Muscle cramps are one of the most common niggles any cyclist would face, regardless of whether he/she is a professional or a beginner. Three common leg cramps occur; namely in the quadriceps, glutes, and calf muscles.
Cramps in Front Thigh (Quadriceps)
Your quadriceps and hamstrings in the upper leg and the gastrocnemius and soleus in the calf are the most important muscle groups involved in cycling and are responsible for delivering power to the pedal. Delivering power requires a lot of energy, which means a good amount of nutrients, such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, and sodium are used in great quantity.
Your quadriceps may start losing its initial momentum after a while due to the limited supply of nutrients, which results in typical cycling leg pain during the pedalling motion and becomes a battle for you to at least finish the workout. Sustaining a smooth circular motion causes strain, especially when pushing down from the 12 o’clock position to the 6 o’clock position.
Cramps related to the quadriceps often come gradually and may feel like someone just punched you in that area; however, you still would be able to cycle albeit with difficulty and less energy.
Cramps in Buttocks (Glutes)
Being the largest muscle group in the body, your glutes are engaged in generating power that goes into the pedals. In short, this is the muscle group that takes most energy.
Since it is involved in the pedalling motion throughout, important electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium are used up at a rapid rate, which reduces the ability to perform at the same level.
Just like the quadriceps, glutes also tend to cramp up when there is a lack of nutrients. A cramp in your glutes comes in the form of sharp pain around the buttocks area, or near the hamstring area, which makes it almost impossible to continue, unless electrolytes are taken in.
Calf Muscle Cramps
Although a small muscle group when compared to the other two, your calf muscles are equally important in cycling. These muscles are responsible for delivering power, and aides in the active recovery phase of the pedalling motion.
Calf cramps when cycling comes as a sharp pain when the legs start to lose those important electrolytes, which makes it difficult to pedal. Due to muscle fatigue, a cramp would often lead to calf pain after cycling.
How to Recover and Prevent Cycling Cramps
There are simple solutions to prevent and recover from these common cycling cramps and do not require much effort. As long as you maintain good nutrition, a good workout routine, and of course a disciplined recovery programme.
Nutrition and Hydration
Nutrition and hydration is key to preventing any sort of cramp when cycling. Without proper food intake and fluid intake, the legs will struggle to perform when they are needed the most. This does not only mean having proper intake before cycling; but also during the exercise. Electrolytes during a long ride are a quick solution to prevent any sort of cramp. Of course, this can be in either liquid form or solids. Whether it is a banana, isotonic gel, or an energy bar, it will give you that extra push for your legs.
Following a proper workout programme is another way of preventing your legs from experiencing any unnecessary cramps.
Your workout programme is designed based on your body’s limitations and capabilities. Attempting to go beyond those limitations is a big risk, as it would lead to many complications, ranging from injuries to general fatigue.
With a good workout plan, you also need a good recovery programme. This includes cool down, stretching, and other recovery aids.
Cooldown and stretching are considered to be the primary method of leg recovery after cycling. Cycling, however, is a taxing sport, which requires you to take that recovery up a notch. Using recovery tools gives you a better chance of getting back on the saddle faster.
Recovery tools such as SPRYNG have the potential to stop legs aching after cycling, as the active compression delivers strategic pneumatic pressure to the legs, which helps the calf muscles circulate the pooled blood, and wash out the excess lactic build-up. Therefore, allowing for improved circulation, accelerated healing, and enhanced performance.
Cycling cramps may be quite annoying to overcome and can be detrimental to performances over time. However, with the right nutrition, workouts, and recovery, there is no need to worry at all.