Tuesday, May 19, 2009

On the verge of cycling burnout? Remember that it's ultimately about fun

You have been cycling regularly for a long time, maybe even for several years. Once you've cycled long enough to experience the stimulating effects of cycling, it's hard to turn back.

You feel so good, you never want to let this feeling slide. Your body is used to its daily fix of exercise, better circulation, weight control, increased strength and calming endorphins.

Yet cycling, like many other pursuits, can be carried too far from habit to obsession. Perhaps you also notice a leveling-off in your conditioning and times in events, and you don't see progress or improvement as you use to. You also seem to find excuses for training, you terminate training rides early, and you make excuses not to go out, even on beautiful days.

What can you do to treat and prevent this burnout?

When cycling is no longer a joy and a release from the pressures of the world, and a sense of personal accomplishment is missing, it can get dull very quickly. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to add variety and keep cycling lively and challenging.

If you are cycling in a rut or want to prevent burnout, I have put together some techniques to bring back life into your cycling.

Social cycling: Miles and time go by quickly when you are talking and cycling. Get together with some friends for a ride, and make sure you stick to the pace of the slowest rider in the group. Riding once or twice per week with a group that is slower than you is a good break from the routine of hard riding, but if done more than twice per week, you may lose speed. Don't train too often with cyclists who are too fast for you. If you can't talk with the people in the group, you are doing speedwork.

Rest: Schedule easy days, including one or more days off from cycling each week. Many cyclists believe they will lose fitness if they miss a day or two of cycling. But that's simply not true. In fact, studies show that scheduling a few easy days (called tapering) before a race or tour will help you perform better.

Reset your goals: Burnout may mean it is time to set some new goals. Think about what you have already accomplished in cycling and what you want to achieve over the next year or so. You'll keep a more positive mental attitude if you are continually setting and meeting goals.

Cross-train: How about alternating your cycling program with a completely different form of exercise? If you are really tired and burned out, try another physical exercise that is fun or learn a new one.

Listen to your body: At some point, your body will tell you to slow down. Everyone needs some easy time. If you feel tired or sluggish, take it easy. You may be overtraining. Or you may need to skip a morning ride in order to get more rest. You may have to look at your diet to ensure that you are getting enough carbohydrates. While in training, your diet should consist of at least 60% carbohydrates. Listen to your body.

Add variety: An effective way to treat burnout is to add variety to your cycling program. You don't wear the same shirt everyday, do you? So why ride the same course every day? Why do the same program of mileage or intensity over and over?

Reward yourself: Look back to where you started, when you could not ride for one hour. Give yourself credit for what you have accomplished. Negative thoughts can sap positive energy. When you think you're not making progress, look at how much you've achieved!

Train, don't strain: Don't listen to the pros when they say, "No pain, no gain." Cycle as you feel. As you increase your distance, you also will want to get a feeling for speed and sprinting for a short distance, as appropriate. Don't kill yourself; rather accelerate and begin to feel out your entire range of cycling potential. The more you are aware, the better in touch with the variety and fun of the sport, the better the cyclist you'll be.

Have fun: Don't lose sight of the best reason to cycle it is fun! Cycling regularly makes you feel good mentally and physically. It helps you develop a positive self-image. Try to keep things in balance and in harmony, and let cycling enhance, not rule, your life.

Finally, ask yourself: Is the earth going to open up and swallow you if you only ride for 30 minutes today instead of one hour? Who is really going to know or care in five years whether you met your quota or not? In five years, even you won't know or care.

The only thing that will be important then is that you are still cycling, are still healthy, and having fun. Maintaining a flexible routine now is the best assurance that this will happen. Make cycling a healthy habit, a commitment you make to yourself for a healthy lifetime.

Source: active.com/cycling/ by Edmund R. Burke, Ph.D.

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