Can Cyclists Overtrain?

cycling overtraining

While overtraining may sound like an oxymoron, this is a fairly serious condition that can impair your ability to compete.

Regardless of whether you’re preparing for the Tour Down Under or any other race, you will naturally be trying to get yourself in the best condition possible – and therein lies the problem.

Many cyclists, when attempting to bring themselves to the top of their game, wind up doing the exact opposite, overtraining and ruining their chances of having a good finish.

Keep in mind also that overtraining can result in injuries that will keep you off your bike, possibly for weeks or even months.

Having worked with some of Australia’s top cyclists, i have learned a thing or 2.

Understanding Overtraining

In the simplest of terms, overtraining means that you have not allowed your body sufficient time to recover after cycling. Even very strong and toned muscles need time to rest after being used. Overtraining will result not only in your inability to make any further progress when cycling, but can damage your current performance as well. Overtraining manifests itself in several different ways:

  • You will feel constantly fatigued, even when at rest. Sleep will become fugitive and you may suffer from insomnia.
  • Muscle soreness will be basically constant as you have not given your muscles a chance to rest properly.
  • Amino acids are an important part of our metabolism and are used to build cells, transport nutriment, and provide energy. Overtraining will use up the body’s supply of amino acids, and unless you take care to make sure your diet provides sufficiently for increased demands, you will feel washed out and lethargic. Those who do not compensate for longer training by increasing their caloric uptake can find their body starting to burn muscle tissue for energy.
  • Even ordinary training will increase the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, in your body. Usually this will ‘drain off’ when you stop cycling, but when you push yourself and overtrain, cortisol can build up cause a number of serious health concerns. These stress hormones can actually impair your body’s immune system, making your more susceptible to illness.
  • Your heart rate will not return to normal levels after exercise if you are overtraining; in other words, normally your heart rate will become elevated while cycling, but the rate will go down to its usual level after you stop. However, an overtrained heart will keep pumping away at an elevated rate even when you are at rest.

Physical factors are only a part of overtraining – overtraining affects your mind as well. Those who have overtrained can find themselves feeling irritable and nervous, and overtraining can even lead to depression and burnout.

Overcoming Cycling Overtraining

If, after a careful self-examination you have determined that you have indeed overtrained, there are ways that you can reverse this trend so that you will not only look forward to cycling in the next race, but also be better prepared for it.

  • Rest is obviously the first step. After a training ride, give your body several hours to recover. Many athletes find that an entire day of rest several times a week while training really helps overall performance.
  • Cutting back on your training schedule is important as well. Rather than push yourself to cycle 300 km a week, cut that number in half, at least in the short term.
  • Use the 10% rule when training – only increase your training load by 10% a week. If you’ve been used to cycling 50km a week, only knock it up to 55km for the first week.
  • Try another activity, such as swimming, to use another set of muscles and break the cycling routine.
  • Because your body is now under more stress than usual, you will have to use vitamin supplements to keep your metabolism working as it should. Pay attention to your overall intake of food, too, so that your body has the fuel it needs.
  • Regular sports massage can help not only to keep your muscles, ligaments, and tendons in good condition, but will also help you to relax. Working out both physical and mental tightness with a massage will make you a much better competitor.

Don’t let the negative effects of overtraining destroy your chances of a good showing at your next race; take time now to either prevent overtraining in the first place, or take steps to reverse it.

If you’re interested in performing at your peak, why not book in for not only a massage treatment but some general health & nutrition advice which is all part of the treatment.