Monday, April 30, 2012

Muscle Cramps and Me

This post expands on my previous post Leg Cramps. If you don't want to read this lengthily post then go to the bottom of this post for my conclusion.

I don't consider muscle cramps in my legs a big problem...just an occasional nuisance brought on by certain conditions. Isolating those conditions and acting upon them to minimize or prevent cramps altogether is my goal. As I have mentioned previously I have only had a full blown cramp a couple of times while riding my 700. I've felt cramps starting to rear their ugly head a number of times and I reacted fast enough by slowing down and stretching while still clipped in (an advantage of riding a trike).

I have no intention on explaining muscle cramps because I am no expert. There is much information available on the subject. I found the information presented on Medicine Net on Muscle Cramps to be the most inclusive and informative. I want to take the information available and relate it to my own situation and the adjustments I am making in my cycling, nutrition and general health. There is one adjustment I can't make...age. Age is a risk factor when it comes to muscle cramps so I'll leave that alone and move onto the variables I can adjust.

Sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium seem to be the main players that are talked about when it comes to muscle cramps. My recent blood work shows no deficiencies in this area. The only thing that stood out was my vitamin D was low (age appropriate). Vitamin D is needed to help make calcium available to our muscles. I started taking vitamin supplements but I don't feel that's the final answer to ending leg cramps.

Now what? Well...I'm starting to become more aware of a slightly uncomfortable feeling in my calf and hamstring muscles. They seem to be tight all the time, you might say "bunched up", while at the same time I feel strong and in excellent shape. In response I started amping up my stretching routine. Besides stretching before riding I now also stretch after riding and before going to bed. The stretching seems to have helped but something still seemed missing. Quite my accident I discovered that hiking once or twice a week sees to have a real positive impact on my "bunched up" leg muscles. I haven't really hiked since 2007 when my back started hurting.  Even with a successful back surgery in 2009 I hiked very little, instead I jumped full on into recumbent cycling. In the last few weeks I just felt the need to get into the hills. Hiking up steep trails puts a different stress on the legs. It strengthens and stretches the calf and hamstring  muscles as well as putting a different type of load on all the muscles in the leg. The uneven conditions on a trail also conditions the secondary leg muscles that are underused when cycling. I noticed after the first hike that my leg muscles felt I went on more hikes and will continue to hike and trike.  I guess this is what cross training is all about. Only time will tell what impact it has on muscle cramps.

CONCLUSION: Cross train...getting off the trike once and awhile and doing other sorts of physical activity seems to be the answer to better overall muscle conditioning. 

NOTE: As of March 2014 I have not had a leg cramp. I've been doing more hiking and a little weight lifting focusing on my hamstrings. If you see no update here then assume I'm still cramp free.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


Back in August of 2010 when I bought a Bacchetta Giro (now sold) the gentlemen I bought it from gave me his CycleOps trainer at no extra cost. At the time I didn't realize what a deal I got. It was my plan to sell it right away to help pay for the Bacchetta but I held onto it and I'm glad I did. I use it whenever the weather is lousy or I'm recovering from repair to my body. Today was no was raining. 

The CycleOps goes on easy and is a great trainer. Excellent and smooth feel.

Not exactly the best view but I have it's all good.

This is the temporary wired computer sensor I put on the rear wheel. It goes on in a few seconds with a little help from DiNotte lighting parts.

This thing is lousy for training. I only use it to put underneath the rear wheel when doing simple tuneups.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Nutrition While Ridng

Since I started doing a little research on muscle cramps (which I'm still gather information on and will post later) I've started to think more about my nutrition needs while cycling which also plays an important role in preventing cramps while on the road. Unlike young cyclists who seem to be able to pull from some magical reserves from the nutrition gods I am not so lucky...I'm getting older and suffer from the complexities of age...I need food and I need it now!!

I'm 6'1", weight 190 lbs, and if you don't know by now I'm 58 years old. So far I've figured out what works for me ( "me" is the key word here) while riding my Expedition (usually with Betzi my dog) on a 75 degree day. I average 800 feet of elevation gain per every 10 miles. I'm not an ultra cyclist or some other sort of fine tuned athlete, far from it, I'm just a guy who likes to go for a fun ride 3 times a week when my body's not falling apart.

Here's what I eat and drink while riding:
---- Before taking off I eat a healthy low fat, low protein high complex carb breakfast.
---- I down 10 ounces of energy drink per hour ( I use Cytomax at 4 scoops per 27 ounces). I also go through 10 ounces of water per hour (sometimes more).
---- I will generally eat one Powerbar or Clif bar per hour.
---- Sometimes I'll suck down an energy gel.

My general rule of thumb is to hydrate myself enough so at the end of a ride I have not lost anymore then 1% of my body weight from when I started my ride (about 2 lbs).

I'm getting pretty good at sensing my body's nutrition needs while riding before it's to late and I start shutting down or cramp up.. 

After three hours off cycling it's time to stop for a real meal which is another topic of conversation for which there are many books to choose from. I personally like the trial and error method along with a little common sense.
Food of champions

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Nice Ride No Cramp

It's been a little over a week since I've been on the trike. Taking a vacation takes it's toll on cycling time. It's good to be on the road again. It takes a few rides to get my mojo back after having a ride ending leg cramp back on April 1st (Leg Cramps.)  This is only my second ride since then. Every little twang or different feeling in my legs while riding makes me think "cramp". In the nearly three years that I've been riding a recumbent trike I can remember only having had two real full blown leg cramps and a couple that I managed to mitigate before they blew up on me. I shouldn't worry so much. Regardless it's still on my mind but I'll get past it with time.
My research on the subject of muscle cramps and how it relates to my personal situation is interesting. On the 23rd I'll be visiting my doctor to once again review my blood work and to make sure it looks good relative to keeping my arteries free and clear. At that time I'll take advantage of all the blood that has been pulled out of me over the last few months to take a look at my electrolyte levels related to muscle contractions. Later in April I'll have more information to share about muscle cramps with my fellow "cramp challenged" cyclists. 
Why does a muscle cramp have to happen on a busy street where wincing in pain is not cool? 

Almost home
The last third of a mile up hill to my home. My son Byron will sometimes meet me coming up the hill . He took this pic.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Scott Wayland's Perfect Little Tour

Scott Waylands Perfect Little Tour is what triken is all about. Four days on the road in the open space of California is all you need to clear out the cobwebs in your head.

Jodi, Django in his trailer, two Catrikes and Scott behind the camera.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Secure Them Water Bottles

This post is for Brian, a triker up in San Francisco, with a water bottle issue. In his lastest post (1.5 Month Break) Brian tells how he lost his water bottle, an experience I'm very familiar with. This is how I resolved "the water bottle issue".

I put two large o-rings from DiNotte Lighting together and the pictures tell the rest. Works perfect!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Leg Cramps

I know leg cramps and cycling are common but when a cramp hits me I feel alone and embarrassed that I can't handle the ride. There's no one good reason why at any given moment an individual gets a leg cramp. Generally cramps are caused my muscle fatigue, heavy exercise, dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and certain medications.

I thought I had cramps under control. Not to be...while riding my 700 last Sunday my left hamstring cramped up on me after only 15 miles. So in typical fashion I have to analysis "why" I had a cramp after going so long without one.

This is not the first time that I've had a cramp while riding the 700. I can't remember ever getting a cramp while riding my Expedition usually with Betzi in tow. I stretch before and after rides. I drink plenty of fluids. I feel that I have my electrolyte balance under control. My energy drink of choice has a good balance of salt, potassium and magnesium but might be a little weak on calcium. I've read that a lot of cyclists pop a few tums every hour or two for calcium. The blood thinners I now have to tolerate since my heart attack lowers calcium levels. Calcium plays a roll in muscle contractions. That may be part of the answer but I'm convinced the main culprit is something else.

All things considered I feel that heavy exercise is the main contributing factor causing my muscle cramp last Sunday. I spend a lot of time cruising on my Expedition easily pulling 150 pounds of trike, trailer and dog with no cramping. On the other hand I ride my 700 on the average of once a month. My cycling technique when riding the 700 is very different from when I ride the Expedition which is slow and steady. I also coast more downhill and I'm out of the seat more often taking Betzi in and out of her trailer which gives me a chance to stretch my aging legs.

When I ride my 700 there is no such thing as slow. I push myself, constantly cranking the pedals. My cadence is faster especially downhill when I push and push until the trike is going faster then my legs can spin. When a roadie is up ahead I can't help myself...I want to catch up to them. Sometimes I do. Doing this kind of riding once a month is asking for leg cramps.

Either I have to commit to riding the 700 more often to better condition my 58 year old leg muscles or continue to ride once a month and learn to cruise on the 700. But how do you cruise on a Catrike 700? It screams at you to ride fast and the adrenaline rush on the downhill reinforces that feeling. The only realistic  options are to train more on the 700 or sell the darn thing and avoid temptation and a possible leg cramp.

My Expedition is my ride of choice. It suits my personalty and I love to cruise with Betzi. It is truly a comfortable ride and I enjoy loading it up with creature comforts and cruising around for a few hours. The 700 represents an occasional desire (not necessarily a need) for speed.

The 700 is a fantastic trike but my first love is the Expedition. Maybe I'll sell the 700. I got some thinking to do. Don't be surprised if a lightly used and well cared for customized 700 shows up for sale at Bent Up Cycles in North Hollywood, CA. But..........

Followup regarding leg cramps posted 4/30/12 "Muscle Cramps and Me"

The "beast" is my go to ride but...

...when I want a little trill I take the "mistress" for a spin.