Training
Photo: Will Patterson

Fast Talk podcast, ep. 76: When to push and when to pull the plug, with Kate Courtney and Whoop

In episode 76, we discuss the importance of balancing recovery with training stress, and the best tools to help you decide when to keep pushing, and when to rest.

The VeloNews Fast Talk podcast is your source for the best training advice and most compelling insight on what it takes to become a better cyclist. Listen in as VeloNews managing editor Chris Case and our resident physiologist and coach, Trevor Connor, discuss a range of topics, including sport science, training, physiology, technology, nutrition, and more.


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.