Riding Hard Year Around and How to Avoid Overtraining

A light bike doesn't replace good fitness.

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by RyanH

Does anyone have a good suggestion for monitoring fatigue?

Now that I'm not formally racing anymore, I'm just going out and riding and doing what I want. That invariably means Saturday and Sunday are a beatdown where I'm trying to make sure I'm the hammer and not the nail. Since moving to my new place at the beginning of the year (and taking a few breaks from cycling last year to cope with work loads), my power profile is up almost 5-8% across the board. I'm riding 6 days a week at a minimum and I'm trying to designate at least one of those days to be a recovery day and the others just to do based on feel. This kinda works but I'm more or less guessing at when I should tone it down to avoid overtraining. A few weeks ago I had some symptoms of overtraining and was having trouble performance wise, so I took what was originally planned to be one week off, but ended up getting a cold so that turned into about 10 days of rest with some fluff 15 mile rides.

I'd like to continue just doing what I please but would like something external to tell me when I'm getting fatigued and should dial it back. I'm slightly dense when it comes to going just off my body's signals, so whether that be Heart Rate Decoupling or a Whoop device, let me know what your suggestions are. Whoop is probably on the top of my list but curious if others think it's worth the price or I should just get a TrainingPeaks account and start wearing a HRM (again).

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by antonioiglesius

I was using Golden Cheetah for a while, it's got those TSS/CTL analysis. I believe it uses both powermeter and heart rate measurements. I haven't used it in a while since I don't have enough time to overtrain these days...

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by RyanH

As I'm researching this, I think I may want something that goes beyond just what I do on the bike. One of the things I like about the Whoop is that it takes into account everything that's going on in my day to day life. If I have a bad night of sleep or am traveling, it will help guide me through how fatigued I am (or so it promises).

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by bm0p700f

I ride 7 days a week I don't monitor anything but 20 minute power. I don't ride hard everyday though. This summer it long TT time and i use circuit racing as my interval training. most rides are slow. Tomorrow if I average 15mph on my 30miles of commuting I'll be luckly. Form improves, I have learnt from burst of volume, then a slack weak then another burst of volume. One way I do this is 100+ mile rides or a lot more at the weekend. 20 minute power is up by 15% since Feb. 1 hour power is up by a similar amount and those tests are 1 hour circuit races. I have not peaked yet either. That comes in July/august I hope. Come autumn I will return to base miles lots of them with a few slack weeks. It is quite possible to train with worrying about TSS or other things. I have no rest weeks. I have been doing this for a few years and I have settled on this as the way to peak when I want to.

I have tried using software to me motor stress and fatigue but it told me nothing I could not work out by listening to my body. So listen to your body and ride. I am not convinced more data informs.

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by RyanH

Yeah, but as I stated in my OP, I'm fairly obtuse when it comes to what my body may be trying to tell me. When I decided to take a rest week in the beginning of May, the 2nd day into my rest week I got sick, which to me wasn't coincidence as much as confirmation that I was a little too late. So, I'm trying to work around my limitations. I could try to will myself to be less of an idiot, but my results may vary.

Other options I found may be to use Heart Rate Variability and platforms like EliteHRV and ithlete provide that service.

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by jefftillack

I use mostly Polar heart rate monitors these days and they actually give you a training load calculation i.er. how hard you worked and how long between exercise bursts you need to recover. Mind you, I use this extensively for running. I don't use it much on the bike as due to working projects which are just ridiuclous I ahven't been riding much of late at all. Worth looking into?

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by RyanH

That's provided through their app?

I should add that part of the motivation to find something is that I'm intimately familiar with what happens when you become acutely overtrained. Most of the summer of 2016, I was doing a heavy amount of Z3 training (through the aero testing) but then began adding 40 minutes of Z3 before the Saturday and Sunday group rides to make them harder. In October and November, I was smashing it and my 20 minute power was around 5w/kg. By November, I clocked 88 hours and 1484 miles that month. Then I hit a wall. I did our holiday ride and remember only being able to put out a meager 4.3 w/kg for a 20 minute effort. I was stuck in purgatory for a few weeks and then rested, but it took another 3-4 weeks to recover from that and get my form back. It sucked, it was depressing.

In fairness, that was overly obtuse and my training load was probably through the roof but I just want to make sure that never happens again.

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by mentok

I ride ~400km a week, 7 days. I work 40hrs, I study (post-grad) and I have a wife and kids. Most of my riding is diesel commuting - just grinding out high zone 2 for a few hours each weekday to get home from work and then racing (mainly TT these days) or moderate training on the weekends.

Metrics are not that much help to me. Sometimes I feel fresh when my ATL is high, or tired when my ATL is low. Performance manager doesn't care about how much you sleep, how stressed you are at work, what you're eating. It's all these extra external things that make the big difference - it's quite difficult to train yourself into a hole in the ground, but it's remarkably easy for life + training to conspire together to take you out. I honestly haven't found a piece of data that can bring together the externalities in a meaningful way and that's what you really need.

The best advice I can offer is to reduce the expectations that you put on yourself. Some days riding feels amazing even though it shouldn't, other days it will feel harder than it should. You need to let yourself off the hook on the days when it's hard and they become rest days. Then it's easier to take advantage of it when you feel good. I find that if I try to plan too tightly then I just end up adapting my plan to suit my body's needs and so I may as well not plan anything.

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by RyanH

I agree with that sentiment and I try to take a similar approach. If I had hopes of doing a certain workout and then find that my body isn't agreeing, I'm fine turning it into an easy day.

Heart Rate Variability is supposed to take all things in life into account which is one of the metrics the Whoop is based on.

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by dudemanppl

ask ur wife lol xD

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by bobones

Try Xert if you have a power meter. Its adaptive training advisor will let you know if you're tired and suggest appropriate focus for your rides and workouts. There's a free 4 week trial available and you can easily feed it with data from Strava.

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by Shrike

It's fine isn't it? As long as new high levels of fitness aren't being reached on top of high levels of training load, then extended periods of rest aren't actually needed.

I'm curious about how much base training is relevant to any given rider. I did my first base over winter (sweet spot base I and II high on trainerroad) and I'm not sure it was useful. I've lost so much high end power that I'm not sure I'd ever consider doing it again. Not just in terms of the physical aspect, but also mentally, not feeling like I'm used to being in intense zones and having the confidence to smash it and put my heart rate up there. That took a major dive.

I see a lot of ultra fit riders on Zwift all year round, racing two to three times a week. I think as long as you're not pushing into new unknown levels of fitness and load, then doing hard rides all year round seems fine. 3 hard, 1 easy. Maybe an extra few days here and there to freshen up as needed.

I'd love to see a good debate about the need for base training among amateurs thrashed out from various sides. Something I'm curious about myself.

As far as apps go. Haven't seen anything smart enough to predict overtraining. Xert is good at predicting freshness, but I'm actually preferring TrainingPeaks performance management chart. It can visually give you a representation that may warn of overtraining (ie blue line peaking too fast without any dips). But you could do that fit with sort of fitness/form/fatigue chart. That's still user interpretation.

Think we're just not there yet, but Xert maybe the first to nail it in the next few years if it can stay afloat.

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by mrlobber

Regarding Shrike's comments, pretty much every coach now agrees that during winter you should maintain some high end power workouts, and riding "just base" is pointless (unless you do like 30+ hour weeks). But neither full intensity is the answer - I've done this as well for 3 months, set my best ever 5 min power values on the 12th week, but then another week later hit a wall where I even didn't feel that bad, but simply could not produce anything close to those power values anymore, no matter how I tried (and that lasted for several months!).

My take on the original topic is no training software would predict your real fatigue simply because it doesn't have any data on your daily stress levels, which are super important (just like mentok and others said).

I'd look into Heart Rate Variability. Haven't studied on which science it really is based, but if something has the promise to link together everything you do during the day, that is it. And, of course, quite detailed blood values analysis, say, every 2 to 3 months - basically maintain your own "biological passport". If you see that either you hemoglobin starts diving, stress hormones skyrocket or, even worse, if you've starting to have problems with liver hormones, it's clear that you either are on the edge or rather over it already.
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by glepore

Cross posting here. My experience with hrv was that it didn't add anything more than the pmc chart in Golden Cheetah for me, but I'm pretty sensitive to what life stress is doing to me. If you're not, then use the pmc with hrv, and when they disagree, think about why. I've also gone back to wearing a hrm, as decoupling is probably one of the better guides to the need for a rest period.
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