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Old 06-01-05, 09:39 AM   #1
croshaven
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Training at low cadence and knee pain

I have recently incorporated some low cadence pedaling, 50-70 rpm, into my training. Normally I experience little to no knee pain but with the switch to lower cadence my knees have been hurting some during the ride and then for a few hours afterward. The next day I'm fine. The pain seems to be toward the front of my knee.

I have been taking daily glucosamine chondroitin supplements regularly as I'm 54 and figure I need all the help I can get.

I don't think my position, e.g. saddle height, is a factor as I've put in about 1,600 miles since January 1 of this year and did about 4,000 miles last year without any knee problems.

I would like to continue this low cadence training but I don't want to damage my knees. Any reasonable guidelines out there?
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Old 06-01-05, 08:41 PM   #2
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Is this lower cadence and bigger gears while cycling uphill (which can produce knee pain), lower cadence in the same gear on flat ground, or some other set of circumstances?

What benefits do you see (or expect to see) from lower cadence training?

Chris
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Old 06-01-05, 08:43 PM   #3
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In your case does lower cadence mean bigger gears?
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Old 06-01-05, 09:03 PM   #4
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Lower cadence and bigger gears will make you stronger, but can also cause knee problems... I suggest you give yourself more saddle time spinning lower gears. Don't be in a hurry to get strong; take your time. BTW- I also take glucosamine, and it seems to help. I like doing hills, and my bike really isn't geared for it (42-30 is my lowest gear), so my knees aren't always happy either.... They're much happier when spinning.
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Old 06-01-05, 09:50 PM   #5
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Why would anyone actually train in low cadences. That is unless you really don't like your knees.
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Old 06-01-05, 09:56 PM   #6
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Makes you stronger and sometimes is just fun One day I went around almost the entire time in my 53-12, even up hills!
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Old 06-01-05, 11:05 PM   #7
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In "The Ultimate Ride" Carmichael recommends doing Tempo training in a 70-75 cadence range. That's what I've been doing. I know that's a higher cadence than I originally posted. I should have been more careful to post the correct cadence. Carmichael recommends something similar on hills.

I find it hard to even get my heart rate up to the Tempo HRZ at this cadence as my muscles just aren't strong enough. So I am doing it to increase my leg strength and I'm doing it on hills and on the flats. I think it's a good training technique.

If you're putting in lots of miles on varied terrain you can't help but suffer from knee pain at times, especially if you do steep climbs. People who train on fixed gear or single speed bikes must be forced to mash on lots of hills. I suspect their knees must complain.

I spin at a high (> 90 cadence) most of the time. Spinning taxes the aerobic system more than mashing. It's also easier on your chain, feet, etc. But lately I've been noticing that I run out of muscle before I run out of breath. Lower cadence workouts will help me build more muscle.

I've done months of training at high cadence so I don't think it's premature to be doing this type of training.

What I want to know is how much or what kind of knee pain is too much. At what point should I give it a rest?
_______________
-Craig

Last edited by croshaven; 06-01-05 at 11:22 PM.
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Old 06-02-05, 03:53 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by croshaven
What I want to know is how much or what kind of knee pain is too much. At what point should I give it a rest?
_______________
-Craig
Craig, your body has a built in mechanism or alarm that will tell you when enough is enough and it is different in everyone. This alarm is called pain. You feel pain because something is wrong not because you ride too much or mash too big a gear being those are only a contributor to your pain. You need to find out why you have pain or what is wrong. I have had knee problems and surgery. I kept running on the thing thinking it would get better and it didn't. What an idiot. Now the problem is fixed and I can participate in the activities such as cycling etc.. You are not going to get the answer to what the root cause is on this forum. See a doctor (preferably a specialist) and take care of the root problem first. You will be much happier and may avoid a much bigger problem you cannnot overcome. Good Luck.


Now my quick answer: Give it a rest when it hurts.

Phil
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Old 06-02-05, 09:43 AM   #9
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When I first integrated muscle tension intervals into my training, I got some residual interior knee pain too. I reduced the intensity and duration and gave my knees the opportunity to get stronger. For me that lack of strength was definitely an issue going in. After my knees got stronger, the MT and big gear work has gotten a lot easier. Occassionally I end up having one knee, which had some cartillidge damage and repair a few years back, that I will need to ice after climb repeats. Otherwise, I found that I was able to benefit a great deal from adding these to my workout. It just took some time for the physiological changes to result.

Having said all of that...you, and what might work for you, could well be completely different. Listen to the feedback your body is giving you and act accordingly. When in doubt, ease up.
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Old 06-02-05, 07:26 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by operator
Why would anyone actually train in low cadences. That is unless you really don't like your knees.
I 55 YY and have the knees of a 30 yr old according to my Orthopeadic/Sports Medicine Doc. Why? Cause when I started riding/racing 35 years ago, the club coach was a fanatic about form and high cadence. To my delight I have always ridden at and average cadence of 95. If you want to build leg strength I suggest that you do it in the gym under supervision of a competent trainer. Turning big gears at 54 YY at a low cadence is counterproductive and knee destructive. Cycling is a areobic sport and the pros do their leg strengthining stuff in the gym under supervision. There is an interesting article in the current issue of Bicycling concerning Lactic Threshold Training and it starts with the attributes of high cadence low gear riding and the fact that Lance rides an average cadence of 110. Now I will say that the cadence level is a personal issue and varies in efficency form rider to rider. But I still contend that mashers will have more knee problems than spinners. Correct orientation of the seat to pedal height as well as fore and aft is crucial.

Go back to spinning those low gears and do Nautilus and weight training for leg strength.
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Old 06-04-05, 09:12 AM   #11
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I have noticed that if you keep spining it will go away
if it doesnt chances are that it has not fully recovered from previous day.
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Old 06-04-05, 05:08 PM   #12
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Cycling at low cadence just makes you good at being slow. I don't know how many times I've told this to some cyclist that's grinding away in high gears. C'mon, if you want to get stronger, get to a gym and lift weights! THAT will make you strong. Low cadence/high gears just makes you slower, gives you knee pain, and does NOT build strength, sorry to say.

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Old 06-04-05, 05:08 PM   #13
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P.S. If you want to be better at hills, you should be going 60- 80 rpms with the cadence. 50 is just way too low!

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Old 06-04-05, 06:27 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by koffee brown
Cycling at low cadence just makes you good at being slow. I don't know how many times I've told this to some cyclist that's grinding away in high gears. C'mon, if you want to get stronger, get to a gym and lift weights! THAT will make you strong. Low cadence/high gears just makes you slower, gives you knee pain, and does NOT build strength, sorry to say.

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Its still fun though
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Old 06-04-05, 08:48 PM   #15
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Its still fun though

I never thought that blowing out your knees was fun... but to each his own...

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Old 06-07-05, 07:40 AM   #16
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Thank you all for your concerns and thoughts. I appreciate this forum and the range of advice one can receive on it.
-Craig
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