Author Topic: Overtraining - Real, or Myth?  (Read 10370 times)

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Offline RoadWimp

Overtraining - Real, or Myth?
« on: April 29, 2007, 11:32:08 pm »
Greetings, my fellow velo-philes. I've a rather stupid question for those more learned in the cycling arts then I. I've been riding with a less-then-moderate degree of dedication for a year or so now. Measly 75 mile weeks and such like. But recently, I was riding on a glorious early spring day when I suddenly realized that I was pathetic. That my granny could do the Alp d'huez faster then I could - on a rusty old tricycle, no less. Obviously, this realization vexed me, and I on the spot decided to shape up a bit. To leave behind the miserable little 75 mile weeks and seek to enter a state of semi-competence.

So far, I've managed to surprise myself by sticking to my resolution - I had a nice 55 mile ride yesterday, for example - and I've already noticed an increase in my fitness and cycling capability.

However, I seem to remember hearing something about a condition known as 'overtraining'. Is that a real concern? Is it actually possible to reach a state where more exercise is in fact not only not productive, but even detrimental? The idea seems absurd - isn't more exercise always good? Pehaps this requires a more drastic increase in training levels - from couch potato to 400 mile weeks, for example?


Anyways, I appreciate your advice.

Offline darclabed

Overtraining - Real, or Myth?
« Reply #1 on: April 30, 2007, 01:19:53 am »
Rest is just as important as riding 55 mile days. Without proper rest you are just running yourself into the ground.


Offline Stalls

Overtraining - Real, or Myth?
« Reply #2 on: April 30, 2007, 08:37:58 am »
Learn to train with low gears. 'Spining it's called' you'll burn more fat yet will accustom the legs to cadence to heart rate ratio. Becoming a better cyclist without burning out. Don't be a big gear chomper !! Learn the basics then move on.


Offline bigringer

Overtraining - Real, or Myth?
« Reply #3 on: April 30, 2007, 09:24:40 am »
overtraining is very real.  although it is hard to actually get to that state.  To reach a higher level of fitness you need to push yourself past your current level and then recover.  daily or weekly mileage is not a real good measure of exertion because there is a big difference between riding 12 mph and 19 mph.  my best advice if you are serious about increasing you fitness it to obtain a heart rate monitor. without getting into all the specifics here I would recomend purchasing a book on the subject.  last but not least, listen to you body and let that be a guide.  when you feel strong ride harder, and when you are tired take it easy.  


Offline ride29

Overtraining - Real, or Myth?
« Reply #4 on: April 30, 2007, 12:00:35 pm »
I don't really think there is much truth to the idea of 'overtraining' per se - as long as these key principles are not violated:

1) increasing volume too quickly. In running, we use the 10% rule - never increase mileage by more than 10% from week to week.

2) overuse - diversify your training...only running, or only riding, or only lifting, etc. will lead to fitness or muscle imbalances.

3) under resting - resting is the body's recovery and rebuilding time. Resting includes sleep as well as 'easy' or off days on which you simply do not hammer at full-throttle.

4) lack of nutrition - your body needs fuel - high quality fuel - in order to run efficiently and at full volume.

5) lack of hydration - being in a constanst state of semi-dehydration is hard on your body...experiencing massive dehydration during a big effort can be harmful, and may take days (or longer) to recover from.

Keep all those things in line and in my opinion the body can be pushed a lot harder than most of us do.

Daryl Bernard
Daryl Bernard

Offline RussellSeaton

Overtraining - Real, or Myth?
« Reply #5 on: April 30, 2007, 01:06:48 pm »
Overtraining is a myth for about 99.99+% of bicyclists.  To overtrain you have to push yourself every day.  Riding a leisurely 55 miles a day, every day will not do it.  Loaded tourists ride 55+ miles every day all summer.  Are they overtrained?  No.  They are not hammering away, pushing the pace all day long, day after day.  If you ride 55 miles a day at a race pace, 100% exertion, hammer every mile, every day, day after day.  Then you can overtrain.  Not many people do that.

The vast majority of riders do not actually train when riding.  They just ride their bikes.  This is an OK aerobic exercise.  But beyond a point, it does not make you a faster, stronger, better rider.  Riding all day at a medium pace does not do much for you.  To get stronger, you must exert yourself beyond your current comfort level.  Stronger is defined as being able to ride at the same exertion level, but go faster.  Or ride at the same speed, but at a lesser exertion level.  From a training, physical improvement viewpoint, short miles at a fast pace are better than long miles at a slow pace.


Offline driftlessregion

Overtraining - Real, or Myth?
« Reply #6 on: April 30, 2007, 10:06:29 pm »
Russell is correct. See www.roadbikerider.com and especially the ebook by Fred Matheny, Complete Book of Road Bike Training.It's a great book for anyone serious about increasing strength and endurance.  Recent Bicycling Mags also have articles about training with intensity. Fred also endorses rest, especially after those intense workouts.


Offline RoadWimp

Overtraining - Real, or Myth?
« Reply #7 on: May 02, 2007, 05:32:15 pm »
Thanks for your advice, comrades. Looks like I might not be in danger of overtraining just yet. Now, what's more important: distance or intensity? I went for a ride of only 42 miles earlier today, but pushed quite a bit harder then I did Saturday (thought I was going to die :)). Is that better then the slower 55 mile course? Would a good rule of thumb be "If it doesn't hurt it's not worth it"? Or should I try to find some happy medium?


Offline driftlessregion

Overtraining - Real, or Myth?
« Reply #8 on: May 02, 2007, 11:10:38 pm »
It depends on what you want to achieve. If you want to be good at riding 55 miles slowly everyday ride 55 miles everyday. If you want to get faster you'll have to include some kind of speed work; do some sprints once a week in the middle of your ride.  If you want to climb better you'll have to work harder on those climbs. So yes, 42 miles with intensity is overall better than a slow 52. Once you increase the intensity into the anerobic area then you have to start thinking about adding rest. Back to back days of "I thought I would die" is hard on the body. Most of us never get stronger and faster without really thinking about pushing our limits. Without pushing consciously we tend to stay in the 75-80% or our maximum effort range (typical touring effort) which doesn't lead to overall improvement.  There are also lots of books available in the library on using heart rate for training including some by Chris Carmichael, Lance Armstrong's coach. He preaches the same ideas that Fred Matheny does. Hope this helps.


Offline boonebikeguy

Overtraining - Real, or Myth?
« Reply #9 on: May 03, 2007, 03:44:21 am »
Dude I was never a touring cyclist until NOW..I raced all over the world..I can ASSURE you that overtraining IS not a myth. Most of the affects of it are focused on mental fatiuge and mental burn-out. Your body also has a threshold where it has had enough and no further training will help you, infact it will harm you.


John Sheehan was the former Irish National champion years ago...we raced together at Tour of Texas years ago..he taught me to "listen to your body". Your body will tell you when you need to rest a day or three.  Touring training should never IMHO be so intense you harm yourself. I raced for a team so I HAD to train so much that I had to listen to my body and not over-train. I am not sure what you have been told here and I am a newbie to ths forum, but I can assure you that over-training is not a myth. 55 miles a day.... Uhm well if you are not used to 55 a day then YEAH it may be something that can cause burn-out..I averaged around 80-100 miles a day in splits five days a week.....with spinning before bedtime...so I am unsure how valid my points are to somone that rides 55 miles a day..maybe it is all mental? in any case..CYCLING is about enjoyment on a bike UNLESS you are being payed to race..then it IS a job as well.Don't make your riding a job...touring is not a sport where you have to log ungodly miles and hours a day on your horse...just spin a lot get your muscles used to the cadance and repetition and everything else will fall into line..do NOT grind big gears.

"Love is a river where crazy people drown"--Kyrgyz proverb

This message was edited by boonebikeguy on 5-2-07 @ 11:51 PM
"Love is a river where crazy people drown"--Kyrgyz proverb

Offline bigringer

Overtraining - Real, or Myth?
« Reply #10 on: May 03, 2007, 08:44:35 am »
boonebikeguy I couldn't agree with you more.  even though my handle is bigringer, I got that nickname when I was a newbie.  I used to grind the biggest gear I could.  I dropped about fifty pounds, my resting heart rate dropped to the low fifties, and my depression went away.  I was hooked.  I used to ride at race intensity every chance I could get.  on the tuesday group rides I was the one who wouldn't ride at an easy pace and had to be the first one over every hill and win all the sprints.  I would force myself to get up at four am so I could do intervals before work.  
  then one day I started to get tendonitis in my knees.  my resting heart rate started going up.  My heart rate wouldn't elevate on a hard exertion.  worst of all my depression started to come back.  when I discussed it with my doctors they didn't understand.  exercise is supposed to make you feel better.  I WAS RUINING THE ONE THING THAT MADE ME FEEL GOOD.
    so roadwinp I think I know how you feel right now.  my friends used to tell me to rest,  but I wouldn't listen.  Here is something that works for me.  Time yourself on a route you do regular.  Ride it as fast as you can, and keep track of your time.  back off for a few days
and time yourself again.  you will probably be amamzed.  at the same time don't be afraid to push yourself, just try and listen to your body!
    by the way, I still like to keep it in the big ring, with the only exception being I like to keep my cadence around 85-90!  I would recomend a cadence meter to someone serious about their cycling.  


Offline RussellSeaton

Overtraining - Real, or Myth?
« Reply #11 on: May 03, 2007, 12:24:07 pm »
Just to reiterate what driftlessregion already wrote.  How you ride or train depends on your cycling goal.

If your goal is to get faster for the same intensity level, then you must incorporate interval work into your weekly riding.  Interval work being going 100%, so hard you thought you could not go that hard, for short, semi-short time periods.  Repeat as long as you can.  Best done with a race team or on a racer training ride because left to your own motivation, you never push yourself as hard as your body is able to be pushed.  Do 2-3 of these workouts a week.  Short and intense.  30-40 miles.  2 hours.  Not a big time committment.  Try to get 2 of the 3 weekly interval workouts back to back.  You are trying to push your body harder.  You need to be able to push it when its not 100% recovered.  Do 2 interval workouts back to back.  Rest a couple days.  Do another interval workout.  Rest a couple days.  Repeat.  You can do other rides of easy or medium intensity on some of the rest days.  Short or long miles.  Or not ride at all.  Swim, jog, walk on some of the rest days.  But really rest 1 or 2 days a week by doing nothing more strenuous than walking a bit.  The hard interval work is the important part.  It is enough to allow you to ride centuries easily.  Riding short and hard allows you to ride long and medium easily.  You do not need to ride 80 miles to build up to riding 100 miles.  Two months of interval training of 30-40 miles each will allow you to ride 100 miles easily.

If your goal is to just ride and enjoy yourself, then ride and enjoy yourself.  If you feel tired and not up to riding, then don't ride.  Go at whatever pace your friends are riding at.  Interval work is not necessary, BUT, BUT, BUT some interval work as I describe above will make just riding around more enjoyable too.  The interval work 1 or 2 nights a week will allow you to easily ride long distances on the weekend at a medium pace but at a lesser effort elvel.  Enjoyable rides will be more enjoyable because they will be less work.  You will have the ability to choose how youride your enjoyable rides.  Faster like a racer man, charge up the hills to show off, race from town to town and rest a long time in each town eating and drinking and talking, or just ride at a medium or slow speed.  Whatever you choose because your body is faster and stronger and gives you the choice.  And when there is a headwind, it won't feel as bad because you are faster and stronger and it won't affect you as much.  Bike rides are not enjoyable when you are forced to be on the bike longer than you want and put out more effort than you want to put out because your body is not strong enough to overcome the hills, wind, cold, heat, etc.  Being faster and stronger lessens the affects of these variables and makes all rides more enjoyable.

Again, don't worry about over training.  For 99.99+% of bicyclists, its a myth.  Maybe some people experience it.  Maybe.  I rode 10,200 miles last year and never overtrained.  Longest ride of 310 miles in a day.  Several 200+ mile days.  Many 100+ mile days.  Etc.  World peace and famine and hunger are probably a higher worry than overtraining.


Offline boonebikeguy

Overtraining - Real, or Myth?
« Reply #12 on: May 03, 2007, 02:19:22 pm »
Wow Russ said it all really, and as Big Ring said just get a cadance meter. Theere is ONE mre thing I wanted to tell you that everyone else has mentioned. SPIN..I was getting my butt kicked every club ride...until Will Tidmore one of my best freinds of all time took me out to the hills and made me spin spin spin for hours..eventually on my 'spin' days I got a fixed gear and worked on spin cadance. What spinning does ios obvious but there is alos something else spinning does that needs further explination. The term 'resting in motion' is one I used to describe the phenomenae behind spinning. When you spin and do it all the time as the base of your training, what is does is force your leg muscles to 'get used' to riding all the time at a certain cadance...the body treats spinning as if you were walking eventually and second nature..what you'll find is when your in the peloton or a large pack, you will be able to keep whatever pace they do or even SET the pace, and actually RECOVER while others are gasping for air...I became a break-away artist due to all my spinning...people I rode with in the group hatyed me because I could drop everyone and anyone I wanted, and leave the group completely and hammer up climbs and wait for them in the next town...then Instarted going to little races and winning them...then I rode in college and won races and all the time I was just riding for FUN!! That is how I eventually got a paid spot on a team and it is how I came to love cycling even more after leaving racing because I could ride forever without tiring and enjoy the beauty of simply riding. If I were you, I'd not make riding my job, just spin a lot do intervals from time to time and just enjoy the darn bike.Everyone here has given really good advice, but the main thing is SPIN...reach a meditive state on your bike and spin..

"Love is a river where crazy people drown"--Kyrgyz proverb
"Love is a river where crazy people drown"--Kyrgyz proverb

Offline bigringer

Overtraining - Real, or Myth?
« Reply #13 on: May 03, 2007, 03:45:36 pm »
road whimp. one last thought on the subject.  I agree with everything that has been written.  one thing to take into consideration is that we are all individuals, and what works for one person might not for another.  everything written here is just advice and you need to fine tune it to fit your particular style. I remembering fisishing fourth in the first race I entered and feeling like a failure because I led the race for all but the finish.  that told me I just needed to train harder. If you are not the type of person to ride at 95% of you max for two hours you probably don't need to worry about overtraining. If you are serious about improving your fitness level that is another issue.
     I got into endurance cycling after getting divorced, losing my job, and my drivers liscense to drunk driving.  I was fifty pounds overweight, suffered from high blood pressure, glaucoma and have since been diagnosed bipolar.  since then I have been able to control my blood pressure glaucoma and depression all through exercise, and have managed to stay sober.  So don't be afraid to push yourself, even if you do end up in that .01% of people who are capable of overtraining.


Offline boonebikeguy

Overtraining - Real, or Myth?
« Reply #14 on: May 08, 2007, 01:41:58 pm »
Big Rig,

That's what I call you .

I liked the little story you just told. That's pretty big balls to accept it and live it.

You have more of my respect.

"Love is a river where crazy people drown"--Kyrgyz proverb
"Love is a river where crazy people drown"--Kyrgyz proverb