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OH F$%k, Cramps

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
A little bit of background before I get to my issue, sorry about the length, but I haven't had this happen before, or been this scarred.

I've slacked of the past 2 or three weeks and skipped riding.

Saturday, I went out and let a friend set the pace. For some one who was supposedly riding a lot more then me this summer, she rode slow! I was passing her up and down the hills. This was also the 1st time this summer I had ridden significant hills. 16 miles in 2 hours, no fatigue at all during any portion. 80F at the start of the ride.

Sunday, Rainy and no riding.

Monday, I got home from work, had some gear issues and didn't get out riding until 5:30. The first 5 miles or so were a little stiff, the result of sitting in a car for and hour and a half. 25 miles in 1.5 hours, felt damn good after. 78F at the start.

Tuesday, Dark, gloomy and wet. No riding.

Today, got home at 4:50. Pissed off about work, I changed clothes quick and left. So pissed and in the mood to ride I didn't stretch. Checked my phone when I hit the bike path, 5:11. It was 65F with a cool breeze. Again, the first few miles were a little stiff, I figured from he car ride. I could feel my calf muscles more then normal. I thought about turning around, but have historically used any excuse possible to give up, and I'm sick of being like that. I pushed on. Felt pretty darn good for the second 1/4 of my ride, and I was setting a good pace. I hit my turn around point (12 miles) at 5:53, a little more then 50 minutes.

On the return trip, I was really cranking, as I usually try to. Hit the first road crossing, down shifted, stopped, and put a foot on the ground. Traffic was clear, so I took off. As soon as I put weight on my left pedal, debilitating cramp. I had to coast across the 2nd half of the road, with oncoming traffic. I thought I was going to die, if not from a car, from the cramp in my calf. As soon as I hit the opposite side, I collapsed into the grass. After a few minutes of severe pain and massaging my leg, I was able to stand. Some more stretching and rubbing, and I was able to get back on the bike.

I did contemplate calling for a ride at this point, but again, I felt like I was wussing out. I felt OK once pedaling so I figured I would limp back home. Felt even better, so I picked the pace back up. Crossed a few roads without incident.

Got to the next crossing, my left leg was a bit stiff, so I figured I would pump with my right to start out. Light goes green, leg cramps right up. Again, turning traffic, me not able to pedal. Bad situation. Didn't take me as long to recover this time, but still very painful. I really should have realized how bad I was and called for a ride, but stubborn pride made me get back on the bike and finish the ride home, thankfully without further incident. I still made good time, 25 miles in 1.58 hours, counting the stops.

I have never really suffered cramps, despite using them as an excuse. What the heck could have caused this, just the missed stretching? The temp? Dehydration or diet? I had a bowl of cereal and some OJ for breakfast, with a banana in the car. At work I drank 34oz of home brewed green tea throughout the day, plus water from the fountain here and there. For lunch, ham and cheese on wheat, cliff bar, banana. Another Banana and a cliff bar on the drive home, plus 34oz of water. Potassium overload?

Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated, as I'm probably going out again after work tomorrow. I DO NOT want this to happen again. I have never been that scared in my life.

Thanks guys.
post #2 of 18
I once ignored cramps in my calf (actually both of them) while swimming. They took about two months to heal. If I start to feel a cramp swimming now I stop and do the elementary back stroke or something just enough to keep me floating until the feeling goes away. I wish I knew what caused them or how to avoid them. Before that I never had cramps, except for the odd foot cramp that quickly went away, and I never worried about stretching or hydration. Now I make sure I'm hydrated, warmed up and stretched. What a drag it is getting old!
post #3 of 18
Thread Starter 
Ghost,

Now that you mention it, I have had the odd foot cramp. Started after I bought my latest pare of boots (still working out the fit on those).

I have also had muscle spasms at night or while resting, both in my arm and that travel up my hamstring into my glutes. These were never after any specific activity, and I only noticed them after starting a new medication. I have since stopped taking that, and haven't had these in a while.

Plus I'm only 21, so it shouldn't be "getting old".



I should probably also mention that up until this summer, I worked a job that kept me walking around a large manufacturing facility, up and down ladders and around outside. Now I work at a bench in an R&D lab.

I have a funny feeling that I'm not going to want to do much walking or standing tomorrow...
post #4 of 18
Electrolytes probably - or lack there of. I would have thought that the cliff bar would have helped but these things happen. I had this happen after a big climb on mile 29 out of 65 on a ride I did this past spring. There are a few remedies that a cliff bar and a banana just don't compare to when you are lacking electrolytes (mainly salt) in your muscles.

Try the following:
Gatorade with 1/8 teaspoon of salt
Electrolyte pills/tablets
Powergels (gross but useful)
Chocolate milk (or chocolate protein shake seems to work too)
You can also buy drink mixes that are way more powerful than your average Gatorade that are specifically designed to replenish your electrolytes that you sweat off during riding

Later

GREG
post #5 of 18
Thread Starter 
I didn't even consider electrolytes. I used to bring Gatorade along, but I hate the sticky aftertaste.

Typically, I usually snack on pretzel bytes or triscites (sp) during the day, they take some time to eat, and take care of the hunger. I ran out yesterday at lunch. I wonder if this has been supplying enough salt.

I think this, combined with the skipped stretching, may be the root of the issue, thanks Heluva.
post #6 of 18
Easy way to get electrolytes in your system: a pinch or two of sea salt in your water. You'll barely taste it, but it works.

Otherwise, if you don't like the Gatorade effect, try another sports drink. I prefer Hammer HEED, as it's not as cloyingly sweet yet has all of the electrolyte content of Gatorade. For longer efforts (e.g. centuries), I use Hammer's Perpeteum as a form of fuel.

If you prefer straight water, Hammer has a capsule, called Endurolytes, that work wonders: just pop a few each hour.

(And no, I'm not sponsored by Hammer - they just make good stuff.)

And then there are the gel/gu things, where my fave is the Honey Stinger: it's basically honey, usually with some ginseng mixed in. It tastes good.

Pretzels are good, as are peanut butter + Ritz crackers, if you want something more solid in your system. Also good are salted tomato sandwiches, or baked potatoes with salt.

And post-ride, be sure to refuel. There are good post-ride concoctions (I like the PowerBar Recovery stuff, or chocolate milk if it's available), and it's vital to refuel within 2 hours of high-effort endurance efforts. I've also had good luck with SportLegs capsules after hard efforts.

Good luck!
post #7 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by songfta View Post
And post-ride, be sure to refuel. There are good post-ride concoctions (I like the PowerBar Recovery stuff, or chocolate milk if it's available), and it's vital to refuel within 2 hours of high-effort endurance efforts. I've also had good luck with SportLegs capsules after hard efforts.

Good luck!
After I got home Last night, I posted this thread, showered, and made a big stirfry with plenty of veggies.

Woke Up feeling great this morning, almost no lasting stiffness. I think this may have been a one time thing.
post #8 of 18
I think your muscle was reacting to the increased activity. You are a new rider, it takes time for your body to get used to it. Maybe you could have avoided the cramps by riding shorter distances and slower, but I like your approach, go for it. Keep riding hard, don't let a couple cramps scare you. I'm sure it's nothing serious.

Cramps in my left calf wake me up every morning, I have to press my foot against the wall to flex my ankle and get the muscle unclenched. I go back to sleep, but it usually happens twice. I have odd tiny twitches in that calf too. I'm considering trying the sportlegs supplement for that.
post #9 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by krp8128 View Post
After I got home Last night, I posted this thread, showered, and made a big stirfry with plenty of veggies.

Woke Up feeling great this morning, almost no lasting stiffness. I think this may have been a one time thing.
I doubt you will have any long term affects from a one-time cramp. When I cramped on my metric centry in the spring I actually finished the ride managing to still average just shy of 19mph. I could still ride and a pretty good pace on the flats, but anything that required hard acceleration or climbing was painful, so I ended up being dropped by the main peleton, and linked up with some riders just behind them that were willing to pull me home. As long as you take some preventitive steps I think you will be okay on short rides. Long rides might still be a problem, but jsut remember to be proactive in keeping you electrolytes at high levels because once you drop too far and start cramping it can ruin the rest of your ride (as you know now).

I actually have the advantage of riding a lot with a medical doctor who is a very strong cyclist, which is where I learned a lot of this from. On long rides he will actually take an electrolyte pill ever 30 miles or so just to make sure that he doesn't cramp up.

Later

GREG
post #10 of 18
" Calcium deficiency can result in arm and leg muscle spasms "
post #11 of 18
Warm up first, spinning lightly on a trainer for a few minutes to get the muscles up to temperature. Then stretch, major muscle groups, calfs, hams, quads, etc. Then start your exercise, build up slowly, work up to a peak, and then build back down slowly again. Spin again lightly for a few minutes to cool down. Good idea to stretch again afterward. Avoid pushing hills for a while, quick stops and starts, interval training (these are more advanced, wait until you are in a little better condition). When you contract a fatiqued muscle forceably and quickly, it is likely to spasm. Don't start a ride hungry, or over eat. I like those peanut sweet and salty granola bars. A muscle can cramp from either lack of hydration, electrolyes, or glycogen. I mix my own gatorade, weak concentation. For myself this is all I require for most rides up to about 3 hours. I also carry gel packs and I can feel when I need them. If you wait until a muscle starts to cramp to take carbo's, its too late. Use your last ride as your gauge, start writing workouts down, and gauge when you should be ingesting water, carbo's etc. Try a 24 hour race some time.
post #12 of 18
I feel your pain dude. I have history of cramping up a lot (I must lost alotta eletrolytes when I sweat or something)...has happened to when during hot soccer games, in the middle of a mountain bike race a few years ago, in the middle of The Death Ride this year, etc.

I have an 8 hour mountain bike race coming up in a few weeks that I'm just praying I don't have to worry about muscle cramping.

One thing that helped me was I started taking an electrolyte capsule prior to and during extended hard efforts (i.e. Hammer Succeed caps). They work really well. There's also a version that comes in a clear tasteless liquid and you just add a few drops to your water bottles and they're good to go (these are actually my fave but can't remember the name right now).

And of course as others have mentioned...diligently stretch, hydrate, and natural sources of potassium like bananas and kiwi will quickly become your best friends.

This thread of mine from earlier this summer might have some beta for you as well:
http://www.tetongravity.com/forums/s...ad.php?t=85203
post #13 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by telerod15 View Post
I think your muscle was reacting to the increased activity. You are a new rider, it takes time for your body to get used to it. Maybe you could have avoided the cramps by riding shorter distances and slower, but I like your approach, go for it. Keep riding hard, don't let a couple cramps scare you. I'm sure it's nothing serious.

I've always had the mental block problem when it came to things like this. There was always an excuse, the weather, my knee, too tired etc. I think that my ride on Saturday, where I kept passing my friend, got me around that block. I had done this ride a few times in the past, but never after work, and never trying to beat a time. I didn't even realize how fast I was going on Monday until I got back and looked at a clock. Last night I just assumed that I could keep the previous pace.

25 miles doesn't seem like a long distance at all to me. My pace may have been a little fast, but compared to you guys, it is nothing.

What is actually considered as a fast pace?
post #14 of 18
On flats I consider anything over 22mph average speed to be a fast pace. I have ridden with guys that can pull at 24 to 27 pretty easily, at which point I just tuck in behind them and go along for the ride. I can pull at 23 to 24 max at this point in my cycling career, but prefer to keep the pace around 21mph if I am in a group on a flat ride. When I ride solo I am usually between 18.5 and 19 mph (all on flats). When throwing in a few thousand feet of climbing when I'm with a few other guys I end up rolling the pace back to 17 to 18 mph (not by choice).

My favorite flat ride after work is a 25 mile loop with one very short (maybe 100' vert) climb in it and I usually average around 18.5 mph but have been as high as 19 mph.

Later

GREG
post #15 of 18
I seem to get cramps when performing near or over my LT (lactate threshold) level. Good nutrition/hydration is essential, but fitness is also essential.

On the road, it is easier to stay below LT. Last year I did my first century (100 miles) solo and averaged almost 18.7 mph and never got any cramps (it was a fairly flat course). Towards the end however, I could feel that any hard efforts would lead to cramps.

When mountain biking (racing), cramps can be a much bigger problem for me. I race a singlespeed bike, so I am often pushing hard and going well above my LT. If I don't get to recover, the repeated efforts will lead to cramps even after just 1 hour of racing. I find that only fitness can fix this problem (i.e. lots of interval training and hill repeats). Of course, there are genetic limitations, no matter how hard you train.

So my advice is to look at nutrition and fitness.
post #16 of 18
Thread Starter 
TomB,

What aspects of fitness should I be focusing on? I know that I've been loosing muscle tone from inactivity, plus I'm a little rounder around the middle then I'd like. Hence the recent biking.

I've been this way since I was about 16, my yearly physicals have never raised any concerns for my doctor, even with a bad family history for cholesterol and diabetes. I'm a little hard on myself, according to others, I'm not in too bad a shape.
post #17 of 18
By fitness I mean, training specifically to increase you LT and power. Ideally this type of training is best done in a controlled environment where you can attempt to ride at the same power (or LT or rpm) for specific periods. This is called interval training and for road riding you need to push such periods of intense riding to 20 minutes. Although 20 minutes is not long, with enough intensity you could kill yourself. For mtb riding my intervals are as low as 2-3 minutes. Recovery usually matches the high intensity duration.

However, before getting there, you need to build a base. This means long rides of 2-3-4 hours at relatively low intensity. Most riders use the Spring season to build an endurance base and as racing season approaches, they start looking at interval training, hill training, race pace training, etc.

You don't have to get too technical about all this unless you plan to race. Depending on your goals, you can simply be patient and increase your endurance gradually and I bet you will eventually do the same rides, faster and with no cramps.
post #18 of 18
I know that this is a bit of a repeat, but cramps happen. Causes can vary from mild dehydration, low electrolytes, fatigue, or over-exertion. I have had problems with cramping in the past, but usually only after hard riding over four or five hours. This became worse as I got older (I’m almost 50 now):, but crampng is less of an issue now that I attend to it.

My rule is on a ride under an hour or so, I tend not to worry about sports drinks, bananas, pickles (yes – pickles are a great source of needed electrolytes) etc. On longer rides, especially over 100k (60 miles) I tend to be obsessive. Typically, I have my Polar watch on my handle bar and try to drink at least a quarter of a bottle of sports drink every 15 minutes (more if hot, also adjust for exertion). I also eat a powerbar or a powergel once every hour on long rides. I got this advice from the reading about hydration.

This summer, I used this method on a one day ride from Jasper to Lake Louise (240k or about 150 miles with 2900 meters elevation gain) and didn’t have one cramp in the 8 hours of riding. It’s a little harder for me to follow this method when on a long mtb ride because I don’t like putting sports drink in my Camelbak, but I use a water bottle and some ziplock bags with powdered mix and get the water from the Camelbak.

Another thing to remember is that it can take more than one day to replace fluids and electrolytes. It’s important to focus on drinking more after long rides or series of rides. Recovery drinks really help with this (so does a good beer). Cramps can occur as a result of depletion over a couple of days. I ride road or mtb about 15 hours per week on average during riding season or up to 20 hours per week when preparing for something, so attending to hydration on a regular basis is always somewhere in the back of my mind.

You should also consider that building up for road or mountain bike riding is really a several year endeavor. Buy a book on training to get some ideas for a long-term training approach (David Burke’s Serious Cycling has great information which can be uses for mere mortals like us) or get the recommendation of a personal trainer. It really can't be covered on a chat page like this. Its well worth it, and riding a lot is a great way of staying in shape for skiing.
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