Form & Fitness Q & A
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Fitness questions and answers for September 20, 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.
Recovery meal content
Average heart rate and training indoors
Recovery from an injury
Hydration - sodium and potassium
Virtual reality trainers
Cramped up on a long race
Left foot numbness
I have just started cycling, as I row over the summer but I am now at university
and not near any rivers. I was wondering if you had any information on pedaling
cadence and power output relationships for optimal performance?
Scott Saifer replies:
Optimal cadence depends on the length of the event you are doing and whether
acceleration is required. Since you haven't said what your event will be,
I'll provide a wide range of data points for you.
Very short events like the 200-meter sprint on the track involve very high
cadences, typically ending up around 170 rpm, but also very low cadences as
sprints often start from a standstill or very low speed. Track sprinters have
to be able to make good power at all cadences up to the peak cadence.
Professional road race sprints are typically contested around 130 rpm, while
the majority of racers on flats and slight up hills will pedal 90-105 rpm.
Most but not all riders decrease cadence a bit when going uphill. Standing
climbing is usually around 75 rpm. Road racers need to be very comfortable
at 90-110 rpm, with the ability to keep riding anywhere from 60 to 130 rpm
for at least a short while.
The hour record which involves no forward acceleration after the start has
been many times in the past 100 years, and always with a cadence between 103
and 108 rpm. That suggests to me that this is the optimal cadence for sustained,
very steady efforts.
Ironman Triathlon winners use much lower cadences than road cyclists, typically
around 80 rpm. In Ironman Triathlon, efficient use of fuel and oxygen is a
key element of success. This type of efficiency is optimized at cadences lower
than those typically employed by road racers, and Ironman cyclists, even those
who win, don't ride quite as fast as equally elite athletes who compete exclusively
on the bike.
If you are just getting started as a rider, I'd suggest a target of getting
your cadence over 90 rpm. This doesn't mean that you should go out on your
next ride and do over 90 rpm no matter what. Rather it means that you should
pedal you highest cadence at which you are comfortable, smooth and powerful.
If this is below 90, ride one gear lighter than the most comfortable so that
you spin a little faster. Over a period of a few weeks or months you will
develop the smooth pedaling style needed to stay over 90 rpm all the time.
Eddie Monnier replies:
You asked about an optimal cadence versus asking about"most efficient", which
is quite astute of you. This is because"efficiency" has a particular meaning
in exercise physiology; actually, there are four different types of efficiency,
which I won't go into other than to say that each is a measure of work expended
vs. work accomplished.
For cycling, power is a function of angular velocity (we'll call it"cadence"
to keep it simple) and pedal force. So you can produce more power by pressing
on the pedals harder (ie, more force) or pedaling a higher cadence (ie, greater
angular velocity), or both.
Why do I mention this? Because while studies have shown that the most efficient
cadences (eg, typically in the 50-60 rpm) at various power outputs are lower
than those self-selected even by"mashers" (eg, 80-85 rpm), there are other
considerations besides the energy cost. These considerations include biomechanical
variables such as muscle stress, joint movement, etc. and muscle fiber recruitment.
In fact, some model-based studies have shown that biomechanical variables
are minimized at cadences of 95-105, which more closely aligns with the common
self-selected range of 90-100 rpm. And while many people mistakenly think
that higher cadences use more fast-twitch (FT) muscle fibers, FT fiber recruitment
is based on the magnitude of force more than the speed of movement. So while
a higher cadence may be less efficient, the average effective pedal force
Finally, caution should be used when looking at average cadences of world
class performances and drawing conclusions for cyclists either in other specific
disciplines or at different levels. For example, lots of people want to emulate
Lance Armstrong when they TT, but they fail to recognize that (a) Lance is
putting out huge amounts of power and (b) likely operating at a higher percentage
of his VO2max. Scott points out that cadences for the Hour Record have been
in the range of 103-108 rpm. It is likely that future records will also be
achieved in this range because the record setters share certain physiological
attributes. But the average competitive cyclist who is certainly putting out
considerably less power, likely operating at a lower percent of his or her
VO2max, and may have dramatically different ratios of muscle fiber types,
would likely adopt a somewhat lower average cadence for optimal performance
over the same sixty minutes.
As Scott suggests, ride and focus on being smooth at whatever cadence comes
naturally. Over time as you become more experienced and stronger, you may
well find that your optimal cadence increases. And if you're like any of the
Elite rowers I've known, the transition will come quickly and you'll be putting
a world of hurt on your cycling friends before you know it. Maybe you'll even
reach the point where 103-108 IS optimal for an hour effort for you!
Recovery meal content
I have a question concerning the type of carbohydrate consumed following exercise.
This is somewhat of a follow-up question to an answer given in a recent Fitness
Q&A (Aug. 30).
After a hard training ride I take in approximately 1-1.5 g/kg of carbohydrate
along with some protein. I make use of high glycemic sources of carbohydrates
such as breakfast cereals, pancakes, etc. Some of the carbohydrates which make
up this initial meal are simple sugars. The rest of the day I still focus on
taking in adequate amounts of carbohydrates (8-10 g/kg) but try to make use
of nearly all complex sources such as whole grain breads, oatmeal, pasta, vegetables,
etc. This routine seems to work very well for my recovery.
I have noticed that many recovery drinks contain nearly all simple sugars such
as dextrose or glucose. My question is this: if the content of the initial recovery
meal consists of too many simple sugars (sucrose, dextrose, etc) compared to
complex carbohydrates is that a greater chance that some of those carbs might
be stored as fat if they cannot be used immediately? If I need to take in 100g
of carbohydrates following training for the initial meal is there a disadvantage
if the ratio of simple to complex is 80% to 20% as compared to, say, 50/50?
As an example, would I have the same benefit from occasionally consuming a bowl
of low fat (15% fat) ice cream instead of a bowl of breakfast cereal if the
amount of carbohydrates ingested are the same?
In connection with this, what about maltodextrin? It is my understanding, perhaps
mistakenly so, that the more complex the carbohydrate the more of it can be
stored as glycogen. Maltodextrin is considered to be a complex carbohydrate
with a high glycemic index. If not consumed during or immediately after exercise
will the body be able to store the maltodextrin as it would carbs coming from
pasta or would the body simply use what it can at the time and simply store
the rest as adipose tissue?
Pam Hinton replies:
For a thorough analysis of the glycemic index (GI) and its usefulness, see
the September 6, Fitness
Q&A. That your pre- and post-race meal routine is working well, confirms
what sports nutritionists recommend: high GI foods during, and immediately
after, exhaustive, glycogen-depleting exercise and low GI foods the rest of
Note that it is the availability of the dietary carbohydrate that determines
how easily it can be used to make glycogen. Remember, GI reflects how quickly
and how much your blood glucose increases after eating a food. Straight glucose
is the reference with a GI of 100, causing the largest and most rapid elevation
in blood glucose level. The terms "simple" and "complex" refer to the number
of sugar (glucose) molecules in a carbohydrate. For maximal glycogen repletion,
it is the GI, rather than simple vs. complex, which is important. As you point
out, there are some complex carbs that are also high GI - synthetic sweeteners
like maltodextrin, are an example. In contrast, most complex carbs in fruits,
vegetables, grains and legumes will be lower on the GI scale.
There is no reason to worry that the simple carbs you consume in your post-race
meal will be converted into fatty acids and stored in your adipose tissue.
After exercise, your muscles use fat, not carbs, for energy so the glucose
is available for glycogen storage. This happens because the enzymes needed
to make fatty acids from glucose and store them as triglycerides in fat cells
are inactivated. At the same time, the rate of fatty acid release from adipose
into the blood is increased to supply the muscles. There is also an increase
in fatty acids transport into the mitochondria of skeletal muscle where they
are burned to produce ATP. The rate of glucose transport into muscle also
increases post-exercise. The net result is that there is more glucose getting
into the muscle and it is used to make glycogen. So, whether you eat a bowl
of low-fat ice cream or a bowl of cereal, the carbs will end up where you
need them. It's almost as if they had their own zip code. Too bad US Postal
didn't hook up with the food industry to use that for a marketing campaign.
But then, they never asked me.
Average heart rate and training indoors
As the weather gets colder and nastier, it's time to start breaking out the
rollers and trainer and ride indoors. I'm a 21 year old male Cat4 cyclist. I'm
starting to put on the base miles for the next season doing some VO2 work. But
for some reason I can't get my HR up in the areas where that I train at when
I'm on the open road.
A few days ago on the trainer I was trying to do the type of effort that would
be a 30min Time Trial on the open road, but for some reason I couldn't get my
heart rate above 130/140 BPM and maintain an effort that would last for 30 minutes,
I could throw it in 53x11 and surge but burn out very quick. Same thing happened
on the rollers, I could try for a harder effort, but in 53x11 I'd be around
150 BPM. I didn't really expect too much out of the rollers, but definitely
expected to be in the 170s on the trainer. On the trainer during my warm-up
my HR is in the 110s, where I'd normally be in the 120s to 130s.
Am I doing something wrong? On the trainer my legs feel the same as if my HR
were around 160/170 BPM on the open road but it's actually around 130 according
to my HRM. I don't think it's my bike fit, even if it were I should still be
able to get my HR up there. As for the hardware I'm using a CycleOps Fluid 2
trainer, with the resistance unit at about 2 rotations of the knob like the
manual says, and I'm on Kreitler all aluminum narrow rollers. I hope it's just
something small that I'm doing wrong, because at this rate, I'm not going to
see any improvement of my VO2 or LT at the beginning of next season.
Scott Saifer replies:
There are several possibilities. First I'm assuming that you are using enough
resistance on the trainer that you are not simply spinning out. Yes?
If you are using enough resistance, the next most likely explanation relates
to heat dissipation. When your body can't get rid of the heat it generates,
it protects itself from overheating by decreasing work output. Think about
how lethargic you feel and how hard it is to get moving on a hot, humid day.
If you don't have a source of cold air and one or more strong fans blowing
on you, this is likely your problem. By the way, the fitter you get, the more
this becomes a problem. The more power you put out, the more waste heat you
produce as well. I remember doing some testing in a garage with several older
and not particularly fit masters racers when I was a strong senior. None of
them needed a fan to be be comfortable, while I did. Their lactate thresholds
were around 200 Watts, while mine was over 300.
A third possibility comes to mind. Are you warming up about as long indoors
as you would outdoors? If you are trying to go hard less than 20 minutes into
your ride, you could suffer at a lower heart rate than you would experience
after a longer warm-up. I hope one or more of these ideas is helpful.
Recovery from an injury
I'm a 50 year old male with multiple sclerosis who rides a carbon fiber road
bike 150 miles or so a week. I've recently developed feelings of numbness and
seeming weakness in my left leg and lower left abdomen that last about 1 or
2 seconds, then disappear, which don't affect my ability to ride or actually
affect my leg strength.
I thought I had a new MS symptom, but my neurologist tells me I probably have
nerve root compression instead. His advice is to buy padded bicycling shorts
(which I already have) and a new bicycle saddle"with more padding." As well
as stop bicycling for a week or more.
Bicycling is my way of dealing with MS, don't want to give it up, but my research
is not turning up any clear advice on what kind of saddle to buy. (Currently
I have a Selle San Marco Euro Luxe that came with my bike.) I'm not experiencing
genital numbness. Any suggestions? I'm also thinking I should stand up in my
peddles more often, examine my biking biomechanics, and launch a leg, lower
back and abdominal exercise regime.
Steve Hogg replies:
Your neurologist may well be right in his assumption re your numbness. As
always though this begs the question, why the left side only? The answer is
always in a general sense, left/right asymmetries of function. If you can
find anyone who knows their stuff to position you, I am sure that your problem
could be resolved. Ideally you need to find someone who takes a capability
based, rather than measurement based approach to the task of positioning you.
If they are good at their job, you should not be a challenge to them. Re your
last sentence; do all of those things. The more effort you put into improving
structural function off the bike, the greater the payoff on the bike.
Hydration - sodium and potassium
I am a"salty sweater" as described in one of your responses long ago. What
is your opinion of E-Lite Sport (www.crampnomore.com), or at least the notion
behind it? I have tried various sports drinks over the years, eating salty foods,
etc., but still suffer from late race/ride problems. I don't usually cramp,
but my performance takes a dramatic downturn. My face can be covered in white
salt residue, regardless of hydration, after a hard ride or race.
Pam Hinton replies:
There's the product and then there's the notion behind it. There are three
significant differences between this sports drink and others. The amount of
sodium in this beverage is about 50% higher than other drinks. When diluted
per the manufacturer's instructions, the sodium concentration is 790 mg per
liter, which is slightly higher than the recommended concentration of 500-700
mg per liter. This product also contains large amounts of potassium and magnesium.
There is really no need to consume potassium and magnesium during exercise,
since only tiny amounts are lost in sweat compared to the total amounts of
these electrolytes in the body. What is missing from this beverage is something
you will definitely need if you are going to race for more than 60 minutes-carbohydrate.
In order to maintain blood glucose levels you will have to consume carbohydrate
from an alternative source-energy bars or gels or plain old food. The argument
for omitting the carbs from the beverage is rather specious-you "don't normally
salt sugary foods". Hmmm. Okay, but your muscles still need both salt (sodium)
and sugar (glucose) to function properly.
The manufacturer also recommends using this product to "electrolyte load",
which is apparently a take-off of "carbo loading". Carbohydrate loading works
because we are able to store excess dietary carbs as glycogen for future use.
The problem with the concept of "electrolyte loading" is that we do not have
stores of sodium and potassium in the body. The concentration of sodium in
the blood is highly regulated, so that it remains relatively constant. For
example, if you eat a meal that is high in sodium, your kidneys retain extra
water to keep the concentration of sodium in the blood stable. Potassium is
the primary electrolyte located in the fluid inside of cells. If you consume
extra potassium, your cells cannot retain it because it would cause the cells
to take on extra water and burst. Instead, the excess potassium is excreted
in the urine.
So the bottom is line is that, when properly diluted, this sports beverage
will work to replenish sodium during exercise. For salty-sweaters, it has
the advantage of a higher sodium content than other beverages. But, be forewarned,
you will run out of gas if you don't fuel up with carbs as you go.
Virtual reality trainers
I am a new convert to cycling and about to enter my first winter. Friends have
advised to get an indoor trainer. However spinning for hours at a time in a
garage will I feel soon lose its appeal. I have recently seen adverts showing
indoor trainers which can be linked to a pc to give more interest to training
sessions. Are these simply arcade games are can you recommend details I should
look for in the purchase of such a gizmo?
Dario Fredrick replies:
Any tool is only as useful as its application. You could certainly consider
a PC-linked trainer as a video game if used as such. However, many ergometer-trainers
with a PC video option will allow you to program specific courses or training
situations if desired, while measuring data such as power, cadence, speed
and heart rate. At Whole Athlete, we have used the CompuTrainer 3D extensively,
and have found it to be an effective tool for testing, biomechanical analysis
and for indoor training.
An important advantage to using a trainer-ergometer with your own bike as
opposed to a stationary cycle-ergometer is that cyclists become very specifically
adapted to their position on a bike (including saddle, bars, pedals, crank
length, etc.), which is difficult to mimic even on the most adjustable stationary
I would look for an ergometer-trainer that allows you to use your own bicycle,
while at minimum measuring power output, and if possible providing cadence
and heart rate data as well.
Cramped up on a long race
I'm a 46 year old male, 165 lbs riding 12-14 hours a week. I train myself for
races and mostly do TT's from April-September. I just recently competed in a
grueling 100 mile, 11,500 ft of climbing timed event. This was an event 3 weeks
after I raced Mt. Washington, although this year I crashed.
Things were going relatively well on this race until just past the 60 mile
marker. That's when I got a huge cramp in both my lower inner quads just above
the knee. It was during a climbing portion of the course when this happened.
It got so bad that I had to dismount and work them out for 5 minutes. After
that any excessive pressure pushing the pedals on climbs made them cramp up
again and forced me once again to dismount. Luckily, I had switched my double
for a triple for this race. So spinning was my option to get through the tough
climbs. What I can't understand is that I properly hydrated 48 hours prior to
the event, carbo loaded 2-4 days in advance and was consuming roughly 30 ounces
of Gatorade (which works for me) per hour. Additionally, I was consuming 1 power
bar about every hour as well. Two factors that maybe a reason for this. 1) The
triple had a 175 mm crank verse my usual 172.5mm and 2) at the last feed zone
I gave up on 100% Gatorade and used pure water. On the latter 5 minutes after
drinking the water my cramp mysteriously went away!
I thought I had this race planned out but obliviously that was not the case.
What do you think was the problem causing the cramps?
Steve Hogg replies:
I am assuming the area that you describe as cramping are your VMOs, that
is the inner head of the quad. This plays a part in lateral stabilisation
of the knee. Your cramping could conceivably have been caused by a combination
of an unfamiliar crank length, the demands of a tough event and your particular
idiosyncrasies of function. The test would be if it occurs again with your
usual crank length. The wider Q factor of the triple would have meant you
pedalling with your heels turned further in and toes turned further out than
on your narrower double chainring setup as the contact point with the pedals
is further from the centre line. If you did not check the rotational angle
of your cleats, it may have not been ideal which in turn can cause The VMO's
to fight a bit potentially. If cleat angle was not a problem, the slightly
changed mechanics of your pedalling could have tipped you over the edge in
this heavy climbing effort unless you had accustomed yourself to the triple
under similar load conditions in the period leading up to the race. It may
be that either or a combination of these was the problem.
Is glutamine all it is cracked up to be?? Does it do what the reviews say?
Does it promote muscle growth by assisting the body natural growth hormones
and to what extent?
Dario Fredrick replies:
Available research tends to support the claim that glutamine supplementation
aids in maintaining immune function during periods of intense training, but
it is not conclusive in supporting its role as an anabolic (tissue building)
I am a 37 year old cyclist (former long-distance runner, ice hockey player)
who has gotten into cycling over the past four years. I ride a decent amount
(more than 7,000 km this year so far), and mix my training between hard and
easy spins, with rides ranging from 70 - 100 km. I also like climbing, so I
tend to pursue routes that incorporate a fair amount of ascents.
Several times I've experience substantial cramping in my adductors after I've
been riding very hard, typically after 100 kms of riding, requiring me to get
off my bike and stretch. Most recently, it happened during a 17 km climb about
85 km into a 165 km ride, and the cramping began shortly after cresting (it
was a warm day and I was well-hydrated as well). These instances have occurred
while running a higher heart-rate than I tend to dwell in (180+).
I'm curious for advice on how to: 1. avoid this from recurring; 2. how to recover
from it (it's been 2 weeks since my most recent bout, and I'm still sore).
Steve Hogg replies:
Adductor cramping on a bike, while not rare, is not that common. Adductors
can function as a subsidiary pelvic stabiliser on a bike. Generally they are
only called on to work hard enough to cramp if the rider is severely unstable
in a pelvic sense on the bike, and is enlisting everything possible in an
attempt to stabilise. Does your climbing style cause you to rock from side
Are you particularly tight in hip flexors, glutes, hamstrings, lower back
etc? If so, and possibly if the seat is too high, this can cause the rider
to move around pelvically while at the same time unconsciously trying their
best to remain stable. The first step is to have yourself structurally assessed
by a good hands on style of health professional and if necessary get back
to me with more information.
I've had historical problems with an SI joint that will seize up, particularly
during stress, and my psoase is prone to getting tight...which I can relieve
via stretching and massaging the abdomen. Incidentally, running aggravates those
elements, which leads me to not pursue running. Hip flexors and hamstring are
prone to tightness, and the lower back gets sore strictly via SI and psoase...
and when it gets sore, I can relieve it via ab stretches/massage.
I've been fit on the bike and have a quiet style (not a lot of movement in
hips, shoulders), and ride a high cadence, and the problems tend to be when
I'm really pushing things, ie the recent 17 km climb. This recent bout has left
with the sore adductors and tight hamstrings, particularly the right side (which
I infer I'm favoring).
The problem is in the right side SIJ, same as the adductor that's bugging me.
I actually cramped in both adductors, but the right side's plaguing me at the
Steve Hogg replies:
A restricted SIJ causes the hip and ilium on that side to function more or
less as a unit on a bike, rather than independently. Typically this will mean
the hip on the affected side drops on the downstroke. The question is why
is that SIJ tighter than the left?
There is a plethora of possible reasons. Do you drink consume milk or non
cultured dairy products in any quantity?
If so, there is a correlation I have noticed between right side hip flexor
tightness [ which in turn can be indirectly responsible for SIJ restriction]
and dairy consumption. In some cases, when all the usual treatments have been
exhausted with little or no result, abstinence from dairy foods can make a
big difference with regard to right side restrictions. It won't hurt to give
it a try but don't get your hopes up too much.
Have you ever been checked for a measurable leg length discrepancy? A restricted
SIJ is not uncommon on the long leg side. The only off the bike advice I can
give is to seek good professional help. There is always a reason for asymmetric
patterns of tightness. Sometimes it takes a while to find someone with the
On the bike: Make sure that you are as stable as possible on the seat with
the minimum enlistment of upper body musculature. If you find that you don't
have a measurable leg length discrepancy, have an observer watch you pedal
under load from behind. If as I suspect, you are dropping the right hip, twist
the seat nose slightly to the right. This will square your hips up to a greater
or lesser degree. If you feel obviously twisted, you have gone too far. Next,
find some adhesive backed material and build up the right side rear of the
seat in the area where you bear your weight by 3mm. This will lessen the degree
of hip drop. You will probably find that you have to fit a 3 - 5 mm build
up under the right cleat at the same time. This should lessen the tendency
to drop the hip and make your adductors fight to stabilise the pelvis.
Give this a try and let me know how you go.
You say you have been professionally fitted to the bike. If this involved
a measurement based method rather than a structure and capability based approach,
it would pay you to read over the appropriate posts in the archives for the
last 2 months or so. If you have any queries about any of this, get back to
Left foot numbness
I am 34, and just coming back to cycling after 16 years off. Being back on
a bike, I'm reminded of a problem I had as a teen in which my left toes would
go numb after 20 or so minutes on the bike. If I lift the sole of my foot slightly
from the floor of the shoe, it does help momentarily, but that is only a short
Thus far, after 3 weeks back at it, I've only had my right toes go numb once,
and that was during a cool early morning ride, and I'm more apt to think that
the chill caused numbness on that occasion. I am using the same shoes I used
when I was 18, but they seem to still fit great. Plus, I went through a few
different brands of cycling shoes in my teens, and I remember that they all
caused this same numbness.
Lastly, I do remember that with some of my non-cycling shoes (Doc Martens,
for example) I did get a similar numbness, on both feet, if I remember correctly.
I've been wearing running shoes or Clarks for many years now and do not experience
any numbness other than on the bike.
Obviously, my best bet would be to visit a podiatrist, but I was wondering
if you had any experience with this or possible stopgap fixes.
Saint Louis, MO
Steve Hogg replies:
Given that this is in issue for you on and off the bike, go see that podiatrist.
What is likely to be happening is that the nerves plexus between the metataral
joints are being compressed. A good podiatrist will be able to address this
with relative ease with a varied height lift across the lateral arch or by
isolating the particular joint[s] by other means.
I wanted to provide a follow up to the many fit debates recently regarding
passive seat positioning.
I have taken over a month off racing and high intensity riding while getting
used to the 'new' position of my seat recommended by Steve Hogg (August 2nd
& 9th). Fortunately I have been able to find a relatively comfortable position
after checking the necessary requirements (teetering balance, proper reach,
proper cleat positioning, comfort for long hauls, and good leg extension regarding
my pedaling style). Unfortunately, after this long period of adjustment, my
most recent intensity ride where I ramped up the pace compressed my groin and
was painful. I spent much time considering what my body was doing when this
happened, and I found that I was flexing my lower back and gluteal muscles similar
to how I do during a leg press. By flexing my glutes I was extending my hip
and in-turn compressing my soft tissue while staying in my drops.
My question is, am I going to have to learn to not flex my gluteal muscles
upon extension of my leg in order to maintain a proper 'passive position?' I
examined many pictures of professional cyclists while time trialing and road
racing and saw that in all their positions, regardless of how far forward they
were on the seat, they all had (what looked like) relaxed glutes throughout
their pedal stroke. Is this part of the passive position that was recommended--learning
to pedal at high intensities without flexing these muscles?
Steve Hogg replies:
Having your glutes and lower back working as you describe are desirable and
entirely natural unless it is being overdone. Passive pelvic stabilisation
does not mean non enlistment of the glutes. The glutes are the largest and
potentially most powerful muscle group in the body and there job is to extend
the hip. So what you are feeling in that sense is fine.Passive pelvic stabilisation
in the sense that I use it, means minimum enlistment of torso musculature
to stabilise the bike. As previously described, the way to achieve this is
to have the seat far enough back that the majority of upper body weight can
be borne without unnecessarily loading up the arms and shoulder complex. So
let your glutes work. The perineal pressure you are feeling is not fine and
if memory serves, was the problem you were having with your original query.
Here is a 'to do' list of likely reasons for what you are feeling.
1. Your email suggests that this is an intensity related issue at the moment.
If you only feel discomfort at high intensity, you may be creeping forward
slightly on to the nose of the seat in an unconscious attempt to re visit
your old seat position. A simple check is to put hands in drops at moderate
intensity and look between your legs and see how much seat nose is visible.
Then go harder and see if less seat nose is visible. If so, this is the likely
2. Lower your seat 3 - 5 mm. Does this eliminate or reduce severity?
3. Is the seat level, nose up or nose down?
I find that most seats for most people need to be slightly nose up. In the
range of 0.5 degrees to 2 degrees. The shell shape of many seats means that
when sitting with hands on top of bars or on the hoods, everything is fine.
But when on the drops there is a feeling of slipping forward off the middle
of the sit bones and onto the perineum.
4. Are you inflexible in the lower back. Beyond a certain point, tightness
here means that the pelvis and lower back tend to function as a unit rather
than independently. This can mean that as the rider reaches forward and down
for the drops, that they rotate their perineum into the seat and load it up.
5. If you are reaching too far out to the bars or too far down to the bars
or a combination of both, under load you will shorten up and drag yourself
forward on the seat. How much did you move the seat back from your previous
position and was it necessary to change stem length?
6. What brand and model of seat do you use and how much use has it had? Seat
choice is the most personal equipment choice of all. Most males can cope with
most seats if they are positioned properly, but there is huge individual variance.
Of the above, handlebar height and/or reach is the most likely cause but
far from the only possibility. When you are riding at high intensity with
a lot of pressure on the pedals, this should lighten the load on the seat
if anything, unless there are other factors at play. Let me know how you get
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