something and coming home, especially for me this past week, coming home from a huge trip in Europe, both those World Cups are really exciting time. And then having recipe your first inclination is I’m in a hike, and I’m gonna go to yoga, and I’m gonna go have lunch, my friends, and actually like really trying to learn from from past years and take advantage of this recovery. I had a few days where I did nothing. And it’s really hard to mentally to do that. And it’s not as fun but I think I saw a huge value in it. And that was reflected in my whoop scores I had, you know, I kind of bounced right back into the green when I did really take those days off and give my moreso my mind the time to do nothing and recover and be prepared for this next block that’s coming.


Trevor Connor  1:14:30

When I spoke with houzhang and Mary asked him how he tells when his athletes are out of balance and that stress recovery balance. Notice that while he uses their training files to look for neurological fatigue, some of the best indicators that are off the bike, like sleep, mood and heart rate variability.


Houshang Amiri  1:14:47

I think there are some indications that up we follow if usually that’s like coach they have logbook they have to indicate. For example, there More than resting heart rate or heart rate variability in the mornings, the sleep quality, the appetite, and, and and willingness to training. Those are, that’s feelings we record. And same time when I look at the files, basically using golden Cheeto training peak, looking at their neurological fatigue, those software’s doing really well working for me, I won’t suffer more than decades, on two decades. I know that it gives me ideas when stress levels are high. With that being said those offers, they don’t measure social or other stress outside physical, physical stress. And that’s why we need those up questionnaire answers in daily basis, that’s making sure they are staying top of the game.


Trevor Connor  1:16:02

What are the things that you look forward to see the neurological fatigue,


Houshang Amiri  1:16:06

outside of that those software’s that analyze athletes heart rate, power, and sweet etc. I look at the as I said, up morning resting heart rates, and most important part is sleep pattern. Are they falling asleep right away, or it takes time to fall asleep. When they fall asleep, they waking up overnight. Or if they don’t, if they waking up how many times. So those are has to do with neurological stress. For example, if they train too hard, or they’re to fatigue and or training is too close to the bedtime, most likely they’re going to fall asleep pretty fast. But what’s going to happen they’re going to keep waking up. And sometimes I’ve seen their athletes, as they say, you know, has a dream that falling off from the roof or etc. Those all has to do with a neurological fatigue. And sometimes physical fatigue is delays the falling asleep, they can lay on the bed and not falling asleep, lose of weight, body weight, they’re losing too much body weights and the appetite. They know they sometimes they don’t want to eat just because of the fatigue level, the mood how they respond to the coast tracks, there is no or in regular conversations is no dot been at least under stress. You can tell that they’re pre nervous, and they can really tolerate anything. And they usually they are jumpy on the answers, etc. So just recording those calves bit, modifying the training and making correct adjustments.


Trevor Connor  1:18:09

Let’s get back to the show and talk about some of those unusual situations where it may be hard to interpret the recovery data. One thing I’ll quickly point out here, whoop gives full credit to this. But elite athletes very high level athletes like you there are some differences and one of them is very elite endurance athletes tend to have much lower resting heart rates. And there is an interaction between heart rate variability variability and resting heart rate. And that can lead to something too. That’s called parasympathetic saturation. Which is basically even though the the parasympathetic side is is rising, you don’t see the normal response. And that can show up in the short run as a drop in heart rate variability that makes it look like you’re actually not recovering. So just one thing to be aware of. And I Chris, you saw this in your data, I saw this in my data. And we were a little confused by it. But that’s because we do a ton of training. So even though I am slow and get beat by kids on tricycles, I technically fit into that more elite category. When I do a hard training block and then do some recovery, in the short run during that Recovery Week, I’m actually going to see heart rate variability get worse and my recovery score get worse. And it’s just because of that effect that you see in some athletes. Okay, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen that.


Kate Courtney  1:19:29

Yeah, I haven’t seen it as much. There was a time when we thought that was showing up around around worlds last year for a bit but um, yeah, for the most part, my data has been pretty solid, and reliable. I guess.


Trevor Connor  1:19:43

My bootstrap hated me. I don’t think I ever saw it in the green wants because I get no sleep. I’m always over stressing myself. I actually unfortunately lost my bootstrap at the Denver Airport.


Chris Case  1:19:55

He lost my bootstrap


Trevor Connor  1:19:56

last Christmas. I took it off at security and one potential explanation here is somebody stole it. The explanation I actually go with is the whoop strap went freedom and a jumped. It just got out of there. I just can’t handle this guy. He never recovers.


Chris Case  1:20:12

He wanted to be back. Yeah.


Kate Courtney  1:20:14

It also is. It also is interesting, though, because it runs on like 30 day averages. So if you’re, like, never recovered for 30 days, then if you improve even a little bit, you’re improving over your 30 day average. At least,


Trevor Connor  1:20:31

that that’s, that’s fair, that’s Yeah,


Kate Courtney  1:20:34

well, well, no, I just I think it’s actually really interesting to think about that. Because like, for me, for example, this month, I’ll expect to see low recovery, at least for the first few weeks. Because when I was right before the World Cups, you know, my resting heart rate is 38. And my heart variability was in the two hundreds I was, you know, really peak for those races, of course, then take a break. And now I’m going to be completely in a hole with the training block. And you have to remember that it’s, it’s using those averages as your baselines and always comparing to that. So it might even over pronounce your under recovery. If you’re coming out of block where you’re particularly uncovered. Or if you’re coming out of a block where you are really under recovered, it might say that you’re you’re really doing a lot better.


Trevor Connor  1:21:19

And that’s all joking aside, that’s a really good point. And a good recommendation for anybody who gets one. The whoop SAP really tries to get to know each individual. And it starts to learn you in those first couple of weeks that you wear it. And one of the mistakes that I did is I started wearing it, right during two very a typical weeks. So it didn’t quite learn me, right? So if you get one of these straps, start wearing it. Even if you have to wait a little bit, start wearing it when you’re at can what you would feel would you say is typical recovery level doing typical training, so it learns a good baseline? Yeah, I


Kate Courtney  1:21:56

got one for my dad, and my dad started using it in the first, like two weeks I told him, Hey, it’s gonna take a while, like, just ignore it for the first week. It’s getting used to my dad’s like sending me screenshots every day, how’s my recovery? And I Okay, look how well I slept last night. I’m dying like,


Chris Case  1:22:18

Yeah, well, you know, get your alarm. You’re a data nerd case. So you probably know where he’s coming from. He just was was geeking out on that stuff.



Oh, I get it, I get it from my dad. He’s the MLS of the family. So


Chris Case  1:22:31

I was gonna say what are the other things that you you said maybe think of a good point about the whoop is that you start to understand what you should expect to see from the whoop strap and the recovery scores and the strain scores and all the things you expect to see. But like we were talking about earlier, way earlier in the program, it’s sometimes when something doesn’t feel right, or something feels wrong, that you start to question it. And that’s when, you know, instinct kicks in, and you and you might text your coach, what’s going on, or you might or, at the same time, if all of a sudden your whoops shows you something that you weren’t expecting, it makes you start to think, oh, what what’s going on here is something wrong Do I need to back off. So I like the fact that you keep emphasizing the fact that it’s about trends, it’s about a long term view, it’s aggregating this data over a period of time, and you can’t, you shouldn’t necessarily look at it in a silo for a specific day, or a specific block, week long block of training


Kate Courtney  1:23:38

completely. And and I would say just don’t forget, like the age old best way to tell how you feel is to just ask yourself how you feel. And the data is really helpful for me, but you still have this other data point. And can reflect on that. And actually, when I first start using web services, they don’t have this problem anymore. But two years ago, I started using it and I had these days where I thought there was a problem with algorithm. And I would be like, you know, this, this recovery score seems wrong, and actually worked with the product development team. And we identified there was a little bit of a back end software issue that was affecting 4% of users and would give us these incorrect recovery scores every once in a while. And I actually thought that was a really interesting moment, because I had gotten so kind of used to the data and understood that it was measuring to the point that I knew when it was functioning correctly and not. And I think that’s, you know, a great anecdote of why it’s so important to stay in touch with how you feel and to consider the big picture. Because there are, you know, data’s not always 100% accurate and there are going to be those days where, I don’t know maybe the strap like was sitting weird on your wrist one night or maybe it didn’t accurately log your sleep or maybe you just had an off day. And those data points might not always be? Well, I’ll say it this way, they’re part of the picture. And it’s important to maintain the overall perspective,


Trevor Connor  1:25:13

it goes back to what we were saying about interval work, you know, heart rate, power, all these things are a guy. But dude, agree, you have to trust how you feel, you can’t ignore that. So I know we’ve been talking a lot about whoop here. And just something I want to remind all our listeners, and it probably won’t be the last time I remind you where we are really big on, we never promote a product on the show unless we really believe in it. And one of these days, we should get our sales rep mark on the show, because I’m sure he has some choice words for me about how true we have been to that. And we really reached out to whoop. And the reason we got excited about it. The reason we’ve talked about it a few times on these shows exactly on the show is exactly what we’ve been talking about. There are so many tools out there that tell you how hard you’re going that tell you how strong you are. But this is a balance between stress and recovery. And this is really the only tool out there that we’ve seen, that focuses on that balance and really focuses on the recovery side, and starts to give you a way to measure that. And to me as a coach, who really cares about that recovery side. That’s, that’s something new. And that’s something exciting to me, that’s it, that’s more valuable than then buying your third power meter, or your fourth set of race wheels.


Chris Case  1:26:31

So Kate, since you’re new to this show, we always like to challenge our guests to take all that we’ve spoken about all of their thoughts on the subject and wrap it up into 60 seconds to sort of encapsulate the essence of the episode. So we’re gonna put you on the spot, we’re going to have you go first. So you’ve got 60 seconds, whenever you’re ready, go ahead.


Kate Courtney  1:26:56

The one takeaway I think that’s most important is that recovery and training is both a science and an art. And for me, it’s really helpful to have that data. But I think always keeping the big perspective and the big picture in terms of recovery and how your entire life is structured around what you’re doing is really critical and having not only those short term gains, but in having consistency, and being able to have your sport be a successful part of your life in the long run. Trevor, why


Chris Case  1:27:28

don’t you? Why don’t you give us your one minute takeaway.


Trevor Connor  1:27:33

So I think my one minute might actually be 20 seconds, because I’m gonna say this really concisely, the art of training is to remember that training does damage, it is in recovery, that you rebuild and get stronger. So there’s two sides of this equation. And you need to be as intense and dedicated in your recovery as you are in your training. Pretty well all of our listeners have invested a ton of money and time into measuring that stress side, put some time into measuring and keeping track of that recovery side. Chris, what’s yours?


Chris Case  1:28:13

I don’t want to flatter Kate too much. But I really think that some of the things that she said, the way that she thinks about balancing training and stress and recovery and all the elements that go into it, were incredible. You know, she serves as a great example of how to get the most out of yourself, if that’s what you’re looking for, if you’re looking to improve performance. Think about what she said in terms of assessing all the things when you’re out on a ride, taking all of this data, analyzing it, using the tools that you have available to you, working with your coach, working with your village, having support making sure you get all the fun that you can in there, hurting yourself when you need to hurt yourself recovering, setting up your life in a way to maximize the way that you can recover and plan it out really well. And I mean, hey, she’s a world champion. She must be doing something right so she’s a good example to follow.



Well, thank you.


Chris Case  1:29:17

That was another episode of Fast Talk. As always, we love your feedback. Email us at Fast Talk@velonews.com Subscribe to Fast Talk on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, SoundCloud and Google Play. Be sure to leave us a rating and a comment. 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, Kate Courtney houzhang Amiri little Gaiman, Matt Casson, Frank Overton. I’m Chris case and thanks for listening.