The older I get, the more I seem to suffer from leg cramps. This week the problem has been in my calves but it can appear anywhere from foot to hip. I may have allowed myself to remain dehydrated after gardening in the relatively warm weather and never really got on top of my hydration. For this reason I’ve had cramps in the calves every so often over the last few days. Apparently cramps are not just caused by a lack of water but may also be due to an imbalance in the sodium/calcium ratio. As a former restaurant owner I don’t lack salt in my food. You may hear from well meaning people that if you reduce your salt intake you will enjoy your food just as much. I think this is nonsense! You don’t need too much salt, you simply need to get it just right. I know very little about calcium in the diet but see no reason why I would eat too much to upset the balance. I have found that cramps can be offset by drinking plenty of water, so that’s what I usually do.
Yesterday and this morning I had some cramping whilst resting so I decided not to use my pedal powered boat, which is more muscular and less aerobic than mountain biking. I am certainly prone to cramping when in the boat so instead I drank plenty of water and headed out on the bike. My planned ride involves just over an hour of mainly uphill riding to the top of Great Hill, followed by a fabulous, long downhill and return over Healey Nab. I made sure that I kept my cadence (rate of pedal rotation) high at 90 rpm or above. This makes me breath harder than spinning the pedals at a slower rate like 60 rpm but is less stressful on the muscles at the same speed. Using this higher cadence certainly allows me to ride for longer and maintain my speed better than if I grind the pedals round with more force and less speed of rotation. On the steeper climbs, though, I don’t have a low enough gear to keep the cadence up so have no choice but to keep the bike moving with a big force on the pedals. I arrived at the top still feeling fresh with the long descent ahead of me.
To ride the downhill section needs a massive effort if I want a good time. I didn’t start my stopwatch today but from the app. Strava I can see that I took 17 minutes compared to my best ever time of 13 minutes and 20 seconds. I had to go over 2 stiles during the descent so would have lost some time there. I also slowed for walkers, some with dogs, so could easily have gone quicker but that wasn’t the aim. I just wanted to slither around the dozens of corners varying from rocks and roots to smooth loam. It’s still the best downhill I’ve ever ridden and repeated riding never seems to diminish it. There can be few routes in England which take you on a mainly downhill trail for as long so it’s a privilege to have this so close to home. At the bottom I crossed a footbridge over a stream and rode along to White Coppice, which has the prettiest cricket ground imaginable. I didn’t stop there for a picture but just after the village is some evidence of the coal and mineral extraction which used to occur from the industrial revolution.
It was only after I’d stopped for a while to help a couple who’d asked for directions that I started to feel fatigued. Climbing up Healey Nab took me an shorter than average amount of time, compared to my other efforts this year. Back at home I could feel that I’d done a ride of over 2 hours and made sure that I rehydrated to hopefully prevent any recurrence of the cramping.
Cramps suck! I’m all about the electrolyte tablets. It’s not just sodium. It’s calcium and magnesium and potassium too. They all play a role in muscle channels and contraction. I take a tab typically every 30 mins for full day rides, and for shorter rides on hot days, I usually hydrate a ton before going, and add electrolytes to water…
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Sounds like good advice. I’ll look into it.
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