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Old 02-10-10, 11:26 PM   #1
Flat Ire
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Pesky cramps

I've been road cycling for a few years, and have been getting stronger every year as I continue training. This year I intend to go for the King of the Mountians series here in SoCal.

The problem I'm having lately is, now with ever more strength in my legs, if I use the full leg power available to me, I get cramping. Last weekend I did a relatively short ride of 43 miles with about 3000 ft elevation gain. I enjoyed being able to power up the hills faster than ever. But on the way home I paid the price: Any little hill to climb had to be done real easy in a low gear to avoid impending cramps.

I hydrate a lot with electrolyte drinks, and I take Endurolites or S-Caps frequently. The cramping doesn't seem to be for lack of hydration or electrolytes.

My plan to remedy this is to take some short rides in full sprint to condition my muscles to pushing hard. If the ride is short enough, the craps won't have a chance to develop. That's my idea anyhoo.

I would be interested in comments or advice on this problem.
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Old 02-11-10, 05:04 AM   #2
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maybe you are taking care of electrolytes when you exercise but not in your regular diet. could it be you have a deficiency generally? try eating a banana a day even if you are not exercising.
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Old 02-11-10, 06:55 AM   #3
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There's one very specific mineral/electrolyte that you should take to avoid cramps and thats Magnesium. Magnesium is the most powerful muscle relaxer and its generally deficient in our diets. Look for a magnesium only supplement thats in the form of Orotate, citrate, aspartate and so forth but avoid magnesium oxide or heavy magnesium because they are very efficient laxatives. Too much magnesium of any sort is a laxative so don't take too much.

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Old 02-11-10, 12:27 PM   #4
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Are you a natural foods person? If so, go through your normal diet and add up the salt. You need a minimum of 3/4 tsp./day. It's easy to go under this when you make everything from scratch.

As you say, if you're cramping on a 43 mile ride, it's probably not from lack of hydration or electrolytes during. My observation is that this sort of cramping is almost always from undertraining. You don't say how you have developed more leg power, but it must not be from doing a lot of hard climbing or you wouldn't all of a sudden notice that you are cramping.

If that's the case, just climb more, being sure to use good technique. You can also do sets of one-legged pedaling on the trainer or rollers on recovery days. 45 minutes of that will help a lot.

Other than the above observations, which may not be correct, your idea is a good one. Not only that, but you want to train in a variety of modes: Stomps, 10 second all-out sprints, 45 second "sprints", 1.5 minute power intervals, 4 minute intervals, 10 minute muscle tension intervals, 10-20 minutes LT intervals, and 15 minute-1 hour tempo intervals.
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Old 02-14-10, 10:27 PM   #5
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and don't forget post-exercise stretching! i was just reminded of this lesson the hard way. if you don't properly stretch after a work out, some studies suggest you actually increase your likelihood of future cramps (not to mention other potential problems).
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Old 02-18-10, 10:02 PM   #6
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Thanks for the helpful comments.
Magnesium: It is not in the S-Caps that I use. I will switch to SaltStick caps which do have it.
As for daily salt, it's hard to determine how much I take in, but I am vegetarian, so maybe I am deficient. Maybe I'll eat some Trader Joe's Salt & Pepper potato chips every day. Good reason to induge in a bit of what's usually considered junk food. Or maybe I'll just take an electrolyte tablet daily.
Post-exercise stretching: never did it. WILLstart doing it.
Training-wise, I do a lot of cycling through the Santa Monica Mountains, however as of late I've been having to work a lot of O.T. at work so for the past few months I haven't been doing my usual 70-100 mile rides, just 30-40 miles. I wouldn't expect my muscles to get unfit in such a short time, but maybe so. But I didn't get this kind of cramping when I was ramping up to my current level. I can really pump on the pedals a lot harder now, than even a year ago. I guess with this increased exertion I really need to pay more attention to nutrititon and keeping my training level up.
Thanks again peoples.
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