The over-enthusiastic cyclist

If it involves pedalling then I'm probably into it…

Tag Archives: fatigue

Switch it off and on again?

If I’m honest with myself, I’ve been struggling with my motivation recently. That’s not to say that I haven’t enjoyed getting out in the hills when I have got on the bike (that never happens), but it’s taken a lot of mental arse-kicking to get me out of the door. Compared to the average couch dweller I’m still in good shape, but by my own standards I feel worn out. It’s been a big year though, with plenty of bike related work and fun and then my wedding in October, so it’s not surprising that I’m knackered really.

Things got worse last week when I came off the bike riding home down an unlit cycle path covered in leaves. I hurt my thumb badly enough to get it x-rayed and even though there’s nothing broken, subsequent attempts at riding have failed miserably.

Oh well I thought, I’ll head out for a run instead – anything to slow the progress of my expanding waistline. The run felt good but the cold winter air aggravated my chest and brought back the annoying cough* that I’d nearly got rid of. It was during a coughing fit that I then pulled a muscle somewhere in my chest and I now feel like I’ve been literally stabbed in the back.

So here I am, running as badly as a cheap Windows PC and grinding to a frustrating halt. With my hardware and software malfunctioning, there’s only one thing to do: I’m going to hit shut-down and then reboot myself in a couple of weeks. I’ll get out for some hill walking instead (safe mode?) but nothing that’s going to get me out of breath or cause me any more injuries. There’s another purpose to the walking, which I’ll reveal at a later date.

Even the pro cyclists have an off-season when they let themselves go and leave the bike alone for a while. I think it should do me some good as well. Some time off the bike will give my body a rest and then I’ll miss the cycling and be gagging to get back on the bike again. Hopefully I’ll still be able to fit into my cycling kit when I do get back on the bike…

 

* My wife has made particular reference to my cough being annoying.

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Some days it just ain’t happening

Every man suffers from a lack of performance at some point in his life. Maybe it’s brought on by tiredness or stress, or maybe it’s to do with the head? And so it was for me yesterday when I set out on a ride, only to find that my legs could barely turn the pedals (what else did you think I was on about?)

I just wasn’t expecting it though: I’d cleared the day of commitments, spent ages planning the ultimate route, even the weather gods had granted me a dry sunny day. I’d eaten well the night before, got a decent night’s sleep and had the bike and kit prepped and ready to roll. So why was I struggling to even get to the end of my road?

You get to know your body well after years of cycling, with every local road and trail becoming a benchmark to gauge your fitness and well-being. I didn’t need Strava or a heart rate monitor to tell me that something wasn’t right today though. My legs felt heavy and every bone in my body just ached. It’s happened before over the years and I’ve found that there are three options available at this point:

  1. Turn around and go home in a sulk
  2. Finish the planned route at any cost
  3. Cut it short and try not to get too annoyed

The first option is the emotional response and your body will thank you for turning round, but the feeling of wasting the day whilst sulking on the couch is a real morale crusher. I’ve tried the second option before but it took ages to recover from and probably kept me off the bike for longer afterwards. It’s also best not to be hurtling down hills if you’re not on top form…

I opted for the third choice this time. My planned 40 mile off-road epic quickly got cut down to just over 10 miles of the lamest mountain biking I’ve ever done. I struggled up the hills, pushing up an easy local trail for the first time ever. But the weather and fresh air were great and I’d still got some kind of riding in, certainly enough to justify getting changed and heading out of the door in the first place. If anything, it made me realize just how fit I am when I am on form.

Thinking back, there were tell tale signs before I’d even set off. I didn’t exactly jump out of bed in the morning. I then had that extra cup of tea whilst slumped back on the couch, dressed and ready to go but stalling the start. It seems that my body and subconscious mind knew what was going on way before I did.

I don’t know the science and I’m certainly no doctor, but I’m probably just knackered. Simple as that. It’s been a busy year, busier than most considering I got married four weeks ago so I probably just need to take it easy for a few days. Them hills aren’t going anywhere I suppose…

The annoyance of being ill

It caught me by surprise to be honest. One day you’re completing another epic mountain bike ride and feeling strong as an ox, then a few days later you can barely turn the pedals. I’d anticipated that getting back on the road bike for a quick evening hill ride would feel refreshingly fast after all the off-roading, but instead it just felt really, really hard. I carried on of course, assuming that the burning heaviness in my legs would ease after a few miles. But it just got worse. I made it up to the Cat and Fiddle Inn at the top of the climb, but at a bizarre leisurely pace. It wasn’t like I was sweating and gasping for breath either – quite the opposite. It was like I couldn’t put any effort in, like my heart rate was restricted. Something wasn’t right.

By now I was mentally reviewing my recent cycling history. Had I been overdoing it? Had I fallen into the over-training trap? Admittedly, I had been doing some long days on the MTB, but three days ago I felt great, not a scrap of fatigue. I had woken up tired and grumpy after a terrible nights sleep, so maybe I was just tired. By the time I got home, having pretty much just freewheeled down the hill, I felt like I’d just finished the Fred Whitton, absolutely broken. The following day’s 54 mile MTB ride was instantly shelved.

The next day, things were no better and it started looking more like I was suffering with the virus that had been working it’s way round the household. I’ve had viral conditions before and my symptoms were very reminiscent of when I had shingles: fatigue, apathy, dizziness and a dose of the blues, which all leaves you unable to do anything useful. Including pedalling. I knew there was no point wasting my time or the doctors, I’d just be told that it was a virus and that I should take it easy till it passes. If I were a top level pro then the team doctors would be running blood tests on me in order to find the exact problem so that I’d be back on the bike as soon as possible. But I’m not, I’m just an over-enthusiastic amateur like the rest of us.

Something that all cyclists have in common is that we’re rubbish at being ill. If my body’s not working well, my mood plummets and I know that I’m a nightmare to be around. I was initially annoyed that I’d paid to enter the Manchester 100 on the Sunday but realistically wouldn’t be able to take part. Beyond that, I’d already started getting prematurely anxious about the upcoming Mary Towneley loop the Sunday after – which was the reason I’d been doing so much mountain biking!

I still went out for some short rides over the weekend to cautiously gauge my health. It’s odd to struggle so badly on your local roads, with so many riders overtaking you and walkers looking at you with pity. I resisted the urge to explain to people that I was usually faster than this, that I was actually ill. I suppose this is how non-cyclists would feel if they attempted to ride up and down hills though some people still wouldn’t be able to able to do 15 miles of hills at any pace. Maybe we feel the affects of these virus’s more as we’re used to being able to drive ourselves hard, whereas the average couch potato wouldn’t notice any difference in their sedentary life.

So all I can really do for the moment is take it easy, try and get plenty of rest and hopefully feel like I can put in a decent effort at the mary Towneley Loop in seven days time. It’s just really annoying.