Weak legs aren’t getting better

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Weak legs aren’t getting better
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Posted: Sep 19, 2022 at 22:25 Quote
I am 41 and started mtb’ing again during covid. Obviously at the beginning my legs were weak but I kept riding. So far in 2022 I’ve ridden 600 miles and ran 100. Most rides are 8-10 miles with 800-1200 feet of climbing. Even with all the miles I still struggle on climbs and need to stop to give my legs a breather every 300 or so feet. I am 6’4” and 205, so not overweight.

When I rode last Saturday I decided to head back up after the first 6 mile lap. Surprisingly my legs felt better than the first lap and I was able to make it past my usual break spot with no issues. Some of the spots are technical steep rocky sections and my legs usually just run out of gas, no real pain or soreness. My legs never hurt the following days.

I’ve tried changing my cadence, higher gears, seat position, cross training on off days, diet, hydration, but I can’t find anything that works. My friends out climb me with no issues and they are in simulator worse shape than me.

Posted: Sep 20, 2022 at 6:10 Quote
I'm no coach, but I'm older than you and ride often and have some experience with struggling to improve performance.

My simple suggestion is ride more - much more. Flat and downhill sections are almost a waste of time - go climbing. Coast down. Climb again and again and again. Ride until it hurts. Then go recover on a flat section and do it again. If you aren't feeling it the next day (or days) then you aren't pushing yourself into the range necessary to see any physiological improvement in your muscles. It takes a lot of work to make muscles stronger and keep them there.

For a novice rider, completing 600 miles in under 10 months feels like a big accomplishment; however, this is actually equivalent to less than 3 miles of riding a day. That's nice for your heart for sure, but it isn't nearly enough to see noted improvement in musculature and ability. This level of riding will keep you fit and healthy, but not make your climbing improvement noticeable.

If you're serious about improving your riding you should either hire a coach or commit to one of the many online trainer programs. Garmin has one. Then there are indoor trainers and their online training regimes like Sufferfest. The winter is coming and indoor smart trainers are excellent these days. Lots of options.

Good luck.

O+
Posted: Sep 23, 2022 at 13:29 Quote
39, 40 in a month.... my fitness is a bit of a rollercoaster. gains are definitely becoming harder to realize.

I've done 2,100 kms this year and 23 km of elevation. ~250m per ride on avg. this includes time on the trainer jan-march.

so ride stats are not dissimilar to yours, typically 8-10miles with 800 ft of elevation on the MTB

when I do road/gravel rides, its more like 25-50 miles and 1,500-3,000ft of elevation.

if you want to get stronger, you have to ride more and/or put in structured training. if you're never feeling sore/tired, it might be a sign that your body is not adapting and no adaptation means no growth.

perhaps consider doing some intervals (10-20 minutes worth) at the end of a ride to get some extra miles and intensity in.

perhaps you need to start doubling your distance/elevation once a week to start. then progress.

always remember, cycling never gets easier, you just get faster. cliche yes, but also true.
i feel the same level of struggles on my hill segments, but my times are almost always trending faster.

O+
Posted: Sep 23, 2022 at 13:53 Quote
43 here. I would try doing climbs with greater vertical. The vertical gain you mention per horizontal distance is awesome by normal standards, no doubt you are doing your body a big favor.

In mountain bike terms, 800-1200ft vert over 8-10 miles actually is not that much though. I would try to do climbs between 3-6k vertical ascent. Then you will no longer be plateauing with your fitness. For MTB, the vertical gain is generally more significant than the distance rode, since bikes are pretty efficient, it is not that hard to cover a lot of distance unless the terrain is technical or rough. Make sure you are getting enough sleep and protein as well.

Do you have kids? I also saw gains in fitness when I would tow my five year old up climbs 1-2.5k in vert. The kid was stoked because he then had a big descent and I got an appreciable workout. Some people I have seen do this training with ebikes but you don't get the same result.

Hope this is helpful.

Posted: Sep 30, 2022 at 5:43 Quote
I'll be 39 this year. Most of my riding buddies come from a road background, so it's a constant struggle keeping up on the pedally stuff.

Volume is important. How often do you get a long ride in? Figure out what pace you can push for 2.5 - 3 hours. Try and get a long ride in at least 2-3 times a month. Once your body has some endurance, you'll be able to really push those climbing intervals on your shorter rides.

Posted: Sep 30, 2022 at 8:36 Quote
Might have found some of the issue. I recently signed up for Strava and uploaded all of my Garmin data. I was in fact getting “better”, but the more I rode the faster mph I was riding uphill. This taxed my muscles causing me to need a break. I just rode again and reduced my climbing speed from 7mph to 4mph average and was able to complete my normal climb without stopping.

Posted: Sep 30, 2022 at 8:48 Quote
Jperry1290 wrote:
Might have found some of the issue. I recently signed up for Strava and uploaded all of my Garmin data. I was in fact getting “better”, but the more I rode the faster mph I was riding uphill. This taxed my muscles causing me to need a break. I just rode again and reduced my climbing speed from 7mph to 4mph average and was able to complete my normal climb without stopping.

I find that Strava can take the fun out of my rides because it always compares my last ride to my previous rides and all the segments too. It puts me in competition mode instead of fun mode. Constant competition isn't fun to me, but some may like it. I like it for short periods, but not all the time.

O+
Posted: Sep 30, 2022 at 9:30 Quote
Jperry1290 wrote:
Might have found some of the issue. I recently signed up for Strava and uploaded all of my Garmin data. I was in fact getting “better”, but the more I rode the faster mph I was riding uphill. This taxed my muscles causing me to need a break. I just rode again and reduced my climbing speed from 7mph to 4mph average and was able to complete my normal climb without stopping.

this just proves the old saying.....Cycling doesnt get easier, you just get faster.

Posted: Oct 8, 2022 at 6:36 Quote
Above 25 years old, nutrition is key to success. A couple sessions with a dietician made a huge difference in my training and recovery.

I (like many people) wasn't getting enough protein or fiber, and had way too much fat/carbs. Small changes made big differences, but everyone has different needs.

Posted: Nov 22, 2022 at 8:54 Quote
Hi!

I'm Strength and Conditioning coach specialized i MTB. You can find a lot of useful tips about Lower Body Training on my website www.trainforskills.pl/en. You can find there also MTB Training Programs for amateur. If you got some questions or need some help feel free to ask me Wink

All the best,
Arthur

Posted: Nov 22, 2022 at 22:13 Quote
I would recomend some sort of indoor training for the dark winter months. I've been at it all my life an still constantly feel unfit, overwieght etc etc... I got myself a direct mount smart trainer an was lucky to be given a commuter to put on it. The ease of getting home from work, a quick very light snack an straight on the turbo is awesome.Usually I would be weather an daylight dependent an I would be getting about 20miles a week winter training... Had my turbo since the clocks changed (aboot 3 weeks) an I;m now getting 100miles a week of training!! even more than I would in the summer months. Also the trainer has helped me to get out of the saddle on climbs an sprints, whereas on the MTB in the real world I find myself being lazy an sitting for long boring climbs.

YES they are expensive, my turbo was £400 on sale BUT, they do hold their value, I could very likely get £350 for it if I wanted to sell. Also the online training apps are great for little challenges an games that boost fitness an fun at the same time. Mine has a 'Ghost' so I can race myself which is a great feature as I only like to compete against myself at this age ( 48 )

Diet too, the balance of restricting carbs to loose the spare tyre but, also having enough energy to train in the first place is my biggest problem. I 20-22hour fast monday to thursday aboot 15-18hours friday an then what ever the heck I want at the weekend. Beer an posh crisps are my downfall! Big Grin

Also remember at this age we are fighting regression more than progressing so don't expect amazing youthfull explosive fitnesss levels but, endurance does come with age so train for that as well as your own personall strengths an goals. Again not comparing yourself to others but, beating your own goals is great.
Don't beat your self up mentally, comparing to the young bloods....

an most importantly... have FUN Bud

Posted: Nov 23, 2022 at 7:31 Quote
I recently signed up for Strava. I use my past trades as my goal and not how my fellow riders are doing next to me. I have seen some improvements over the last few weeks. Definitely farther along than where I was a year ago

Posted: Dec 1, 2022 at 12:27 Quote
I'm 35. Roughly 5 or 6 years ago I started to notice that any time I ride MORE, and lift weights less, my overall riding ability got worse.

Resistance training (this includes bodyweight training) takes your anaerobic strength above anything you'll get from riding, thus providing "reserve strength" while you're out on the trails.

Finding balance over the week between directed "fitness" and just simply riding your bike is key. 2 times per week of resistance training, combined with 2-4 times per week of cycling will keep me very strong.

When I start to drift toward 5 days per week cycling (let's say, 50% road, 50% MTB), and zero days of lifting, the weakness of my body during rides becomes glaringly obvious.

Most people absolutely hate resistance training, and I'll agree it's boring. BUT, if you simply buy an adjustable kettlebell for your living room, and do follow-along youtube workouts for 45 minutes twice per week, you will see a MASSIVE improvement in your confidence on the bike.

As I post this, I imagine the average rider rolling their eyes thinking, "yeah I'm not doing that...." But as I've gotten older, I feel like my workouts are the ace up my sleeve when it comes to cycling performance.

Posted: Dec 1, 2022 at 20:15 Quote
If you want to be HArDcoRE, you need to internalize this famous quote: "Shut up, legs! It's only pain!"

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