Nonfunctional Overreaching? Help!

I’m hoping someone might be able to shed some light on why I’m feeling so weak on the bike. I’m wondering if I’m falling into the nonfunctional overreaching/overtraining territory but I’m still not entirely convinced…

Anyways, I’ll start will the basics. I’m 5’6”, 140 lb., 29 y.o. female with about 2.5 years of more serious cycling experience but about 10 years leisurely cycling experience. I’ve always been active though and involved in sports, so I have a general athletic background. I started structured training a year ago at a local cycling studio (sounds kinda like the one Chad refers to). Over the past year, I averaged 500-600 TSS weeks, with structured training from 10/18 to 4/19, racing over Summer 2019, and back into structured training late Sep 2019. Took about a three week break in August due to sickness/fatigue, only riding about once per week during that time. Overall, I feel like I structure stress/recovery well, but my boyfriend is convinced I do too much training…

I did SSBLV1 this past Sep/Oct (with ramp test FTP of 205) and added endurance rides on most of the off days but still took one day off per week. I averaged about 450-550 TSS/week during this time and generally felt good and completed workouts. Even felt good completing 3x20 min SS and overunders! During week 6 (recovery week), I started to feel like crap and couldn’t even finish the endurance rides. My TSS during this week was around 300.

After SSBLV1, I started my attempt at SSBHV1 since I have been used to that TSS in the past. My ramp test showed a decrease in FTP from 205 to 196, which confused me after feeling good during the last block of SSBLV1. Needless to say my ego decided to keep the old FTP of 205. Since the start of HV, I’ve struggled to complete most long SS interval workouts and my heart rate is higher than normal in each power target. I thought I might be overdoing it so reduced to the SSBMV1 plan to reduce TSS, but I’m still struggling to complete workouts, especially overunders, which I was able to do on the LV plans pretty well.

I’m not sure why the drop in performance and ability to complete workouts is happening… I fuel really well and am not cutting calories at all. I eat a balanced diet of all macronutrients with no restrictions but mostly whole foods. I make sure to have carb-heavy meals before workout and fuel workouts over an hour with Cliff chews and dried fruit. I hydrate. Sleep ~8 hours per night. Am pretty off my feet at work (I’m an eating disorder therapist so it can be an emotionally stressful job). I feel I’m pretty mentally tuff and do not have a past of failing workouts, so this is new for me.

In addition to all this, I started having heart palpitations and rapid heartbeat upon standing randomly about two weeks ago. I also had a week of extremely poor sleep at this same time (I was tired but just not able to sleep), and felt pretty fatigued in general. Didn’t really change anything that I can think of causing this. Other than that though my waking HR and HRV have stayed “normal” for me.

Once this started, I cut caffeine and took 3 days completely off all exercise. I since returned to the bike for SSBMV1 but am still failing workouts and feeling weak on the bike.

If you made it this far, congrats and thank you! I hope you can help me crack this case. I feel like all the signs point to nonfunctional overreaching, but I truly don’t feel like I’m doing all too much, and I’m still motivated to train and excited to get on the bike, but the energy and strength just doesn’t feel there. Hoping and thankful for any advice or thoughts!…

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What was your last TR tested FTP before the 205?

200 in early 2019 and bumped up to 205 in Sep 2019.

That is alot of TSS to carry…HV is for the elite…sounds to me like you are over training…the rapid heart beat could be an indicator as well. I would definitely get that looked at. Have your doc run some blood work and ask for a cortisol test. Rest is as just as important as doing the work and over training is no joke and can take months to pull out of.

I would look at getting a blood test done to rule out low iron:

I’m not convinced that moving from HV to MV is going to provide the reduction you’re after. You might be afforded an extra rest day but the overall workout intensity is still high.

My advice? Go for LV and add additional work as and when you feel able. You say you’re still keen to train and it would be criminal to crush that. You don’t have to remain on the LV plan, just use it to steady the ship.

Eating and sleeping both sound solid so I’m not sure I can offer much there.

Just remember that a drop in workout intensity is always an option. I always shoot for form over hitting power targets. Making sure I’m able to repeat efforts with ‘good’ habits, rather than destroying myself chasing power targets.

Let us know how you get on :+1:

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You sound like you’ve got everything pretty dialed, but here are a couple things you didn’t mention that can have a big impact:

  • Temperature. How warm is it in your room? Do you have fans blowing at you when you’re on the trainer? The only time I went from finishing every workout to finishing zero workouts was when it was too hot and I had no fan. I moved to a cooler room and pointed a fan at my face and my heart rate dropped like 20bpm for the same effort.
  • Your period. Do you have one? How does your cycle line up to how you’re feeling? My RPE goes up the week before my period (which makes sense, because my body has decided to stop dealing with heat well, to raise my core temperature at the same time, and to make it harder to use carbs as fuel), so I usually line that up with a recovery week.

Doctor!

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I’m with @ellotheth and @PusherMan and Second their thoughts.

Why is your boyfriend thinking you do too much? this may be a very important sign as those around us may pick up earlier on things than we do ourselves.

Maybe you had an off week during your recovery week with SSB1 and never really had the chance to come back from it. By pushing into SSB1-HV afterwards you’ve put a heavy load on your body, going from 3 to 6 very heavy workouts. a lot of added volume and intensity at the same time. Even the MV plan is a good step up from LV.

It’s frustrating. I’m no coach but my thoughts would be, take some time completely off just to get some distance, maybe a week or two. You’re not going to loose a lot. Then start back with something very manageable. Build from there.

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There seem to be quite a few of these “I’m struggling” type of threads at the moment.

Ego pushes us to the higher volume plans when really we should be looking at the low volume ones and maybe adding an extra workout if we feel fresh and able to handle the workload. As Chad mentions in several of the podcasts, life adds its own stress (the inability to sleep is an indicator of this) which should also be factored into things, the workouts and plans can’t be viewed in isolation.

You don’t say if your boyfriend is also athletic, the perception of non-athletes is quite different to that of athletically inclined people. He might be picking up on occasional sighs, groans, delay in getting up from seats, that sort of thing.

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Thank you all for the feedback and thoughts! I think I’m going to experiement with a week off this week to start and check in at the end to see how I feel.

Totally agree that it’s a lot. And I’m definitely not disagreeing with potential overtraining, just having a hard time wrapping my head aroung it since I’ve been used to about 600 TSS/wk and up to 15 hours/wk over the past year…Anyways I think I’ll start by taking this next week off to reset and see how I feel. The holiday travel plans fit perfectly with that too!

Definitely! I have a long history of low iron and ferritin so it’s not a bad idea to look into that along with cortisol. My last blood test in April though showed normal levels for iron but who knows…

Thanks for the advice. I feel like that’s what I did when I was on LV but kept itching for more and ending up with almost 500 TSS weeks so thought HV would fit well. But I definitely agree that it’s likely better to start low and check in with my body rather than enforce too much stress bc it’s what the plan says. Just once again, I’m still confused as to why 500-600 TSS felt okay the whole year prior.

Yep, got that one down especially with it getting chilly here in Colorado. I have two lovely fans that save me and opening the window next to one of them when its 40 degrees out just sucks that cool air in. You’re dead on that it makes a huge difference.

I was wishing it was this because I had my period last week and was hoping for an improvement in RPE this week as per what Stacy Sims’ research shows, but alas, this week felt even harder. My cycles are mostly regular as well.

He says I’m a busy body in general-- which is true. I’m pretty type-A and always have something going on or to do. I’ve been trying to work on that and stress management recently and have been upping the down-time considerably. He’s a cyclist too but with 10 years of racing experience (compared to my 1 year), al he’s less into training these days and thinks doing 1-2 hr trainer rides in November is overdoing it, as he usually takes fall season entirely off the bike. I think it’s a matter of perspective differences for us, plus the fact that training really excites me and not so much him these days.

I keep wondering how much life stress might be a key player here. I can get pretty stressed out about work, finances, and balancing pieces of life, so I’m wondering about working a bit more on this bit. It’s funny to admit that since I’m a therapist for work and preach about self-care all day lol

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Going back to the original post, you stated that you took a three-week break due to sickness and fatigue.

That means you didn’t really take a break. You did take a break from training, but your body was also having to take three weeks to put some rest in to its fatigue account, just to bring it back up to 0. Forget about whatever positive TSB you may have been in. If it took three weeks to feel like training again, then the best thing to have done would have been to take two or three more weeks and rest/do some very low volume, low intensity cross training/general activity, to allow your body to build up a little nest egg of rest. A rest egg, if you will.

If your race goals are not until next summer, I’d say just take a two-week break, right now. Build up that rest egg, and then get back into some easy base.

So 200 -> 205 -> 196w

First, this is hardly anything to be alarmed about. We’re talking 2-5%. There’s a wider swing between a good and bad day.

Second, your 5% drop in FTP happened after you had cut your TSS in half for a full 6 weeks and didn’t do any VO2. An FTP drop should be expected.

IMHO you’re fine. Just continue your plan at the 196w FTP. It’ll bounce back.

“I’ve been used to about 600 TSS/wk and up to 15 hours/wk over the past year…”
That is just it. Average of 600 TSS for an entire year. Every 3-4 weeks you need to have a recovery week, that is how your fitness grows, your body rests and adapts. You are just beating yourself into the ground.

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I would agree with a lot of folks advice about getting your bloods checked out by your doc.

Have you thought about adjusting the base plans to like three weeks of workouts and then
adding a recovery week.

Hope you get this sorted.

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@keulmer did the cycle studio structured training feel like the trainerroad trainer training?

Where I’m going is maybe the TSS said XXX but perhaps the trainerroad trainer TSS was more stressful. Also, getting sick is not rest. Lastly, fatigue is insidious much like weight gain or loss. It’s not apparent until really noticeable. You might have done a shit job with rest weeks for a long time prior to the meltdown. Live and learn. I say chill for December.

If you haven’t had blood work done in awhile anyway, then by all means go for it.

Otherwise, I’d say it’s premature at best, and possibly borderline hypochondria. We’re talking about 9 watts.

aaa

Great point about the break not really being much of a break. I like the thought of planning a rest egg and starting from a neutral place rather than a fatigued place for next season. Thanks!

That makes sense. Although I wasn’t really all too concerned about the FTP drop and did take the test on a suuuuuper stressful 12 hour work day, which is why I kept my old FTP. I’m more concerned about the fatigue and failing workouts. After some rest I’ll definitely retest before heading back into base.

You’re right. I wasn’t implementing proper recovery weeks over the past year and imagine my body’s playing catch up to some degree.

Yeah, the studio was pretty similar to TR except way more focused on VO2 max work then SS. I think the rest of your point is right though in that I haven’t done too great of a job with rest this past year and it’s likely built up.

Yeah, I think I’ll start with some more major rest and then see how I feel coming back into base before venturing into bloodwork. Again, I’m not too concerned about the FTP drop (especially since the day of the test was awful in terms of mental stress load at work). I was more worried about the sudden build up of major fatigue and workout failure.

Thanks all!

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Your plan sounds good. Let us know how it goes in a few weeks!