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  1. #1
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    Sore legs after rest stop

    On Wednesday, I went for a 24 mile (+/-) ride, my longest one-day ride yet. (I'm getting there, slowly but surely.) The first half was almost trouble free. In fact, I actually made a couple of personal firsts, training-wise.

    At roughly the half-way point, I took a rest stop, where I sat on a bench, drank some water, ate some sodium-laced potato chips (I seem to have a problem with low sodium levels, even while not cycling), and went to the rest room.

    After I started to continue, every time I came to an uphill climb, I had to stop and take a rest every 500-1000 feet (est.) because my legs were sore. Even short, not too steep climbs were sore on my legs. I was always going uphill in lowest gear for my bike (I forget exactly how much it is, but it's definitely less than 26 gear inches). Whenever I upped my gears on the flats, it was also sore, at least at first (more coasting after that). I was very thankful for the downhill stretches, of course, of which there were a few, including at least one fairly long one.

    After I reached my destination, I rested some more, drank some more water (1 liter), and ate some more potato chips and some trail mix I bought at a natural food store there. The trail mix was low sodium, high potassium; which kind of balanced the high sodium chips.

    When I got up to catch the bus back home, I walked my bike uphill, and my legs were still sore, if not moreso. After I took the bus back to my home town (about 1hr, 10-15min), I got up to get off the bus, and my legs were still sore.

    I ate a chicken fajita burrito (chicken, beans, rice, some veggies, some cheeses), and after I started to leave the restaurant, I realized that my legs were no longer as sore. I figured it must be something in the burrito that I ate that helped me.

    My questions: Was it something in the burrito that made my legs less sore? What made them sore in the first place? What should I have eaten at my rest stop to help prevent my sore legs in the first place?

    I should mention, that I'm not a racer, just a tourist wannabe. My average speed was 9.1 mph; my normal average is closer to 10 mph.

    Thanks in advance for any help, and feel free to add anything extra that's pertinent to this or similar situations.

    Timothy Clough

  2. #2
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    I find that stopping for more than a few minutes makes my legs stiffen up.

    I really learned this lesson after riding in a 27 mph paceline that broke off from the front of a group ride. I hung on for about 9 miles. I arrived at the rest stop and proceeded to wait about 20 minutes for the rest of the group to come in before we headed back out.

    When we did, I got dropped off the back while going 20 mph while most of those who arrived late had muscles that were still warm, and were able to hang on. I think it was a combination of going too hard for the first half of the ride and the 20 minute wait for the stragglers which stiffened and cooled my muscles too much.

    I don't know exactly why the burrito worked so well for you. I suspect that it was because it was higher quality food for your body than potato chips. Extended rest and good food helps my legs feel better after a ride.

  3. #3
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    I'm having similar trouble though more severe. I'm 43 don't drink or smoke, 6 foot three 310 pounds 38 inch waist. avid hiker until this year when my knees and feet have started bothering me from all the impact. (down hill with eighty pounds on your back tends to pound on things) so about two weeks ago I bought a mtn bike to keep the burn going. Did three hours or so in the woods the first day. Took the next few days off and just walked about five or six miles, did twenty two miles about four days later on the bike on a paved rail trail. took a few more days off and just hiked with no weight. Went out this morning to do the same hills on the bike as the first time and just totally fell apart, weak as a kitten not even able to exert hard enough to get my heart rate going good. I thought by alternating between biking, which I'm not used to doing, and hiking which I'm very used to doing I could minimize muscle recovery time, guess I thought wrong.
    Looks like I'll be relaxing through the memorial day weekend, and I hate that. I know I'm never going to get down to my teen waist line of twenty nine inches but I do still have thirty or forty pounds of excess that just doesn't seem to want to go away.
    Should mention that all I eat anymore is baked chicken, brown rice, steamed vegetables, ensure, and mega man vitamins. Just started taking some flax oil a couple days ago and want some good fish or krill oil when I can find it. (the local health food store was out)
    I hate this getting old crap, didn't need all this recovery time take it easy stuff twenty years ago.

  4. #4
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChuckO
    I hate this getting old crap, didn't need all this recovery time take it easy stuff twenty years ago.
    It's not that you're old, it's that you've had a very long time to get out of shape. And it will take a while to get it back. I started riding and working out again when I was quite a bit older than you and that was a long time ago. So I'm a lot older than you are, and while it does take me longer to recover than when I was a kid, it's no big deal. I still backpack for 10 days with a pack of 40% of body weight. Figure it will take you 5 years to get strong again. This is not going to happen in 2 months.

    So take a day or two a week completely off, but when you're tired and sore, mostly still ride, walk, or hike, but tone down the intensity and volume. Ride on the flat when you're tired, but ride. Go do something on the weekend. It'll be fun. Just don't hike or ride too hard. Keep the heart rate down.

    You don't say if you have a heart rate monitor. If you don't, get one. It will make a huge difference. It's too easy to go too hard all the time. A monitor will tell you to slow down. It's also easy to not go hard enough, once you get some base in 6 months or so. A monitor helps there, too.

    There are about a zillion threads in this forum started by people who are getting back into it and want to know how best to go about it. Page through these threads. There's a lot of good information there.

  5. #5
    Down 10# and 11 inches Ginny's Avatar
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    +1 on the heart rate monitor.
    I can no longer bike without one and I've only had the thing two weeks!
    It's shown me that it was no wonder I was dying on my bike! I was working at 95% MHR most of the time! I've since learned to downshift into smaller gears and pedal at a fast cadence. I once loved a good 70 rpm in a high gear but my knees and heart did NOT. Now my cadence is somewhere between 85-90, my heart rate stays at a nice 160-165 bpm and I can stay longer on the bike. Heck, keeping at 150bpm I could stay on the bike until I had to pee, not because my legs and heart need a break.

    As for the leg soreness of the OP, don't stay at a stop more than probably 5-8 minutes. Your muscles will cool down fast and you will most definitely become sore. Especially since you prolly won't take the time to warm back up again before going all out. Warming back up should take 5 miles of slower riding. So stopping for 10-15 minutes then trying to GO GO GO will just make the muscles sore trying to keep up.
    It will also make them not like you much for a few days. What you will have done is tear them up a bit. They will need time to repair and if you don't give them that, you will know that they are angry with you.
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy
    It's not that you're old, it's that you've had a very long time to get out of shape. And it will take a while to get it back. I started riding and working out again when I was quite a bit older than you and that was a long time ago. So I'm a lot older than you are, and while it does take me longer to recover than when I was a kid, it's no big deal. I still backpack for 10 days with a pack of 40% of body weight. Figure it will take you 5 years to get strong again. This is not going to happen in 2 months.

    So take a day or two a week completely off, but when you're tired and sore, mostly still ride, walk, or hike, but tone down the intensity and volume. Ride on the flat when you're tired, but ride. Go do something on the weekend. It'll be fun. Just don't hike or ride too hard. Keep the heart rate down.

    You don't say if you have a heart rate monitor. If you don't, get one. It will make a huge difference. It's too easy to go too hard all the time. A monitor will tell you to slow down. It's also easy to not go hard enough, once you get some base in 6 months or so. A monitor helps there, too.

    There are about a zillion threads in this forum started by people who are getting back into it and want to know how best to go about it. Page through these threads. There's a lot of good information there.
    Yes I started from the back page of this section and have been thumbing through a dozen or so a day, same with the bike mechanic and mountainbiking sections. A wealth of new information to be sure.
    I'll have to pick up a heart monitor and keep reading up on this stuff. I HAVE been training myself pretty blindly for about three years now though I did get pretty lax this winter, last summer I was up to hiking around from 100 to 125 miles a week with eighty pounds. Never was really a couch potato, am a union sheetrocker by trade and normally spend eight hours a day throwing panels around that weigh between one hundred and three hundred pounds. Age is creeping up though, in order to maintain the old exertion levels I definitely need to educate and direct a training program intelligently. I still put most twenty year olds to shame at work but it's gettin' tougher to do so every year.

  7. #7
    Cyclo Sapiens babydee's Avatar
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    Don't eat potato chips and trail mix as on-the-bike food. They (or at least the chips) are fattening, and your blood is being diverted to your stomach to digest the food. Not cool.

    If you need energy and sodium, drink a dedicated performance/recovery drink, maybe supplemented with nutrition bars that are designed to be easy to digest. I just got back from a 62-miler fueled by nothing but a big bowl of cereal two hours before takoff, and LOTS of sports drink containing carbs, protein, and electrolytes. Works a lot better than "snack foods", believe me, as it lets your body give more blood to the legs and brain/nervous system.

  8. #8
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChuckO
    Yes I started from the back page of this section and have been thumbing through a dozen or so a day, same with the bike mechanic and mountainbiking sections. A wealth of new information to be sure.
    I'll have to pick up a heart monitor and keep reading up on this stuff. I HAVE been training myself pretty blindly for about three years now though I did get pretty lax this winter, last summer I was up to hiking around from 100 to 125 miles a week with eighty pounds. Never was really a couch potato, am a union sheetrocker by trade and normally spend eight hours a day throwing panels around that weigh between one hundred and three hundred pounds. Age is creeping up though, in order to maintain the old exertion levels I definitely need to educate and direct a training program intelligently. I still put most twenty year olds to shame at work but it's gettin' tougher to do so every year.
    You have a slightly different problem than a lot of cyclists who are starting to train hard. You are already strong in many ways, but your aerobic system lags behind. A lot of systems will become more developed: more dense capillary bed in the muscles, larger arteries and veins, more nitrous oxide production allowing the arteries to become more flexible, larger and more muscular heart, better chemistry for better energy production and lactate burning and tolerance - a whole host of changes that take a lot of time. Bigger arteries don't develop overnight. So the thing to do is to keep the pressure on your body to make these changes, but not so much pressure that you tear it down instead of building it up. That's the whole, entire trick.

  9. #9
    Faster but still slow slowandsteady's Avatar
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    This is pretty typical. Since your average was 9 mph and you did 24 miles, that was over 2.5 hours of riding. You should have eaten more than some potato chips and trail mix. I suspect a big part of the soreness was due to depleting your muscle glycogen stores. Your meal at the end helped to replace that and you felt better. The chicken burrito was laden with protein and carbs...very good food if you ignore all of the fatty cheese. Next time try to eat once an hour. A PB&J sandwich or a powerbar or something.

    I have issues with needing a lot of salt too. I usually bring gatorade for longer rides and some double salted pretzels. For really long all day rides I will actually bring a small bag of coarse Kosher salt to snack on.
    "Ride lots." -- Eddy Merckx

  10. #10
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    One of the answers that some of you have given to my OP, is too long of a rest stop. This leads to an interesting question: What happens when tourists stop and smell the flowers, metaphorically speaking? Or, more literally, for example, stop at a local museum? I'm sure they stop more than 10 minutes(!?!), which would mean, according to your answers, that they would have sore legs for the rest of the day. So, what do tourists do to keep from having sore legs all the time?

    Timothy Clough

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by tmclough
    One of the answers that some of you have given to my OP, is too long of a rest stop. This leads to an interesting question: What happens when tourists stop and smell the flowers, metaphorically speaking? Or, more literally, for example, stop at a local museum? I'm sure they stop more than 10 minutes(!?!), which would mean, according to your answers, that they would have sore legs for the rest of the day. So, what do tourists do to keep from having sore legs all the time?

    Timothy Clough
    I think that quite a bit of it depends on how hard you are going. Tourers aren't out for performance, so they will not be working at a hard pace most of the time. Once they start out again after a rest, they can go at a low-moderate pace until they warm back up, and then increase their speed.

    A performance rider doing a training ride and working at close to their lactate threshold is more sensitive to letting their muscles cool down. If you start off again pushing hard on cold muscles it will suck.

  12. #12
    Senior Member DannoXYZ's Avatar
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    Sounds like you were pushing to hard in too big of gears. Practice spinning easier gears so that you can't even feel any resistance on the pedals at all. This will spare the muscles from fatigue and allow you to complete that distance faster with fewer stops needed.

  13. #13
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    Here's my understanding of the whole muscle tiredness, burning, and rest thing:

    First of all, its important to distinguish between your legs "burning", and your legs "aching". When we use muscles very hard, such as climbing on a bike, we are doing anaerobic exercise, which builds up lactic acid in our muscle cells. Lactic acid is cleared by muscle motion. A long time ago I discovered that when cycling hard, if I took 20 second breaks to rest my legs, they felt much better when I started up. However, if I take longer breaks, my legs "burn" when I start. By "burn" I mean a quite severe pain with a burning quality, that does ease up and disappear after a while if I keep cycling.

    I've now come to understand that this burning is the result of lactic acid build up, and the burning pain is what we feel as the lactic acid is cleared. It can be quite painful. It can be avoided by taking very short breaks, and also by cycling in a way that keeps your legs moving, and thus clearing lactic acid. For example, when cycling over rolling terrain, during the downhill segments keep your legs moving, but not pressing at all.

    On the other hand, if your muscles are just overworked, they ache. This is the typical ache we all feel the morning after a hard, long ride. My understanding is that this pain, often characterized by a tenderness in our thighs, is actually the result of inflammatory damage to our muscle cells, and typically takes a couple days to repair itself and resolve. After exercising our large muscles for an extended period, such a cycling hard, the circulation to these muscles stays elevated for about an hour after stopping, and during that time a recovery drink can be of benefit in repairing the muscle damage, and thus minimizing the pain the next day. After an hour or so, when your circulation has returned to normal, recovery drinks are of less use.

    I suspect that in fact your experienced burning due to lactic acid build up. The fact that it finally resolved later, after you had coincidentally eaten the burrito, is just due to enough time that the lactic acid finally cleared from your large muscles. If you had been experiencing aching due to real muscle fatigue and damage, it probably wouldn't have cleared so soon.

  14. #14
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    Concur with MarkJR.

  15. #15
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    One thing I forgot to say in my OP was that for the whole trip, I was never out of breath--not even close. Also, only once, after a steep climb during the first half of the trip, was I ever even aware of my heartbeat. From my understanding, lactic acid comes when you're so out of breath, and your heart is beating hard and/or fast, that you go into a sort-of "post-aerobic" anaerobic state. I was clearly not in that state, so I don't think it was lactic acid. Also, the highest gear I rode in during the first half was, at most, on the middle gear in both the front and rear; and the highest gear during the second half was on the middle chainring and second lowest (out of seven) on the rear. (I'm not sure what these translate into in gear inches, but the maximum the bike gets is a little over 100 gear inches, and the minimum, as mentioned in my OP, is less than 26 gear inches.) I've done higher gears on previous rides, no problem, and remember that all climbs during the second half were in lowest gear, so I don't think it was caused by pushing too high of a gear, either.

    Based on various responses, my best guess would be, a combination of the length of the rest stop, as well as the fact that the longest (but not steepest) climb started not that far from my rest stop location. (My TOPO! software is at home, and I'm not there right now, so I'm not sure how close or how long the climb was.) It probably would have been better if I had started up again on the flatter section of road, back and forth somewhat, to warm back up some before going up the long hill. Does this make sense?

    Timothy Clough

  16. #16
    Faster but still slow slowandsteady's Avatar
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    My legs are always the first to go too. I am in shape now that I hardly breath hard despite my burning legs. The legs always seem to be the rate limiter. This has to do with lactate threshold and muscle glycogen. These things take longer to improve than your cardiovascular system. Give it some time. It is normal.
    "Ride lots." -- Eddy Merckx

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    Quote Originally Posted by tmclough
    Based on various responses, my best guess would be, a combination of the length of the rest stop, as well as the fact that the longest (but not steepest) climb started not that far from my rest stop location. (My TOPO! software is at home, and I'm not there right now, so I'm not sure how close or how long the climb was.)
    I've looked it up--actually, it was about 1/3 of a mile from the rest stop to the first climb after the stop; followed by about 3/4 mile of uphill, about 1 mile of mostly gentle downhill, followed by another 3/4 mile of uphill. So I was partly mistaken.

    Timothy Clough

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