Painful calves - updated

by djgorey   May 6, 2013  

So I'm increasing my distances now and hitting 100km and although I'm feeling good at the end of them (exhausted but still good), I'm getting really painful calves and I'm not sure why.

My thighs have a bit of a burn and my knees are fine so just wondering if anybody else has experienced this. The calf pain seems to set in at about 30 miles, which is not much at all and is mainly my right leg. Left calf started to hurt at 50 miles yesterday. It got to the point where just turning the pedals, without any effort, hurt like hell. Pulling away from lights nearly killed me.

I was wondering if it could be that my cleat on my right shoe is not set-up properly - my foot is at more of an angle on my right than on the left, or is it that I am just now beginning to stretch my calves? I would have thought that if it was just a training/fitness thing, it would affect both legs equally.

Any suggestions gratefully received as there's not much point cycling if it starts to really hurt after just 30 miles.

12 user comments

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May be that your not quite set up right on the cleats but I think you'd notcie a lot sooner than 30/50 miles. If your doing a lot of riding you might be doing to much to soon? Perhaps take it easy for a few days and rest them as much as possible?

My cleat wasn't set up properly and I found that it effected my ankle mostly. Were all different though!

You could try yoga there are some really good videos on here!

posted by Cycle_Jim [281 posts]
6th May 2013 - 14:50

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A possible cause is myofascial trigger points (knots) in the calf muscles. A good sports physiotherapist would be able to tell you and provide treatment.

posted by chrismday [49 posts]
6th May 2013 - 18:10

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chrismday wrote:
A possible cause is myofascial trigger points (knots) in the calf muscles. A good sports physiotherapist would be able to tell you and provide treatment.

Would a sports massage help? We have a masseuse come to work for neck and shoulders so I can have a chat with her

posted by djgorey [37 posts]
6th May 2013 - 20:42

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You can buy those roller mi-jigs for myofascial tissue, you basically roll the muscle out. I have one myself but only used it a couple of times. Sports therapist as others have said would be a good idea tbh

posted by Cycle_Jim [281 posts]
6th May 2013 - 22:48

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Yes, trigger points are usually treated with a sports massage but be warned, it's very painful.

An alternative is dry needling which seems to be gaining in acceptance as an effective treatment. My own experience is that the needles don't hurt much at the time, but I get a dull ache afterwards which lasts a couple of weeks, so my personal preference is to get the pain over and done with and go for the massage.

Of course your problem may not be trigger points, but from what you say, I think there's a good chance. Hope you get it sorted.

posted by chrismday [49 posts]
6th May 2013 - 23:13

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I'd advise getting a professional bike fit if you haven't had one before.

That said it might be worth trying to move your cleats further back toward the heel of your shoe (if they are not already) and checking that your seat is not too high.

The further towards your toe the cleat is positioned the more the calves will have to work to stabilise your foot during the down stroke.

Having your seat too high will also mean that at the bottom of your pedal stroke your toes will have to dip to complete that portion.

posted by zekizeki [3 posts]
7th May 2013 - 14:48

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zekizeki wrote:
I'd advise getting a professional bike fit if you haven't had one before.

I haven't had a bike fit before, so maybe something to think of.

zekizeki wrote:
That said it might be worth trying to move your cleats further back toward the heel of your shoe (if they are not already) and checking that your seat is not too high.

The further towards your toe the cleat is positioned the more the calves will have to work to stabilise your foot during the down stroke.

Having your seat too high will also mean that at the bottom of your pedal stroke your toes will have to dip to complete that portion.

I've moved the cleat back on the shoe so my foot is further forward on the pedal and after a quick (very quick) trundle round the car-park, it feels as though the ball of my foot is much better planted on the pedal compared to what it was so, if nothing else, power delivery should be better! In comparison, it feels as though it was my toes that were pushing the pedal round.

I've got a 70 mile ride coming up on Sunday so I'll let you know how I get on.

I've noticed though that following Sunday's ride just gone, I have no pain in my calves and my thighs are the usual stiffness.

posted by djgorey [37 posts]
7th May 2013 - 20:46

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So went out on my 70 mile one this morning. Much less pain in my calf - just the usual to tell me I'm working and pretty much felt great. There was just over 3,000 ft of climbing and on the second big climb I had to drop down the gears and spin a bit but it all felt ok.

Then I stopped for a couple of minutes to down a bar and a gel, set off again, hit a slight hill and ping went the tendon that goes down the outside of my right calf. Game over Crying Phone the wife and get a lift home.

I'll admit I wasn't feeling baby fresh beforehand, but it felt like I had more left.

I can't walk that well at the moment so I think I'm going to be off the bike for a couple of weeks to see if I can get it fixed properly

posted by djgorey [37 posts]
12th May 2013 - 14:17

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Yeah the myofascial massages hurt like a bitch! Feels like there is gristle in your legs!

Maybe just ease off the distance a little and do shorter more intense rides. You might be trying to do too much too soon (obviously I don't know your the judge of that)

posted by Cycle_Jim [281 posts]
13th May 2013 - 12:30

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From what you say there - are you grinding up the hills too much? It's better for all your joints and tendons and whatnot to spin up hills at 80-100 rpm, same as you spin on the flat, rather than keeping it in the big ring and churning up at 60-70.

posted by bashthebox [645 posts]
13th May 2013 - 13:17

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Unless you're taking loads of EPO and testosterone. In which case, knock yourself out.

posted by bashthebox [645 posts]
13th May 2013 - 13:18

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I've got an appointment with the masseuse at the end of the month - she had a quick rub and it hurt where it shouldn't so definitely a good idea.

From looking at the internet (nothing more professional than that at this stage) it sounds similar to a "IT band" injury? The comments re this type of injury is that it is similar to a repetitive strain injury in that the pain clears up quite quickly until you get back on the bike and that is what I have found. My leg has a bit of twinge today, but nowhere near as bad as it was, but I know that once I hit the 40 mile mark, it will start hurting again.

The causes for that are 1) not warming up properly, 2) not stretching and 3) riding in too high a gear. When the problem first arose, I was trying to keep up with some much better riders than me in the big ring. It sounds like I've properly injured myself and need to be careful about how I recover. Never had a sports injury before so am on a steep learning curve. Seeing the doctor on Wednesday and see if I can get a referral to a physio.

posted by djgorey [37 posts]
13th May 2013 - 13:22

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