Whether you’re a cyclist yourself or just a fan of watching it during the Olympics or Tour de France, it is easy to see the exhaustion that comes with the sport. Cycling is a test of endurance and willpower, and even the best cyclists will face fatigue during a long, strenuous race.
Here are 11 tips for overcoming cycling fatigue:
- Slow down your ride.
- Stay hydrated.
- Stand and stretch while pedaling.
- Carb load before a race.
- Practice long rides.
- Build more muscle.
- Eat a balanced diet.
- Get adequate rest.
- Massaging after a race.
- Get physical therapy.
- Stay positive!
Cycling fatigue can be caused by many factors like exhaustion, dehydration, overtraining, and more, but it is often from a combination of these factors. If you struggle with cycling fatigue, keep reading to learn what you can do to maintain your energy and finish that race.
1. Slow Down Your Ride
According to the Mayo Clinic, fatigue is unrelenting exhaustion that develops over time and is not relieved by rest. It can reduce your energy, concentration, and overall mindset. Cycling fatigue is when these symptoms set in during a long ride.
You can do a few things during your ride when fatigue sets in to start offsetting the symptoms. The best way to begin combatting cycling fatigue is to slow down your ride. This tip may be more useful in a leisurely ride than a race, but it is very effective.
Slowing down the speed of the ride can help your cycling fatigue for a few reasons. First, fatigue can be caused by overworking your body. If you are pedaling too fast for too long over a strenuous course, your body will tire out. Slowing down a bit can help your body use some of its remaining energy to recoup.
Fatigue can also have an effect on your cardiovascular health. When you are overworking, your heart may be overworking too. When oxygen and nutrients are being delivered to your muscles, it gives you energy. If your heart is tired, less hemoglobin and red blood cells are available to pump these supplies to your muscles.
Slowing down gives your heartbeat a chance to regulate again and pump more oxygen through your blood and to your muscles, reviving some of your energy while exercising.
In severe cases, people who experience fatigue often may have a heart condition or heart disease. You may have something wrong with your heart valves or other heart functions. If you often experience fatigue while cycling or doing other tasks, contact your doctor immediately.
2. Stay Hydrated
Hydration is key to most of your body’s daily functions, but especially exercise. If you’ve gone a while without drinking water, you may feel sluggish, sore, or develop a headache or lightheadedness.
Often, once you drink some water, you begin to feel better. Staying hydrated is one of the most important ways to battle cycling fatigue, as it can help soothe many symptoms involved with fatigue.
You should drink adequate water before, during, and after your ride as a cyclist to prevent fatigue as well as dehydration and cramping. Before you ride, you should drink 12-16 oz (0.35-0.47 L). about 4-6 hours prior, as it helps your body prepare for the long trek. During your ride, try to drink water when possible or when you feel thirsty.
Afterward, it is important to replenish again with lots of water and electrolytes, such as Gatorade and Powerade, since you most likely sweat out and use up a lot of water and energy while cycling.
Many bikes have a place to store a water bottle, so you may want to consider investing in a good, reusable bottle to take with you on the go. The Polar Bottle Breakaway Insulated Bike Water Bottle on Amazon.com is an excellent option to keep your water cold and easily accessible.
Always remember to drink water on days you are not cycling as well! Staying hydrated 24/7 is the best way to avoid dehydration which can contribute to cycling fatigue.
If allowed, you can try some caffeine at the latter end of your ride. Coffee may not be the best option, as it could take away from your water intake, but a caffeine bar could give you a much needed boost of energy and fuel to combat fatigue. The Quantum Energy Squares on Amazon.com are caffeinated and vegan, making them a good option to help overcome cycling fatigue.
3. Stand and Stretch While Pedaling
Sometimes a little bit of stretching can help with cycling fatigue. However, stopping your ride to stretch is not always an option while cycling, especially if you’re in a race. Fortunately, there are still ways to stretch your legs during a ride.
Stretching helps blood flow, and if you’ve been sitting on the bike with your knees bent for a while, your blood flow in your legs may need a little bit of blood flow to boost your energy and combat fatigue. Try to stand while pedaling for a few seconds to try and elongate your legs, which could help with blood flow.
If going downhill, you can try straightening your legs to each side of the bike to stretch them out briefly.
Stretching increases blood flow to sore muscles, which means it is sending oxygen to the parts of your body being overworked. This can help relieve fatigue. So if you cannot alleviate your muscles while riding, you can stretch before and after a ride as well to combat cycling fatigue.
4. Carb Load Before a Race
A big part of overcoming cycling fatigue is preventing it in the first place. What you do before and after a big race or leisurely bike ride can have an effect on your tiredness levels.
You execute a lot of energy during exercise. Energy comes from food, and specifically carbs. This is why many athletes opt to carb load before a race or big game, so they have adequate energy to burn off while in action, which helps them fight exhaustion and fatigue.
Carbohydrate loading is done in the days leading up to an athletic event. According to the Mayo Clinic, to properly carb load, you should increase your carbohydrate intake by about 8-10 grams (0.28-0.35 oz)per kilogram of body weight. In turn, you should also cut back on foods high in fat.
This process should last about 1-5 days leading up to your event but differs depending on the athlete.
Since carbs are burned off as energy while exercising, extra carbs help your body have more energy. If you are experiencing cycling fatigue, it may be from the lack of carbs and energy in your body, to begin with, which is why carb-loading may help.
5. Practice Long Rides
They always say practice makes perfect. In the case of endurance sports, it may not be perfect. Still, it will make it significantly easier to overcome cycling fatigue if you already have experience with long ride lengths.
Endurance builds up over time. That is why marathon runners will slowly up their distance until they are practicing running the length of the long race. Cycling is similar. If there is a long ride coming up, make sure you develop a training schedule weeks in advance. By the week before, you should have experience cycling the long distance.
Make sure you give your body time to recover as well before the big day.
Our bodies have muscle memory, which is why building our endurance is so important in distance sports. Our bodies will remember functioning during the distance ride before, which will make you more prepared, helping you overcome fatigue.
6. Build More Muscle
Muscle exhaustion can be a symptom of fatigue and is a typical result of strenuous exercise. If you experience cycling fatigue and notice your muscles are very sore, it may be time to hit the weight room.
Building more muscle and strength can help you last longer during your cycling ride or workout. It will also lessen the chance of fatigue and muscle soreness. Muscle exhaustion usually means your muscles are working overtime and will come back stronger after the proper rest time.
To build more muscle as a cyclist, try to incorporate weight lifting and leg workouts into your exercise regimen 2-3 days a week. Some exercises you can do to grow muscle in your legs are weighted squats, resting deadlifts, and calf raises. You can also do workouts that engage your core since that is important to strengthen as a cyclist.
By strengthening your muscles over time, it will be easier to last longer on the bike, helping you to prevent cycling fatigue and muscle exhaustion. Just make sure you are giving yourself enough rest for your muscles to heal after working out.
7. Eat a Balanced Diet
Have you ever heard the saying, “abs start in the kitchen”? The same principle applies to any sort of physical activity. To be a successful athlete, it is important to eat a balanced diet in order to have sustainable energy for your sport.
To keep a balanced diet, it is important to incorporate all the food groups in moderation, for they all have something important to off your body. Your personal healthy food choices may differ from someone else’s since everyone’s bodies are different.
One way to keep a balanced diet is to meal prep by planning and cooking your meals ahead of time. The EZ Prepa 3 Compartment Meal on Amazon.com containers make it easy to prepare balanced and filling meals for the week. You can also eat intuitively or keep a food log, as long as you are doing so in a healthy way. Make sure you discuss any dietary changes or concerns with your doctor or dietician before starting any diet change.
By eating a balanced diet, you are giving your body adequate nutrients to use for different things, including exercise and cycling. When your body has the correct fuel to use during workouts, you are less likely to get fatigued.
8. Get Adequate Rest
Both physical and mental rest are important for preventing cycling fatigue. In the world of athletics, rest days are just as important as training days. Without rest days, our bodies do not have a chance to heal and re-energize themselves, which could lead to injuries down the road.
Adequate rest for you may depend on your training schedule and daily life. It is crucial to take at least one rest day a week, if not more. On these days, you can still go for a leisurely walk or do low-impact exercise if you feel the need to. Other than that, take the day to catch up on Netflix.
Besides rest days for your muscles, your mind needs rest too so your body can function correctly. Make sure you are getting 7-9 hours of consistent sleep every night. Having a poor sleep schedule can lead to cycling fatigue since your body is lacking the energy needed to function.
9. Massage After a Race
Nothing feels better for sore muscles than a massage. Even if you don’t think you’re sore after a race, a massage may help to combat cycling fatigue in the future. After strenuous exercise, our bodies may cramp up, and our muscles may tighten. Massaging them after a long race can prevent knots and cramps, as well as encourage blood flow to those areas.
By massaging your legs or body after a cycling session, you lessen the chance for cycling fatigue the next time you bike. This is because you are giving your muscles assistance to recoup and relax before your next workout.
To massage yourself, you can invest in an AmazonBasics Foam Roller on Amazon.com. It’s a lightweight solution that’s also easy to clean. You can also use your hands to gently apply pressure to the overworked muscles or use a rounded object like a lacrosse or tennis ball.
If possible, you can treat yourself to a professional massage by a masseuse, letting them know to provide extra care to sore areas.
It may also be beneficial to take an ice bath. Whatever method you decide, massaging can help prevent cycling fatigue in the long term.
10. Get Physical Therapy
In severe cases or for professional cyclists, physical therapy may be helpful to prevent and relieve cycling fatigue. A professional physical therapist can help you learn better ways to use your muscles and what muscles you need to strengthen in order to retain more energy while cycling.
Physical therapists can also provide massages and direct you to the proper care or braces you may need to lessen the pressure of certain muscle groups, which can lead to cycling fatigue. Talk to your doctor or insurance company to see if physical therapy may be the right decision for you.
11. Stay Positive
Your mindset is half the battle, especially when it comes to pushing the limits of athletic ability. If you are struggling with cycling fatigue, it can be helpful to try and change your mindset, as a negative mindset can worsen your symptoms of exhaustion and fatigue.
During long cycling or running races, there are often groups of cheering fans towards the end of the race all the way until the finish line. This is because most cyclists or athletes give in to their fatigue and start to wind down at the final stretch of a race. The positivity of cheering fans and optimism helps push the athlete the rest of the way so they can finish the race.
Even with cheering fans, it is vital to be your own fan, too, especially when battling cycling fatigue. Try to envision yourself crossing the finish line and imagining how proud you will be of yourself. You can also incentivize yourself with a small reward or treat to give you that motivation to power through the fatigue.
All in all, positivity is the best medicine and can help you overcome your cycling fatigue.