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Aching legs

Apr 16, 2009
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Hi all! I have thoroughly enjoyed CyclingNews.com since getting back into cycling more seriously 5 years ago. So first of all, thanks for all the great articles and advice in the past through the letters section.

The reason I'm writing is to ask an opinion about my cycling. I'm 36 years old. I'm 5feet 11 inches and weigh 165lbs and consider myself to be in pretty good shape with no health issues. For the past three years have averaged 5000km a year and so far this year I have done 2400km. During the Spring and Summer I usually ride between 3 and 5 times a week for 3 weeks. I progressively increase the load and intensity from week 1 to week 3 with a recovery ride each week. Then I take a week to ride only twice at an easy pace before restarting the cycle.

When doing recovery rides I maintain >70% of max hr(130-135bpm) on the flats for around an hour with my cadence between 85-100rpm. After about 30-45 minutes my calves begin to ache. Before the ride they can be fine (no soreness from previous workouts) and afterwards they seem fine, but during the ride they have a general soreness or aching.

This same sensation occurs on rest days when I do not ride at all. Sometimes it occurs as much as two days after a ride. It is NOT the same sore feeling that happens after a long, hard ride. AND, if I ride rather than resting, or ride harder rather than doing a recovery ride, my legs feel better and do not have the nagging soreness and aches.

Is this a normal occurrence or am I missing something? Perhaps something in my diet isn't up to par? I'm at a loss to understand why I feel worse if I don't ride or if I ride easy as opposed to going out and riding at 90%+ of max hr for a 45 minute hill climb and have no aches or pains all day long. Plus, it seems strange to me that it is only my calves that have these sensations.

Any input is greatly appreciated.
I would take a look at your bike setup, have you altered/replaced anything lately?If you get the bikefit sorted that will eliminate one possible source.
Also you could try wearing some compression clothing after training,i have found good benefits from using it.
good luck.
SlowMoe73 said:
Am I to assume that by the glances and no responses that its a normal result of training?

It is when you are out of shape. :)

If you have calf problems even when well trained then I have no idea what the problem might be.

Does it start 30 - 45 minutes into a ride and continue as long as you ride? For example, if you do a four hour ride do you calves ache the whole last three hours.

Are you using a normal cadence? If you are using huge gears and effectively doing a high rep strength workout then I could see where you might have problems.
Apr 2, 2009
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Have you tried to pre-ride stretch? If you aren't stretching, it would help. When you get the pain, get off the bike and stretch. It could help. It won't hurt to try it either. I recommend post ride stretches also. It is more beneficial than most people think it is.
Apr 16, 2009
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Thanks for the responses guys!

Fergnago - I did change my seat height about a month ago, but the issue I wrote about started before the change and has continued afterward. And I'll look into the compression clothing.

BroDeal - are you volunteering to convince my wife that I need to ride more so that I'm not out of shape? :) The soreness does start about 30-45 minutes into a recovery ride and lasts the duration of the ride. BUT I never do 3-4 hour recovery rides. And as for a cadence, I maintain 85-100rpm for those rides. If anything I'm running 5rpm more at most.

quadsRme - I do not have a stretching routine so I will try that as well.

Thanks again for the input.
Happy trials
Apr 4, 2009
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stretching v important, plus cold bath/shower

hi, can't put my finger exactly on your calf issue, but it will certainly help if you stretch you major leg, **** and back muscles within 10 mins of finishing a ride, and the stretching session should be at least 15 mins with each stretch held for 30 secs plus. within 6-12 hours of a ride a cold bath or shower on the legs for 5 mins or so will help reduce the micro swelling of tiny muscle fibres that tear under physical exertion, any physical exertion not just cycling. my commute is about 20km each way so i do 40km a day and have a cold shower at each end on the legs. at the end of my work day my legs feel much better than if i skip the shower for any reason.
stretching: no benefit for holding a stretch for longer than 30seconds at a time. The most beneficial is to do each stretch 3 times for 30 seconds each.

the cold water bit for your legs is really only beneficial if done for much longer - ice bath or just a cold water bath and for a period in excess of 10minutes as a minimum

in general, muscles require 36 hours for a full recovery

other things that will help are consuming a high source of protien within 20mins of completing your exercise with a full meal (refuel) within 2 hours.

as for the compression garments, (from experience) they do work, but so does just sleeping in a pair of thermal pants as they increase the blood flow which aids recovery overnight.