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DaveLeeNC 10-02-19 03:51 PM

Muscular Function (Thigh Area) in Cycling and Cramping
 
I am trying to work through an unexpected and tough to handle bunch of leg cramps in a long difficult century.

I THINK that it was in the 'Adductor Magnus', but I am not a physiologist and just got this from internet pics of muscles trying to relate the pain location to the images. The pain was (and still is to a very slight degree 3 days later) inner thigh, slight biased to the front and seems to kind of run from the inside of the thigh starting half way up toward the front of the thigh going upward. This is not the quads. The cramping area was maybe 1.5 inches wide and 3-4 inches long.

From what I can tell these muscles move the leg 'left and right' so would seem to me to be little involved in the effort of hard cycling. So 2 questions

1) Am I correct in assuming that these muscles are not under stress in cycling? If it matters it was on a very hilly course.

2) Is it unusual for 'unstressed muscles' to cramp as opposed to stressed muscles?

Thanks.

dave

Carbonfiberboy 10-02-19 09:07 PM

My wife has cramping trouble with these, located as you describe, not so much on the bike as a couple hours after. Have a look at Extensions, here: https://exrx.net/Articulations/Hip
I don't think you are correct about "unstressed." It would be very unusual for those to cramp.

Standing more than usual?

MinnMan 10-02-19 10:25 PM


Originally Posted by DaveLeeNC (Post 21147654)
1) Am I correct in assuming that these muscles are not under stress in cycling? If it matters it was on a very hilly course.

I don't think this is right. Though I don't have problems with these muscles cramping, I definitely feel strain in them during cycling. For me, I feel them when I am trying to turn big gears hard. That doesn't mean that I'm not using them other times, it's just that they feel strained under those conditions. I have once or twice overstrained them (not quite sprained), such that they were sore for a few days on one side or the other.

downtube42 10-02-19 10:40 PM

I get those frequently enough, and specifically on rides with lots of climbing, that I call them climbing cramps. They hurt like heck, and unlike calf or hamstring or quad cramps, they are extremely difficult to stretch out. When they start coming on, I pull my knees together, back off the effort, but keep moving. Eventually they go away.

I might get them 30 or 50 miles into a long brevet, get through them, then be fine the rest of the ride be it a 200k, 400k, 600k, or longer. Weird stuff.

1. I think these muscles mainly stabilize, not power.

2. Reasons for muscles to cramp are not terribly well understood. Being stressed to fatigue (whatever that means) seems to be a contributing factor. I think when cadence goes down and force goes up, these muscles are employed more. But I have no data. I also have no idea why, after an initial wave of them early in a ride, I can go another 100 or 200 miles with no more issues. Like I said, weird.

canklecat 10-03-19 01:34 AM

I've had roving cramps through every muscle in my legs, all my life.

Best solution I've found -- besides appropriate saddle height/angle, and appropriate cleat placement -- has been stretching and massage post-ride, and physical therapy off the bike to strengthen and stabilize the hips, knees and ankles.

I also add electrolytes to at least one bottle every ride, and take magnesium lactate supplement before and after. Supposedly the lactate form of magnesium and potassium work better, although they can make some folks gassy -- seems to depend on whether we're lactose intolerant. I was a little gassy the first couple of times I took it but seemed to adapt quickly. I also take digestive enzymes daily so maybe that helps.

For leg massage the best thing I've found has been a heavy marble rolling pin. It's a decorative but seldom used kitchen doodad I've had for years, but it's seen more use on my legs than on dough. The weight of the marble does all the work, and it's cooling too.

I also use a foam roller and percussion massager elsewhere, especially neck, shoulders and back. Helps on the lower back and hips. I seem to have fewer problems with leg spasms now.

DaveLeeNC 10-03-19 05:38 AM


Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy (Post 21148026)
My wife has cramping trouble with these, located as you describe, not so much on the bike as a couple hours after. Have a look at Extensions, here: https://exrx.net/Articulations/Hip
I don't think you are correct about "unstressed." It would be very unusual for those to cramp.

Standing more than usual?

Thanks for the useful link. .

FWIW, I did very little standing on this ride. For the record it was the Six Gap Century and the results are documented in post #49 here. https://www.bikeforums.net/training-...raining-2.html . For reader convenience I will duplicate that below.

I will also have some additional analytical data that I will post after my data crunching is complete.

Thanks to all for the helpful comments.

dave

Well, that was ugly. I finished the ride and survived the ride. Somehow I don't feel like 'I rode the ride'.

By almost October standards this day was pretty hot - 70 at the start and the forecast was for a high of 91. It was so humid that after messing around in the parking lot before the start, I noticed that my helmet had dew on it. And I fought dew/fog on my glasses for the first couple of hours.

My climbing target was 220 to 240 watts and going into Hogpen I mostly stayed inside that. But it was hard not to end up (sometimes) well over that target for shorter periods. But I handled the first 3 climbs before Hogpen (starts at around 60 miles) well in my mind and felt like I was in pretty good shape. But Hogpen is (by my standards) a monster. It just goes on and on, and according to my Garmin 800 (not exactly reliable on tree lined roads) there were lots of not that short segments of 12%+. I stopped at the halfway up the climb rest stop which is kind of an indication that this was not going great. I had no chance at all for any kind of recognition on that KOM climb, but would have been curious (and now the data is obliterated by my rest stop choice).

AND I was beginning to get hints of upper thigh cramps. I am subject to idiopathic inner thigh cramps that tend to show up when I am sitting in my easy chair at home (no correlation with training that I can see). But I had not had one on a bike since maybe 6 months after I restarted my cycling back in 2014. These are a real problem for me on a bike. Once you feel one coming on you have about 3-5 seconds to straighten out and hold your leg stiff straight. Failure is totally debilitating. Flats or downhill, just stand up. But up a steep hill you have to stop. And it is a super bad problem if both legs hit you at the same time as it is just hard to get out of the pedal clips with those cramps coming on. However, I did not have this problem going up Hogpen, although I could feel it (maybe) coming on.

This distracted me enough at the top of Hogpen rest stop that I forgot to restart my Garmin (irritating). Sometime after the descent I realized what I had done.

After the descent (WOW - that is a different kind of experience) there is a lot of mostly flat riding for a while.And this is where the thigh cramps started showing up with great regularity. On at least 3 occasions I simply had to stop on the side of the road to let them 'go away'. At around the next rest stop I did two things. First I drank some pickle juice that they offered. And second I decided that it was efforts above 200 watts that were the culprit. So I rode the rest off the ride pretty carefully staying at or under 200W. And I had no more leg cramps and honestly do not know if it was the scaled back effort or the pickle juice (which I drank at 2 consecutive rest stops).

Along those lines I am wondering if it was the pickle juice. The last 15 miles is net downhill (by a good bit) but it rolls up and down a good bit as well. This is more like my 'home riding' and I found myself frequently 'popping up over the rises' at well over 240W. So maybe it was the pickle juice (or maybe it was the fact that you pop up over these rises in less in a minute in most cases). From a hydration point of view I did not keep track but I had 1 plain (24 oz) bottle of water, 1 bottle with a Nunn tablet, and 3 or 4 as a guess of whatever 'Sports Drink' 6Gap supplies. Plus a couple of half bananas and a couple of fig bars (I don't think that I had a carb/glycogen issue).

The race timer said a tad over 6 hours when I finished. This is not even close so maybe I misread it. I don't have a good accounting on my Garmin (forgot to turn it on at one point) but net time was about 7 hours and riding time around 6:30. This was a VERY tough day. I would not do this again without getting some kind of handle on the cramps issue. I rode a century about a month ago (net 4500 feet of climbing with no long climbs) on a day hotter than today, and no hint of cramps at all.

dave

ps. I have decided to skip spin class tonight :-)

Carbonfiberboy 10-03-19 09:25 AM

On a big event ride or any ride that I expect to be way outside my normal range, I carry a 6oz. Hammer flask of pickle juice in a jersey pocket, and another one in my saddle bag. Yes, I've had 2-bottle rides. Pickle juice works, but training works better. When I returned to riding RAMROD a few years ago, I had a ride just like yours but different muscles. And I thought I was ready. Now that I know how I have to train, it hasn't happened again. Next year's 6 Gap will be better. The older we get, the smarter we have to train. My CTL has to be ~80 with plenty of gym work, backing off to once a week in summer but still heavy squats every week. Plus of course the usual rides to exhaustion and long climbs. Squats work muscles that one doesn't normally associate with cycling. That's good IME.

DaveLeeNC 10-04-19 06:08 AM

I just did some comparative data analysis mostly because I am a numbers guy. My primary comparison was against the 'Tour de Moore' century ride that I did as a training ride here in NC on Labor Day. And the first roughly two-thirds of it was hard just like Six Gap (but in a different way).

The TdM is over rolling terrain and about 4500' of climbing, but NOTHING of any length. I ended up riding in a small group that pretty quickly shrank to 3 people. The other 2 were younger/stronger than me (I hit 70 next month), but one of the guys (Ironman triathlete who started his life as a roadie) was exceptionally strong and did a bit over half of the pulling. Given that bit of relief, I could do my share of the work but had one problem. They REALLY went after all the short uphills on the ride. Except for that it was not hard. But by the time we hit the 66 mile aid, I was toast because of all those 'attacks'. So I told them to just ride on without me and I solo'ed it in (at an easier pace). Quite frankly after those 66 miles, I was not obviously in worse shape than I was after the top of Hogpen (but without hints of leg cramps).

I wondered how it might compare to my ride to the top of Hogpen. They were different for sure, but it was not obvious to me that one was easier. OTOH, one caused severe cramping problems and the TdM Century did not. So what I compared was the pedaling time to the top of Hogpen against the same pedaling time in the Tour de Moore which would have been all the riding with the 3some plus another close to an hour of relatively easy solo pedaling. I compared the power ranges (less than 180W, 180-200, 200-220, 220-240,higher than 240). I also compared the torque applied to the pedals. In this case I just divided power by the cadence, which yields a number that is directly proportional to torque. The two comparisons are of the same amount of pedaling time (Six Gap had a LOT more rest time at more rest stops). I also added the 46 minutes of pedaling time up Hogpen Gap as a third point of comparison.

When all is said and done it seems pretty obvious that the Six Gap ride was a bigger effort from either a torque or power perspective (vs the Tour de Moore). The big efforts on the risers in the TdM show up but net Tdm was a much easier effort.

My final conclusion is that my training had much too little 'long, extended, steady efforts' (which are hard to execute on the rolling terrain around here). I did some hard 5 minute hill repeats at 115 to 125% of ftp. And a few extended long/steady efforts indoors. But most of my hard training was 45 minute to 60 minute 'fartlek rides'. These went as high as 235 average watts (NP around 250). My sense of things is that these well prepared me for a TdM type ride, but did not prepare me properly for the Six Gap ride.

And what is really discouraging is that four years ago (on roughly the same level of training) I rode a solo century at 230 average watts (in cool weather and rolling terrain). This was 20.1 mph speed which included two extremely brief pit stops. Oh well.

dave
https://cimg7.ibsrv.net/gimg/bikefor...fdabf8c3b7.jpg

Carbonfiberboy 10-04-19 10:48 AM

You got it exactly. My prep for RAMROD is to do equivalent climbs but on shorter routes. There are 2 major climbs each prep route which total 65%-75% of goal event gain and distance. We have long climbs out here. The last climb on each I give all I've got left, not that I go moderate on any of them. I do 3 prep rides like that on consecutive weekends right before my taper. On the big climbs, I know what my effort should be and just keep it steady w/o respect to gradient, bottom to top, using about the same cadence all the way. Midweek I mostly do steady moderate, trying to allow my CTL to rise about 3 points/week. I'm 4 years older and every year makes a bigger difference. Our oldest finisher is usually ~80. You still have time for more fun.

redlude97 10-04-19 12:16 PM


Originally Posted by DaveLeeNC (Post 21149649)
I just did some comparative data analysis mostly because I am a numbers guy. My primary comparison was against the 'Tour de Moore' century ride that I did as a training ride here in NC on Labor Day. And the first roughly two-thirds of it was hard just like Six Gap (but in a different way).

The TdM is over rolling terrain and about 4500' of climbing, but NOTHING of any length. I ended up riding in a small group that pretty quickly shrank to 3 people. The other 2 were younger/stronger than me (I hit 70 next month), but one of the guys (Ironman triathlete who started his life as a roadie) was exceptionally strong and did a bit over half of the pulling. Given that bit of relief, I could do my share of the work but had one problem. They REALLY went after all the short uphills on the ride. Except for that it was not hard. But by the time we hit the 66 mile aid, I was toast because of all those 'attacks'. So I told them to just ride on without me and I solo'ed it in (at an easier pace). Quite frankly after those 66 miles, I was not obviously in worse shape than I was after the top of Hogpen (but without hints of leg cramps).

I wondered how it might compare to my ride to the top of Hogpen. They were different for sure, but it was not obvious to me that one was easier. OTOH, one caused severe cramping problems and the TdM Century did not. So what I compared was the pedaling time to the top of Hogpen against the same pedaling time in the Tour de Moore which would have been all the riding with the 3some plus another close to an hour of relatively easy solo pedaling. I compared the power ranges (less than 180W, 180-200, 200-220, 220-240,higher than 240). I also compared the torque applied to the pedals. In this case I just divided power by the cadence, which yields a number that is directly proportional to torque. The two comparisons are of the same amount of pedaling time (Six Gap had a LOT more rest time at more rest stops). I also added the 46 minutes of pedaling time up Hogpen Gap as a third point of comparison.

When all is said and done it seems pretty obvious that the Six Gap ride was a bigger effort from either a torque or power perspective (vs the Tour de Moore). The big efforts on the risers in the TdM show up but net Tdm was a much easier effort.

My final conclusion is that my training had much too little 'long, extended, steady efforts' (which are hard to execute on the rolling terrain around here). I did some hard 5 minute hill repeats at 115 to 125% of ftp. And a few extended long/steady efforts indoors. But most of my hard training was 45 minute to 60 minute 'fartlek rides'. These went as high as 235 average watts (NP around 250). My sense of things is that these well prepared me for a TdM type ride, but did not prepare me properly for the Six Gap ride.

And what is really discouraging is that four years ago (on roughly the same level of training) I rode a solo century at 230 average watts (in cool weather and rolling terrain). This was 20.1 mph speed which included two extremely brief pit stops. Oh well.

dave
https://cimg7.ibsrv.net/gimg/bikefor...fdabf8c3b7.jpg

Looking at coasting time might also be enlightening, those are where I feel like a really get a chance to recover and prevent cramps

DaveLeeNC 10-04-19 01:00 PM

Well, that is an interesting question and certainly easy to ferret out. The Six Gap ride to the top of Hogpen was 10.7% coasting. The TdM section was 9.5% coasting (and neither of these times include rest stop times). Interestingly the Hogpen climb was 3.6% coasting as there are at least six short sections of downhill.

However much that was - it wasn't enough :-)

dave


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