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Form & Fitness Q & A
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Fitness questions and answers for January 17, 2005
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.
Fitness and Health Question
Power training and heart rate
Training for Alps ride
Impending Biodynamic Bike Fit
Fitness and Health Question
In the middle of last season, I developed chronic pain in the front of my right
hip joint in what I think is my hip flexor. Throughout the summer, I frequently
experienced shooting or throbbing pain in this tendon, normally lasting one
or two days - this occurred usually after periods of high mileage or hard racing.
I have read on various orthopaedic and sports medicine web sites that tendonitis
in this area can be caused by the repetitive force of pushing down on the pedals
in cycling. I also read that over-developed quadriceps muscles paired with under-developed
or tight hamstrings and under-developed abdominal muscles can exacerbate the
problem. One article even suggested that improper saddle height could contribute
to this form of tendonitis.
I started a yoga class about six weeks ago in order to develop greater flexibility
in my hamstrings and to work my core muscles. However, even with this activity,
careful stretching before rides, and less time on the bike following the wrap-up
of Cross season here in the Midwest early last month, the pain persists.
My questions are: Is hip flexor strain associated with a saddle height that
is too high or too low? Do I need to take a complete break from cycling and
perform strengthening exercises to repair the problem?
Do you recommend any specific strengthening exercises? I am concerned about
losing fitness if I take too much time off the bike now, but also do not want
to cause lasting damage. Thanks for your assistance.
Kansas City, MO, USA
Steve Hogg replies:
The potential causes for hip flexor pain on a bike are many. The more important
question that I would be asking though, is why only on the right side. The
general answer is that there are asymmetries of function at work in the hip/pelvis
area. Find a good structural health professional and have yourself assessed
structurally. Once you have this info get back to me and we will proceed from
I am a 17-year-old cyclist who has been riding for two and a half years. I
usually complete around 300km a week, mostly uphill or back down. Over the last
few months I have been developing problems with my right knee. At first I had
a problem with the tendon that runs over the petala. It was inflamed from a
muscular imbalance caused by using the right leg more when turning left. Such
is the problem with track racing and criteriums. After two weeks off the bike
and a few exercises from the physio this problem went away. But now my knee
is giving me problems in a different way. The tendon no longer gives me any
pain, but under the kneecap does. Every time I go out riding my knee cracks,
like one was cracking their knuckles. Then about 10km into the ride the pain
starts in the joint. When I move the kneecap around, it feels very rough and
occasionally a crunching noise accompanies this feeling.
Whenever I do the squatting exercises I've been given by my physio, my left
leg can bend up and down without my lower leg and upper leg leaving the same
vertical plane. However, when the squatting exercises are done with my right
leg, my knee bends inwards drastically.
I have also had a problem with my shins over the years. After running or cross-country
skiing, I would encounter problems that felt like shin splints. However, I eventually
realised it could not be shin splints as I would always run on grass and these
pains would come without extended periods of exercising. Since my knee pain
has started, a pain down my shin has accompanied it, but in both legs. I'm pretty
sure that the pain in the shin comes from a muscle tightening onto the bone
and causing great pain.
I have tried adjusting my cleat position to no avail and my saddle height seems
to be right according to other cyclists and bike shop owners. Do I have misaligned
kneecaps as was suggested by a nurse or do I simply pedal harder with my right
side than my left?
Dave Fleckenstein replies:
I would tend to agree with your nurse in many ways - you show classic signs
of someone with patellar tracking problems. Simply put, the patella sits in
a groove within the femur and ideally glides within that groove as we flex
and extend our knee. The knee is made to primarily function as a hinge joint.
Problems arise when rotation occurs at the knee (now working as a U-joint)
and the patella is pulled to the outside, forcing contact between it and the
femur. The majority of the time, I feel that the patella is the "victim" of
"culprit" forces above and below the knee.
There are a number of factors that can cause this to occur, including overpronation,
lateral quadricep and IT band tightness, VMO weakness (which incidentally
I have never really seen as the driving problem in cyclists), and hip rotational
issues. When you mention how your knee bends inward on the right side with
squats, it indicates to me that you are not controlling your leg well - I
would be curious to see how you respond to some more aggressive hip strengthening
(internal and external rotators and gluteus medius specifically) and possibly
the use of orthotics. It would certainly be worth your while to see a good
sports medicine orthopaedic physician and physical therapist to get this resolved.
Best of luck.
Power training and heart rate
I'm a 39-year-old Cat 2 road rider in the UK. I've been reading with interest
all the articles on training according to power in preference to HR. In particular
I noticed that it's been said that generally, for a given HR, a lower cadence
will elicit more power, which is intuitively reasonable as there is an energy
cost to revving. My question is: what elicits the best training effect? If I
ride at (using random figures) 160 bpm doing 110 rpm generating 250W, is that
any more or less beneficial to riding at 160 bpm at 85 rpm generating 275W?
Are the cardiovascular training effects the same, or is the work done overcoming
the inefficiency of revving entirely wasted effort - therefore implying that
the majority of training should be accentuating power output?
Basildon, Essex, UK
Eddie Monnier replies:
First, it's impossible to properly answer your question without knowing more
information about you (eg - your functional threshold power; that is, what
you could sustain for 50-70 mins, your target event(s), your limiters, etc.).
Second, "best training effect" will vary depending on what you're training
for and where you are in your training program. However, I will make some
general comments that may (or may not) be helpful. As you probably know, HR
can vary considerably due to many variables, both internal (e.g., your state
of rest, your diet, your hydration status, etc) and external (eg - heat, humidity,
What many athletes (and even some coaches) fail to realize is that heart
rate does not trigger training adaptations. A quick way to make this point
is to compare similar intensities (same % of VO2max) in swimming and running.
The HR associated with this intensity will be higher while running than while
swimming for a number of reasons (ie - smaller muscles used in swimming versus
running, cooling affect of water, etc), yet the training adaptations will
be similar. If you're doing 10-minute efforts at FTP the training affect is
the same, regardless of what your HR is. I don't mean to bash HR, because
it is a perfectly reasonable proxy for intensity for Endurance type rides.
However, for interval training, if you have a power meter, you should govern
your workout by wattage which is a much more reliable indicator of intensity.
HR and RPE (rating of perceived exertion) become secondary factors.
Why have I written all this?
In the example from your question, you held HR as your constant but varied
power and cadence. Depending on what your FTP is, the 25W swing in your example
could be enough to cause different degrees of adaptation, and possibly even
Given the above, then I might re-phrase your question to say, "What is the
difference between doing FTP intervals at the same wattage but with cadences
of 110 vs. 85?" Well, I would start off by saying, "That depends." For starters,
the optimal cadence will increase with increasing power. For example, the
hour record is typically set at a cadence of 100-105 rpm, but these guys are
putting out about 450W (and a large rider like Indurain, substantially more).
However, the optimal cadence for your typical regionally competitive cyclist
would be lower because their FTP would be more like 300W. But even at very
high wattages, there may be times when you want to use or start at lower cadences
to develop neuromuscular power (eg - sprints from a slow roll, standing starts
for pursuit and kilo training, etc).
Additionally, even at similar FTP levels, two riders with different disciplines
might have very good reasons to do their FTP work at different cadences. A
track rider, especially a pursuit rider who typically rides at 110-120 rpm,
using a cadence close to their race cadence, makes a lot of sense. By similar
reasoning, a road racer who climbs a lot may benefit from doing their FTP
work on climbs where their cadences will be lower. The key here is not to
sacrifice power for the sake of a particular cadence.
I do believe there is benefit for "mashers" who road race to learn to maintain
FTP power with a higher cadence that is appropriate for their power level.
This is because very low cadences require relatively high force to the pedals
and therefore involve more fast-twitch muscle fibres. Learning to spin more
at the same power output may spare fast-twitch fibres so that they are better
able to contribute to force production during those key minutes when race-deciding
attacks are launched. Best of luck in your 2005 season
Training for Alps ride
Last year I trained for a 5 day Pyrenean ride where we covered nine cols including
Aubisque, Tourmalet and Plateau de Beille. I had done about 5000 km of training
going into the ride with hill training restricted to short, but steep rides
found in southern England. I found that, apart from the gradients of the French
climbs, which were similar - the distances were just so significantly longer
(typically between 13-18km) that I can't decide what training in my part of
the UK would have been most beneficial. I found eating a GoGel every 15-20 mins
on the climb and riding at 157 average HR meant I made it to the top of each
climb without stopping.
I have signed up to the Alpine week this year in August, with even longer climbs
such as Izoard and Ventoux figuring in the line-up. Average daily distance covered
is 75km with at least one if not two climbs a day (one small/one large). Given
I am 181cm and 82kg, task number one, post winter feeding frenzy, is to get
my weight down. However, how do you recommend I train for this better this time
round? I do not have a Power Meter - although I am looking at Powertap to go
with my Bontragers - but have a Polar 720i. I have heard bad things about the
Polar Power system so don't want to go there.
Ric Stern replies:
It's certainly a challenge to do specific training for rides like the Etape
or your Alpine week in the UK, due to a lack of long climbs that are available.
Even if you venture out of the south east, the longest climbs I can think
of are typically only about 30-mins long at most (e.g., Cat and Fiddle and
Snake Pass, both around Derbyshire and Bwlch and Rhigos in South Wales - I'm
sure there are other long climbs, these just spring to mind for me). Obviously
the Alpine climbs are significantly longer climbs than these.
The number one issue is to increase the power you can sustain over certain
time periods. This basically means increasing your fitness to a higher level.
Depending on your relative and absolute fitness level you'll need to increase
sustainable power (eg -TT power, which correlates with LT) and your maximum
aerobic power [MAP], which correlates with your VO2max. Thus, you'll need
to increase your fitness by doing training that specifically raises these
measures. Quality endurance sessions of up to several hours at a brisk effort
(~ zone 2 and higher on the hills), and specific TT type intervals (15 - 30
mins) and short VO2max type intervals (~ 4-mins) will be very beneficial.
Longer, less intense sessions should also be included to allow you to feel
comfortable over the distances involved in your Alpine week. You should also
aim to ride on hilly routes at least once a week.
Additional to that it may be beneficial to lose some body fat and reduce
your weight. This will increase your power to mass ratio and allow you to
climb at a faster rate. However, it should be noted that unless you have significant
amounts of body fat to lose, you'll gain more in the power to mass ratio by
increasing your power rather than focusing on weight loss. Additionally, it's
imperative that you know how much weight that you can safely lose and at what
rate. Sports scientists who look at body fat (skin fold measurements, or hydrostatic
weighing) will be able to advise on such issues. Looking at nutrition is also
important you should aim to cut down on the 'bad' type of foods you eat (and
save these as occasional treats). During the rides taking in gels, sports
drinks, and solid food is also important to maintain carbohydrate levels and
prevent you from blowing up.
Training with a power meter such as the Power Tap is a great way of increasing
your fitness and making training more specific to the demands of your goal(s).
If you know that you need to maintain X watts when climbing you can replicate
this in training, riding at this power on both the flat and hills for certain
periods of time. During the Alpine week you can also use the Power Tap as
a guide for how hard to ride the passes. This will help prevent you from overshooting
your target power and getting into difficulty.
As an aside, RST can provide you with a Power Tap and we are currently taking
bookings for testing including MAP and skinfold assessments (plus lung function
testing and blood profiling). If we can help in any way please don't hesitate
to contact us.
Impending Biodynamic Bike Fit
I am a 31-year-old Cat 4, who has taken the advice of your forum and others
to get a proper bike fit to correct some lower back/knee pain issues with road
racing. I have an appointment with a well well-known BioDynamic bike fit shop
to tweak the road racing position on my current bike. What are some things I
can do on my end to prepare for this? Do I just "leave it up to the pros?"
I am expecting to be deluged with a tonne of data - some that I will be familiar
with, some that's way over my head. I just want to make sure that I get the
most of this situation. They have also agreed to make suggestions for my MTB,
my primary winter bike. Thanks for your help!
Steve Hogg replies:
I don't know anything about 'BioDynamic bike fit' as I have not heard the
term previously. The only thing I can suggest is that ideally, the people
whose help you are enlisting should assess you structurally, off the bike,
as a starting point. What they find should be communicated to you in terms
that you can understand so that you have an understanding of your basic issues.
If this does not occur, or the process seems based more on mathematical and
statistical norms than your structure, be very wary.
Once that is done, they need to see to what degree the 'body language', for
want of a better term, that you display on the bike under load has any correlation
with the structural issues you display off the bike. The degree to which this
occurs varies tremendously. On the bike, it should be obvious, along with
the info garnered from the structural assessment, what is driving your lower
back/knee pain issues. Corrective measures can then be taken. This needs to
be explained to you so that you know what is going on too. Don't be afraid
to ask questions as you are the one paying the money to get a result. In general
terms you need to leave the place knowing what happened and why. If the job
is well done, there should be a noticeable improvement within a few weeks,
After racing the Tasmanian Carnival series, I have a question about the so-called
"pursuiter's cough". A lot of people, myself included, seem to develop a particularly
nasty hacking cough when doing track-endurance type races like 2000 and 3000m
handicaps. I didn't feel sick, my throat wasn't sore - I just needed to cough.
A lot. Cough suppressants seemed to help a little, but didn't cure me of it
completely. As I've asked around, it seems to be a pretty common thing, even
amongst those who do this a lot (ie - scratchmen, who are "real" trackies as
opposed to mountain biking roadie frontmarkers like myself), but no-one really
seemed to know what it was. Do you have any ideas either for a reason or for
a cure/remedy? I assume it's connected with the very high intensity workout
you can only get from that kind of racing, because as soon as I stopped racing
the cough has gone away.
Simon van der Aa
Scott Saifer replies:
Perhaps one of the other coaches will jump in with a more detailed explanation,
but essentially you have irritated your airways by drawing dry air across
them. There is no virus or bacterium involved. It's more like a burn than
an infection. The healing process takes a few days to a few weeks. My own
experience is that I got the track hack the first race session of every season,
and that it never returned unless the air was especially cold or dry or I
took a few weeks away from the track and returned. The area that is irritated
is farther down your pipes than the area that a throat lozenge would reach,
so they won't help much. Other than time, regular attendance at track and
moist air, I don't know of anything that will bring a cure.
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