The pain and pleasure of cycling
The inconvenience of cycling leg pain can ruin what is otherwise a highly enjoyable past-time.
As any frustrated car commuter will be acutely aware, cyclists are everywhere now.
Some have put the growth of popularity down to the success at recent Olympics and the Tour de France, and even to people taking to the saddle after the 2005 terror attacks.
Whatever the reason, cycling has seen a massive surge. About 1 in 8 people say they actively follow the sport. There are about 2 million people who cycle at least once a week.
It is fun and convenient, but can a lot of strain on the legs. So much so that we see a lot of clients with leg pain. We look at how leg pain can be avoided and treated.
The possible causes of cycling leg pain
Cycling can be a very deceptive past-time. It can feel very easy and comfortable one minute and intense and difficult the next.
Subtle changes in wind direction, the gradient in the road or the surface of the road can affect exercise intensity very quickly.
A common reason for encountering cycling leg pain is because of a build-up of lactic acid.
Whilst you are cycling the body utilises oxygen to break down glucose for energy. If the exercise intensity is too much you might run out of oxygen for this process. In this instance, the body can convert lactate to energy without the need for oxygen. It is a useful reserve.
However, if you start to produce lactate faster than you can burn it off it will create a painful sensation in your legs as you pass your lactate threshold.
Lactic build up can feel incredibly unpleasant.
Most leg pain from lactic acid is due to over-exuberance. Taking on too much too soon will catch you out. Be sure to learn about appropriate warm-ups, cooldowns, and good stretching habits post ride. A professionally qualified physiotherapist can give you in-depth insight into all of these areas.
If you do suffer lactic build up during a ride don’t stop the exercise immediately. Drop the gears down and ease off on intensity. This will help the legs flush out the lactic acid.
The pain should gradually dissipate as you ease off.
But what happens if the pain continues post ride?
Lasting leg pain
If you suffer delayed pain it is often due to microscopic tears in the muscle fibers. This is a normal process in muscle growth but can cause a high level of discomfort for up to 48-72 hours.
Adequate rest and good nutrition and hydration are key to allowing muscles to repair properly. More specifically, during these hot days, you need to make sure you are getting some salt intake (which you can get through Isotonic drinks).
In addition, you should take on board more magnesium and possibly glutamine.
And to really take good care of your legs it is worth factoring in some regular massage.
For help with all aspects of nutrition, conditioning, and remedial treatments, feel free to contact us for some expert help.