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Muscle cramps after 1:15

Original Post
Larry S · · Easton, PA · Joined May 2010 · Points: 0

I find that any time my ride exceeds about an hour and 15 minutes, I start to get muscle spasms and cramps. It's very consistent. Calves are usually the first, but I've had my quads go too, and have had some similar possibly related spasms while rock climbing, usually calves there too, but had my neck into shoulder and upper arm (levator scapulae and trapezious I think) the other day.

I think my diet is pretty normal and I'm in generally good shape, though could use to loose 15 lbs and be back at the weight I was in high school.  I only ride once a week, but I ride hard. I get plenty of water.

Looking for suggestions on what to try. I'm thinking it might be some electrolyte thing.... that or I just need to train for longer rides...

Nate H · · Colorado Springs · Joined Apr 2018 · Points: 51

Ok, I’m not a doctor. That’s who you need to see. If the spasms and cramps are bad, it may be a serious problem. Can you have these cramps and spasms after short periods of time exercising or is it only after long periods of working out? Are the trails you are riding very difficult or are they more intermediate? If there are any doctors looking at this post, feel free to show me up and give some real medical advice. My recommendation is see a doctor. They can help find out exactly what is causing this and may have a way to stop it. Just trying to help.

Larry S · · Easton, PA · Joined May 2010 · Points: 0

Thanks for the concern N8 H, i do appreciate it, but I'm not really concerned that this is some serious medical condition.  Hoping to hear some more friendly coloquial advice.  I get time to ride about once a week and I go as hard as I can - I like to be at the level where if i push any harder i won't be able to sustain it / clean it, whatever... these are NOT leisurely rides.  I'm usually quite fatigued when it happens, and usually near the end of my ride.  Doesn't matter if i'm doing road or mountain, easy terrain or technical, around 75 minutes of that my calves start twitching and I'll get cramps (i can get them to let go just by dropping my heels usually, doesn't stop me from riding, but they'll keep happening). The other day they hit my quads, I could ride, but they'd twitch and start cramping when i tried to walk.

I'm thinking i either:

  • Just need to ride more often to get the endurance up. (not really an option right now)
  • Need to lower the intensity (but i like going all out, that's half the fun)
  • Need to get more water (i usually drink about a half a liter before, and 1 during my ride, 2 liters if it's hot and i'm sweating alot)
  • Need to get more electrolytes in my diet and/or during my ride.
Nate H · · Colorado Springs · Joined Apr 2018 · Points: 51

Alright man, keep shredding! High intensity rides are where it’s at. As long as it isn’t any real problem than getting the most out of every ride is number one for sure.

Vince Rolleri · · Huntington Beach · Joined Jun 2015 · Points: 0

i long suffered serious cramps after a few hrs pedaling.  doctors' advice proved conflicting and ultimately useless.  i finally deduced the issue as being low sodium.  i tend to sweat alot and the electrolyte content of my sweat is rather high (lots of white residue after drying).  if you hydrate during riding without replacing the e-lytes, it lowers their concentration in serum even further.  sodium is the key one as the others (K, Mg, Ca, etc) are held in relatively large reserve in the body and also have a wider tolerance.  not so with sodium.

you can go buy overpriced effervecent pills, etc.  they will likely work.   my solution is simpler, cheaper, and just as effective (i had two PhD chemists as parents):  add ~ 1 tspn of table salt / liter of water into my camelbak.  have not had a single issue since doing this.  that concentration is based on some basic chemistry and average concentration of salt in sweat.  you can adjust to suit your particular needs.  

acquired taste, perhaps, but super easy, cheap, and effective.  good luck.

Larry S · · Easton, PA · Joined May 2010 · Points: 0

Thanks for the advice. I'll try that out and see how it does. That's the kinda advice I'm looking for.

S.Stelli · · Colorado Springs, CO · Joined Dec 2009 · Points: 0

I know this is a bit older - and hopefully you have resolved your cramping issues, but if not I'd like to offer some thoughts.

If you are only riding once a week, and it sounds like you ride at the high end of your body's ability, this means you are most likely using your Anaerobic energy systems for the entirety of your rides; you are probably "hitting the wall" in the hour+ long rides because of this.

The Anaerobic (without oxygen) systems in your body are powerful, but very limited in output capability in regards to sustainability. The Aerobic systems in your body are generally less explosive and powerful, but can last a lot longer. There are multitudes of informational sources discussing both of these primary energy systems, which could (and do) fill libraries, and I suggest not getting too bogged down in them all.

The best thing to do is identify HOW your body is responding to your workouts, in other words, are you going Anaerobic a lot/all the time? Are you doing mostly Aerobic work? Often all you need is a heart rate monitor and a few workouts to identify what your body is doing.

The first thing I would suggest though - is that maybe you are taking in too much water, or too much carbohydrates, for your amount of exercise time. The body is only capable of absorbing only so much water, and only so much food/carbs/electrolytes/whatever per hour, especially during intense (high heart rate) exercise.

Here is a decent, short read, which covers some good basics:

Good luck, and remember to keep that fun in it!

Larry S · · Easton, PA · Joined May 2010 · Points: 0

Thanks for the reply S.Stelli.  that all makes sense, the article was very usefull.  I typically ride solo and often don't stop for the duration of the rides, which are usually very rocky.  I suppose if I'm planning to go further I should start applying some nutritional tactics.

Vince Rolleri · · Huntington Beach · Joined Jun 2015 · Points: 0
Robert Rise wrote: just try to drink more  water so that there are no cramps

perhaps, except that cramping is just as likely caused by an e-lyte imbalance, in which case add'l h2o will only make the symptoms worse.

the key is to separate and assure you are covered with:

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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