Coach Fred Matheny Replies:
It’s unusual that you can’t get above 120. In a typical case of overtraining, you’d stall at 155 or so when trying to go hard. Your legs and motivation wouldn’t be strong enough to drive your heart rate higher.
The most reliable sign of overtraining is poor performance and loss of enthusiasm. You can check all the usual indicators — high resting heart rate, disrupted sleep, poor digestion, irritability — but it all boils down to this:
If you feel chronically tired and you aren’t going well, you’re either (a) overtrained from too many miles and too much intensity, or (b) tired from your training combined with the stresses of daily life.
Remember that total mileage isn’t a good indicator. It’s possible to overtrain on 100 miles a week if the rest of your life is stressful and you’re shoehorning workouts around a busy schedule.
The pros can ride 500 miles a week and prosper from it, but remember — that’s all they do. The rest of us have to go to the office every day, manage a family, mow the yard and shop for groceries. Even a little added stress from cycling can push us over the edge.
Try backing off. Take four or five days of complete rest followed by a week of easy recovery rides. If that doesn’t do it, think seriously about seeing your doctor for a physical exam. A max heart rate of 120 bpm is so low that there might be something else going on.
Coach Fred Matheny is an RBR co-founder who has four decades of road cycling and coaching experience. He has written 14 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach Fred Matheny, including the classic Complete Book of Road Bike Training, which includes 4 eBooks comprising 250 pages of timeless, detailed advice and training plans. The Complete Book is one of the many perks of an RBR Premium Membership. Click to read Fred’s full bio.