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Cycling on Dead Legs: Too fast, too often.


October 2013

I wrote about my group ride earlier today and I almost put this post on the end of that one but this is going to go on my Noob’s Guide page because it’s just too important.

I have been struggling with sore legs for about a week now and they’re slowly showing decent progress to coming back.  I would say the easiest way for me to gauge how I’m doing, at least at this point, is to flex my leg muscles – if that hurts (and by hurts, I mean knots and cramps, it hurts ). This is partly due to the cold, I’m sure.  I had a tough time getting going this spring too and it was a very cold spring.  It wasn’t until we started getting into the 60’s when my speed jumped back to normal.

The other part is due to over-training and I know exactly how I got myself in this predicament.  Since I started riding I’ve used an active recovery strategy…  One hard effort followed by an easy effort (17-17.5 mph average solo), then a decent effort (18.5-19.5 average) followed by another hard effort.  Alternating meant I could ride darn near every day without toasting my legs.  Last year I would go two weeks on one day off and I ended up dead tired a few times so this year I changed my plan and took every Monday off whether I needed it or not.  I stuck with the exact same rotation too and it worked masterfully.  I rocked out an 800 mile month in August with ease and felt fantastic.

Then I bought my Venge at the end of August and this began my undoing.  The bike is only marginally faster than my old 5200 and the components are actually a grade lower…  Even with 13 years of technological advances the old Ultegra components are still a little bit smoother than the 105’s.  That notwithstanding, the bike is about two pounds lighter (three now) and a ton more comfortable to ride (something with the geometry that I haven’t quite figured out yet – but I’m working on a blockbuster series of posts that will expose the weakness in the Trek).  With the Venge, those 17-17.5 mph easy efforts became 18.5-19 mph and I justified the lack of active recovery rides by riding with my wife once a week on Fridays (16.5 mph on average) through September – once school started.  I needed two active recovery rides a week to stick with my schedule.  So, for August, I made it 800 comfortable miles.  September was a 650 mile month (with minimal active recovery) and that behavior followed into October where I was on pace, at least until last week, to put in another 800 mile month as of the 15th (397 miles) – and that’s where my month hit a wall.  I’ve been going six days a week, close to full-out every day, for a month and a half.

While it had been fun, I’m paying for it.  I spent a week with something that resembled restless leg syndrome and I’ve had to make sure I was never too far from a bottle of Aleve to ease the soreness.  Now, for certain, this isn’t a hydration thing, this isn’t a nutrition thing and I don’t think it’s a bike fit issue (I did tinker with my saddle five weeks ago but ended up only 2 mm back from where I started and it’s been great for four weeks now).  I took it very easy last week, dropping the mileage from 200 the previous week to only 88 last week over just four days.  Two hard rides, one medium effort and one easy.  The extra two days off helped but I’m not quite back yet.

So for this week, I took Monday off as I have for the last few months, and I rode hard yesterday.  The weather forecast is for cold temps but not much in the way of rain so for the next three days (at least) I’ll be concentrating on slow active recovery rides and see where I’m at on Saturday. 

To confirm my suspicions, I braved the sparse flurries and howling winds for a very easy spin (17.5 mph into the wind, 18.5 back home with the wind) and I feel better than I’ve felt in two weeks.

More to come…



  1. David Bonnell says:

    Can I suggest a few other things that might help. Massage, there’s a reason those pros get a rubdown every day. If you can’t get a massage from someone who knows what they’re doing then get a foam roller and roll on that watching tv, it sure hurts, especially on the ITB but it helps. Third thing is magnesium, when I did heavy training (a million years ago) magnesium helped with muscle soreness. I got it in a powder and mixed it in water to drink. It was incredible the difference that made to soreness.
    Oh and rest.

    • bgddyjim says:

      Hey thanks! I’ve had a massage before and you’ve got a point there. The others I’ll give a try – all but the rest, unless I can hold out till the snow flies. 😉

      • cyardin says:

        David is right on the magnesium front, and if you can find an electrolyte drink with magnesium as one of the active ingredients that helps too. This is mainly about the effect on oxygenation to the muscles.

  2. I echo the foam roller comment. It worked wonders for me. Having a good recovery drink within 30 minutes of a hard will help as well.

  3. kruzmeister says:

    I’m a big fan of the foam roller too or even a tennis ball on sore tired muscles will work wonders.

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