The cyclist as a species are a little hard to manage. They tend to be very zealous about the training, the gear, the diet and the manliness of being an endurance athlete. The industry and sport celebrates suffering and achievement in equal measure and there is a real sense of if you don’t go hard all the time you’re not a real cyclist.
This all flies in the face of the balanced approach. The requirement for rest and relaxation and the need for recovery.
Now the good weather is here, it’s more tempting than ever to ride more, longer and faster. Who wants to waste a sunny day when you don’t know when the next one will be? If you go too hard, too often, your form will suffer.
The ten signs of overtraining are:
- Frequent unexplained headaches
- Changes in sleeping habits
- More muscle pain, soreness and fatigue
- Increased susceptibility to colds and other illnesses
- Elevation in resting heart rate
- Slower reaction in heart rate
- Not being able to complete a ride
- A drop in speed or climbing ability
- Lack of appetite
How to avoid overtraining
If you experience some of those symptoms and are riding a lot, chances are that you’re overtraining. The easiest way to avoid it is to develop a training plan with adequate rest and recovery built into it.
You have to be honest with yourself. If you’re overtraining, you’re not going to be making gains. You’re going to go backwards. It isn’t a time to man up, it’s a time to warm down and relax. If you really can’t cope with being off the bike, lower the tempo or stick to zone 2. You still get outside but it won’t take such a toll.
You should also have at least one or two days rest every week. Don’t be afraid to rest for a week or more either during the season. Rest creates gains almost as much as riding does. Your body needs the downtime to refill the tanks and to make bigger muscles, so rest is not wasted time.
With that in mind though, build in enough flexibility within the training plan to enjoy surprise days in the sunshine. If there is not a cloud in the sky, you want to be able to go out and enjoy it without ruining yourself or feeling guilty about it afterwards.
All this might be difficult but if you don’t start building rest into your routine, your body will at some point force it upon you. Better to choose the timing and manner of your rest than be forced off the bike by illness during the best weather!