How I Eliminated My Leg Cramps – Part 3: Lowering My Heart Rate

While I sometimes find it necessary to dial back my intensity before I fatigue my legs, I’ve found it is much wiser for me to calculate and maintain a desired target heart rate zone at which I can sustain my heart rate over long periods in the saddle without overworking it. When I do see my heart rate creeping up, I’ve found that there are three additional steps that I can take to lower my heart rate and avoid overexertion.

1. Breathing deeply – One of the reasons I can’t judge my physical exertion is that I don’t always breathe deeply when I am at a high heart rate. Consequently, I monitor my heart rate and force myself to breathe deeply when it increases. Sometimes just consciously focusing on my inhaling and exhaling works for me. However, when that doesn’t work, one of the most effective ways I’ve found to breathe deeply is to try to completely exhale all the air from my lungs. This technique forces me to take in a large quantity of air when I inhale.

2. Stay hydrated– As I mention in my pervious post Cycling During Heat Advisory Warnings I drink plenty of water. To make sure I keep drinking I set an alarm to sound at the completion of every mile. This reminds me to take a sip of water. The rule of thumb to stay hydrated is to drink a water bottle every hour when cycling. This technique makes my intake of a sip of water just the right portion size for my body to easily process.

3. Fuel My Legs – Similar to my alarm to remind me to drink, I also set an alarm to remind me to consume some carbohydrates to fuel my legs. I prefer whole foods like apples, oranges and bananas, if I can find them. However, I do carry processed carbohydrates such as GU if I can’t find anything else.

I hope you will have the same success at eliminating leg cramps as I have with these simple techniques.

Ken Whittaker