View Full Version : Sluggish Recoveries?

07-11-2006, 06:51 AM
I need help ~ please please please!

I can get out & quickly get up to ~18mph, and minus a head wind can maintain that pretty well. Until a stiff breeze or an incline comes along. Not even a 'rolling hill' - we're talking a little tiny 200 yard slope. Once I hit that, my quads feel like lead, my speed drops 4-5mph, and I can't recover. I've tried pushing harder to get thru, I've tried focusing on 'full circle' pedaling, speeding up my tempo (having to drop gears to do this)... but unless I come to a complete stop I simply drag on for a quarter to half mile struggling to get back up to speed. It's starting to hurt - my legs and my pride.

To substitute wild theory for excuses, I want to say it's because nearly every ride this year has focused on climbing. I'm much better, and have attacked bigger & longer hills than ever before ~ I can sit back & spin my way up... but unless that hill is followed by an immediate downhill, it takes a very long time to recover.

Any suggestions on changing this pattern?
I've already got "just ride more" on the list, courtesy DH.

07-11-2006, 08:13 AM
There is a lot of training information out there about how to get faster riding hills. I usually tell people at first just ride more hills, but it sounds like you have done that and that you have made some headway in your hillclimbing. Don't ever denigrate that increases in your abilities. Just because you are not as fast as others does not mean that you have not improved! Celebrate those milestones and then try for more.

What most of us will do on hills is climb at a speed that we can sustain to the top. That may be slower for a long hill and faster for a short hill. Try some specific hill intervals to try to get faster overall on hill climbing. Find a hill that takes 8-10 minutes to get to the top. If that is too long to sustain at first, try 5 minutes. If you can't find a hill that long, just go up a hill for five minutes/8/10 minutes and then turn around and go back to the bottom. Go as hard as you can without blowing up. If you can't go any farther and get real slow, stop turn around and try again. Make sure that you are totally recovered at the bottom of the hill. If you have to stop or ride easy on teh flat at the bottom do so until your breathing and heartrate are under control again. Go hard again. Try 2 intervals the first week, twice a week. Try 3 intervals the second week, twice a week. Try 4 intervals the third week, twice a week. Take a break the fourth week. The next month do 3 intervals the 1st week, x2; 4 the second week, 4 the third week and take a break. After two months of this, see if you aren't faster overall on the hills.

Remember - you will be faster - maybe not as fast as you want but patience, speed comes with dedication, training and time! But always remember don't get discouraged - YOU ARE GETTING BETTER!

07-11-2006, 09:09 AM
I think I need to clarify ~ it's not Hills that are troublesome - I'm happy as can be to make it up a long climb & then take a little to recover.

It's the small little inclines in the road... a false flat, or a tiny rise that wouldn't even cause a blip on an elevation map that's sucking the energy from my legs. If I had to estimate - let's say 100-200 yards with a total incline of 20 feet. Tiny, tiny, tiny, but I just can't recover speed there. Waa :mad:

07-11-2006, 09:26 AM
Once I hit that, my quads feel like lead...

This may or may not have anything to do with it, but you don't mention what your pedal setup is. If you're not clipped/caged/or somehow 'attached' to your pedal, then your quads are possibly having to work too hard. Since I switched from loose toe cages to PowerGrips, I've been amazed at how much more my hamstrings and glutes work in difficult pedaling situations and I haven't felt any soreness in my quads since. If you've already got clipless pedals, though, I'm not sure what to suggest.

07-11-2006, 09:37 AM
Using Look pedals ~ and at times focusing on doing the majority of the work on the pull, rather than the push.

07-11-2006, 09:41 AM
Does this happen only on longer rides, or everything? Are you getting enough calories during the ride??

(I have a different problem- I run out of breath _way_ before my quads get tired.)


07-11-2006, 09:42 AM
The information that I gave to you about intervals on hills - not only make you a better hill climber but also make you recover easier. (not hurt so much after a hard effort). Hard efforts may be caused by Little Blips in the road, or wind riding or the like. If you want to be able to do that easier and to recover faster and better, use interval training! Which is just don't go out and ride the same speed every ride for the same ride that you do every day!

Here's my tips: Go to that place on the ride that causes you trouble. As you are riding to that spot, let your body recover, i.e. get your heartrate down and your breathing easy (go slow!), then when you get to that point that causes you trouble, go as hard as you can go for as long as you can without blowing up. When you feel like you are going to blow, turn around, recover again and try again. Don't do it every day, maybe twice a week at first; try a ramp up like I described on the hillclimb tips, i.e. 2 times the first time, 3 the next, etc.

Remember this, that as you get better, your perceived effort may not feel any better, BUT you should be going faster. What happens is that the faster that we can do a hard effort doesn't make if feel any easier, it just makes you faster doing it! Hope that helps. What many people do when they ride is just ride and that is a good thing! Healthy as heck; but if you want to be faster and improve, you have to make it hard sometimes.

07-11-2006, 11:40 AM
If you have been watching the Tour you know there are specialist for hills, flats (sprints), time trials etc. Hill training makes you stronger on hills but not faster on flats and vice-versa.

If I understand your question its when you attack a small hill you run out of stream and have trouble recovering. At 18 mph your speed is pretty high and I can imagine it's hard to maintain going up the hill, how ever small. In addition, I'm assuming you are pushing a really tall gear (you didn't say but I asssume you don't switch gears until it becomes hard or you tire.. need to do it before you it gets to hard and you are already fatigued).

Try this, on the flat as you apprach your small hill, down shift once and then once again as you attack the hill. If you are spinning too much then click up once. It may also help to get out of the saddle to finish the attack. Sit back down once the hill becomes easy or is conquered.

I suggest you ride with a heart rate monitor. If at the time you are attacking the hill you hit your threshold, then you are pushing way too hard and am going totally anaerobic which means your recovery is going to be harder. You should not go any higher than 75 - 80 of threshold. And even that is for short periods of time - ie short, quick bursts.

Hope this makes sense.

07-11-2006, 12:51 PM
Does this happen only on longer rides, or everything? Are you getting enough calories during the ride??

Happens on every ride. I believe I'm getting enough calories ~ especially since I'll hit this at the begining of a ride as well.

Try this, on the flat as you apprach your small hill, down shift once and then once again as you attack the hill. If you are spinning too much then click up once. It may also help to get out of the saddle to finish the attack. Sit back down once the hill becomes easy or is conquered.

That's exactly what I was doing this past ride. I was working on high cadence in flats, shifting down to compensate for the extra work of these little blips, but couldn't maintain rpm or recover speed after the exertion. I even found myself going to my granny gears to try to help w/ spinning fast even if I wasn't moving fast - but it's as if my legs are under water and simply can't maintain the quick movement.

I'll have to get a heart rate monitor. I guess one of the frustrations is the pain / exhaustion is so isolated - I don't feel that my cardio or aerobic system is being over taxed in these stretches, it's that the legs don't want to move.

Thanks everyone for your help! I do appreciate all the feedback & will continue working on it & applying your suggestions!

07-11-2006, 01:25 PM
Sounds like maybe your reps are too high - you are just spinning your little legs out of fuel. If you don't have one - get a computer with a cadence monitor. Try and stay around 80 - 90 - if you find yourself often going over 100, you will use up your fuel too quickly abnd tire out your legs. The key to hills whether or are attacking them or gliding up them is maintaining a comfortable steady cadence. If you find yourself spinning too fast in order to approach a hill, your technique if off. Stay at 80 and adjust your gearing to compensate the load.

07-11-2006, 01:40 PM
Expensive Cadence Meters, aside, new pedals aside; (not that you bike fit might be off or whatever since I don't know you and have never seen you ride); You need to train your weakness!

we all have them. whether its hills, small blips. a heart rate monitor might help you understand what your body is doing. But from what I am hearing, if you are coming into the blip at 18 mph and you are running out of steam at the top or before the top and then have to slow way down to recover, you are going over your lactate threshhold and you are having to reduce your workload to recover. So, even if you think you are not working that hard, it really sounds like you are pushing your limits coming into the blip and pushing past that threshold while on the blip causing you to blow!

07-11-2006, 01:58 PM
which is why in inexpensive heart rate montior would be helpful. You can get a Polar for $25. Well worth the investment.

07-13-2006, 04:02 AM
which is why in inexpensive heart rate montior would be helpful. You can get a Polar for $25. Well worth the investment.

Ditto on the HRM - although I've never had good luck with Polar.

Are you overtrained? It sounds like you've been hitting it hard all season. When was your last week off?

When I'm overtrained, my recovery is the pits and difficult cycling really suffers. I take a week of easy cycling/more days off.

07-14-2006, 01:10 PM
Don't forget to get your iron checked, too. Heavy exercise (especially endurance, but even just lots of shorter hard rides) can deplete iron stores. Even if you don't have full-blown anemia, just a subclinical "low iron" condition, you may still experience performance degradation, fatigue, inability to deliver enough oxygen to your muscles feeling out of breath, etc.

07-15-2006, 04:38 AM
focusing on doing the majority of the work on the pull, rather than the push.


Dont' know if this is relevant, but I came across this article just recently, by this respected Australian sports physio/cyclist. Summing up it suggests that trying to pull up on the pedals may reduce efficiency. This article really makes sense, and I'm now trying to be much more aware of my pedal technique.

07-15-2006, 02:07 PM
Thanks Mags - that article helped! Explains a lot of other soreness I was experincing.

I rode in spin class twice this week, then got out w/ the club this morning. It was mainly a climbing ride, but I felt strong. I do notice that my quads still are pretty sore, but it's better than what I was feeling when I first posted this thread. Recoveries are getting a little quicker, and I am not overwhelmed by feeling like a slug :p

Thanks again for all the tips & advice!

Pedal Wench
07-15-2006, 06:13 PM
Is the problem throughout your ride? I wonder if you're not getting in enough time to warm up before you hit the problem area.

07-17-2006, 09:53 AM
It's any point on the ride.

I do think I might be getting better - should get a good test in tonight. Last ride was mostly hills, so wasn't a fair test.

07-22-2006, 12:51 PM
Maybe I read this thread too quickly, but no body seemed to mention lactic acid... my apologies if I completely missed someone's post

The first thing I thought, Nokomis, when I read your first post is that you are reaching your lactate threshold. When you feel your thighs burn and ache and hear them saying "no way are we gonna take you any further" and you feel like you are beating them in submission to make them take you over the crest, that is a build up of lactic acid.

I like being able to recognise this, and if you have a HR monitor, as previously mentioned in this thread, you can work out where your LT is... once you know this, you can set yourself a steady pace and climb under that heart rate and the hill is achievable without too much discomfort.

For example, I know my LT is when my heart reaches about 160 beats per minute (bpm), so when I climb I try and stay under that even if it means others pass me.

The trick is to get to the top in a state that you can still ride in. In race situations I get into a rythym and pace myself up a hill, even though I watch people pass me. If i tried to saty with the faster ones my legs would be shot by the top and it would take me 5-10 minutes to recover and disperse the lactic acid. However, by pacing myself I only lose 30 seconds - 1 minute going up, time I know I can easily recover going downhill and on flats.

As people ride away from you it looks much worse than it is. They may only be going 1-2km faster than you, but it can seem like 10!

Pace yourself, keep having a go at hills and you will see your hill strength increase. Be patient, it takes time, :rolleyes: but it happens. ;)

08-08-2006, 11:30 AM
I can't figure out how to search for info on what happens to me after I go on a strenuous ride.
Everytime I have been on one of those rides where, by the end I am dying to get off the bike - heavy exersion, something happens to my bowels afterwards. I am thinking there is something chemical going on, but I can't figure out the appropriate terminology to look it up on any website.

Basically...Saturday, go on hard bike ride. Sunday into early Monday, have to go to the bathroom many many times.

What's up with that? (I'm probably alone in this - just setting myself up for more embarassment):o

08-10-2006, 12:57 PM
I know short-term that running activates the bowels, but long-term... sounds more like something in the eating habits. The lactic acid buildup is in the leg muscles, which shouldn't do anything to the gastrointestinal system.
Bet your search got you some fascinating places...

08-23-2006, 05:35 PM
Everytime I have been on one of those rides where, by the end I am dying to get off the bike - heavy exersion, something happens to my bowels afterwards.

I am no doctor or nurse, but it sounds to me like IBS - Irritable Bowel Syndrome. It used to happen to me quite frequently when I got over-heated (which is really bad considering I live in the south). It can be brought on by a number of things: diet; heat; stress; koolaid; chocolate; excessive yard work..... There is medication you can take (OTC or prescription) but you can also learn to control it thru trial and error and lots of experimentation (for example, I take lots of cold showers in the summer). Also red wine and grape juice have soothing effects on the tummy when IBS hits.

Hope its just a fluke for you because if it is IBS, you pretty much are stuck with it for life. You eventually find a way to live with it so it doesn't affect everyday life, but its definately annoying.