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Calf cramps on bike - age related / general fatigue / other?
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46 this year. Though we have had some lockdowns earlier in the year we have been pretty blessed with the freedoms we've experienced in west Oz. As such I've been doing more riding this year than I ever have before. There's very little structure to it. I just ride (almost) every day and try and keep pushing the pace. If I get my km's in during the week I'll take Sunday off. But otherwise there are few rest days and fewer easy days. Most rides are between 1hr to 1.5hrs, beyond 2hrs is rare in recent times though at the beginning of the year I did some extended hill rides.

Lately I've been getting right on the cusp of bad calf cramps towards the end of these metro 1.5hr rides. I generally manage to adjust enough to stave them off until the end. If I contract my muscles in bed (yawn type stretch) they can often kick in.

I'm wondering about the underlying cause. I'm probably as fit on the bike as I've ever been. Externally I'm in good nick. Same (lightish) weight I've been since high school (72-76kg throughout the year). I don't eat great but when I had some recent blood tests my vitals were reporting right in the zone. A few years back I was indirectly diagnosed with higher than average coronary calcification (late confirmed with proper testing) but otherwise have done nothing specifically to address it.

I've been spending a lot of time sitting down at work (civil eng - design based) and not getting a lot of sleep.

So I am wondering how much is related to lack of sleep / sitting down for way too long. How much is from heavy training load (for me). Or whether it's potentially something more serious with poor circulation towards the extremities etc. I'm enjoying smashing it out but I could be looking after myself better.
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Re: Calf cramps on bike - age related / general fatigue / other? [mv2005] [ In reply to ]
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Compression gear or calf sleeves might help.

https://www.strava.com/...tes/zachary_mckinney
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Re: Calf cramps on bike - age related / general fatigue / other? [mv2005] [ In reply to ]
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From my experience (54 year old), calf cramps are mostly related to :

lack of proper hydration : drink more water

lack of electrolytes : eat or drink some....

Age indeed play a role in water / elecrolyte retention. But the solutions are simple : drink some electolyte + water (no need for carbohydrate).

If always on the same side it might be triggered by a bad cleat position: But the basic reasons are still hydration /electrolytes.
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Re: Calf cramps on bike - age related / general fatigue / other? [Pyrenean Wolf] [ In reply to ]
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Hydration throughout the day or more specifically just prior and during?

That is an area I’ve struggled with. Nice if turns out to be that simple.
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Re: Calf cramps on bike - age related / general fatigue / other? [mv2005] [ In reply to ]
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mv2005 wrote:
Hydration throughout the day or more specifically just prior and during?

That is an area I’ve struggled with. Nice if turns out to be that simple.

You need to hydrate (and absorb electrolytes) reasonably throughout the day.

Then if intense effort / long ride / hot day / intense sweating you need to also adjust your hydration before / during / after the ride.

Personally I do not drink for 1h easy effort.
But for 2h or more (or shorter with some significant sweating) I drink 0,5 (cold weather) to 1,5 (hot weather) liter per hour. With approx. 1g electrolyte per liter of water.
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Re: Calf cramps on bike - age related / general fatigue / other? [mv2005] [ In reply to ]
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In addition to what everyone else has said you may want to take a look at your cleat placement. I found moving mine forward a bit helped with this.
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Re: Calf cramps on bike - age related / general fatigue / other? [mv2005] [ In reply to ]
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sodium and electrolytes, which may cause you to get thirsty, in which case you drink water.

You're exceeding your endurance limit, and your body is letting you know. Need to change something up, diet and sleep probably.

Also, as another poster said, move your cleats all the way back, and adjust your saddle to re-optimize. It's just good general purpose advice.

Edit: he said move them forward. Don't do that. Move them back and your saddle a touch down to match.

Eric

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Last edited by: ericMPro: Dec 3, 20 5:47
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Re: Calf cramps on bike - age related / general fatigue / other? [mv2005] [ In reply to ]
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Cramps are a medical mystery. You can be perfectly hydrated, perfect levels of electrolytes, blah, blah, blah and still get cramps. Cramps are a electro-muscular problem. The current science points too over use of the muscle and or the muscle being locking in a single position for too long. Environmentally heat (heat and humidity) can speed up this processes even when well hydrated.

The good news is that one can assume (still being studied) that you can train past both of those problems...more or less.....with a structured plan.

You stated "there are few rest days and fewer easy days".

This ^^^^ is your problem.
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Re: Calf cramps on bike - age related / general fatigue / other? [mv2005] [ In reply to ]
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Rideon77 wrote:
Cramps are a medical mystery. You can be perfectly hydrated, perfect levels of electrolytes, blah, blah, blah and still get cramps.
It doesn't seem to matter how hot/cold the WX is, if I'm full of water/electrolytes, or anything else, I have gotten calf cramps ever since I was a teenager. There seems to be some correlation between my level of fitness and how hard I've pushed myself on a given day, but it's still a mystery to me. And having a calf cramp in bed during the middle of the night is a real treat.

I'll add that these days (I'm 66 years old) I generally avoid going for a swim after a hard bike workout. That seems to trigger calf cramps when I'm in the middle of a swim workout if I try to do this. That's especially exciting when one cramps up while I'm in the deep end of the pool.

"Human existence is based upon two pillars: Compassion and knowledge. Compassion without knowledge is ineffective; Knowledge without compassion is inhuman." Victor Weisskopf.
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Re: Calf cramps on bike - age related / general fatigue / other? [ In reply to ]
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I've had bad cramp before in my calf and this is what I've been doing and it works.

- HotShot: Take it before the long ride or run. I keep a box of dozen in my pantry.
- Mustard: It's those small packets that you can find at 7-11. Somehow, it works really well for me. I take it when I'm about to get a cramp.
- NUUN tablet: I put it in a bottle of water and drink.
- CrampsAway: This is expensive, so I keep a couple and only use it during Ironman race.
- Magnesium pills: I take it everyday.

I still get cramps around 70 or 80 miles, but it goes away as soon as I take a small packet of mustard like magic.
Hope this helps.
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Re: Calf cramps on bike - age related / general fatigue / other? [Alvin Tostig] [ In reply to ]
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Alvin Tostig wrote:
Rideon77 wrote:
Cramps are a medical mystery. You can be perfectly hydrated, perfect levels of electrolytes, blah, blah, blah and still get cramps.

That's especially exciting when one cramps up while I'm in the deep end of the pool.

I bet that gets your attention.
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Re: Calf cramps on bike - age related / general fatigue / other? [ericMPro] [ In reply to ]
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ericMPro wrote:
sodium and electrolytes, which may cause you to get thirsty, in which case you drink water.

You're exceeding your endurance limit, and your body is letting you know. Need to change something up, diet and sleep probably.

Also, as another poster said, move your cleats all the way back, and adjust your saddle to re-optimize. It's just good general purpose advice.

Edit: he said move them forward. Don't do that. Move them back and your saddle a touch down to match.

Eric

This! All of it.

Cramps are not a medical mystery as someone else mentioned.

They are usually related to
  1. insufficient hydration or sodium intake or both,
  2. or pushing near your current upper bounds of fitness and accumulating substantial fatigue.
Exact mechanisms can be debated, but of those two things we are sure.

Dr. Alex Harrison, USAT-1, USATF-3, CSCS ----- PhD in Sport Physiology, Author, Product Designer, Coach, Consultant
https://linktr.ee/DrAlexHarrison ----> Endurance Fueling Book, Macro Calculator, Customizable Lifting, & My Recent Article(s)
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Re: Calf cramps on bike - age related / general fatigue / other? [s13tx] [ In reply to ]
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s13tx wrote:
I've had bad cramp before in my calf and this is what I've been doing and it works.

- HotShot: Take it before the long ride or run. I keep a box of dozen in my pantry.
- Mustard: It's those small packets that you can find at 7-11. Somehow, it works really well for me. I take it when I'm about to get a cramp.
- NUUN tablet: I put it in a bottle of water and drink.
- CrampsAway: This is expensive, so I keep a couple and only use it during Ironman race.
- Magnesium pills: I take it everyday.

I still get cramps around 70 or 80 miles, but it goes away as soon as I take a small packet of mustard like magic.
Hope this helps.

FYI to OP:

The bitter taste causes an orally mediated cramp-relieving neural reflex. That's why mustard, vinegar, pickle juice and hotshots work to immediately relieve cramps. Not familiar w/ CrampsAway but if it works fast, it's due to the taste and not any electrolyte content.

NUUN tabs are great too but virtually everyone needs to consume more of them to sufficiently supplement sodium during training or racing longer events.

Fun anecdote: when I was a newer high school swimmer I kept a bottle of mustard on the pool deck and frequently drank from it.

Dr. Alex Harrison, USAT-1, USATF-3, CSCS ----- PhD in Sport Physiology, Author, Product Designer, Coach, Consultant
https://linktr.ee/DrAlexHarrison ----> Endurance Fueling Book, Macro Calculator, Customizable Lifting, & My Recent Article(s)
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