Saturday, May 8, 2010


Overreaching is the term USA Cycling prefers for what many people call overtraining. USA Cycling reserves the latter for a more chronic condition that is persistent for an extended period of time and cannot be remedied by a few days of rest. It is all in the definition I guess.

No matter what you call it, overreaching is a serious matter and it is something that occurs rather frequently, especially in the younger and older age groups. It is also largely unrecognized and many believe that any drop in performance is necessarily caused by too little training instead of by too much training.

One prominent masters racer recently told me: "I haven't seen anyone around here train too much or race too much." One could hardly hope for a clearer statement. It is also wrong. And I know it is wrong, because I was one of those people once who trained too much. And I wasn't even racing all that often or riding mega-miles. Yet I was clearly overreached and it showed in poor results, trouble sleeping, edgy behavior, mood swings and the like.

At the time I rode almost everyday. I was part of a group of elite racers, whose average fitness at the time was well beyond mine, and therefore I was riding too hard too often. Although my daily rides were 30 miles or less, with two 50+ milers on the weekend, the overall intensity was such that it was too much for me. I was constantly tired, slept poorly, was prone to fits of anger and suffered declining performance. It was only after I backed off a little that things started improving. The backing off was done rather naturally (and unintentionally) by the demands of work. My performance quickly improved.

Ever since I started following junior racing up close, I have seen many examples of overreaching, and even a few of overtraining. I have also seen and heard of junior racers who are so stressed by high expectations that they simply burn out and leave the sport altogether.

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