Is Cycling Destroying my Memory?

I know this is pretty far out there, but I feel like cycling (specifically the training and racing aspect) has thrashed my memory. I can’t seem to remember $hit these days. Even in Lance’s podcast (April 19, 2020), guest Michael Boogerd says something to the effect of “racing is not kind to the memory.”

I know there are plenty of studies that show a correlation between running and cycling to improved memory function, and to a degree I think that has been true for me. When I used to run, my memory felt sharp. But when I started training and racing bikes, my memory seems to have declined. I know in cycling I have to push past mental barriers way more often than when I was running recreationally. Cycling has forced to me to go into some pretty deep/ dark places to push past physical pain barriers. I’m wondering if this might have something to do with it. I’m not sure, I’m just wondering if anyone else has experienced this.

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What experiences have you had that makes you think it has declined?

Any head knocks or concussions in the past?

Nope, never.

Mostly difficulty recalling things. Friends and family ask me if I “remember when…” and I have no clue. I also have difficulty remembering things that pertain to my job, like certain processes, and especially things that revolve around data (figures I should know like the back of my hand), and dates. It’s hard to point to one thing, but I definitely have begun to notice it more as of lately.

@Pullthru: remember that ageing has pretty terrible effects on memory! I speak from experience.

Now, where was I?

Ah, yes, I wanted to suggest that substantial changes in your ability to remember things really ought to be checked out by a doctor who specialises in cognitive function and memory. There are lots of bad things for which memory loss is a symptom. Please, do get it checked …

And, I do hope that this is not something serious.


I’m dyslexic so during a bike ride and right after makes it harder to compensate for dyslexia. Hate when someone expects me to remember some detail that is told to me right after a ride but smart phones make it easy to compensate. No effects outside of that though

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My memory has definitely taken a hit, but how to know if it’s just age related/life stresses or the endurance sport?

I’ve seen studies showing aerobic exercise being good for cognitive function in a number of ways, quite a bit of documentation there.

What happens if you’re under persistent levels of fatigue for years though? Could be a question to be answered there.


What was the question again?


I’ve had poor memory for as long as I can remember :man_shrugging:


Cycling must affect memory. Every time my wife asks me how much that bike/part costs I seem to only remember half it’s actual cost :thinking:.


My memory took a big hit in 2018 due to an iron deficiency; most folk thought was an overtraining issue. Turns out the iron deficiency was caused by an underlying health issue. Thank goodness the initial blood test that identified the lack of iron pointed docs in the direction of further tests which found the real problem.

When you say remember, are you saying short term, like what your wife said earlier or like long term? I’ve found sometimes I’m so wiped out that I don’t pay attention as well and thus don’t commit things to memory, so I can definitely say paying attention is definitely affected for me.

If you are having trouble remembering things at work, I would definitely have it checked out.

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Memory is a complex process that is impacted by many factors across one’s lifespan. Aerobic exercise across the lifetime HAS been shown to improve cognitive function, but as a serious athlete some factors of the inherent lifestyle MAY impact memory. Depending on how hard one pushes themselves, the act of training and racing on the bike may lead to more stress on the system (increases in stress hormones and exhaustion), which could lead to problems with memory consolidation. If one is tired from training or constantly at a caloric deficit they may also experience an impact on memory as they may not be as “sharp” as when full, rested and recovered. Aging, even over the course of a few years can significantly impact cognitive flexibility (for instance there are significant changes to the brains ability to change after adolescence, into adulthood and throughout aging).

Source: Currently a PhD candidate in the field of behavioral neuroscience where I study the hippocampus, the brain’s center for learning and memory.

There is obviously way more to this story than this short post, but I would be happy to discuss!


I have experienced something similar. Though I would attribute it to mental (?) fatigue. I am basically brain dead after a long day at work, time with the family and a two hour sweetspot session.

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I think I experience something similar but I think most of the time it is more due to fatigue and not paying enough attention and then effort to commit it to memory. Like I never can’t remember what I had for lunch the day before but I have to ask my GF at least twice if she is working out in the afternoon or not. I ask, she answers, and I nod, say “okay cool”, and then I just don’t commit it to memory. It’s just in one ear and out the other.


So glad you asked this question. You’re not alone. I’ve felt the same over the course of several years and wondered what was happening. In retrospect the times I’ve noticed poor memory/cognitive function was when short on sleep, higher than usual training volumes, higher life stress and/or calorie deficit.

When levels pull back into a normal range cognitive function SLOWLY return but it’s really frustrating. As a male in my early 40’s too much(more than twice a week) high intensity work will quickly put me in this state. I’ve noticed significant improvement by really focusing on keeping heart rate low(around LT1/VT1, endurance rides) and not letting them slide up from that point.

Best wishes…

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This is also a good point. You may feel like you are getting enough sleep but if you are training at unusually high volumes/intensities then you might require more sleep. You’re body isn’t able to say “Okay we got our brain stuff sorted out, now on to repairing this body”. It will just be suboptimal for both. So even if you are getting your ‘normal’ amounts of sleep that worked well for you before that might be much less than what you require now.

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This is really interesting, I think there’s something in what you describe and have experienced similar. I’d say the top runners are:

  1. A genuine medical reason, so see a doctor asap - I did a couple of years ago and they thought I was either overdoing the training, suffering from a cumulative sleep loss, or had possibly had a migraine. Either way, I completely lost my short term memory at work for a few hours, couldn’t finish sentences and had to go home to bed! I was fine after a couple of days. It also corresponded to having a young baby at home and trying to train on a fixed plan and riding with a strong group - stupid really!
  2. An equal combination of fatigue and obsession - I dont think I really listen properly most of the time, and am actually thinking about cycling. Nothing is actually sinking in far enough to become ‘memory’.

You could try easing off for a few weeks and focus on sleep/rest/other things, see if that helps… (yeah right!)