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So you've landed here on my iWillNotBonk.com Triathlon Training Blog and you're probably wondering who the hell this Tavis guy is and what iWillNotBonk is all about.

I'm just an average age-grouper / weekend warrior blogging about Ironman Triathlon Training and this complex puzzle of juggling life, having fun and reporting on my various feats of strength and endurance adventures!

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Originally used in critical monitoring situations in hospitals and aerospace, heart rate variability (HRV) analysis is a sensitive measure, and when used with care can provide valuable insights on how well your body is coping with training and adaptation. It has now become popular amongst athletes thanks to the availability of easy to use apps and accurate sensors.

However, HRV products can appear deceptively simple, and you do need to take care when both measuring and interpreting HRV to get the most out of it. In this article, we will list some of the common misconceptions about training with HRV, and how they can be avoided.

To learn more insights, take my online course, “Introduction to Heart Rate Variability.”

1. HRV doesn’t tell me any more than my resting heart rate (HR).

Although an elevated resting HR has been used as an indicator of pending overtraining, it is a blunt instrument, and by the time it is elevated the damage often has already been done. This is because resting HR combines influences from both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system branches, as well as circulating hormones.

On the other hand, HRV provides a direct measure of the parasympathetic branch, often referred to as the “rest and digest” branch. That makes it a much more sensitive stress and recovery indicator than resting HR. With HRV, you get a much earlier warning.

2. Daily changes in HRV reflect the previous day’s training load.

A hard session will affect your HRV, but things are rarely that simple, and if they were you wouldn’t need HRV. More useful is how trends in HRV reflect the accumulation of Total Load over a period of a week. Total Load is the sum of mental, nutritional and physical stresses on the body. Research has shown that the lower the other sources of stress, the harder you can train.

3. Readings should be taken whilst lying down.

We believe that you should measure with the body upright, either sitting or standing if you have a very low resting heart rate. This helps avoid a phenomenon called parasympathetic saturation when lying down which makes trends in HRV more difficult to interpret.

You should also remember good posture and breathing have a significant impact on your HRV, good apps will guide you in keeping breathing consistent during measurements.

4. HRV measurements should be at least five minutes long.

This is a misconception I had to overcome with many people when I created ithlete in 2009. Having a background in signal processing, I spent many months looking at different HRV measures before settling on RMSSD as one that could produce good quality readings for convenient daily use in less than 60 seconds. This has subsequently been adopted by most HRV tools on the market. We additionally use paced breathing to improve the day-to-day stability of the measure. The convenient one-minute measure has since been independently validated too.

5. It is better to take an HRV reading at any time of day than no reading.

Waking is the best time to take the reading, but the cortisol awakening response means the reading will be different to other times of day. If you cannot take a reading within a one hour window of your usual time then don’t bother for that day as it will not be representative of your waking state and may also distort your baseline.

6. Variations in readings from day to day is bad.

A certain amount of variation is good, especially if it is created by training. The variation signals disturbance of the body’s normal state (homeostasis), which stimulates adaptation. When daily readings are very close together and around your baseline levels it probably means the body is not getting enough stimulus to adapt.

Experiment with different types of sessions (tempo, HIIT) to see what causes your HRV to dip and then recover within one to two days. If variation from day to day is high without a relation to training it either means other life stresses are dominating (remember Total Load) or your measurement technique is not very consistent.

In addition to HRV, record subjective metrics, comments and flag dates with significant events to unravel the entire picture.


7. Different sensors will produce the same results.

EKG and pulse sensors measure similar things, but they are different enough that they can’t be used interchangeably. Choose a sensor that has been validated independently for HRV (by someone other than the manufacturer!) and stick to it.

Bluetooth chest straps (with the skin contacts well moistened) are a good choice as are finger pulse sensors designed for HRV like those used in hospitals. The important thing is not to regularly switch between different types.

Although we would appreciate the convenience of getting recovery data from a smartwatch, the fact is that the back of the wrist is just not a good location on the body for obtaining precise timing of heartbeats.

8. Measuring on race day will show how recovered and ready to compete you are.

Taking the reading at an unfamiliar location or unusual time plus pre-race nerves will likely distort the reading, making it lower than it would be on a normal day at home. If you get an unexpected orange or red warning, it will mess with your race day head!

On the other hand, a rising HRV trend as you reduce training volume to taper, followed by flattening out of HRV with slightly raised resting HR during taper shows you are both recovered, activated and ready to race. I recommend watching this preceding trend and skipping the reading on race day.

9. High HRV is always better.

Whilst this is often true it is not always true. After intensified training, the body gets tired of producing adrenaline and becomes less sensitive to it, possibly as a mode of self-protection from highly driven type-A personalities! This lowers both your resting heart rate and HR during training, and is often accompanied by higher than normal HRV. Good HRV software will flag unusually high as well as unusually low HRV.


As well as improving the effectiveness of your training and reducing down time to illness and injury, daily measures of HRV can help you learn things about yourself that you didn’t know before, such as how much sleep you really need, how travel affects your recovery, and just how many glasses of wine is one too many!

Just like any metric though, it is not the complete answer, and by recording subjective indicators, flagging significant events such as races and illness as well as looking at training loads through TrainingPeaks, you can build a contextual picture that will enable you to see what works best for you, and keep applying those marginal gains for sustained performance for years to come.

Want to learn more about how to balance your training and recovery through HRV training? Take the TrainingPeaks University online course, “Introduction to Heart Rate Variability” now. Get 20 percent off the cost of the course using code HRVintro2018 at checkout.

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Name (Country)

Peter Sagan (Svk)

Silvan Dillier (Swi)
AG2R La Mondiale

Niki Terpstra (Ned)
Quick-Step Floors

Taylor Phinney (USA)
EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale


Rider Analysis: Taylor Phinney

View Taylor Phinney’s power file HERE or by clicking on the image below.


Paris-Roubaix is known as the “Hell of the North” and for good reason. Even with the weather not being as dramatic as was predicted earlier in the week, the 2018 race was set to be a fight to the end, and it lived up to its title in every context.

The demands of Paris – Roubaix

Some things to note about the conditions in which Paris-Roubaix is raced on and how the 55km of pavement and road conditions can affect the power and force applied by the riders.

A key physiological demand to note is how power is produced and force applied by the riders as they cross the flat cobbled sections at full speed. When we compare riding a two to three minute effort at a high intensity on a normal surface to that of riding on the cobbles of Roubaix, we see massive differences in how the force is applied.

The requirement to engage many more muscle groups and adapt your posture/position on the bike has a greater energy requirement on cobbles compared to that on a normal surface.

The requirement to do this repetitively (over the 29 sections of cobbles) takes a major toll on the body as your ability to recover is reduced and the consistent jarring and impact of the cobbles on your ability to maintain a higher power/force time after time is greatly lowered.

We have seen over the years that riders who have the ability to absorb this jarring and punishment time after time, section after section, are those who are fighting for the win at the finish.


Taylor Phinney Overall Stats

Race distance: 256km
Race duration: 5:56:39
Average speed: 43km/h
Average cadence: 91rpm
Average power: 287W (3.32W/kg)
Normalized power: 351W (4.06w/kg)
Training Stress Score: 415

Learn more about TrainingPeaks metrics HERE.

The start

Another big difference between Roubaix and other classics is that the start of the race is never a relaxed affair. If we look at Milan-San Remo, Flanders and some of the other “semi classics” which the riders take on early season we can see that the first couple of hours are done at a relatively relaxed pace for the team leaders and those domestiques who are normally spared for the end of the race. This is not the case here.

Phinney actually did his peak one minute power after only 27km of racing. He did 676w, 7.82w/kg in this big effort, we assume this was him trying to get into one of the early moves which was trying to get away prior to the first cobble sections. A big effort in the opening 45 minutes of the race again proves how hard the riders need to push themselves to make that first break of the day.

Another critical part of the race were the first two cobbled sections of Troisvilles, 93.5km to go and then shortly after that the section of Briastre. It was on the Troisvilles that a large crash split the main bunch and caused some panic within the main group which consisted of most of the pre-race favorites.

During this section Phinney did his peak five minute power and 30 minute power, which he did to regain and maintain a position at the head of the peloton. He also hit his peak power during this time. This really was a hard section of the race which put pressure on many of the race’s main players:

Early race stats:

Peak 5 minute power: 450w/5.21w/kg

Stats for first half of race:

Ave Pwr: 260w/3.01w/kg
N Pwr: 349w/4.03w/kg
Duration: 30 minutes
Ave Pwr: 353w/4.09w/kg
Normalized Power: 411w/4.75w/kg
Max Pwr: 1507w/17.42w/kg  (Max power done straight after crash in bunch to regain contact with leaders in bunch.)
Ave spd: 44.4kph


Trouée d’Arenberg

The main players normally use the Arenberg as a signal to start opening their account and to start reducing the groups to a more select few. The Arenburg is the harshest of the cobbled section and it is critical to be close to the front on the approach. For this reason the fight to be in the front is hard and this is reflected in Phinney’s data as he fought to maintain position at the head of the bunch.

The last 1km approach to start of Arenberg (fight for position):

1:03 minutes
Ave pwr: 596w/6.90w/kg
Max pwr: 1116w/12.9w/kg
Ave spd – 56.9kph
Max spd- 65kph (they hit the first cobbles at 65kph)

The pace continued to stay high as he rode over the unforgiving cobble stones and he came out of this section close the lead of the bunch.

The actual cobbled section – 2.4km:

Time: 4 minutes 6 seconds
Ave pwr – 339w /3.93w/kg
Max Pwr- 1077w/12.45w/kg
Ave cad- 90rpm

Second Half of Race

Ave Pwr: 312w/3.61w/kg
N Pwr: 354w/4.09w/kg

Phinney was aggressive on the approach to Mons-en-Pévèle with around 45km to go, here he attacked the main peloton and tried to cause a split to again reduce the leading group. It was on the approach to this sector and during it that he produced his peak 10 and 20 minute powers.

Peak 10min 391w/4.53w/kg
Peak 20min 367w/4.25w/kg

Mons-en-Pévèle Cobbles

Distance: 3km
Duration: 4:51
Ave Pwr: 419w/4.85w/kg
Max Pwr: 891w/10.30w/kg
Ave spd: 36kph

This hard effort proved to be very beneficial as Phinney made the front group and was then able to help his teammate Sep Vanmarcke who also made the front selection. The race proved to be a day for Sagan as he maintained his lead with Silvan Dillier, behind Taylor was in the second group only two minutes down as they approached the velodrome. The sprint for seventh place proved to be a massive last effort and it is impressive to see such high powers after already 260km of bone jarring roads.

During the sprint Phinney produced and average power of 860w, 9.95w/kg for the last 400m (27 seconds). He hit a max power of 1381w, 15.97w/kg as he finished second in his group sprint to see him eventually finish a fantastic eighth place.

It was a truly epic day in northern France and this performance again cements Phinney’s natural talent on such courses and no doubt maintains his ambition to one day be on the top step in Roubaix.

Data Analysis by Dig Deep Coaching

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Just like the fashion world, the science world has trends. Fashion trends are often ridiculous. Science trends, on the other hand, increase our understanding of the world and often lead to novel ways of improving athlete performance. The current trend in science is a perfect example: gut bacteria.

First, a short review on bacteria. Bacteria are about a tenth of the size of human cells and are found everywhere in the world, including inside you and on your skin. In fact, you have more bacteria cells in and on you than you have human cells (estimates vary and go up to a ratio of 10:1 (1)).

We all know some of these bacteria can be harmful to humans. However, some bacteria can actually be beneficial. This latter symbiotic relationship is what science has begun to focus on.

The majority of the bacteria located on you or in you, are found in the gut. More specifically, most bacteria (10-100 trillion) are found in the large intestine (1). Not too long ago, we used to think all the valuable digestion and absorption of nutrients had already occurred by the time food reached your large intestine. Now we know that’s only partly true. In the large intestine, some of the food that you weren’t able to digest actually gets digested by bacteria.

In this process of breaking down food, bacteria produce various products that can actually be beneficial to human health. For example, gut bacteria produce short chain fatty acids which the cells of our large intestine can use as energy (2).

Researchers are also looking at how the byproducts from gut bacteria may help exercise performance. You may remember a popular media article suggesting gut bacteria help make better athletes, which led to the term “poop doping.” While fitter individuals do have greater gut bacteria “health” (3), the article was a little too speculative, as researchers don’t know whether one (healthy gut bacteria) causes the other (high fitness level).

No study to date has determined a mechanism for how gut bacteria can directly impact exercise performance. That being said, gut bacteria may indirectly influence exercise performance. For example, gut bacteria produce signaling molecules that assist with reducing inflammation and improving immune function (2). This could help with recovery and overall health, leading to better performance (3).

So, what does “healthy” gut bacteria look like? At this point, no research has found the optimal species of bacteria or distribution of bacteria (3). Instead, a “healthy” gut simply has a diversity of bacteria types (4). This idea can be hard to grasp but can be better understood when thinking like an ecologist. Maybe you’ve seen the video of what happened in Yellowstone National Park when wolves were reintroduced. To summarize, when wolves were reintroduced (an increase in diversity), the overall health of the ecosystem improved. The same happens in the human body.

While a number of things influence diversity, it seems the primary determinant of diversity is diet. Diet can influence diversity in two main ways: introducing different beneficial bacteria types and sustaining these different beneficial bacteria types. It may come as no surprise, but the typical American diet does not promote diversity (U-S-A! U-S-A!). Luckily changing this is relatively easy.

To introduce different beneficial bacteria types, the idea is that you just have to eat probiotics. These probiotics have living bacteria that can take up residence in your gut. There are a number of ways to ingest probiotics. Fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi, tempeh, and kombucha all contain bacteria. Probiotics also come in supplement form like pills and powders.

Here’s where things get a little tricky. Probiotics are great for increasing gut bacteria diversity in unhealthy individuals (or following an antibiotic treatment). However, in already healthy individuals, the science isn’t clear that probiotics increase gut bacteria diversity (5). That being said, probiotics have been shown to improve athletic performance. This may be related to gut bacteria improvements but the actual mechanism is not well understood (3).

Now it’s one thing to introduce beneficial bacteria, but the bacteria aren’t going to survive unless they get fed. To sustain your diversity, you’ve got to feed the bacteria. Bacteria can feed off a variety of nutrients but the optimal source is dietary fiber (6). You aren’t able to digest dietary fiber, so it travels through the digestive tract down to the large intestine where the bacteria are then able to use the fiber as fuel.

The primary sources of dietary fiber include fruits, vegetables and whole grains. There are also fiber pills you can take (often called “prebiotics”). However, to best sustain diversity in the gut, you want to consume a diverse diet of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. An added benefit of this diverse food intake (particularly dietary fiber), is that it also is a way to increase gut bacteria diversity (6). The more diverse the diet, the more diverse the gut bacteria (4).

There are other aspects of diet that can potentially influence the gut bacteria. For example, it has been suggested that animal products treated with antibiotics could influence the gut bacteria in humans (4,7). The USDA sets rules about antibiotics based on levels that appear in the blood of humans but these antibiotics may still influence bacteria in the gut and alter diversity. The same has been suggested of pesticides (4). The best thing to do then, is to eat antibiotic-free meats and organic fruits and vegetables.

Now hopefully this overview hasn’t left you pooped (I held off on the puns for as long as I could). But just like in fashion, it’s exciting to see where this latest science craze leads us. A lot of the research suggests gut bacteria may be the next frontier for improving overall health and possibly athletic performance. In the meantime, keep eating those fruits and veggies.

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The word “fartlek” is a Swedish term which means “speed play.” It is a training method that blends continuous (endurance) training with interval (speed) training.

Fartlek runs challenge the body to adapt to various speeds, conditioning you to become faster over longer distances. Most run workouts typically target one or two paces, and a basic long run is done at a single, steady pace.

Unlike intervals, where you stop or walk for recovery, Fartlek is continuous running. Fartlek running involves varying your pace throughout your workout.

While top speed might not match intervals, your overall average heart rate (HR) should be higher for a fartlek workout than for intervals, because the jogging recovery also means HR does not drop as low during the recovery portions. It is great for a variety of fitness levels and can be customized according to personal preference and current training situation.

Different Ways to Run Fartleks

Fartlek can be structured, though classic fartlek is based on feel and inspiration. “Run hard up the hill to the crest, jog to cross walk, accelerate the short downhill, jog to the intersection, run quickly around the block” versus “run 6-5-4-3-2 minutes faster with 2 minutes jogging recovery,” is an example of a structured fartlek.

Fartlek workouts are versatile. A traditional fartlek is run on the road using available landmarks as guides. If you are the analytical type, take your fartlek to the track and use set distances. Live in the city? Use lamp posts or blocks as distances for easy, medium and hard efforts. Bad weather? Bring your fartlek workout inside on a treadmill. Out of town and worried about getting lost? Fartlek is a great way to make a small loop more interesting. Have a friend joining your workout? Even if you both may run at different speeds you can regroup at certain landmarks or times. Can’t avoid the hills? Great! Hills are effective means to elevate your heart rate and work on strength, speed and endurance. As you can see, fartleks can be done anywhere—it’s convenient and packs a powerful punch of benefits.

Fartlek Improves Your Mental Game

Beyond physical benefits, fartlek also trains the mind, strengthening willpower, sustaining and repeating efforts when you feel like stopping.

We can all probably relate to a race situation when the mind can overwhelm us, questioning whether we can maintain the pace or respond to an opponent’s attack. The more training sessions we do that incorporate this speed variation, the more resistant we become to giving up mentally mid-race. The body can usually go much longer and faster than the mind would have it believe it can.

The Benefits of Fartlek Training

Improve speed
Improve endurance
Improve race tactics; improves your ability to put surges into races and overtake a competitor or knock seconds off your finish time.
Improve mental strength.
Fartlek provides a lot of flexibility, so you can do a high intensity session to push your limits or a low intensity session if you are tapering for a race or easing back into running post-injury.
Fartlek is playful, playing with speed and saying the word often elicits giggles!

Three Sample Fartlek Workouts
Long Run Fartlek

During your longest run of the week, pick up your pace for 1:00 minute every 6 to 8 minutes. This is not drastically faster—perhaps 15 to 20 seconds per mile faster than your normal long-run pace. If you have a hard time returning to “normal” long-run rhythm, then you are running the surges too quickly.

Speed Play

After a 12 minute warm-up jog, plus a few drills and strides
Build for 3 minutes as moderate, moderate-hard, hard each for 1 minute
2 minutes jog
7 minutes moderate-hard
3 minutes jog
3 minutes hard
5 minutes jog
Cool down or repeat

“Surroundings” Fartlek

After 10 minutes of warm-up jogging pick a landmark in the distance—this can be a telephone pole, mailbox, a tree, a building, etc, and run to it at a faster pace. Once you have reached it, slow down and recover with your normal running pace for as long as you need (just don’t fully stop), then find a new landmark and speed it up again. Keep in mind that there are no rules here, so run on feel as you go along.

Thank you to Lauren Babineau for her contribution to this article.

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The quick rise in technology has generated a medium where remote coaching is stronger, more reputable and more popular than ever. While there are some cons associated with virtual coaching, the pros of remote coaching can greatly outweigh the cons—especially if the coaching is done right.

What is better than an athlete being able to reach out to you whenever and however? The remote coaching relationship allows the client to train whenever they like—and in today’s busy world remote coaching can provide a support network that in-person coaching can’t. Creating that support network between you and your athlete is key. Here are seven tips on how to further improve your online coaching game.

1. Have Real Life Coaching Experience and Education

One of the best things about remote coaching is that you can apply your in-person coaching experiences to your athletes online. Following your athletes over the years you develop a greater understanding and knowledge bank that you can use to help successfully identify and prevent pitfalls that may occur.

Athletes respect coaches with experience—both in person and out of person. Further increase your experience by continuing or branching out into one-on-one coaching experience. Treat the coaching as a project and not just something to crank out for cash.

2. Overemphasize Communication

You could be one of the best coaches in the world, but yet lack in the ability to communicate with your athletes. Since your physical presence is not possible you need to make up for it by being able to communicate well with your athletes.

Being transparent, concise, honest and understanding when communicating with your athlete is key. Keep things simple with clear-cut information. Make sure to match the athlete experience with the correct level of information.

While less experienced athletes require more communication, they will need less complexity. Athletes whom you’ve previously coached in person might need less interaction and require more advanced training detail and information. Make sure that the amount of communication matches the athlete.

3. Use Technology Advantages

Probably the best and greatest advantage online coaching has over in-person coaching is the consistent, always open doors to getting in touch with your athlete or vice-versa.

You can essentially be by the athletes side in every workout by using data recording devices such as a heart rate monitor, bike computer, power meter, GPS watches, etc.

Online platforms create a massive data library full of information about your athletes training. While remote coaching is still possible without the gear it is definitely not ideal. The more data your athlete can record the better you can assess their training.

4. Constant Feedback

Make the requirement to give feedback and acknowledge your athlete’s training. Require your athletes to give feedback also. Plan on and allow for an open dialogue and reflection of each workout.

Uploading their training along with a brief overview of how the workout went makes the athlete accountable for every workout. Be sure to mention praise along with tips for improvement or what to change for the next session.

Be honest and give all types of feedback—whether its positive reinforcement, advice or discussing what didn’t go well—this is what ultimately helps the athlete grow and is why they hired you. Don’t be afraid of negative feedback.

5. Organized Reminders

Since remote coaching isn’t created at a set time for either you or the athlete, it is imperative to stay on top of what is going on in your athletes training and life.

Make individual athlete profiles for each of your athletes. Include their race bests, goals, thresholds, heart rate zones, etc. Use this to also create notes for their general progression and training.

Additionally, create calendar reminder alerts for your athletes such as when they have a race coming up, birthday, travel, a training camp or work. You want to make sure you stay engaged with your athlete at critical times.

6. Create a Presence

There are so many communication tools to use right now: Skype, FaceTime, text, email, etc. Become as personable as you can as a remote coach. Since you communicate and operate online, increase every aspect of communication and your presence online.

Transitioning from an in-person coach to online coach is made easier if you stick to and enhance your virtual avenues of communication. Be seen through reputable blogs, educational videos—even social media.

Have your athlete do the same by keeping you connected in a similar way such as asking for training videos to analyze, photos of their training session, equipment, etc.

If it is ever possible to meet up with the athlete face-to-face at an event, during travel or passing through, make the extra effort to connect if and when at all possible.

7. Active Motivation

As a remote coach you need to constantly be an active coach instead of a passive one. No matter what you or your athlete’s game plan is, there needs to be a motivational connection.

Whether you plan on organizing general training plans or customize each athlete’s coaching experience, you need to establish a motivational connection.

Highlighting other athlete’s accomplishments or diving into what you’re doing in the sport—whether coaching, at the races or training helps build a community. This is a time where you can really showcase the continual support.

There are so many ways to improve upon your online coaching game. In the end, nailing your remote coaching game comes down to you. It’s about having the mindset in which you prioritize effective communicate, support and follow your athletes throughout their training.

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