Mental Toolbox - Noticing: Thinking vs. Feeling

Written by ALP Coach, Jennifer Sharp

When you first start mental training, your tool box starts small.

When you first start mental training, your tool box starts small.

It’s Tuesday night in early January and I’m in Colorado Springs at the Olympic Training Center Velodrome getting ready to do some motor pacing. The velodrome has a bubble over it - making year round riding possible and offers a variety of programs to track cyclists.

It’s easier to suffer with friends so I made the 100 mile trek south from Boulder, pumped up my track tires and slapped on a large gear to sit behind a motor for three 20 minute sessions. The first session is a warmup and there’s a mix of riders - from first timers to older timers and everything in between. The motor provides a steady, consistent draft that allows the group to go much faster than it would on its own for longer. It’s a great way to get in some quality training and work on your handling skills not to mention staying out of the elements.

Over time, your mental tool box will grow as you use various mental tools.

Over time, your mental tool box will grow as you use various mental tools.

Sitting behind the motor itself is soothing and calming - it’s getting to that point that can be the challenge. If there’s someone in front of you that’s tense and surging, it will ripple throughout the group. Similar to riding in a group on the road - if you find yourself around someone who is moving erratically and unpredictability, it’s only a matter of time before something disastrous happens. The best thing to do is to put some distance between yourself and that rider.

During the last 20 minute points race simulation, I started to suffer. At one point I was so fixated on the wheel in front of me that I couldn’t tell which side of the track we were on. All I could do was continue to stick as close to the wheel in front of me as possible. Maybe that sounds like some group rides you’ve been on recently?

The laps counted down, with sprints every 10. With an increased pace, I knew that going for a sprint would prove suicidal. So I sat in the pace line and started to bargain with myself: just 5 more laps. Then once I’d get through those 5 laps: just 5 more. You can do five more. I knew that breaking down the suffering into smaller, manageable chunks would help me stick in just a little bit longer. It’s when I saw six to go and knew my engine had been red lined for a while that I pulled the plug and came off the pace.

Was I discouraged? A little. But rather than dwell on my performance, I took the time to notice what happened… I had partly let my head dictate my performance. When I started to hurt, I gave into the hurt and decided I didn’t want to push any more. Later that night, I listened to an interesting Headspace session on training that talks about noticing when we’re thinking or when we actually feel something in our bodies and how it’s important to be able to distinguish between the two.

So I encourage you to notice during your next training session to see if you can recognize when you let your head take over or when you tune into the sensations in your body. And when things start to “hurt” see if you can just notice it and not assign a label to it. "Well, isn’t that interesting my legs feel like 1,000 pounds?” And then keep pushing. I think Jens Voigt said it best, “SHUT UP LEGS.”

Having the right mental tool for the job changes over time. Being able to collect and store various mental tools is important throughout your cycling career.

Having the right mental tool for the job changes over time. Being able to collect and store various mental tools is important throughout your cycling career.


Training Quality


Training Quality

by ALP Cycles Coach Patricia Schwager

If you want to get stronger and improve your performance, then you should make sure your rides (or workouts- WO's) are high quality vs just adding up a lot of "empty training miles" or  "junk miles". Working with athletes shows me that WO quality isn't always executed properly. How does one prepare for a ride or WO? Do you read the WO instructions clearly or do go out on your ride and loosely follow the WO instructions? Are you aware of your focus on the bike? 

Below, are a few things that one you should pay attention to in order to make training more efficient.


Before the WO/ride:

-Read the WO instructions, export the WO to your bike computer (if your WO is planned with the TrainingPeaks WO builder) or write stem notes if necessary. Ask your coach if you have specific questions that relate to the intent or focus of the workout. The idea is to relate your training to your fitness and race goals. Think about a good route for your training. If you have intervals or efforts to do, make sure there is a good place / road to complete them within your route.

-check weather forecast and dress accordingly

During the WO/ ride:

-cadence: have you ever looked at the cadence distribution chart in your TrainingPeaks account? If you check the cadence distribution chart (in uploaded WO's) you can see how much time or % of your rides are spent with coasting (0-5rpm). Coasting is empty training time. Sure there will always be some coasting in an outdoor bike ride but if 30% of your 3h ride were spent with coasting then you waisted training time and your WO was not high quality. It's important to keep your cadence up to respond to pace and terrain changes. It also helps keep your muscles activated and alert. Pay attention that you keep pedaling while riding in a group, sitting on the wheel/ in the draft of a friend or while riding downhill.

-are you riding in your correct power, HR, or RPE zone(s)? Pay attention that you are riding in the zone you should be riding in. If you are doing an active recovery ride you should be riding in Zone 1 (RPE <3). If you are doing an Endurance ride you should be riding in Zone 2 (RPE 4-5). Make sure you also complete your intervals or efforts in the prescribed zones.

-rest between intervals is really important. Make sure you are resting properly in-between intervals / efforts. This will make sure you are ready for the next interval and you will also have better quality in your intervals. Note that there are some specific WO's that won't give you a total rest in-between intervals so make sure to follow the WO instructions.

-listen to your body: cut your ride time shorter if you are feeling tired or extend a ride for a bit if you are feeling great. Do not go out for a WO or ride if you are feeling sick.

ALP team.jpg

Post WO /ride:

-refuel your body with a snack or meal within 30 minutes of finishing (ALP Cycles Coaching recommends to have a recovery drink from NBS!) Make sure you're getting enough protein for recovery.

-stretching, foam and lacrosse ball rolling

-upload WO to TrainingPeaks and add feedback/ comment(s) for your coach. (uploading WO's doesn't need to be done every single day but uploading your WO's every 2 or 3 days is key for your coach)

Remember riding longer isn't always the better option! It is better to do a high quality 2.5 hour WO/ ride instead of a low quality 3.5 hour WO/ ride. The same goes with how many intervals you are completing. It is better to do 4 high quality intervals vs 6 low quality intervals. If you struggle to hit the goal wattage of an interval/ effort then it is a clear sign that your body is tired and that you should stop the intervals. While most of your training is very structured, make sure you're having fun too! Incorporate an unstructured ride now and then to enjoy the bike.

Happy Training!


Keeping bike fit off the bike. What to do when riding isn't an option.


Keeping bike fit off the bike. What to do when riding isn't an option.

By ALP Coach Alison Powers

        Good fitness requires consistency. Good bike riding fitness requires consistent bike riding. However, for some of us, it can be tough to find time to fit in 3-4 bike rides a week. And for others, due to travel, work, family, and other constraints, being able to ride once a week is a good week. So, the question becomes, ‘how do I stay fit, when I can’t be on my bike?”.

            If consistent bike riding cannot be achieved, then the goal becomes consistent exercise. Being able to exercise 3-4 days a week goes a long way in gaining and maintaining physical fitness. 

Options for off the bike training include-

 -Strength training and plyometrics. Squats, lunges, box jumps, plank, push-ups, pull-ups, jump rope, and hip bridging are all great examples of strength exercises that can be done anywhere and with little to no weights needed. Aim for full body, multi-joint exercises, 2-3 times per week.

 -Aerobic cross training. The goal of cross training is to maintain or increase your cardiovascular fitness (the ability of the heart, blood cells and lungs to supply oxygen-rich blood to the working muscle tissues and the ability of the muscles to use oxygen to produce energy for movement) which is what cycling requires. So, the better your cardiovascular fitness is, the better your bike riding fitness can be.

     Examples of Aerobic cross training are- running, hiking, Nordic skiing, stair master, brisk walking, etc. The goal is to get the heart rate elevated and have it stay there for a certain amount of time. If you are short on time, aim to do more intense exercise- i.e. Hard and high intensity intervals.

 - Make the most of your bike riding time. The time that you spend on the bike is valuable- especially if you can ride only 1-2 times a week. This means every pedal stroke matters, every minute matters, and time should not be wasted. Quality rides limit the amount of coasting and/or soft pedaling. Also, when you are on your bike, ride hard and come home tired. When you are on your bike, you are getting the best training for bike riding fitness, so don’t waste it.

    When I have athletes that travel and will be off their bike for several days, I plan their training to accommodate that. This usually means that prior to the travel, they have a hard training block of as many days as that athlete can handle and/or have time for. Then, when they travel, they get a rest and recovery block. The goal is to recover from the hard training prior to travel and then rest and recover and be ready to train and ride hard once they return back home. Their ‘travel training’ is usually a hotel gym strength and plyometric workout followed by foam rolling and stretching.

              If you can’t spend consistent time on your bike, aim for consistent exercise. Make sure to have quality training/exercise and balance it with 1-2 days off a week—more if you had a big bike riding block. Make the most of the time that you have on your bike. The goal is always quality over quantity of bike riding.



Gain Fitness and Burn off Holiday Cookies with this Holiday Workout


Gain Fitness and Burn off Holiday Cookies with this Holiday Workout

Here in Colorado, our winter weather is sometimes not conducive for a big 'burn lots of calories' ride before eating a holiday dinner. For those that like to ski and/or play in the snow, winter weather is great for them. For those of us who prefer to ride our bikes over the holidays, snow and cold is not so great. The good news is you can have your pie and eat it too, thanks to a high quality trainer workout. Done properly, this workout is 75min with an Intensity Factor of .83. The interval part of the workout is 40min with an IF of .91-- as hard as your local crit race. You'll work on your aerobic engine with tempo bursts, anaerobic power with 8 VO2 intervals, and your leg speed with cadence drills.

All in all, the perfect workout for a Holiday morning.


Tempo Bursts and VO2 intervals- Trainer workout


10 min zone 2- 90+ rpm 3min tempo 2 min rest 2x1min fast pedals (100+rpm) to get the legs going- 1min RBI- rest between intervals 2min rest -Main Set- 1x15 min TEMPO (zone 3) with 10sec bursts every 2 min- a burst is a mini seated high cadence sprint

5min rest

8x1min high VO2- 1min off

Finish with 5min tempo at 85-95 rpm

Cool down 10-15min

Foam roll, stretch, shower, eat.


Happy Holidays from ALP Cycles Coaching!



Planning for 2019 and Beyond

Written by ALP Coach, Jennifer Sharp.

Got the winter time blues? As the winter solstice approaches, it may seem like FOREVER until the warm summer months. Whether you’re finishing up cyclocross this week at Nationals or completed a full road race season and in the midst of some serious winter base miles, now is a great time to check in with your goals for 2019 and beyond.


As a coach, I’m frequently asked by those new to the sport: how do I know which races to target?

I recommend doing a season end review if you haven’t already. Which races brought you joy? What courses did you love and which ones did you struggle with? Take an honest inventory of the races you completed in 2018 and see which ones you’re already looking forward to in 2019. If this is your first season - the world is your oyster! Try as many different types of races you can to get a feel for what your preferences are.

Once you’ve narrowed down which races you’d like to do, pick a couple of target races you’d like to focus on. Whether that be a national, regional or local event - figure out where it is on the calendar and start working backwards. If you know you’d like to target the Colorado Classic for example, you’ll want to figure out the demands of the race. You’ll want to peak for late August, and chances are it’s going to be a hilly route and at altitude. What terrain will the race encounter? What kind of competition will show up? How can you best prepare for it? And what kind of races can you do in preparation for it? By doing your homework early, you can figure out what kind of training and races that will help you best prepare for those target events.

Colorado Classic is coming! Will you be ready?

Colorado Classic is coming! Will you be ready?

When picking target races for the season, this is a great opportunity to take inventory of your strengths and weaknesses. How does your targeted race align with your talents? What can you do during the off season to sharpen your strengths and lessen your weaknesses? Getting a good bike fit, building strength and flexibility in the gym as well as working your mental game can pay big dividends come race season.

Approaching your next season can seem overwhelming - there are a lot of factors to consider! This is where a good coach can help - someone who can look at the big picture and guide you in a designing solid training plan that will help you accomplish your cycling goals.

Still unsure of where to go from here? Contact an ALP Cycles Coach today and we can help you take the guess work out of navigating a race season.

Surround yourself with others who have similar goals. There’s strength in numbers!

Surround yourself with others who have similar goals. There’s strength in numbers!


Head Space


Head Space

This week’s blog post is a throw back to one written by ALP Coaches Alison Powers, Patricia Schwager, and Jennifer Sharp last year.

In order to reach peak performance during competition, our bodies and minds need to be prepared and ready. What goes on between our ears leading up to the competition and during competition can make or break the result. 

ALP Coach Jennifer Sharp has written about the importance of having a solid mental game leading into a big event. She’s described the things she’s worked on and prepared for in order to win a World Track Championship. All of her preparation lead her to having an ideal Head Space during competition. What makes race day "Head Space" so interesting is that it's different for everyone. Some athletes like to be quiet and focused on the start line while others prefer to chitchat with teammates or the competition for distraction. No matter where you fall between being focused and chitchatting, it's important to realize what you need to perform your best and to be able to repeat it at each competition.

Here, are 3 opinions on race day Head Space and how it was achieved day in and day out. 

Being in The Zone by Alison Powers

I grew up ski racing and as a ski racer, my mental game had to be strong. Our races were rarely longer than 95sec, and with speeds up to 80mph, any mistake that was made could ruin your chance at a good result and/or your season with an injury. During a race run, there was no time to think about anything other than executing a great run. Any distracting or negative thoughts could send you into the fence.  Because of this, a lot of my time training was spent on mental training learning to find and stay in The Zone- "Being in the Zone is arguably the most perfect state to work from. It is a state where your awareness of time almost disappears and you are one with what you do. Although this perfect harmony usually feels effortless, it is the mental state where we produce our greatest results. So you could say flow is the state where peak performance happens. If we could willingly get into The Zone, or flow state as it's also called, especially among athletes, we could use this great state anytime we would want to produce something outstanding."

I brought this intense focus and mental game to bike racing. I would memorize every race course and/or critical moment of a race (positioning going into a climb, last 4 laps of a criterium, the final sprint, technical corners and descents, etc) and, in my Zone head space, I could execute what needed to be done for either the team or for myself. It didn't matter how my body felt or how tired my legs were. In the Zone state, I could read the race, execute the team plan, and it seemed effortless and easy. 

In the Zone at the start of the 2013 Criterium National Championships. 90min later, I won the race.

In the Zone at the start of the 2013 Criterium National Championships. 90min later, I won the race.

Now that my bike racing career is over, I can look back and honestly say my ability to achieve The Zone or Flow mental state while racing was my biggest strength. I know this because races where the Zone was fleeting, I was too. 

Head space on race day by Patricia Schwager

Here are my experiences with getting into the zone or right Head Space for race day: 

First of all, this is something very individual. Just because a certain routine works great for athlete X doesn't mean it will also work great for athlete Y. Some athletes prefer to listen to music and complete their own warm-up routine, others like the company and talking/ joking around with teammates, staff and other athletes. Still the goal is for every athlete the same: to get focused for the upcoming race and to be ready to perform. Ideally you are excited but not too nervous. You should know the race course and the team tactics/ plan (or your own plan if you are racing alone). Whenever possible you have ridden the race course in training or warm-up and you know exactly where the difficult, hard parts will be. Now, it isn't always possible to recon the entire race course but if you don't have the chance to pre-ride then you still can be well prepared with looking at maps, profiles, videos etc.

Personally, I preferred to have my own routine for time trials. I made sure to know the race course, I had my own map where I added personal notes about the course. I followed my own routine with a warm-up program on the trainer and I had a music playlist that was exactly the length of my trainer warm-up. After completing my warm-up I made sure, that there was time included for one last bathroom stop, to put on my aero helmet etc. and to be at the start in time. Doing my usual warm-up routine would calm my nerves and it was the perfect way to build up my focus for the TT. I tried to avoid any stress or influence from other things around me because that would make me lose my focus. For road races on the other hand, I liked to do a warm-up ride with my teammates, to pre ride the final few KM's of the race course (if possible) and to chat. It helped me to not overthink things and to stay calm.

Warming up for the TT at Worlds 2012 in Valkenburg (NED)

Warming up for the TT at Worlds 2012 in Valkenburg (NED)

It takes time and practice to find your own routine and to find out what works best. Try different routines and see which one helps you best to find your way into the zone or right head space. If you need help or advice ask your coach....all 3 ALP Cycles Coaches have plenty of experience to share! :)

Focusing on the Process by Jennifer Sharp

I love racing. A lot. For as long as I've been racing, I race roughly 60 times a year in both road and track. There's something about pinning on a number and bringing your best on that day that has me well into my second decade of racing. 

I've found my best performances occur when I dial in the details the night before: organizing my race bag with the essentials I need, figuring out the logistics of where and when I need to be at the race venue, and organizing and timing of food, hydration and recovery.  I know that I prefer to be at the race 90 minutes beforehand so I can pick up my number, pin it, get a good warmup in, and show up to the line. I toe to the line confident in my preparation and training, knowing that the hay is in the barn and all I have to do is race my bike. Having those details squared away really allows me to be in the moment. 

I love racing at national events where the National anthem is played right before the start whistle sounds. It gives me a moment to reflect on how fortunate I am to live in a place where I can race my bike with my friends and against great competition. Gratitude calms me down before going into battle and trying to rip my own legs off. Once that whistle blows, I know it's business time and I'm ready to live in each moment, work my way to the front and stay there. 

Mental Training should be part of your normal training routine. Work and practice at dialing in your own race day head space.

Thank you Dejan Smaic for the cover photo




Training During the Winter and the Holiday Seasons


Training During the Winter and the Holiday Seasons

by ALP Coach Patricia Schwager

The winter and the holiday seasons are coming closer. Most of our ALP athletes enjoyed their off season break sometime back in October or November and by now it is time to be back training for next season.

How do we manage to get back into training and build up for 2019 despite the holiday stress and possible dark, cold, and nasty winter weather? It is time to come up with a plan! That's also why working with a coach year-round is important. A good winter training/ build-up is key to perform in 2019. Here are a few tips on how to make the most of the training during the winter and holiday seasons:



-Have a goal: as always, having a goal is more motivating. By now you should have thought about your 2019 goals or events. If not, think about a goal for 2019. It doesn't need to be a race. It can be an event, challenge or ride.

-Mix up your training with different activities, especially this time of the year. Some examples include: nordic skiing, weight lifting/strength training, hiking, MTB-ing, cyclo-cross, running, yoga, snow shoeing, skiing etc. This will also help you to keep balance and stay motivated.

-Work on skills and weaknesses. Fall and winter time is a great time to work on your skills and weaknesses. There is no stress or pressure of having to perform in the next race or event and that means you can really focus to work on your skills and weaknesses. The more you work on it the more you will improve. Common weakness we see are lack of leg speed, lack of leg strength, lack of solid on bike skills and bike handling.

-Wear the right gear. Make sure you are wearing the right clothing for the dark, cold, and wet winter weather conditions. Having the right gear vs. the wrong gear will make a big difference. We highly recommend the winter bike clothing from Pactimo!

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-Ride with a group. It is a lot easier to stay motivated if you meet up with folks for a ride or other activity. The ride and training go by faster with good company!

-If you are in a time crunch with all the holiday activities: think about the holiday season and plan ahead. Let your coach know if you like to have a few days off to spend time with family, friends or for travel etc. Schedule 1-2hrs per days for yourself to get your training done and then spend the rest of the day doing holiday activities.

Happy training!


Skills in the snow


Skills in the snow

By ALP Cycles Coach, Brianna Walle

What better way to embrace the recent snowfall here in Boulder….snow calls for skills and drills! For our monthly ALP Cycles Coaching Ride, Coaches Alison, Paddy and Brie took the opportunity to cover essential bike handling skills that can be applied across all disciplines in cycling . The importance of skill work includes: better balance on the bike and in the peloton, maneuvering through a pack of riders during a race, managing obstacles/ avoiding crashing and how to pick up speed quickly in a mass start situation (applies to: MTB, Cyclocross and Road situations).

We started our ride with our friends at the Specialized Retül Experience Center for some delicious espresso, activation stretches and warm-up….and drooled over the 2019 Specialized bike fleets.

After a solid warm-up, we rolled out to Stazio ballpark to have some fun! Most everyone had Cyclocross and Mountain Bikes to fit the occasion- a winning combination with Cyclocross Nationals around the corner. We covered the below skills:

  • Bumping and balance: On the field (used cones to square off a designated space) rode 2-3 abreast, around the square, whilst bumping into each other along the way. Focus being : keeping center of gravity, shifting the bike underneath for stability and aiming to bump without going down. Elbows and knees bowed out to help with balance.

  • Starts: Lined up across the field (sprinting for about 15 seconds) in the smallest gearing combination, moving to the biggest gear combo and lastly gearing of choice. Focus being: fastest lines, pedal and crank position, and accelerations.

  • Cornering: Weaving around a section of lined posts, spaced 3 feet apart, practicing maneuvering around 1-2 and then every post.

  • Wheelies and riding over obstacles: (see below video): shifting weight, pedal power transfer and core activation.

Incorporating skill work into your weekly training routine is as essential as interval training. Mistakes will be made, falls could happen, but you get up, have a good laugh and take away valuable lessons.

Ask your ALP Cycles coach if you need or want help improving your bike handling skills.


USA Cycling Coaches Summit- Lessons Learned


USA Cycling Coaches Summit- Lessons Learned

By ALP Coach Alison Powers

Last weekend, ALP Coach Jen Sharp and I went to Colorado Springs for the bi-annual Coaches Summit. Going to this summit is not only required to meet our coaching continuing education criteria but it’s a great chance to listen, learn, re-affirm our knowledge, and ask questions, from experts and professionals in not only the coaching world but the also the cycling and athletic science worlds.

Friday started with a keynote speaker who got us thinking about some of the best coaches and leaders that we, personally, have ever had. We wrote down the top 3 attributes that our favorite/best coach had (listens, challenges me, teaches me) and the 3 attributes that our least favorite coach had (not listening, setting goals that were not mine, close minded). Doing this drill really taught me that to be a good coach one must have good emotional and social skills. A coach can create the best training plan in the world, but if they can’t be emotionally there for the athlete, then the coach/athlete relationship will fall apart.

We started thinking about our athletes and the ones who are internally or externally motivated. Does the athlete do workouts/train/race because they want to, or because they think they should? Knowing how our athletes are motivated can help us be better coaches.

The rest of the weekend was filled with presentations about—

  • Strength training for cyclists— it’s important (duh). What exercises to focus on and how to make strength training truly functional for our athletes (we’re pretty close!). Posture on the bike really matters.

  • Training for Time Trial riders- long MTI’s (muscle tension intervals) are great.

  • Training for sprinters- long MTI’s are not great. Bring on the leg speed.

  • The benefits of High Intensity Training- how often (no more than 10% of training time) one should aim to do hard intervals and what does a hard interval actually mean (good and hard!).

  • Mental Training- such an important aspect of bike racing and one that is often forgotten and/or neglected by both the coach and the athlete. Belly breathing, body scan, mindfulness, visualization, and perceptual awareness are all “mental” tools that athlete should be practicing.

  • 3 common mistakes people/coaches think- 1. everything can been seen with the naked eye. Wrong. Taking and analyzing video is a great tool to use. 2. longer cranks are better. Wrong. Shorter cranks are better. Wrong. Crank length varies person to person and their personal hip mobility. 3. One should work on pedaling circles. Wrong. Hearing this made me the most happy. I have always thought “pulling” up on the pedals and engaging then hamstrings was bad. Yes, it’s required for a short full gas effort (standing start and sprinting) but trying to pull up during a 4hr road ride will lead to fatigue, cramping, and shutting off the power muscles of our quads and glutes.

  • Altitude- You can expect a 3% decrease in performance for each 1000ft over 5000ft. This means if you are riding around Denver at 200 watts, you’ll be riding around Leadville (10,000ft) at 170 watts for the same amount of effort.

  • Menopause- increase protein intake and stay on top of strength training and plyos to keep muscle mass.

  • On bike skills and drills- obstacle courses are fun and great for skill building. New Drills for bumping and being comfortable riding very close to others. Mountain bike cornering and a new way to think about where your hips go (toward the outside of the turn).

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It was a good 3 days of learning. There were 2 presenters at a time. This means Jen learned a few things I didn’t and visa versa. The good thing is, we went on a bike ride (during lunch) together and shared our new knowledge (team).

Here’s to better, smarter, and more fulfilling coaching and athlete success.



Train Smarter, Not Harder


Train Smarter, Not Harder

Written by Jennifer Sharp of ALP Cycles Coaching

“How many of you have overtrained?” ask Dr. San Millan to a room full of 25 coaches and athletes.

Every single person raised their hand. 

Everyone, at some point in their athletic lives, will overtrain. In the summer time it’s easy to throw in extra mileage even though you’ve done 15 hours of riding that week and it’s only Friday - what’s the harm? And while it’s okay to pile on the extra miles every once in a while, making a habit of it means you’ll eventually find out why rest days are super important. And that lesson could cost you a week, a month, a season or a full year.

Fact: Cycling is painful. You frequently push your body to extremes and keep going.

Myth: Overtraining only happens to professionals.

Fact: Overtraining can happen to anyone who is not building enough recovery into their intense racing and training regime.

Myth: Overtraining is curable in a few days.

Fact: Overtraining causes neurological, mental, hormonal, emotional and nutritional imbalances and the effects can be long reaching. 

It’s actually pretty easy to over train. We’re bombarded with TSS and CTL and ATL charts and graphs. We’re obsessed with tracking our upward growth and it’s hard to not be a slave to a performance manager chart. We get used to pushing through pain. But what those CTL’s, ATL’s, TSS’s and TSB’s don’t show in flashing red lights: “CAUTION - OVER TRAINING AHEAD” until it's too late.

The Performance Manager Chart: where's the caution sign?

The Performance Manager Chart: where's the caution sign?

Can you tell when an athlete is prone to overtraining?

As coaches, we’re constantly monitoring our athletes data. Thankfully power coupled with heart rate data can paint a picture of that individual athlete’s reaction to training stimulus on a daily basis. We watch for trends and see if we can explain patterns. And we’re also reliant on our athlete’s feedback to clue us into things we may have missed on first glance. Like decoupling of the heart rate,  lack of motivation, stress, insomnia, or mood swings. All of these factors come into play for each individual in their own unique way. Unfortunately in regard to overtraining, there’s no one specific marker that is the cause. Rather it’s a combination of factors.

So, how do you track different metrics to see if you’re headed down the path of overtraining?

One suggestion is to do a blood test in the offseason to obtain a baseline measurement. You could include this into your annual physical requesting your hematology, biochemical and hormonal markers. Then about  1-1.5 months prior to your peak event, do another test. Have a trained professional compare the results and determine if you should back things off if needed or continue the training as prescribed. 

Another cheaper method of tracking is through daily monitoring of your resting heart rate. You can expect to see a 5% fluctuation from day to day heart rate but anything above or below that could be a sign of overtraining. If you see a big outlier in your heart rate, play it safe and smart and call it a day.

How do you avoid overtraining in the first place?

First of all, listen to your body. If you’re tired, rest. Use a heart rate monitor, as mentioned above, to track your resting heart rate.  You can use the metrics portion of TrainingPeaks to log your sleep quality, overall feeling, soreness, menstruation, fatigue, weight and more. Use it! Eat a well balanced diet and stay on top of hydration. If you have a prescribed off day - take it. It pays to train smarter, not harder. 

Metrics located in TrainingPeaks are a great way to track various markers that paint a clearer picture for your coach.

Metrics located in TrainingPeaks are a great way to track various markers that paint a clearer picture for your coach.