Talk to me about cramp

Last night after the tdz stage 3 up the vont I suffered cramp very painfully. The ride took me 2 hours 23 minutes which is about an hour and a half more than I would normally do. I showered, ate and sat down for a couple of hours and oh boy, when I got up my leg went into cramp quite severely.
I had a 1ltr bottle of water on the ride containing a couple of tablets for salts etc so I’m not sure if that was enough or was it the sitting around after that did me in?
Or was it just too much to ask for my body to cope with a 2 and a half hour constant climb.
I’m not unfit but I am 20kilos overweight and 63 years of age if that has anything to do with it.
Thoughts and advice please.

LOL. I read that as if you normally do Ven-Top in less than an hour…

Cramp is quite possibly a reaction to dehydration or salt imbalance. Personally I avoid salt tablets as I’ve found they cause me to cramp. It’s possible you were already partially dehydrated or imbalanced before starting the ride too, though I suspect that most of us have excess salts in our daily diet anyway. Some cool-down exercises can be useful (I descended from Ven-Top yesterday with some “intervals” and then some off-bike stretches.

Oh - I’m 64 so I know things don’t get easier :joy:


Thanks for the reply and yes I can see how you might think on normally do the mont in an hour. Bad grammar on my behalf.
Interestingly zI may have been dehydrated a little before.
I could just barely get off the bike after 2 1/2 hours, I didn’t have any energy left to cool down but I think I may have to try this as the consequences aren’t nice

From what I understand, sweat is not just normal “salt”, i.e., sodium chloride (table salt). Your sweat also contains calcium and magnesium chlorides (and probably others). Personally I use sea salt or a Hawaiian deep sea salt which contain lower concentrations of sodium and higher in the other minerals. I have in the past resorted to magnesium supplements but they are pretty low concentration. Bananas and cantaloupe do just as well.

The cramp is probably a perfectly normal thing to get given how much you’ve extended yourself beyond your normal.
You’ve clearly had an intensive workout. Embrace the cramp.

Was it like this?

If you started in a state of poor hydration, there’s no easy way to catch up during the ride, especially if you are riding hard. A liter with a couple electrolyte tablets during 2 hours and 23 minutes is not a lot. Whether it’s enough depends on your sweat rate and how much salt (etc) you lose in sweat. If you are poorly cooled riding indoors, that will also increase your sweat rate. Sweat rate is personal so you need to understand how it works for you. For me cramping is also more likely to happen when I significantly exceed my longest recent workouts on the bike. Easing into longer distances by riding lower intensity helps with that.

Here’s what I do for a long session on the trainer:

  • Begin hydrating several hours before the ride
  • Use electrolytes that contain magnesium and understand the expected dosage
  • Bring more fluids to the trainer than I expect to need, so I am not tempted to conserve
  • Drink early during the ride so I don’t fall behind
  • Three fans
  • Consume readily processed carbohydrates (sugar) throughout rides expected to be over 90 minutes
  • Stretch a little after the ride
  • Continue hydration after the ride
  • Pay attention to whether my legs feel twitchy while at rest after the ride, to decide if I should eat more electrolytes or adjust my post-ride food intake
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When it comes to cramping most default to electrolytes and hydration as the cause (and nutrition companies love to push this narrative) but quite often it’s caused by muscle fatigue, esp. when you’re pushing your body much harder/farther than normal. There’s plenty of articles online about it and a good chance this is what happened to you.

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Pickle juice. Mmm, pickle juice.

This is probably fatigue - you were doing a much bigger ride than normal.

What you can do after these big rides is roll out your muscles using a foam roller, either the smooth ones or the spiked rumble rollers if needed. These really help. You also want to keep moving about , walk around slowly, etc.

Going forward definitely work gradually to these longer rides. Eventually you’ll get used to it.

Also be very mindful of signs that “cramp” is not a cramp, for example calf still being tight/sore/twitching even many hours later or next morning. That can be signs of a tear (see physio in those cases).

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mobility (flexibility) and a high training volume are the best mitigators but unfortunately the reality is that some people are just more prone to them than others. i cant recommend dynamic stretching enough though, even for general health.

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Bike setup can also play a role, for example if your saddle is to far forward/to low you might be overusing quad muscles just above your knee.Changing saddle position moves the strain to larger muscle groups in the quad and the glutes, (although in my case it seems to take a while for the new muscles to fully strengthen). Comparing the angle of the knee at the top (6 clock) position might also reveal if this is the problem.

There’s growing skepticism these days among researchers that cramping is related to hydration. Being dehydrated is bad for a lot of reasons, but a growing number of studies are leading many to think that dehydration is not the direct cause of cramps.

(This makes some sense too. Your body dehydrates globally, not piece-by-piece. Your left leg can’t dehydrate while the rest of your body doesn’t. If dehydration caused cramping, why is cramping localized?)

Article 1: “runners who suffered EAMC did not exhibit a greater degree of dehydration and electrolyte depletion after the marathon but displayed significantly higher concentrations of muscle damage biomarkers.”

Article 2: " The results from this study add to the evidence that dehydration and altered serum electrolyte balance are not causes for EAMC." (EAMC=Exercise-Associated Muscle Cramping)

It’s all very complex, cause it’s the human body. But a lot of people (me included) fight cramps with regularity regardless of how poorly or well we hydrate. So stay hydrated–but if you still cramp, don’t assume there’s something wrong with your hydration plan.

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Lots of good suggestions.

I have also found not celebrating my excellent ride with beer and wine immediately afterwards helps avoid really bad cramps.:beer::wine_glass:

That video was tame compared to the cramps I get :face_with_symbols_over_mouth:

Just to throw in the usual caution. If the cramping doesn’t relent, get a CK enzyme test to check for Rhabdomyolysis. Last Feb, I had what I thought was cramps/muscle strains but after 4 days, I finally asked for a blood test and sure enough my CK was extremely elevated. Spent 7 days in hospital 24/7 IV drip. Luckily no kidney damage.

Turned 60, taking it just a little easier, varying my effort throughout a race to let muscles recover during rides.

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I can drink up to 1L per hour indoors, 1L over 2.5hrs is probably not enough…! (you get a lot hotter/sweatier than riding outdoors, so balancing fluids/electrolytes becomes more important).

But yes if you are doing an extra 90mins above what you are used to, the over-exertion is the more likely cause in this instance.

After a lifetime of cramping, the variables in order of importance to me are:

  1. undertrained
  2. genetics
  3. too much caffeine
  4. food/water/electrolytes (by far the least important variable)

I have friends that never cramp despite the fact that they are not any better trained that I am (genetics). My mom experienced cramps regularly as part of her everyday life (genetics). She also drank a lot of caffeine.

I’ve had so many issues with cramps that I’ve developed a limited ability to ignore them. Still have to back off at the first sign, but really try to push through. Avoiding caffeine before/during an event seems to help, but that’s anecdotal. In my limited googling/research, I’ve not found any reference to a cramp resulting in physical muscle damage, meaning the muscle will not pull itself apart or separate from the origin/insertion.

I do as well - by 11am I’ve usually had three of them, 1 espresso first in the morning, then another two milk based coffees. I used to struggle with cramps, even before I started riding, but eventually they went and I think it was just adaptations helping and probably a bit of your point 4.