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In this part, we are going to delve into the potential consequences of over training/under resting and explore how to address when this happens. Also, we will advise on how to deal with illness during the winter training months and how to come back to full fitness quickly and safely.
The term ‘over training’ is very commonly used in cycling circles, however the term ‘under resting’ isn’t quite so much. When you end up in a fatigued state this can sometimes be a result of a lack of structured rest (under resting) rather than the amount of training completed over a period of time.
The main reason is down to excessive overload without adequate rest to recover from a previous training phase. During heavy training periods the body is under a lot of strain, which is common as the new season approaches. Your heart and lungs are working hard, muscles fibres are damaged and immune system is weakened. Cycling also depletes glycogen stores, nutrients, minerals and fluids. This has the potential to happen each and every person who wishes to train and develop during the winter period, all of which needs to be counteracted with adequate rest and recovery.
With the heavy strains cycling and physical exercise put on your body, don’t underestimate the everyday demands of life, work and family. Poor sleep, inadequate nutrition, illnesses and training during unsociable hours can all influence the levels of fatigue placed upon your body. With this is mind you need to be aware of the limitations in which you can push yourself and be realistic in what you can and can’t do before tipping the balance into a fatigued state.
We keep saying it and are going to say it again. Structure. You got to have it so as to avoid under resting. Being as disciplined with rest as with training will see you meet the demands of your body’s requirements to adapt and develop. Look at your training and lifestyle as a complete topic and push your training only to the limitations in which you can handle it based on your lifestyle and daily routine. It is at these times in which coaching and mentoring has its most benefit, having someone to tell you to rest and recover is sometimes more important than someone telling you to train and work harder.
The necessity to take complete rest days which means no exercise over a 24hr or 36hr period is essential weekly for most cyclists. Particularly those with busier lifestyles. Motivated and driven individuals sometimes find it hard to accept this requirement but we cannot emphasise enough how important it is to take at least 1, and more than likely 2, full rest or recovery days each week. Don’t fall into the trap of training excessively for weeks on end while you gradually underperform waiting for that ‘rest week’ which is still 10 days away. Take a break before it gets too much and don’t allow factors mentioned accumulate and turn your training into a spiral of underperforming and over reaching.
Any winter period is synonymous with colds and flus and it can sometimes be an inevitable scenario you will get ill at some point. So what do you need to think about when illness hits your training?
No one chooses to get ill but most people tend to get around 2-4 colds a year, the length of these vary greatly from person to person but generally this can be from 4-5 days up to a maximum of 3-4 weeks. An Upper Respiratory Tract Infection (URTI), in other words a cold, is a virus infection of the nose and upper airways. This results in our noses running, along with congestion, and for some headaches and a sore throat. Generally, if the cold is above the throat area then it is not necessary to take time off the bike although it may require lowering the intensity or frequency of training until recovery starts to improve. If you find symptoms down not improve and/or move down to the chest, then it is time to see your doctor to help diagnose the illness and provide best methods for recovery.
My main rule of thumb is always to prioritise health over fitness, no matter how much training you put in if your immune system is low then your training needs to take a back seat until you are feeling better. Below are some tips we advocate to help before and during a URTI:
Vit C & Echinacea - These seem to be popular amongst many people in the fight against the common cold, from much modern research it has shown it may assist with the prevention of the common cold but not with shortening of the length of time you have a cold when contracted.
Zinc Lozenges - These seem to have a more beneficial effect on the length of time you have a cold rather than combating a cold. Regular intake of Oral Zinc ‘sweets’ may be a good way to recover quickly from a cold.
Fluids - When you have a cold this can lead to excessive sweating, for this reason it is vital to not become dehydrated. Being hydrated is key to maintaining a healthy immune system year round but also needs to be prioritised when fighting a URTI.
As explained earlier, with symptoms being above the throat it can be possible to continue with some sort of reduced exercise and limit the intensity of the training. Caution and common sense is needed at these times so listening and understanding your body is extremely important, always air on the side of caution rather than dig a deeper hole to get out of by lowering your immune system further.
If you find a cold is lingering and has failed to improve or subside in a week to 10 days, then it is possible your body is fighting an infection. At this point it is crucial you visit a doctor to have treatments diagnosed and a pathway to full health planned so you are back to a full immune system as quickly as possible. Classic signs of this is severe muscle soreness, sore throats and a fever. It is at this point antibiotics may be needed and medicines prescribed by a doctor to have you back on tract.
It is VITAL that you do not exercise during this period when your body is fighting infection, your body is already under enough stress fighting the infection so it needs all the energy possible to get the health back on track rather than trying to maintain fitness. If you try and stress your body in any way you will only prolong the recovery period.
When training commences after illness it is important to take it gradual and increase the frequency and volume at a steady rate to ensure you do not bring your immune system down further. We would advise to have at least one full recovery day for each day you are ill. So if you have been ill for one week take at least another week off to help build up your immune system again. You need time to heal and repair again. Health over fitness is always the priority.
Hopefully this 3 series Winter Training Checklist will help you with your training and development during the preseason period.