Recently, a cycling friend of mine commented that they had to decide between cycling and another strength workout regime that they have been doing. The strength workout was preventing them from training for an important cycling race they wanted to do.
Why did they have to make this choice?
Because their strength workout was very hard, they were so sore that they couldn’t ride for several days. My immediate thoughts were that they are overdoing the strength workout. Doing very heavy weight lifting and extreme moves may be challenging and fun, but if it makes you unable to do anything for several days it is counterproductive. In an earlier post I talked about the benefits of overload and recovery, and the adaption that occurs to make you stronger. Too much overload without recovery is called overtraining, and leads to physiological maladaptions, performance degradation (being unable to ride, for example), and the overtraining syndrome.
The athlete with overtraining syndrome will not be able to rest enough to recover in a normal amount of time, will get burnout, stress and fatigue. They may have elevated heart rate at rest and even altered immune status making them susceptible to illness. The treatment for overtraining is rest, the longer the overtraining, the longer the rest required.
Once rested, workouts can resume on an alternate day basis, with less total volume than before. Increasing the volume and workout frequency must be done slowly with alternating workout and recovery days to allow normal adaptation to occur. Remember, you get stronger on the recovery days, not on the high-intensity days.
So what should my friend do? They should reduce the workout to a level that allows for easy (comfortable) recovery days and a slow progression of effort/volume. Many people want to get right to the target lifting weight, the target distance on a ride or run, or the target pace immediately. But that will result in overtraining, possibly injury, and ultimately lower performance. Small steps get you there, and patience is the key. Remember, if you can’t train, you can’t improve or meet your goals.