Home Forums Bike Forum Mystery decline in cycling performance; clutching at straws……

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  • Mystery decline in cycling performance; clutching at straws……
  • Kryton57
    Full Member

    Since a 2-3 month bout of all of Flu/Covid/Bronchitus during Oct – Sept ‘22 I suffered Chronic Fatigue during 2023 with a 25% reduction in cycling performance primary power at Threshold/Vo2max indicatively a reduction of ftp from 282w to 232w or 3.8wkg to 3.1wkg .   It was later in September ‘23 noted via blood test I had indications of Epstein Barr in my cells.

    I then trained successfully from November ‘23 to June this year on a traditional Plan – Z2 moving to threshold and then short hard interval based around (propping up the back of) Races – this observing fatigue closely all the while.   But since June – when I tested 5% above the March baseline which was 5% above December –  I’ve experienced a rapid decline in power and duration on the bike.

    Two coaches and a doctor are bemused, there’s nothing wrong with me physically, although when I fail I get a “heavy” dull ache feeling around my kidneys and diaphragm and my legs are weak to the point I can’t continue.

    So everyone is clutching as straws so I’m posting here to ask if anyone has a similar experience or advice that’d help me understand what is going on and how to get out of this decline.

    (And please, no give up, drink beer, enjoy riding around with friends etc, I like training andracing competitively as a purpose to stay fit and would like to continue)

    Thanks

    12
    thegeneralist
    Free Member

    You’re getting old.

    TiRed
    Full Member

    Sore throat? Mononucleosis? Plenty of viruses to add to EBV. John Cunningham (JCV) being one. In suffering fatigue after a nasty cold three weeks ago, a 50TT and a week off completely. Still wasted after 45min. So the answer is more rest and Z2 only.

    imnotverygood
    Full Member

    Don’t know the answer but I’ve had similar. FTP from 3.7 to 2.5. There have clearly been other factors: Broken ankle = 6 weeks in a moon boot, succession of viruses over the winter, but I don’t seem to be recovering too well. I have also just turned 61 so age may have something to do with it & blood tests show nothing. My HRV is very low, but that’s measured by consumer electronics so I don’t necessarily  assume that the measurements are accurate.  Sorry I can’t be of more help, but you are not alone.

    Kryton57
    Full Member

    No older than my peers whom I’ve fallen behind.


    @Tired
    thanks – i did wonder whether the abdominal ache was a spleen / liver reaction to mono, yet I have no other symptoms.  We have identified when I get mono outbreak I’ll I get a rash on my upper cheek bones – think American Footballers yet a red rash instead of black anti reflective stripes – I don’t have that now.

    Z2 and rest is surely the answer yes, but not helpful to XC Races mid season, I’m so frustrated with not being able to ride or perform properly.

    INVG  – I wish you well, you have 10 years on me, same for me with blood tests…. ?‍♂️

    Edit: this does kinda coincides with my use of Sertaline, but that’s not reported to cause this issue in athletes unless anyone has experience different?

    2
    trail_rat
    Free Member

    December 2022 I caught COVID /flu what ever -no diagnosis on what it was but I was bed ridden for the week – walking up or down the stairs resulted in me vomiting due to the exertion.

    January/February /March – much and such the same. Any elevation change would send me into uncontrollable fits of coughing and result in vomiting if I tried to continue.

    Even in April a short flat walk to the shops would have me at 160bpm (but the vomiting has stopped )

    It was September 2023 before I could run again – in the warmth of Majorca no less  – but coming back to UK the cold air really played havoc and winter was near impossible.  -i was suspecting  asthma.

    It was March 2024 before my heart rate during training returned to known rates both RHR and effort based rates.

    In that time I’d had countless doctors appointments  and X-rays etc.  all they could come up with was due to the amount of X-ray visible post covid crackling in my lungs that my body wasn’t getting the oxygen required efficiently to function – in the same breath they advised I should do more exercise.

    What I found seemed to provide relief and seemed to up recovery – noticable  improvement between before and after – and it might be a coincidence/red herring was swimming in a warm pool and sauna/steam rooms.

    Just back to training now really.

    acidchunks
    Free Member

    Sertraline and other SSRIs may cause a reduction in testosterone levels.

    There’s some research published online relating to this, unsure if it’s an accepted side effect though.

    Has your GP tested your hormone levels?

    stanley
    Full Member

    I’ve no idea on your aching symptoms, but on a more general basis, are you managing stress levels and getting adequate rest and recovery? Including some strength work? Monitoring HRV?

    Testosterone levels are likely in decline but gains can still be made or maintained. I’ve made moderate gains with zero testosterone; having said that, low testosterone makes everything harder.

    Have you read Phil Cavell’s “The midlife cyclist”? I found it interesting and helpful.

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Midlife-Cyclist-Riders-Healthy-Perform/dp/1472961382/ref=asc_df_1472961382/?tag=googshopuk-21&linkCode=df0&hvadid=697256320072&hvpos=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=2105902365496263842&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9046436&hvtargid=pla-1203570600886&psc=1&mcid=8592d83372063505b79a7505d37a291b&th=1&psc=1&gad_source=1

    thecaptain
    Free Member

    Just some sort of post-viral fatigue thing.

    I’m old enough to remember when doctors routinely dismissed such things as psychosomatic (some probably still do) but I think there’s enough evidence now that there really can be physical problems lingering well past any recognisable illness. No advice but to go gently and hope that it fades over coming months and years.

    tractionman
    Full Member

    have you had your potassium levels checked?

    3
    thols2
    Free Member

    Have you gotten older recently? I’ve found that affects my performance.

    3
    Kramer
    Free Member

    Just a reminder, Sports Medicine is not an NHS GP service.

    1
    Kramer
    Free Member

    In the absence of an obvious physical cause, most decline in athletic performance is psychological.

    OP, it sounds like you’ve overtrained following a viral illness. I’d suggest resting, gentle exercise and then gentle rehabilitation for next season.

    Age doesn’t tend to cause such a drastic loss in performance.

    DickBarton
    Full Member

    Not a specialist in this but it sounds like you’ve overtrained and not given yourself enough time to recover – time to recover is always the difficult part as you never give it enough time.

    Hopefully that is all it is – not a simple one to fix, but probably the easiest to fix and recover from.

    4
    sillysilly
    Free Member

    Things I find have huge impact on my FTP / performance as I age and help me keep up with the yunguns. None of it was really a consideration in younger yrs. My FTP halved after the OG covid strain hit me.

    Warmup: Try spinning for 30mins in between zone 1 and 2 before doing your normal warmup.
    Fuelling and hydration: eat 3hrs before, then 30mins before and during if longer ride. Make sure you’re adding salt / electrolyte to water.
    Sleep cycles – used to be fine with 4hrs. Now I need 7, not 6, not 8, not 10.
    Time of day: Too early / too late, no thanks.
    Rest: take 1 week off every 4/5.

    Also worth getting your bloods done to check for magnesium, zinc and hormones outside of the usual.

    mjsmke
    Full Member

    Had covid a couple of weeks ago and have felt exhausted since. No strength and low energy. Also, very hungry all the time. Mornings are the worst part and feels lke ive not slept at all. Been forcing myself to do some riding but cant push hard.

    martinhutch
    Free Member

    Most likely culprit IMV is that you’ve had covid again, asymptomatically this time, and during your training efforts. There’s a lot of it about right now.

    I had it about a month ago, and despite laying off exercise completely during, and for a week after symptoms, am still struggling a bit with any sort of sustained effort.

    2
    fasthaggis
    Full Member

    Yup,as trail_rat  says, don’t underestimate how done over (in the long term) you can get with covid .

    I also seem to remember in some of your pre-covid posts ,you were often hit hard by flu and other lurgies.

    I am also with sillysilly, I have found as you get older ,you need to make more use of those ‘marginal gains’

    So having a good ,quality sleep and diet plan,tied in with focused training pays off much more as you get older.

    Good luck.

    1
    butcher
    Full Member

    And please, no give up, drink beer, enjoy riding around with friends etc, I like training andracing competitively as a purpose to stay fit and would like to continue

    If it is some kind of post viral condition, there’s a very real possibility of long term impairment, potentially a lot worse than anything you’re experiencing right now.

    I’d consider taking it easy for at least 3 months (where I’d say zone 2 might even be pushing it a bit), with the aim of maybe getting back to full fitness next year. Might seem a big sacrifice, but you could end up with a much bigger one by trying to push through it. Sometimes your body needs time to recover, and if it doesn’t get it, it can go beyond the point it’s able to.

    Kryton57
    Full Member

    Thanks for all the advice.  It’s very frustrating not knowing what to do to fix it.   I worry about taking a break, then being even worse for it as fitness drops…..

    2
    n0b0dy0ftheg0at
    Free Member

    My cycling fitness and general health is still way down compared to early part of ’22, after covid turned into long covid in late September ’22.

    I was making slow and steady progress until March this year, but then suffered a mystery relapse with fatigue and aches for over a month that sent me back to how I was around Nov ’22.

    Reverted to easy efforts, trying to increase stamina (I’ve just about managed a handful of z1 2-3 hour rides, used to do several hiit rides most weeks of that duration pre covid), only recently tried to do bits of threshold+ and I’m still way down on early March numbers. But making slow progress.

    Been on Sertraline a year. Hit half century last Xmas.

    2
    thegeneralist
    Free Member

    No older than my peers whom I’ve fallen behin

    Not everyone gets enfeebled at the same rate or the same age.

    5
    scotroutes
    Full Member

    low testosterone makes everything harder.

    Well, not everything…

    Not everyone gets enfeebled at the same rate or the same age.

    This was my take.

    1
    markspark
    Free Member

    If you are bad as you say you are I’d bin any goals you’ve got set for this year, just ride for fun and enjoy the summer and make a start again in September/october. If you’ve got some races entered maybe just go to them and practice race strategy, bike setup etc ready for next year, there’s no point going for the win if it’s not going to happen and getting frustrated with it and trying to train through it

    hofnar
    Free Member

    Epstein Bar is one hard nut to crack. The older you are the worse it gets you.

    My knowledge is a bit old as I had it twenty years ago I have never been the same.

    There are no meds except from rest. Starting training to early or going to hard to soon oftenleads to relaps and permanent damage.

    Look at CAV I know other competitive cylists who started to soon and have messed up themselves for a long time/life.

    I was bedridden at first off the bike for 6 months andno high intensity for the next 6 months.

    When I asked the doctor how long till I am the old me again he said most likely never again….

    You can get away with only a couple of % loss but in racing that’s the difference between regular top 5 and hanging on to the bunch you will still be a lot better then the general population.

    Sticking on with some training and fear of dropping the bit of form you still have is basically the worst you can do for EBV or overtraining.

    I am Not a Doctor but I was trained as a coach (long ago though)

    thepurist
    Full Member

    If you need a goal to stay fit, perhaps switch away from XC to something like enduro racing which will test your skills in a different way without such focus on being fast uphill?

    5
    BadlyWiredDog
    Full Member

    (And please, no give up, drink beer, enjoy riding around with friends etc, I like training andracing competitively as a purpose to stay fit and would like to continue)

    So, no-one here can give you a definite answer and, in honesty, unless you have an identifiable and remediable condition and/or some sort of deficiency, the chances are that the answer is tied up in the impact of a virus or viruses – sorry, don’t know if there’s a posh plural – on your system and how you’ve responded to them.

    My guess is that the answer is loosely to back off the higher-intensity stuff and to go back to basics when it comes to looking after yourself. Diet, sleep, recovery, training frequency and volume etc and to listen to your body. What is pretty clear is that WHAT YOU”RE DOING NOW IS NOT WORKING FOR YOU. Ergo, you might want to race competitively, but right now body says no.

    My post-ish (because it’s still ongoing to an extent) long covid experience, was that my steady effort stuff recovered pretty quickly, my top-end and ability to repeat hard efforts and recover, was and is a longer process and while some of it’s likely detraining, some of it is weird, probably post-viral impacts on resilience. I’ve found that doing two days on and one day off works for me to an extent along with understanding that there’s only so much high intensity stuff I can do and other stresses – general life pressure, work, sleep, diet etc – have a direct impact on that.

    As far as the ‘you’re just getting old’ stuff goes, my take is: ‘not helpful’. For one thing, you – and I haven’t – suddenly aged a decade and age-related decline is not a cliff, particularly if you’re under 50 or so. See Joe Friel’s book Fast After 50 for background info. It’s also a rationalisation sometimes used by people who just want an excuse for declining performance on a bike ;-)

    If I were you, I’d embrace acceptance that you can’t currently race / compete right now, but you can go back to basics, spend some time giving your body a chance to rebuild itself without lots of pressure and, hopefully, be back racing next season. I know that’s not what you want to hear, but along with appropriate medical investigation where appropriate, it’s probably your best option.

    The elephant in the room, is whether you need to address your apparent need to race competitively and how you’d do that. I’m not saying it’s wrong or abnormal,  but if it’s not making you happy and it’s hindering your physiological recovery, then it’s maybe worth looking at?

    It’s really frustrating finding that your body isn’t doing what you expect it to / are used to it doing, but my take is that backing off now will give you a better chance of it doing what you want in the future.  And of course that’s not what you really want to hear, but this is not for ever, if that makes sense. And yes, I know a lot of people have pretty much said this already in different words/forms, and a lot of it’s ‘common sense’ or at least vaguely logical, but if any of this helps that’s great. Good luck!

    wbo
    Free Member

    Well the other elephant is also your job situation which seems a continual source of stress and will impact your recovery in both short and long term.

    Do you have, can you get a year planned on a big piece of paperback.  Not a screen.  Write  on it what you’ve done, when sick, races, etc..   when you look at it objectively , hows it look?

    wbo
    Free Member

    OK, I’m a few years older than you-  I reckon if I want a meaningful gain in anything it’s going to take 3 months of training to start see it.  You started last November, so circa 6 months.  Given what’s happened before that , you may as well haw been starting from zero, so it’s an ok time, but not so long.  I think your base isn’t big enough  and what worked in the past will take some more time to be repeatable.  Do your coaches have experience with ‘older’ athletes, and the timeframes involved?  Why do you need two anyway?  You need one you trust, and stick with a plan with a long term outlook

    Overtraining , or general fatigue can explain the very sudden collapses in performance.  How do you feel the next day?

    Good luck.  The reason I suggested the paper planner is that looking at a bigger picture can make you realise how much you really have or haven’t had.

    1
    Kryton57
    Full Member

    Right to answer some questions; my coach is going through my data.  I had a decline at the beginning of June which was lost a 3hr, regional race and then testing for the new period.  This was assumed to be genuine fatigue and my rest period was extended.  Ive then dipped again from the beginning July most notable having issues on every workout that has another workout on the subsequent day, until now when I’ve hit a wall.   We are agreed on a lower volume “Maintenance” plan until a rest month in October and starting base for the ‘25 season in November.

    Re two coaches; I have one new this year coach, and he reached out to a colleague – a women’s pro team coach none the less – for advice, hence “two coaches”.

    Re job situation, I should be less stressed currently as I’m surfing through a little-to-do notice period.  Sleep and nutrition hasn’t changed except I stopped last week using Pink Grapefruit energy drink due to potential grapefruit interaction with Setraline.

    I’ll be the Southern Xc and South West (Newham) 6hr pairs with Jnr racing for kicks rather than places, no more events planned for the foreseeable.

    1
    mrbadger
    Free Member

    Don’t take this the wrong way but from your posting history you sound like a bloke who suffers from anxiety. Which is something I’ve struggled with for years. If you do it’s not just going to manifest itself mentally, physically it will take a huge toll. Trust me I know.

    You won’t  be able to perform to anything like your potential when you are constantly stressed and worried about stuff.

    I’m no psychologist so may be talking crap, but that’s how you come across on here, and in the absence of anything physically wrong it may be worth considering

    On the other hand, you may just be getting old!

    martinhutch
    Free Member

    How long have you been on Sertraline?

    Kryton57
    Full Member

    Yep I do suffer from anxiety and I’ve been on Setraline since March.

    chakaping
    Full Member

    As far as the ‘you’re just getting old’ stuff goes, my take is: ‘not helpful’.

    +1, and that’s putting it politely.

    It’s a lazy, dull and predictable response.

    But unfortunately, all any of us can do is guess what the issue is. Although it sounds like there are some quite educated guesses here.

    My 2p is to sack off the structured training and power monitoring for a while, but keep doing plenty of riding for fun and travel to ride new places (and up lots of hills).

    martinhutch
    Free Member

    I’ve been on Setraline since March.

    Initial side effects like increased fatigue/drowsiness should have settled by now, although the six weeks they quote is only a rule of thumb.

    I assume you’ve been taking it consistently, not missing doses?

    TBH it shouldn’t be a suspect, although if you have an upcoming medication review with your GP, might be worth mentioning your decreased performance in passing. Getting control of your anxiety should remain your overriding priority though. DO NOT try stopping them for a short period to see if things improve performance-wise.

    My money is still on training/overtraining while post-viral. The prescription for which is a lot more rest, good diet and sleep. If you don’t fully understand what’s happening with your body, do you trust your coach to be careful enough with it?

    wbo
    Free Member

    OK, I don’t think you have enough basic conditioning to do the workouts and recover between them leading to cumulative fatigue and your ‘lifestyle’ (for want of a better word) isn’t helping.

    A pro team coach isn’t going to be used to coaching the over 50’s….

    Kryton57
    Full Member

    WBO, fwiw I’ve been coached for 7 years, and self motivated / learning to train solo before that.   In 2021 I was top 5/10 of >4hr endurance MTB including 9th in a 12hr National.    I do a lot of Z2, yoga and Kettlebells over winter during the base period, and although I wouldn’t profess to be the strongest/fittest/most flexible I’ve ever been, I’d say I’m pretty experienced and conditioned enough to carry this load.    FWIW – and I appreciate things have changed – 12-15hrs a week wasn’t an issue for me in 2020/21 (same job fwiw) whereas I’m struggle with 5-8 now.

    I’m going with fatigue or overtraining either via Mono, a recent asymptotic illness or a rebound from what was 7 months of good quality training ending with a tough Spring race peak until I know any better.

    butcher
    Full Member

    I’m going with fatigue or overtraining either via Mono, a recent asymptotic illness or a rebound from what was 7 months of good quality training ending with a tough Spring race peak until I know any better.

    Post viral fatigue isn’t well understood unfortunately, and it’s unlikely you’ll ever find a definitive answer. Changes in your immune system from one virus can lead to reactivation of another, so even though mono might be a component, it’s entirely possible to be a consequence of something else. This stuff is rife with Covid, with some studies showing increased immune activity more than a year after acute infection, even in asymptomatic cases, and these changes can accumulate with repeat infections. Add in other stresses like work and over-training, it’s a potential ticking bomb.

    The prescription for which is a lot more rest, good diet and sleep.

    This is pretty much what it comes down to, reducing the stress placed on your body, mental and physical, and getting as much good quality rest as possible.

    It’s a natural concern to fear losing fitness while you rest but you might be surprised how long the body retains it. You’ll lose some of that top end and endurance, sure, but it sounds like you’re missing part of that anyway.

    wbo
    Free Member

    Obviously you can’t discount post viral fatigue, but I will comment on this :-)

      ‘FWIW – and I appreciate things have changed – 12-15hrs a week wasn’t an issue for me in 2020/21 (same job fwiw) whereas I’m struggle with 5-8 now.’

    It could be post viral, it could be that you’ve simply lost all that base you had then due to the illness and long layoff, so you’re really only relying on November to now.  That’s what I really meant when I wrote ‘basic fitness’ (my bad, unclear)What does your coach think by the way – or recommend? Being bemused is nice, but any ideas? Do they set your schedule by the way? How are you tracking rest/recovery?

    Good luck by the way :-).  But don’t just rely on luck to get an answer

    speedstar
    Full Member

    Hi Kryton,

    Did you have an increase in Sertraline around that time? It is quite a sedating SSRI so could be playing a role. Might also interfere with sleep. It’s a drug that interferes with clotting occasionally so can do weird and wonderful things but rarely.

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