Ramping Up For Summer...Without Injury Or Fatigue
June is here and it’s finally feeling a bit like summer! Sunshine, warm days, and longer daylight hours means ramping up your riding and training is a lot easier, but with that comes the risk of doing too much, too soon.
Increasing your volume during the summer months should be a treat. Especially in the Midwest, warm days are fleeting, and making the most of this season is a big priority for all kinds of riders. From dedicated commuters to athletes looking to put in more hours while the weather is cooperating, everyone is tempted to put in more saddle time than in the previous weeks and months. That’s why stepping up your game as a part of a gradual rise is important to prevent burnout and injury.
Increasing your riding by too much can often lead to feeling overly fatigued, slow, ‘heavy’, and unmotivated. Even worse, it can cause overuse injuries and nagging pain in joints, in your back, shoulders, and neck. Listen to your pals this time of year; odds are you’ll hear about more sore knees or lower backs than in April or May. Oftentimes, that’s because the increase in volume has just started to added up on riders.
Watch the numbers. While having a coach is a great idea for those really looking to improve their fitness, it may not be the right fit for everyone. It’s still a good idea to use Strava, Training Peaks, or a trusty pen and notebook to record your weekly miles and time in the saddle. This will help you identify any rapid increases in miles or time and can help you decide if you’re overdoing it. Signs of fatigue or over training are typically easy to spot; lethargy, feeling tired, irritated, having changes in your sleep patterns or appetite, even big fluctuations in your body weight are all signs. Moving up from week to week by over 20% of time is an indicator that you might be taking on too much, too quick.
Listen To Your Body. Take time to stretch, relax, and slow down. Make a concerted effort to check in all over your body for new or nagging aches, pains, tightness, cramping, or other signs that your body is taking a beating. Training is bound to cause some of these sensations, but you’ll often feel them more pronounced than usual with a big increase in volume. Sore legs might take an extra day or two to feel better, or you may find your arms and shoulders sore for no apparent reason. These are solid signs that you may need to work in a few easier days, or stay off the bike for a little longer than normal.
Plan ahead, and stick to it. Pick a specific amount of miles or time to shoot for each week and try to stay on pace. By laying out goals over a few weeks or even months, you’ll be able to carefully increase your mileage safely and avoid burnout or injury. Adding 1-3 hours a week is plenty, and make sure you find five or six days each month to back off, giving yourself a lighter ‘recovery’ week to check in and see how your body is reacting. Once you’re at the upper end of your volume, cap it and start to focus more on intensity and speed work, especially if you’re planning on racing. Remember, make your hard work hard and your easy work easy to get the most out of your effort.
Summer riding is simply the best, and we hope you get a chance to make the most of it! Try new routes, new rides, and new races to keep it all fresh and exciting, and make sure you’re safe out on the roads as traffic tends to increase.