There comes a time when you have to admit to yourself that you’re on the way to over-training. As most of you readers know, 2017 is my first year focusing completely on cycling. I began with a pure focus on running in 2013, moved to duathlon, added in swimming in 2016, and dropped swimming and running in 2017. I also started to completely self-coach myself. I started out the training season in November of 2016 coming off of a bout of low testosterone and chronic over-training. I vowed to myself that I would not fall back into that trap. Did I fall back into it?
To just answer the question right off the bat, physiologically speaking I don’t believe I am over-trained. Looking at the mental side, also called burn-out, I don’t believe I am at that level either. Now, I do think if I keep going on my current path I will quickly approach both of these levels within a month. There are a couple of obvious signs, besides my flat TrainingPeaks fitness level, that brought me to the conclusion.
The second point is pretty obvious. TrainingPeaks has a tool called the power curve which shows your maximum power from 5 seconds all the way to 3 hours. You can overlay two curves, which I usually choose last 90 days and last 180 days. I choose 90 days because most of the time that chart gives you a good representation of your current maximums. It allows you the ability to capture data from a wide variety of workouts and races while not being too wide of a range to capture workouts that won’t be affecting your today. 180 days out is wide enough to capture the tail end of the previous seasons end as well as this seasons build up. So how do you know if you are doing it right? If you are supposed to be peaking today and your 180 day values are still higher then you probably timed it wrong or are starting to become over-trained. Let’s look into my power curve from February and compare it to today’s. One thing that is obvious is February’s lack of power on the upper edge of the curve. This is completely normal for winter training. I was also just coming off of my triathlon training, where peak power means nothing. Looking at today’s chart, we can see it is a smoother curve, which is definitely one of the goals of training, but my bread and butter power is starting to drop. Over the past couple of weeks I have noticed a little bit more gray. I have also noticed that workouts involving 2-5 minute power have been harder to hit, almost impossible. So do these charts really show any signs of overtraining, not really. I would say I timed my peak wrong but power overall, my power levels are still close to where they should be.
Finally, another important chart to look at for clues into overtraining is the Performance management chart. This chart gives a good picture of your fitness and fatigue. You can see from my chart that I have been stagnant since pretty much November. There was a big drop in fitness at the end of October because of forced time off from a crash. After that I never seemed to have enough volume or intensity to gain any true fitness. Just prior to the crash I was doing 15-17 hours a week on the bike. I was keeping the intensity lower but volume high. Once November hit my volume dropped because the weather got rougher and I was relegated indoors. I didn’t pay a ton of attention to the chart because my power curve chart was showing good improvements. My performance chart was still being affected by the previous year where I was training 15-20 hours a week for triathlon. I had a higher daily/weekly stress score than I could match with just cycling training. The problem is that I haven’t allowed any significant time for the chart to drop and my body to recover and adapt. It is never good to keep your form level in the -10 to 10 range, which I have been stuck in for 6 months. This means you probably aren’t doing as much as you actually could (not taking into account life events and work stress). If you are building you want to be under -10 and if you are racing you want to be above 5. Staying in the one area is a recipe for overtraining because of a lack of variety and stress in training. You are going just hard enough to put some fatigue in your body but not enough to make any real changes in fitness.
What is next? Well I have one more race next weekend, the Tennessee State Criterium Championships. After that I will take just over a week off, go on a cruise with the wifey, and relax mentally and physically. Once I get back I will start a build for Cascade Classic and the second half of 2017. I will end this with my current Power Profile. This compares your maximum power to weight ratio from the past 180 days to what the average Cat 5 - World Tour rider can do. I will use this chart as a stepping off point with the goal to get 1 minute, 5 minute, and 20 minute power up to CAT 1 level by the end of the year. Always keep in mind that raw power doesn’t mean you will win races though, it just helps to be strong as well as smart.