How to identify and avoid over-training cyclingtips 6 gases

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Some cyclists are often tempted to exercise longer and harder so they can improve rapidly. They are motivated and keen to get faster and stronger but without adequate rest and recovery, these training regimens can backfire, and actually decrease performance.

I raced the women’s Giro d’Italia and didn’t allow enough recovery time post-race. This caused me to train even harder when in fact I should have been resting! This led to a dramatic downward spiral in my training ability, my motivation and I ended up needing several days completely off the bike to recuperate.

Do you allow yourself to have an easier week every third week to allow your body to adapt to the training load? The pros do this, so we should too, especially since we don’t get the same amount of recovery as the pros. When we are juggling more things in our lives recovery is even more important.

My husband, Bob Kelly, uses this analysis of ‘time available to train’, with the U23 Essendon SKODA NRS team he coaches and directs. He finds this analysis shows the athletes the importance of how they spend their time and whether they can train at their optimum capacity, without over-training.

You can easily upload your Garmin files to an online service like Strava or use a fancier software package such as Training Peaks to monitor your training. If you don’t like these online options, simply write in an exercise book to keep track of how many hours you ride each week.

A recovery day allows your body to restore and repair, so when you ask it to go hard, you can give your efforts 100%, instead of 80%. Remember you need to be able to train above threshold, in order to improve your threshold level. If you are constantly in a state of fatigue and training below threshold, you will never see improvements.

From a personal perspective, having an active recovery day can sometimes help speed up recovery. This can be something like a 20 minute easy spin on the rollers and then 20-30 minutes of stretching, using a foam roller and putting pressure on the glutes (gluteal muscles) with a spikey ball (yes, literally sitting on a ball on the floor).

In my experience of coaching athletes and also from being an athlete at an international level, getting adequate recovery is the key to avoid over-training. In fact, a recovery day should be treated with the utmost respect and importance. A recovery day is as important as a training day.

Water is also great for recovery. Standing up to your waist in water or swimming helps relax tired muscles. In summer this is a relaxing form of recovery. In winter, a bath may be a better option. Ice baths and hot/cold contrast also works well. Fill a bath with cold water and sit in this for a few minutes. Then jump into a warm shower. The opening and closing of the capillary vessels helps the muscles feel better and is said to aid recovery.

I loved using compression stockings after a hard session and felt that these made my legs feel better. Elevating your legs is another trick if they are feeling smashed. Simply lie on your bed or the floor with your feet above your head. This seems to aid in circulation and the legs feel great after 15-20 minutes.

Don’t be afraid to simply take the day off. Don’t train or do anything. I often hear athletes say that the last thing they want to do on a rest day is to pull on a chamois and spin their legs. The temptation of a coffee shop spin doesn’t entice them. They really want to completely rest.

It is a good idea to plan an end of season break. Everyone needs time to recover. Your body can only take so much adrenaline. It is important that you give your nervous system some downtime to recover. So hang the bike up and do something else for 3-4 weeks.

Europeans are often forced to do this due to the extreme winters they face, whereas in Australia, we can ride all year around and often ignore the importance of taking a break. It doesn’t mean you stop exercising. It just means it might be a good idea to hang the bike up and do something different.

We always encourage our athletes to listen to their body. Never ignore vital warning signs. Take note of the things that feel different. For example, it may take longer for your heart rate to rise, or it might not rise at all. This is your body trying to tell you something important — you are tired!