Is It Possible to Ride Your Bicycle Too Much?

Back in November 2019 I wrote a post called The Bad Side of Good Habits. In it, I considered things that seemed good on the surface but looking deeper there were some negatives. Lately, I’ve been feeling pretty knackered (British English for tired) to the point where I can’t really ignore it. A quick search brings up the word “overtraining” and a host of replies with plenty of debate. As an amateur fathlete bicyclist, I’m not too worried about the semantics. You won’t see me entering any races, breaking any land speed records or running myself ragged biking up mountains. Yet my performance, such as it is, has been slipping downward in terms of average miles per hour and quantity of mileage. It’s not just on the bike where I’ve noticed changes, either. So maybe it’s time to consider a break. Or is it?

One part of the aforementioned post in particular stands out now:

You would think that bicycling is all positive, right? Well, not always…. Other times, clearly I’ve needed to rest a sore knee joint or my tired brain that’s just sick and tired of biking. Muscles also need time to repair themselves.

-moi

Back before I began my daily bike riding streak back in autumn of 2019, a day off meant if I wanted to go somewhere, I’d be walking or taking the bus. Now, I don’t have to use public transit and there is an option to go places with little effort while being warm and dry. Of course I don’t want to break my streak of almost 600 days in a row of cycling. Maybe it’s time to start to possibly consider doing less, mileage goals be damned. However, given how slow I go, and that my distance is not that far, sometimes just five or 10 miles — I have a hard time believing that I’m overtraining. There’s an acronym for it, Overtraining Syndrome (OTS) so you know it’s serious. I won’t go much into it, but here’s a definition from an article by Trainer Road:

Overtraining Syndrome (OTS) occurs when an athlete’s accrued training stress significantly exceeds their ability to recover. This syndrome develops over time and is the cumulative result of a variety of different choices and factors.

Trainer Road
Roberto Bellini, 1971 Tour de France. Source: Velominati

Still, I’m definitely wondering if I’ve put myself into the red zone one too many times and can’t crawl out of it without major time off the bike. The thing with overtraining syndrome (OTS) is that it’s very individual and hard to diagnose. It’s also suggested by the bike sites that it’s rare and unlikely to be found amongst amateurs. But when coupled with other stressors — pandemic, anyone? — or in my case, searching for, finding and moving into a new abode in which to abide for A Dude Abikes, concomitant money worries, other heath challenges, and all that life entails, it’s not just about the biking. Stress from all areas of one’s whole life compounds; stress is stress to the body-mind. One can easily go from doing a healthy thing like biking to a hell of fatigue, exhaustion, lack of enjoyment and more.

Later in the Good Habits post I wrote this:

This preoccupation with not missing a day can be a bit much. I fear that if I skip one day that might become two, and then three, and before I know it, a week may go by without [biking]. It’s a bit extreme, this #Don’tBreakTheChain idea, and someday I may have an accident or illness and will have to live with a regular practice which allows for being human… I am often missing out on… sleep… which is not healthy. I can be proud of these accomplishments but they do come at a cost.

-moi aussi

Another classification of biking a lot which is a precursor to OTS is called Non-Functional Overreaching (NFO). This is more likely to be found in non-professional, non-racers, i.e., regular riders like me. Well, I might not call myself regular, exactly. Biking every day, 100 miles a week, just because, no matter what, has to be a little irregular. Keep Austin Weird, right?

Non-functional overreaching happens when you’ve dealt more stress to your body than it can productively handle. It’s an unproductive space where additional stress no longer serves to make you faster. Non-functional overreaching can reduce performance and cause persistent fatigue. If your training stress delves into non-functional territory, it will take longer than a typical rest week to recover, potentially requiring additional weeks completely off the bike.

Trainer Road

Yes, one can bike too much. What that amount is varies for everyone. For me, the definition is not as important as just feeling better. And biking less or not at all might not matter much if there are underlying physiological issues. Some steps I’m taking to address this include:

  • Getting a new primary doctor and seeing what she says
  • Prioritizing sleep, including just starting tonight to use a good quality bed I was gifted
  • Getting complementary treatments like herbs, massage and acupuncture
  • Generally avoiding hills and long rides unless I’m feeling good
  • Thinking about biking mostly on the trainer a while to reduce Time In The Saddle
  • Evaluating how to manage time and stressors better including maybe writing this blog less, winning the lottery, and managing time better

Hopefully this is just a temporary setback, I will get some rest, recover and feel better soon.

Have you ever felt super-tired from biking or other activities? What did you do to recover?


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12 thoughts on “Is It Possible to Ride Your Bicycle Too Much?

  1. I wonder how much stress you have related to all of the things you find it important to do every day. My unsolicited advice is to focus on enjoying those activities over keeping streaks alive. But everyone knows I’m half-fast.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. For years I would lament the fact that I didn’t practice my flute, read enough books, write, eat more salads etc. But doing these things everyday is draining. I could probably give up all my streaks except the yoga, but I think idle cyclist is right it’s the other stress particularly sleep that’s the real issue. Well, that and money. Because I do enjoy the challenge of getting them all done but if I said I cut off time the reasonable hour I would probably have to let them go. If I could ever manage to lose weight that would be a sign that something is working. But as I say doing the same thing over and over expecting different results is the definition of insanity. I’m not sure e that applies but stopping a streak is hard.

      I’ve done it though by accidentally missing a walk here, and there or after a year of meditation and gratitude journaling they didn’t do anything for me so I quit. Any ideas how, especially the cycling?

      I do think having to find income and get up early due to noise will force me to stop many if these things. That and if the doctor finds something. I do have a dream of being checked into a posh rehab center like a celebrity where I’m not allowed to do anything except lay around and watch TV.

      Thanks, Half Fast.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Cool! Stretching with mindful awareness of your breathing that’s basically yoga. And foam rolling is torture but it works. Maybe I should try morning stretching instead of or in addition to at night.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Yes. In my case I think it’s sleep, or lack of good quality sleep. I’m no expert but I think the training stress is good stress and I’d try to reduce all the other bad stress before reducing exercise levels.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s not bad advice on the training v. non-training stressors.

      Sorry to hear of your sleep issues as well. I think we have to try lots of things to get that under control. But if there’s a medical condition or things outside our control, that’s tough.

      Today I was awakened very early (for me) by the construction of the huge apartment complex across the street. Been trying to switch my sleep schedule from a night owl to a morning lark for years. If I stay here, I may not have a choice.

      Thank you, Idlecyclist.

      Liked by 1 person

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