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  1. #1
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    How to recover faster after long intensive rides...

    So in the last weekend I did a long hill climb (loop trip distance was 50 miles, climbed 4500ft) at a very slow pace (avg 9mph) while maintaining my HR at the top of my aerobic zone most of the time. My legs were sore for almost the whole week and I ended up only biking to work (25 miles around trip) 2 out of 5 days instead of everyday like the weeks before.

    Yesterday I did the same hill climb. I was going at a much faster pace (12mph) while maintaining my HR at the top of my aerobic zone most of the trip. It felt much easier so I ended up going farther this time (loop trip distance was 70 miles, climbed 6000ft).

    And today my legs are so sore and tire just like last week. It's tire and sore when I'm sleeping, it's tire and sore when I'm sitting, and it's tough to even walk up stairs. As a result I drove to work again today. I don't want this to continue. I want to be able to recover, have a fresh pair of legs every morning, and be able to bike to work everyday.

    So my question is what seems to be the problem and what can I do to correct this?

    I don't think I'm over-training because I don't feel any bone/muscle pain and I'm not psychologically burned out or anything. I don't think it's a problem with in-flight in-takes because I ate 2 fiber one bars, 5 GU gels, and drank 70oz water + 48oz Gatorade during the 6 hour ride. I don't think it's a post-ride problem because right after the ride I had 2 scoops of whey and 2 scoops of accelerate, and shortly after I had a healthy dinner (12oz stead, 2 heads of romaine lettuce, and some brown rice). So I'm puzzled as to what the problem is.

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    Senior Member ericm979's Avatar
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    No one really knows what causes DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). But if you want to not have any of it you are going to have to not push yourself quite as much. Or just tough it out and ride to work anyhow. Once you get on the bike and down the road a bit to warm up, it won't be so bad. I'd recommend planning for a longer than usual commute on monday and using it as a recovery ride.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sammy5001 View Post
    So in the last weekend I did a long hill climb (loop trip distance was 50 miles, climbed 4500ft) at a very slow pace (avg 9mph) while maintaining my HR at the top of my aerobic zone most of the time. My legs were sore for almost the whole week and I ended up only biking to work (25 miles around trip) 2 out of 5 days instead of everyday like the weeks before.

    Yesterday I did the same hill climb. I was going at a much faster pace (12mph) while maintaining my HR at the top of my aerobic zone most of the trip. It felt much easier so I ended up going farther this time (loop trip distance was 70 miles, climbed 6000ft).

    And today my legs are so sore and tire just like last week. It's tire and sore when I'm sleeping, it's tire and sore when I'm sitting, and it's tough to even walk up stairs. As a result I drove to work again today. I don't want this to continue. I want to be able to recover, have a fresh pair of legs every morning, and be able to bike to work everyday.

    So my question is what seems to be the problem and what can I do to correct this?

    I don't think I'm over-training because I don't feel any bone/muscle pain and I'm not psychologically burned out or anything. I don't think it's a problem with in-flight in-takes because I ate 2 fiber one bars, 5 GU gels, and drank 70oz water + 48oz Gatorade during the 6 hour ride. I don't think it's a post-ride problem because right after the ride I had 2 scoops of whey and 2 scoops of accelerate, and shortly after I had a healthy dinner (12oz stead, 2 heads of romaine lettuce, and some brown rice). So I'm puzzled as to what the problem is.
    Sammy, you were riding your bike for six hours and climbed 6000 ft and rode 70 miles. I would say your post ride nutrition is off. The whey protein and accelerade is good as soon as you get off your bike. Your body put that to use very quickly. But you will still be in a depleted state. After your steak dinner, what else did you eat? And how many cups of cooked brown rice did you have with the steak?

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    Faster than yesterday
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    If you aren't properly trained to ride as far and as hard as you did, your muscles are going to hurt no matter what you do afterward. Trust me, I just 90 miles on Thursday; it's Monday and I'm still a little sore. I will admit that I didn't train myself for this long of an effort, and that is the cause. I zip around town all day as a messenger, and feel great afterward. I'm just not sufficiently trained to go for 5+ hrs w/p feeling it later.

    Ingesting protein during exercise is thought to help prevent some muscle damage, which may help you recover faster. Obviously, doing the general recovery stuff (lots of carbs and some protein) is a must.

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    I am not in great shape and can encounter similar muscle pain issues. Some things that _really_ help me a lot:

    1) Gradual warm up (5+ minutes), THEN stretch thoroughly (min 30 sec per muscle). A lot of people hop on their bike and go.
    2) Cool down after the ride (5+ minutes) and stretch (same as above)
    3) Stretch again 1-2 hours after the exercise.
    4) Massage, therapy grade hot tub, or sauna that night.
    5) Get back on the bike the next morning and take it VERY easy (work out the knots / pains).

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    EPO.

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    Senior Member meanwhile's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ericm979 View Post
    No one really knows what causes DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness).
    ???

    I thought that it was absoluetely-definitely small tears in the muscle? Who - that matters a damn - says otherwise? What isn't true is that old saw about lactic acid. See eg

    http://orthopedics.about.com/od/over...soremuscle.htm

    Anyway, the point of hill climb training is to force muscle growth - which will lead to soreness. There is no way you can change the training to reduce this and keep it effective. More, for it to work - to build muscle and increase mitochondrial efficiency - you have to rest at least the next day. Rest can include *slow* riding, but that's all. Muscle growth means stressing the muscle so that the body knows more strength is required; some pain and tiredness are the inevitable result. If growing muscle was free of metabolic cost we'd all do more of it!
    Last edited by meanwhile; 08-12-09 at 07:06 PM.

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    Senior Member meanwhile's Avatar
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    Oh - but there are some things you can do to make things worse - stretching before this type of training, as once recommended, is terribly bad - it partially switches off the warning system for real damage. Read Kurz's stretching book if you need a reference.

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    it's tire and sore when I'm sitting, and it's tough to even walk up stairs
    Meanwhile: This is not normal muscle soreness. We're talking about extreme soreness / tightness in the muscle for up to 5-6 days after the original activity.

    stretching before this type of training, as once recommended, is terribly bad - it partially switches off the warning system for real damage.
    So your recommendation is to hop on the bike and go (starting off slowly of course)?

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    Senior Member late's Avatar
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    You need to let your muscles heal up. Don't ride this weekend, go for a long walk or a hike. Then plan some rides where for 3 weeks they get harder and shorter. Then on the fourth week the ride is about as hard as week one, but really long.

    There are plenty of other plans you can try, and most won't leave you half crippled.
    Last edited by late; 08-13-09 at 12:00 AM.
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    Senior Member meanwhile's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Greg_R View Post
    Meanwhile: This is not normal muscle soreness. We're talking about extreme soreness / tightness in the muscle for up to 5-6 days after the original activity.
    Ok. If it's 5 days, you've got a problem.

    So your recommendation is to hop on the bike and go (starting off slowly of course)?
    With 5 day soreness? I honestly don't know. You're probably ok, but you might have done something Not Good. I'd say the safest* thing would be rest until the soreness is somewhat reduced, then re-start gently. Gently and not too much at once. With inflamation the best cures are rest and gentle movement - add in coldish and warm baths, sure. Soreness means muscle damage is being repaired - the main thing is not mess with the repairs:

    http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=v...ycling&f=false


    *"Safest" other than seeing a decent physio or coach - do this if you get really worried.

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    Senior Member meanwhile's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Greg_R View Post
    I am not in great shape and can encounter similar muscle pain issues. Some things that _really_ help me a lot:

    1) Gradual warm up (5+ minutes), THEN stretch thoroughly (min 30 sec per muscle). A lot of people hop on their bike and go.
    Stretching does two things:

    1. It allows more range of motion - the benefit being long term, as for lifting

    2. It messes up the proprioceptors that signal damage

    Now, 2 is obviously bad - but why do you think that the benefits of 1. require stretching just before riding? People have confused warm up before activity and stretching for years - they should be separate. Warm up, cycle. Warm up, stretch - but apart.

    See Kurz's book!

  13. #13
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Try this: After a hard ride like that, take one day off. Then ride easily (slowly) 1/2 hr. or so on each successive day until you feel OK. Ride at a pace that just barely breaks a sweat, on the flat or a trainer or rollers. You can do this twice a day if you can fit it in. This does two things: it increases your weekly mileage, i.e. your potential endurance (base), while it accustoms your muscles to the cycling motion as they repair, and at the same time does no additional damage. My theory, anyway. Works.

    IME stretching doesn't do much. A little maybe, but not the thing to rely on.

    Riding more is what fixes problems like yours. You're doing what you can do, great!, but you haven't prepped enough for it. You need to ride more regularly during the week. You want to ride 1.5-2 times as many hours during the week as your longest weekend ride - or more.

    Your food and all that are fine. Just ride more. The problem is how, when you're so sore! So do what I outlined above.

    I got this idea from an article by Chris Carmichael, Lance's coach. Lance had two hard classics, a week apart. So all week, Chris had Lance ride 1 hour/day on the trainer at a 114 HR. He recovered very well and won the second classic, IIRC.
    Last edited by Carbonfiberboy; 08-13-09 at 07:41 PM.

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    Senior Member meanwhile's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
    Try this: After a hard ride like that, take one day off. Then ride easily (slowly) 1/2 hr. or so on each successive day until you feel OK.
    That would be correct after a ride at proper training intensity - but such a ride wouldn't produce soreness this extreme.

    Ride at a pace that just barely breaks a sweat, on the flat or a trainer or rollers. You can do this twice a day if you can fit it in. This does two things: it increases your weekly mileage, i.e. your potential endurance (base),
    No! More mileage does not equal more base! The only thing that increases anything is *more stress* - stress => adaptation - and that should be avoided on a rest day.

    while it accustoms your muscles to the cycling motion as they repair, and at the same time does no additional damage. My theory, anyway. Works.
    That's definitely your own theory and not one I've ever heard propounded by a respectable coach, yes. It does rather fly in the face of all the biology I've ever learned.

    Anyway rest day rides at low intensity won't do harm following *correct* training.

    I've heard too justifications for their use that make biological sense:

    1. They are used mainly in a system where real training rides are mostly hard - very hard! - but short. So the static muscles that support the torso still need conditioning, as these aren't super-stressed the ways the legs and heart are during the short rides.

    2. The rest rides stop riders sneaking off too put more mileage in at a higher intensity.

    I got this idea from an article by Chris Carmichael, Lance's coach. Lance had two hard classics, a week apart. So all week, Chris had Lance ride 1 hour/day on the trainer at a 114 HR. He recovered very well and won the second classic, IIRC.
    Armstrong was maintaining a peak, not recovering from over training.

  15. #15
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    ^^^^
    Actually, I have a fair bit of experience at this. Even when one is quite fit, it's not too difficult to duplicate the OP's problem. Just go out and ride a mountainous 400k, with say 20,000' of climbing, as hard as you can, and see how your legs feel the next day. And the day after that. Unless of course you've just completed a full brevet series, in which case it might take the 508 to put the hurt on you. That, on a smaller scale, is what the OP has done.

    Mileage does equal base. I would even go further and say mileage = strength. You want to get really strong, ride 20,000 miles/year. That's the reason coaches recommend a certain number of base miles before doing long intense rides. During the season it's easy to lose base by doing rides at the limit of one's ability every weekend. One works up to such rides by the normal training periodization and workout progression. But when one starts doing extreme rides every weekend for a period of months, it can be difficult to recover between these hard rides, and one's base and thus fitness falls off. Hence the suggestion that Carmichael and I make.

    The OP has not by any measure overtrained. His legs are just sore. It's no big deal. If he can manage to increase his midweek mileage, they will over a period of weeks become less sensitive to these hard rides. I find about 200 miles/week to be about right for doing 70 mile/6000' rides at one's limit every weekend. Whatever workout zones one can manage between these rides, without overtraining, are the correct zones to use. Their intensity will depend on the age, fitness, and experience of the rider.

    In more general terms, the HR zones experienced in one's workout should form a pyramid, with the most hours spent riding easy and the fewest riding hard. This is at least partly due to the fact that each HR zone corresponds to certain energy producing chemical processes, and it's necessary to exercise all our chemical plants. We spend more time riding easy because we want as much energy as possible to be produced by the processes exercised in that zone, i.e. aerobic and fat burning. That's the principle of specificity. Those processes do the least damage and have the greatest endurance. And etc., on up to anaerobic processes which require high glycogen expenditures and are likely to do the most muscle damage. A downloading HRM is very helpful for measuring time-in-zone and thus planning future training.

    The OP didn't do much easy riding on those hard rides. Therefore his fitness in the lower zones likely suffered, or at the least, did not improve. This alone is a good reason to use low intensity rides to recover and build fitness.

    Recovery rides are very well known tools and are recommended by most respectable coaches. Nothing new here. Recovery rides do a lot more than you think, some of which I've outlined above. They loosen up the muscles and help the legs become supple again. They open the blood vessels and allow nutrients to more quickly and completely reach damaged tissue. Among these nutrients will be the nutrients necessary to rebuild muscle glycogen.

    When the rider's legs are recovering, active recovery ensures a quicker and more complete recovery than does inactive recovery. Plus it does build cardiovascular and muscular conditioning. Even following extreme efforts such as the OP's, Lance's, or the brevet rider's, active recovery works the best and the fastest, and will return the rider to an even higher state of fitness. Believe me, I've had a lot of practice at it. If you haven't tried it, you should do so before inveighing against it.

    TdF riders do ride on a rest day, you know.

    All the above aside, one can race crits doing nothing but HIIT. Principle of specificity again, since that's what crits are. But the OP is not a trained racer, doesn't have the base of a racer, and is riding 2-3 times as long as the average crit. He needs different training.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by sammy5001 View Post
    So my question is what seems to be the problem and what can I do to correct this?
    What works for me:
    1) Stretching every day / night. However, I do not stretch much at all before riding unless I feel especially tight.
    2) Hydration all the time, not just during the ride.
    3) A recovery drink immediately after a long ride. I use Amino Vital.
    4) Foam roller periodically -- deep massaging the quads, IT bands, hamstrings, calves, inner thigh, etc.. Really helps
    5) Very slow and easy recovery rides the day after a big ride... Also, I find doing a "recovery ride" indoors on an elliptical machine works well, too. Just keep it really easy.
    6) Get in the pool and take it easy
    7) Coffee

    The above is nothing but my own home-brewed recovery techniques... 'Worth what you paid for it.

    The 5-day pain thing has me scratching my head... That's a helluva long time to feel muscle pain from a ride. Could you be doing tendon / ligament damage somehow (better leg alignment, seat position)?

    'Hope you find the cure.
    -mm

  17. #17
    Senior Member late's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
    ^^^^
    Actually, I have a fair bit of experience at this.
    I'll say.

    I was trying to hint at what you said. You did a superb job here, you should bookmark it so you can just paste it in next time.
    We are as gods, we might as well get good at it.
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  18. #18
    Senior Member Richard Cranium's Avatar
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    So I'm puzzled as to what the problem is.
    Maybe you experience an accumulative effect. But, you want to discuss this scenario on your terms. I won't.

    You think this "workout" exists in some sort of vacuum - and that some "single factor" after the workout is somehow going to aid or otherwise fix your recovery pain.

    No matter its causes(s), your experience is a distinct physiological/pathological response to your activities. If you break your workout/recovery down in to discreet components -you may shed some light on your situation. Before looking at external components for a solution understand all the internal mechanisms for its cause. And, by the way - grow up - your post makes you sound like a baby.

  19. #19
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    late . . .
    Thank you for the kind words. There's always a psychological component. I'd say the OP has talent, and really enjoys going hard and finding his limits. Far be it from me to put the brakes on such a person! The trick is to find a way to incorporate those characteristics into a lifestyle or training style that is fun for the rider. That goes for all of us.

  20. #20
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    Has anyone mentioned more sleep? Works for me when I can get it.

  21. #21
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    I did the same ride this weekend and I felt like I had (almost) fresh legs the next morning and I was able do my typical 25 mile commute just fine--had to take it easier though. It looks like the problem was indeed my post-ride nutrition. The problem last time was that I ate a lot of protein and not enough carbohydrate. This time though I ate a lot of pasta the days leading up to the ride and I ate a **** ton of pasta after the ride and that seemed to have helped a lot! The only problem is that with pasta the fullness feeling doesn't last very long and I always feel kinda hungry just before I go to bed so I end up chucking a glass of milk.

  22. #22
    Mr. Dopolina Bob Dopolina's Avatar
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    There are several studies that conclude that BCAA taken during a ride reduce muscles soreness (as measured by the level of creatine kinase) and sped up recovery.

    There are further studies that suggest that BCAA taken during exercise delays the process by which your body begins shutting your muscles down long before they are really done. We normally associate this with fatigue.

    I started a thread about it here.

    If you want me to send you the studies email me here.

    Having said all that, if you go out and cause serious muscles damage there will be dues to pay.
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  23. #23
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    Stretching does two things:
    Very interesting. Is the book you're talking about called "Stretching Scientifically" by Tom Kurz?

    The 5-day pain thing has me scratching my head... That's a helluva long time to feel muscle pain from a ride.
    I mentioned the five days because I've had this happen after a hard workout at a gym (and only after a long hiatus). Maybe my problem was stretching (pain receptors were turned off & I overdid it). I have not had that amount of trouble riding my bike (yet!).

  24. #24
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    Regardless of what the specific reason your legs hurt so much is, please at least try and listen to your body and let them heal. It sounds like you have the ride your butt off part down, without enough rest you will continue to break yourself down until even looking at your bike will cause you to wince. Trust me I've been there.
    On your commute, DONT TRAIN. It is important to keep commuting and training seperate things. If you feel better after work, go ahead and ride hard and do some extra miles on your way home. But dont go anywhere near hard on your commutes, use them as recovery only until your legs feel better. Go slow. real slow. Stop and smell some flowers or something, sheesh, you've earned it.

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    Senior Member rumrunn6's Avatar
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    add a 20 min hot bath soak with plenty of Epsom salt. keep your legs under water. every now and then you can slide down and get your back under water with your knees up. mostly though, this is for your legs, but get the water deep. lean back and relax. it's amazing.

    btw: if anyone laughs, tell them the best athletes soak in whirlpools
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