This is a great time of year for cycling, the weather is warm, the sun is shining, the spring showers have dissipated and the Tour de France is in full swing! However, lately I have found myself dragging my feet rather than running out the door to ride my bike. After training hard and racing all throughout the late winter and spring I usually start to feel a bit burnt out by this time of year. I find myself walking the fine line between training and overtraining. All throughout the spring I have been riding six days a week, usually spending anywhere between 8-15 hours per week on a bike and in spite of my recovery days and careful planning I am starting to lose steam.
This past Saturday morning, I felt the burnout in my body for sure. It was crisp and cool for a July morning and I cruised over to the bike shop for the Saturday morning group ride. When I arrived at the shop, after riding only five miles, I was already sweating profusely, in spite of the cool weather. I felt fatigued and almost hungover even thought I was not. I tried to shake it off but my body was definitely trying to tell me to back off for the day, which I did after several miles of trying to push myself.
How did I get to this point of teetering on the edge of burnout? The simple fact is that, like many fellow cyclists, I spend a lot of time on my bike during the week. A typical training week could look something like this:
Monday – rest day
Tuesday – Sprints 1.5- 2 hours
Wednesday – Early morning spin class (1 hour) – Longer sub LT intervals or hard group ride – 2 – 2.5 hours
Thursday – Early morning spin class (1 hour) – Recovery 1.5 hours – Evening Spin Class (1 hour)
Friday – Morning spin class (1 hour) – Sprints or Recovery (depending on if I am racing or not the next day) – 1.5 hours
Saturday – Race (1 hour) – or Ride (2 hours)
Sunday – Race (1 hour) or endurance ride (3 hours +)
Total hours ridden – 12.5 – 16.5 hours
In addition to my hours spent outside on the bike, I generally spend 3-5 hours per week on the stationary bike teaching spinning classes. I try to back off my efforts in those spin classes, but sometimes I get carried away by the music and the energy of the class and push harder than I should. Nevertheless, even when taking it easy in a class, I am still pedaling those extra hours every week.
Cycling is also a very social sport for me. I enjoy riding with groups and with friends. So, sometimes, especially early in the season, after many months spent alone on the trainer, I get excited by the warmer weather and wind up doing both my workout and a social ride. It’s hard to say no to friends who want to ride. I don’t want to neglect my workouts and I do want to focus on my training, but I also want to maintain the social fun of cycling (even though I know I shouldn’t be riding those extra hours). Its funny how early in the spring I don’t really think about how those extra miles might affect my legs later on as the season progresses. Finding friends who are willing to do my workouts with me has been very helpful for combining my training with social riding without having to do multiple rides in one day.
Doing two rides in one day, adding an extra hour of training here and there and teaching classes have all added up to equal some burnout happening in my legs now. I can’t turn back the hands of time and unride those extra miles, but once I start to feel a more constant fatigue in my body I know that I need to change gears and not ride any more hours than I should. If I am supposed to ride an hour I try to keep it to an hour and not let it creep up to two. If I have a workout to do, I either incorporate it into my social ride or save the social rides for recovery days. Some days I even cut my ride a bit short if I really am not feeling great on the bike.
If you are starting to feel burnt out and constantly fatigued on the bike or in any kind of training, listen to your body. At the moment, as I walk the fine line between training correctly and pushing myself one step to far I really start to listen to my body more and more. I turn down rides, take rest days when I simply just can’t force myself back on the bike for one more day and pull myself back from the brink of disaster. I can still ride and still have fun on the bike, just not so many hours of it!