Sickness symptoms without being sick?

Hi guys and gals, I seek your advice!

After meticulously building up through the plans of TR, I reached the point where i was able to easily digest 3x20’ SS intervals at +/-285W (FTP was 307), heart rate around 155-160. But 2 weeks ago the strangest thing happened to me. I suddenly wasn’t able to comfortably push 270W: i was really knackered after 4x8’ at 270W, with heart rate going to and even beyond 175 at interval 4.

This was no one off, as every interval training has been that way since then: perceived exertion way higher, heart rate consistently 10-15 beats higher. The same with “easy” Z2 rides: heart rate going through the roof.

While scanning this forum for info, I noticed several topics which state the same facts, but they all mention a clear sickness followed by a decrease in performance. I, on the other hand, have not encountered real illness symptoms, just a ‘meh’ day occasionally (on which i then skipped training), I’ve also felt really ok. What I did encounter was a brief period of overreaching before (say mid January), which i tackled by taking the necessary rest, after which i was able to get near my old FTP.

As there were no real illness symptoms, i’m not sure where to go from here: should I accept the hard truth and deal with a new and much lower FTP (i’m thinking a drop of 25-30W in terms of 20 min test), or can I rely on those watts coming back after alleged recovery.

Many thanks!

Sounds to me like you’re under recovered - take a week off, then an easy week, and then see where you are.

An occasional “meh” day is to be expected, loads strung together indicates something else.

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I already took a week off and then an easy week, because i started noticing the symptoms of overreaching/overtraining (late jan, early feb), which helped tremendously in getting the right feeling on the bike again.

This time it’s completely different: Tuesday, Wednesday went great, Thursday was a meh day, and Saturday I was gasping for air at watts I usually do with a smile on my face. no tired/depressed feeling whatsoever.

There’s clearly something up then (either with your training plan or health - I hope it’s the former).

More details on your training history might help. When did you start training? What’s your progression been etc. Could it be you ramped up too quickly?

Also, could be worth getting checked out for viral antibodies. EBV for example.

A quick check of your calendar suggests you haven’t taken a week off since last June, if I’m correct.

Would be worthwhile doing if you’re experiencing symptoms of being sick

Do you have children, are you in a current complete lockdown? I have and I am… i too feel so tired every day after taking care off everything at the same time: Job, kids, household, organizing the daily living… i can barely stay awake after 7pm… actually Since the harsh lockdown came back 2 weeks ago I could not do any workout since then… just two outdoor rides one week apart… so just to show how much daily stress takes a toll

Every year I do between 300 and 400 hrs, but I started doing real structured training on TR from last summer. Started out with SSB1 with an ftp of 284, and progressing through SSB2 and SusBuild peaking at and ftp of 307 at the end of last year.

Build phase, and more specifically VO2 max really put too much stress on the body, so i had to tone it down for a couple of weeks. Feeling on the bike was great again until that saturday…

@onemanpeloton Actually you’re right! I had an active recovery week before my failed FTP-test, tried again on saturday, failed again, then did 2 Z2-rides on Tuesday and Thursday and then did some intervals on saturday which went fine. I was able to keep this good feeling for 2 whole weeks, so I assumed that the problems of late january were out of the way. As stated before, the feeling between now and late january is totally different. Then I was feeling tired and depressed because of too much training, now I feel fine, it’s just during the rides that my heart rate is going through the roof and i can not push the watts that i was able to do before.

@rentagreement no kids, and a wife that takes care of me so i barely need to do something in the household (God I love her!)

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I understand what you’re saying but that fact that this is different to your previous experience doesn’t rule out the very likely possibility that good rest and recovery will go a long way to helping you with this issue.

It’s just that i’m a bit in the twilight zone right now: has my form decreased that much because of the time off of structured training, that there’s nothing wrong physically and these are my new (lower) zones to train at? I have a feeling that when I would set threshold at 275W (minus 30W) for example, things will zonewise fall into place.

Or is it something physical (recovery, an illness, a virus,…) which is holding me back? I tend to believe (and hope) the latter, as the wattage drop was very sudden.

Not sure what the physiological/metabolic mechanism for that sudden drop would be…

Take some time off whilst you have a chance to get over whatever this is (and before you dig yourself into an even deeper hole).

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This topic is so difficult to discuss because everyone’s physiology is so different along with their varying training history. What is true for someone else may be the exact wrong idea for you/me.

I personally had a nearly identical experience as the OP. Some of it was related to the lack of racing last year, i.e. no specialty taper due to no events, but I can’t blame it all on that.

I made it through multiple iterations of the base/build cycle with good FTP improvements, increased endurance, new PRs, etc, before I hit a wall. My body felt like I had a mild viral infection, but I didn’t have any of the coughing/snottiness/etc, just this vague feeling of tiredness and malaise, muscle pain during workouts that was way out of proportion to the intensity and volume, sleep being “OK” but not great. After a rest week, I would feel better pretty quickly, but then it would come back after just a few workouts in the next plan I would try.

After about the third cycle of this, my wife recommended I take a full month completely off the bike, and it helped tremendously. She supports my training, but also saw that I was inside my head a lot (if that makes any sense). Looking back on it, I was doing too much volume for too long without a real “off-season.” Indoor training and TR makes high-level training year-round possible, and I had neglected to take a full break. I am now feeling much better and am back to steady consistency and building form.

I was feeling bad enough that I decided to really take the volume to zero, but I have wondered how I would have felt if I limited that month or two to just endurance rides with no intensity or intervals. I am now being much more careful about pushing into the “red” for consecutive weeks/months at a time. When people talk about this stuff, they frequently do so in the context of taking a “rest week” or going through a few weeks of intense training. For me, it took about 1.5 years to really get in the hole, which was a problem in itself, because I had a decent training history that had given me the wrong impression about how much volume I could handle. Every time I would try to start back after a few days off, I would look at my history of 10-12 structured hours a week for over a year and say “I can handle it now because I handled it then.” Big mistake.

Lots of people will say “of course” to this story, but for me, it was a radical shift to move from other endurance sports to cycling. The coaches repeatedly talk about taking time off, but it’s hard without the experience to monitor your own body. I previously did marathons, and I could do some pretty serious volume (50-70 miles per week), but I would have to slow down after a heavy week due to sore ankles, feet, back, neck, etc. With cycling, I think it is much easier to push yourself into these states because there aren’t a lot of limiters like there are for running, swimming, weight-lifting, etc. I tell my coworkers who do endurance sports that I regularly pop off 3000 kJ workouts, and they are appropriately flabbergasted, at which point I realize, Wow, cyclists are pretty nuts :joy:

Cyclists, especially those of us without nutritionists, with jobs, and without professional contracts, need to be more careful about this IMHO.


You grow when you rest and recover, not when you train. Your body grows in rest, training destructs it. So just change your mindset from “recovery is missed training time” to “growth days”. Training is just there to force adaptations, but the adaptations themselves occur in rest. That is why sleep is so important, where the body recovers the most (growth hormone).


Some infections are subclinical, meaning they produce no noticeable symptoms. Yet, they are still a stress on the body’s resources. It might be a good idea to see a doctor and get some blood work done. Best wishes.


This is definitely a good idea, but I would be extremely skeptical of any MD or medical professional that didn’t recommend stopping training altogether or dropping the volume big time before making any non-training “diagnosis.” High-stress, high-cortisol states for extended periods can lead to a lot of other “diagnoses” like anemia, low testosterone, depression, etc. Without seeing someone who really understands this stuff in depth, you are likely to get pointed toward a downstream red herring (mixed metaphor, sorry). For example, overtraining-related anemia or low testosterone should not be treated with iron or testosterone injections.

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1000% to this post.

I’ve previously had very similar issues. Anybody who has dealt with anything similar will give you the same advice.

Without a doubt in my mind, I would immediately take a full rest week. Put your bike away.

On returning to training, pay far closer attention to your nutrition. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that what many thought was over reaching or over training is actually under fueling and the condition known as RED-S (Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport). These issues manifest themselves in many ways and it varies from person to person.

Hierarchy of response

Increase calorie intake - rule out energy deficiency
Alter your training to include less hard days per week
Begin a slower build, with a lower ramp rate


I’ve experienced the same thing this year, feeling ill without a significant upper respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, etc just a generalized feeling of malaise and depression. I have had Covid tests come back negative, and I certainly prefer these minor bouts of illness versus a true cold with URI etc but it is concerning to me as well. This does generally coincide with an increase of training stress so it’s something I’m keeping an eye on. I’m also doing a full traditional base this season before I move to anything with structured intensity. I don’t plan on including any more than 2 hard workouts a week when I do progress to a build or specialty.

For me I think it comes down to balancing life and training stress and continually improving my sleep. Fueling is covered. Good luck in your quest for feeling well, it can be elusive for some of us!