I recently received an email that I wanted to share, both the question and my reply:
As someone avid about cycling, I’d like to ask for some advise. I have been training on my trainer and have noticed that at time my legs feel like lead and hurt the next time I ride/train. I know it is just muscular and not a medical condition…clean bill of health from my doctor. When I was younger( I’m 47 now), I don’t remember having these issues. I have thought it was just lack of stretching but it actually makes the legs feel worse. I can recover but it takes up to a week to do so. I am wondering if I am breaking down the muscles and they just need recovery time. It usually happens when I push myself, like 2 days ago when for an hour my avg HR was 72% but I got my heart rate up to 99% to see if I could find my max. My goal is to get my avg HR into the 80% range consistently. I have had a 13 year layoff of physical activity due to an injury but have been activly riding for 8 months and can at times ride 3-4 time a week from 30min – 3 hrs each ride, so my legs should be over the initial soreness of starting workouts again. Also, I have had my bike professionally fit so that isn’t an issue either. These are some of the thoughts leading to my muscle breakdon theory. Any suggestions or ideas to ease this problem would be appreciated. It sucks to have aching muscles while starting a ride only to have it get worse. Ray
you’ve explained how I feel every day I’m 46
Thanks for joining the ranks of old guys bustin’ hump to stay / get in shape. Yes, bodies deteriorate over time and getting out of bed is more difficult now than when I was 20. Leg pain is partially age related. Joints lose efficiency and ligaments tighten and lose flexibility. Muscular flexibility suffers as well. Stretching sore muscles is always painful and I don’t recommend it. We need to pick and chose our battles. Yes, soreness is usually a result of muscle damage and lactic acid stimulating the wounds that we have created through high intensity workouts. Muscle is torn and ligaments are tested during tough difficult rides. Depending on the intensity of your ride, it can take up to 2 weeks for the muscle to heal and grow. When I was actively power lifting, I gave each muscle group a minimum of 1 week to recover before testing it again. Then, after 4 weeks, I would give my body 2 weeks off and do light activity (no lifting). As a cyclist my goals are very different from my power lifting days, so, I do not do muscle shredders except for once every 2 weeks or so. I fill in the rest of the week doing recovery rides or endurance rides.
Any time you hit that max heart rate, your body will suffer and you inflicted some muscle damage in the process. So, yes, a week recovery is perfectly normal after 100% efforts. Don’t stretch damaged muscle. Stretch warm muscles before the workout and before the damage is done. I stretch twice a week at the most. Don’t overstretch.
An anaerobic workout (80% max heart rate or more) will make you sore. Once you go anaerobic, the lactic acid begins accumulating in those muscles you previously caused damage to. This is normal. The following is my training routine, maybe it will help you:
Mon: post weekend recovery ride (beer flush) 60-70% efforts – Heart Health Workouts or Calorie Burners
Tue: anaerobic workout 1-2 hours avg h/r 80-85% no max efforts
Wed: cross train – stretch
Thur: cross train – stretch or endurance ride (50-60 mile) 70%-75% avg
Fri: a ball buster, intervals, muscle breakdown, 100% efforts – Or, a tougher anaerobic ride. I don’t do intervals but for once or twice a month.
Sat / Sun off or very light activity – clean the house / go for a walk.
My secret to pain management is lots of ibuprofen. Don’t forget your calories from oily foods or fish oil supplements, stuff like that. Don’t forget hot baths, hot tubs and massages. Also, ice packs and elevate the legs feels good and reduces inflammation. Kinesiotaping is an effective way to promote circulation and facilitates lactic acid flushes. There is a reason cyclists are always in the shop getting worked on, it’s a demanding sport. It never gets easier, you just go faster!