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Why do I keep overtraining?

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Why do I keep overtraining?

Old 05-15-09, 03:05 PM
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rousseau
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Why do I keep overtraining?

I don't know how to read my body's signals. Or maybe I'm no spring chicken anymore. Is that it?

Sigh...

My particulars:
43 years old, 6-foot, 225 pounds, recent myriad of exhaustive tests show that I'm incredibly healthy, if still somewhat overweight (I'm big-boned. Don't laugh, it's true).

I played basketball in high school and university, then did no regular exercise from the age of 22 to 39 (oh wait, I commuted on a bicycle in Taiwan for one year at the age of 27 before getting a motorycle). At 39 I took up cycling, and became addicted.

In the last three years or so I've done between 8 and 12 hours per week on the bike. I started out trying to get stronger and faster, but did it stupidly; I merely tried my damndest to go faster each ride, without any plan at all. I became a slave to my statistics. So I started to burn out now and then, maybe needing a few days off the bike here and there due to fatigue.

Then last year in August it got scary. I got lightheaded for the first few days, then weak and tired, and had to stay off the bike for a whole month. The docs didn't find anything. Then suddenly I got an attack of appendicitus, requiring a further month of recovery in September, so by October I was feeling pretty good and figured maybe the appendicitus had something to do with it. Which was dumb of me, and even the surgeon told me in no uncertain terms that my two conditions were completely unrelated.

My riding time decreased somewhat through winter, and I made a point of not pushing myself too hard. As the weather got better in March I continued to be "good," not pushing myself much at all. Near the end of April I did a couple of longer rides with some increased intensity, and around that time work became a bit frantic and stressful, and then boom...back on the ropes.

It's now the same as last August: lightheaded for a few days, then weak and tired. It's been two weeks into this "episode," and the doc says that the tests say that I just don't have anything wrong with me; the best guess at this point is overtraining. So I've booked an appointment with a physiothe******/trainer that he recommended. But I'd like to get some ideas and feedback from some people here, if I may.

What to do? How do I approach this? Should I consider getting a heartrate monitor and train using that? Has anyone had a similar experience to mine? Am I really just getting old? Were there too many years of sedentary life in between my youth and now?

I should note that I never had anything like this happen to me before, so I think it's fairly safe to say that there is probably a correlation between these episodes and my cycling.

Thanks very much to anyone who has read this far!
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Old 05-15-09, 03:37 PM
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It might be the stress from work. I find that a certain amount of riding helps with work stress, but too much riding makes it worse. "too much" will be different for different people and situations of course. Too much stress can wreak havoc with your hormonal system. If your doctors have not checked that, then they should.


Training by riding as hard as you can every ride is not only overly stressful, it's not effective training. You need some intensity, some endurance work and some easy recovery rides. The mix changes depending on where you are in your season and what your riding goals are. You also need some rest days. When I was 28 I could handle riding 6 days a week and spending two hours in the gym on my "rest" day but at 48 I can't do that. I need at least one real rest day a week, and a rest week every 3-4 weeks.

A heart rate monitor is useful for keeping the recovery in recovery rides.
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Old 05-15-09, 03:47 PM
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Originally Posted by ericm979 View Post
Training by riding as hard as you can every ride is not only overly stressful, it's not effective training. You need some intensity, some endurance work and some easy recovery rides. The mix changes depending on where you are in your season and what your riding goals are. You also need some rest days. When I was 28 I could handle riding 6 days a week and spending two hours in the gym on my "rest" day but at 48 I can't do that. I need at least one real rest day a week, and a rest week every 3-4 weeks.
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Old 05-15-09, 03:50 PM
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Get on a plan. Have you ever considered a coach, or coaching service?
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Old 05-15-09, 03:59 PM
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Originally Posted by ericm979 View Post
It might be the stress from work. I find that a certain amount of riding helps with work stress, but too much riding makes it worse.
You've probably hit the nail on the head here.

Originally Posted by ericm979 View Post
Too much stress can wreak havoc with your hormonal system. If your doctors have not checked that, then they should.
I don't know, exactly. My doc said that overdoing it can really do a number on your immune system. Last year I got shingles, case in point.

Originally Posted by ericm979 View Post
Training by riding as hard as you can every ride is not only overly stressful, it's not effective training.
Yeah, I eventually came to realize that. I thought I was watching that this past year, but obviously I didn't do a good job. I'm starting to wonder if I did such a number on myself last summer and now, that I need a serious plan of very light exercise for a whole year or more. At least, my preliminary reading on overtraining suggests that more serious cases can result in setbacks of many months.

Originally Posted by ericm979 View Post
...a rest week every 3-4 weeks.
Define rest week.

Originally Posted by ericm979 View Post
A heart rate monitor is useful for keeping the recovery in recovery rides.
What about waking up and checking your heart rate to see if you're in danger of overtraining? Or something? Also, at this stage there's absolutely no way I can go all out to try figure out my maximum heartrate, as I've gleaned some people do, so I wonder if it's still useful?
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Old 05-15-09, 04:01 PM
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Originally Posted by late View Post
Get on a plan. Have you ever considered a coach, or coaching service?
Well, I've got an appointment booked with this physio/trainer guy my doc recommended. I'll see how that goes.

I need some kind of plan, for sure. I also need to find better ways of "reading" my body, because these episodes have more or less hit me out of the blue--I feel good after a ride, and then the next day I'm down for the count (not just a bit "out of sorts," but literally unable to summon up the energy to make a sandwich--good thing I work freelance at home!).
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Old 05-15-09, 04:11 PM
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sounds like long term over training

every three weeks you need to have an "off" week
this means that you still ride your bike but at zero intensity for 30-45mins
it will be a welcome event for the first couple days, but by the time the week is
up you should be aching to ride hard again (well rested and motivated)

if this is the case, and i believe i am correct here, you wont suffer your current symptoms
and you will be able to train harder on hard days
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Old 05-15-09, 04:24 PM
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Why are you training so hard? Do you race? Do you do it to challenge yourself? Other reasons?
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Old 05-15-09, 04:40 PM
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Originally Posted by rodrigaj View Post
Why are you training so hard? Do you race? Do you do it to challenge yourself? Other reasons?
Thing is, I don't think I'm really training so hard. That's what's confounding. I ride for fun and exercise, and because I'm addicted to it.

Having said that, I've clearly been riding too hard for my own good. I've been going beyond my fitness level, I guess.
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Old 05-15-09, 04:58 PM
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Over training is really hard to diagnose solely w/ heart rate, since some people manifest w/ increased resting heart rate, while others can have decreased resting heart rate. Fatigue, irritability, and mood changes may be more reliable symptoms. A tendency to get sick can also be a feature. Rather than your appendicitis causing your training issues, your training may actually have precipitated your appendicitis.
You describe yourself as "addicted" to cycling. You should look a bit further into your exercise patterns and what drives you to exercise too hard too often. I also have had a problem with a tendency to over train, which I feel is related to a fairly compulsive desire to control my weight through exercise. I've had to get tough with myself and enforce the rest days. When I stick to a reasonable ride schedule I feel better and make progress in training-- it becomes reinforcing. As an older athlete you will need more rest, and you can't expect to maintain your highest levels of training year-round. Set some goals for when you want your training to peak, and follow those peaks with a rest period. Cross-training is also helpful.
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Old 05-15-09, 05:57 PM
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I'm 45, and doing pretty well for the last year cycling. I used to race, and it wasn't a big deal when I was younger to spend whole days out on the bike. I still have that mindset and it would be easy to overtrain, but here's the basic stuff I keep up:

Food. Riding a lot, its hard to eat enough so I make a point of eating more than I feel like and I always eat immediately after a ride. There's supposed to be a little window of opportunity to kick the body right into "recovery mode" instead of letting it go into "starvation mode".

Supplements. A good multi, an amino acid complex, that joint compound stuff with MSM, and a fish oil supplement. More or less sometimes - I'm prone to trying things I hear about, and then going through a bottle to see if I notice any difference.

Sleep. This should probably be number one, but the main thing I've noticed is that hitting up over 700 miles a month, I have trouble sleeping, which immediately leads to all the symptoms of overtraining. A friend who runs recently suggested melatonin supplements as a sleep aid and they work well. So I give up an hour of non-productive evening dinking around to get an extra hour of sleep, and feel better all day.

Stress. This I've been trying to minimize for the past couple of years, with mixed success. On the job, if there's work to do I have to do it, and I'm kind of on call so it often screws up any other plans. But besides that I make a settled habit of not volunteering for stuff. My wife thinks I've become anti-social, but screw it - I am seriously not looking for things to do to fill my time.

That's about it. Sometimes I get worn out and take an easy day or two, but I don't worry that I'm screwing up. My recoveries are as good as my age allows, and that seems to be pretty good so far.
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Old 05-15-09, 06:58 PM
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Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
Last year I got shingles, case in point.
Shingles is caused by stress (as I am sure you know). 8-12 hours a week dosn't sound that bad. I think most fit cyclists could handle it.

Originally Posted by rousseau View Post

Yeah, I eventually came to realize that. I thought I was watching that this past year, but obviously I didn't do a good job. I'm starting to wonder if I did such a number on myself last summer and now, that I need a serious plan of very light exercise for a whole year or more. At least, my preliminary reading on overtraining suggests that more serious cases can result in setbacks of many months.
Yea, but I'm not sure that's your problem. From what you have posted I think it's more likely to be the stress. But the stress and your body's response to it will make it easier for you to overreach/overtrain.


Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
Define rest week
An easy week. For me, that depends on how much rest I think I need. At one point it was most of the week off the bike. Now it is usually an extra day off, and replacing a hard group ride with an easy solo ride.

Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
What about waking up and checking your heart rate to see if you're in danger of overtraining?
That's only useful if you have a good baseline of when you are rested and healthy to compare to, and if your RHR responds. Not everyone's does.
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Old 05-15-09, 08:57 PM
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Originally Posted by cyclehen View Post
Over training is really hard to diagnose...<snip>...Fatigue, irritability, and mood changes may be more reliable symptoms.
Thing is, by the time I'm tired and feeling moody, it's already too late. When I feel that way it's not "rest up for the next few days," but rather "stay off your bike for one month."

Unless the fatigue and irritability as signs of impending overtraining are manifested in more subtle ways, and I need to be more attuned to myself? Gawd, I really hate where this is going...I'm self-obsessed enough as it is, it's not a trait I admire in me or anybody. And how can I be sure if a given evening's fatigue and irritability aren't simply due to an annoying client at work and some stale pasta? Sheesh.

Originally Posted by cyclehen View Post
You describe yourself as "addicted" to cycling. You should look a bit further into your exercise patterns and what drives you to exercise too hard too often.
I like being out there for two hours in the countryside. I'd like to lose some more weight, and be in better shape.

Originally Posted by cyclehen View Post
Cross-training is also helpful.
Thing is, I've added some weight-training and walking into the mix, and I think that added to the overload. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't trying to do a decathlon every day. In actual fact, the way it looks now I should probably only do weights once a week.

Originally Posted by ericm979
From what you have posted I think it's more likely to be the stress. But the stress and your body's response to it will make it easier for you to overreach/overtrain.
What annoys me is that I don't think I have a lot of stress in my life. As a freelance translator, what often happens is I'll have three easy days with very little work followed by a sudden onslaught of projects over two days, all "due yesterday." Feast or famine, peaks and valleys, 0 to 100 in 5 seconds.

Which can be stressful, I guess.
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Old 05-15-09, 08:59 PM
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Just last year I started getting serious about rest days. It sounds like now I need to get serious about rest weeks.
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Old 05-15-09, 10:39 PM
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Wow, you get excited about everything, don't you? I know the feeling. OK, here's the rap:

Yes, get a HRM and learn to use it. The sooner the better. "I never had anything like this happen to me before" sounds familiar, if out of context.

If you're short on funds, the simplest HRM will do. However, if you have a good income, Polar has just come out with the RS800CX. Two advantages to this equipment: 1) You download your workouts to the computer and thus keep track of your time in zones, intensity, etc. Your time-in-zone should be pyramidal in structure. You also only have a certain number of intensity "points" that you can get per week and not blow up. You'll figure out how many that is. 2) This instrument has built-in tests that tell you your training state: recovered, normal, training, stagnant, overtrained. This actually works.

Overtraining is only hard to diagnose if you haven't kept good records such as the Polar software provides for you. You also need to know how to recognize overreaching. Continued overreaching for about a month (in my experience) results in overtraining. Overreaching typically manifests as a decrease in power as well as a decrease in exercise HR on some familiar hill, or even on the trainer. At first, you'll think you're seeing an increase in power because at a given HR you are going faster or climbing in a bigger gear than usual. However, what's really happening is that your HR is depressed and you're actually working a lot harder to achieve that HR. A little more of that and you'll find you can't achieve anything like LT, no matter how hard you try to climb. A little more of that and you'll notice that you are climbing your favorite hill in a gear two cogs lower than you used to use. Keep that up for a couple more weeks and you're totally and massively toast and you need to take most of the rest of the season off.

The decrease in exercise HR is accompanied by an increase in morning resting heart rate (MRHR), which you should take every morning, and is also a part of those Polar test protocols. A jump of 5 beats in MRHR is usually taken to be evidence of overreaching. One or two rest or easy days after overreaching will result in a nice jump in speed and power - what you're after. So that's not to fear, it's the continued overreaching that will mess you up.

My personal opinion is that overtraining is the result of the exhaustion of the adrenal glands. Or some glands. Enlighten me, BFers. The secretion of these glands is what makes you go when you need to. No hormones, no go. Messed up hormone balance messes with your mind as well as your body. These glands take a long time to get back to working like they used to. So that's what you're resting when you rest, besides your muscles and other systems.

So how to not get this process started? My solution is to do include a higher percentage of easy rides in your weekly total. Zone 1. On the flat, or very slow when climbing, like really, really slow. Total doesn't have to go down, but the intensity has to shift. More easy rides, more zone 2 endurance rides, some zone 3 drills, and then some serious LT, VO2max, and sprint work. I limit my LT and over work to 1 - 1.5 hrs./week, but then I'm older than you. If my HR doesn't come up during an interval or climb like it usually does, that's a signal to back off and change the ride into a zone 1 or zone 2 ride.

I didn't address nutrition and a whole bunch of other stuff that also could play a part in your problem.
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Old 05-16-09, 01:45 PM
  #16  
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You could have an anxiety disorder. I have one. I LOVE aerobic exercise and the more the better. It is sort of self medication with endorphins. By the way, anxiety disorders respond reasonably well to the appropriate therapy. So you might give that some thought.... or maybe not.

Be that as it may, one way to avoid over training is to ride the bike in different ways. There are days when you can go out and pound. On other days, you might try out new routes. You might go out and sight see. You might find a group ride that is more on the social side. The trick is to do the exercise but moderate the intensity. It is just about as good.

Going out every day and pushing hard just beats the living daylights out of your body as you seem to have discovered.
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Old 05-16-09, 06:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
My personal opinion is that overtraining is the result of the exhaustion of the adrenal glands. Or some glands. Enlighten me, BFers. The secretion of these glands is what makes you go when you need to. No hormones, no go. Messed up hormone balance messes with your mind as well as your body. These glands take a long time to get back to working like they used to.
The more I research overtraining, the more it looks like I really did hinder the normal functioning of my adrenal glands. In fact, at the beginning of this last episode I experienced an intense electricity-like sensation in my veins. It's hard to describe. It lasted for about an hour, during which time I had trouble sitting still, and I thought I was going to go mad. It was bizarre. My guess is that my adrenal glands did indeed go out of whack, producing a crazy adrenalin overload that was completely arbitrary and in response to nothing. Well, nothing except three years of arbitrary overtraining.

The adrenalin overload calmed down, and then I got really tired. That was two and a half weeks ago. I'm slowly getting better, though I still get tired easily.

Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
I didn't address nutrition and a whole bunch of other stuff that also could play a part in your problem.
The onset of this last episode coincided with lots of work stress, a couple of longer rides with increased intensity...and lots of ****e food like donuts and salty snacks. I was doing well on the nutrition front for a while, but then suddenly went on a two-day junk food binge. Which I'm certain was yet another factor in this "perfect storm" of overtraining.

Originally Posted by Pat
You could have an anxiety disorder.
Nah, I'm quite sure this is physiological. Well, I mean, I can get anxious about certain things, but no more than what might be considered "normal." Why do you say that, anyway? Do you think I have an anxiety disorder? Is this something I should get checked for?

Oh my gawd, what if I really do have an anxiety disorder?!
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Old 05-17-09, 07:18 AM
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Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
The more I research overtraining, the more it looks like I really did hinder the normal functioning of my adrenal glands. In fact, at the beginning of this last episode I experienced an intense electricity-like sensation in my veins. It's hard to describe. It lasted for about an hour, during which time I had trouble sitting still, and I thought I was going to go mad. It was bizarre. My guess is that my adrenal glands did indeed go out of whack, producing a crazy adrenalin overload that was completely arbitrary and in response to nothing. Well, nothing except three years of arbitrary overtraining.

The adrenalin overload calmed down, and then I got really tired. That was two and a half weeks ago. I'm slowly getting better, though I still get tired easily.
Adrenal fatigue

The BF is an interesting place. Some time ago a BF member referred to the miles I was putting in as "junk miles". The common notion that we must be pushing intervals or else we are failures, can lead to all sorts of problems. Good luck. I think you are on the right track by getting a personal trainer.
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Old 06-11-09, 12:57 PM
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re:"Why do I keep overtraining?"

cuz it's wicked wicked fun
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Old 06-15-09, 09:59 PM
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Doesn't sound like overtraining to me. Overtraining is more rare than you think it is.

How about nutrition? Do you monitor your caloric intake? Do you check carbs vs. fat vs. protein, and all that jazz?
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Old 06-15-09, 10:45 PM
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I'm 62, and have had this problem for last 5 years (when i got back into serious biking).

This helped me when i read it and finally understood it. "A recovery day IS A TRAINING DAY."
But good advice posted in prior posts. Good Luck!
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Old 06-16-09, 08:02 PM
  #22  
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I will start by saying I am not a doctor. Anything I say below is for entertainment purposes only.


Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
I don't know how to read my body's signals.
a lot of people dont, even doctors and trainers. As humans, we really dont understand a lot of how the body works, even though the medical community try.....

Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
Then suddenly I got an attack of appendicitus, requiring a further month of recovery in September, so by October I was feeling pretty good and figured maybe the appendicitus had something to do with it. Which was dumb of me, and even the surgeon told me in no uncertain terms that my two conditions were completely unrelated.
Spray some Windex on it.

Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
..............the doc says that the tests say that I just don't have anything wrong with me...........
thats because no one really understands how the body works...

Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
Should I consider getting a heartrate monitor and train using that? Has anyone had a similar experience to mine? Am I really just getting old? Were there too many years of sedentary life in between my youth and now?
For the first time in my life I am considering a heart rate monitor. The reason is a little different though. I am not concerned about over training, but am more concerned about making the best use of my training, does this make sense? A heart rate monitor wont tell you if you are over trained. Some sports gurus claim this, that and the other, but honestly, medical science changes every other month.
For example, it has always been believed that training in HR Zones is good, making sure you train WITHIN your lactate threshold, meaning you dont train hard, just enough to improve and build. You should be "comfortable". Well, guess what, the latest research shows that building lactic acid is good for you!!! Confused? Get used to it. Some years ago, the same people said dont do squats in the gym, a few years later they say its the best thing for you!!!

Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
What to do? How do I approach this?
Get a heart rate monitor to make sure your training hard, and making the most use of your time on the bike. Follow these simple rules:
For your body to get better, fitter and stronger, its has to adapt and change to load and strain. It gets better to be able to cope with the training you are giving it. A very simple, universal tip. No science, no equipment is going to change this universal law. Stick to this. Secondly, when you are tired, you are tired. Very simple. You cannot do 10 hours a day everyday. If you are not training to become an elite pro cyclist, just train 3 to 4 times a week. thats all you need, and you wont over train, very simple. Are you getting older? Sure you are. Is your natural ability to do more thatn you used to decreasing? Sure it is. But believe me, you are very far from what is possible with your body, so i wouldent even worry about it. Now, if you were training to break the world hour record, then, perhaps there may be concerns if you are overdoing it for your age.

I think your main problem is psychological tiredness/fatigue. I used to race pro, nothing like the Tour De France, but enough to be among elite athletes. I over trained a few times when I was an amateur, then when I went to race in Europe, I realized that what I had been doing was child's play!! The level at which I was training was a fraction of what I then had to do in Europe, and to imagine I was over trained before!! It was mentally that i thought I was over trained, and as a result, my body was over trained. Once in Europe, it was sink or swing, and over training was for cry babies who wanted to go home.
The human body is incredible. And I dont think you are anywhere near its limit. Just progress slowly but surly. Going out and attacking the biggest hills from day one wont get you very far. take it one step at a time.


Make sure eat, drink and sleep a lot. 3 to 4 times a week on the bike is cool. If you are working, i doubt you are over training, because you are not doing 6-7 hour days on the bike.

More importantly, break up your training. Do steady slow rides for a few weeks, then do some hills for a few weeks, then do time trial training, and back to steady riding. Do some easy group rides, change it up a lot.

Last edited by Howzit; 06-16-09 at 08:07 PM.
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Old 02-28-13, 03:50 PM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by Pat View Post
You could have an anxiety disorder.
I'm resurrecting this four-year-old thread because Pat made a good guess, and it might be interesting or even valuable to future searchers of this website to bring closure to this thread. It turns out I do have an anxiety disorder, and I've had it all my life. I wasn't conscious of it until my diagnosis, but looking back, it explains everything, including the ostensible "overtraining" I was complaining about in this thread.

I collapsed two weeks after the date I began this thread. I was in bed for a week, barely able to move, my physical weakness was so intense. For the next half year after that I experienced recurring panic attacks and debilitating episodes of anxiety. It was a living hell. The doctors checked everything, again, and found nothing. I myself did exhaustive web searches and came up with numerous potential diagnoses: chronic fatigue syndrome, lyme disease, hemochromatosis, etc. But nothing was conclusive. I started to think it was all in my head, and my GP agreed that that might be a possibility, so to speak. He started me on an antidepressant, and that basically did the trick.

Drugs. Yep, drugs. So I took the SSRI for a year, and felt so much better that eventually I stopped taking it. The next two years I was basically fine, and I figured I'd recovered. But I was fooling myself. This past fall I started to stop feeling fine, and at first I was confounded. Hadn't I "gotten over the hump"? When the physiological symptoms got debilitating I went back to the doc, and he said a simplistic explanation might be that my serotonin and dopamine levels had probably been fine for a year or two after stopping the medication, but were now depleted again. So I'm back on a low-dose of an SSRI, and am feeling better.

So, no, I did not overtrain. Instead, the stress of the fallout of 2008, when my wife and I thought we might lose our jobs and our house, exacerbated my underlying but heretofore manageable anxiety. The combination of clinical anxiety and financial stress turned out to be a killer. Well, almost. Knowing what the problem was was half the battle, and getting the right help was the other half.

All I can say is: what a relief it has been.
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Old 02-28-13, 06:43 PM
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sorry about my glib post

thank you for sharing
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Old 02-28-13, 09:05 PM
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No worries!
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