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Am I Overtraining? How Can I Prevent It? (Podcast #62)

Athletes are a notoriously hard working bunch, carving out a dozen or more hours each week to train for their chosen sport.  Especially with cycling, there is a misconception that “more is better” and it often leads to overextending yourself.  Remember that training stress stacks up on every other stress in your life: family, work, kids, paying bills, doing tasks around the house, etc.  It's easy to turn a blind eye to the stress you deal with every day and focus solely on your training stress, but in reality, you're doing yourself a disservice.

This is generally the reason the busiest athletes find themselves stuck in an every declining spiral of training, declining performance and training harder, hoping to reverse the trend.  Overtraining is a condition where the body is taxed beyond it's ability to recover, and is a very real condition that I see in a certain percentage of athletes.  And yes, it's mostly the guys who get up at 4AM to train for 2 hours, get to work by 7AM, work hard all day, get home by 6PM only to eat, walk the dog, spend time with kids and go to bed late.

Then they repeat it the next day.

And the next day, and the next, over and over.

When performance starts declining, typically they add more training, maybe an after-work session or a longer morning session, hoping to see the trends reverse and performance to climb again.  Usually, it doesn't work, overtraining sets in and suddenly, they've dug a deep hole they're stuck in.

In today's podcast I'll discuss the signs and symptoms of overtraining as well as some of the ways to dig yourself out of the overtraining hole if you find yourself there.  Don't forget to leave comments below or on the Tailwind Coaching Facebook page, don't forget the coupon code at the end of the show notes and don't forget to share with your friends by clicking the bubbles on the left of the page!

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Cycling’s Emotional Cost

Forget the financial cost of riding a bike (which can be pricey to say the least), there's also a significant emotional cost incurred with becoming entangled with this sport we love so dearly.  See?  There's a perfect example of it right there: “the sport we love so dearly.” What is it about cycling that reaches deep down into our soul and entwines our psyche into the sport?

See?  There's a perfect example of it right there: “the sport we love so dearly.” What is it about cycling that reaches deep down into our soul and entwines our psyche into the sport?

What is it about cycling that reaches deep down into our soul and entwines our psyche into the sport?  Why do we become obsessed with the thrill of the open road, the search for fitness and the company of friends and teammates?

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Getting Back in the Saddle After a Crash

About 8 weeks ago I was post surgery for a busted clavicle and in the midst of a five day hospital stay after crashing out of the Cherry Blossom Challenge.  About 3 weeks ago I got back on the trainer for the first time since the accident, and since then I've been progressively trying to turn around 5 weeks of absolute inactivity (healing doesn't count for inactivity though…)

It's been an eye-opening experience, to say the least, and it's made me think long and hard about the process I've been going through.  Click through to read deeper into it: (more…)

The Sweet Taste of Victory…

Bloody bar tapeOr the bitter sting of defeat?

It's been a psychologically (and let's be honest, physically) difficult week post Battenkill.  Sure, there's the usual post-event down swing that accompanies any event that you've spent the better part of half a year preparing for.  But between the elation of watching my coached athletes succeed at America's toughest one day race and the misery of abandoning America's toughest one day race, it's been a psychological tug-o-war.  And there have been constant reminders to deal with: the Strava comments, teammates wondering what happened and the depressing WKO+ upload.

While it's been difficult to sort through the myriad of self discussions going on in my head, the ultimate irony was hearing Lou Reed's “Perfect Day” come across my iPod while cleaning the Cambridge mud off my frame.  And since the process of washing, drying and polishing a frame is hardly difficult or attention demanding work, I was able to really listen to the lyrics for the first time in a long time, extracting a lot of meaning out of those forty-one year old lyrics.

Just a perfect day, you made me forget myself
I thought I was, someone else, someone good

For days I've racked my brain, trying to come to grips with the crushing mental defeat that comes with abandoning a race.  That bitter sting of defeat has been nagging me like a hangnail since I lay curled up on the side of the road.  The first thoughts to go through my head were not of the difficulty breathing, or the pain squeezing my torso like a pair of vise grips, but more of the mental pain of failing to accomplish a goal.  I'm competitive, if not with those around me, with myself.  I had set a goal and I would not be able to complete it.  In the moment, I felt  at the very least I was letting down friends, family and teammates, lest of all myself.  I felt all the work I had done, all the time I had spent designing and following my specific training plans, and all the planning I had put into the weekend was washed away in a sea of bad luck and uncontrollable circumstances.  There was a moment in which a single tear slid down the side of my face as I pounded on the ground in frustration.

I trained and fought for the better part of five months just to get to where I was, and I know my form was high. Would I have won my field?  No.  Could I have been on the podium?  Probably not.  Could I have finished with a top 10 placing?  Maybe.  Top 20?  Definitely.  The only thing holding me back was….my back; a previous injury that I have been coping with for a year now, which I had described previously in these pages.  In reality, there wasn't much I could do (having thought I had everything under control), except take some lessons from the whole debacle.  

To look at things in a different light, we take another page from Lou's book:

Oh, it's such a perfect day, I'm glad I spent it with you
Oh, such a perfect day, you just keep me hanging on
You just keep me hanging on.

It was serendipitous to fall like a soldier in combat by the side of the road.  It allowed me to focus on pushing others through their races, watching their successes and encouraging their performances, allowing me to push away the feelings of defeat.  The successes of others provided me a way to just keep hanging on, which was just what I needed at that moment.

That's the thing about racing.  You have successes and failures.  You fight and usually you lose, but sometimes you win.  The biggest lesson it can teach us is how to swallow our shattered pride, pick ourselves up off the pavement (or in this case pavé) and reload our guns for the next fight.

Marcellus Wallace put it best:

The night of the fight, you may feel a slight sting. That's pride fucking with you. Fuck pride. Pride only hurts. It never helps. You fight through that shit.

You fight through that shit.  And when you do, you realize that you're stronger and more thoroughly prepared for the next time pride comes calling.  It's that preparation that silences the bitter sting of defeat and allows you to savor the sweet taste of victory.

 

Have you swallowed the bitter pill that is defeat?  Talk about it in the comments:

Tour of the Battenkill 2013 Race Report (Podcast #12)

Spring ridingTour of the Battenkill is one of my favorite races: it has all the hallmarks of the northern European classics: pave, short, steep climbs, big crowds and throngs of exuberant racers.

Having raced Battenkill in 2011 and finished 33rd with massive, horrible muscle cramps, I was determined to head back to Cambridge NY and have another go at the 64 miles of hell and dirt.  Saturday was the 9th running of the Tour of the Battenkill, and featured about 3500 racers between the pro/am day and the Gran Fondo.

In today's podcast, I'll detail my Battenkill weekend, from Friday through race day, what went right and what went wrong.

ANNOUNCEMENT: You still have 5 days to download my “Berg Buster” HIT workout for free.  Just use the code “classicsgift” and that $10 workout becomes free!

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