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  1. #1
    Senior Member rousseau's Avatar
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    Muscle soreness - the basic idea

    I apologize if this has been asked before, but I didn't find anything on a search.

    I'm in my mid-forties, and enjoy riding my bike. Lots. But I've overtrained before, and don't want to do it again. What I used to do is just ride as hard as I could every day, for days on end. This was bad, and I realize it now.

    People would tell me to "read" my body's signals, but the thing is, I couldn't. Well, not exactly. But I'm trying to do that now. So I'd like to get a few things straight:

    1. If my muscles feel sore after physical exertion, does that mean they're in the process of repairing themselves?

    2. On the basis of 1, if I rest a day or so until my muscles don't feel sore anymore, does that mean they've repaired themselves?

    3. On the basis of 2, will this rest between rides leading to muscle repair mean that my muscles will get stronger?

    4. On the basis of 3, is resting a day between rides and getting stronger muscles a good way of building up fitness to the point where I might not always have to wait a day between rides all of the time?
    The pleasure is momentary, the position ridiculous, and the expense damnable.

  2. #2
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    1. yes
    2. yes
    3. probably
    4. not a yes or no type of thing.

    You need to vary the exertion of your rides. Sore muscles don't necessarily mean no riding. You could just ride easy until they feel better. It's not usually good to go hard with sore muscles, though if you start riding and your legs start feeling pretty good, maybe you are more recovered than you realize.

    The problem with thinking that you won't get sore in the future is that as you become more fit you'll be able to ride both harder and longer, which will still make you sore. And tired. The adage is that it doesn't get any easier, you just go faster.

    The best way to read your body's signals is with a heart rate monitor (HRM). Your morning resting heart rate (MRHR) can tell you the state of your exhaustion or recovery. Your HR during hard efforts will also tell you your state of recovery from hard or long efforts on previous days. You can learn to read your body without a HRM, but one sure makes the learning process a lot less steep.

  3. #3
    Senior Member rousseau's Avatar
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    Thanks for the response. I don't think I'm going to get a heart rate monitor, so I'd like to establish a basic rule of thumb for myself.

    How about this: If I go fairly hard on the bike the one day, I should either rest or take it easy the next day depending on how sore I am. The day after that I should be able to have a somewhat normal ride. Basically, somewhat greater exertion every other day, and in between I either rest or take it easy. If I feel run-down, I take an extra day off.

    Does this sound feasible for a guy who just likes riding for an hour at most?
    The pleasure is momentary, the position ridiculous, and the expense damnable.

  4. #4
    Banned. $ick3nin.vend3t's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    1. If my muscles feel sore after physical exertion, does that mean they're in the process of repairing themselves?.
    Soreness is actually caused by small tears in your muscle fibers, which is how muscles respond when overloaded. Through recovery, comes repair.

    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    2. On the basis of 1, if I rest a day or so until my muscles don't feel sore anymore, does that mean they've repaired themselves?
    Muscle soreness will usually start to ware off 12-72 hours after exercise, particularly at the beginning of a new exercise program, after a change in sports activities, or after a dramatic increase in the duration or intensity of an exercise.

    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    3. On the basis of 2, will this rest between rides leading to muscle repair mean that my muscles will get stronger?
    This muscle pain is a normal response to an unusual exertion and is part of an adaptation process that leads to greater stamina and strength as the muscles recover.

    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    4. On the basis of 3, is resting a day between rides and getting stronger muscles a good way of building up fitness to the point where I might not always have to wait a day between rides all of the time?
    The body adapts best to a relatively constant workload which minimizes adaptation stresses.

    After riding constantly for several months, you'll work it out.

    There are claims in the literature that exercising sore muscles appears to be the best way to reduce the soreness, but this has not yet been systematically investigated.
    Last edited by $ick3nin.vend3t; 05-13-10 at 08:56 PM.

  5. #5
    Single-serving poster electrik's Avatar
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  6. #6
    Faster than yesterday
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    Doesn't sound like DOMS. DOMS tends to diminish in severity after the first time, and you usually get used to the activity and don't get sore anymore. Cycling also generally shouldn't leave you sore. It might, if you ride at race intensity all the time.

    Traditional wisdom is to rest when sore at all...I would moderate the intensity, but don't be afraid to ride. What I wouldn't do is use ice or NSAIDs unless I were actually injured; There are studies using both, showing decreased muscular adaptation to exercise. It would seem that you need some immune response to supercompensate.

    Personally, I find it more than a little strange that you consistently get significant soreness from riding a bike. Typically, it is the eccentric phase of an activity, like hiking downhill or letting a weight down, that causes soreness. This is not a big factor in cycling.

    Some things I can see causing actual muscle soreness in cycling:
    1. riding a fixed gear and backpedaling to stop, which is a marked eccentric motion
    2. climbing steep grades aggressively, which requires high force
    3. sprinting a lot, which requires fast contractions and high force
    4. Using a low cadence (tall gear).

    If any of these apply to you, it comes down to changing the behaviors. Use a higher cadence (lower force requirements), and take it easy sometimes.

    Ever tried a foam roller? I know that, a lot of times, what I perceive to be soreness is tightness, and rolling and stretching can work wonders.

    If you do want to tax your muscles enough to hurt the next day, then making sore days easy days might be a good plan. That would give a few hard days a week, with the others being more moderate.
    Last edited by tadawdy; 05-14-10 at 12:49 AM.

  7. #7
    Senior Member rousseau's Avatar
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    Thanks again for these replies. I'm beginning to think that mixing easy days in between the hard days is a better plan than staying off the bike completely.

    And again, when I say "hard days" I simply mean riding at a somewhat brisk pace with a slightly elevated heart rate and breathing (i.e. talking is slightly unsteady), not sprinting for an hour. I weigh 240 pounds, so I think that that would explain the soreness in my quads.

    I should add that in the past year I've ridden very little for medical reasons, so I'm getting back into it with the glorious onset of spring.
    Last edited by rousseau; 05-14-10 at 02:27 PM.
    The pleasure is momentary, the position ridiculous, and the expense damnable.

  8. #8
    Dan J chinarider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by *****3nin.vend3t View Post
    The body adapts best to a relatively constant workload which minimizes adaptation stresses.
    You say that like it's a good thing. But if there is no adaptation stress, you don't get stronger and improve. If you simply do the same constant workload over and over, yes the body will adapt to it, but then there will be no more need to adapt(i.e. improve). That is why most training programs mix up the workload and involve deliberately overloading the body at times so that the body is forced to continue adapting.

    To the OP: you need to distinguish between pain, soreness & fatigue. Muscle pain is a sign of injury and you need to carefully monitor this so you don't aggravate the problem and turn a minor issue into a major one. Soreness after a hard effort is somewhat normal, but should decrease as you get in better shape. You shouldn't really be getting sore from a moderate effort. Muscle fatigue, as opposed to simply being tired after a long or hard ride, is a cumulative effect. If you're training a lot, some is normal, but if you let it get to the point that it interferes with riding, it's a sign that you need some extra rest. In any event, it's a good idea to give your body a break periodically to allow it to fully recover. You should then be able to come back stronger.

    One thing to always remember: your body doesn't get stronger when you're working out, whether that be weights, biking, running or whatever. Your body gets stronger when it recovers from working out
    Last edited by chinarider; 05-14-10 at 02:53 PM.
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  9. #9
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    Recommend slow rides

    Muscles recover better if there is oxygen flowing over the muscles from riding slow.

    After a hard ride or long ride where I feel I've really worked, before I go to bed I make a whey protein shake, chocolate whey, milk, oatmeal, banana. Muscles rebuild while you are sleeping and need protein for building.

    I never ride without a heart rate monitor. Using one it will tell me ahead of time if I'm having a heart problem, I use it for training for hard rides, it teaches me when I move out of my fat burning zone into the carb zone this will help me build a longer fat zone and it will help me monitor my carb intake for longer rides, or faster rides.

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