Common side-effects are: “cramp-like” leg muscle fatigue or heaviness, pain and discomfort that occur in the buttocks, thigh or calf muscles while walking or climbing stairs. I can honestly and truthfully confess that I have these symptoms in Spin class and while hiking! Especially the buttocks part and it usually starts about 30 minutes into the class. My legs begin to have those classic cramp-like fatigue and heaviness symptoms too, especially when we do an extend five minute uphill pedal. I can't for the life of me believe I didn't see this before. I'm diseased!
Take last Tuesday for instance. My Bride and I were out for a casual stroll in rocky Sedona, Arizona on the Slim Shady Trail (read: elevation 4500 feet). I was carrying a small backpack with about 20 pounds of food water and supplies and it was a cool 55 degrees with the humidity around 20%. No problem, right? Wrong!
We hadn't gone (read: rocky trail climbing) more than 4 miles and I began to experience classic peripheral arterial disease symptoms! In oil town plain speaking; my butt was aching, as were my feet, legs and lower back. I know, I should have turned back, suffering from this disease, but I didn't. I guess it was the majestic Cathedral Rock that mesmerized me into ignoring these symptoms - I can't say.
Up, up, and up we climbed until we were fairly close to the summit and all the time my buns, thighs, feet, and toes were burning. I shifted the pack around and drank long from one of my water bottles as I stared at the giant red rock formations prevalent in the area. I chuckled and remarked that "the locals ain't seen nuthin' till they've seen the Fred Hartman Bridge." We both found this humorous for some reason.
We finished up the long hike back to my Jeep and danged if my Bride didn't complain of the very same symptoms! On top of that, we both suffered a bout of lethargy! We drove into Sedona and got a table at a place called Javelina Cantina. A hot plate of Arizona-style Mexican food partially restored us to our former healthy state. I may just write the American Medical Association and explain that there may just be a healthy antidote for this PAD condition - Mexican food after heavy exertion. It goes without saying that we both slept well.
Yesterday morning, ignoring the PAD symptoms we experienced only 2 days prior, we stood on the rim of the Grand Canyon's Bright Angel Trail... and began our descent to Indian Gardens 4.5 miles away.
Both of us were carrying close to 10 pounds of water and salty snacks and with walking sticks, the hike progressed fairly well, but each step down was the equivalent of putting on the brakes. The incredible view made it easy to ignore the screaming thigh muscles as PAD began to rear its ugly head. That is the only explanation I have for this condition - or is it?
The long hike down to Indian Gardens was nothing in comparison to the 4.5 hour hike back up the canyon trail. As we neared the last mile and a half we encountered casual hikers who only planned to the do a smidgeon of the trail. They were kicking up a lot of dust and that is when it hit me - I don't have PAD. I don't have PAD any more than I have COPD - Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
I was simply coughing because the air is dry and I'm breathing dust. I don't have PAD; I have what is commonly called EXERTION. My body was simply responding to the extreme demands I was placing on it and heavy exercise doesn't negate these pains; it allows you to experience them and recover. Wow! What a revelation!
Of course I know this and the point I am making is actually quite simple. Why wait until your body is failing before you do something to reverse the trend? The outer trails are there to lure people to challenge themselves and make no mistake, they challenged us. However the many visits to the gym on a regular basis made our trekking possible, but if you think your legs and buttocks won't ache, forget it.
There are good aches and bad aches. We experienced the good ones.