Engaging in rigorous workouts on the bicycle over a long period can be quite strenuous to the body, especially to the legs. Therefore, it is natural that you would experience sore legs after cycling. But, that does not mean the end of cycling for you! There are simple remedies to recover from leg pain after cycling. Before delving into all the details, it is necessary to understand what major muscle groups are used during a cycling workout, and how these muscles fatigue over prolonged exercise.
Primary Muscle Groups Used for Cycling
Starting from the upper body to the lower body, many muscles are activated during a cycling workout. However, it is the lower body that takes the most beating, which results in a higher tendency for injury and soreness. Here, we are only going to concentrate on the core and the lower body, since these are the most worked.
Although ignored by many amateurs, the core is what keeps the rider upright and maintains posture for the duration of the ride. The weaker your core is, the harder it is to maintain an efficient position for the duration of the workout. Similarly, the stronger your core is, the more efficient your posture is.
Quadriceps (Thigh Muscles)
One of the first questions you might ask during a strenuous cycling session is ‘why do my thighs hurt when cycling?’ Simply put, the reason for this is the build-up of lactic acid in your quadriceps, which is one of the most important muscle groups for the activity. The more power you put on the bicycle, the more anaerobic your body will be, which in turn would produce more lactic acid. Therefore, having sore thigh muscles after cycling is normal to any cyclist.
Another major muscle group that is activated for cycling are the glutes. Being the largest muscle group in the human body, it helps us maintain a smooth pedal stroke along with maintaining power output. It also is seen in the initial push motion from the twelve o’clock position to the six o’clock position.
Your calf muscles are very important and is best seen in the pedalling motion. It is this muscle that not only assists in the transferring of power to the pedals, but also aids in the recovery phase of the pedalling motion. In other words, if you are cleated in, the pull motion from the six o’clock position to the twelve o’clock position is stabilised by your calf muscles, which is why sore calves after cycling is common.
Relieving Soreness - Stretching for each Muscle Group
There are many stretch routines that cyclists could use to help relieve soreness after a heavy workout. Here is why stretching for these major muscle groups is recommended, along with some useful stretch routines to follow.
Stretching the core is important after cycling, as lactic build-up can temporarily change your posture. Many stretches can immediately alleviate this problem. One of them is by making a bridge. This is done by lying on your back, bending your knees, bringing your hands beside your ears with flat palm and fingers facing toes, and finally pushing yourself up.
Similarly, the ‘Cobra’ position also helps in stretching the core muscle groups. This is done by lying on your stomach, bringing your hands beside your ears, and pushing only your upper body up, effectively arching your back outwards.
Stretching out this muscle group cannot be stressed enough, as it is imperative in generating power to the pedals. Having sore quadriceps would result in subpar performance However, having fully recovered quad muscles results in a positive performance.
All you have to do to stretch this muscle group, is to lie on your stomach, bend one knee as far back, grab the ankle and pull your knee towards your buttocks. Maintaining this posture for around 30-60 seconds is more than enough for each leg.
This muscle is considered the powerhouse for cycling. Moreover, it is this muscle group that rests on the saddle, which can result in higher fatigue as opposed to the other muscles.
One of the best ways to stretch this muscle group is by doing a ‘Pigeon’ pose. Start by bending your right knee and bringing that leg forward as if you were going to step into a lunge. Bring your right knee to the floor on the outside of your right hand. Make sure the other leg is straight and flat on the floor. Once stable, slowly bring your torso down over the right leg. Repeat with other leg.
Leg cramps after biking is common, especially if it was a rigorous biking workout. This is because of the constant push and pull motion of the pedals that can strain the calf muscles. This makes it even more important to stretch.
The Downward Dog yoga pose is sure to help in alleviating those cramps. All you have to do is get on all fours with your buttocks as the highest point. While in that position try to keep your feet flat on the ground for around 30-60 seconds. You could even modify the pose by putting one leg over the other, and alternating.
Recovery Workouts and Recovery Tools
While stretching helps in recovery, it is also important to schedule easy cycling workouts to flush out any excess lactic acid from the muscles (i.e. active recovery workouts). Thus, aiding in quick recovery of the muscles.
Similarly, the use of recovery tools, such as Spryng, certainly help with recovery. With its active compression technology, Spryng helps flush out lactic build-up and helps reduce pooling of blood, therefore improving blood circulation to the entire lower body.
With these useful tips in mind, you can now reach peak performance without ever having to worry too much about recovery time.