Recently on Cyclingnews.com
Photo ©: Sirotti
Form & Fitness Q & A
Got a question about fitness, training, recovery from injury or a related subject?
Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please include as much information about yourself as possible, including your
age, sex, and type of racing or riding. Due to the volume of questions we receive,
we regret that we are unable to answer them all.
Fitness questions and answers for March 7, 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.
Ankle pain - posterior tibialis tendonitis
Power output levels for older cyclists
Knee pain and the trans-fats, omega 6 and omega 3 balance
Knee tracking problems
Additional saddle chaffing info
I have had a fit for correct riding position on my bike, but I would like a
Firstly, I am 55 and took up recreational riding seven years ago. I ride between
50-200kms a week, depending on the time of the year and what ride I am preparing
for. I am 165 cm and weigh 82 kg and have a lower back problem (work related
many years ago) which restricts my flexibility. When I was fitted, I was told
to replace my cranks from 172.5 to 170 and replace my 90 mm stem to an 80 mm
stem at a height from the centre of the front wheel to handle bars of 60 cm.
I have replaced these parts. The other recommendation was that I get a new seat
post that will put my seat back 50 mm behind the bottom bracket which will give
me an angle of 72 degrees instead of the 74 degrees that I have now. I have
stayed with my old seat post and with my lack of flexibility I still find it
painful to stay on my hoods for long periods and only ever get to my drops if
I am rolling downhill. I am considering fitting a 50 mm stem hoping that might
solve the problem - would you be able to share your thoughts?
Also, I have Shimano Ultegra components of 1999 vintage. In 2001 Shimano brought
out 5 mm and 10 mm wedges that fitted the STI levers to help people like myself
and also females that have small hands and cannot reach effectively the brake
levers when on the drops of the handlebars. I do not want to buy new levers
at $450 for the sake of two wedges that would cost $20. I have noticed on your
web site that you have wedges for different pedals for people with different
leg lengths. Do you, or do you know of anyone who has a solution to the Shimano
pre 2001 STI problem.
Steve Hogg Replies
I am not clear about your first query. After the fitting you did not fit
a new seat post, is that correct? Do you feel overstretched or are you bearing
more weight than you would like on your hands? If you feel overstretched is
it the distance you have to reach out, or the distance you have to reach down
that is the problem - or possibly a combination of both?
If you are stretching too far out, the solution is to shorten your stem -
providing of course that your seat is in the right place fore and aft. Try
the balance test that you have read about on this forum. If you are reaching
too far down the solution is to raise the bars higher. If this is not possible
in the sense that there is no more adjustment left, get back to me, as there
a number of fittings available that will allow the steerer tube to be extended.
Regarding the STI levers, the solution is simple. The shims Shimano now provide
with the R 600 [I think that is the model] levers can be retro fitted to the
non short reach 9 speed levers but is more fiddling and modifying than the
job is worth. Get some rubber about 3 mm thick; the thicker pieces that are
supplied as shims for cycling computer handlebar clamps are ideal, and cut
a piece to the appropriate size. Pull the brake lever open slightly at the
top and using a decent silicone type glue, stick the rubber in place on top
of the gear barrel where it would normally contact the under side of the top
of the grip when the lever is closed. This will leave the lever 'open' a few
mm at the top which brings the lever much closer to the bars. You may need
to experiment with exactly how much of a shim you use.
Once you have got the reach right, readjust the brake calipers by letting
a bit of cable through the pinch bolt on the calipers.
Another factor possibly at work is the bar drop shape. A lot of anatomic bars
have a tight radius bend in the drops. This means in turn that the higher
the brake levers [you should be able to ride with hands on hoods with an unbent
or only slightly bent wrist] the more disproportional the distance from the
brake levers become. With short fingers the situation is exacerbated further.
The Deda anatomic bars are probably the best around in this regard as the
radius of the bend of the drops is more open than most and the bend is situated
quite high, relatively speaking, providing a near flat surface behind the
brake levers. This is of benefit to many people. The only negative with these
bars is the sharp 'corner' where the hand grip anatomic section flattens out
at the bottom. This is just where the hands grip the bars in a sprint and
is a pain.
If you go down the Deda bar route, this 'corner' can be rounded off on the
inner surface by the application of a couple of strips of cork bartape. A
longer one on the bottom and a shorter one on top will fill the hand much
better when the bars are completely taped over this addition.
If you have any issues with the first part of this answer, get back to me
Ankle pain - posterior tibialis tendonitis
I sure hope you can help me out!
I'm a 38-year-old male (5'7", 145 lbs) recreational mountain biker and road
cyclist and have been riding for 20+ years. Eighteen months ago I purchased
my first high-end road bike (Sampson z9 with DuraAce 10) and over the course
of six months worked up to riding 150 miles per week. I was feeling stronger
and stronger, and planning to work up to my first century.
As I continued to slowly increase my mileage, I began to develop a nagging
pain in my inner right ankle that was aggravated with walking and cycling, especially
climbing. I subsequently learned that it was tendonitis of my posterior tibialis
As difficult as it was, I took several weeks off, but the pain returned with
minimal effort on the bike. I took several more weeks off and did some of my
own research on the internet, deciding that my problems were due in part to
flat arches, for which I was already using Sole and Superfeet footbeds in all
my shoes (I've had problems with plantar faciitis for years, which is part of
the reason I cycle instead of run).
I replaced my pedals and shoes to improve sole stiffness and the size of the
contact platform (switched from Time Attack MB pedals and 3yo shoes to Kewin
pedals and Sidi Genius 4 shoes), and put two LeMond LeWedges under each pedal
cleat to cant my feet out slightly. I was also professionally fitted by two
different 'experts' who each recommended moving my seat back slightly, but otherwise
thought my position was very good.
Over the next four months I rode cautiously. However, the slightest moderate/high
intensity effort (sprint, moderate hill climb, >20 mile tempo ride) would bring
back the "twinge" in my ankle. I'd take a week or two off, try again, and the
cycle would repeat itself.
After much frustration, I blamed myself for this problem, and for not having
the patience to let things heal; I took two months off, completely resting.
But, a cautious return to cycling saw no change…the ankle pain was back with
minimal effort on the bike.
So, I visited a well-respected local podiatrist. He confirmed my diagnosis
of very flat arches that he described as a "significant problem". He prescribed
custom orthotics for my everyday and athletic footwear and suggested I try them
in my cycling shoes as well, although we discussed the fact that the motion
of cycling is very different from that of walking.
It is four months later, and I have been using my orthotics religiously in
all my footwear, including cycling shoes. There does seem to be some improvement
in my ankle pain, especially with extended walking and standing, but my tolerance
for cycling is still not anywhere close to where I want it to be.
Are the orthotics used in cycling shoes to treat flat arches different in design
than those used for walking and running shoes? If so, in what way? Where can
I find a person experienced in treating this kind of injury/problem (especially
in the Seattle area, where I am moving in a week)? Do you have any more advice?
I'm willing to do just about anything to get back to a situation where I can
ride HARD - I can't imagine having to give up my bike! Thanks in advance for
your advice and help.
San Diego, CA
Steve Hogg Replies
I need some more info - does your condition affect both legs, or only one?
Where is the centre of the first metatarsal phalangeal joint in relation to
the pedal axle centre as measured in the usual way?
Power output levels for older cyclists
I'm a 51-year old male who rides a lot but no longer races, although I do like
to ride quite hard in group rides, etc. I now have access to an indoor trainer
with a power meter attached, and would like to use that to check periodically
on my fitness level as measured by power output (watts). Can you please tell
me what in your opinion(s) would be a reasonable level of power output for a
person like me? I'm 176.5cm tall and weigh in a range of 75kg-80kg depending
on what month it is. Many thanks.
Steve Owens Replies
Since you're a former racer, I'm sure you have witnessed the great aerobic
capacity some masters racers and recreational riders can maintain. To give
more than an estimate of what your power ratings should be, I would need to
know what category and discipline you raced in your earlier years. I'll try
to give you estimations however.
Based on your weight I can estimate 200 watts as a good average for a 20-minute
power profile, based on your weight. The power profiling zones are measures
of the maximum average wattage a rider can maintain for a given length of
time. Most people use 5 seconds, 1 minute, 5 minutes, and 20 minutes, which
attempt to match up the different energy systems. There are several other
ways to standardise power measurements as well.
A good option, since I don't know your current power profile, is the following.
Test your maximum average for a given amount of time, say 5 or 20 minutes.
Over time, try to increase your maximum wattage 5-10 watts at a time.
You can increase the average two ways. Firstly, by pacing better - there
is a learning curve to the test. It means you're not actually fitter, but
that you can use your fitness more effectively. This works for improving time-trial
performance as well.
The second method is training. Increasing your aerobic capacity and other
abilities will increase your fitness and give you more success on those group
rides that you daydream about while at work.
Additionally, if the power meter you are using is not made by a cycling company
(ie - primarily a model produced for gyms) then there is a good chance it
will over estimate your wattage and caloric expenditure. Some gym machines
deviate in their calibrations so patrons will favor their machines. A scientific
ergometer, SRM, PowerTap, Ergomo, or Polar will have the best accuracy, followed
by trainer-type attached powermeters. Most provide a good deal of precision,
though. So as long as you test on the same machine you will be able to track
your relative progress, but go out and buy a power meter or borrow one from
a friend. A PowerTap for example, usually only takes 5-10 minutes to swap
over from one bike to another.
Knee pain and the trans-fats, omega 6 and omega 3 balance
I have been following the forums on Cyclingnews for about a year now and cannot
believe how many people are writing in about knee pain - especially aching in
medial cartilage, and other inflammatory conditions. None of the experts on
the site have mentioned the absolutely crucial dietary factor. No doubt bicycle
positioning etc is critical but my experience and many people whom I have shared
it with has shown that diet, especially fatty acids, is critical in a lot of
My background is as a highly competitive athlete for the past 27 years (I am
36 now) starting out wrestling, then rowing, then, since I was 19, in mountain
bike racing and now road racing. I am currently an occasional competitor due
to time constraints. Professionally I am a scientist in the area of environmental
toxicology and have spent the last seven years studying nutrition from a cellular
point of view as a hobby (versus) medical. I have come to a number of conclusions
based on my research and personal experience. I was told nearly nine years ago
that I had cartilage damage under my knee caps that would prevent me from cycling
without extreme pain unless I had surgery. This was confirmed by three of Australia's
top physiotherapists and Brisbane's supposedly best knee surgeon. No one even
suggested that diet might have an impact. I quit cycling as I couldn't afford
the surgery at the time.
A number of years later I came across some research (sorry can't specifically
remember the source) about the role of Omega 3/ Omega 6 Fatty acid balance on
inflammation and the extreme cellular toxicity of trans fats. To cut along story
short I cut trans-fats from my diet completely and boosted Omega 3 through supplementation,
as well as taking a comprehensive organic multivitamin, multimineral, phytofactor
supplement. I began consuming 11 to 15 grams of high quality protein every 2-3
hours along with an attempt at a well balanced diet. The result has been astounding.
I have NO knee pain for the first time since I was 18 and now have eliminated
the joint aches and pains that I have always assumed was normal for a high performance
athlete. I can go out on a 140 km weekend ride through the hills around Brisbane,
easily keeping pace with riders who train twice as hard and twice much as I
do and I am the one who finishes the ride feeling good. This has all happened,
I believe, through paying close attention to nutrition, especially the fatty
acid balance and high doses of anti-oxidants. I am extremely passionate about
this and wonder why the 'mainstream' professionals are not putting much more
emphasis on the role of fatty acid balance in the diet for athletes, especially
for joint health? Any comments/replies on this would be appreciated, and I hope
you post this for the benefit of other thirty-somethings who have been told
they need surgery, and may not.
Steve Hogg Replies
Yours is a very interesting letter. Many people who have sought me out over
the years have had knee pain as their major issue. Of these, and they would
number at a guess, several thousand, all were resolvable either through an
improved position, or through a combination of an improved position and the
ongoing but ultimately successful search for better function in the areas
of the body that directly or indirectly gave rise to the knee problem. I include
myself in this number as I have had no functioning medial or anterior cruciate
ligament in one knee for over 30 years but can ride as hard as I like as often
as I like without pain. The price I pay is that I am very position sensitive
and have to pay a lot of attention to my own structure and function in a global
sense which is no bad thing. Some of them were extreme cases, including one
who could not ride more than 5kms at a time for 19 years, a number who were
missing a patella through severe injury and others who had multiple knee operations
but still had bike related pain and so on.
I'm not surprised that the health professionals didn't cover the nutritional
aspect as I don't think I have ever come across anyone who has experienced
joint aches as you have, as the 'normal' by product of a lot of training.
They, the health pro's, probably hadn't either.
What I'm saying I suppose is that you have certainly alerted me to some interesting
info which I will explore further, but I suspect that your experience in the
terms of those suffering knee pains on a bike is uncommon in a percentage
sense. This is probably the answer to the question you pose regarding why
this info isn't more widely disseminated - I suspect not many people know
about it and that most on bike knee pain can be resolved in other ways.
Thank you for your letter as what is most frustrating for the sufferer of
any problem is when they see all the right people, jump through all the metaphorical
hoops placed in front of them and still are none the better for the experience.
Your experience highlights the fact that there is almost always a way to work
around the most chronic problems, but finding the right info, in an individual
sense, is often the most time consuming part of the task.
I had been using a stem that was way too long and as a result got a terrible
pain on the left of my spine at the back of my neck (above where the trap meets
the neck). It kept me off the bike for weeks and I couldn't turn my head at
all. I bought the Kit Laughlin book you suggested this week and we'll see how
we go. Now here's the thing - when I turn my head from side to side I hear a
crackling noise in my ears. Obviously it's not audible to anyone else and I
would describe it as the noise a crisp packet makes. This is due to the neck
problem and I've never heard of a similar symptom in your fitness column. It's
still giving me a fair bit of discomfort, any ideas?
Steve Hogg Replies
My apologies for the delay in replying but I had to ask a friend in the neck
business about the source of your 'neck noise'. He says that it is likely
to be one of two things, or a combination of both. Both posit a stiff neck
and upper back. If this is you, the first reason is possible micro tears of
associated musculature as you turn your neck and the second is noise from
the joint surfaces of the facet joints of the cervical vertebrae if they are
compressed and tight.
Re the Kit Laughlin book; given your condition which one did you buy?
You would probably be better served by ' Overcome Neck and Back Pain' than
by ' Stretching and Flexibility' for the moment at least.
If you can free up your upper back and neck then the noise should diminish
Knee tracking problems
I am a 31-year-old, 5'10", 163lb, Category 1 racer. Recently I developed pain
at the top and under the kneecap of my left knee. As I pedal, I can feel the
kneecap "bumping" over the top of something. This happened a few years ago to
my right knee and I seem to remember the term 'chondromalacia' being used. I
was told by the doc that my quadriceps were out of balance and to do leg extensions
with limited range. This worked, but now the problem is back on the other knee
I was mindful to include leg extensions in my weight routine this winter and
have gradually increased my training load. I have done a fair amount of cold
weather riding (< 20° F) but I have always overdressed and always spin >90 rpm.
No changes to position, pedals or cleats either. Do you have any advice to remedy
this problem in the short and long term?
Steve Hogg Replies
Chrondomalacia means that the patella encapsulated in its tendon is not tracking
accurately within the groove that it is supposed to. The specific causes of
this are varied, but in general, on a bike it comes down to two things or
a combination of both. The knee is strictly a single plane joint like a hinge.
It is in the middle of two multi plane joints, the ankle at one end and the
hip at the other. If the hip/ lower back area are not functioning ideally
this can stress the knee as it has to follow the lead of the hip joint further
up the pedalling chain.
Equally if the basic problem is one of less than ideal foot/ankle function
as you apply force to the pedal; this two can force the knee through planes
of movement that it is not equipped to cope with. Often, a combination of
issues with hip/lower back at one end and foot/ankle at the other compounds
You mention quadricep imbalance. If the outer quads are too strong relative
to the VMO, the inner quad and major muscular lateral stabiliser of the knee
joint, then knee pain is a common result. The root cause of this quad imbalance
often is poor posture, leading to compromised neurological function or poor
foot plant leading to a cascade of compensatory measures further up. A good
starting point would be to find a good 'hands on' health professional with
cycling background or experience, and have yourself structurally assessed.
This health pro needs to explain to you in terms that you understand what
the issues and potential modes of treatment are so that you know what is going
on as well. Ask questions and don't leave till you have an understanding of
your issues and the options that are open to you as solution paths.
As you progress, if you have any queries about the bike aspects of a solution,
Additional saddle chaffing info
I would like to add a few comments to Steve Hoggs' comments about Saddle Chaffing.
I am an ultra-endurance racer who has done several 24 hour mtb races. High end
shorts do not necessarily equate to less chaffing. I've tried many of the more
expensive brands/models only to settle on the mid-level from Voler & Pearl Izumi
because they were affordable and fit well. I do use ample amounts of Bag Balm,
which seems to last longer than many of the other products for chaffing. It's
much greasier, but that is what makes it work. I would also suggest trying other
saddles which are more narrow than your current one. Some riders seem to think
a bigger saddle is better for endurance, but the larger saddle creates unnecessary
contact area with your skin. This can cause chaffing on the inner thigh. Lastly
don't shave the area that gets rubbed. Shaving causes tiny cuts on the skin,
so that the area is already irritated before you even ride.
Atlanta, GA, USA
Other Cyclingnews Form & Fitness articles