Managing our fatigue is one of the most important elements of our training. We want fatigue because recovering from fatigue is what training adaptation is all about. But too much fatigue is detrimental. It often leads to riders taking extended periods of time off the bike; they just don’t want to see their machine anymore. The path to improving as a rider is to manage that fatigue so that you never have to take extended breaks off the bike. Those long breaks away from the bike just kill your progress.
How to know that you are pushing too much? Beyond how your legs are feeling there are several ways of checking in on your fatigue.
Your motivation to ride is a very good indicator of your fatigue level. We need motivation to train and push ourselves. We want to be in a place where riding the bike is a pleasure and puts a smile on our face. If you find yourself getting into the territory of not wanting to see your bike, where you aren’t enjoying the bike, then you have pushed things too far. You are on the verge of not riding. Doing that will set you back, undoing all the hard work you have done in your training.
A loss of appetite is never a good sign. There is growing evidence and discussion that adequate fuelling is a key aspect of our training and recovery. If you find yourself losing an interest in eating then watch out.
Perhaps the easiest to notice, and the earliest indication, of the onset of fatigue is poor sleep. We think that the more tired we get the better we will sleep. But you will notice when you build up too much fatigue that sleep becomes unsettled. It doesn’t leave you as rested as you when you are sleeping well. Pushing through and ignoring poor sleep is a big mistake.
Constant, niggling pain, and recurring injury is a final indicator we can use to monitor fatigue. If you are a rider who is always hurting, or chronically injured, then you are definitely pushing things too hard. You are not giving your body enough rest. Without rest your body can’t adapt to the training and your fatigue simply builds and builds. This is no way to train as in the end you will never reach your potential.
Put these four indicators together and you have a very good measure of your fatigue - better in fact than what any device can measure. You just have to be honest with yourself and pay attention to how you are feeling. Then have the confidence to adjust your training appropriately.