I'm not a doctor but…
Cycling injury, recovery and health issues.
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Hi, I'm fairly new to commuter cycling, been doing a 20km each way journey on average a couple of times a week for the last 6 months or so. Normally I try to ride in on Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays - with a rest day between each one. I've noticed that my legs are getting more & more tired, to the point where I cant even walk properly for several seconds after getting up from a chair! I've taken a couple of weeks off, and this week I'm back on the bike, and I've noticed my legs are so tired again already.
I have a fairly sedantry life, and this is pretty much the only excercise I do. I am also fairly overweight - nothing outrageous, best description would be 'chubby'.
I'm not at all exhausted when I complete a 20km ride, but me legs sure are.
My question is - should I be resting, or should i be cycling as much as possible? Am I causing more damage than good by cycling while my legs feel exhausted? I'm presuming one day my legs wont get tired, but I'm noticing decreasing performance, not increasing.
Caveat: this is completely anecdotal, so your mileage may vary
I've had issues like yours after long rides, and the most effective solution is multi-pronged:
- hydration on the ride : do you sweat a lot? keeping hydrated will help muscle recovery and avoiding nasty cramps
- post-ride recovery - I smash out a protein shake after a long ride to help the muscles rebuild (having one within half an hour of exercise completion is most effective
- STRETCH! 10 minutes of stretching really helps - work those quads, hamstrings and glutes to make sure they're as free as possible.
Not sure if I wrote it above, but stretching really helps.
This combination allows me to get out of bed the following morning without collapsing, and got me riding comfortably two days after 220km of Around the Bay this year
Oh and did I mention stretching?
If by tired you do not mean the soreness and heaviness that comes with oxygen debt (accumulation of lactic acid in the muscles) then, by all means, keep on pressing.
However, as you tire you will lose fine motor control which is not pleasant as well as adding a little danger. So, as they get a little weary and you start to feel some "jellyness", hop off and walk it for 30 secs or a minute.
If it is the oxygen-debt tiredness then ease off - there is not a great deal of benefit to accumulating an increasing amount of lactic acid. Just be satidfie din knowing that as you get fitter your lungs and hearts capacity will improve as will the capacity of the capillaries feeding and clearing those muscles.
Unchain yourself - Ride a unicycle .
After trying a few different things, including so-called protein recovery shakes (expensive), I've found that far and away the best thing for me is a 600ml low/zero-fat flavoured milk within 20 minutes of completing the ride, and then a piece of fruit like a banana or apple half-to-an-hour later. That stops the post ride dead legs and foggy brain syndrome in its tracks. And then there's getting adequate sleep. Very, very important.
My ride schedule runs as follows: I do a long Sunday ride (2-3 hours and up) and commute 30-odd kilometres each way only two days a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Monday, Friday and Saturday are recovery days. Wednesday I might do a light spin in a spin bike for no more than 30 minutes.
Now this is most important: Every third week is a recovery week. This is where I do very little cycling mid-week (only local errands) and a couple of hours easy endurance ride on the weekend. If you are under 40, make it every fourth week: that is, three weeks training, one week recovery, rinse and repeat.
I've found if I don;t take that recovery week on schedule I end up either burning out, getting sick, or getting injured. About 1 week is optimal I've found. Two weeks and I've lost fitness. There's a table in one of Joe Friel's books about how much cardiac capacity you lose with 2 weeks of no training - the story ain't pretty!
I picked up the above ideas from the writings of Friel and Mark Fenner, both highly respected cycling coaches, and found they worked brilliantly. Instead of being stuck on a plateau, feeling tired, and not improving, my fitness took off again. Whenever I stray from that schedule, I get into trouble.
Remiss in me not mentioning that physical exercise destroys your haemoglobin laden red blood cells, the ones that carry the oxygen. Preaching the obvious, low oxygen means tiredness in fact and in feeling.
So if your body remains short of these you are, in effect, anaemic. Iron replenishment is required to keep the rate of red-cell creation up to the rate at which you are destroying it. Google for the right foods (certain greens like brussel sprouts for example). Worse for women who have a lower red-cell count anyway, even before menstruation makes it even worse.
Trailgumbys week of rest would go a way to addressing low red cell count.
Unchain yourself - Ride a unicycle .
How long does the leg fatigue persist for ?
If you a red over-weight, then chugging down and recovery shake and some extra food after just 20km is goingto make you fatter.
See a doc, get your blood count, iron, BP etc checked, then get on the bike and HTFU.
I disagree with Colin that exercise destroys RBC, and even if it did, the iron is not lost from your body, it gets recycled. Anaemia does happen though.
You have officially become your parents.
I never thought of it that way Ken. What you are saying is that, despite me comparing it to anaemia, extra iron intake is not gonna address anything. That makes more sense than what I have been peddling.
Just as I am reaching the age of senility it's nice to know that the force of logic still prevails over long held views.
Sorry Darklight, I am afraid that Ken makes more sense. It's now all down to hard work and some steady improvement.
Unchain yourself - Ride a unicycle .
Disagree. If the ride goes for more than an hour, keeping up adequate nutrition on the bike and attending properly to post ride recovery with the skim milk drink and fruit I referred to earlier has me feeling better and less fatigued and therefore much less inclined to binge eat with calorie dense foods to make up the deficit.
However, if the ride is less than an hour, a piece of fruit before the ride would be sufficient, with only hydration needing to be addressed on the bike.
For the ride in to work, 5 weetbix and soymilk is enough for me to get started on. For the ride home, given that it's usually 3 hours or so since lunch, I need to put something in the tank before the start of the ride or it's not particularly pleasant, so a Cadel's bar before I start. On the way (75-90 minutes depending on direction), a gel and bidon of High5 to keep the power up. Again, skim milk and a coupla teaspoons of Milo immediately when I get home, and then dinner when I've cooled down and unpacked, maybe 45 minutes later.
Following this protocol means I can dispense with carbs for the last meal of the day and still have enough energy for morning rides, and not bonk onthe way home in the evening. Avoiding carbs for the last meal of the day before going to sleep made a significant difference in helping me to get down to a decent racing weight for the couple of events I did over the last 12 months, without having to starve myself or ever feel like crap.
Mate you have a high metabolism that is about how much I eat in a day. Also I know your riding but for someone that is overweight (as Ken is referring to) what you eat is ridiculous there is so many carbohydrates in that. There are studies to prove protien keeps you less hungry so that is what you want post exercise not the high sugar milo milk. Ken I totally disagree. If it is a hard session I have a shake after every time, it makes me less hungry and helps me recover so much better. If you get a good protein shake (which is the important thing) and have it with water you are not going to put on weight. Mine is 25g of protien 1g of carbs <1g of fat. I have it with water 50% of the time (depending on how hungry I am as milk has some carbs to cure me right then and there) this is a lot better then eating like a horse 1 hour later. Also my shake has 5g of BCAA which is just as important as the protein itself.
If you want to loose wieght increase the amount of lean protein decrease carbs and fats. You will feel more energetic and less hungry.
The carbs in the post-ride drink help transport the protein to the muscles and stop your body cannibalising itself to repair the damage. The key is to do it within the first 20 minutes of the end of the training session. The milk needs to be skim milk as the fat interferes with the protein uptake (so I'm reliably told by qualified people).
If you bother to look behind the hype those protein shakes are marketed with, they are pretty much just skim milk powder with some sugar added and maybe some dried egg white. 2 heaped teaspoons of Milo isn't that much sugar.
And if the ride is under an hour, I did mention that I reckon you can skip the mid-ride refuelling - maybe you missed that? A lot also depends on how hard you go. I have some good climbs on my commutes and only a few traffic lights, so that stops me from slacking. I agree your advice regarding tilting the mix away from carbs and fats towards lean protein. That definitely boosts recovery, reduces muscle soreness and improves the rate at which fitness improves.
My approach to carbs is to only eat what you know you'll burn in the next few hours, as that seems to stop the body storing the excess. It's why I try to minimise them in the last meal of the day, and that seems to work quite well. I dropped from 85kg to 78kg last year following this regime. Back up ot 81kg this year through being off the bike with injury.
I hold grave fears for our OP given he has now vanished... Obviously those tired legs have evolved into something quite nasty.
Bianchi, Ridley, Montague, GT, Garmin and All things Apple
Sorry guys I had a busy weekend doing DIY in the garden... Now its my upper body that is sore. Wow, wasnt expecting this many responses.
A bit more information: my ride takes pretty much exactly an hour. I do take a 750ml(?) water bottle with me (I'm an ex-pom cycling in brisbane heat, I need it!), but I really only drink 1/2 of it on the journey. I do finish whats left once I'm at my destination usually. Yes I do sweat *a lot* - my tshirt is always soaked through, under my backpack.
I am 35, around 180cm and about 95kg - I would class myself as 'slightly' overweight, but the doctors chart puts me just in the obese category. Other than that, I would say I am very healthy, I do eat a balanced diet (plenty of fresh veg & fruit), etc.
I dont know how to identify wether it is oxygen-deprived tiredness. I used to get the jelly legs after a ride for the first few times, but that went away pretty quick. Now directly after a ride I can walk around quite normally, my legs arent too tired. But its a general fatigue that lasts several days that I'm noticing. I notice it more when I try to get up from a seated position - its bloody hard work, and then I walk like I'm crippled for about 10 steps. I have no problem on the bike, I always complete a ride feeling I've got more left in me.
Colin - what you said about stretching rings some bells with me - I dont do this at all. For some reason I considered cycling an activity that doesnt need stretching, probably because the start & end of my ride are quite gentle, and I thought provided me with a good warm up / down. I'll give this a go tomorrow.
Ken - HTFU is a perfectly acceptable answer, and one I was half expecting I would like to avoid the protein shake at the end of a ride, but a peice of fruit sounds good.
Not me, though malocchio did refer to stretching. While malocchio was referring to it in a context specific to your situation, more broadly you might find it interesting to do a search on this forum on the effectiveness or non-effectveness of stretching, at least insofar as injury is concerned as it has been called into question in recent times. Purely as an academic pursuit.
Unchain yourself - Ride a unicycle .
In my studys I was reading about overtraining today. It sounded exactly like this. You need to either decrease training or rest for about a week or less (depending on how bad it is only need 2-3 days or possibly up to a month my textbook said although yours doesnt sound that bad). However if you dont rest you have the chance of going in a downward spiral. I myself have been in a similar stage to this at the end of a block of training and I had a week where I only rode for about 30min all week and afterwards I felt amazing.
Maybe the OP should just try a few stretches before and after and probably a liniment hit as well. Worked for me.
Some days you are a big, strutting rooster, some days you are a bit chicken and some days you are just a complete cocque. Roger Ramjet: 2009 Giant CRX3 Spockette: 2009 Trek FX 7.3 (WSD, property of Mrs Monsoon) Lady Penelope: 2011 Avanti Cadent 1.0 TdF
Bananas are a good source of energy.
Fatigue can mean many things. You need to systematically look at all sources of it:
- the thing that occurs to me straight away is your minimal intake of water. IME, 350ml is not enough for a guy your size who is sweating to the extent you saturate your shirt. that sweat also contains electrolytes which need to be replaced. Your symptoms may be indicative of general dehydration and local disturbance in electrolytes. Consider that when you wake up in the morning, often you have pee'd off as much as 500-1000 mls of urine since 7-8pm the night before. If you do not replace most of this BEFORE even getting on the bike, then you are starting your ride under-hydrated. If you sweat out another 750-1000mls (which is very likely if you are saturating your shirt), then you are down 1.5 litres overall, and a cup of coffee and a 750ml water bottle won't cut it. I'd suggest you monitor your urine output after a ride. You need to keep conscious fluid intake going for an hour or two after a ride, at least until you are peeing normally, and the color is no darker than chardonnay or light straw.
- if you are not using an electrolyte drink, I'd suggest you experiment with it for 5-6 rides and see if it makes a difference, in combination with the higher fluid intake.
- If your rides are only 1 hour, I doubt your fatigue is energy/food intake related unless you are pre-diabetic. As long as you are eating even a small breakfast before riding, and a muesli bar or banana, and water before riding home.
- you want to consider more carefully what is happening in the rest of your life. are you getting good quality and adequate sleep. repair of most tissue including muscles occurs more so during deep sleep. are work or family stress and demands higher?
- how long have you been living in Australia? if <2 years, it is possible your physiology has not adapted to the warmer weather, and needs more time. Fluid intake will also be more important.
- you may think you have a good diet with plenty of the right stuff. But the majority of people think their diet is ok, when it isn't. Be 100% certain what a good diet is, and identify why you are still chubby. Many recent English migrants I know do not have a good diet for an Australian sub tropical climate. Personally, I think anyone who is overweight and exercising regularly would benefit from a consult with a dietitian or nutritionist. They are not expensive, and if it corrects a life time of misconceptions, then it is even less so. Though they are not all equally capable. If you desire, PM me and I'll give you the name of one used by many Brisbane competitive cyclists.
- low back issues can interfere with the nerves that control the legs. if you have a history, do not overlook this.
- if you have a history of muscle strains, you are more likely to have compromised blood flow to some parts of the muscles. Several firm deep massages and regular stretching will improve circulation through all of the muscle.
- finally, if you honestly think the condition is noticeably getting worse, I'd suggest you talk to your doctor about it. It might be indicative of issues with any of a number of body systems - i.e. digestive, endocrine, nervous.
what is your route, is it flat, rolling hills, a few big hills or some of everything? a lot will depend where you ride as much as how you ride it. much of the previous information is good. I consider myself to be quite fit and would do a similar distance commute on rolling hills, yet was considered obese by BMI. but I never drank on the ride for a couple of reasons. riding a fixie makes it difficult to time accessing a bottle cage (which was already used by the A-Z bottle anyway). and I found that I didn't really need anyway as I had conditioned myself to cope for that long without drinking (you race harder and longer in a criterium without drinking). however I also made sure I was well hydrated pre and post commute, often drinking 1/2 a litre before my commute. if you can get to the end of your commute and feel the need to pee you are well hydrated, if not you're not drinking enough.
Building more roads to prevent congestion is like a fat man loosening his belt to prevent obesity.
- Lewis Mumford
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