Why will my aging body let me put the miles in and then complain afterwards?



Gingerbread Man

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Jul 30, 2007
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I started cycling regularly at the beginning of this year because my evenings are free during the week and an ankle injury has stopped me running or playing football. Within a couple of weeks I was doing around 12-13 miles every night during the week and feeling pretty good whilst riding. BUT I had to take a month off because I just seemed to be tired during the day and my legs seemed to have a deep ache that I couldnt shake off. Not DOMS. Not stiffness. I am no stranger to exercise and DOMS would make me feel a sense of satisfaction. This is a kind of deep, internal ache that lasts.

I had blood tests done and everything was fine. The GP said "just run with it". My physio suggested maybe its eating not enough carbs. I am not sure thats it. I often have two big bowls of porridge during my workday plus some lunch.

I am 41 and cycling makes me feel about 61. I have to hold myself back from riding too much. 20 miles a week is hardly "overtraining" territory and I now leave 48 hours between rides. I dont drink. I dont smoke. I used to run 10k races. This doesnt make sense to me. The only thing I can think of is that I do tend to ride hard most of the time - like I am in a permanent rush.

Has anybody else experienced anything similar?

Should I consider:
More carbs?
More sleep?
More patience? (is my body going to get better at cycling?)
A different riding position?

OK...so probably all of them. But something seems to be going on here and I want to know what it is.

Any advice welcome.
 

jhuskey

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Oct 6, 2003
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More sleep and patience for sure. Rest is a very important part of training. I think after a time you will feel better. Conditioning takes time and I know I have been there.
 

jpr95

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Oct 11, 2010
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Try eating some protein right after you ride--within 30 minutes, and make sure you eat small amounts of it regularly through the day. I find it helps a lot, and I'm just a few years younger than you.

Depending on what your typical cadence already is, you could also try shifting down and spinning faster to shift some of the workload off your legs and to your cardiovascular system. I've found low cadences are more like a pure anaerobic activity (they're not) in the amount of lactic acid that builds up in the legs, resulting in soreness later. That type of riding has its place, but for most of us, not in day-in, day-out riding.
 

swampy1970

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Feb 3, 2008
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Stretch and use a foam roller for massage if required. Given that you come from a running background I'd have to take a guess at you just not being accustomed to riding the bike so much despite being fit. Patience - just ride and have fun for a while. It could be that you're trying to force the effort too much or you're slowly seizing up over time. LOL. I sit in a chair for most of the day and combined with riding and if I don't stretch at all during the week I do feel it on the bike. Start small - think big. Your current fitness with regards to the bike is what it is. Identify your limitations. Figure out what you really want to do and work from there to create a plan. If that means for the first months you're riding at speeds that seem embarrassingly slow then that's what you need to do. Aim for the biggest training stimulus for the least stress - at some point though it will hurt :p I tend to find that lack of carbs during the day, especially after the ride, contribute to empty/dead legs more than anything else. Protein - meh, unlike running cycling is very easy on the body and a normal diet should take care of most of your needs unless you're absolutely smashing your brains in during each ride. For really long rides >150 miles or hard days back to back to back I'd consider protein supplementation. I don't notice faster recovery, less soreness or better performance at the end of a single ride less that 100 miles if I eat more protein rich foods. Hydration. Make sure you're drinking enough fluids. There's no magic sports drink - whatever gets you to drink is often the best. Sleep. Recovery is key, however you can do a lot with limited sleep for a period of a month or so - just dont make a habit of it. If you just feel like **** even after eating/drinking enough, sleeping enough and verifying that you're not doing to much - get the doc to do a full blood panel with all the iron related goodies. I'm the same age as you and to be honest I don't eat and sleep as much as I could or should but adequate carbs, stretching and "a plan" seem to help the most and I'm still able to ride fairly well.
 

slowfoot

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Jan 18, 2008
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aging?

you're just beginning the next greatest phase of your life!

i am 56 , had been div 1 football and track athlete was running 35 min 10k's with ease. eventially i ground my knees into dust so i started cycling 5 years ago after arthoscopies etc.

cycling is a fabulous way to get in shape , escape the daily grind, alleviate depression, and compete again. my knees are not much of a problem anymore.

but it takes a long time to get those running muscles to become efficient at cycling, years that is.

you'll be sore if you're doing hard rides. especially without a base of long slower riding. ymmv, but many say you need 500-1000 miles early in the season before moving to hard workouts. i find there's a lot of truth to having a base of easy miles.

1) take it easy , don't be crushing yourself as you develop your base
2) nutrition - a recovery drink with protein/carbs is mandatory post ride
3) take time to stretch esp after, i have started getting deep massages and am finding my legs are way looser now
4) get a group of friends to ride with - makes it a pleasure to get out
5) WARM UP takes me about 30 min before the grease gets moving

above all ENJOY the ride and be patient

dave
 

An old Guy

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Feb 12, 2011
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Originally Posted by Gingerbread Man .

I was doing around 12-13 miles every night during the week and feeling pretty good whilst riding.

The only thing I can think of is that I do tend to ride hard most of the time - like I am in a permanent rush.
12-13 miles is 30-45 minutes. Not much riding at all. If you could do it before your month off, you should be able to do it now.

What are you doing different?
 

Gingerbread Man

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Jul 30, 2007
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Thanks for the advice. Much appreciated.

Slowfoot - that was a good post - thanks.

An Old Guy - The point isn't that I cant do the miles. II seem to be able to cycle as much as I want - when I am on the bike. My problem is the tiredness and aching legs I feel for days afterwards.
 

LarryCrowne

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Jun 23, 2012
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Originally Posted by Gingerbread Man .



Has anybody else experienced anything similar?

I feel the same way. But this is my first week of riding /img/vbsmilies/smilies/biggrin.gif
 

Dave Cutter

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Jan 15, 2012
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Originally Posted by Gingerbread Man .

I just seemed to be tired during the day and my legs seemed to have a deep ache that I couldnt shake off. ........ I had blood tests done and everything was fine. The GP said "just run with it".

I am 41 and cycling makes me feel about 61.

Any advice welcome.
Glad to read you asked a Dr about your concern... always a good idea... if you can do that.

Going only by my own experience... I would guess that the most common problems caused by/with cycling as exercise.... is dehydration and protein depletion. I drink [water] every 4 miles in cooler or even winter weather... and recently [because of the heat] twice as often. One big swallow.. or two small gulps. Because of the breeze from cycling it can be easy for a cyclist to miss just how much he/she is sweating. Pee should be frequent, clear, and odor free.

It is best to eat within one hour after finishing a ride! If you delay replacing the fat/protein/energy stored in the large muscles which you will likely burn during cycling... you will feel fatigued. I am not a fan of "drinks and mixes"... myself. I know an egg has a good blend of fat/protein that the human race has used for... who knows how long. I like an egg (and maybe a tiny bit of cheese) on my salad after my ride... but a hot dog [with no bun] works OK too.

Trust me... you DO NOT feel like you're 61! Cycling while 61 feels just fine. Actually.... 61 is still youthful for cycling!
 

Gingerbread Man

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Jul 30, 2007
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Thanks - I normally add whey protein to a chocolate milk as soon as I get in from a ride and eat a balanced meal maybe an hour afterwards. I could probably improve my protein intake during the day though.

I will make a point of keeping hydrated from now on- I would be suprised if that is the cause of my fatigue but it is definitely something I need to improve on.

My main objective is now to "take it easy" (as suggested by Slowfoot) with my riding instead of treating every ride like a TDF time trial. Curiously there doesnt seem to be much difference in my times so far! Hopefully more time in the saddle at a low intensity will help me build up my base and this fatigue will be a thing of the past.

Thanks for all your advice
 

swampy1970

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Feb 3, 2008
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Put more emphasis on replacing carbs than protein. Unless you've ridden yourself into the ground over many hours and forced your body to start scavanging protein from your muscles, it's unlikely that you'll need a massive amount of protein post ride. The only time I could tell that post ride protein drinks helped were after hard 4+hr rides done back to back on the weekend. I started to notice that too much protein supplements over time actually seemed like they hindered recovery after shorter rides of a couple of hours. Even after rides of 10+ hours, I still find that carb replacement is the big issue to reduce muscle soreness and aid recovery after ensuring that post ride hydration needs have been somewhat met. I've had a couple of "interesting" experiences with chocolate milk after very hard, very hot rides and I was extremely happy they happened at home rather than at a community hall a few hours drive away where there was only one crapper and likely not a full roll of toilet paper...
 

swampy1970

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Feb 3, 2008
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Gingerbread Man said:
Thanks for the advice.  Much appreciated.   Slowfoot - that was a good post - thanks.   An Old Guy - The point isn't that I cant do the miles.  II seem to be able to cycle as much as I want - when I am on the bike.  My problem is the tiredness and aching legs I feel for days afterwards.
Eat more carbs and check that youre drinking enough. If that doesn't work check the amount of sleep you're getting. If you're getting 6+ hours a night you should be good. Still feeling like **** - get a full blood panel done at the docs and add in the relevant tests for iron. Might as well make use of your insurance if you have it... There's no point in messing around guesstimating and choosing down on random stuff when a few good questions to the doc and a few tests could yield answers. Also, check that your saddle is either not way too high or much too low. Either of those will leave your legs feeling sore, especially if it's too high. Failing that - rub snake oil on your legs, wear a trendy magnetic wristband and if still no dice then pull out the protein for those sub hour rides. If you're that short on protein then you have dietary issues that shouldn't be addressed by supplements.
 

Dave Cutter

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Jan 15, 2012
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Originally Posted by swampy1970 .

Put more emphasis on replacing carbs than protein. Unless you've ridden yourself into the ground over many hours and forced your body to start scavanging protein from your muscles, it's unlikely that you'll need a massive amount of protein post ride.
Your right... I would guess it's rare that anyone ever needs massive amounts of protein. But I am not familiar with where [to] or how cabs would be replaced.... do you think the OP may have low blood sugar levels?

Most sources of (but of course not all) protein also contain the fat easily stored within the muscle groups used when cycling (the large muscles). Even protein shakes... as I understand it... are based on the whey fat-protein.

I agree completely that a carb [or sugar] bump... post ride... will make people feel better. It seems to me that a few years ago drinking an original (not diet) Coke was popular (or trendy) as a recovery drink. But I am not sure how healthy that might be in the long term. I've read of the chocolate milk recovery drink as well. Depending on your heritage, age, and sex.... an iffy idea at best. Many cultures (including mine) aren't milk drinkers and many have trouble digesting milk products. Any male over 40 should watch for trouble with dairy products even if they didn't [need to] in their youth.
 

swampy1970

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Feb 3, 2008
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If you go out and hammer then glycogen is the fuel of choice. You need carbs for that. I think that might be an underlying issue for the OP. If riding in the morning then eat a breakfast rich in carbs about an hour or so before going out. For a ride later in the day, as long as a regular diet that has enough carbs has been consumed then you'll be good for about 90 minutes of really hard riding - fitness depending. Right after the ride about 1g of quality carbs per kg of body weight is a good shooting point for recovery. Diet Soda has zero sugars and zero carbs. It had lots of chemicals suck that it scares ants and other bugs off. Lay a trail of diet coke next to some ants and see how they react - the polar opposite than regular coke. I have no issues with dairy products unless I've just been out for a couple Of hours in the hot NorCal sun. 100F and the demands of L2/L3 with some L4 will get you fairly toasty...
 

Dave Cutter

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Jan 15, 2012
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Originally Posted by swampy1970 .

If you go out and hammer then glycogen is the fuel of choice. You need carbs for that.
Diet Soda has zero sugars and zero carbs. ...........the polar opposite than regular coke.
OK... so you really do mean a blood sugar bump for both performance... AND for a quick recovery. I am familiar with carbo loading ( < link provided). And... to be honest... on occasion I have had an orange juice with my meal following a long ride partly because I knew the sugar bump wouldn't hurt. I hadn't thought about refueling with carbohydrates... and my reading materials haven't suggested it (my selections only mention protein/fat replacement for recovery).

But the/your idea does have merit! Thanks for taking the time to fully explain it. Maybe... I just need newer books. I think you're right... some carbohydrates could help the OP with his energy levels.
 

swampy1970

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Feb 3, 2008
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Eating carbs will increase blood sugar levels but that's not the important bit. Having a topped up "tank" - ie Liver and muscle stores of glycogen, is crucial for riding hard. Sure you can mull around at a fairly brisk pace for most of the day and get by off eating some fruits, starches, sugary snacks etc but when it comes down to being able to ride hard and recover well you need to make sure that your diet (both regular foods and supplemental stuff you eat and drink on the bike) contain enough quality carbs. Maltodextrin based drinks are good for on the bike - and good for after ride recovery. Typically, you're better of eating a couple of hours before you ride to let the blood sugar levels and insulin settle down. You still want to utilize fat as a fuel as much as possible... If you've been out for an epic 4+ hour ride then chances are that some extra protein may help. Like with most other things people react differently to different supplements or after ride eating. For example, every year I do the alta Alpina challenge - 8 passes in the high Sierra Nevada, 21,000ft of climbing and almost 200 miles. I always lose a lot of fluids and theory suggests that I should take protein along the route too - and after the ride - but Im starting to find that the supplements that I've tried before tend to make me lose the desire to eat or drink both on the bike and afterwards. Going mainly for carb/electrolyte drinks the time around helped and the usual 8 to 10lb loss post ride was only a few pounds this year.
 

Dave Cutter

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Jan 15, 2012
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Originally Posted by swampy1970 .

If you've been out for an epic 4+ hour ride then chances are that some extra protein may help. Like with most other things people react differently to different supplements or after ride eating. For example, every year I do the alta Alpina challenge - 8 passes in the high Sierra Nevada, 21,000ft of climbing and almost 200 miles. I always lose a lot of fluids and theory suggests that I should take protein along the route too - and after the ride - but Im starting to find that the supplements that I've tried before tend to make me lose the desire to eat or drink both on the bike and afterwards. Going mainly for carb/electrolyte drinks the time around helped and the usual 8 to 10lb loss post ride was only a few pounds this year.
I like long rides.... but nothing even near to what you do. We differ a lot.... I am old, I don't ride competitively, and losing weight while cycling is a plus for me. But I think it's traditional with my kind of riders to eat ice cream or pie along a route. Everyone uses a sugar bump from time-to-time.... even office workers get a candy bar from the vending machines during sleepy afternoons.

I have even taken along a couple of gels on planned long rides and I take a couple of supplements with meals as well. I am not anti-supplement.... but for non-competitive riding... I am happy with real food and strong coffee. I think for the most part the highly processed food supplements and drinks are more advertisement... than a benefit. But even a tiny edge... is an edge.... so I understand why people use them.

But using carbs as part of the recovery... wasn't something I had thought of [or read about]. In my case... with my style of cycling... I mainly reach for the hard boiled egg, red meat, tuna, and such. I worry more about my muscle mass than energy level... as at my age... muscle isn't so easy to replace. Coffee seems to be enough to perk me up after a long ride.... and there are limits as to how many calories of food I can put in my body in any given day. But I do think I will add fruit or juice to my recovery meal for a while... it makes good sense.
 

swampy1970

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Feb 3, 2008
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At 42 I'm hardly a spring chicken. Then again there are times where I feel 60 when things go amiss on those long rides and times where I feel 16 and just want to go out and crush myself into the ground for an hour or two for no other reason because I was feeling good at the time and because I can.

I stopped racing competitively at 26 and took the best part of 10 years completely off the bike, turning my attentions to other things and ultimately to beer and BBQ ;) Lots of beer... which probably has a fair bit to do with health maladies.

Carbs have been the cornerstone of recovery for years - the old mantra of consuming 1g of carbs per kg of body weight within 30 minutes was in vogue back when I started racing. That was back when brake cables were still exposed and toe clips and straps were the norm.

To be honest, I don't really like the really long rides. I did the Brevet series this year because it was a bit of a curiosity - just to see if I could. I did it but if kinda f**ked be over a bit and trashed alot of the good work that I'd put in. The other rides like the afore mentioned Alta Alpina Challenge like because of the location, the club that organizes it and the amazing support and to a lesser extent the challenge. The first year I did it, it was about the challenge - now I do it because I can and it's fun. I'd like to have a crack at the Furnace Creek 508 but the requirements for teams of private SAGs is a bit much and I'd have to be in really good shape for a long time before asking others for that level of commitment to provide support.

At the end of the day, really long rides are not rocket science, especially if you have a power meter. You figure out what power to ride at, you figure out a feeding plan and based upon the power and weight you do a bit of math to see if it's kinda sorta feasible. Then you just go out and ride - the worst case scenario is that you die a thousand deaths going up on of the bigger hills and you end up playing 'catch up' on the food/drink or you spend a bit of time at the next rest stop tending to your over taxed muscles and you get back on your bike and ride some more. Every long ride, especially at altitude can throw a nice wrench in the works. Weather, effects of altitude, vast amounts of climbing in one day are all something you can plan for to a certain extent but the 'fun' part is you never really know what's gonna happen.