Fast Talk, ep. 45: The art of recovery — how to balance training and rest with metrics

Recovery is just as important to strong performances as your daily workouts. What's the best way to measure it? We dive in.

Photo: TDW

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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 training, physiology, technology, nutrition, and more.

IT’S OFTEN OVERLOOKED. Sometimes forgotten. But it never should be. Recovery is just as important to strong performances as your daily workouts and weekly riding volume. Recovery is the other side of the training balance that we often neglect. That is until we’re in a race, the legs feel sluggish, and the field rides away from us. Then we start asking what happened.

In today’s technology-driven training world, we have easy-to-use tools like power meters to track our performance. But tracking recovery is not so easy. What’s lacking is that one clear metric or tool to tell us when we’re fatigued. If you discuss the topic with coaches and elite riders, they’ll each suggest a different way to monitor your recovery. Some will point to objective measurable metrics like resting heart rate, heart rate variability, or blood tests. Others will use more subjective measures — how they feel generally, the soreness they experience when they climb the stairs in the morning, or, sometimes, how much their family wants to avoid them.

In today’s episode, we delve into the question of recovery metrics, a question that comes from listener Greg Gibson.

First, we’ll discuss why the balance between training and recovery plays such an important role in performing at our best. That doesn’t mean that being recovered all the time is a good thing. So we’ll also address the difference between overtraining and functional over-reaching.

Next we’ll discuss a recent review comparing subjective metrics to objective metrics of recovery. If you think that a blood test or heart rate measure is necessarily better than answering a few questions every morning about how you feel, think again. In either case, we’ll look at some of the tools for monitoring recovery, including tests like the POMS questionnaire of mood and the RESQ scale, as well as heart rate variability.

Finally, we’ll hear from several coaches and athletes about what they feel works best when it comes to monitoring recovery.

Our guest today is Dr. Paul Gastin, a professor at the Centre for Exercise and Sport Science at Deakin University in Australia. Dr. Gastin has spent over a decade working with coaches and athletes in the field. He’s particularly interested in how to best measure recovery outside of the lab and has written an influential review paper on the subject.

Our other guests include veteran pro Brent Bookwalter, with BMC Racing. We’re also joined by two excellent coaches here in Boulder: Mac Cassin with Apex Coaching and Fast Talk regular Frank Overton, owner of FasCat Coaching.

We’ll hear from Armando Mastracci, the founder of Xert training software, about the potential to use training software to give us clues about our recovery state.

And finally, we’ll hear a more “medical” opinion of recovery from head physician at the University of Colorado Sport Medicine and Performance Center, Dr. Jason Glowney. All that and more in this episode of Fat Talk.

So, sit back, relax, and let all those training miles soak in. Let’s make you fast!

Fast Talk is available on all your favorite podcast services, including iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, and Soundcloud. If you enjoy the podcast, please take a moment to rate and comment on iTunes after listening. Also, check out the VeloNews Cycling Podcast, our weekly discussion of the sport’s hottest topics, trends, and controversies.

Links to Free Subjective Recovery Tools

Profile of Mood States (POMS)
The Recovery-Stress Questionnaires (RESQ)


  • Halson, S. L. (2014). Monitoring training load to understand fatigue in athletes. Sports Med, 44 Suppl 2, S139-147.
  • Halson, S. L., Bridge, M. W., Meeusen, R., Busschaert, B., Gleeson, M., Jones, D. A., et al. (2002). Time course of performance changes and fatigue markers during intensified training in trained cyclists. J Appl Physiol (1985), 93(3), 947-956.
  • Halson, S. L., & Jeukendrup, A. E. (2004). Does overtraining exist? An analysis of overreaching and overtraining research. Sports Med, 34(14), 967-981.
  • Saw, A. E., Main, L. C., & Gastin, P. B. (2016). Monitoring the athlete training response: subjective self-reported measures trump commonly used objective measures: a systematic review. Br J Sports Med, 50(5), 281-291.
  • Schmitt, L., Regnard, J., & Millet, G. P. (2015). Monitoring Fatigue Status with HRV Measures in Elite Athletes: An Avenue Beyond RMSSD? Front Physiol, 6, 343.
  • Vesterinen, V., Nummela, A., Heikura, I., Laine, T., Hynynen, E., Botella, J., et al. (2016). Individual Endurance Training Prescription with Heart Rate Variability. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 48(7), 1347-1354.

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