Bicycle racing is not only hard, it puts a premium on suffering. Whoever suffers the most at the right time often wins. Sometimes that suffering to win is an acute ten seconds, sometimes it is two hours. And there is suffering even when you don’t win. To get to a point where you have the fitness and ability to deal with the pain, you have to put a lot of time towards training and suffering through intervals and long rides. But when is the suffering too much? Knowing when you should stop a cycling workout will help keep you from digging yourself into a deeper hole and come back stronger for next time.
The Love of Riding
If you did not love riding your bike, you would not put in all the work. You ride because you love it. Even on days you do not feel at your best, you feel it is necessary to ride. You do it because you want the freedom of the road; it’s an escape and you don’t want to miss out on training. But sometimes riding when you are not quite one hundred percent can set you back more than you can gain.
Hitting Your Mark
Every workout should have a structure and a goal. If you’ve done a cycling field test, you know your training zones. Your intervals should be a combination of a target zone, a challenging duration that is achievable, and an adequate rest interval. When one or more of these variables is not quite right, you cannot hold the zone. If the duration is too long or there is not enough rest in between intervals, it is time to assess the workout. Is your fitness not quite up to one of the factors? Are you too fatigued? Are you getting sick? Is your mind not up to the suffering of the day? Know when you should stop a cycling workout is hard to gauge but important to identify. This is a time to be completely honest with yourself. Nobody else is watching. You will not improve if you cannot answer these questions truthfully, unless it is a question of mental suffering and your head just isn’t in it.
When Is It Suffering & When Is It Time To Quit?
Again, workouts should be a challenge. Some should be such a serious challenge that you question your life choices and want to leave your bike in the rain to rust into a useless pile of scrap. Those are breakthrough workouts; you make such large physical and mental gains that you remember them months and years later. It’s the second most rewarding suffering you will find, the first after success in races from suffering.
But when you do not find that dark place to be inviting, when it is hard to turn the pedals over, when you do not feel right, it might be a good idea to know when you should stop a cycling workout. Not hitting the marks early in the workout could be an indicator. Late in a workout, on your eighth one-minute full gas effort, your power is not quite as high; that is normal. But if your second effort is way below your first, that workout may be too much. Again, honesty is the key. Do you want to abandon a workout because you are really cracked/getting sick/under-slept/et cetera or because you do not feel like putting in the work? If you’re training with heart rate, not being able to hit your normal numbers can indicate that you are fatigued. Even if after warming up and doing the first or second interval you still can’t get your heart rate close to your objective, it’s time to spin home easy.
Factors To Gauge When Assessing When You Should Stop A Cycling Workout
Properly assessing the reasons why your body feels the way it does can help you make an honest decision whether you should keep riding or not. Things like have you slept enough and have you eaten the right foods to feel good.
Make sure you have enough of the right food in your system before starting a workout along with plenty of water. Abandoning a workout because you haven’t fueled up properly is no reason to quit a workout, especially when you are in good condition otherwise to have good workout.
The Common Cold
The rule many use for colds is if it is from the neck up, you can ride. If it has moved down into the respiratory system, do not ride. But if you feel like you will get over the head cold quicker and get back to full training sooner, go ahead and rest. It’s better to error on the side of rest than trying to push through and making your sickness worse.
Beyond The Common Cold
There are more maladies in the world than the common cold. What about gastrointestinal distress? What about some sort of fever? Road rash? Headache? Not enough sleep (do not discount the importance of sleep!), muscle soreness? Back to the addendum to the last rule, if you feel that you will heal faster by taking time off and get back to quality training sooner, take that time off. Again, being honest with yourself is key. Most of the time taking an opportunity to heal will be more important than a poor quality workout.
Honesty is the Best Policy
It is clear; honesty is your guide. Some intervals should make you want to abandon a workout and maybe the sport entirely. There is a rest interval at the end of that dark place where you can evaluate if you should continue. Most of the time, you should. But if you are feeling off, if it is really hard to hit your objectives, if you are sick, have not slept enough, out of calories, it will be good to know when you should stop a cycling workout and just ride home easy. Make sure when you abandon a workout you do it for the right reasons – so that you can come back stronger and suffer even more next time.