After about 40 minutes of unicycling I feel my quadriceps tightening. When I get home, I notice that it has invariably bulged and expanded, especially the right one. There is no pain, just discomfort.
I unicycle about once every week and have been unicycling for about 7 months. I can ride for about 300 meters nonstop.
Is it normal to experience such thigh muscle tightening at this level of experience? Are there any measures I can take or should I just practice and it will go away after I attain a certain level of proficiency? Should I perhaps take 5 minute breaks every 10 minutes of unicycling in order to prevent this?
300m is a fairly short distance. What happens at this point? If you have to stop because your legs are all tired, it probably means you aren’t sitting down. This means you’re supporting most/all of your weight on your legs, which is a super workout, but not a great riding technique. Concentrate on relaxing more as you cruise along and this problem may go away.
I started weight lifting squats and dead lifts when I was about 40. I felt some discomfort in my legs. Then I squatted 125 for 15 reps, my best up until that time. Soon after, I was in a lot of pain. It was hard to sleep that night, I think I tore enough fascia to freak out the nerves.
Anyway, tearing fascia isn’t a real problem. I went on to squat about 170 for 15 , but then grew older and atrophied to where now 120 for 15 reps has me beat.
I feel only normal stiffness after lifting now. After you tear your fascia (from muscle swelling), it realigns, and in the future will be better. Worry if you have joint pain(and lay off it), but after you tear the fascia, it will be better, in a few days. Your muscles will be free to grow. Fascia, wraps the muscles, and if you grow them to large, they must tear it to be free. Yeah, it hurts!
Regular yoga is good for loosening up muscles and is good cross-training for bike riding or unicycling. There are a few poses that are particularly good for loosening quads, but I do not remember what they are called. Perhaps “standing bow” and “fixed firm” from the Bikram series.
+1. I follow a regular regime of yoga type exercises normally last thing at night. IMHO it can also has a calming effect after the rigours of the day. I focus on the legs, core and arms; all sitting on the floor making it quite comfortable. There is so much info on the Web you are bound to find positions that target your issues. Of course you can overdo things with twists and stretches but I just take things easy and feel it really helps where it matters – riding the big wheel Hope you work through your issue successfully.
One thing to consider is if you have your saddle height dialed in correctly? When I first started riding I failed to realize the importance of proper saddle/seat-post height. I was riding with the saddle too low so that my quadriceps would get very tight and start burning after just a short bit of riding. You need to properly distribute your weight between your legs and your “butt.” Once I figured out the errors of my ways and raised the saddle just a bit, I was much more comfortable and could ride much longer. +1 to all the other advice already suggested as well. Just make sure your saddle is the right height for you! Good luck!
Im with JF on you are not sitting in the seat. I’ll also add that your seat might be too low.
About seat height. Unless you need to lower it for tricks you want to raise the seat as high as you can go and not need to rock your hips while you pedal or feel like you are loosing contact with the pedals. Your knees should almost, but not quite lock out when you pedal. Others set it by leaning against something and raising the seat until when they pedal with their heal on the pedal their leg is straight. I just raise the seat a 1/4" at time until it feels right. Only do this a 1/4" at a time and ride a day or two at the new height.
Getting the seat high enough helps engage the hamstrings and Glutes (butt) muscles. This help is more pronounced on a bicycle because you can clip into the pedals. But you still get some benefit on a Uni.
To learn to relax and ride on the seat, make sure you are looking forward and sitting up straight. Sure you need to look down but come back to looking at the horizon when you can. Shake your arms and hands out while riding. Pedal as light as you can, spin rather than stomp. It’s easy to ride in a slightly slumped position, which has it uses but try to also be able to ride sitting up straight.
Watch the girl in this video to see what relaxed riding looks like. With all that said a lot of stuff just comes with doing the miles. As riding becomes more second nature you will relax more.
Notice how she uses her eyes to look down more than tilting her head. She has a very quiet upper body that takes time to achieve but is what you should be striving for. If you ride a bicycle you should be striving for that same degree of relaxation. It really makes riding more fun and gives you a ‘sitting on top of the world’ feeling.
I realized that the reason I put so much weight on my feet and therefore cause my front thigh muscle to tighten is that I want to lessen the pressure on my crotch. I got this insight yesterday when I forgot to wear the extra lycra-style underwear that I usually wear for a more comfortable ride. I found that the pressure on my crotch was making it very uncomfortable to ride and I was putting more pressure on my feet to lessen it. Consequently my right thigh was tightening up the more quickly.
Another thing that may help lessen the pressure on the crotch would, I hypothesize, be shoes with hard soles. They would help the feet apply firm pressure on the pedals with less power. Soft soles, as as the soles of the shoes I use bend under the pressure and make the pressure less effective/efficient. What is your experience? Am I correct about the firm sole shoe guess?
You’re not going to find a solution to your problem by continuing to try to avoid putting pressure on your crotch. Get a good seat, and some padded bicycle shorts. Comfortable riding == your entire weight on your seat and almost no pressure on your pedals. Period. No question about it.
You’re basically avoiding fixing the real problem that is preventing you from riding distance. I’ve been riding for about 6 months and I can go over 6,000 meters, and this is only possible because I put all my weight on my seat. You just have to.