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Form & Fitness Q & A
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Fitness questions and answers for February 21, 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.
Torn hamstring comeback
Unequal leg length solutions
Another Crank length case
Walking as training
Training and Sickness
Torn hamstring comeback
I had a slow-speed crash nearly two weeks ago where I put my foot down after
I locked handlebars with another rider at an intersection, and the other rider
fell into me causing my leg to slip out and me to fall. The result was a torn
hamstring. I had dark bruising from my knee to the top of my leg, but fortunately
did not completely rupture the hamstring or tear (at least significantly - I
did not get an MRI) any tendons. Right now I am wondering when I can get back
on the bike and once I do, when to know how much riding is too much.
For the first week, I could not lift my leg enough to turn over the pedals unless
I was sitting upright (hands off the bars on the trainer). I rode for 30 minutes
without pain, but was in excruciating pain for two days after that. I got wise
and spent the week lying on the sofa with ice on the leg, doing gentle stretching
and getting massage but no activity and no more riding! I still cannot tie my
shoes, but I tried, and I can pedal the bike almost comfortably with my hands
on the bars. Can I ride? Of course the physical therapist says to wait, but
I can see my season slipping away from me! I just starting training again on
January 1 after breaking my arm, and not being able to ride is driving me crazy,
especially since there's very little else I can do to stay fit. Any advice?
Dave Fleckenstein Replies
Returning from this injury as quickly as possible requires walking a thin
line between stressing the injured tissues just enough (to promote healing
and not lose too much fitness) and overstressing the tissue (causing re-tearing
and limiting you even more). Your hamstring is going through the "remodelling"
phase of healing where new connective tissue is being deposited in a relatively
random alignment and then is slightly broken down and realigned by motion
and use. If we don't use the tissues, the scar tissue will lay down in a random
alignment and limit motion, if we overuse it, the breakdown will occur faster
than the deposition. If we use it appropriately, we end up with healthy mature
My first concern is that you maintain and possibly gain, hamstring length.
My preferred way to do this is to:
1) Deep heat the hamstring for 15 minutes, as heat increases the extensibility
of soft tissue,
2) Perform a doorway hamstring stretch. The stretch should be done for 6-8
minutes initially, progressing to 15 minutes. This must be done very gently
- you should feel only a mild stretch when performing this.
Next, we want to maintain as much fitness and bike memory as possible. I want
you to get on your bike as pain allows. I think that by riding at light resistance
and moderate cadence riding on your hoods or the top of your bars, you will
place minimal additional stress on the hamstring. I have also found that,
as the ride progresses, you will become more comfortable to a point. Do not
keep riding once (or if) you reach this point where symptoms start to increase.
Finally, minimize inflammation from each individual bout of exercise. I prefer
to ice while in the gentle stretch position, I have also had patients ice
while maintaining a long sitting position (flexed at the waist with legs straight).
Four to six weeks is a typical timeframe for resolution of this type of injury.
Athletes generally try to push too quickly - this in an injury that you want
to heal once and only once! I would not start pushing aggressively on the
bike until you can easily ride in the drops. This still allows you to maintain
a workout intensity that will help you to at very least maintain your base.
Unequal leg length solutions
I have an approximate leg length difference of about 1cm. I've heard two different
trains of thought; either building up the cleat by the difference on the short
leg versus building up half the difference. Which is the correct version, and
Eddie Monnier Replies
I trained in bicycle fits with Paul Swift, who besides having worked with
many of the notables (eg, Dr. Andy Pruitt) designed the LeWedge, which can
be stacked thick-to-thin to resolve leg length discrepancies (LLD's).
First, you need to understand that there are actual LLD's and functional
LLD's. The former is determined by x-ray of the full legs and pelvis. Whether
or not there is an actual LLD, there may be a functional LLD. That is, one
leg functions as if it's shorter. This could be due to alignment issues, muscle
inflexibility, etc. and can be assessed by a physical therapist, chiropractor,
exercise physiologist, etc. who may be able to identify paths to minimizing
or even resolving the functional difference. Before making any correction
to your bike fit, you need to know how much of the shortage is attributable
to the femur (hip to knee) and how much to the tibia (knee to ankle) before
you can determine the amount of correction. As a rule of thumb, I correct
1/4 to 1/3 of a femur shortage and 1/2 of a tibia shortage. Many factors affect
the final determination of this correction; so I would suggest you seek out
a bike fitter with experience in addressing LLD's. And of course, enrol your
medical professional of choice to determine if your LLD is correctable or
Another Crank length case
I find the ongoing discussions about bike fit very interesting. Last year I
began having slight, somewhat vague glitches, which I knew had to be related
to my position. At the end of the year, the vagueness went away and problems
became very noticeable. (Chafing, a very sore left shoulder after a ride of
more than 20 miles, occasional soreness in the left knee usually in the rear,
but a few times in the front, sore upper back etc.)
I had tried all the regular formulas - various seat height measurement theories,
KOPS. I used shims to correct what I had believed to be a slight leg length
discrepancy (a wild idea I arrived at when measured for a shirt; one arm 4mm
longer than the other), changed the angle of my seat slightly. I then read and
followed the advice given here, especially the method for determining seat set
back as well as purchasing and using the Kit Laughin stretching book. The latter
were most useful and helped a bit, especially the stretching. (However, once
I began stretching, other pains arose as I became more flexible.)
In the end, I still was not fully comfortable. I couldn't see a good fit specialist,
because the ones I have heard or read of in Japan are using strictly formula-based
approaches - some formulas are absurdly complex and precise.
Around the start of the year, I found a good deal on a Dura Ace crankset. I
had been using 170 cranks (my inseam is 82mm, I am about 176cm tall.) The new
ones were 175mm, and although I worried that they may be too long and preferred
a set in 172.5, the deal was so good that I took a chance.
I have now used them for over 600 miles and they have done so much to improve
the feel and comfort of riding, that I am hesitant to believe it. I keep waiting
for pains or problems. For the first week, the only thing I changed was the
crankset. I did not even lower the seat. After that I lowered it in stages to
a total of about 2.5mm. I also moved my seat back about 1 mm as it seemed that
I felt very slightly restricted. Other than that and straightening my seat back
out, everything is the same.
For the first time, I feel that I can apply power throughout most of my pedal
stroke. Before, I would occasionally follow the advice to imagine you were scraping
mud off your shoe at the bottom of the stroke to ensure you were getting power
on more of the stroke. That was always uncomfortable on my knees and I couldn't
really do that for long. But now, I don't need to. I can feel that I am applying
more power throughout the stroke. As a matter of fact, my hamstrings were sore
the first few times after riding these, whereas before, it was always my quads.
When I am somewhat sore from a ride now, it is not concentrated on any one area.
So my completely unscientific conclusion is that a large part of my problems
were addressed by changing to a longer crank length. That is usually an expensive
option, and you gotta get it right because most shops won't let you try several
cranksets for a week or so.
Steve Hogg Replies
Thank you for relating your story. Ron Haney, the American gent I have mentioned
a couple of times lately has suggested to me that his experience with bike
positioning is very similar to what you have described, in that many comfort
and performance issues tend to resolve themselves with the correct length
cranks. Often the crank length required is quite long relative to leg length.
I am forwarding this onto to Ron who no doubt will reply with further comment.
I might have to take the plunge and follow Rons' suggestions. Has anyone got
a good price on some 185mm cranks?
Walking as training
I'm currently at the tail end of my base building phase and have a quick question
for you. I walk to and/or from work practically every day (4 or 5 times a week,
time and weather depending). It takes me about 40 minutes to walk 5 kms. The
road I take is mostly flat, except for a 1/2 km long, steady hill midway. I
keep a pretty good pace throughout, averaging a 100 HR, with a 120 HR on the
hill. My question is this: With all this accumulated walking during the week,
could this be considered as "training" or should I simply dedicate that time
on the bike trainer at home?
I'm 42, healthy and fit, have been riding and training more seriously for about
4 years now, and have no health problems.
Kim Morrow Replies
It looks like you are walking at a pretty good pace. That's great. I do a
number of walks during the week as well. However, I do not consider it specific
"training" for my cycling events. Usually I record it in my training log as
zone 1, which is my "recovery" training zone. If you are trying to build cycling
specific fitness, it might be good to consider replacing a few of those daily
walks with some cycling specific workouts on the trainer. Much of the decision
as to how you spend your available training time depends upon your cycling
goals and upon your strengths & weaknesses as a rider. It also depends upon
what you enjoy doing. Walking is a good mental diversion, and a nice way to
start the day without having to worry about getting too sweaty on the way
to work. Sounds like a combination of alternating morning walks with morning
spins on the trainer might be something for you to consider.
Training and Sickness
I am a 33-year-old cyclist - 5'9", 155lbs. averaging 135-210 miles a week depending
on where I am in my year round training. Since I've been training more seriously
over the past two years, I've noticed a pattern of sickness at the peak of any
periodisation effort. Most of my training revolves around a 3-4 week ever-increasing
workload that repeats throughout various periodization phases. After a good
four weeks of training I invariably catch an illness (flu, respiratory infection,
etc.) towards the peak of effort - regardless of season. Needless to say, this
significantly hampers any gains.
I do implement a steady Foundation Phase in the year, but due to my career I
can only manage a five-day schedule with an hour or more on the trainer through
the winter. Like anyone, my miles do increase significantly with daylight and
the onset of spring. However even in a Foundation Phase - and keeping my heart
rate mostly within recommended guidelines - I always seem so much more susceptible
to illness at the end of week three or four. Do you have insights into why this
may happen and how I can avoid illness through the stress of training? I appreciate
any and all wisdom you can provide!
Pam Hinton Replies
You are not alone in your recurrent battles with upper respiratory tract
infections (URTIs) and all the nasty symptoms: sore throat, swollen lymph
glands, runny nose, sinus congestion, and headache. URTIs are the most common
illness among athletes and usually follow a marked increase in training volume
or intensity or after prolonged, exhaustive exercise (e.g. marathon or stage
race). Stories of similar ailments abound within the pro ranks, especially
this time of year. So, first we'll swallow a little science and then chew
on some common-sense pills to prevent it. The immune system is complex; it
involves many cell types that specialize in responding to different microorganisms.
Simply put, there are two general types of immune response: cell-mediated
immunity (CMI) and humoral immunity. CMI is an immediate response by natural
killer cells (NK cells), macrophage, and cytotoxic T cells to destroy anything
that the body recognizes as foreign. Humoral immunity is the production of
antibodies by B cells with the assistance of type 1 T-helper cells.
Antibodies are proteins that are specific for a particular pathogen, coating
the outside of the microorganisms, thereby neutralizing them. The humoral
immune response takes longer than CMI to start defending the body because
it takes time for the cells to make the antibodies. The cool thing about the
humoral response is that the immune system remembers if it has been exposed
to a pathogen, and the antibody production after subsequent exposures is much
more rapid. The immune system operates such that when one "arm" of the immune
response is activated, the other is suppressed. So, if B-cells are cranking
out antibodies full-throttle, then CMI is turned way down. To function effectively,
the immune system has to be integrated into the rest of the body. This is
accomplished via bi-directional communication between the immune system and
the nervous/endocrine system. Immune cells release proteins called cytokines
that act on the brain. For example, cytokines produced by immune cells in
response to infection, act on the hypothalamus to increase body temperature.
You experience this as fever.
Conversely, hormones released into the blood in response to brain signals,
alter immunity. The illness that you experience during intense training or
after a race is a result of your brain talking to your immune system. In response
to the increased stress of training, your brain signals your adrenal gland
to make more cortisol. The sympathetic nervous system is also activated, resulting
in increased release of the catecholamines (norepinepherine and epinepherine).
The most recent research suggests that these hormones are not generally immunosuppressive,
but alter the balance between cellular-mediated and humoral immunity. Cortisol
and the catecholamines suppress cell-mediated immunity by shutting down NK
cells, macrophages, and cytotoxic T cells. In contrast, antibody production
is increased. This disruption lasts 3-72 hours after exhaustive exercise,
leaving you susceptible to viral URTIs. It is also worth noting that antibody
production is part of the allergic response, so you're also more likely to
experience allergy symptoms. There are several things you can do to minimize
URTIs and allergy symptoms brought on by too much of a good thing.
The first line of defence is plenty of good old-fashioned sleep - adequate
rest - especially following those particularly hard throw-downs. Next comes
another down-home remedy - consume adequate carbohydrate during and after
exercise. Carbohydrate is the single dietary intervention that has been shown
to reduce cortisol and catecholamine secretion in response to exercise and
to maintain immune function after exercise. No need to get fancy with your
third line of defence, either. You should reduce the chances that pathogens
or allergens invade your body to begin with. The mucus membranes that line
our airways and sinuses are natural, physical barriers to infection. When
these physical barriers dry out, they are ineffective. So, stay hydrated,
and regularly use a saline nasal spray during cold, flu and allergy seasons.
These sprays are available over-the-counter or may be mixed at home using
pickling salt and water. While you're at it, don't forget the lowest-tech
barrier to infection - frequent hand washing. You've heard it before - you
must listen to your body and give yourself a break. The point of hard exercise
is to tear down and then to rebuild a bit stronger. The trick is to not forget
the rebuilding part, and to give your body a chance to let it happen. But
while the rebuild is working it's magic, it pays to remember; it's a jungle
out there, dudes - take care.
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