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Thread: ride recovery

  1. #1
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    ride recovery

    I suspect I know what I am doing wrong, or not doing, but would be good to get some other opinions.

    My recovery from rides is poor. Especially my quads. They are almost always sore and never really warm up, I will ride with people faster than me and it is not my lungs that are stopping me from keeping up it is my leg muscles.

    I stretch, a bit (probably not enough, I am committing to yoga 1x/week now). I eat protein after rides, I use recovery drinks, I get lots of electrolytes. It is possible I don't drink enough water when I ride in the heat, but I am not sure.

    I am working out at the gym a couple days a week to try and strengthen my glutes and hams to take some of the load off my quads.

    I ride about 5 days a week, hard mountain biking (straight up, straight down) and downhill lift accessible 1x/week. I ride from 1-3 hours. On shorter easier rides I ride in harder gears to give me a workout. I ride on flats for now, but going to try transitioning to clipless soon.

    I get massages every other week.

    Other than taking more time off is there anything I am missing?

  2. #2
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    Learning some quad specific stretches (and then doing them religiously after every ride and on off days) and quad strengthening exercises will probably be the most helpful thing.

    Here is a good website for some basic strength exercises that you can do at home:
    Quadriceps Strengthening Exercises - VMO Strengthening Exercises - PhysioAdvisor

    Another excellent exercise for quad strength is weighted squats, lunges, and "chairless" sitting (back against a wall, squatting like you are in a chair).

    When you are riding shorter/easier rides, drop your saddle all the way down and ride standing up. It is an excellent workout and helps strengthen and stabilize your quads (I learned this the hard way by breaking my saddle and having to ride out standing up).

    After a few weeks of consistently stretching and strengthening, you will probably find climbing a lot easier and will be able to ride for longer stretches without having to stop and rest your legs.

    ETA: Also, make sure that when you are done with your hard ride that you cool down for 5-10 minutes. You can do this by easy spinning on the bike, jogging, or walking briskly. This will help flush the lactic acid out of your legs and help loosen you up for your after ride stretches.
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  3. #3
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    What are you doing for post - ride nutrition?
    Ideally you should have some protein and carbs after the workout, within 30 minutes.
    Additionally, how are you doing for electrolyte intake?

  4. #4
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    This sounds familiar to me. In my case, I thought it was my legs, but it was my lungs. I went riding with a cycling coach who said, 'no - it's our fitness'. It turns out that I was riding so hard to keep up with my faster friends that I was above my lactate threshold a lot. The lactate acid would build up in my quads and they'd feel tired a lot.

    My routine now consists of a lot more 'endurance-paced' riding hours (where you can easily hold a conversation), and recovery days after harder efforts where I ride unbelievably slow to spin out the legs. As a result, my fitness has improved so I'm riding the same speed (or faster) than 2 years ago and I don't feel it in my legs at all. The difference is HUGE.

    If you are experiencing the same thing that I was, your routine might be making the issue worse.

    One way to figure this out would be to get a heart rate monitor. Your lactate threshold is the average heart rate that you can sustain riding steady and hard for 20 minutes, muliplied by 0.95 (you need to do this test on the road that is flat or uphill without stops - also, warm up before doing the test). When heart rate is above this level, your muscles will produce lactate acid. If you spend a lot of time above this level on a ride, your muscles will feel fatigued.

    I know you said that it wasn't you lungs, but I wanted to throw this out because your situation sounds a lot like where I was.

  5. #5
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    Thanks everyone.

    I think my post ride nutrition is pretty solid, I have a recovery shake most times or just regular food with protein always present. I also focus on my electrolytes, sometimes I know my hydration in general is lacking though.

    I have considered getting a heart rate monitor, might be time for that Miatagal! I like your explanation, feels right to me. I have been working hard ALOT! even when I am out with slower riders I am riding at a lower gear to make it much harder, I was hoping this would help build strength but maybe it is working against me.

    I also know I don't stretch enough, but I do strengthen my legs.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by miatagal96 View Post
    This sounds familiar to me. In my case, I thought it was my legs, but it was my lungs. I went riding with a cycling coach who said, 'no - it's our fitness'. It turns out that I was riding so hard to keep up with my faster friends that I was above my lactate threshold a lot. The lactate acid would build up in my quads and they'd feel tired a lot.

    My routine now consists of a lot more 'endurance-paced' riding hours (where you can easily hold a conversation), and recovery days after harder efforts where I ride unbelievably slow to spin out the legs. As a result, my fitness has improved so I'm riding the same speed (or faster) than 2 years ago and I don't feel it in my legs at all. The difference is HUGE.

    If you are experiencing the same thing that I was, your routine might be making the issue worse.

    One way to figure this out would be to get a heart rate monitor. Your lactate threshold is the average heart rate that you can sustain riding steady and hard for 20 minutes, muliplied by 0.95 (you need to do this test on the road that is flat or uphill without stops - also, warm up before doing the test). When heart rate is above this level, your muscles will produce lactate acid. If you spend a lot of time above this level on a ride, your muscles will feel fatigued.

    I know you said that it wasn't you lungs, but I wanted to throw this out because your situation sounds a lot like where I was.
    sounds like you need to spin more...

    this will off load the Quads and let them "catch up" ie rest and recover.

  7. #7
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    Spin, as in spin class, or use easier gears?

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    Quote Originally Posted by cleopatra999 View Post
    Spin, as in spin class, or use easier gears?
    Easier gears....

    Spin class wouldn't hurt either...but stay in really easy gears.

  9. #9
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    I do spin classes in the off season. I will try the easier gears, it's a fight with my ego wanting to go harder, burn more, bigger workout.

  10. #10
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    X2 on the easier gears. More rpm means less leg stress(and knee). As someone with knee pains at times, I have to manage that closely.
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  11. #11
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    I know you've said already that you get plenty of electrolytes in general, but if you haven't already you should double-check the potassium specifically. I know sore muscles for me often mean I'm not getting enough potassium.

  12. #12
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    X3 on being smart with your gears. You can use two things to get up and down quickly - your legs and/or your lungs. It's a lot easier for your lungs to recover than your legs. If you constantly destroy your legs and rely solely on them to power up long climbs, you'll well, destroy them. Know when to let your lungs do some of the work and when to give your legs a break. Purposely riding in a higher gear to stress your muscles isn't the best training strategy. Eventually, when your muscles weaken, your knees will take over - and that's never a good thing. Know when to spin and when to crank up the gears and give it power!

    Great mtb'ers aren't always the fastest, the strongest, or even the most fit. Those who excel in the sport and do well over the long haul are smart about how they use their power and how they fuel their bodies.

    Also, I've learned that certain foods during rides are amazing for speeding the recovery process. I always keep a packet of peanut butter with me and try to eat a few tablespoons during every ride. Along with electrolytes, it's amazing how much it helps.

    Good luck! And keep rocking it.

  13. #13
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    A couple of things not mentioned:

    Some small issue with your bike-fit may be to blame - slightly too low in the saddle could overload your quads, or too long in the cockpit.

    Don't do static stretches before riding. They reduce muscle power and will impair muscle endurance if you then overload them.

    Perhaps you also need to make a conscious effort to change the balance of muscles you use as well. Short periods using mostly calves and hams to pull the pedals around, rather than pushing down all the time can allow quad recovery on the fly, even without getting out of the saddle.

  14. #14
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    X4 on gears. Getting back into mtn. biking after a LONG time off for me was a lesson in this BIG TIME. My lungs sucked, my legs sucked, all around I sucked. I took it slow and had to just spin out low gears for a couple months until my lungs and legs caught up. Now I can hammer however much I want without any issues.

    I think learning to respond to your body is also something worth mentioning. If you start to feel that lactic acid building in your legs you need to back off (unless you are in a race and are near the end of course, LOL). Then as it subsides you can hammer down some more until it starts coming back, it's all a balance.

    Also second the suggestion to use different muscles, stand some, pedal circles, pull some with the hammies, etc.

    Overall after reading what you are doing it seems like you are over-training too. Riding 5 days a week, 1 day a week yoga, and a couple days of gym time emphasizing quads and legs seems like a LOT to me. Those hard leg efforts at the gym really need some recovery time off the bike IMO or at least easy recovery type rides where you spin for an hour.

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    + 1 on the too much training/riding. Spin more on easier gears. I would not bike and do gym/ leg work in the same day. Try some long slow distance on a road bike, 2-3 hours at 3/4 pace.

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    Thanks everyone. Some great suggestions here. I have been trying to use easier gears. Fully admit my mind gets in the way here. Harder workout=more burn=more chocolate. lol!on a serious note I find my legs fatigue quite quickly while spinning if the terrain is still challenging. That is my legs are burning out well before my lungs. Our trails are quite technical with long ups with punchy technical sections that require the use of granny. If I am in granny all the time there is nothing left when I need to sprint it. I will try to stand up more for those sections. But that is not strong in my skill set. The yoga I do is very gentle. The gym workouts are easyish with forces on glutes and hams. Not quads at all. I recently took four days off thinking it would help but legs were still fatigued. I am going on holidays where there are no bikes, 11 days without should help road biking not a great option here where I live. Only busy highways (hence selling my road bike)

  17. #17
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    I reread your OP and I see that you are riding with faster people. If that's the case then you will never have a chance to recover. I ride with men, so I'm always the slowest it seems. But I know my body and I know when to back off some so as not to blow up my legs. If you are blowing up on every ride then I don't see how you can become a better rider. You need to ride at your own pace, push it, but not blow out your legs. You need to learn to let your lungs do the work. I live in the Smoky Mountains. These climbs here are tough, but the downhills are great. There is basically nothing flat where I live, you are either going up or down to some degree.

    I also see where you say you need to sprint some, just curious but why would you ever need to sprint unless you are racing someone? Try some riding for enjoyment only sometimes (this can be a great recovery in and of itself). Just ditch your bike computer for a couple rides and ride as your body tells you to ride.

    IMO you need a lot of easy base miles in your legs if your legs are constantly being blown on rides. Then once you have a couple hundred miles as your base, then start some tempo riding - What Is Tempo in Cycling? | LIVESTRONG.COM - where you are just under your lactate threshold - you do intervals of this. It seems that you may not have the lungs like you think you do if your legs are burning out so fast- that could be a consideration. You may think it's your legs when it's actually your aerobic endurance that is the issue. Since you've tried the ride fast, gym, yoga route, consider the easy base miles route also. Good luck, hope you figure it out.

  18. #18
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    MotoMad1: the sprinting I am talking about is when I am going up singletrack at my slowest pace possible in granny, then something more technical comes up. I need to do a quick increase in pedal stroke to get over that obstacle. Perhaps I am doing this wrong.

  19. #19
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    Oh ok, yeah that's not what I meant by sprinting. If you are already in granny gear going uphill and there's an obstacle to get over there's not much you can do other than pedal faster and pull the front wheel up some to clear the obstacle. What would help is probably being in a slightly higher gear. I've noticed that just in the last couple months of my riding (since I've been riding much more lately) is that I'm never in my lowest gear anymore because I'm stronger (overall including endurance). So I'm plugging up the hills in a gear 2 or even 3 gears above what I began at (which makes my average speed much faster). Have you tried getting out of granny? Maybe you are going into that gear on the hills because you've always done it and it's habit. Since you are working out your legs at the gym and riding as much as you are you should see improvement in what gears you can ride comfortably in. So I would suggest you try those same hills in a higher gear and see how that goes. I don't mean to stay in higher gears forever either (if that's difficult for you) maybe try a couple sections that you know you need more speed in. Then after you clear them if that's taxing your legs too much drop back down into granny some.
    I hope you can figure it out, there's really a lot to it when you think about it. What gear to be in during certain situations makes a huge difference.
    Good luck!

  20. #20
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    That is what I was doing a lot this year, however the advice given earlier said to spin in my easiest gear and try using my lungs instead. I am not sure what is best for me. I do know using a harder gear on easier stuff helped me on harder trails when I had to get into granny, so I don't think this was bad.

    On another note the 12 day vacation with no biking helped a lot! LOL

  21. #21
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    The advice changes though as we get more information and specific situations I think. But overall if you are not noticing changes in your strength and stamina from all the work you are doing (both gym and riding) I would go back to my original thoughts about overtraining. So now you've run full-circle with responses from me anyway. :-)

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