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.

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