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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 10-29-08, 09:00 AM   #1
beatnik0422
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aching legs...but loving the commute. what to do?

I just started commuting last week. My round trip can be anywhere from 15 miles (the short way) and 20 miles (the long way). The traffic determines which route I take. I take the longer if it's dense, the shorter if it's sparse. My only problem is that my legs kind of feel like putty. I mean, it feels good, but at the same time, I wonder if I'm overdoing it. My real question is should I keep going and just work it out, or take a break and let my legs rest?

I apologize if there's another post out there like this one and I just didn't see it.

Thanks in advance.
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Old 10-29-08, 09:03 AM   #2
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Taking a day off is certainly allowed, especially if you're feeling a bit tired. You'll increase your fitness soon enough, and if you're like most of the people here on the forum, you'll start to hate it when you have to take the car in.
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Old 10-29-08, 09:05 AM   #3
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You need to rest some.
You will get stronger each week.
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Old 10-29-08, 09:09 AM   #4
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Been where you are. Still have the "rubber legs" days.

Lots of rest, and good nutrition are key. It's your body getting used to exercise, and it's complaining . For me I had to back off on the pace, but was able to continue with just breaks on weekends. I will say I wanted to sleep all weekend on those first few weekends though!

More than anything else, I found myself bonking due to a self-percieved idea that I had to be dropping 17-20mph pace numbers like some will state here that they run. I say good for them! I turned mine down to about 14-15mph on the average and can ride all day. My commute is 30 miles round trip.

Beyond that, it's a matter of just taking care of yourself. Your body has to acclimate itself to something that's all new to it. And from me, good for you for doing it!

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Old 10-29-08, 09:10 AM   #5
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It's during the down-times that you get stronger. But try to eat properly, hydrate properly, and rest properly. The human body is a perfect machine if it's treated right. It can be broken down and grow stronger. Treat it as such and you'll be amazed at how easy your commutes get. Good luck.
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Old 10-29-08, 09:11 AM   #6
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As the others have said if you are feeling like you need a rest day you should take it, just don't let it turn into a rest 6 months. If you keep up the daily riding your body will adjust and you'll get stronger and stronger and the 15 mile RT wont feel like anything day after day. In fact it will become the norm your body craves.
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Old 10-29-08, 09:29 AM   #7
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Thank you all for your advice. I'm probably going to ride today since it's my Friday--I work form Sat - Wed--and try to not ride for the next two days. (Although, since I've gotten my new bike, my daughter will probably want to ride.)
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Old 10-29-08, 09:40 AM   #8
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Slow down when you're not feeling up to riding fast. Even 1-2 MPH makes a big difference in the amount of hurt.
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Old 10-29-08, 09:41 AM   #9
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I have days that I start home and don't feel good and I'm thinking "not gonna make it today" but after a couple of miles the riding just takes over and I get home feeling so much better I can't believe I considered not riding and it's been that way for 6 months.
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Old 10-29-08, 09:45 AM   #10
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Mark my words.

Within 6 weeks, you won't even notice the 20 mile round trip!

It will become an easy ride. 5 miles to warm your muscles up, then 5 miles of enjoyment.

You will begin to look forward to riding home.
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Old 10-29-08, 11:14 AM   #11
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You should take days off and work up to it. After about 6 months I went full time, and have been at it for several years now, summer/winter, with few driving days (a few in the fall when my kid needs a ride to early band practice, and maybe a day every couple of months apart from that).

The only time I really feel it is if I got too little sleep the night before, or I'm heading into a vicious headwind the whole way.
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Old 10-29-08, 11:22 AM   #12
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I can't commute every day because some days I need a vehicle. Like today. But since I also like to road ride on weekends, I figure that's OK. My legs need the rest day here and there.
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Old 10-29-08, 11:23 AM   #13
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spin a lower gear, drink more water, and stretch.
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Old 10-29-08, 11:25 AM   #14
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I've been commuting 13 miles (with hills) RT daily for 2 months, and 11 miles 4 days a week for about 4 months before that. I noticed a huge difference when I swicthed to daily. Just now getting used to it. I should say I've been running to work on Tuesdays for the last 7 weeks. Not sure how that affects the riding. I also do an 18-30 mile ride on my way home once a week, usually on Wednesdays.

Slowing down does help.
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Old 10-29-08, 11:31 AM   #15
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I felt the same way when I started commuting back in July.
After a month of constant aching, I decided to lay off a little and let my legs recuperate.
worked great. Also, make sure you are stretching before and after. Some people may laugh at that, but it really helps. Just a few minutes to stretch out the leg muscles REALLY helped.
Such a good pain, ain't it. 8)
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Old 10-29-08, 11:37 AM   #16
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It's such a good ache, though, isn't it?

Not many ways to say the same thing. Slow down, or take a day off.
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Old 10-29-08, 11:39 AM   #17
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Been there, still sorta there

Your situation sounds very familiar. Just upgraded to a new bike and have begun to ride more than drive in to work. The trip is quite hilly, largely down hill on the way in, up hill on the return. For quite a while, the ride home on the 4th and 5th consecutive day gots my legs a barkin. I slowed the pace both on the way in and the way home, which helped a lot. I had noticed that I was pushing pretty good on the way in because it's down hill, and in doing so, it added to the fatigue on the way home. Take it down a notch and you'll probably be fine. If that doesn't remedy the issue then definitely trust your body. You'll do more harm than good and set yourself back if you ignore the warning signals and plow through real soreness -- right into a potential injury. If you're really sore, it's your body telling you quite clearly to take the day off. So do so, and you'll be stronger for it in the long. Have fun.
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Old 10-29-08, 11:41 AM   #18
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enjoy that rubber leg feeling! It ca nbe so relaxing - it can cue you to relax the other muscles in your body also - shoulders, back - just luxurate in the glow, and try not to work too hard. Once you're on the bike, the cycling just takes over anyway - it's off the bike that we suffer.
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Old 10-29-08, 12:53 PM   #19
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Also, and I know it's been said before, but check your seat height.
I know when I first started I had my seat too low and it was contributing to my leg fatigue.
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Old 10-29-08, 03:10 PM   #20
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Just be sure you don't strain too hard. It's better to spin the pedals quickly than to try to muscle through at a low cadence. My mantra is "high cadence, low pedal effort". That's what I use my gears for.

If you pull a muscle, it can take weeks to get back to normal.
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Old 10-29-08, 03:23 PM   #21
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It's very easy to overdo it and you won't know you're doing it until well into the problems.
Equally though, there's nothing wrong with being a bit weary.
If you're still tired the next day, don't ride. If you're getting strange pains, don't ride. We all harden up at different rates and recover at different rates, so read YOUR body, not someone else's.

If I'm getting tired, I'll plan to take a trip easy. I just ride at an easy cadence (still quick, a slow cadence is a leg killer) with minimal pressure on the pedals - we have this inbuilt need to feel pressure under the pedals but it's not a real need, just a part of our brain that doesn't understand cycling. Funnily enough, these trips return really good average speeds, often not far off rides where I push it. My thinking is there's not a lot of real difference between pushing hard and taking it easy - there's an obvious increase in speed on the flat but unless you have long stretches at that speed, it doesn't affect your average speed much (the ride time effect is marginal at best - 5 mins off a commute sounds a lot but means nothing in the real world). However, when you push hard, your body gets tired, your legs get tired and you can't sustain that effort so you slow down, slow down below your 'taking it easy' speed. When you get tired, you don't accelerate away from all those inevitable stops as quickly. Really, the smart way to ride is taking it easy - easy cadence, easy pressure on the pedals. Good thing pushing it is so much fun

Richard
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Old 10-29-08, 05:44 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RedC View Post
I have days that I start home and don't feel good and I'm thinking "not gonna make it today" but after a couple of miles the riding just takes over and I get home feeling so much better I can't believe I considered not riding and it's been that way for 6 months.
Agreed.. I have a similar but tangential addition: Today we had snow and wind (well, it's usually on the breezy side, but we're talking blow-you-over type winds if you're not cautious.) I didn't want to wuss-out today because I didn't want to start a trend, so I rode in. Wasn't too bad, really... used my nanu gloves, and although my thumbs got cold I was pretty happy... my neck was the most uncomfortable spot, really.

When it came time to ride home, it was windier still, and it felt colder too. C'est la vie, only one way home

But as I sit here, recollecting the cold today, I'm thinking that it wasn't too bad. If I didn't have a mid-term in the AM I'd be planning to ride tomorrow too (but I plan to use the 45+ minutes on the bus to study.)

No matter how much that little voice says I don't want to ride any given day, once I'm doing it and have done it I always feel better and that it was worth it. Funny how that works.

As for the OP - absolutely take a day off, or just pace yourself for two days and take it easy when you ride... The endurance comes with time... Since June I've done ~2000 miles and I'm still getting more fit...
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Old 10-29-08, 06:15 PM   #23
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As many have said, take a day off when needed, eat smart and ride in an easier gear once in awhile. A good breakfast is also a great way to jump start your day as well.

Your legs will feel better as the total miles increase!
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Old 10-29-08, 07:46 PM   #24
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Sometimes it is better to take a nice easy ride to just get the blood flow through sore legs, than to take a day off. You just need to try both and see what works best for YOU.
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Old 10-29-08, 10:13 PM   #25
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some off time is definitely understandable, especially if you're new

the legs aching means they're getting stronger... keep it up!
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