Many athletes who have not previously performed resistance training in the off-season are unknowingly placing themselves at a performance disadvantage. Rigourous endurance training without appropriate neuromuscular stimulation and recovery is ultimately a catabolic process, meaning that wasting (atrophy) of crucial muscle groups may be advanced. Atrophy of skeletal muscle is usually a feature of over-training syndrome but also occurs naturally and more chronically as we age, this is termed sarcopenia, and is every master athletes foe. Conversely, inappropriate muscle development from a previous sporting background or misplaced attention in strength training. Either type of muscle imbalance can restrict cycling performance.
Re-balancing and recruiting skeletal muscle fibres of both the upper and lower body can be achieved through a carefully structured programme focusing on appropriate nutrition and resistance training components, while making sure aerobic conditioning is at the right level so long term adaptations can occur. Weight bearing exercises are necessary to provide the stresses needed for stimulated tissue growth (hypertrophy). Key muscle groups should be targeted with the right numbers of repetitions and sets using the right load during the correct phase while focusing on aerobic and anaerobic conditioning. A flexible periodisation plan can be specifically designed to support any cyclist looking to reverse this type of situation and improve their ability and event performance.
Over-training syndrome is not easily diagnosed. The condition can manifest itself over a period of months and years, particularly in highly committed racing cyclists who put too much pressure on themselves to perform well over a prolonged period. Even more recreational type cyclists can miss the mark with their training schedule, and experience large declines and erratic performance over time. The ability to recover from what would be classed as a normal training stimulus is seen in changes of heart rate, power, lactate and hormonal markers such as ACTH, DHEA and cortisol for adrenal insufficiency. Suppressed power and lactate values may also be seen at higher heart rates and perceived exertion as demonstrated by Lamberts sub-maximal cycle test.
Recovering from an accident or rehabilitation for a medical condition can take its time. Motivated athletes are always keen to jump back on the bike quite quickly…..although this is sometimes detrimental to both the healing process and development of a baseline fitness to advance rapidly from, with more certainty.