Help my legs.
March 9, 2009 7:29 AM   Subscribe

Help my legs.

Is there any way to help my legs recover faster/better?

Here's my current activity level. I run three days a week at ~8 minutes a mile that gives me a 10 mile a week total. I play basketball (full-court, man-to-man with ex-college players most of whom are younger than myself) once a week for ~three hours a pop. I walk five days a week about 30 minutes a day (my commute from the train station to my office and back.) Oh, and I'm 52.

So, excluding the walking, that has me doing something four out of every seven days. And while there are rest days built in, I obviously have to do two of those days back-to-back.
Most of the time, my legs feel, well, heavy and tired. I'm wondering if there's anything else I can do to help them recover faster/better?

I should add that my diet is good. My weight is good. And I have no other restrictions. No knee or joint pain nor muscular pain beyond what could be normally expected for my workload.

My knee-jerk reaction is to shed weight. But I believe my body is at its comfortable set point and weight loss would be artificial. So am I missing something? Vitamins? Supplements? Or is this just probably what I should expect for a 52-year-old guy refusing to slow down?
posted by lpsguy to Health & Fitness (20 answers total)
Maybe it would be a good idea to focus on the upper body once in a while. It's still exercise, but would let your legs take a break.
posted by ocherdraco at 7:35 AM on March 9, 2009

Response by poster: Thank ocherado. I should have added that on my run days, I add 20-30 minutes of upper body weight training and 10-15 minutes of stretching afterward.
posted by lpsguy at 7:52 AM on March 9, 2009

Dude, yeah, your legs get what then need. More, really. I'd cut a little bit of the running, and do something upper body, or at least, lower impact like cycling.

Last spring and summer, I worked off 30 lb not by diet modification but be swimming, running, and cycling. At one point, I ran 40 days consecutively, conncurrently with the beginning of a 100-day riding streak. Even after light days, my legs were constantly a *bit* sore.
posted by notsnot at 7:53 AM on March 9, 2009

If I were you I'd back off the pace on one or two of your runs to give your legs a break. That's what I had to do during times when I was as active as you.
posted by PFL at 7:54 AM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

I presume you're running, playing basketball and walking because you enjoy all these things, so barring injury, I see no reason to eliminate these from your life.

But I think the fast stop/start nature of basketball, especially at 3 hours at a clip, is different from the slow, steady state cardio you get from running and walking. Three hours of what is basically interval cardio, once a week, may not be as good for you as, say, an hour of basketball twice a week. Of course, you may find it difficult to impossible to reschedule your basketball with your current buddies, but it might be worth checking that out. Or play with your friends for at the usual session 1-2 hours instead of 3, if that could work.

What kind of strength and stability work are you doing for your legs, especially the supporting muscles around your knees? More leg work, not less, may make basketball safer for you.
posted by maudlin at 7:56 AM on March 9, 2009

This can be related to so many issues, where to even begin?

Shoes? Are they ergonomic? Do they fit well, support your arches? Do you have flat feet?
Are you getting enough minerals in your diet? Are you eating enough leafy greens and complete proteins?
How are the abs and lower back muscles doing? Do they need specific attention?
Are you getting enough rest? Do you rest your feet enough? Raising them with pillows helps.
Is it within your capability (financial) do get deep tissue massage in the lower torso/leg region?
Muscle fatigue (assuming this is going on a while) is usually indicative of a structure issue (i.e. - not being able to bear the weight) for whatever reason - could be skelton, could be nutritional, could be psychological (even). I think in your case you need to be consulting a sports medicine specialist to be given a complete work up, with muscle testing to pinpoint the problem and to find the most beneficial remedy for you.

Be well.
posted by watercarrier at 7:56 AM on March 9, 2009

Just as a head's up - you might also want to get a complete exam including EKG and blood just to rule out an underlying disease or disorder that could also be contributing to muscle fatigue.
posted by watercarrier at 8:00 AM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Tiredness and acheyness have always been precursors to shin-splints and stress-fractures in my experience. Has there been a recent increase in your activity, or have you changed shoes/not changed shoes recently?
posted by cardboard at 8:03 AM on March 9, 2009

Honestly I'd suggest yoga and/or pilates. Most older guys don't take that suggestion well, but my dad finally got into it this year and he looks like a new person. He says he hasn't felt this great in 20+ years.

We're all so crunched up and following the exercises you list with 10-15 minutes of stretching really isn't cutting it. If you think it's too foo-foo, I'd suggest just trying a package of 10-15 classes to prove yourself wrong. It takes a while to figure out what's supposed to be happening in the moves, but if you can find a beginner's class starting in your area, I'd bet you'll be surprised with how strenuous and exhilarating it can be.

Or swimming.

And yeah, get a workup regardless, and doubly so if backing off the exercise doesn't help your legs.
posted by barnone at 8:07 AM on March 9, 2009

I know it messes up your routine, but always taking a day off in between and thus never having 2 back to back days of impact exercise might help. As others have suggested, this doesn't have to mean not exercising, but just not having the joint pounding quite as much might help.
posted by hydropsyche at 8:10 AM on March 9, 2009

How about supplementing with L-Glutamine? It's supposed to help with muscle rebuilding and DOMS.
posted by bink at 8:13 AM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Ice or cold water.

After you heavy sessions sit in an ice bath - but you probably don't have one of them, so you can run very cold water on your legs. If you shower after you run, then run cold water only over your legs for a few minutes. This helps reduce swelling. The other thing you can do is walk in a cold lake/ocean.

Also lay of the alcohol.
posted by lamby at 8:56 AM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

I second lamby.

I used to run 6 miles a day for a while and found the only way I was able to keep it up was thanks to ice baths.

It doesn't have to be a total immersion, mid-thigh works as well. Do this immediately after your run for about 10 minutes. It takes about 10lbs of ice to get the desired temperature in an average sized tub.
posted by abdulf at 9:11 AM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Great suggestions upthread, and I'd only counsel you to make sure your core muscles are in top form also - make sure your back, especially lower back and stomach muscles are getting the workouts they need also.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 9:15 AM on March 9, 2009

Best answer: Eh. I swim hard six days a week, plus do some other sporty things, and except for taper time, my legs are always tired too. You work out a lot. I don't think it necessarily means you are overtraining or need to omgfreakout! At meets, we use ice baths (dump ice cubes in bath, sit in it, feel the pain) to keep our legs fresh and I supplement with l-glutamine as suggested upthread all the time. These help, but what helps me most is reframing the tiredness as "my body is feeling all the hard work it does and I am stronger because of it" than thinking "ow tired ow tired."
posted by dame at 10:16 AM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

When was the last time you took a week off?
posted by creasy boy at 10:51 AM on March 9, 2009

Response by poster: Thank you all so much. So many thoughts have merit, but just aren't practical for my schedule. Some points:

• Yes, I have had a full EKG and treadmill stress test with radioactive scan and all ... just a month ago. Everything's A-OK.
• Yes, I have decent running shoes and change them about every 400 miles.
• Yes, I do work on my core: abs and back.
• No, there has not been a recent increase in my activity.
• Yes, I just took a week off about a month ago, while awaiting the results of the stress testing.
• No, don't think pilates and yoga is foo-foo. I just don't see how I can find classes that fit into a life with two careers, music lessons and a family. Maybe I'll save it for when I become one of those "older" guys.
• Lay off the alcohol? You mean don't drink beer while I run? I don't. It splashes out of the glass.
• I'd love to replace a run day with a cycling day. Unfortunately, I'm in the middle of a city, can't get a bike in here practically, or to trails for that matter. And the gym has two really bad bikes.

But what I think I will try is:

• The ice. Well, the cold shower. I run at lunchtime and it's hard to find an ice bath in my small company gym. But the cold shower idea is great. I tried it just a few minutes ago after today's run.
• I'll try the L-Glutamine. Can anyone tell me more about it?

But thank you all. Keep the ideas coming. It's amazing how sometimes the biggest barriers is just overcoming the practical matters of time, place and opportunity.
posted by lpsguy at 12:15 PM on March 9, 2009

You might want to get your blood electrolyte levels tested to make sure you're not deficient in calcium, sodium, potassium, magnesium, zinc, iron, etc. Many people are chronically sub-par and would never know it if it weren't for the leg cramps. A good, basic multi-mineral and a post-workout recovery shake/banana go a long way.

You could always do some of your workouts on a rebounder/mini-trampoline to take the stress off your joints...I've put on muscle with next to no strain whatsoever.
posted by aquafortis at 12:31 PM on March 9, 2009

L-glutamine: Some people buy the powder and put it in a shake or recovery drink. I get the capsules and take 2-3 after every workout.
posted by dame at 3:38 PM on March 9, 2009

You need to Deadlift and Squat. Your legs will be much stronger, which will make all of your other activities less stressful (metabolically speaking), which will result in shorter recovery time.

Another option is to try some "supplements" that will specifically supply things that 52 year old testes don't make as copiously as a younger man.
posted by tiburon at 9:15 PM on March 9, 2009

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