Thursday, June 6, 2013
Tired Legs, Time Off and when to get off the bike
Some self-help advice on dealing with cycling related tiredness.
Last Memorial Day weekend I went to a 3 day bike riding binge where I must have ridden close to 80 miles in 3 days. I normally don't ride these types of long distances, and normally spread my rides more evenly during the week than attacking that distance on a weekend. As if that wasn't epic enough, the local weather here has been hot and humid for about a month now. On recent rides I have been feeling fatigued, even in rides less than 20 miles long. Last weekend finally broke my spirit, after a 32 mile ride were I crashed in the final few miles of the ride. I have been off the bike since then, trying to recover the sensation and strength in my legs. I have been sore all over and even my knees were bothering me at one point. The day fatigue is starting to go away now, along with the back pains probably caused by muscles that were strained during the fall. I have been off the bike for almost two weeks now, trying to find the energy to get back on again.
I can probably blame my tiredness on late nights with a toddler, poor eating habits and my fat friends always eager to stuff my face with delicious food. But I have always had poor sleeping and eating habits, in addition to a large appetite. It wasn't until about last month when I started to feel like I was hitting a wall in my training, after over 5 years of constant riding. I may have to consider that as I get older some of my habits have to change. Being more well rested will help my body recover for those epic rides, as well as help rebuild the muscle mass in my legs. A better diet and abstaining from binge eating attacks will also contribute to higher energy levels and overall well-being. I can go weeks, for example, eating proper portions and dieting well until a spread of good food is laid out before me, then all my discipline goes out the window. This is probably my biggest downfall, and is the reason why I haven't been able to achieve the fitness level to compete.
Or I could just need a break off of my bike for a while, until I feel like getting on again and riding for pleasure. I also need to start looking at riding my bike whenever I can fit it in my schedule, instead of prioritizing a number of rides a week, always leaving me tired as I try to fit in a ride at the crack of dawn after a poor night's sleep. While cycling helps me to keep it together mentally and physically, it is not the thread that holds my life together. And although it will always be an activity that, as long as I am able to I'll participate in, it is not the only activity that I engage in.
I compare my experience with cycling like Forrest Gump running across the United States four times. He just wanted to run. He wasn't running for world peace or anything like that. When he got tired, he stopped and went home. All the while he ran he thought back on his life's experiences up to that point. He just went out for a run that lasted 3 years, according to the movie anyway. That's what my experience with cycling has been like.
I'm sure Forrest would have continued to run on the weekends, if his character was real. No one runs for that long and doesn't at least try to keep their fitness up. The same goes for me and cycling. I think up to this point cycling has helped me out a great deal in sorting out the thoughts in my mind and giving me the space for personal reflection about where I should be heading. I feel like I have a few more epic rides left in me, possibly even a long cross country tour. But like arrows in a quiver, that number is limited. As my son gets older, I'll be happy just to take rides together with him on the trails or around the neighborhood roads in my local area. If he gets into cycling as much as I have he might give me the second wind I will need when I'm older. Hopefully I will one day be the one drafting off his rear wheel.
I will probably hop back on my bike real soon. If my fatigue has been the result of taking too much training at once maybe that's a sign for me to take it easy for a while. I also have to consider the length of time I have been riding and my other obligations which are making riding consistently more difficult. Maybe it's time to settle for the "very good recreational rider, but not pro" designation. Or maybe I need to get more sleep, eat better and rethink my training strategy so that I am not pushing myself to the red every time I go ride. Or maybe it's routine that I need; there are simply too many ways that I can address this.
In conclusion, sometimes it's good to get off the bike, take a minute and think about what we're doing. Having tired legs does not mean more training. Sometimes it's better to sleep in on that weekend group ride instead of joining the ride on little sleep or fatigued legs. The reason for constant riding is to improve fitness and increase leg strength, not to debilitate and wear the body out. I hope this personal reflection has been helpful and has answered any rhetorical questions readers might have had. Cycling related fatigue is normal and very common, even among those who love the sport. Too much of a good thing can also be bad. Sometimes it's prudent to take a break from that activity we love so much but can be taking a toll on us as well. Once we recover, we can enjoy the benefits of regular exercise and training cycling can give us, as long as we aren't overdoing ourselves. Stay tuned for more cycling related articles, and subscribe to my page to get the latest updates.