Overtraining is one of the hardest things to pinpoint, but an important thing to catch. The first symptoms are often indistinguishable from the normal rigours of training, but over time, the effects add up and can lead to burnout. Here’s how to know whether you’re burning the candle at both ends and might be in need of a brief training break.
Workouts aren’t getting better
Have you been struggling to finish your rides or just barely hitting watts that used to feel easy? This is a telltale sign that you’re working too hard and should consider pulling back.
Another sign that you’re working too hard can come from race results. If training has been going well but the results aren’t coming, it could mean that your workouts are taking away from your actual race day. Remember to try and finish your rides feeling strong as opposed to completely wiped out.
You’re not interested in going for a ride
There will always be days when a ride doesn’t feel exciting, but if you haven’t wanted to go for hit the road or the trainer in a few weeks, check in with yourself.
You consistently feel flat
The difference between a good ride and a bad ride is mostly determined by how your body feels. There are days when your legs feel like pistons attached to your body, perfectly designed for cycling. Then there are days when your legs feel like two bricks strapped onto your torso that would be better suited to anchoring a ship than pushing you any further.
If you’re feeling flat after a hard workout or big training week, chances are it’s normal and part of the training adaptation. But if you’re consistently feeling this way, it’s probably time to head back to the drawing board and examine your training plan.
If you’re finding that sickness seems to follow you, your training program could be partially to blame. Overtraining has a negative effect on the immune system, which can cause a cyclist to become sick more often. If you can’t ditch you cold or find yourself taking one sick day after another, it might be time to pull back your training load.
Life got really busy
Cyclists can forget that stress is stress. If you’re anticipating a big week at work, or dealing with something difficult in your personal life, it’s important to revise your training plan. Pushing through training during a busy time is a sure-fire way to leave you feeling overworked and under-slept.
The best way to avoid overtraining is to stay on top of how you’re feeling with a training journal. If you’re monitoring how you’re feeling, you can catch a trend before it becomes a problem. Also, there’s a case to be made for the weekly off day. If you’re feeling that your current training load isn’t sustainable, schedule off days on a regular basis to balance your stress with your rest.
This article first appeared in Canadian Running Magazine