Fatty is talking about overtraining as a possible excuse for not riding, and mentions Friel's statement on overtraining ()

Less than one-tenth of one percent of the general population is capable of attaining such a feat.

That's a pretty powerful statement, and Fatty uses it to assert that only the upper level of pro athetes can overtrain (it's not clear to me if his statement is another Friel quote, or a paraphrase, hyperbole, or the product of too much of "the best cake in the world")

To me, what it comes down to is this question:

Is my overall fitness level going to be better if I:

a) train today?
b) rest today?

If the answer is "b" and you train today *anyway*, you are overtraining. Of course, there are some caveats - your "training" today might be more "active rest" than training.

So, how many cyclists overtrain? Well, my experience is that many people - especially those who like to push "until I start getting tunnel vision" - tend to have trouble controlling their intensity. Friel says:

Generally, a week should have at least as many recovery workouts as hard workouts, if not more. Every third or fourth week there needs to be a period of greatly reduced training with an emphasis on rejuvenation.

Carmichael says something similar.

So, anyway, my point - and there is a point this time - is that many - if not most - serious recreational athletes are in danger of overtraining now and then. I have a friend (no, really, a friend...) who would ride his bike "all out" for 75 minutes every night for a period of months. I don't see how he could be anything but overtrained.

Comments (6)

  1. Mark Wan says:

    So the "rebuttal" to fatty’s excuse, if you are overtrained and you didn’t ride, he really should have a recovery ride instead of resting. For somebody who can’t poker face very well, I can never get away with such an excuse.

  2. fatty says:

    I’m a little bit discouraged to say that the only way you and Joe and I disagree is in semantics. What you call overtraining Joe calls overreaching. Overtraining requires months or years of recovery, and most people simply aren’t capable of pushing themselves into that deep of a hole. Which is good.

    Overreaching, on the other hand, is something most of us do, and is what most of us (wrongly, according to Friel) call "overtraining."

    The language libertarian in me says that the definition belongs to the majority, but the sensible part of me says that a bona-fide expert should be allowed to make the definitions, because he’s thought about them.

  3. interesting. i’m not a biker, but in the weightlifting world … it’s hard not to overtrain. if you have to choose between training or resting … the answer should almost always be rest. muscles need food and rest to heal, not sure how that is different in the world of biking, although it is an endurance sport

  4. I was going to ask the same thing Casey did. I find it difficult to not go to the gym, even if I am tired… Then again, 6 days a week (yes, I do cycle my routines), is a bit much…

  5. ericgu says:


    (Can’t hold up the "Fatty" part for more than a short time…)

    I agree that the semantics can be pretty fuzzy, but I don’t think it’s a binary line between overreaching and overtraining. You can get into overtraining with really high efforts, which I think is what you mean when you say overtraining.

    But I also think you can get there by staying in the section he labels as overreached, and never letting yourself rest. That was the point I was trying to make.

    On reflection, I think there’s a problem with Friel’s graph, in that he’s also trying to show some component of time on the graph.

    Hope that makes more sense.

    Casey – Nick:

    I have some thoughts in that area, but I’m not sure if they apply to what you’re doing, so take them for what it’s worth.

    One of the points in Carmichael’s book is that many athletes take the variety approach to training. If they’re a cyclist, they work on lactate threshold one day, aerobic power the next day, base aerobic capacity the third day.

    The assertion that Carmichael makes is that the proper thing to do is focus on one area for the whole week, and then switch to something else the next week, thereby providing more overload but also more time to recover.

    Of course, you have to balance that with your goals and need for variety. I haven’t really tried this approach yet, but I may in the spring.

  6. fatty says:

    Essentially, I agree with you — just about anyone can push themselves into what is now understood by most people as overtraining. What Friel is calling overtrained, most people would call CFT.

    Off-topic, but I went on the first 3-hr ride I’ve done in more than a month today, on my fixie. I am now completely cooked. It’s astounding to me that I have lost all my fitness in such a short time, but evidently I have.

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