Thanks to Adam Rice, Jessica L. Mosher, Garry Jones, David Martin,
Jim Balter, W. R. Chan, Bob von Moss, Brian O'Brien, and Bill Yoder for
suggestions. I have experienced all these forms of fatigue personally,
except for hypothermia, and have blacked out on a few occasions.
|Instead of a tired old thread,
this is a new tired thread.
Ways of Being Tired
|Bikes are tired before the trip,
Cyclists are tired after the
people are tired, there is only one cure: take a nap; therefore most people
think that there is just one kind of tiredness. In fact, there are
really many ways to become tired, all of them alike in producing fatigue
or lost of energy, but each type of tiredness has its own cause, consequence,
and cure. It is extremely important for the cyclist to be able to diagnose
which kind of fatigue is occurring and to respond with the appropriate
countermeasures before severe side effects result.
the most common form of tiredness, is caused by lack of sleep. The
symptoms are yawning, a nodding head, dreaminess, and a slight reduction
in energy. To a cyclist, this is the least important cause of fatigue,
but it can still reduce speed by a mile or two per hour. The only
cure is a nap, although people sometimes use drugs to keep alert longer.
Several cyclists reported nearly falling asleep or hallucinating.
Definitely, stop for a nap under these circumstances; recent reports suggest
that other methods for staying awake are not safe. Also, if there
is no real cause for being drowsy or the problem is persistent, see a sleep
Skin Burn (Sun Burn or Wind Burn)
2) Skin burn is
caused by too much sun and occasionally by too much wind. The symptoms
are red or redden skin that's hot to the touch, a washed out feeling, and
mild dizziness. Wind burn only produces mild effects, but sunburn
can be life-threatening and is a leading cause of cancer. Even the
mild forms are much worst than missing a few hours sleep. Skin
burn can easily be prevented through the use of sunscreen, clothing (and
hats), and by limiting solar exposure, especially by stopping during the
middle of the day. The only cure for skin burn is slow healing, although
skin creams can help.
3) Heart fatigue
is caused by pushing too hard for your fitness level. The symptoms
are a pounding heart, gasping for breath, lack of energy on hills, a feeling
of internal stress, and becoming flush with heat. This problem is
more likely to occur after traveling beyond the normal distance and is
most likely to show up when climbing a hill. The cure is to stop,
cool down, take a break, and give the heart a chance to recover.
Prevention can come from cycling at a slower pace or by training up to
a higher fitness level.
4) Muscle exhaustion
is caused by burning up the energy stored in the muscles, sometimes called
the bonk. If heart fatigue comes mostly from pushing too hard, this
problem occurs mainly from pushing too far. Symptoms are difficulty
in pedaling, a desire to coast, and sometimes cramping. The effects
of muscle exhaustion can last more than one day. Take a break, ingest
sugars, travel at a slower pace, and train up.
if not caused by (2) or (4), is caused by poor fit or position on the bike,
too rigid a stance, the pounding of the road, or by a few muscles not being
in as good of shape as the others. Sometimes the sleeping position,
an injury, or mild arthritis can be involved. Clothing, shoes, and
parts of the bike can also be responsible. Very dry weather can cause
skin cracking. Some of the areas that are most likely to become sore
are the neck, the back, the hands, the arms, the shoulders, the feet, the
crotch, and the bottom. Muscles can also cramp. Soreness should not
be neglected, as it just gets worse; real problems can follow. The solution
varies from one condition to another,
but in general, the cure consists of 1) getting off of the bike periodically
and doing some mild exercise during those times, 2) mildly stretching and
varying the body position when riding, 3) adjusting the handlebar and seat
positions and heights, 4) using a different seat, handlebar wrap, gloves,
and/or shorts, 5) relaxing more while riding, 6) using strengthening exercises
when off of the bike, 7) reducing the amount of daily cycling, and 8) changing
the type of bicycle. Some creams and ointments might provide a little
relief. Note: it's best to try the least expensive solutions first.
Also note: everyone experiences some soreness from time to time.
6) Heat tiredness
is caused by high temperatures, humidity, and/or hot sun. The symptoms
are an almost complete loss of energy, hot skin, dizziness, nausea, and/or
inability to eat. A lack of fluids under these circumstances is very
dangerous. This is a life-threatening condition: get off the bike
immediately, get in the shade, cool off with wet towels, and drink liquids.
To avoid the problem in the future, ride only in the morning and in the
evening during very hot weather.
7) Cold tiredness
is caused by riding in low temperatures and getting chilled. A headache
can be a side effect. A more extreme variety, hypothermia, is a life-threatening
lowering of the body's temperature, and can sometimes happen fairly quickly
when not wearing sufficient clothing at high elevations or in the rain.
The only symptoms are tiredness, lack of energy, lassitude, and cold skin;
hypothermia is frequently accompanied by drowsiness and muddled thinking.
The solutions are warmer clothing and getting into a warm environment.
is caused by not drinking enough fluids. Hot and dry or hot and humid
weather and a hot sun can cause rapid fluid loss. The symptoms are
thirstiness, dizziness, and a washed-out feeling, although sometimes thirst
is suppressed. Drink lots of fluids, especially water, wet your clothing, and
get some rest out of the sun. A myth is that yellow urine indicates dehydration:
yellow urine is caused by vitamins and other dissolved solids, not dehydration.
Waiting until you need to urinate or even until you get thirsty is unwise; make a
habit in hot weather of sipping water constantly and of stopping for drinks frequently.
9) Oxygen fatigue
is a shortage of oxygen reaching the brain. It can be caused by overexertion
complicated by high elevation, fatigue, and/or blood being diverted to
the stomach. The symptoms are dizziness and spots in front of the
eyes, similar to a migraine headache. Stopping to rest is important,
as throwing up or a black-out may result. No other treatment is necessary. Oxygen
fatigue is completely different from oxygen debt, which is insufficient oxygen
reaching the muscles, leading to huffing and puffing.
10) Boredom seems
like a minor problem, but it can cause fatigue-like symptoms and lead to
failure in a bike trip. The causes are monotony in the scenery, no
one to talk to, nothing to think about, and nothing to do except pedal.
The speed decreases, and each hill gets higher. The cure is to find
some way to re-invent the ride or the trip in order to make it interesting
11) Stress fatigue
is a common problem on the job; it can produce extreme fatigue in a short
period of time without any exercise or work involved. Cycling normally
reduces stress by allowing the tensions to be released, but some days when
the traffic is bad, real strain can set in. This stress can
lead to fatigue or muscle fatigue. The best solution is to get off
the bike and unwind.
12) Bone tiredness
is probably a combination of the above, from the need for sleep down to
stress. This is the bonk to end all bonks; the crash that shuts business
down. Find a place to stop as quickly as possible and get some real
The Real Solution
When cycling down
the road and the feeling of fatigue is first just barely noticeable, pay
attention, figure out the cause, and apply a solution right away, following
Velocio's rules: eat before you're hungry, drink before you're thirsty,
cover up before you're cold, and rest before you are sleepy. More
miles, a higher average speed, and a happier trip will be the result.