Olympic Training & Elite Endurance with Dr. Daniel Plews & Professor Paul Laursen

Nov 18, 2016 | Android, Blog, Data, Health, iOS, News, Podcast, Research, Science, Training

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Episode Guest

Dr. Daniel Plews & Professor Paul Laursen from Plews and Prof

Long-time mates, sports science geeks, and training buddies, “Plews and Prof” is Dr. Dan “The Plews” Plews and Professor Paul “The Prof” Laursen. With Doctorates in Exercise Physiology, over 150 combined research publications, experience in helping elite athletes go on to win Olympic and World Championship medals, and 20 combined ironman races under our belt, they thought it was time to combine forces and bring you a Plews and Prof community, where their aim is to help you optimise your individual potential.

Website: Plews and Prof

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In This Episode

Training for a world championship or the Olympics? Not many people make it to that level, but Dr. Daniel Plews and Professor Paul Laursen join us to share what it’s like to train for world class competitions.

  • The #1 best metric to track with athletes (hint: not HRV)
  • Olympic village, Rio vs London
  • Preparing for Kona Ironman World Championships
  • The 3 important training questions you should be able to answer at all times
  • How more data is NOT better
  • Why to measure HRV with athletes
  • The genetic fallacy
  • Fit but unhealthy – even at the top
  • Juggling training and lifestyle
  • How to be HAPPIER when training at high volumes
  • Tracking HRV with Olympic Rowers and Top Triathletes
  • Martin Bucheitt
  • The “ideal” HRV pattern of training/recovery for endurance sports
  • When to adjust endurance training off of HRV changes
  • What is “Parasympathetic Overtraining”?
  • Aerobic patterns vs higher intensity patterns
  • When to establish a HRV baseline in an endurance program
  • TSS Score
  • Acute to Chronic Training Load Ratio (and what that means for Injury)
  • Training Peaks
  • Bannister Fitness-Fatigue Modeling
  • Common sense, and what to do when life gets in the way
  • Self monitoring & quantified self
  • Blood glucose & ketone monitoring
  • Ketogenic diet’s affect on Heart Rate Variability
  • First Beat Bodyguard
  • Continuous 24/7 monitoring

Episode Transcript

Jason Moore: Coming to you from four continents, we got Dr. Daniel Plews and Professor Paul Laursen of New Zealand High Performance Sports, and they also go by “The Plews and Prof”, which is actually now their official brand. These guys are fresh off of the Olympics with one of the top rowing teams in the world and are now in Hawaii at the Kona Ironman World Championships. It’s a pretty meaty episode full of great advice and how to maximize both health and, especially, endurance performance with a smart use of data—but it’s also a ton of fun. Despite having a wealth of knowledge in operating at basically the highest level of sports, these guys are humble and they never forget to have a good laugh, which you’ll see throughout the episode. So we talk the No. 1 best metric to track with athletes, and here’s a hint: It’s not heart rate variability; Olympic Village — what it was like in Rio, what it was like in London; preparing for the Kona Ironman World Championships.; the three, in questions, that are the most important training questions to answer in order to stay on track; weekly versus daily tailoring of training; tracking HRV with Olympic rowers and top tri-athletes; patterns of HRV for various training phases; acute to chronic training load ratio and what that means for injury; combining experience with research; self-monitoring; and plenty more. So that’s just a taste of what we cover, so with that let’s dive in.

Jason: From Hawaii, we’ve got the Plews and Prof. Welcome to the show guys. I appreciate you taking the time from the world championships to join me on this call.

Professor Paul Laursen (Prof): Hey thanks Jason, thanks for having us.

Daniel Plews (Plews): Thanks Jason.

Jason: Yeah, definitely. We’ve tried to do this once before and I got food poisoning, and you guys were gracious enough to understand and you still like me enough to come on and do the show. So I really appreciate that.

Plews: I think we’ve been trying to get this going for maybe about six months or so, actually. That’s how busy our lives can be at times, we just can’t seem to get it going. Thankfully now, we finally managed to connect.

Jason: Yeah, definitely. I think we’ve tried it from four different continents by now, so if this doesn’t work then let’s just scrap the whole idea.

Prof: And join forces, come from one area.

Jason: That’s right, that’s right.

Plews: Sounds good, sounds good. We’ll do that.

Jason: So you guys have been really busy lately. You’re at the World Championships, just come off the Olympics, you’re traveling.

Prof: You haven’t been home for a while, have you?

Plews: No, haha. I am not as popular with my wife as I should be. I was away for four months with the New Zealand rowing team, which included a big stint in Europe and then eventually going to Rio and then I came back to New Zealand for a couple weeks and met ya and then I went out to Boulder and then to Hawaii with some of the professional Ironman tri-athletes.

Prof: Yeah, very busy times and lots going on really.

Jason: Yeah, it’s fantastic. Before we get into the fun, sciencey details from the Plews and Prof, I have to bug you. What was it like visiting the Olympics as somebody who’s participating, at least indirectly?

Plews: As somebody who’s in the Olympic Village and stuff like that you mean?

Jason: Yeah

Plews: That was my second Olympics. I was fortunate enough to be at the London Olympics, and it was very different to London. London was a little bit more organized, maybe a little bit more hyped. It felt like more of a special event than Rio. It didn’t just have that same, for me at least, Olympic buzz as Rio did. You know, it’s always cool to have that privilege to be in the Olympic Village, and you have dinner in the dining hall and you see so many professional athletes. People who you normally see on TV all milling around the Olympic Village all sharing food together. That’s quite a privilege. The Olympics is just a special event, and it’s good to be there.

Prof: You got a nice selfie with Chris Froome didn’t you?

Plews: Yeah, that was probably my highlight.

Jason: Oh, nice

Plews: It wasn’t a selfie Prof.

Prof: It wasn’t a selfie.

Plews: It wasn’t a selfie.

Prof: It was a pic.

Plews: It was a pic. But yeah, Chris Froome, he made me look very fat.

[laughs all around]

Jason: We’ve worked with a couple Olympians, but obviously I wasn’t there working with them directly as a coach of anything. It was kind of neat, just through you guys, to get the experience or kind of get the idea of all the stuff that goes into it, and there’s so much preparation. So this can kind of lead into my first question, which was I know you guys are very data driven so there was probably a lot of data you were using/monitoring with the athletes leading up to that competition. Could you tell us a bit about that?

Plews: Yeah, for sure. When it comes to data, I’ve always tried to always think about what’s this data doing and is it really answering some of the key questions. For me, I always think does this relate to training? If we can get the training right, that’s going to have the biggest impact on performance. If we get the training all on song and everything’s going well, it means that, generally, the performance is going to be better because getting the training right is where you have the biggest bang for the buck. In terms of that, there’s a lot data being collected. For the rowers, for example, we’ve got heart rate from every session, morning heart rate variability, GPS’s on the boats which records stroke rate speeds, and we can compare it to world record prognostics, and stuff like that. There’s always three questions that I’m always trying to answer is: Is the type of training right? So is the volume and the intensity correct? Are they going to be able to do this training load consistently? So, is it too much for them? Are they too fatigued? Are they not doing enough? Also, I always like to know how they’re tracking and how far away from the target are they? If we’re after an Olympic gold medal, are they actually on track? Could they do that right now? Are they progressing toward that goal? And I’ll answer those questions driven by data.

Jason: I like what you said there because a lot of people might think when you get to the top level like that that you’re just tracking everything about everything, and you’re measuring all this extra data that people can’t even imagine. But what you’re saying is that you really actually try to focus on the data that matters to drive training and to have decision making with regards to training and not just tracking everything under the sun for no reason.

Plews: Yeah, exactly. And I think that can be a huge mistake a lot of practitioners and sports scientist make is you give people that you collect all heaps and heaps of data, but in the end of the day, you’re far better having clean data, data that you can collect cleanly, and you’re having it all the time rather than trying to collect too much and it ends up being quite patchy because then you can’t actually read too much into the data because you don’t have good trends. You’re better off collecting a small amount that’s meaningful that’s clean rather than collecting a large amount that’s not as meaningful and the data is all patchy. So that’s kind of the philosophy that I always take when it comes to the monitoring side.

Jason: And that obviously takes some trial and error and some experience to figure out what it is that makes the most sense to track.

Plews: Yeah, for sure, and it comes down to what I said from the start is what’s important to you, what’s important to me, is I just want to know what’s the training like. I want to know if the training’s correct. If that data isn’t helping me answer that question, then won’t probably collect it.

Jason: I’ll bring that back around later when we talk about Plews and Prof, but do you, in that build up when you’re talking about training and all this data collecting, are you using that to tailor training on a daily basis or a weekly basis?

Plews: Yeah, I guess everything really — weekly and daily. It depends on the situation. I wouldn’t say I’m just using one variable to make the decision. I’m using all the variables that I’m collecting, all the data that’s collecting, we’ll make an informed decision. I’m a great believer in the reason we collect data is to decrease uncertainty in the decisions we make, and that’s why it’s so important. If you’ve got an idea of where you want to go with training or something’s not right and you’re not sure about the decision, the data that you get gives you greater clarity and decreases the uncertainty of the decision that you might want to make. That’s the way I prefer to look at the data rather then not simply right or wrong — it’s just decreasing uncertainty.

Jason: Makes sense. A little bit more objective as well in discussions with the coaches and those sorts of things too, right? When you’re in a team environment, you can build these collaborative decisions around these sorts of things to, right? Collecting all that data.

Prof: It’s quite useful, then again I’m with you. You got to understand what matters and then measure what matters.

Jason: Perfect

Prof: Yeah, that’s the general philosophy.

Jason: Glad to hear that heart rate variability made the cut.

Plews: Of course

Prof: Internal training load. How is the body reacting to the training that’s being prescribed and attempted? What’s the fallout from doing that session or that number of sessions on a day-to-day basis, on a week-to-week basis with all the life stress and all the various stressors, you so eloquently illustrate in your new HRV course Jason?

Jason: I appreciate that Paul. That kind of begs the question from me, just hearing what you just said, that is many people consider top-level athletes, such as the one’s ya’ll work with, to be genetic freaks that can eat whatever they want , never sleep and still perform insanely well. My observation, though, has been that while there does seem to be a genetic component  to it that there is a kind of an evolution in elite sports toward cleaner eating and paying closer attention to the underlying systemic health of the athletes. Perhaps it’s due to the increased level of competition that genetics alone just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Plews: It’s a good question.

Prof: It depends.

Plews: Yeah, it very depends. I do know some very successful athletes that do not eat well and do not sleep well, and I think in some situations they do somehow manage to get away with it but it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the healthiest of people. And Prof wrote with Tim Van Berkel he wrote a really good paper about athletes fit but unhealthy. For me, it’s a thing that we just think that fit means healthy, and that’s not the case. You can be fit to perform a certain task well but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re the healthiest person to do it. It says in the book the exercise is somewhat helping alleviate the situation in some circumstances, but long term I don’t think it’s good. Yeah, I think people have had a bit of an evolution and they do realize that it’s become more important, but unfortunately some people still get away with it.

Prof: Well actually, I was just kind of reflecting on the interview with Berkes today on the Bob Badet Show. Burkes, that’s the athlete, Tim Van Berkel was the athlete that Dan coaches, and he was saying that he used to do everything kind of wrong from that health standpoint when he was a younger athlete. I think that’s generally what we see, and probably I’d include ourselves I think.

Plews: Top athletes?

Prof: No, but when we were young athletes having a go we weren’t always that healthy. We weren’t getting the sleep well. We were drinking a little bit more than we should’ve, eating the wrong stuff. When you’re in that younger age bracket, there seems to be some better resiliency in the younger, but as you become a more mature athlete, things start to creep up and not work quite as well.

Plews: I also think, especially there’s a big difference between guys like me and Prof who we love training and love exercise but we have responsibilities and we got to be on game to do work and we want to train and we want to exercise, but we also got to work and we got to finish that and work. I find that when I was a full-time athlete, I could get over it more because I didn’t have to do anything when I wasn’t training so I could afford to be a little bit off par and not performing on my optimum. Now when I finish training, I got to be doing stuff so I need to be on game and I need to be ready to go. I found that tweaks in diet and sleep allow me to do everything and allow me to take all the boxes. You know, I can train, I can work hard, I can still be there for my wife and socialize and all the above, and I think that’s a key consideration for most people who are trying to do endurance sports. You don’t have the liberty of finishing training and sitting on your bed and turning off the engine—you got to keep going. I think that’s kind of where the Plews and Prof, that’s our niche and that’s what we’re trying to push and

Prof: Communicate to people

Plews: Communicate to people through some of our new education portals that we’re establishing.

Jason: That’s fantastic, and I think that will really help. This is probably why we’ve connected several times because we are kind of aligned in our message. I’ve told people regularly, unless your job is just to perform for a sport then you likely have a lot of other things in life that you have to juggle. Even if you are a professional athlete, in a lot of cases, you have other things in life that you have to juggle. You can get pretty good results with less training even, or just less stress on the body, if you do it correctly and then you can still enjoy the rest of your life.

Prof: Absolutely. Recovery is better. All those sorts of things. You’re a much happier camper if you do learn the ways of ticking all those boxes in respect to sleep and stress and nutrition.

Plews: I think we both find that we’re both much happier when we’re looking after each other.

[All laugh]

Plews: Looking after one and other—you and me. No, looking after

Plews & Prof: Ourselves


Plews: No, I do like when you look after me… we’re both happier when we are healthy and looking after ourselves. Like we are in Hawaii and I had a friend last night, who was from university, and I went out with him. He’s just business and works hard every day, and he’s trying to get on the booze and get as many whiskeys down his neck as possible. He’s trying to jeer me along so I joined him. This morning I’m just like “What was the point in that?” It just doesn’t make me happy.

Prof: Peer pressure, man.

Plews: It’s an old saying that without the bitter the sweet never taste so sweet. I think until you experience what it’s like to feel good, on a day-to-day basis, you can’t comprehend it.

Jason: I couldn’t agree more. On another episode, we were talking to president of the American Functional Medical Association. We were talking about this from more of a people who are sick and are trying to get better perspective. I kind of shared my story, which in a nutshell was that I was making some changes to my diet and my lifestyle so I could up my performance, and I almost, by accident, lifted a bunch of brain fog, got more even energy throughout the day. Basically, I don’t think I could be running this business right now and juggling so many things if I didn’t addressed nutrition and sleep and some other things years ago.

Plews: The thing is you don’t realize it until you come out of it. That’s the thing that a lot of people, I know from experience and talking to people, they often say “I’ve changed my diet, but now when I go back to eating I’m sure whatever it might be, maybe the bread, the bread just makes me feel so much worse than it used to.” I don’t think that’s the case. I think you now are used to feeling good, so suddenly that crap feeling feels a lot worse.

Prof: All the sudden, it’s a stressor on you that you’re not conditioned to. You’re more sensitive to it.

Jason: So thank you for sharing that and it’s something that I think is powerful to hear. Even form people that are interested in top-level performance are thinking about this and are also able to help people if they’re interested. Do you track similar type data with your tri-athletes and Ironmen as you did with the rowing team?

Plews: Yes. So with the rowers, because I’ve been doing it with them for so long I mean I started very early, I’m a bit more hands-on with the data. So we use polar heart rate straps and we’ll pull the data in and I’ll put it into my own spreadsheet and look at the data myself. But with the tri-athletes, some of the professional ones I’ve gone into using app-based devices just because it’s a little bit easier.

Jason: Great. So I’d like to ask some questions about that. Basically, there’s been a lot of questions around the patterns that one can expect to see in a heart rate variability going from offseason into a buildup through a tapper and then peaking for a competition. We had Andrew Flat on the show, and he talked about kind of the team sports side and some higher intensity athletics and what patterns you can expect to see there. And then he goes “You need to ask Plews and Prof about the endurance scene because they’ll know better than me.” So I said “OK, I’ll ask them.”

Plews: That’s likewise. He’ll know more about the sprint and the team stuff than us.

Prof: That’s right. We are starting to investigate that a little bit more in a PhD that we’re running. But yeah, he’d be way more experienced in that than us.

Plews: And of course, a colleague Martin Buchheit is into the team sports. He’s the man when it comes to heart rate variability, and he’s definitely the man when it comes to team sports.

Prof: Are you looking for general trends there, Jason?

Jason: Yeah, so let’s start with the loading phase—going from offseason and starting into a new training program. Also, let’s to keep it in context for the folks who are listening, you do tend to work with athletes that already have a significant background in training, so it may be a bit different from the patterns you would see say with somebody who is starting a couch to 5K program, for example. So let’s start with the loading phase.

Plews: So, it’s very soon to be released, another paper that we’ve written in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, that again has back took a lot of what we see generally is that when people are loading especially in endurance sports, and in endurance sports they typically tend to have more, if you’re doing it correctly especially, have a lot of time what we call aerobic training. So a lot of the time spent at quite a low heart rate below that first, below that aerobic threshold, the lactate threshold, we call threshold one. The HRV will increase, so we tend to see trends that just go up, especially when it’s loading. When that load comes off or you taper, it comes back toward the same kind of baseline or the same level it was before, or just marginally above so. In a lot of our papers, we kind of establish that’s what we call the smallest worthwhile change, so the individual’s smallest worthwhile change. If so one’s loading and they’re adapting well to the training, the HRV will go up and we look at the rolling average of that. It will go up, it will go above the smallest worthwhile change for that individual and then it would come back down as the load comes back off, and that can be with a taper or just a general recovery week.

Prof: And the one exception is, of course this is the usefulness of heart rate variability, that if they’re not adapting to the training, from time-to-time you’ll see it start to go down the sink and that’s when you need to go and kind of adjust your training accordingly.

Plews: And it’s not like an increase is always good and a decrease is always bad. Sometimes you can kind of have that parasympathetic over-training, where it is going too high. You want it to go up, but if it’s elevated for really long periods of time, weeks and weeks, then eventually that athlete is going to be cooked. Ideal phasing is, if you were to support it, it would wave up and down, so it would go out of the smallest worthwhile change – come back down, out of the smallest worthwhile change – come back down, through those phases of training. If it comes up and it doesn’t come back down, I would also say that during those recovery weeks isn’t going to be good enough. You need to back off the training a little more

Prof: The only thing I’ll add on all that is in terms of interpreting what’s likely going on, you need to have that constant communication with athlete and/or coach if you’re in a supporting role so you can kind of, and also be aware of the training that’s going around, so you can grasp some good context as to what these numbers are likely meaning.

Plews: That’s one thing I’ll always drill at home is that heart rate variability, especially for endurance training, is only any use in the context of what’s being done. You need to know the training context before you make a decision based on the data. If it’s coming back down and if it’s coming down and you’re starting an unloading week, you can ask yourself the question are maybe I actually giving them enough in this loading week? If it’s coming down and it’s a tapper week, and then you go OK that’s totally fine. Or even if you did like a heavy microburst, where you did four days of super high-intensity interval training, you would then expect it to come down. You got to take it within the context of what’s being done.

Jason: That makes a lot of sense, and that’s kind of like it’s almost an inverse pattern of what you might see in a strength and power. Like you mentioned if you’re doing a microburst of high-intensity intervals, you can expect it to see come down, which would be what people would expect if they were doing high-intensity intervals anytime, right? It’s most likely a decrease, hopefully it’ll return back up to either normal or in your case continue to go back up when the aerobic training is resumed.

Plews: Yeah. What I think is the key is that, for especially people that have been training for a long time, establishing a good baseline when doing a normal load of training. Not doing crazy amounts but they’re performing well. They’re feeling good, and establish that correct period of time so you know where it would eventually have to come back to.

Jason: OK. And do you typically have your athletes establish a baseline like before the loading phase even starts?

Plews: Yes. I would typically, I try and establish it after, I wouldn’t do it when they first start training because it takes a while for it to stabilize. So if they’ve been doing nothing and then you suddenly go right into the HIIT and they do two weeks, the HRV will take a little while to establish itself. So then the two weeks following that where they’re just doing a normal training week that’s not heavy loading, it’s not typically lots of high intensity interval training or anything, just a normal week where performance is still maintained, that be the week I’d establish the baseline.

Jason: So heart rate variability is obviously a topic we talk about a lot, and you guys have a ton of experience on. I mean, a lot of the papers that people cite now have ya’ll’s name on them. But do you have other metrics that you like to track as well or some of your other go-tos?

Plews: Yeah, I mean some of the best metrics is always performance. In rowing, especially, and with my tri-athletes, I’ll always be looking at their performance and particular key sects and how our data looks. You know, what’s the power like? What’s the heartrate like at that power? And we also talk to them and see how they felt during the session, and general psychometric feedback, whether you’re asking questions to the athlete or their filling out a questionnaire in the morning, is always a good one as well.

Prof: And the only other one I think that kind of emerged as somewhat useful and that’s if you’re getting accurate loading data, it could be the TSS type of things – Training Stress Score type of things – where you’re looking at a ratio of acute to chronic training loads. When that ratio gets out of whack, when it goes up around 1.2 or higher, it depends on the exercise mode, that can give good insight into your injury risk. That could be nice alongside of the HRV as well.

Plews: Again that’s under the promise that the more you train, it’s the opposite way of thinking about it, the more you train the lower your injury risk.

Prof: That’s right. If you’re really well trained, you can handle a larger load. If you’re coming in like I did yesterday off the plane…

Plews: We landed in Hawaii on Tuesday and then me and Paul, we decided to ride the Ironman course, and Paul is a little bit untrained. The Prof was suffering. He suffered.

Prof: Not heat training, no chronic training loads. So my acute training load yesterday would have been massive, so it would have been off the charts in terms of my acute to chronic load ratio. Therefore, I would have been at a high risk of injury, and yeah. I feel like I was pretty close to injury. Luckily it was concentric cycling

Plews: When you crawled in the door, you looked pretty injured to me.

Prof: It was pretty bad.

Plews: When you crawled in the door, I almost injured myself because started getting cramping in my ribs from laughing so hard. There was no sympathy from his mate.

Prof: It was hard. I can’t believe he talked me into doing that.

Jason: But I think that’s powerful Paul, and I was about to ask anyways. When you say that an increased training load, I can’t remember the exact words you used, increased training load decreases your risk of injury, but you’re talking about over the long term, not in acute situations?

Prof: Yeah, yeah. On Trainings Peaks, for example, they got this chronic training load feature where they basically taking an accumulation of your training over 42 days. It’s based on the banister fatigue modeling, and then the acute training load is that same sort of average marker over 7 days. If the shorter loading period is all of the sudden way higher than the chronic load, your fitness that’ sunder you, it just kind of makes intuitive sense that there is just going to be some risk that you’re doing something that’s greater than your body’s ability to handle. Common sense can probably solve the issue as well.

Plews: Definitely sums up your day yesterday—doing something you know your body can’t handle. Know your limits!

Prof: We do these silly things all the time, right? Like for whatever reason, life gets in the way, and there’s peer pressure that’s kind of involved. You follow people around, and if you’re not monitoring this kind of stuff, then it’s kind of hard to keep track and educate yourself or athletes if you’re a support personnel. It’s handy to have these types of things for the whole process of learning to be better for the future.

Jason: Definitely, and injuries, of course, are really important for everyone—I mean professional athletes, top athletes. They’re important for normal for people as well. I’ve been tracking heart rate variability on myself for several years now, and I’m not a professional athlete but when I have, playing recreational sports, injured myself minorly a couple of times and it’s always been when my heart rate variability has indicated my acute stress load was greater than normal. That can be a coincidence because it’s n=1, but there seems to be a lot of anecdotal evidence that others have experienced the same and we’ve seen some coaches and teams that are kind of noticing that as well. Do ya’ll notice any correlation between not necessarily injuries but I guess the potential for injury when your calculating that acute training load and heart rate variability?

Plews: Yeah, kind of. I haven’t invested a lot of research and looked into the acute training loads and the chronic training loads and injury risks and heart rate variability, but it’s just such an individual response. Everyone’s slightly different to the way they take, and if you look at Abbot’s work and all those ATLC and all the data I’ve looked at, it works but there’s certainly not one number or one HRV figure that would give you that guidance for everyone. So, you’ve got to individually establish the correct number or trend for that person. Unfortunately, that means you have to injure themselves or something bad has to happen to establish it, but that’s just the reality of the situation.

Prof: I would also add to that that in the triathlon scene, where we find the most value is actually monitoring the acute-chronic training loads on the runs specifically. I guess that’s because you got this eccentric-based exercise mode, where there’s a lot more risk for soft tissue injury. I think you can get away with a little bit more in the swimming and the cycling, but when you’re taking weight-bearing eccentric running, that’s when we find the biggest value of acute to chronic ratios.  I would agree with the Plews where it’s a little bit hit and miss with the relationship with HRV, probably because there’s so many other things affecting HRV as well.

Plews: It’s the overall guide, but loads of things affect it, not just exercise which is greatly strength at the same time.

Jason: Let’s talk a little bit about Kona first before we move on. You know, I’m sure there’s a lot of excitement. You guys have been there before. These types of things aren’t new to you. How’s the buildup going? Are you doing anything new this time, or you sticking to tried-and-true methods?

Plews: Yeah. With Tim Berkel, we’re sticking with tried-and-true methods. You know, you never try anything new on race days. Tim’s had, this will be his third Ironman of the year, which were two championship races. One was the African Champs and one was the Asia-Pacific Champs, and he was second and first, respectively, in that. We kind of know the formula that works for him, so basically we did a very similar buildup to what he did for Cairns when he won the Asia-Pacific title. We flew in here quite late, later than a lot of the other pros, because we know that’s what we successfully did in the past. It’s a very similar take so a very similar approach. Same ol’, same ol’, really.

Jason: Just another championship, right?

Plews: Exactly, and that’s the very message I’m trying to give him every day. Relax and enjoy the moment. Don’t get too worked up about the event because it’s just another race, and the guy’s done 25 Ironman and he’s done well I most of them. It’s just a question of executing on the day.

Prof: And it’s a crazy hard, crazy long race—so much can happen. There’s a lot of chance that’s going to happen out there with any of the athletes. It’s not an easy thing to get right on the day. I got to say when I’m watching Berkes and the two of you guys, he looks quite relaxed and just kind of quietly confident. He also seems a more mature athlete to me than the former years kind of thing. He’s taken all the boxes, he’s got his health on track and obviously a big fan so hoping for good things for the guy in just two days now.

Jason: I actually listened to an interview with him on the Fitter Radio podcast a little while back, and he was talking about how he used to train and how he trains now working with you. He said that he is able to be a little bit calmer just because he knows going into it what the situation is because he’s got data from past races to know what worked a little better and what didn’t work as well, so that allows him to relax a little more he said just because it’s less unknown.

Plews: I think, and I had this conversation with Berkes not long ago, but you wouldn’t believe the amount of professional athletes out there who train blind and train without collecting data and are very sloppy in what they do. And they will perform and they will have good races occasionally, but they also are really inconsistent because they have no idea about what they’re doing and how they’re monitoring it. What they’re doing as leading into a race. I think since Tim’s now very consistent with his performance because we monitor everything he does and I look back and I can replicate what he does in quite a methodical manner rather than not really knowing. It just means that the performances are much more consistent.

Jason: This kind of brings me to the Plews and Prof. So you guys obviously have a lot of experience working with top-level athletes. Your launching a brand: The Plews and Prof, officially which you’re known by. So who are you going to be aiming to serve with that brand?

Plews: Should I answer that? Or you want to answer that?

Prof: I mean sure. I can read it straight off the website.


Plews: So the Plews and Prof brand, it’s basically, so I think me and Prof, I think Prof has done, what, 15 Ironman?

Prof: 17

Plews: 17 Ironmans… and I was a performer, a national triathlon champion in Britain. I came up through the system. I competed internationally—did a lot of triathlons and a lot of endurance. But we also have a lifetime of studying. Prof’s obviously a prof. I have a PhD, so we’ve been taught a lot. Over recent years, we’ve come to realize that a lot of what people are teaching and what people think about isn’t actually correct. People have been given false and poor information that’s driven a lot by media and sports industry. So the Plews and Prof, we want to introduce, it’s like a gated community, it’s educational for people who basically want to kick ass in all walks of life, whatever that be—doing an Ironman; you’re a CEO going to a business and also trying to be healthy and fit; the coach that wants to know more about physiology and how to be healthy and perform well; and an athlete who’s just looking for the next little one percent. We’re trying to put all of our services into one folder so that’s what the Plews and Prof Lab is.

Prof: All the various tidbits we’ve discussed already in the podcast, that’s all going to be in the lab and expanded on. All the different monitoring recommendations and the things and the tools that we use to optimize health and performance and longevity.

Plews: It’s the www.theplewsnadprof.com

Prof: Not “the”. Plews & Prof: PlewsandProf.com

Plews: Sorry, I’m just used to having “The Plews” I front of my name all the time. I can’t help it, but we had to get rid of it because the hashtag was too long.


Plews: So it’s www.plewsandprof.com, and you can log on there and register interest and see what it’s all about.

Jason: I’m excited to share that with folks, and we’re going to have links to that and the notes from this show as well so that people can link right to it. I just want to kind of reiterate some of what you said in the fact that not only are you a professor and a PhD and stuff because people sometimes think “Well, oh, academic people, they just sit in the library and they never go outside and do anything.” That is definitely not the case with you guys. Not only have you been training yourselves but a lot of the research you did and a lot of the academic experience you have was hands-on with athletes as well, so that’s just really awesome experience that I think is really going to bring a lot of value to people.

Plews: Thanks Jason, That’s very nice of you to say.

Prof: Yeah, thanks Jason. I couldn’t agree more. I think we’ve probably learned almost equal amounts within both academics and research as we have with experiential learning…

Plews: And self-experimentation…

Prof: Yeah, for sure. We’re crazy that way. That’s how we find that we kind of learn the best, is we kind of mix and mold the two of them together. But I agree. If you just did one camp, there’s a risk you could be missing something. Again, that’s our niche, I guess—the fact that we do have experience in both.

Jason: Yeah, that’s fantastic. So, I’m just curious now. If a person that would be participating in The Plews and Prof program, let’s say I was going to be training for something. Would this be something where, I mean obviously I can do it remotely from wherever I am, and then would I kind of expect to do some tracking of my own? Or would I also maybe go in and get some lab tests and review those with you? What’s the extent of all that?

Plews: So say you’re training for a marathon or something, you would have access to some of our marathon training plans and some of our key marathon training sets that we createdin the lab. But on top of that as a member, you could ask questions within the forum. So then once you post a question, we’ll do our very best to answer it, and other people who are part of the community, we’re hoping it’s going to be quite a trusting community, can also answer your questions as well. They can help; you might have a similar problem or similar question they’ve had before and they experienced it. They will also answer. Also with the Plews and Prof lab, you also get a one-on-one consultancy. If you sign up for a year, for example, you do get the ability to just have one-on-one time as well. That will be done over Skype of whatever sort of way we can help plan out your training that way. And that’s just one case of training. It could be training, it could be sleep advice, it could be nutrition advice.

Prof: It could be whatever.

Plews: I think for us, we want to communicate the message and we see this is the best way to do it, so we want to educate and help the masses. This is the best way we think we can do it.

Prof: And still make a living on it. I’m on seven years with Performance Sport New Zealand, and I’m on my way back to Canada. I won’t be going into new employment, so to speak, so this is kind of giving me a little bit of a salary to live on.

Plews: But also giving back to the world and people, right? And just in general people who are going to benefit from it.

Prof: Absolutely

Jason: There’s already a kind of shift that’s happening in not only endurance sports but in people’s interests in health and fitness and mental performance and nutrition and how that integrates in and all that stuff, so I think it’s going to be huge. To what you’re saying Paul, kind of our philosophy here too, is that the more people we can help, the money will follow. We do have to live as well, but being able to help a lot of people definitely helps out as well.

Plews: Big motivator, big driver.

Prof: Absolutely

Jason: Excellent, so I don’t know if you guys want to continue on or maybe we can do a round two where we maybe just talk more about some of the nutritional stuff because I think that’s personally pretty interesting. What do you think?

Plews: Yeah, that be great.

Prof: Definitely, definitely.

Plews: We are in the middle of a good self-experimentation, where we’re measuring glucose in real time and recoding all of our food and HRV and all of that. But we’re going to try string it all together and get some sense of it. It’s already very interesting. Me and the Prof are doing the same thing, but our responses are so different to various thigs and it’s really fascinating. There’s so much to talk about on that.

Prof: We got some good blogs and a discussion coming up on what we’re finding right now with that ride on that Ironman course that we spoke on before. That’s all going to come out shortly.

Jason: That’s great. We’ll definitely look for that. Like I mentioned, Paul, in our first kind of try at recording, was that I had an interesting experience going into a stricter ketogenic diet, where my HRV kind of tanked for several weeks. There were some pieces that I had to put together to figure out why that happened. It was a little bit beyond the normal kind of adaptation phase, and it was partially because I was introducing some strength training at the time. And I also found out at the time, after we talked, that I had some mild gall bladder issues that of course the gall bladder is a key player in the digestion of fat. I got that cleared up and have been able to tolerate a higher fat diet much better after that.

Plews: That’s just so amazingly cool because you imagine if you did that and you weren’t measuring your heart rate variability, you may have just carried on and thought it was normal. Because you were measuring it, you knew something was wrong. Such a powerful example of why HRV is such a useful tool for anybody doing anything.

Jason: I mean, I’m a big fan of it.


Prof: We are too.

Plews: We’re all HRV lovers. I’ve spent enough years of my life studying it.

Jason: Whenever I got the chance to me you in Auckland, we were kind of just joking over lunch. You were like “Yeah, I still like HRV and I still use it for a lot of things, but right now personal interests are in the nutrition”, just because you’ve spent so much time on it.

Plews: People are starting to hear about. I’m presenting at a conference in a couple weeks, and they want me to talk about HRV and I said to the conference organizer “really? Again?” And he says “Well, everyone wants to talk about it. You know it’s boring to you but it’s still quite fresh to a lot of people.” So even though we’ve been involved in it for some time, people are still learning about it and they still want to know about it so open to educate. That’s a newer thing, and we do do a bit of that as well. We do do a bit of consultancy. HRV, especially in sports, is quite a complicated area for people to understand, and we still have a lot of requests of consultancy of teams and sports trying to use heart rate variability, so that’s something we can do as well.

Prof: You know what I’m also really excited about as well is the first beat product. We’re going to be trialing the first beat. Have you heard of the first beat, Jason?

Jason: The Bodyguard

Prof: Yeah, so we are going to be trialing that with a few things because it’s almost a way to get information around an acute response to HRV as opposed to in the past we’ve really just been looking at the day-to-day with a morning marker. Now, I guess we’re narrowing down and really looking at acute influences on various stressors and stuff and how that’s going to be affecting HRV on a minute-by-minute kind of basis throughout the day.

Plews: Wonder what it would have said yesterday for you

Prof: I think it would’ve been a good one to measure, I wish we would’ve had it.

Plews: It’s coming soon. We’ll be under some heavy stress, some heavy sympathetic stress.

Jason: That’s interesting because I did some experimentation, and I’m still waiting to get my results back. They actually sent me one for testing as well. Are you working with Alessandro Ferretti on that?

Plews & Prof: Yeah

Jason: So yeah, I was just Skyping with him last week. He mentioned that he was talking to you guys about something but I just thought I’d throw it out there because I know that he’s a fan of doing that continuous monitoring.

Prof: He’s the guy that brought us on to it, for sure. So again, we are always just keen to learn and experiment, so that’s what the future is for the next few months.

Plews: There’s a few of us geeky-like people out there that like doing this thing, which is cool. Around the world, we find each other amazingly, and this is just a prime example of all these collaborators and friends around the world, like yourself Jason, who just have commonalities.

Prof: And everyone’s open to share everything. There’s no secrets of anything like that. That’s what I’ve learned. And again, that’s what we want with The Plews and Prof thing as well. We want to teach people what we’re learning.

Jason: Yeah, it’s pretty amazing. When I was coming to New Zealand, I had read a lot of ya’ll’s work in the past, and I just emailed Dan kind of out of the blue almost. We managed to meet up for lunch, and I think we were both kind of thinking “That guy’s not too bad. I think I can continue having conversations.” We also both had our wives with us. Which by the way, to both of you Alyssa says hello.

Prof: G’Day Alyssa.

Jason: But I’ve found that I’ve been fortunate to travel around and meet a lot of people in the HRV space, and they’ve all been so open to sharing, just like you were talking about. That’s been really awesome. There must be something, personality-wise, that attracts people to good data.

Plews: I’m trying to do the same sort of thing, but no one’s like “No, this is mine.” It’s great because people are really open about it, and there’s no real competition amongst HRV lovers. We all respect what everyone’s doing and we like collaborating.

Jason: Why don’t we wrap up there, and we’ll have another session probably after Plews and Prof is full steam ahead so we’ll have more stuff to talk about with that. We can talk a little bit more about your nutrition experimentation. How’s that sound?

Prof: That sounds great!

Plews: Sounds awesome

Jason: Hey, I appreciate you guys taking the time to join and good luck this weekend. I’m sure you won’t need it.

Plews & Prof: We’ll need it.

Plews: It’s going to be a long day of watching.

Prof: It’s pretty hot out there, but we’ll survive.

Plews: We’ll find some shade.

Prof: And recovering.

Plews: I did the race last year, and it was a tough day. I still have the suntan burns a year later. Terrible suntan bands and nearly losing all my toenails, but we still have fun doing it.

Jason: You got sunburns? I thought the atmosphere was thinner in New Zealand. You should be used to it.

Plews: Yeah well, no it’s definitely burned me here. I tell you that much.

Prof: Next year, accept the sunscreen run from the volunteers.

Plews: I did get it, but by then it was too little too late. By then, I could only be identified by my dental records.

Prof: A roasted lobster

Jason: That’s why you guys got to look out for each other.

Plews: You could’ve been on the team too, ready to rub me down with some sunscreen.

Prof: Next year, buddy.

Plews: And on that note

Jason: And on that note, I appreciate it guys. I’ll go ahead and end the recording and you can just chat a little after.

Jason: And that wraps up the show. I hope you had as much fun listening as I had recording. Dan Plews and Paul Laursen can be found at plewsandprof.com, and we’ll have links to that in the show notes over at eliteHRV.com/podcast, where you can find all the links to every episode as well as leaving comments and getting I touch with us or with any of the guests. And with that, we’ll wrap up. If you have the chance, head on over to iTunes to leave us a review. It helps us tremendously as we get this podcast launched to attract more experts and get a lot more great information here. We read every single one, and we really appreciate it. It’s pretty easy. You can tap on this episode in your podcast app. We actually put links in the description now, and you can also just hit up eliteHRV.com/review for that. Thanks again for listening, and we will see you next week.

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