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It’s easy to think the only way to become fitter, stronger or more powerful is to beast yourself on the Wattbike - day in, day out. High intensity sessions are tough workouts designed to push your body beyond its comfort zone, and the rewards speak for themselves when you see the results of a 20-minute test or your latest time on a local climb.
As you get fitter, chasing those gains becomes harder and it’s difficult to know how much training to do. Pushing yourself to the very limit every day might seem like the only way you can improve. However, this can cause a common problem for dedicated endurance athletes of all abilities: overtraining.
The result? Often, it will feel like you’ve lost some sharpness in your performance or it will feel more difficult than normal to hit those peak numbers at high intensities. Some of the more concerning signs and symptoms can be poor sleep, tiredness, injuries and weight fluctuations.
Sound familiar? Here are four cycling overtraining symptoms that show you’re going too hard on the Wattbike.
Being a dedicated Wattbiker, it’s likely that you know your heart-rate zones like the back of your hand. But how often do you check your resting heart rate? Knowing what to expect from your heart first thing in the morning is a useful tool, not only for training, but also to predict illness.
Changes of more than 5 beats per minute in your resting heart rate can be a good indicator of fatigue. If this is the case, taking a few days to recover properly from any training stress will help to prevent cycling overtraining or any longer term health issues.
This effect can also be felt during a workout. “If I want to burst into tears at the thought of a Wattbike session, I know that I’m probably a bit too tired,” says Wattbike Ambassador and multiple Ironman champion Lucy Gossage.
“I might not always want to do the session but if I really can’t face it I know that I need a rest. Similarly, if I’m doing a hard session and I can’t get my heart rate up, I know it’s a no-go and I should turn it into a rest day instead”.
One of the key elements to a successful training plan is rest. It’s only when we stop to recover that our muscles rebuild and adapt to the stresses of training that we become stronger athletes. That’s why any good training plan will factor in easy days or even a whole week to fully recover from a block of workouts.
If you return from an easy session thinking it was still a hard workout, or can’t remember the last time you weren’t in the gym, maybe it’s time to put your feet up and let your muscles repair with some well-earned rest. The results when you get back on the Wattbike after your rest and recovery might surprise you.
Ride hard, nap hard. That’s the mantra of many pro-cyclists, who during a stage race will take any opportunity for forty winks. There’s a good reason, too. Good quality sleep aids recovery. Interrupted or poor sleeping patterns increase cortisol levels, which in turn impact on both your ability to train and to recover.
Lack of sleep can also have an affect on your mental health, leading to more sleep troubles in the future. Significant overtraining is known to affect stress hormones, including cortisol and epinephrine. The hormonal imbalance causes mood swings and irritability. This all leads to agitation and moodiness which will only damage your body further in training.
When you’re overtraining, it may feel like a struggle to fall asleep or you may find yourself having constant restless nights, damaging your performance during the day as a result. If this is the case, try resting up for a few days and dedicate some time to return to a healthy sleeping pattern.
All the above factors will lead to an eventual decrease in your performance when cycling, even though you’ve increased training intensity or volume. You will notice a decreased level of agility, strength and endurance, including slower reaction times and reduce cycling speeds. All these are common signs of overtraining. Pushing any more will only continue to further the decline in your level of performance.
Do any of these symptoms and signs of overtraining sound familiar? Prevent overtraining by having a rest and then begin one of our expertly designed training plans - with just the right amount of hard work and recovery.
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