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Clydesdales/Athenas (200+ lb / 91+ kg) Looking to lose that spare tire? Ideal weight 200+? Frustrated being a large cyclist in a sport geared for the ultra-light? Learn about the bikes and parts that can take the abuse of a heavier cyclist, how to keep your body going while losing the weight, and get support from others who've been successful.

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Old 10-19-11, 10:09 PM   #1
Allen55
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cadence and me...

I hear a lot of people talking about cadence and that we need to be between 60-90 RPM's. Also, is that rpm with just one pedal or is it one with the right and one with the left equaling 1? How can I know how fast mine is? Also, at that speed, it would be like spinning right? If I am not in shape enough with my cardio, won't I blow up really quick with that high of a cadence?

It's weird that I am asking these questions...it's like never knowing how to even ride a bike at all. LOL.
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Old 10-19-11, 10:13 PM   #2
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I hear a lot of people talking about cadence and that we need to be between 60-90 RPM's. Also, is that rpm with just one pedal or is it one with the right and one with the left equaling 1? How can I know how fast mine is? Also, at that speed, it would be like spinning right? If I am not in shape enough with my cardio, won't I blow up really quick with that high of a cadence?

It's weird that I am asking these questions...it's like never knowing how to even ride a bike at all. LOL.
No, it's not weird. It's understandable since you are spending a lot of time here. You are reading too much. Just ride your bike when you want to.

I've been riding for five years in December, done two week tours, crossed a state, done a 3k mile year, and have never paid attention to cadence.
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Old 10-19-11, 11:11 PM   #3
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rpm= revolution per minute....means one complete turn of the pedals...right foot at bottom to right foot at bottom, one total turn.

Riding at a higher cadence incorporates your cardio into your pedal technique. The more you practice, the better you get and the faster your cadence will be.

I started out as a masher (pushing big gears). But I read about spinning then did some exercises to improve my spin. Like placing your bike on a trainer and doing high rpm intervals. Cruise for 3 or 4 minutes then for one minute, try to hold 100 rpm without bouncing around on the saddle. You won't be able to at first but it improves with time and practice. At first trying to spin, I couldn't talk much less breath. Kept practicing and about one month later I woke up one morning and my legs were spinning like crazy.

The bad thing is riders want results right away, it doesn't happen after 3 sessions so many say forget it. Stay with it and it pays off.

When I got on the bike, it was like a total change. I was doing 95 rpm, not breathing hard and talking like I was cruising in the park. Once you developed the leg speed, it's much easier to maintain high rpm.

When you see me riding in the videos, I'm in my small chainring doing 21 mph while all the others are in their big rings. I'm spinning!

Benefits I see from high rpm? I see it like squats, you can squat 300 lbs 10 times but 100 lbs, you can squat 30 times. Big ring low rpm is like doing heavy squats and small ring high rpm is like squatting 100 lbs. I have a much better chance lasting longer with light squats. On the bike, I don't fatigue as fast with high rpm low gears. Others may very.

To find out your cadence, I count pedal revolutions for 15 seconds then multiply by 4. 20 revolutions in 15 seconds multiplied by 4 would equal 80 in one minute.

I used to have a cadence but after you find you always do high rpm, the numbers don't matter. If I'm doing 95 vs 96, 97 or 98, who cares, I'm still up there.

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Old 10-19-11, 11:22 PM   #4
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There is a very simple formula for what your cadence should be. If your legs are limiting your performance try a higher cadence. If your lungs (ie, you can't breath) are limiting your performance then a slower cadence is warranted. Don't worry about the numbers.
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Old 10-19-11, 11:26 PM   #5
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I hear a lot of people talking about cadence and that we need to be between 60-90 RPM's. Also, is that rpm with just one pedal or is it one with the right and one with the left equaling 1? How can I know how fast mine is? Also, at that speed, it would be like spinning right? If I am not in shape enough with my cardio, won't I blow up really quick with that high of a cadence?

It's weird that I am asking these questions...it's like never knowing how to even ride a bike at all. LOL.
You can get a bike computer that will tell your cadence, speed, mileage, etc. Like Neil B I don't really pay much
attention to my "exact" cadence, I don't even have a computer Although I do try to spin.
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Old 10-19-11, 11:40 PM   #6
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If I am not in shape enough with my cardio, won't I blow up really quick with that high of a cadence?
Broadly, yes. There's an energy cost to spinning fast, so the less fit you are, the more difficulty you will have in maintaining a high cadence. However, once you are fit it has advantages because it is less tiring for the muscles, and easier on the knees, to spin instead of pushing bigger gears more slowly. Hence those with high cadences will find it easier to cycle bigger distances.

Neil_B is right. Too many people worry too much about it. Don't sweat the numbers. The best policy is probably just to pedal in a gear that is one sprocket lower (easier) than you feel you could manage at that speed. This will encourage you to pedal just a bit faster without tiring you out too much, and as you get fitter your cadence will naturally increase.
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Old 10-20-11, 05:31 AM   #7
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For me, I find that you have to "bank accounts" when riding. One account is spinning which uses more of my arobic ability and the lungs and then there is the mashing which uses muscels. For me, it is important to know both because I can spin, I get out of breath but it is easier on my knees and muscels however, when I am tired or breathing too heavy from spinning, I usually go with using my muscels. Knowing both is key (to me at least) because they both can be used in times of need. For exmaple, windy condition i like to spin more versus mash. This works for me. I dont know my cadence numbers yet but I would like to get a computer someday. Just to see and work on it.
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Old 10-20-11, 05:44 AM   #8
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Get a Cateye Astrale 8 computer. Performance & Nashbar usually have them for less than $30 bucks or so.

It's wired, which is derided by the bleeding-edge techies and those who care more about how their bike looks than how it functions. Frankly - wired means no interference from other wireless devices, only one battery instead of 2 or 3, and a cost that's less than half for the same features.

The Astrale 8 has cadence, speed, odometer, time (since last reset), distance (since last reset), avg speed (since last reset), max speed (since last reset), a digital clock, and an auto-start feature. It doesn't have: backlight, wireless, two-tire settings (to move from bike to bike), or other wiz-bang things that have been put on computers recently.

But for cadence work? It's great. Set the big display onto cadence (RPM), and the small one on clock (handy that it's not a performance measurement to distract you). Glance down every once in a while. If it's low, and you can breathe, shift to an easier gear.
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Old 10-20-11, 06:38 AM   #9
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There is a very simple formula for what your cadence should be. If your legs are limiting your performance try a higher cadence. If your lungs (ie, you can't breath) are limiting your performance then a slower cadence is warranted. Don't worry about the numbers.
Gratifying to read these comments from a RAAM rider.
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Old 10-20-11, 06:56 AM   #10
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No, it's not weird. It's understandable since you are spending a lot of time here. You are reading too much. Just ride your bike when you want to.

I've been riding for five years in December, done two week tours, crossed a state, done a 3k mile year, and have never paid attention to cadence.
This.
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Old 10-20-11, 09:21 AM   #11
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No, it's not weird. It's understandable since you are spending a lot of time here. You are reading too much. Just ride your bike when you want to.

I've been riding for five years in December, done two week tours, crossed a state, done a 3k mile year, and have never paid attention to cadence.
This is OK for some people, but I'd hesitate to make it a blanket recommendation.

I've found a higher cadence helps keep my knees from hurting. Found that out halfway across Virginia in the foothills on my Trans-Am tour. 90+ isn't really necessary for me (although I ran a yellow at 110 yesterday!), but keeping my cadence above 70 on hills means my knees don't hurt. Knees that don't hurt mean I can ride the next day, and the day after that, and so forth. That means I can go on long rides and tours. If I were content with flat rides, I might not worry about it.

If you want to increase your cadence, the Cateye Astrale is a fine choice. Go on some rides, and check occasionally what your cadence is. Then, see if you can get it 10 rpm higher. After a while (weeks or months) that will start to seem normal. You can then shoot for adding another 10 rpm, and repeat until you're satisfied.
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Old 10-20-11, 09:42 AM   #12
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For me, I find that you have to "bank accounts" when riding. One account is spinning which uses more of my arobic ability and the lungs and then there is the mashing which uses muscels. For me, it is important to know both because I can spin, I get out of breath but it is easier on my knees and muscels however, when I am tired or breathing too heavy from spinning, I usually go with using my muscels. Knowing both is key (to me at least) because they both can be used in times of need. For exmaple, windy condition i like to spin more versus mash. This works for me. I dont know my cadence numbers yet but I would like to get a computer someday. Just to see and work on it.
I think this is a great approach. I think the balance also depends on what you're trying to accomplish. As was pointed out on another thread, focusing solely on keeping a high cadence (which is what I did for years), is great - until you're carrying more weight, which can be any combination of rider, bike and cargo.

Spinning fast will really help build up the cardiovascular system, but "saving your legs" also has the effect of not really building up your leg muscles. And, particularly for heavier riders, or if you're schlepping a lot of weight in bike and cargo, building the legs is really important, especially for climbing. I think it really pays to do some slower cadence stuff, where you're working just below the "burn" feeling, to build up your leg muscles.
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Old 10-20-11, 09:47 AM   #13
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Get a Cateye Astrale 8 computer. Performance & Nashbar usually have them for less than $30 bucks or so.

It's wired, which is derided by the bleeding-edge techies and those who care more about how their bike looks than how it functions. Frankly - wired means no interference from other wireless devices, only one battery instead of 2 or 3, and a cost that's less than half for the same features.

The Astrale 8 has cadence, speed, odometer, time (since last reset), distance (since last reset), avg speed (since last reset), max speed (since last reset), a digital clock, and an auto-start feature. It doesn't have: backlight, wireless, two-tire settings (to move from bike to bike), or other wiz-bang things that have been put on computers recently.

But for cadence work? It's great. Set the big display onto cadence (RPM), and the small one on clock (handy that it's not a performance measurement to distract you). Glance down every once in a while. If it's low, and you can breathe, shift to an easier gear.
I just happened to stumble into this thread. A few minutes ago, I was about to make a thread asking for a similar minimal-frills cyclocomputer with cadence. Thanks, and have you considered a career as a psychic?
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Old 10-20-11, 09:53 AM   #14
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...
Neil_B is right. Too many people worry too much about it. Don't sweat the numbers. The best policy is probably just to pedal in a gear that is one sprocket lower (easier) than you feel you could manage at that speed. This will encourage you to pedal just a bit faster without tiring you out too much, and as you get fitter your cadence will naturally increase.
I think this is an appropriate level of attention to cadence but I don't think that it should be disregarded entirely. Certainly don't obsess about it but if you can get your cadence up it will put you in a better position when climbing and encountering heavy wind. It is basically your ability to downshift and rev up ... think of why you would need to do it when climbing a hill in a car.

Last weekend I went on a 20 mile ride with my sister-in-law and her husband. They have been riding for a much longer time than myself (grew up riding + last 4 years vs. me riding just 15 months starting 7/2010). They are both severe mashers and have stronger cores and on the flats her husband was faster than I was. However, it was a windy day and when we hit some 30 mph gusts they were in trouble and slowed down to a crawl. I simply went to a lower gear and revved it up. I ended up actually quicker than my sister-in-law on this windy day and she does tri's. Her husband actually took a different way on the back to be sheltered more by the wind. I looked at the wind as a fun challenge.

As far as measuring cadence I do it pretty informally. I map out my gears using this. When I am out riding I'll take note of a speed at a certain gear combo (usually a spot where I am keeping constant speed and feeling comfortable). When I get home I check my mapping for my approxamate cadence. It's good enough for me. I've gone from about 55 in the beginning (7/2010) to about 85 now.

Last edited by knobd; 10-20-11 at 09:56 AM.
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Old 10-20-11, 09:55 AM   #15
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Spinning fast will really help build up the cardiovascular system, but "saving your legs" also has the effect of not really building up your leg muscles. And, particularly for heavier riders, or if you're schlepping a lot of weight in bike and cargo, building the legs is really important, especially for climbing.
I hardly think it works that way. Out of ALL the riders I know, I ride the lowest gear highest cadence on the flats. Because all the other riders are pushing their big 53 rings and I'm spinning in my 39, they should be better climbers? \


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However, it was a windy day and when we hit some 30 mph gusts they were in trouble and slowed down to a crawl. I simply went to a lower gear and revved it up. I ended up actually quicker than my sister-in-law on this windy day
This! Another big advantage of high rpm's. Other riders love to be behind me in stiff headwinds. I can keep a pretty good pace in the wind. When it gets tough, I shift down a gear and gain 1 mph.

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Old 10-20-11, 10:01 AM   #16
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I always thought it was total..so I've only been doing 45 per leg !
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Old 10-20-11, 10:06 AM   #17
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I like this...

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Originally Posted by Homeyba View Post
There is a very simple formula for what your cadence should be. If your legs are limiting your performance try a higher cadence. If your lungs (ie, you can't breath) are limiting your performance then a slower cadence is warranted. Don't worry about the numbers.
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Old 10-20-11, 10:09 AM   #18
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I hardly think it works that way. Out of ALL the riders I know, I ride the lowest gear highest cadence on the flats. Because all the other riders are pushing their big 53 rings and I'm spinning in my 39, they should be better climbers?
It really depends on what sort of torque they're delivering to the pedals when they're pushing their big 53 rings. If all they're doing is overcoming rolling resistance, then you're definitely getting more out of the ride - they're neither building muscle strength nor cardiovascular endurance. On the other hand, if they make it a point to pull those bigger gears against a load (like in shorter climbs), and ALSO work on their cardio, they'll have an advantage over you.

You can spin fast, and sustain that, but if all you do is concentrate on being able to spin fast, you may not have the ability to deliver a lot of torque - particularly not for sustained periods of time. The amount of torque you can deliver is dependent on your leg muscles. For certain types of climbing, or for pushing heavily loaded bikes along, torque is king. Isn't that why we drop into a higher gear and stand for shorter climbs? Now, imagine being able to get that power without standing...
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Old 10-20-11, 10:15 AM   #19
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You can spin fast, and sustain that, but if all you do is concentrate on being able to spin fast, you may not have the ability to deliver a lot of torque - particularly not for sustained periods of time. . Isn't that why we drop into a higher gear and stand for shorter climbs? Now, imagine being able to get that power without standing...
Wow! I did a few centuries with 10,000 ft of sustained climbing and never stood up, it's not my style. I guess that's why I sucked on the ride.


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Isn't that why we drop into a higher gear and stand for shorter climbs? Now, imagine being able to get that power without standing...
If you think about it, riders stand because they can't hold the torque while sitting. If you watch a race, lead pack of riders climbing a mountain are seated. With the exception of standing to stretch and use alternate muscles on the bike. When do they start standing to get torque? When they are in trouble and in danger of getting dropped. Most will stand for a bit and hope to keep up but they usualy end of falling off the back. The riders that can hold the torque while seated will come out ahead.

Watch Jan Ullrich he'd drop Pantani while seated, he rarely stood up to crank. Of course Lance beat Jan but when Lance stood, it was usually a controlled standing style, dancing on the pedals and not one looking for torque.

Yes, some riders do stand to power over a short climb but try that on a long sustained climb, you won't be there very long.

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Old 10-20-11, 10:41 AM   #20
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One revolution = one pedal moving 360 degrees. Or both pedals - it's the same answer.

90 rpm is a guideline. Most people are at their maximum efficiency around here, but your mileage will vary, especially with your cardio fitness. In caveman days, people had to run after mastodons (aka dinner) and away from lions; they had to make love to produce more cavemen, break rocks to make tools, and the like. Lots of demands on lots of different muscle groups, but all of them were fed by the heart and lungs. What that means is that peoples' cardio vascular systems are made to recover more quickly from exertion than legs or arms.

If you want to know your cadence at any point in time, the easy way is to have a cadence sensor, and the other way is to have a clock with a second hand, or a metronome. Count your pedal strokes for 15 seconds and multiply by 4. Or 10 and 6.

If you want to improve your cardio fitness and your cadence, you can get the bike moving on flat ground, built up a little bit of inertia, and then shift into your granny gear and pedal as fast as you can. Try to do this for 30 seconds. Then relax for a while, recover, and do it again. I've been doing this, or something like it, and found that it makes me a better cyclist in several ways. I can get moving from a dead stop more quickly, and that makes me feel a bit safer in traffic. Not to mention saving my knees...!

Finally, ~90 rpm isn't something most cyclists would think of as a sprint. But you can sprint at any cadence - you need to know what gear a person is in, along with their cadence, to figure out their speed. It's like the way you aperture, shutter speed, and sensitivity all work together in a camera.

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I hear a lot of people talking about cadence and that we need to be between 60-90 RPM's. Also, is that rpm with just one pedal or is it one with the right and one with the left equaling 1? How can I know how fast mine is? Also, at that speed, it would be like spinning right? If I am not in shape enough with my cardio, won't I blow up really quick with that high of a cadence?

It's weird that I am asking these questions...it's like never knowing how to even ride a bike at all. LOL.
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Old 10-20-11, 10:56 AM   #21
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If you don't have a computer with cadence try this...Hum the BeeGee's "Staying Alive." The actual song is at 103beats per minute. If you hum it to yourself a little slower, you're down to 90-95 or so. Try getting one foot at the bottom of your stroke on the beat and you'll be on tempo.
Another positive is if you ever need to do CPR on someone, that song is the recommended guideline speed for compression strokes to the chest.
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Old 10-20-11, 11:03 AM   #22
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If you don't have a computer with cadence try this...Hum the BeeGee's "Staying Alive." The actual song is at 103beats per minute. If you hum it to yourself a little slower, you're down to 90-95 or so. Try getting one foot at the bottom of your stroke on the beat and you'll be on tempo.
Another positive is if you ever need to do CPR on someone, that song is the recommended guideline speed for compression strokes to the chest.
Hahahaha! I have this CD and DVD.....good concert by the BeeGees. "One Night Only"

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Old 10-20-11, 11:10 AM   #23
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Wow! I did a few centuries with 10,000 ft of sustained climbing and never stood up, it's not my style. I guess that's why I sucked on the ride.




If you think about it, riders stand because they can't hold the torque while sitting. If you watch a race, lead pack of riders climbing a mountain are seated. With the exception of standing to stretch and use alternate muscles on the bike. When do they start standing to get torque? When they are in trouble and in danger of getting dropped. Most will stand for a bit and hope to keep up but they usualy end of falling off the back. The riders that can hold the torque while seated will come out ahead.

Watch Jan Ullrich he'd drop Pantani while seated, he rarely stood up to crank. Of course Lance beat Jan but when Lance stood, it was usually a controlled standing style, dancing on the pedals and not one looking for torque.

Yes, some riders do stand to power over a short climb but try that on a long sustained climb, you won't be there very long.
That's true - that's why I specifically mentioned a short climb, for standing. I was also told that standing was a good thing to do near the crest of a climb, if you wanted to get a burst to drop someone. I did find that standing for the last few tens of meters could really make a difference if I was burning out.

And, of course, standing isn't something you can sustain for very long - but I wasn't really talking about standing, other than as an extreme example of when you choose torque over RPM. I'm really just saying that it's a good idea to work on both strength, which you get from pulling bigger gears against a load, and cardio-fitness, which you get from spinning fast. I think my old scheme, back when I considered myself a roadie, was to focus almost entirely on cardio. And that strategy did bite me, particularly after I gained a lot of weight. Now, I'm trying to build up both legs and lungs.
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Old 10-20-11, 11:20 AM   #24
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Oh, sorry, I guess I misunderstood this statement.

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You can spin fast, and sustain that, but if all you do is concentrate on being able to spin fast, you may not have the ability to deliver a lot of torque - particularly not for sustained periods of time. ...
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Old 10-20-11, 11:54 AM   #25
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Oh, sorry, I guess I misunderstood this statement.
Yeah, all I'm saying is that it's a good idea to sometimes make your legs work a little harder to build them up for when you need them.
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