Question: I live in New Zealand where it’s the summer racing season. I’ve had good results, but now my legs have gone “dead.” My quads burn constantly, like when walking upstairs. Blood tests were negative. Are there any remedies? — Ned K.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: Welcome to the club, Ned. I suspect that every enthusiastic rider experiences dead legs at some point in their season.
Often, the problem is caused by not eating enough carbohydrate. Hard training uses lots of calories. If you fail to eat enough — especially enough carbohydrate — you won’t replenish all of your glycogen stores each day.
Over a period of weeks, this muscle fuel will become more depleted without you knowing it — until you feel like you’re running on empty even before starting to ride. So the first thing to do is make sure you’re eating enough.
If that doesn’t help, you cut way back on your training load for a week and see if you feel better. Sometimes that’s all it takes. In fact, a smart training program will reduce riding time and effort by about 20 percent every fourth week as a way to prevent the problem you’re describing.
The pros say that sometimes they get dead legs for no reason at all and they have to ride through the bad spell. They report that just when things seem bleakest, their legs miraculously come around. There’s still a lot we don’t know about how the body responds to exercise!