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Category Archives — Smart Athlete

Using HRV to Guide Training

It is hard to organize all the data we can collect these days in a way that makes decisions easier to make. The recommendations of a system like HRV4Training make interpreting the data much easier and as a HUGE BONUS, it makes integrating highly valuable ‘subjective measures’ into these recommendations much easier.

HRV can be a huge asset when adjusting training based on an athlete’s recovery. I have pulled a few examples for today’s post.

The Hrv4Training App is one of the apps I personally use daily and one that I recommend to many of my busy-adult clients to save them time and to try and coax them into paying attention to their body/stress and communicating with their coach!

Read my post on how I use HRV4TRAINING to get these comments and subjective measures into training peaks

Monthly HRV in return to fitness

One way that I found HRV to be helpful was in monitoring my return to form after a long period of illness/injury in late 2017-2018. In the above image, I have annotated a by month look at RMSSD (read about RMSSD here).

I was able to get relatively fit (~100-110 CTL and Cp20 @ >5 w/kg ) in Feb/March after volume/endurance. Along with general feeling on the bike, the return of my ‘normal’ riding HR:Power (efficiency) and resting HR/HRV values made for great indicators that my form had returned and that it was time to try some intensity and racing in May.

Check out Consummate Athlete episodes on HRV

Are you recovered? Effects of racing and travel

The above athlete’s HRV is shown as school ends and we tried a big volume block with the newly available time ahead of a recovery week and a stage race. HRV seemed to reflect a good response to training and also matched a decent recovery/form for the stage race. Post-stage race recovery coupled with some crazy travel days made for a bunch of yellow days with low HRV that can help guide the recovery strategy in the week(s) after the race.

Adjusting training for Lifestyle Stress

This athlete above has been fairly consistent until this spring when lifestyle stress + poor weather made for a period where HRV dropped (see above red arrow) which I noticed due to the HRV drop and then this started the discussion of what was up with life-stress and how we could adjust training to match.

How to use HRV – The Basics from HRV4Training Blog

How is sleep?

This client had a very big decline in sleep quality around the first arrow from the left. This change in HRV and the daily recommendation from HRV4Training (and reported low sleep) helped start a discussion and provide support to reduce training and a guide along with sleep/feeling (and a doctor) to return to training.

The above graph is sleep hours as reported by the client in the HRV4Training each morning. This started a discussion about why sleep had declined by 1hr in the spring (group rides and weekly races …) and how we could adjust things to prioritize sleep.

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Check out this latest episode of the Consummate Athlete Podcast discussing FOMO (fear of missing out) on big training days and fun looking races. We also discuss several fueling topics, how to deal with imperfect training conditions (weather, lacking hills, etc).

As I look through the episode notes and re-listen to the episode it strikes me that a lot of these concepts come back to paying attention to your own performance and response to the training and daily habits. If you are finding that you are struggling on hills then are you making sure that your habits/training line up with this? If energy on rides is tough are you trying and tracking different strategies?

Check out the show notes and links mentioned in the episode:

Should You Ride the Trainer in the Summer?

Recently I was on the Canadian Cycling Magazine podcast discussing whether it is wise to keep your trainer setup over the summer. You can listen in the player below or visit their website here.

While at first you may be caught off guard that anyone would consider riding indoors it is worth pondering how disruptions to your training can affect your fitness. How many days do you miss due to weather, darkness, equipment malfunction or even abandon a given workout due to traffic and busy roads/trails on the weekend?

As I am fond of saying, “The Trainer is like a Batting Cage, it is not Baseball”. By this I mean it is a tool we should use but not one that we should use at the exclusion of specific training (like riding off-road, with people, up hills etc)

In the summer I will add an easy spin on the trainer some mornings or evenings. I have used the indoor trainer to dodge a rainy day when the trails are not suitable for mountain biking and even for some heat adaptation if the weather is not hot enough outside.

Many clients I have in big cities will get those critical Threshold workouts done on the trainer where they can focus on the long efforts (ie. 2 x 20 min) without worrying about finding a long stretch of road or about the safety of city streets and paths.

Going from Trainer Workouts to Outside Cycling

The transition from focused, indoor workouts to the ‘real-world’ outside can be challenging. If you are following a training plan this might mean leaving some of the ‘perfect workouts’ behind and thinking more about route choice, bike type, and clothing.


Remember that winter is always around the corner (“It’s a trap!) and that you can ride your indoor trainer (or go to the gym, or cross-train) year round. This is a concept I use with most of my clients. You want to ready to move in a variety of ways so you can thrive in a wide variety of conditions.

Help Make Your Transition to Outdoor Riding Better By:
– Keeping your trainer setup longer (if not year round)
– Get Fenders (Good ones!)
– Waterproof and warm/versatile clothes help make you happy and get more training in. Canadian Cycling Mag did an article on Spring Cycling Clothing here
– Combine indoor and outdoor rides (or cross-training) to get that volume in. Sundays long ride could be done as 90 min outside, 1hr inside is a great way to nurse your way to good weather!

In the below podcast episode on the Canadian Cycling Magazine Podcast, I am interviewed by Editor Mathew Pioro about how to successfully make this transition. Enjoy the whole episode or jump to minute 19:30 when my segment starts!

Looking for a training plan that helps take the guess work out of training indoors, outdoors or in the gym? Try Smart Athlete’s popular 100% Made for You Plans

First Race Jitters, Base to Race & more!

The Latest Episode of the Consummate Athlete Podcast Deals with common questions from listeners and also from Smart Athlete Coaching Clients. This one addresses some common questions around first race nerves and ‘jitters’. We also talk about why there is such a big range in the Carbohydrate recommendations DURING exercise.

Also examined is the transition from indoors to outdoors, which often corresponds with ‘base to build’ or general to specific phases transitioning. This is when we often look at making the training more intense but depending on who you are this may not be as big a change in intensity as you think!

Check out the Show Notes on

Do You Need to Run for Cyclocross?

This is a great question and one that becomes too polarized. I believe that many cyclists, especially non-elite/age-group/masters aged athletes who have to balance work, family, health, and travel with their training can really benefit from being able to run. Should you run? or do you want to run? Or do you need to run? […]