How You Know When You’re Overdoing It

American cyclist Lawson Craddock fought through the physical and mental toll of the Tour de France, but he now ponders whether pushing past the pain was really worth it.

Enrique Díaz / 7cero/ Getty Images
Enrique Díaz / 7cero/ Getty Images

When Lawson Craddock’s bicycle hit a plastic bottle during the first stage of this year’s Tour de France, the American cyclist hit the ground, finding himself with a laceration above his eye and a scapula fracture in his left shoulder.

Craddock, the road and track cyclist who’s been racing professionally since 2008, remained in the race after receiving medical clearance – telling reporters he was “raised Texas tough.” Craddock’s ambitious spirit was celebrated, but after months of training to maintain a resting heart rate of about 38 beats per minute, the cyclist noticed a spike to 50 bpm during the rest of the Tour.

In addition to affecting his heart rate, the crash affected Craddock’s sleep and overall ability to recover. While he once slept over ten hours, Craddock was struggling to sleep through eight. Facing dramatic recovery deficit and physical pain, the exhaustion of the sport began to take a significant toll. “The few days running into this, I had absolutely awful recovery,” Craddock told reporters. “That wasn’t necessarily something I was quite worried about yet. I think it was really interesting to see the stress around the Tour de France.”

Craddock also used this year’s Tour as a way to raise money for Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in Houston. The racecourse where he got his start in the sport – the Alkek Velodrome – was heavily affected by the hurricane last year, and Craddock pledged to donate $100 for every stage he completed on the Tour. “Most people will do more when they’re asked to do it for someone else,” explained team chiropractor and physical therapist Matt Rabin. “That definitely has been the case with him.”

While Craddock fought past the pain to complete the competition for his own sake, and for the sake of so many others, the reality of his health-threatening overtraining could not be ignored. “That’s something that people would never know otherwise, the strain that we put on ourselves day in and day out for 21 days,” Craddock said.

We jump to celebrate athletes who push past the pain for the sake of the sport, but at what point is the physical and mental stress defeating rather than invigorating? While Craddock took pride in dusting himself off and getting back in the race, the concern for his lack of rest and recovery begs the concern about overdoing it. And although he’s not performing as well as he had hoped, Craddock’s plans to stay in the race have not wavered. “Just still being in the race is really encouraging,” Craddock told the press. “It’s hard for me to complain, getting to do what I love.”

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