- - Feeling Sick or Tired? To Train or Not to Train…

Feeling Sick or Tired? To Train or Not to Train…

Article by Ben Day first appeared on Bike Radar

Former pro Ben Day believes that every single athlete undergoing a training cycle needs to better understand when to push through fatigue, illness or injury and when they should rest and recover. Below, Day discusses some guidelines in making the right decisions.

The basis for improving your form is to train hard enough to break the body down, which the body then, during a period of rest, responds by creating physiological adaptations so that you come back stronger and more resilient. Note the phrase “during a period of rest”. Training hard digs a necessary hole. If you dig too big a hole without sufficient rest these adaptations won’t take place, you won’t be able to get out of that hole and frankly you are wasting your time and energy. You will be on the road to over-training.

Include one to two rest days every week and periodise your training so that you push forward, stop and rest – and then push forward again. Imagine this is like climbing a massive flight of stairs with a threshold on which to catch your breath at regular intervals.

Listen to your body! My first article, “The Grey” talks about this. Listen to your body, record your sensations and mood in your training diary, such as TrainingPeaks. Learn from this, extrapolate out the conclusions and start making informed decisions about when to turn back home to curl up in bed or when to push through.

Monitor your RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion). If that session you did last week was a five out of ten and this week it’s a eight out of ten, you’d better consider taking a rest day.

Power is great, but heart rate is even better in this scenario! Don’t ditch your heart rate strap because you have a new power meter. That power data is even more beneficial now that you have heart rate with which to compare it against. If your heart rate is ten beats lower than what you normally see at this intensity, it’s time to sit on the couch.

As you are monitoring your power trends, if you see a strong plateau in the improvement curve, rest and then push again another day.

Do not try to overcome a poor performance with an abusive session flogging yourself out on the road – calmly analyze all of the factors and determine the cause.

If you feel chronically fatigued, get some blood tests done. Parameters to start with are: CBC, metabolic, iron and hormone panels and cortisol. There are other markers which can look deeper into the cause of the problem.

Try as you might to stay healthy, but when you’re pushing hard with your training load, there are periods when your immune system is compromised. A sick child, dirty public transport, or a rainy race – there are many germs that can get in and knock you down. Should you continue training, and at what intensity?

A rainy race or even a rainy ride can be enough to get you sick

Fevers and aches = stay in bed! Complete rest is what you need.

If your symptoms are below your neck, i.e. a chesty cough, then complete rest is best. Although, 20 or 30 minutes of light exercise such as walking or easy riding on the trainer can help boost circulation and recovery.

If your symptoms are in your neck and above, you should be ok to keep training but keep your intensity below zone 3 (aerobic activity – breathing a little deeper but still able to hold short conversations) and reduce the training load. What you can hope for at this point is to maintain your fitness for when you are healthy again. Be sure to stay warm!

What is the color of your phlegm? If you’re emitting fluids that are green or yellow, you are still fighting an infection. If you exercise, keep it real easy. If it’s clear, conservatively increase your training load over a few days to ease back into the training cycle.

If in doubt, check it out! Go see a sports-minded doctor and always err on the side of caution. Remember that rushing back into hard training too quickly can cost you a lot more time than what it would have been if you were just a little more patient.

Decisions need to be made around injuries in a sensible manner. You need to ask yourself, will training through that injury slow down your rehabilitation time to the point that affects your future performances?

Make sure that you understand what your injury is and what it needs in order to repair.

If exercising with an injury makes it feel worse, you need to rest and get assistance from a therapist.

Generally, with no broken bones or torn ligaments, recovery from a crash on your bike is improved by continuing light exercise, increasing blood flow and maintain range of motion.

The latest in first-aid recommendation for soft tissue injuries is “PRICE” – Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.
Make Good Decisions
In order to make a good decision on how to handle an issue that could impact your training begins with understanding what it is. With this information, take away the emotion and calculate what steps will ultimately get you back into top form in the shortest period of time. Being a “warrior” and pushing through it wins you no prizes if consequently you are out of action for longer. In the gallery, you will find some decision flowcharts, which you can also download and print out for reference here.

I am Ben Day – an experienced and seasoned cycling professional since 2002 and a successfulIn my time as an elite athlete, I have worked with various coaches from Australia, Germany, Spain, Portugal, England and the USA. I have also had the privilege to have collaborated and learn from many great physiologists, strength and conditioning trainers, sports medicine doctors, sport psychologists and career advisors with the Queensland Academy of Sport and the Australian Institute of Sport, an internationally renowned sporting revolution, facilitating Australia’s great successes in cycling in the past 20 years.

My experience racing and training across the globe has equipped me beyond most coaches as I am not only current with ideas and methodologies, I am also understanding of what makes a cyclist good in this modern world of cycling. I have had some incredibly knowledgeable people all in my corner throughout this time, teaching me many things that contribute to making an athlete the best possible athlete he or she can be.

Already during my professional cycling career, I have had some incredible moments such as representing my country at World Championships and Commonwealth Games level with success, which has enabled me to learn about what makes a cyclist perform to the best of their abilities.

I am able to draw upon all of these experiences and knowledge in my coaching to make a better cyclist – day by day. Based in Boulder, Colorado, USA, I work with athletes throughout the US, Europe, Australia and the World
Current Qualifications:
USAC Level 2 Cycling Coach (USA Cycling) with distinction
USAT Level 1 Triathlon Coach (USA Triathlon)
TrainingPeaks University Certified Coach
TRX Certified Trainer


To me, coaching others towards their objectives and personal bests is just as fun, challenging and fulfilling as it was striving for my own goals throughout my cycling career. The process of guiding an athlete towards improvement and sharing the knowledge I’ve absorbed is a real thrill. My goal for clients is always the same, to help them become the best version of themselves possible!

We all work out in search of that amazing feeling of strength, speed and top form, the zone where we can “do no wrong” and velocity is effortless. When I began cycling I craved this level of fitness. Now, after a twenty year education in the trenches of pro racing, I want to help others achieve it for themselves.

Our “special sauce” at DBD lies in our ability to blend the latest science and research with hands on experience acquired in our 40+ combined years in elite cycling. I have always been a training and data “nut”, staying abreast of the latest research, physiology, wattage and heart rate based training techniques. But my application of this knowledge to the real world is what shaped me as a coach. The day to day nuances within the program are what make the difference between average and extraordinary. Simply put, some things are best learned by doing!

If you or anyone you know is interested in working with me, please contact us at DaybyDay Coaching!

Current Qualifications:
USAC Level 2 Cycling Coach (USA Cycling)
TrainingPeaks University Certified Coach

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