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  1. #1
    mtbr member
    Join Date
    Aug 2013

    Not seeing any benefits - over riding?

    After many years off the bike, it's been over 15 months now since I started commuting seriously - my goal was to get fit, lose some pounds and generally enjoy the outdoors more. I've not done a work day without the bike since making the switch. I've ridden summer, rain, snow (-18C on spiked tyres!), you name it. I'm 37 if this matters.

    My commute is ~15 miles per day for a normal day, often I'l push this to 20+ if I feel strong. All in all I've covered ~3500km (2200 miles), and climbed ~30000 meters in the last year.

    In this time, even though I did little exercise before (gym once or twice a week), I've not really lost weight (I'm down from 215 to 200lbs with a slight body shape change for the better - my diet is not great, but not bad at all), and have now seem to have plateaued in terms of fitness. I set a ton of Strava times for my commute on my Cyclocross bike, and am now nearing these on my 26" AM Slash, so I am improving, but there is no dramatic change. My heart rate is lower for the same journeys, so there is progress, but it is glacial.

    Worse, I have recently started to get sick more frequently (I seem to always have a cold of some sort), and find that I am not really getting faster or stronger due to the setbacks.

    At weekends I often ride DH bike parks or do Enduro type rides (normally ~50km all mountain, with ~1000m of climbing), and can do these with a fair amount of ease in comparison to the start.

    I am wondering if I really have to step things up distance or intensity wise to get to the 'next stage' of fitness, but in honesty I am worried that I may be 'over riding' these days - starting to get sick and if I am honest, not enjoying the daily grind as much.

    Just wondering if anyone has faced a similar situation, and what they did/do to get over this hump and keep pushing...
    2013 Trek Slash 7 (26)
    2014 Scott Aspect 740 (650b)

  2. #2
    mtbr member
    Reputation: jrastories's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    First off congrats to joining the lifestyle of cycling!!

    So many factors are involved here. If it is weight loss that you are looking for Diet has much more to do with it then the activity that you are doing.

    For performance gains you are after yes you need to start pushing the intensity and duration. This is referred to as progressive overload with out it you will never increase your performance any more then it is right now.

    The last thing and this is probably more to do with your saying you are getting sick ect. How much sleep and rest are you getting? The more activity you are doing and the more you push yourself the more recovery you need to rebuild. Then you also need to fuel the body for the activity and for the repair. So a good diet and lots of sleep will go a long way.
    Rocky Element
    My Attempt at a Blog

  3. #3
    Log off and go ride!
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Has your body composition changed? You stated you also been going to the gym. If you are adding muscle mass at the same time you are losing body fat you will not see much if any weight loss, since muscle weighs more than fat. It's a healthier weight, though, even though the numbers on the scale are the same.

    You could be overtraining. Add a rest day 1-2 days per week for a while and see if that makes a difference. Heavy exercise without periodic rest (cumulative fatigue) does impact your immune system.

    Have you increased your caloric intake while increasing the rate you burn calories? If so, the net effect is no weight loss. Recalculate your Basal Metabolic Rate (several on-line calculators are available. No two will yield the exact same number, but most should fall into a relatively narrow range.) Once you know your current BMR, which changes with fitness level, you can calculate a daily calorie target that will maintain the energy necessary for your activity level and still lose body weight.

    Plateaus are normal and to be expected. If you see yourself stuck in a plateau change the daily routine around a bit.

    And lay off the fast food french fries if you eat them. IMHO they are worse for you than sugary soft drinks. Activists should try and ban them instead of focusing on colas.
    So many trails... so little time...

  4. #4
    mtbr member
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Many thanks to you both for taking the time to answer and put forward the points and ideas - I really appreciate it! I've gone through all your points and analysed them against my current program. Really interesting, and I am already making some changes.

    In terms of body composition, there has been a change, although it is not so huge as to be very noticeable. I have developed more shoulder and arm muscles, as well as beefing up my thigh and leg muscles a *lot*. I have lost maybe an inch around my middle since last year, more elsewhere - but the scales remain unchanged. I am guessing as I have swapped some fat for muscle along the way.

    In terms of intensity, I realised that I have been doing roughly the same journeys for a long time, so thought I'd look at some stats - I hooked up the HRM this week and realised that I am doing the same times as 6 months ago, but at a much lower heart rate. I guess I must be doing something good and am fitter, but have definitely plateaued in terms effort/results.

    For diet, I am stuck on this one. I don't really eat junk food, but conversely I am not a huge salad eater! I am not big on sodas, I don't drink alcohol, don't eat fried food, etc but do cut loose a little at the weekend with my family. Working out my calorie intake however, on average so far this week I am only eating between 1700-2000kcal a day (my exercise apparently burns ~500 on the bike, and maybe another 200+ in the gym, swimming or walking). It feels like I am in a deficit, but not losing weight! I am thinking that this may explain the sick part too - always having colds etc.

    It sounds odd, but I made an effort to eat more this week, took some vitamins, and have felt better on the bike than I have in months.

    I looked at my bike change too - decided to swap in using my 29er XC bike more each day for more high intensity rides. It was interesting - Using the unscientific Strava method, I put in 5 PBs in the last 4 days after a year of stagnation. I am wondering if riding the Enduro bike has strengthened me without realising it?

    I am definitely going to mix in a rest day once a week now and see if this helps - cumulative fatigue seems like something that really could have set in - I have a very stressful job, travel weekly, work long hours, and only average about 6 hours a sleep most nights. I am thinking that maybe I just need more time to 'recharge' my batteries.

    Thanks once again for the replies, they have given me a lot of food for thought -I'm definitely going to monitor things more closely from now on.


    2013 Trek Slash 7 (26)
    2014 Scott Aspect 740 (650b)

  5. #5
    Epic eater
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    BTW nice work with the focus and effort, it's not easy to analyze what you're doing and make changes (the old saying...if it was easy everyone would be doing it).

    I am going through some of the same struggles it sounds like you are going through. Basically if I eat less, trying to be say 300-ish calories deficient per day, I just don't have the energy to do much. If I crack/binge (whatever you want to call it) and eat a bunch of stuff I know is unhealthy (sometimes fast food, Taco Bell, etc), I feel better, more energized to go hard during an exercise, etc. I realize this makes no sense, since those foods typically make you feel horrible, and sometimes they do for me too, but other times I feel it satisfys a craving (some would say need, but I don't think anyone 'needs' that food) and maybe in some obscure way relaxes me.

    This always puzzles me so I've looked at what I'm eating to see if I'm lacking in something, it doesn't appear that I am. So then maybe it's more mental and me eating fast food is an outlet or break and once I satisfy that then I have the mental motivation to push harder (and maybe even the mental guilt that I ate that so now I have to burn it off).

    I have read that changing your body is complicated, meaning that if you want to gain muscle then you need to be able to exercise at a high level not to burn calories but to stress your muscles so they have to adapt and thus your body will make them larger. Once those muscles are larger they will burn more calories all the time (or more accurately your body will burn more calories taking care of that muscle tissue). So some would say that if you are just focused on building muscle then you should not be calorie deficient at all because the only way to gain muscle is to go hard and if you are calorie deficient you probably can't go hard enough to make any substantial changes. I know a few pro riders who always reiterate "quality over quantity", so if they are tired and can't go as hard as they want, they will literately not ride that day at all, and just do something else. That seems very counter-intuitive to me but in their mind (and the mind of their trainers, who should know what they are doing) the key to everything is going hard, if you can't go hard, then forget it and come back another day.

    Now, that mixed with the fact that most of us want to lose weight seems to end up with us both cutting calories and trying to go hard, which at times, seem like two fundamentally different tactics.

    I'm fairly familiar with the at-home workout DVD series of P90X (which are great btw, have made me a much better biker). In it the trainer stresses the need to eat enough, many people don't, and also many people don't realize how many calories they are burning. Often times you see calorie estimations from much smaller people, say an hour of mtn biking is 500 calories, etc. However, for me, at 235-ish pounds, an hour of pretty tough mountain biking is often times twice that or more (according to Garmin and Strava, when I wear my HR sensor). So I'm burning a lot of calories, and if I want to have the energy to go hard to make those muscles change I need to replace probably not all of those but a good portion with healthy food.

    Sorry this was more of a ramble..but rest assured you're not the only one on this fitness battle..
    Kona HeiHei carbon, Kona HeiHei uncarbon, Kona Tanuki & some Trek hardtail, crap I have too many bikes

  6. #6
    mtbr member
    Join Date
    May 2011

    Listen to your body!

    Keep in mind I'm not a Doctor; just a fellow rider on the internet. Sounds like you're overtraining and need to rest more or take a mental break from cycling.

    I'm in my 40's and the best advice someone gave me was "2 Days Rest". Every few weeks of training you need 2 complete days of rest. It's hard to do but it's required. One day a week isn't enough for extended periods of time.

    If I was you I would take 3-5 days off the bike; just to reset my attitude. 2 days of complete rest followed by some gym work, swimming, hiking, or running.

  7. #7
    mtbr member
    Join Date
    Oct 2013
    don't take this in offense because i think this applies to most people... unless you are tracking what you eat and the portion sizes daily, your guess on how many calories you're eating is just that... a guess; and likely it is wildly in accurate. I have type one diabetes and i have to know within +- 5gm how many carbs are in the food i eat. I have 14 years of practice at this and it is common for me to make mistakes that suggest i'm as much as 30 grams off. take a few weeks of measuring cups (or better a scale) and track everything you eat and i'm willing to bet, you are eating much more than you think. as far as eating healthy or not, you "can" lose weight eating nothing but Twinkies or nothing but McDonalds, so long as you are calorie deficient. you can help create that deficit by exercising which is great but ~500 calories is not a lot to lose track of and if you're not as strict on the weekends, the possible ~2000 calorie deficit you think you created Monday through Friday can easily be lost on Saturday and Sunday

  8. #8
    mtbr member
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Agree with above. I track total cals on a fitbit so I know how much to eat each day (compared to how much I burn). Synch food intake with myfitnesspal with the fitbt burn so I know both what I am eating and how much to eat on workout days versus how much to not eat on rest days.

    Works well for me. I weight 175 and typically burn 2200 per day...

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