I have the tendency to push myself too much, resulting in exhaustion and 4+ days of required rest and more than a week before I can train normally again. Two weeks ago, I went on a 35 mile ride which includes several steep hills (7-15%) and I just wore myself out too much. I just can't keep cool and cycle slowly- a reason why I have never ridden more than 40mi. I don't know when I am doing too much. Or rather, I ignore my HR meter and think "just this bit and then I will slow down".

In the wake of that, I discovered spinning as a great way to constantly monitor my HR and not push myself too much. I thought I could maybe use spinning as a way to learn to listen to my body?

Every summer, I partake in a TT race. I would love to finally earn some silverware. The TT is short (13.3mi) and I think it doesn't take much for me to improve. But I just can't improve, because I always over-do it. Is there something that I can do? I have dropped most of my cycle workouts for spinning in the past month because I recover much better. But I want to get back on the road, especially with the weather improving.

I also do weight-lifting, which is easier to do because if it's too heavy, it's too heavy. But with cycling, I can always tap into a reserve.

Clear question: What excercises are there (aside from resorting to spinning) to stop over-exercise during a bike ride? How can I improve my awareness?

  • If you are need 4+ days of rest after a workout then you need to see a doctor.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 11:48
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    Both the short rides (35 miles) and long recovery periods make me suspect other possible problems (e.g., thyroid). You should consider talking to professionals (i.e., your doctor and potentially a coach ).
    – Rider_X
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 12:48
  • marts it is not quite clear what your question is. Would you be so kind to state it clearly and concisely?
    – gschenk
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 12:54
  • @geschenk: I have edited the post now. Is it clearer this way? Paparazzi & Rider_X: thank you for your comments. I had not considered this.
    – marts
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 14:38
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    If you really want to improve your performance in a race and in general, then the training you most need to sort out is between your ears. IOW working out how to execute a training plan suitable for you and your needs. Plenty of people make fundamental mistakes with training and would benefit from guidance from a professional cycling coach, or at least try to follow a decently customised plan prepared by a coach. That said, if you are really enjoying the riding you do, then don't lose the fun. Just don't expect that doing the same thing will result in a different outcome. Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 20:28

5 Answers 5


Learning to listen to your body equates to developing discipline in your training. Changing the type of exercise can help you give specific muscle groups rest but you can still exercising without the discipline to meter your effort and therefore not actually rest.

My suggestion is to write out your exercise plan and journal how you do. The aim of the plan is to allot time to hammer your body with space to let your body recover. That also means you choose your exercises and routes appropriately - no hills on easy days. Keep track of what you do, be diligent to stick to what you write down. If something isn't working, change your written plan, but follow your plan. DISCLAIMER: Consult a doctor regarding your efforts, 4 days of forced recovery means you aren't recovering and you risk severe injury and burnout.

Discipline is an additional "muscle" that you will need to exercise, strengthen and push to its limit. The harder you work on your discipline the more consistent you will ride, the better you will recover and the more you'll know about what your body can handle.

Developing a plan and learning to meter your effort will pay dividends for you TT as well. No amount of strength will help you in your race if you blow your energy within 1 mile and struggle the last 12.3 miles.

Best of luck.

  • Thank you for this answer. May I ask what alternative there is to "no hills"? I can't avoid them where I live. I have turned my HR alert on but even in the highest gear, snail's pace, my HR will rise beyond 160 on a hill.
    – marts
    Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 18:58
  • If you can't avoid hills, consider easy spinning inside (stay in the small chain ring) or no exercise at all. Resting can be the hardest part of training and takes practice to get right. Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 19:06

I have a habit of riding harder when I'm by myself. If I ride with a group or even with one other person I'm less likely to overdo it. Consider trying out a group ride. Try to pick a group where you will be in the top half. This might put a bit of a brake on you and give you a chance to build better habits you can use on solo rides.


You don't say how old you are but from your description, my guess is the problem may be dehydration which seems to affect us older guys more than younger ones. I experience this if I am not careful. It is a sinister problem that creeps up on you and before you know it, it is too late. S/S include muscle weakness, lack of energy, feeling very tired, mental confusion and other symptoms. It does take a period of time to recover but not 4 days. I live in Arizona and take both water and an electrolyte drink on my rides, even in the cooler weather. I also hydrate before a ride.

  • I've found this to be very true. One of the most valuable training lessons I ever learned was to hydrate very well, and once I think I've done so, to double that because no I haven't. Commented Apr 14, 2017 at 21:28

Well, I think the obvious answer is listen to your body! Try not to push your self to the limit during the workout.

However, you can start checking your HR-Monitor or setting Zone-Alarms on it. Try to determine your heartrate zones for your workout. Then program them into your HR-Monitor and then stay in that zone.

Personally, I would recomend doing some base training ie riding at a low intensity for a longer time. Something like riding for 60-90 minutes at 60-75% of your maximal heart rate.

  • 1
    Your answer is good but is not in line with his question anymore. @Marts is asking how to better listen to his body. Modding your answer to reflect gis question Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 16:07
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    A group ride might be an excellent "brake" and also provide support and motivation.
    – Criggie
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 23:35

I decided to add an answer based on my results after posting this question. Upon reading the responses, I consulted my GP to discuss my symptoms. She agreed that given my overall health, a one-off strenuous exercise should not result in exhaustion at this level.

She suggested a Vitamin D deficiency. Living in the UK this is common, but during the winter (early sunsets, less sun), Vitamin D levels are even lower and starting workouts again early in the year can then be too much. Lack of Vitamin D can explain the symptoms. I have since been taking supplements and have repeated the exercise after not working out for 2 weeks prior- with no problems. Normal fatigue as expected but no more symptoms.

So for future readers of this question, consider that you may not be over-exercising at all and speaking to your physician would be my advice from now on.

  • 2
    Good to hear. You can accept your own answer. I would also consider asking your doctor for a thyroid test (simple blood test for TSH levels) as Vitamin D is known to reduce some of the symptoms for hypothyroidism and thyroid dysfunction is actually quite common problem. Even mild thyroid dysfunction can impact endurance exercise performance.
    – Rider_X
    Commented May 24, 2017 at 19:00

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