Training for the Working Cyclist
Over-training vs. Under-training
By Adam Switters
There comes a point during everybody’s season when workouts don’t seem quite as easy as they used to. A point when, during an endurance ride, you feel like stopping halfway through and taking a nap. A point where you aren’t quite able to hit your goal wattage for that last interval. Usually, it’s one of two things: you’re over-training or under-training.
You’ve put in the solid base work, you’ve done your tempo work, your strength work, your anaerobic work and you’re ready to race. The season comes along and everything is going well. You’re racing every Saturday and Sunday, you’ve got the group ride on Tuesday, interval Wednesdays and tempo Thursdays. You’ve cut back on hours from your base season (no more 5 hour weekend rids for you) but you’re still feeling tired. You’re grumpy when you wake up, you’re grumpy when you go to sleep and you find yourself drinking twice as much coffee as normal. Guess what, you’re probably over-trained.
You’re racing every weekend. Monday is your off-day. Tuesday is an easy spin and by the time Thursday rolls around, you can’t possibly doing intervals if you want to be fresh for your race. Every week is a rest week for you. But guess what, you can’t survive on racing alone (well, not if you want to get faster). What you need is a middle ground.
Over-training or Under-training (A scientific approach)
Above are the most basic scenarios for over-training and under-training, but most people fall between the two extremes. You’re still lacking that power you know you have, but you can’t figure out whether you need to train harder, or rest more. Here are two things to help you guide you in which direction to go:
1. Heart rate as a measure of over-training. Use power as a measure of how hard you should train, and heart rate to determine when you are training too hard. Compare your workout with similar workouts done earlier in the season. If you are hitting your power target, but your HR is low and your RPE (rate of perceived exertion) is the same, you’re most likely in an over-trained state. If you’re HR is higher than normal with the same RPE, then you’re most likely under-trained. The key here is developing and understanding the relationship between HR, power, and RPE. You might have to take this over a week-long basis however as heat, humidity etc. can also affect your training.
2. DALDA. (Daily Analysis of Life Demands for Athletes).
Beside training, there are other factors that influence our fitness and stamina. Daily life stresses (such as work, family, being sick) have an effect on our mental and physical health. I have all of my athletes keep a training diary where they keep track of their DALDA scores. They get points for having a worse sleep then normal, being grumpy, being sore, etc. While not an exact science, an increasing trend in DALDA scores is a good indicator of overtraining. For an example of DALDA questions, go to http://completetrackandfield.com/2434/sports-psychology/
The biggest thing you can do for yourself is to keep a consistent training diary. Something simple. All it needs is:
1. Description of workout
With these tools and a basic knowledge of the relationship between HR, power and RPE, you should be able to steer yourself in the right direction.
Adam Switters is a former professional cyclist and currently races for Team Mike’s Bikes p/b Incase. He is a USA Cycling Certified Coach is the owner of Switters Coaching. You can check him out at his website http://www.SwittersCoaching.com/. Feel free to comment if you have any ideas for workout or questions.