Training quantity is a constant topical issue you encounter living in cycling house in cycling mad country. The prominent opinion and perception is that more is better. I think it may stem from that awesome Lance Armstrong advert where he says “I’m on my bike busting my ass six hours a day,” you know the one. “More is always better” is something that was drilled into me repeatedly over 3 years of indifference curves in economics but drilled out of me even more so by my coach Ben Capostagno.
Recently talking to one of my teammates, I think sometimes the hardest thing about being over here is keeping your head screwed on straight, especially toward this mentality of “more, more, more.” As athletes, we are all driven to achieve their goals but sometimes we become victims of over-motivation and over-doing it. Sitting at home while a teammate goes for another 6 hour ride while you’re not is sometimes difficult but it has to be done. Knowing when to do a session and when to rest is a hard head game.
I had my own experience with overtraining in 2009 which lead me to contract Glandular fever. Whilst trying to race and train through it, eventually I was set on the side lines for almost 4 months. I have a theory that if your body wants you to stop it eventually will. What that breaking point is, however, is a decision entirely up to you. For me, it was 5 sets of antibiotics in 3 months that took me to the point of “I can’t do this anymore,” a thought I still strongly remember exactly when and where it occurred.
As much as everyone tells you not to over-do it, it’s a lesson you have to learn yourself. Everyone has to find that edge so they know where to stop and, personally, it was the best (and worst) lesson I ever had to learn. Being forced to stop taught me that if you keep your head and focus on the process, remain logical, and stay patient but keep your drive to work hard, the results will come. Sometimes that patience can be truly tested, having bad legs and bad races can easily lead to a downward spiral of over training, but you need to keep your head and actively bring yourself back into the game.
As my mid-season break comes to an end, I have a renewed perspective on my approach to training that if a session is worth doing, it’s worth doing properly even if you have to rest another day or two before it. In a book about Chris Hoy and the British Track Team, the author, Richard Moore, repeatedly notes how Hoy, even from a young age, remained logical and analytical in the face of both victory and defeat. Getting emotional and dwelling on past failures is pointless; rather, figure out what you’re lacking or failing at, learn from it, and set about correcting it. In essence, your head screwed on straight.