Understanding leg cramps – Part 1.



Leg cramps causes and solutions. Part 1.

Hello Hercules subscribers and welcome to some more wisdom from The Flying Physios. Today’s article focusses on Leg cramps, something we as runners, riders and active individuals suffer from at some point in our sporting endeavours. It’s also something we at TFP tend to see a lot of at our race clinics following 10K and especially half marathons. Here we discuss what cramps are and by understanding this we lead on to ways of treating  but more importantly preventing a cramping episode from happening in the first place


What are leg cramps?

Basically cramps are an involuntary action by your muscle- a spasm- which involves one or more muscles contracting too hard. Key hotspots for cramps are your calves, behind/below the knee, your foot, the front and back of the thigh, hands, arms and abdomen. We mostly see cramps in the calf or foot. Most cramping episodes are classed as spasms and because spasms tend to be a result of the body guarding itself we can potentially see cramps as a way of your body letting you now there is a problem, be it down to exertion, a nervous system issue, dietary issues or possibly as a result of disease.

A cramp typically lasts a few minutes but it can last a matter of a few seconds. We have known them last 10 minutes, heaven forbid. The severity of the pain can vary with the muscle remaining tender some 24 hours after the initial complaint. If they don’t get you following a long run then they tend to visit late at night in bed- which are labelled as night cramps.


Who gets leg cramps?

You, me, everybody! We see runners and riders with long term cramping issues fairly regularly and certainly in our post race massage clinics. Being a seasoned runner or rider can play a part in limiting episodes if you listen to your body. Older individuals tend to suffer more often with 1 in 3 over 60 and around 50% of people over 80 suffering regularity. It is also known for individuals to suffer 3 to 4 attacks a week whilst some will cramp everyday.


What are the possible causes?

We say ‘possible’ causes simply because the root cause can often be hard to identify. There can be one or a number of factors involved in you suffering a cramp so see which ones you feel may apply to you.

Possibly causes include:

  • overexertion of the muscle whilst training or competing
  • insufficient preparation for an activity- not stretching is an example
  • exercising in the heat
  • dehydration
  • poor blood circulation in the legs or other parts of the body
  • muscle fatigue
  • nerve impingement
  • magnesium or potassium deficiency
  • calcium deficiency

The fact is one or more of these conditions may apply to you so it pays not to ignore them.


How to treat an attack of the cramps?

Stretching and massaging the affected muscle can usually relieve an attack of cramp. Most cramps soon ease off. Painkillers are not usually helpful as they do not act quickly enough. However, a painkiller such as paracetamol may help to ease muscle discomfort and tenderness that sometimes persists for up to 24 hours after a cramp has gone.

An immediate remedy that can help with the sudden onset is to activate the opposite muscle to the one that has cramped. By ‘activating’ we mean use it. For example, cramping of the calf muscle can be alleviated by pointing your toes up wards towards your head. This activates the opposing muscle to the calf (the one on the front of your shin) which makes the cramped muscle relax and elongate with a little effort. Having someone to help with this process is often advised as to be honest you may not feel up to the effort during an attack.


How to prevent them in the first place.

If cramps don’t occur often then no particular treatment is usually required. But for frequent cramping consider the following:

  • If overexertion is causing the problem then wind back the amount of training you are doing and assess muscle imbalances that may be occurring in the region and the body as a whole as this may be a root cause.
  • If a lack of stretching is a key factor then consult someone who can offer advice on an effective stretching regime.
  • If you tend to cramp during the hot weather then prepare for it by taking on fluids that will replenish your body and limit the opportunity for cramping. Dehydration is a key reason for cramps appearing.
  • If you tend to cramp due to poor circulation in your legs then maybe it is worth investing in a massage as a part of your training regime.
  • If you think your nervous system may be the issue then you need to consult a professional to determine your suspicions. A heath screening from a Physio can help to determine a course of action.
  • If fatigue is a key reason for you suffering repeated cramping attacks then look at your diet. Deficiency in Potassium or magnesium for example can play a part in the regularity of your cramping attacks.


So if you are regularly suffering cramping episodes then digest the info above and put it into play. In the next instalment of our advice on dealing with cramps we will look at alternative options for individuals who suffer from the chronic cramping or seeking alternative remedies. Bye for now from The Flying Physios and remember we are always on hand for treatment and advice on 01727 758846 or at info@theflyingphysios.com

What is a tyre made of?

cycle tech



There are three basic parts to a bicycle tyre, the carcass, the bead core and the rubber tyre tread.  Furthermore, almost all Schwalbe and Continental tyres have a puncture protection belt.

What a tyre is made of Pic 1What a tyre is made of Pic 2What a tyre is made of Pic 3What a tyre is made of Pic 4









The carcass is a rubberised textile fabric, which is laid around the bead cores. The carcass is then coated with a rubber compound. The tyre tread is applied and the whole assembly is vulcanised.

Tube Protection: what is it/what does it do?

Dr Sludge / Slime:  This is generally put in when a new tyre is fitted and sits in the inner tube and is forgotten about. It works without you even being aware that it is working.  The disadvantages are that quite a number of ‘Presta’ valves do not have removable cores and therefore cannot be used, in which case you need to buy a ready filled Dr Sludge or Slime inner tube, and that they do add a small amount of weight which might affect some racing bikes.


 Tube protection Pic 1Tube protection Pic 2





Protection Tapes:  These give good protections but the tyres must be kept fully inflated, otherwise they will slip and can cause punctures. Again the racing fraternity  might notice the weight.

The bead core of the tyre determines its diameter and ensures a secure fit on the rim.  Generally the bead core of a tyre is made of steel wire.

In folding tyres, the steel wire is replaced with a hoop of Kevlar fiber.  The advantage is that the tyre can be folded and that, depending on the size, its weight can be reduced by 50 to 90g.

Tube protection 3Tube protection Pic 4

What is Clincher Tyre?

These days clincher tyres are the standard for bicycle tyres (see tyre construction). The wire tyre bead prevents the tyre from expanding with the pressure and thus from rolling off the rim.

What is a Clincher Tyre Pic 1

What is a Folding Tyre?

A folding tyre is, in a way, a special version of the clincher tyre (see tyre construction, bead core). In this tyre, the wire is replaced with a bundle of Kevlar fibres that allows it to fold easily and also makes the tyre lighter by about 50-90g.

What is a folding tyre Pic 1

Why ride a Slick Tyre?

Even in wet conditions, on a normal, smooth road, a slick tyre actually provides better grip than a tyre with a tread, because the contact area is larger.

The situation is much different on a rough road and even worse on a dirt trail as in these cases the degree of control provided by a slick tyre is extremely limited.

A slightly serrated surface on the tyre tread can have a positive effect on tyre grip, as it creates micro interlocking with rough asphalt.

What do the direction arrows mean?

What is a Slick Tyre Pic 1 What is a Slick Tyre Pic 2 What is a Slick Tyre Pic 3

Most Schwalbe tyre sidewalls are marked with a ‘Drive’ arrow, which indicates the recommended rolling direction.  When in use, the tyre should run in the direction of the arrow.

Many MTB tyres are marked with a ‘Front’ and a ‘Rear’ arrow. The ‘Front’ arrow indicates the recommended rolling direction for the front wheel and respectively the ‘Rear’ arrow is the direction for the rear wheel.


What to stretch, when to stretch and how to stretch – Part 1.



This article is designed to address the confusion surrounding the benefits of stretching and if it should be a part of your training regime. Just the other day having spoken to a new patient, their response to our question of ‘do you stretch regularly?’ was to reply with ‘do I need to?’- so that where we will begin.

Do I need to stretch?

In our opinion and that of many others- yes you should. Its certainly a good idea to stretch the major muscle groups of the body at least twice a week, more so if you are training hard. The idea behind stretching is to stay flexible and flexibility is something we lose proportionally as we get older. Staying flexible will help you to move better and can limit injuries. Stretching or flexibility exercises should become a part of a regular program long term. .

When should I stretch?

Some say you can stretch before exercise as well as after- but if nothing else make sure you stretch AFTER you exercise. Some people swear by stretching before you exercise or before your run or race. Its a personal thing and to us there is no right or wrong. What we do see as a benefit to stretching beforehand is that its a great form of mental preparation- a chance to get psyched up and ground yourself. If you do choose to stretch before your run or race make sure you take 5 minutes to warm up the areas to be stretch- make sure you never stretch COLD- warm things up  with arm swings, gentle legs swings and some figure of 8 runs to get that blood pumping!

A word of caution; studies have shown that too much ‘static’ stretching beforehand can weaken performance such as your sprinting speed. The reason they believe is that too much stretching can actually tire out your muscles.

What stretches should I do?

A particular type of stretch needs to be employed if you choose to stretch BEFOREHAND. ‘DYNAMIC STRETCHES’*. Your dynamic stretches should mimic the type of exercise or activity you are going to be performing, the only difference is the intensity of the stretch should be far less than the intensity you will put into your run or race. For example we recommend  the following dynamics exercises/stretches if you were due to be running; brisk walk followed by walking lunges, leg swings, high steps or butt kicks. The golden rule is start easy and build up the intensity.

* A dynamic stretch moves a muscle group fluidly through an entire range of motion safely. Pendulum leg swings are an example.

If I stretch before a run or race, do I need to stretch after?


After you come over the finish line you should definitely be stretching. The fact is everyone is more flexible after exercise because you have increased the circulation to your muscles and joints.


So I can do dynamic stretches after I finish my race?

No. Now that you have exercised you should perform ‘static stretching’* as you will get more benefit from them now. But before you stretch make sure you cool down a little first. A walk around for a few minutes before you stretch should suffice.

*Static stretching involves stretching a muscle to the full extent of your ability and holding it for 15 to 30 seconds is what’s called a static stretch. Just make sure you feel the stretch and not pain. If you feel pain stop immediately.

How long do I need to stretch for when I finish?

First of all you have a golden period of 2 hours after your race in which to stretch and stretch effectively. How long you stretch for is then up to you. We recommend each stretch you do should be held for 30 seconds to get maximum benefit. We also recommend that you create a routine that you can efficiently and safely perform.

I am a runner, what areas need stretching?

Need inspiration? In our next article we will provide you with what we consider are the 8 top to toe stretches that every runner or rider should follow.

The Flying Physios are offering all subscribers and competitors to Hercules Events a 30 minutes treatment at our London Colney clinic for just £20.00. The 30 minutes will consist of sports & remedial massage therapy. To book call the clinic on 01727 758846 or email info@theflyingphysios.com

Understanding ITB Sydrome




Hi everyone- its Flying Physios time again. The last fortnight has seen a few folks through our doors with a very common running condition know as ITB syndrome. But what does it mean to have a syndrome such as this? For starters it sounds a lot worse than it is, so If you do suffer from this condition don’t panic- with sensible application and listening to your body and your therapist you should be fine. Not sure if you have the condition? Read on and you soon will. To discuss anything in this article further please feel free to call the clinic on 01727 758846.


ITB syndrome- have I got it? What does it mean? How do I treat it?


Have I got an ITB?

For starters everyone has an ITB- Iliotibial band- a ligament that runs down the outside of the thigh from the hip all the way to the shin, stopping off along the way to attach to the outside of the knee. As a part of our body mechanics it helps to stabilise the knee and plays a part in the knee joints movement.


But do I have ITB syndrome?

When the ITB isn’t working properly, knee bending and all activities associated with knee bending-including running- become very painful.


What are the symptoms of ITB syndrome?

The most notable symptom is swelling and pain on the outside of the knee- a little more to the outside of the knee than on the knee itself- ruling out the fact that may be a knee injury as sufferers often think initially. The best way to determine if it is ITB syndrome is to bend your knee to 45 degrees or bend quite a lot in simple terms. If you feel pain on the outside of the knee then there is a very good chance that you have ITB syndrome.


How can I be sure this what I am feeling?

Make an appointment with a qualified therapist to diagnose the condition and treat effectively. The team at The Flying Physios www.theflyingphysios.com can help with this.


Will I be OK?

Its important to know that everyone is prone to this condition arising at some time/any time- in fact its more common than you think. It can be classed as an overuse injury or condition- we don’t like to use the term injury always as it can make the condition sound more complicated than it potentially is. With the right help it can remedied relatively quickly- a majority of the time.


What causes ITB syndrome?

It can result from any activity that causes the leg to turn inwards repeatedly- remember it is a condition that occurs due to overuse. Examples include

  • warn out shoes
  • running down hill or on banked, uneven surfaces
  • running too many track circuits in the same direction
  • running too many miles too soon or too often
  • or weak hip muscles, very common in the case of unseasoned athletes, as weak hip muscles can cause legs to turn in


The pain you feel is due to friction on the ITB. As it approaches the knee it narrows and it is at this point where band meets bone that problems occur. Rubbing causes inflammation, inflammation causes pain and so on.


How do I treat my ITB syndrome?

The moment you notice ITB pain the best way to get rid of it full stop is to rest immediately. This means LESS miles or NO RUNNING AT ALL. The days of running through the pain are gone for a good reason. Resting immediately will result in  preventing the pain from returning. If you don’t rest the condition will continue and will become a chronic condition- not something you want!


Our top tips to help limit your symptoms include:

  • Backing off on your mileage and supplementing your lack of running with some cross-training  such as Swimming, pool running, cycling, and rowing are all fine. Stair-climbing is not, because it is too much like running.
  • Side stretches will also help- source out a good set of ITB stretches. Also consider ice or heat on the area and seek out ultrasound as a way of speeding up the     healing process.
  • If your ITB problem doesn’t get better after several weeks, seek help from a qualified individual. Therapy will often help the problem resolve more rapidly.


How can I prevent ITB syndrome from returning?

  • Ease off on the mileage or take a few days off if you feel the pain on the side of your knee returning.
  • Walk for a while before you start your run, try walking a quarter to half a mile, its a nice way to warm up the area.
  • Check your shoes! If you find wear along the outside of the sole then you really need to replace them.
  • Believe it or not running down the middle of the road where its flat can save your ITB- but of course watch out for traffic.
  • Don’t run on very hard surfaces.
  • If you are track running then remember to change direction regularly.
  • Research the possible need for orthotics

The Flying Physios are offering all subscribers and competitors to Hercules Events a 30 minutes treatment at our London Colney clinic for just £20.00. The 30 minutes will consist of sports & remedial massage therapy designed to help rid you of your ITB syndrome. To book call the clinic on 01727 758846 or email info@theflyingphysios.com

Let’s talk ‘wheels’

cycle tech


Let’s talk ‘wheels’!

At some point we have all experienced a problem with our wheels, and it can appear to be a minefield on how to tackle the problem especially when stranded at a most inconvenient time!

Our quick guide below will take you through step by step on how to remove a wheel correctly, and hopefully allow you to resolve immediately or at least identify the problem.

Rear Wheels ……

  • Shift derailleur to outermost gear (smallest sprocket) and innermost front chain-ring.

Rear 1

  • Release brake quick-release, if any, or loosen the brake cable.

Rear 2

  • Release wheel quick-release by pulling the release lever outward. Pull outward on the end of the quick-release skewer lever. If necessary loosen quick release adjusting nut to clear any tabs at the end of the fork. For wheels with axle nuts, loosen both nuts outside of the dropouts.

Rear 3

  • Ease the wheel out of the dropouts.


Rear 4


  • Pull back on rear derailleur to allow cogs to clear the chain. Lower the wheel, guiding the wheel down through the brake pads and forward to clear the chain and derailleur. Guide the wheel through the brake pads and out of the fork ends.

Rear 5

Front Wheels …….

  • Release brake quick-release, if any, or loosen the brake cable.

Front 1

  • Having released the quick release lever and loosened or loosened the hub nuts, guide the wheel  down and out of the fork.

 Front 2

Replacing the wheels

  • For non-quick release wheels, tighten axle nuts fully.
  • For quick release; in reverse as to removing the rear wheel. When installing the front wheel, simply place the axle evenly up into the fork dropouts, with the quick release lever on the left side of your bike. Make sure the wheel is aligned centrally between the forks. Holding the cap with one hand, spin the lever clockwise, making sure the side marked ‘open’ is facing outwards. When tightening the lever, it should meet resistance at about the halfway point. Now push the lever closed. The lever should be pointing up in the locked position
  • Close the brake quick release mechanism. View the wheel centering in the fork. The wheel should also be centered between the fork blades.
  • Inspect the brake block alignment and centering by closing and opening the brake caliper with the brake lever. If the wheel fails to center in the frame, either the frame or wheel may be misaligned. In this case contact your Cycle Tech Technician for advice.
  • Spin the wheel and double check the brake block alignment on the wheel rim. Be sure that the blocks do not rub on the tyre.
  • Close the brake quick release or attach MTB brake release wire.


For further advice on ‘how to remove a wheel correctly’ why don’t you give our partners –           Cycle Tech Hertfordshire a call on 07767 305064.


Hercules & the Cycle Tech Hertfordshire Team

Specialists in Mobile Bicycle Servicing & Repairs


The M Check

Check your bike using the ‘M’ check

Before setting off on any cycle ride whether it’s a quick blast off road, a lengthy road ride or a leisurely day out its essential to make sure your bike is safe to ride before you set off.

Our simple guide will give you some quick and easy check points before setting off.

The ‘M’ check – a quick and easy guide!

The M Check

Once you have made all your checks and all okay enjoy your ride!

If any of the above throws up any problems or queries give us a call at Cycle Tech Hertfordshire on 07767 305064 and we will be happy to advise you.

Over the next few articles we will be breaking down each initial component and how to fix/adjust.


Hercules & the Cycle Tech Hertfordshire Team

Specialists in Mobile Bicycle Servicing & Repairs


Getting to know your bike: Name that part!

cycle tech


Over the next few weeks we will take you through the importance of getting to know your bike, how it works and finding out all the technical and non-technical names of parts of your bike – some you may have never even known about!

Getting to know your bike and its parts will enable you to discuss any problems with your bike Technician or bike shop with a greater understanding on what work may need doing to bring your bike up to tip top condition!

Name that Part!

Typical Road Bike:



Typical Mountain Bike:


For further advice on ‘getting to know your bike’ why don’t you give our partners at Cycle Tech Hertfordshire a call on 07767 305064.

Hercules & the Cycle Tech Hertfordshire Team

Specialists in Mobile Bicycle Servicing & Repairs


Overcomming Cycling Aches and Pains


Its race season and  you have begun to log up the miles on your bike. One thing you can guarantee is that new and old aches and pains are going to show themselves. What is often misunderstood is what is happening and why is it? Usual suspects include poor riding positions, a weak core, muscles imbalances- a whole wealth of things. For the new rider aches and pains may result from poor bike fit and set up or from simple training errors like excessive mileage too early into their training.

For the seasoned rider it could simply be wear and tear. Your body has grown accustomed to your set up and training regime and yet things will still suddenly go. Our goal at The Flying Physios is to offer advice on how to remedy such things with traditional treatments options. See below.

I’ve got Hip Pain!

What has happened and why?

You may well have been pushing hard in high gears and this can ravage your hips. The addition of tight muscles and weak glute muscles will only add to the problem.

What’s the fix?

Drop the gears back and in doing so increase your cadence (crank revs per minute)- this will take pressure off those hips. Focus on some glute strengthening exercises as detailed below in the knee section. In to yoga? A number of yoga poses can help as well. Muscle weaknesses/overuse can be identified by a Physio or Sports massage therapist.

I’ve got Knee Pain!

What has happened and why?

Achy knee pain may well be the result of incorrect saddle and/or seat position. Weak outer Glutes- the Glute medius-  may also be to blame. New to riding? Then you may simply be trying to do too much too soon in the bigger gears.

What’s the fix?

Pain on the front of your knee? Your saddle is too low. Pain in the back means it may well  be too high. Strengthen the Glute Medius with lateral leg exercises. Focus on stretching the quads, IT bands and hamstrings. Finally try spinning in a lower gear.

I’ve got Foot Pain!

What has happened and why?

You experience tender spots under ball of your foot. You may also experience numb toes when pressure is applied to certain areas on your sole as the nerves between the foot bones are squeezed. This could be due to tightness in the posterior compartment of the lower leg- situated deep under the calf muscles. It could also be the fat pads on the sole of the foot shrinking which can happen over time. This results in the exposure of some nerves.

What’s the fix?

For the numbness try loosening your shoes or if does not alleviate symptoms then try a wider shoe. If you experience a burning sensation try switching shoes to  a stiffer sole or possibly tweak your pedals with a wider platform. Also look a sliding your cleats back.


I’ve got Back Pain!

What has happened and why?

It may be wear and tear due to your age, fatigue related back pain, a weak core (more common than you think) or a poor bike fit (again very common for new riders). All of these have the opportunity to cause strains and pains.

What’s the fix?

For the core- look at plank exercises as a great way of strengthening the area. Also focus on stretching your hamstrings. Take your bike to a professional if you feel the bike fit is the issue- you may be overreaching due to poor fit. As the years roll by your set up may change quite a lot due to your lack of flexibility.

I’ve got Hand Pain!

What has happened and why?

Pressure on the wrist and hand during training can put pressure on the nerves in that area. It will tend to cause tingling and numbness in the fingers and possibly a sharp pain in the wrist. Placing your wrists in too an extreme angle will also cause problems as will putting too much pressure through your hands due to seated position or technique.

What’s the fix?

Firstly consider well padded gloves. Also consider how you hold the handle bar. Try to hold on with a neutral grip position -picture shaking someones hand and note how straight the wrist is- this is what you should be aiming for. Check the saddle position and see if the nose of the saddle is level or has it slipped down? If it has it needs to adjusted and levelled as this will reduce your weight from shifting forwards and putting unnecessary stress on your wrists and hands. .

I’ve got Neck Pain!

What has happened and why?

Your position on the bike may well cause too much over reaching resulting in tension through the neck, shoulders and the upper back.

What’s the fix?

With your hands on the grips look at down at your front wheel the handlebar should obscure the view of the hub. If not adjust. Also try to relax those shoulders as much as possible when you ride.

FIX: When you look at the front wheel with your hands on the hoods, your bar should obstruct your view of the hub. Relax your shoulders when you ride.

I’ve got Ankle Pain!

What has happened and why?

Pain in the back of the heel is a key symptom of Achilles tendinitis. This condition is often brought on by doing too much too soon. Another cause may be having your cleats in far too forward a position making you pedal on your toes too much. This too can strain the Achilles.

What’s the fix?

Ice, ice, ice! Also use an anti inflammatory if you take meds. We recommend resting the area fro a while too. Stretching often helps too. Try letting your heel hang off the edge of a step holding for a minimum 20 seconds. Also look at moving your cleats back.

We at The Flying Physios hope this info has been helpful. Our London Colney St Albans clinic is open 7 days a week and we welcome you to drop in after a run or a ride. Our ongoing offer to all Hercules subscribers is 30 minutes of sports massage for just £20.00. Perfect after a session out beating the streets. To book call 01727 758 846. Take care and safe training.