HEAVY BIKE LEGS
How can I alleviate the feeling of heavy legs on the bike during a race? I’ve done a few races this season where I simply haven’t been able to ‘get going’. Graeme Maguire A
Not being able to get going on the bike leg post-swim is not unusual, and there are several factors and scenarios that could contribute to this frustrating situation mid-race. Here are some considerations and tips to prevent and treat the feeling should it affect you again.
If you’ve had a stressful swim – say you’ve been hit repeatedly by other swimmers, you’ve had your googles knocked off, or you’ve encountered a water full of jellyfish, or all three! – this may increase the stress response of your body.
During stress, blood vessels can narrow reduce blood flow to certain areas of the body. So for example, blood flow could be directed away from your less-active muscles – i.e. your legs. This may leave them in a semi ‘dead’ or numb state and could then take a few miles for the blood flow to be redistributed and wake them up. Reducing stress is a good way to perform better, so make sure to build this into you pre-race routine in a way that works for you.
Another consideration is that your perception in water is very difficult and because of that we tend to swim slightly harder than we realise. This can have a similar affect as stress, as detailed above, drawing blood towards the working muscles and again leaving the legs feeling sluggish.
It’s for this reason that us coaches will recommend that you kick harder in the final 200m or so of a swim. This redirects the blood to the legs ahead of time and prepares them to work though T1 and onto the bike.
The body is highly adaptable so, depending when your next race is in the calendar – most likely at the start of next season so you probably won’t have raced for a few months – then it might be that your body is simply not used to the transition from one sport to another.
You can prepare your body for switching between two sports by planning in some swim-bike brick training efforts to better prepare for the demands of the race.
Lastly, it’s key to switch on your muscles through a vigorous warm-up before the race. It’s not uncommon for triathletes to skip a warm-up altogether and many will only perform a basic swim warm-up, leaving the legs unengaged and muscle fibres simply not ready to work. Joel Enoch