When you’re working towards a cycling goal, it’s tempting to push yourself hard and not get enough rest. This can lead to overtraining syndrome.
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The most common symptom is fatigue, but you may also suffer from sleep problems, irritability, depression, decreased appetite, aching muscles and a marked lack of enthusiasm for riding.
An unexplained rise in your resting pulse rate is another clue. Continuing to push yourself increases your risk of injury or illness and can lead to a decrease in performance — so take heed and take a break.
Exercise can be an important part of rehabilitation from injury. If riding your bike makes the pain in any injuries significantly worse, though, it’s a sign to stop and allow a period of recovery before riding again.
It may be worth seeking medical advice if problems are persistent. If you are involved in a crash, allow the adrenaline to wear off and check yourself carefully before riding on.
If you have deep or large abrasions or lacerations, pain or swelling in a bone, or head or facial injuries then you should stop and seek immediate first aid.
If you suffer from a long-term illness, it’s sensible to check with your doctor before taking up serious cycling, though chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure can actually be helped by regular exercise.
If you’re coming down with a cold, a good rule of thumb is that if the symptoms are restricted to above the neck, such as a sore throat or a runny nose, it is safe to carry on riding; symptoms below the neck — productive cough, shortness of breath, high temperature and aching muscles — mean that it’s time for a rest.
Most cyclists would admit to having taken on a challenge too far. Too many miles, too many hills or weather too foul — at times we find ourselves floundering and out of our depth.
This might be the start of the bonk, particularly if associated with severe weakness, fatigue, confusion or disorientation. Prevention is best, but if you are afflicted, stopping and refuelling can get you going — if only to get you to the next cafe.
Sometimes though, it’s better to admit defeat and live to fight another day — a horrible day on the bike might put you off for life.
Take a break!
If you’re tired, sleeping poorly and depressed, you may well be overtraining and need time off the bike and to have a break