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Form & Fitness Q & A
Got a question about fitness, training, recovery from injury or a related subject?
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Fitness questions and answers for July 19, 2004
The Cyclingnews form & fitness panel
Carrie Cheadle, MA (www.carriecheadle.com)
is a Sports Psychology consultant who has dedicated her career to helping
athletes of all ages and abilities perform to their potential. Carrie
specialises in working with cyclists, in disciplines ranging from track
racing to mountain biking. She holds a bachelors degree in Psychology
from Sonoma State University as well as a masters degree in Sport Psychology
from John F. Kennedy University.
Dave Palese (www.davepalese.com)
is a USA Cycling licensed coach and masters' class road racer with 16
years' race experience. He coaches racers and riders of all abilities
from his home in southern Maine, USA, where he lives with his wife Sheryl,
daughter Molly, and two cats, Miranda and Mu-Mu.
Kelby Bethards, MD received a Bachelor of
Science in Electrical Engineering from Iowa State University (1994) before
obtaining an M.D. from the University of Iowa College of Medicine in 2000.
Has been a racing cyclist 'on and off' for 20 years, and when time allows,
he races Cat 3 and 35+. He is a team physician for two local Ft Collins,
CO, teams, and currently works Family Practice in multiple settings: rural,
urgent care, inpatient and the like.
Fiona Lockhart (www.trainright.com)
is a USA Cycling Expert Coach, and holds certifications from USA Weightlifting
(Sports Performance Coach), the National Strength and Conditioning Association
(Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach), and the National Academy
for Sports Nutrition (Primary Sports Nutritionist). She is the Sports
Science Editor for Carmichael Training Systems, and has been working in
the strength and conditioning and endurance sports fields for over 10
years; she's also a competitive mountain biker.
Eddie Monnier (www.velo-fit.com)
is a USA Cycling certified Elite Coach and a Category II racer. He holds
undergraduate degrees in anthropology (with departmental honors) and philosophy
from Emory University and an MBA from The Wharton School of Business.
Eddie is a proponent of training with power. He coaches cyclists (track,
road and mountain bike) of all abilities and with wide ranging goals (with
and without power meters). He uses internet tools to coach riders from
David Fleckenstein, MPT (www.physiopt.com)
is a physical therapist practicing in Boise, ID. His clients have included
World and U.S. champions, Olympic athletes and numerous professional athletes.
He received his B.S. in Biology/Genetics from Penn State and his Master's
degree in Physical Therapy from Emory University. He specializes in manual
medicine treatment and specific retraining of spine and joint stabilization
musculature. He is a former Cat I road racer and Expert mountain biker.
Since 1986 Steve Hogg (www.cyclefitcentre.com)
has owned and operated Pedal Pushers, a cycle shop specialising in rider
positioning and custom bicycles. In that time he has positioned riders
from all cycling disciplines and of all levels of ability with every concievable
cycling problem.They include World and National champions at one end of
the performance spectrum to amputees and people with disabilities at the
Current riders that Steve has positioned include Davitamon-Lotto's Nick
Gates, Discovery's Hayden Roulston, National Road Series champion, Jessica
Ridder and National and State Time Trial champion, Peter Milostic.
Pamela Hinton has a bachelor's degree in Molecular
Biology and a doctoral degree in Nutritional Sciences, both from the University
of Wisconsin-Madison. She did postdoctoral training at Cornell University
and is now an assistant professor of Nutritional Sciences at the University
of Missouri-Columbia where she studies the effects of iron deficiency
on adaptations to endurance training and the consequences of exercise-associated
changes in menstrual function on bone health.
Pam was an All-American in track while at the UW. She started cycling
competitively in 2003 and is the defending Missouri State Road Champion.
Pam writes a nutrition column for Giana Roberge's Team Speed Queen Newsletter.
Dario Fredrick (www.wholeathlete.com)
is an exercise physiologist and head coach for Whole Athlete™. He is a
former category 1 & semi-pro MTB racer. Dario holds a masters degree in
exercise science and a bachelors in sport psychology.
Scott Saifer (www.wenzelcoaching.com)
has a Masters Degree in exercise physiology and sports psychology and
has personally coached over 300 athletes of all levels in his 10 years
of coaching with Wenzel Coaching.
Kendra Wenzel (www.wenzelcoaching.com)
is a head coach with Wenzel Coaching with 17 years of racing and coaching
experience and is coauthor of the book Bike Racing 101.
Richard Stern (www.cyclecoach.com)
is Head Coach of Richard Stern Training, a Level 3 Coach with the Association
of British Cycling Coaches, a Sports Scientist, and a writer. He has been
professionally coaching cyclists and triathletes since 1998 at all levels
from professional to recreational. He is a leading expert in coaching
with power output and all power meters. Richard has been a competitive
cyclist for 20 years
Andy Bloomer (www.cyclecoach.com)
is an Associate Coach and sport scientist with Richard Stern Training.
He is a member of the Association of British Cycling Coaches (ABCC) and
a member of the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES).
In his role as Exercise Physiologist at Staffordshire University Sports
Performance Centre, he has conducted physiological testing and offered
training and coaching advice to athletes from all sports for the past
4 years. Andy has been a competitive cyclist for many years.
Kim Morrow (www.elitefitcoach.com)
has competed as a Professional Cyclist and Triathlete, is a certified
USA Cycling Elite Coach, a 4-time U.S. Masters National Road Race Champion,
and a Fitness Professional.
Her coaching group, eliteFITcoach, is based out of the Southeastern United
States, although they coach athletes across North America. Kim also owns
a resource for cyclists, multisport athletes & endurance coaches around
the globe, specializing in helping cycling and multisport athletes find
Advice presented in Cyclingnews' fitness pages is provided for educational
purposes only and is not intended to be specific advice for individual
athletes. If you follow the educational information found on Cyclingnews,
you do so at your own risk. You should consult with your physician before
beginning any exercise program.
Money vs Watts vs Time trial equipment
Achilles tendons #1
Curvature of the spine
Glucose, fructose, or galactose?
Knee pain - in my good knee!
Money vs Watts vs Time trial equipment
I wonder if you have been asked this before, but I have been wondering about
Time trial equipment.
Watching the tour you see all of the guys using $6000+ of specific time trial
equipment. This stuff must really help them, but I wonder how much it would
help the average cyclist.
Since these guys put out amazing Watts and wind resistance increases exponentially,
would elite cyclists benefit more from aero equipment than the average cyclist?
Since I am obviously not producing the wattage that they are, is wind resistance
less important to me, making my TT equipment proportionally less important?
My basic question is: Do you have to be fast in the first place to see
the benefits of good TT equipment? Should I get decent TT equipment?
Eddie Monnier replies:
Some of the best time trialists I know have rather basic equipment. Spending
a lot of money will not overcome poor fitness or an inefficient aerodynamic
position. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, studies have shown that
novice cyclists often realize larger absolute improvements than Elite cyclists
(Jeukendrup and Martin, Improving Cycling Performance: How We Should Spend
Our Time and Money, Sports Medicine 2001; 31 (7): 559-569).
My input on how to prioritize spending your money:
(1) Aero bars
(2) Proper bike fit by the best fitter in your area, including both your regular
road riding and TT positions
(3) A coach to help you make the most of your training
(4) A power meter to use for lactate threshold power training and pacing (make
sure yout coach is experienced in power-based training)
(5) An aero frame (there are some quite good aero frames available that aren't
(6) A reasonably aero set of wheels (24 spoke count max, medium to deep dish
rim surface) and possibly a wheel cover for rear
(7) Even more aero wheels (eg, set of tri-spoke wheels such as Nimble Crosswinds
or a solid disc rear wheel or wheel cover with an aero or tri-spoke front
(8) Wind tunnel optimization of your TT position
You might want to check out the article I cited above.
Dario Fredrick replies:
I think Eddie's response covers the issue very well. Although I would make
a small change to the priority list, switching #1 and 2. Without proper bike
fit, aero bars can actually make you slower. I see many cyclists compromise
their well-trained road position (in the drops) by clipping on aero bars that
extend them too far forward. In an example such as this, the cyclist would
actually be faster in the drops. It is not worth compromising power and efficiency
for a slightly narrower profile. So an efficient standard road fit is often
faster than an inefficient TT position on a road bike (with clip on aero bars).
To take your road bike and convert your arm position for a time trial, simply
take your hands from their position in the drops and move the arms closer
together (slightly narrower than the shoulders) without changing the angles
of your hip, shoulder or elbow. This would likely require either very small
(C-shaped) clip-on bars and a slight lowering of the stem, or a shorter stem
to use more common length clip-ons. Avoid using bars that force you to reach
out farther than you would normally experience while riding in the drops,
otherwise power and efficiency may be reduced.
You mentioned that as speed increases, aerodynamic drag increases exponentially,
which is correct. The two main controllable factors that you can address to
maximize TT speed are frontal area and drag coefficient. A simplified equation
for overcoming forces in cycling is:
Power = Mass + (Drag Coefficient x Frontal Area x Velocity^3) + (Gradient
So you can see by the equation that maximizing power is the most important
element to going fast, while getting the most out of your sustainable power
by minimizing resistance comes next. Minimizing frontal area and drag can
be accomplished by positioning yourself as low and narrow as possible without
compromising power or efficiency. Minimizing drag is also accomplished with
the various "aerodynamic" equipment that Eddie listed (aero frame and wheels).
I would also add to the list, perhaps around #7, an aerodynamic helmet, shoe
covers and skinsuit. For example, some professional teams (e.g. US Postal)
have a TT skinsuit developed of materials and design to minimize drag. On
the other hand, two no-cost ways to minimize drag are to have a waterbottle
in your downtube bottle cage (not behind the saddle), and simply keeping your
jersey zipped up!
Ultimately however, no equipment will make you go faster than training to
your potential. Best of luck and train smart.
Achilles tendons #1
I'm 38, 195lbs and ride 3- 5 days a week for the last 3 years and I mix it
up between road and xc mtb. My rides are 1- 3 hours depending on how much time
I've got. I'm reasonably fit and participated in a 24 hour MTB race last month.
Since February I've had pain and stiffness in my Achilles tendon that radiates
up my calf in the morning. It's worse the morning after hard rides. After a
few minutes of walking around it loosens up and the pain goes away. The pain
sometimes comes back after I've been sedentary for more than 2 hours or so.
I think my pedal position is good (just below the balls of my feet) and my shoes
fit. What should I do?
The pain is on both sides, but worse on the left. I wear Northwave shoes for
both road and MTB, Supergo SPD road pedals for the road and specialized SPD
for the MTB.
Steve Hogg replies:
Assuming that you are back on the bike, the first thing you have to do is
limit ankle movement to a degree that you can control well. Mark the centre
of the ball of your foot on your cycling shoe. Eyeball the angle that your
shoe sits on the pedal when pedalling under load. It may be heel in, it may
be heel out, it may differ from one foot to the other.
Position that mark you have put on the shoe so that it is 12mm [ 1/2 inch
] in front of the centre of the pedal axle when the crankarm and shoe are
forward and horizontal. Assuming that you have the commonly recommended centre
of the ball of the foot over the centre of the pedal axle, the new placement
should make a noticeable and positive improvement. You may have to drop your
seat 2 - 5 mm to allow for the extra extension of the leg that will result
from the new cleat position.
Over time as you improve, you can move the cleat forward a mm at a time till
you are 10 mm in front of the pedal axle centre which is pretty much where
you should be with your size foot if uninjured.
Achilles tendons #2
I'm a 30 yr old, Cat III, male road racer. My typical training regimen is between
10 and 15 hours per week (depending on the time of year) on the bike. In a flash
of brilliance, last October, I decided to start running as cross training. I
did 2 runs of 2 miles each without too much difficulty, until the evening after
the second run. I began feeling a dull pain in my Achilles tendon. I stayed
off it and iced it for a few months (no riding), and everything seemed OK, until
I decided to try snowboarding during Christmas break. The pain immediately returned
and has since failed to go away. I was training about 10 hrs per week during
January, February and part of March, before I decided to stay completely off
the bike until I have recuperated. I had a bike fit done which showed that my
saddle was 3cm too low, and stem was about 3cm too long. I had been riding with
that bike position for 3+ years. I have been to several doctors, received injections
in my Achilles to help hasten the healing process, been to two physical therapists,
and received orthodic inserts for my shoes from my doctor. An MRI showed a healthy
Achilles tendon, but significant swelling where the tendon attaches to the heal.
I am dying to get back on the bike but am at a complete loss.
I use Carnac Quartz shoes, size 44.5. I have used the same shoes for about
2 years. My pedal system is Speedplay Zero. they are new, but I used Speedplay
x-1 for about 3 years prior.
Steve Hogg replies:
The first thing you have to do is limit ankle movement to a degree that you
can control well with ease. This will take load away from the Achilles tendon.
With your shoe size I would move the cleat so that the centre of the ball
of the foot is 11 mm or a fraction more in front of the pedal axle centre
when the shoe and crankarm are horizontal and forward. You are likely to run
into a couple of potential problems:
1. Carnac shoes have cleat mounting hole placement that doesn't allow the
same degree of rearward adjustment as Sidi, Shimano, Nike, DMT, Gaerne, Diadora
or Vittoria. Carnac mounting holes are not in the same proportional place
in each size. Essentially, the smaller the shoe size, the proportionally further
forward Carnac position the holes in your shoe. Your shoe is large enough
so that you might get lucky and be able to achieve the cleat positioning I
have suggested but don't be surprised if you can't.
2. Carnac shoes, in your model, have a lot of heel lift in their lasting
shape. For susceptible people and you my be one, this places more strain on
the Achilles tendon than a lower heel lift cycling shoe.
3. Whether you're using Speedplay's three-bolt adaptor with low-profile screws
to get it to fit your Carnac shoes, or Carnac's Speedplay adaptor, you still
don't get the same degree of rearward adjustment of the cleat that a lot of
other shoe and pedal combinations provide. Speedplay does make an aluminium
base plate that allows massively more rearward adjustment, but won't sell
it to the public, only to Speedplay sponsored professionals. I only know this
through positioning a couple of their sponsored professionals and wish that
this custom base plate was more readily available. It would make an excellent
pedal system better. You could contact Speedplay's technical guy, Chan Wynn
and ask. If enough of us do it, perhaps they will reconsider and sell them
to all of us.
For argument's sake, let's assume that you can get the cleat positioning
described above with your current equipment. If so you will probably have
to drop your seat a few mm to accommodate the more rearward cleat positioning.
As you recover, slowly move the cleats till the centre of the ball of the
foot is 9-10 mm in front of the pedal axle centre.
I am a 42 yr old male who is trying to get back into cycling after starting
a family. I have very limited time to apply to riding but I can manage at least
20 K a day going to work and back. I get out for longer rides 1 to 1-1/2 hr
on the weekends and once a week during the weekdays. Nothing like I used to
do, but my goals are different now largely fitness and weight control. That
said I still love the feel of being able to push it TT style on a road bike
even if the duration is shorter.
The essence of my question is this: I seem to be limited by my calve muslces
as far as ability to do cycling "work". Once they are cooked I am also, even
when I raced previously this seemed to be my limiting factor. I thought it might
be seat height too low, but I have raised my seat to encourage foot flatish
pedaling and opposed to the heel down mashing I used to do in my youth. I am
(sigh) and will always be a TT guy, I can't sprint and the tempo variations
of a hard RR or (especially) a crit cooked me then and will cook me now.
My many interest is a higher level of fitness and the occasional race. I wonder
what your thoughts are on this, either position wise or biomechanically. Thanks
Scott Saifer replies:
There are many possible answers. One simple thing to try would be to move
the cleats farther back on your cycling shoes. Decreasing the cleat-ankle
distance decreases the lever against which calf muscles work, potentially
decreasing the work they do and helping them to stay fresh longer.
Other issues related to fit might be involved here, but you'd need to visit
a qualified bike fitter to work those out.
There are some off-chance items to check too: Do you keep your calves tight
for some reason? Have you considered or done some strength training specifically
for the calves? Does your work or some other activity you do keep your calves
tired (bouncing up and down with baby in arms for instance)?
Curvature of the spine
I have owned road bikes since a teenager, although have typically stuck to
short, intensive rides of around 10-25 miles. At the grand old age of 29, I
have recently begun to ride slightly longer distances, riding 50+ miles at a
time, and averaging 200 miles per week. Posture on these longer rides is becoming
an issue, however, as I have severe scholiosis. I am fortunate, in that I have
a double curve –my spine is essential an S shape, with only a small amount of
sideways twist. The curvature of my spine is well balanced and when standing,
my shoulders are level, and the only obvious indication of the problem is a
considerably shortened torso and slightly raised, right shoulder blade. When
riding these longer distances, however, I realise that I am sitting with a twisted
pelvis. I basically ride with the bike leaning slightly to the left, while I
lean to the right to compensate. Sounds odd, but this eases pressure on the
first curve at the base of my spine.
This is resulting in a number of problems on the longer rides. Firstly, as
I don’t sit squarely on the bike seat, I am having real problems with saddle
sore. I sit with the saddle resting against the main tendon on my left leg,
and therefore the constant pressure is resulting in a permanently tender, (often
very) sore point in this area. A second problem is that I get severe pains and
cramping in my right foot. On many rides, my foot is so numb it feels like little
more than a block on the end of my leg.
A constant problem, which I am used to, is that my back gets extremely stiff
and I often suffer from considerable back pain when riding for longer than an
hour or two. I’m used to this and expect it, but just wondered whether you might
have any cool tips for stretches that I can do whilst riding.
Dario Fredrick replies:
I highly recommend a Yoga video called "Yoga for Scoliosis" with Elise Browning
Miller. Elise is a senior Iyengar Yoga teacher and has overcome severe scoliosis
in her own body. You can read about and purchase the video here: www.yogaforscoliosis.com.
In addition, I would find an experienced Iyengar Yoga teacher in your area
to help you. Only seeing you in person can an expert most effectively offer
Glucose, fructose, or galactose?
In today's market of sports energy drinks and gels one is flooded with hype
claiming one product is better than the competitors. When it comes down to it,
all products contain fairly similar percentages of simple sugars for immediate
energy while also including more complex carbs for lasting energy. Some products
claim the best source of immediate energy is glucose while others use fructose,
while even one product I looked at uses galactose. My question is, which type
of simple sugar is best during cycling or any endurance sport and what percent
of the energy product mixture should be complex carbs? I realize that there
are many factors to look at including the speed at which each type of sugar
molecule is transported into and from gut enterocytes, the conversion of galactose
and fructose into glucose, and the total amount of energy needed to properly
metabolize each sugar molecule. Any insight on what to look for in a sports
drink or gel would be extremely useful.
Pam Hinton replies:
Yes, we live in the land of plenty - plenty of choices. The bottom line is
that your quads need a constant supply of energy to keep the pedals turning,
and the most effective way to do this is to feed them glucose at regular intervals.
You may pour that simple advice into your water bottle and gel flask and tuck
it into your back pocket and you'll make it to most finish lines. Because
things are never as simple as the bottom line, however, you may read on for
the rest of the story.
But before I give you some sugar, so to speak, let me say that you should
remember that your muscles need more than just energy (sugar) to do work.
Logic dictates, then, that you need to consume more than just energy to keep
the machinery working efficiently. For instance, my boyfriend has joked that
cyclists could make in-roads into the hunting community if they offered their
used shorts for use as salt licks for attracting deer. I'm sure we've all
seen some interesting geometric patterns on the backsides of riders near the
end of a long, hot day. Suffice it to say we lose a lot of electrolytes when
we sweat and those electrolytes play a vital role in the contraction and relaxation
of muscle fibers. Individuals vary in how much electrolytes they lose when
they sweat and if you happen to be a particularly salty sweater, then you
should be perusing the labels of your replacement fuel and making sure it
also provides minerals such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium. Some do,
Now here's the skinny on sugar. You're right that sugar is sugar-sooner or
later it all gets to the form we can use for energy, which is glucose. The
difference is how fast a sugar gets to that usable form. Some sugars are digested
and absorbed faster than others and, when it comes to sports performance,
the faster ones are superior to the slower ones.
The simplest form of sugar is called a monosaccharide, i.e., a single sugar
molecule. Glucose, fructose, and galactose are all monosaccharides. Glucose
is by far the most abundant in our diet and all other carbohydrates must be
converted into glucose before the body can use them to generate adenosine
triphosphate (ATP), which is the hard currency of energy needed for muscle
contraction. Fructose occurs naturally in honey and fruit. Galactose results
from the breakdown of the sugar found only in dairy products-lactose. A step
up from the monosaccharides, are the disaccharides, which are carbohydrates
made up of two sugar molecules. The most prevalent disaccharides in our diets
are sucrose (glucose+fructose), more commonly referred to as table sugar,
lactose (glucose+galactose), which is milk sugar, and maltose (glucose+glucose);
think beer. The mono- and disaccharides fall into the category of "sugars"
and are sometimes referred to as "simple carbohydrates." The term "complex
carbohydrate," is used to described carbohydrates that are molecules made
up of multiple glucose molecules. Short chains of glucose molecules linked
together, such as maltodextrin or dextrose, are used by the food industry
as sweeteners. These are also the "complex carbohydrates" added to sports
drinks. The most complex carbohydrate molecules are the polysaccharides, which
typically contain 10,000 to 1,000,000 glucose molecules. The polysaccharides
are the starch that is present in grains, legumes, and some vegetables.
The effect of a food on blood glucose levels depends on the type and amount
of carbohydrate in the food and on how quickly that carbohydrate can be digested
and absorbed. Some foods will cause a rapid increase in blood glucose levels,
while others produce a slower and more prolonged rise. Scientists use the
glycemic index (GI) to quantify the effect of a food on blood glucose and
to make comparisons among foods. The GI is defined as the increase in blood
glucose concentration above baseline during the 2 hours after eating a test
food relative to the response to glucose for an equivalent amount of carbohydrate.
The glycemic response to glucose is set at 100 and the glycemic index for
all other foods is less than 100. Foods that have rapidly-digested carbohydrate
and contain glucose will have the highest glycemic indices. For example, Gatorade
has a GI of 80. As a possible insight into how the Euros seem to be faster,
one of their popular replacement products, Lucozade, has a GI of 95. Interestingly
enough, Lucozade is marketed with the slogan, "sparkling glucose beverage."
Not sure that would be considered a snappy slogan here in the states, but
it just might resonate with crit racers who knew how to dial in their GI.
Foods that contain carbohydrate that is quickly digested and absorbed, but
consists of fructose rather than glucose, have a lower GI. Honey and sucrose,
both sources of fructose, have GI's of 55 and 65, respectively. Foods containing
polysaccharides take longer to digest and have lower GI values. For example,
the GI of bananas is 50 and the GI for lentils is 30. (A list of the GI for
>750 foods is found in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 76:5-56,
The carbohydrate in sports beverages or gels will be either simple sugars
or short-chain complex carbohydrates because starch is not soluble in water.
So all sports drinks contain carbohydrates that are rapidly digested into
monosaccharides. The significant difference among products is what simple
sugars they contain or are produced during digestion. Glucose and galactose
are absorbed quickly, using the same mechanism to transport the sugar from
the intestinal cell into the blood stream. Galactose, however, must be converted
into glucose in the liver before it can be used to generate ATP, so a sports
beverage with galactose does not increase the energy available to the muscle
as quickly as a glucose-only beverage will. Fructose is absorbed by a unique
pathway and its rate of absorption is slower than that of glucose and galactose.
Fructose that is absorbed from the intestine also must be converted to glucose
by the liver, but the process is relatively slow. The bottom line is that
beverages or gels that contain glucose or short-chain "complex carbohydrates"
are the quickest source of energy.
During prolonged exercise, depletion of glycogen stores is associated with
the onset of fatigue. By consuming dietary carbohydrate (glucose) during exercise,
the onset of fatigue may be delayed by providing the body with an alternate
glucose supply, which spares glycogen. Use of dietary carbohydrate for energy
during exercise is limited by the rate of absorption, i.e., how fast the sugar
molecule gets across the intestine into the blood stream. In other words,
the intestine cannot absorb glucose fast enough to meet the muscles' demands.
One way to increase the speed at which glucose is absorbed is to add a small
amount of fructose (or sucrose) to the sports cocktail. This strategy works
because glucose and fructose are absorbed by different pathways. (See the
following references for study details: Journal of Applied Physiology 96:1277-1284;
1285-1291, 2004). However, the fructose content should not exceed 2-3% because
ingesting large amounts of fructose could overwhelm the absorptive capability
of the intestine. Fructose that is not absorbed, and remains in the gut, can
cause diarrhea, bloating, and intestinal cramps.
So as you can see, sugar is sugar, and that's like saying people are people.
The best advice would be for you to read labels and choose products with a
good dose of carbohydrate coming from glucose as your first line of defense.
That will give you the quickest bang for your sugar buck. And don't forget
the differences in mineral content; it could be important, especially if you're
a heavy sweater. The equally important factor, however, is for you to experiment
and find products that work for you-meaning ones that you like the taste of
and that don't make you want to puke. This way you'll have a sports replacement
cocktail that meets one of the industry's toughest standards-you'll believe
in it, and you'll use it.
I'm a 48yr old duffer time-trialist. In the 10 years I've owned a heart rate
monitor, my max and threshold (when race-fit) heart rates have remained constant.
I have known all along that heart rates are supposed to drop with age and that
the drop is not necessarily a linear function of age. This year I have found
that my threshold is 5 or 6 beats lower than it was, which has been rather crushing
since I was convinced I'd be the first person to beat the aging process. However,
my on the road speed, such as it is, doesn't seem to have suffered and so I
have more or less come to terms with this. My question then is rather academic
in nature- What do any of you know about the triggers that would cause this
kind of change, and what might be the mechanism of HR limitation, given that
not just the maximum HR drops, but that the whole HR range gets compacted?
Also, given that we know that in the aerobic range, HR and power are a linear
function, and since my tHR just went from 158 to153 or 152(a 3.2-3.8% drop)
but my power output (calculated from times) cannot have dropped by even 1%,
there seems to have been some decoupling of the two parameters. Anyone care
to comment on this? It doesn't seem to be too rare a phenomena in the aging
I'm sorry if this is a bit of navel-gazing, but I think there are some interesting
physiological mechanisms underlying this stuff.
Madison, Wisconsin USA
Dario Fredrick replies:
For a trained cyclist such as yourself, the mechanisms for reduced maximum
and threshold heart rates (HR) as a result of aging are most likely a reduced
responsiveness to exercise stress hormone production (adrenaline) and a reduced
contractile strength of heart muscle. You may also find that you become more
sensitive to cardiac drift as you get older since both stroke volume and cardiac
output decrease as well.
As you discovered with your performance, a decrease in HR for a maximal sustainable
effort does not necessarily suggest a decrease in power output. I'm glad to
hear your speed on the bike has not declined along with your threshold heart
Knee pain - in my good knee!
I'll spare the details of my left leg issues (ITB syndrome which I am able
to 'treat through stretching etc.' + prolapsed disc L4-L5 which caused problems
until I had a microlamenectomy) because my biggest issue in getting into better
form has been a recurrent problem with the right knee.
A bit of background--I am 2m tall, weigh about 91kg. My bikes are custom made
(race bike is 62x62), and my 'race bike' has 177.5mm cranks while the commuter/crap
weather bike has 175mm cranks. I use full float pedals, and wear cycling orthotics.
My bike fit is a combination of my experience with pain over the last few years,
physios/video analysis, and 'ball of foot over pedal axles, knees 1cm behind
the bottom bracket' approach. My cadence is typically 90-110 when riding flats,
and drops to 65-90 when climbing, depending on how tired I am.
The problem with my right knee is that, say, once a month, I start to get discomfort
around the right VMO and to the inner side of the knee. Not painful, just discomfort.
When I end up pushing it a bit, like I did in a stage race this week-end (with
about 1000m of vertical in the first stage in 72km). I end up getting a sharp
'swelling' pain underneath the kneecap, which feels like a vertical strip of
pain right in the middle of the knee cap. After some initial rest (say, sleeping),
it is stiff and painful. It resolves within two days usually.
Often the pain is associated with long slogs into the wind combined with climbs.
It began when I started upping my distances for the Alpine Classic in January.
I have seen two physios who say ITB, but I am suspicious about this diagnosis.
- chondromalacia (which I had as a junior cyclist and resolved with specific
- VMO is weak and kneecap tracking is off/hamstrings very tight
- need new orthotics
- fore-aft cleat position may need changing.
I stretch a lot, and am in that camp of flexible folk who find it often difficult
to get a really good stretch.
I have read many of Steve Hogg's articles, and also have read the counter-arguments.
Heck, I just want to be able to ride and race and enjoy myself. I'll try anything
(and I am patient), but I am at a bit of a loss where to start (more physios?
specific exercises? Cyclefit?).
Steve Hogg replies:
The VMO like the other quadriceps is an extensor of the knee [ straightens
the lower leg ], additionally, it plays a role in lateral stability of the
knee which seems to be a bit of an issue with you. I would bet that one or
more of your guesses is the cause of your problem. If I understand you correctly,
this pain only occurs when you are under reasonably heavy load. Here is what
I would do.
1. Move your cleats back so that the centre of the ball of your foot is in
front of the pedal axle with crank arm and shoe horizontal. You don't mention
what size shoe you have, but at your height it is likely to be a large one.
Try 10 - 12 mm in front of the pedal axle centre as a starting point. Make
sure that you have rotational movement either side of where your foot naturally
wants to sit under load. This cleat position should relieve load on the knees
in general, but you may have to drop your seat a few mm once you have moved
the cleats back as that cleat position will cause you to extend your legs
a bit more.
2. Did point 1 make a positive difference? If so it might be worth having
someone else have a look at your cycling orthoses. Were they prescribed for
a running or walking shoe, or were they made for your cycling shoes? If you
have changed shoes since the orthoses were fitted, or if it has been several
years since they were fitted, it is worth having them checked. We are not
static and do change over time.
3. Have someone observe you from behind and above while on an indoor trainer
and pedaling under a fairly heavy load. Do you drop either hip while pedaling.
If so, that may be the root cause of your problem. Once you have done the
above, get back to me about what you have found and I will try to refine the
advice I have given.
I live in Boulder, CO and during the summertime it can get very hot and it
stays very dry and we do get some level of pollution in the air. When the air
is hot and dry and polluted I tend to have trouble breathing deeply at about
the 3 hour 30 minute mark in my rides. To the point where I am sometimes forced
to breath much shallower than normal for a couple of hours. The same feeling
does not come over me in low altitude places or in the cooler parts of the year.
I don't think it's life threatening because it only affects me a during the
summer and only when I'm riding. But it can become uncomfortable for quite a
bit of time and it is something I worry about when I go out to train.
Steve Owens replies:
What you're experiencing can be a few different things but I strongly urge
you to look for a resolution to the problem and not let it get the best of
you. I've coached and presently coach athletes that have told me of similar
symptoms (and in the same area). What I think the problem may be is an allergy
to perhaps a spring to summer-borne grass, pollen or mold. Another possibility
is that, especially with your shortness of breath, you may have a type of
exercise-induced asthma (EIA). EIA can be diagnosed and treated very easily.
For diagnosis, all you usually have to do is (in a cycling specific environment)
measure your forced expiratory volume (FEV1) into a flow meter and compare
the results to that of your normal "sitting around" FEV1. A doctor can and
should do this to accurately determine if there is a significant difference.
Treatment is usually in the form of a beta agonist (i.e. - Albuterol). I caution,
however, that there is some evidence that excessive use could exacerbate the
condition. Another possible symptom is coughing and/or wheezing during or
If you'd like, I can recommend to you one of the best asthma & allergists
in the Country who works with many Olympic-level athletes - and he's within
an hour of you. I can also recommend other fantastic books for supplemental
reading on the EIA and allergies. You'll have to just start ruling things
out until you find the problem. I think this advice should help narrow things
down and probably give you a good chance of pin-pointing the problem.
I hope you seriously consider getting this resolved because I know how frustrating
it can be and how easily a problem like this can be resolved.
I am an 18 year old racer and I was wondering what the best way is to train
for a pursuit on the track.
Eddie Monnier replies:
Glad you've discovered the track, my favorite part of cycling! The Individual
Pursuit (IP) is an event that draws primarily on the aerobic system to satisfy
energy needs. So making your aerobic engine as large as possible is an important
step in training for IP. This requires a suitably large volume of base fitness
followed by several sessions per week (2-3) of riding near or at lactate threshold
power for 30-40 mins (eg, 3-4 x 10-mins at lactate threshold power with 2.5
minute recoveries) over a six to ten week period. This is usually done on
the road bike. A power meter is a very valuable tool for this type of training.
Toward the latter part of this training block, you want to begin to focus
on your ability to sustain quite high cadences since pursuits are typically
done at 105 - 120 rpm. This should be done on your track bike in your pursuit
Once the aerobic system is developed and you've progressed with your pedaling
efficiency, you'll want to focus on developing the ability to sustain your
target velocity. By studying results of recent events, you'll get a good idea
of what sort of time and average speed you'll need to achieve to be competitive
in your category. You can then begin doing short efforts at this intensity,
two times per week. You'll want to use speed or power to govern intensity
as the duration is too short for HR to be of much use. Start with shorter
efforts (say, 1:00 intervals) and progress to longer intervals up to two-thirds
of your target time over a three to six week block. Follow each effort with
an equal amount of rest. When you cannot sustain the designated intensity
for two successive efforts, it's time to stop. Also during this period, you'll
want to squeeze in one lactate threshold session about every 10 days or so
to maintain the gains you realized from your earlier training.
Lastly, you'll certainly want to practice your standing starts, which can
be done throughout your training plan. It can also be beneficial to include
some supramaximal efforts toward the end of your training period before you
begin your peaking process.
For more detail on interval training and power-based training, see the articles
section of the library on my website.
Good luck and remember, go hard, turn left! ;-)
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