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Form & Fitness Q & A

Got a question about fitness, training, recovery from injury or a related subject? Drop us a line at 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.

The Cyclingnews form & fitness panel

Carrie Cheadle, MA ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 any geography.

David Fleckenstein, MPT ( 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 ( 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 other end.

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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 a coach.

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 questions and answers for March 29, 2005

Cycling and lower back pain
Help with knee pain
More Upper Calf Pain...
Muscle Loss
Power output
Saddle sores treatment #2

Cycling and lower back pain

I am 48 years old, 5'8" and weigh about 150 lb. Due to Achilles tendonitis from running I have been a recreational road/mountain biker for the last eight years. I have had lower back pain and stiffness for about the last eight months. I partly attribute this to bad posture, but I've also noticed that especially when seated climbing on my mountain bike I tend to want to eliminate the natural arch in my lower back (flatten my lower back) by tightening my abdominal muscles. It just seems too hard to not do this. This sometimes results in lower back pain after long climbs. I've read that cyclists have strong back muscles and weak abdominal muscles, but this seems to be the opposite in my case. I've also noticed that professional cyclists often have a "hunched" or flattened lower back when seen in races. Could this tendency to flatten the lower back be leading to back pain? Could I be positioned wrong on the bike?

Erik Feibert

Ontario, OR

Steve Hogg Replies

G'day Erik,

Without more information it is hard to advise properly. However, some observations; fix your posture. In so doing you will make a positive difference to your back pain on and off the bike. Next, by tightening your abs as you are you are restricting your ability to breath. When the abs are switched on the diaphragm cannot work properly. You sound like someone who has developed a pattern of on bike stability that works to some degree but causes an unreasonable price to be paid.
Find a good structural health professional, have yourself assessed and implement a program of structural self improvement. If no one like this is available to you, take up pilates.
Lastly, don't look at the pros for inspiration about position. Many look really good, some look woeful. You could well be poorly positioned on the bike. There is no way of knowing with the information you have supplied.

Help with knee pain

I am a 43-year-old female who spins three times a week, runs 20-30 miles a week and takes body pump classes twice a week.

About six months ago, my gym got new spinning bikes - Lemond Rev Masters. Shortly after that, I began to notice knee pain - not while spinning - but later in the day, and upon awakening. Tried to ignore it, took some Aleeve, iced occasionally. (I should back up and state that prior to the Lemond bikes, we had Reebok and another type that I can't recall the name-if I ever had to spin on the Reebok bike, I did notice knee pain with those also- but no problem ever with the type I can't recall the name of).

Anyway, after running a marathon in December, I could not fully extend my right knee. I saw an Ortho who put me in an immobilizer for two weeks, went to a physiotherapist for VMO strengthening, etc and progressed with the "crunchiness" under the kneecap to the point where it was audible and made me nauseous to try to extend the knee in a sitting position. Now, I am awaiting the results of an MRI done last Friday, and suspect I will hear the dreaded words "you need to stop running" or "you need to stop doing squats" or "you need to stop whatever"!

Sorry for being so wordy, but I think I have determined on my own, by going back in time to the point of the new bikes, that it is not the marathon running, nor the squats/lunges,etc, but the bike. I feel like there is some setting that is a little off-seat height, distance from the bar, angle of the clips,etc. Have you heard of this? Have you heard of problems with this particular bike? Do you have any suggestions?
Thanks so much,

Susan Kolbinsky

Steve Hogg Replies

G'day Susan,

I have zero knowledge of the type of spinning bike that you are using. Have a look at the archives and you will see many posts regarding knee pain. See if you think any are applicable to you and if need be, get back with more info.

More Upper Calf Pain...

The letter from Jim Breen answered many of my questions. I have a similar problem, but the calf pain is different. Instead of my legs being different length it is my pelvis and back. My right leg is a full inch shorter than my left, rather my pelvis is tilted an inch. The measurement was taken via x-ray by my chiropractor, the difference being between the heights of each femoral head. My pelvis is way higher on the right than on the left. However I don't want to insert Lemond wedges, I want to straighten my body. I am 5'11"+ inches tall, 190 pounds, not too fat, just a big cyclist. I compete (and win) mostly in short time trials, 15-20 miles.

My pain happens during longer rides, 50+ miles. I feel pain in the upper calf in my right leg (the shorter one); I think it is because the leg is trying to reach the pedal. My left leg reaches the pedal fine but the right leg is tight trying to reach it. My right leg is also significantly larger than the left, especially in the calf. My right spinal erectors are also larger than my left, which I think contributes to pulling my pelvis out of alignment. When I ride my right sit bone takes most of the pressure and I, oddly enough, find a really low position more comfortable than an upright one; sitting on my perineum; the top of my handlebars being 6.5" below my seat. I also find a more forward position more comfortable; if I push the seat back on the rails I get more back pain.

Where I feel the most pain is in my right sacroiliac joint. The pain is intense and I have just dealt with it for years but I would like to fix it. Have you dealt with any cyclists with the same problem, and if so how was it remedied? I think the 'Stretching and Flexibility' book by Kit Laughlin may help, and any other advice is very welcome.

Timothy I. Applegate

Maine, USA

Steve Hogg Replies

G'day Timothy,

I am a bit confused by your self description. You say that you don't have a leg length difference but go on to talk about your right leg being shorter. Are you talking measurably shorter or functionally shorter?

With regard to your pelvis, are you saying that the discrepancies are a result of measurable differences in ilium size or the results of a laterally tilted pelvis? Until you get back to me, the strong message I want to get across to you and anyone else reading this, is that the better and more symmetrically a rider functions off the bike, the better they will perform, the quicker they will recover and the less likely they are to be injured on the bike. This may seem like stating the obvious but while the great majority of people accept this intellectually, not nearly as many apply it too themselves.

As a rough rule of thumb I find in my own business when advising along similar lines that 100% listen but only 10-20% act. Be one of the 10-20%. The Kit Laughlin book is excellent but given what you have said I would also suggest a copy of "Overcome Neck and Back Pain" by the same author. If the stuff in there is applied with close attention to the instructions there is little risk of harm and great potential for benefit. It would also be of benefit to take up yoga or similar regularly as properly done and with an insightful instructor, enormous progress can be made. If this means that for a period that your bike takes up less of your life, so be it. You are working towards gaining the long term ability to perform on the bike and in all other physical aspects of your life significantly better.


I am a 41 year old man trying to get back into racing after a 9 year hiatus.

I've heard it called many things, but the phrase "art form" is the most commonly used term I've heard in reference to peaking. It is difficult to do even if a rider is on a strict training schedule. I know you can't answer this question as it relates directly to me because you don't know my training schedule, attributes and weaknesses, but could you shed some light on how to peak for a specific race, i.e. Masters Nationals. It is hit or miss, at best, and it can be frustrating. Thanks in advance.

Kevin Maxie

Eddie Monnier Replies


While there is an art to peaking, there's a good deal of science and experience that sheds light into how to achieve a peak. Tudor Bompa, "the father" of periodisation, defines a peak as "a temporary training state in which physical and psychological efficiencies are maximized and the levels of technical and tactical preparation are optimal." In short, peaking is the ultimate objective of periodisation which is a structured training approach where volume (a function of frequency and duration) and intensity are manipulated in a planned manner working backwards from the intended peak.

A peak is affected by many factors. The best thing you can do is read up on periodisation. Since I work closely with Joe Friel, I'm a big fan of his Training Bible series of books (eg - The Cyclist's Training Bible) which explain how to apply periodisation. Of course, Tudor Bompa's books on the subject are excellent as well though some readers may find them too technical. There are also online tools such as Cyclingpeaks ( which help you implement a periodized program. While I think every endurance athlete should be familiar with the basic tenets of periodisation, you may prefer to get a coach to devise and monitor a training program for you. Best of luck

Muscle Loss

Hi - I'm trying to find out if muscle loss has to do anything with fat loss - to be specific - I'm trying to settle an argument with my best friend. I believe that I can't lose muscle until the body got rid of all the fat, and my friend says you can't lose fat without muscle. We would appreciate it if you guys could clear this subject for us. Thanks.

Loit and Joey

Scott Saifer Replies

Hi Loit,

One can lose muscle without losing fat. This will happen if you restrict calorie intake and don't work a particular muscle. The body will preferentially break down muscle tissue before fat during starvation since maintaining muscle requires more energy than maintaining fat. During bed-rest, muscles atrophy rapidly, even in fat people.
Muscle tissue can use fat for fuel, so it's easier to metabolize large amounts of fat if you have large amounts of muscle.
I think this means that your best friend is right. I hope this helps, and that you two can remain friends!

Power output

Reading the March 21 letter regarding power output, you linked to one site with a power calculator; another good one is - it's easy to use and has some useful breakdowns of the various formulas on there.

Simon van der Aa

Tasmania, Australia

Saddle sores treatment #2

Hey, this is in response to the saddle sore question. Scott recommended 'Boil-Ease' as a drawing salve and it's not. Boil-Ease is a benzocaine cream that will relieve pain but not actually help the boils mature. Several pharmacies sell their own house brand, it can often be found under burn treatment, but usually with the normal Neosporin type ointments. However, the best treatment is to prevent, and the best way to do that is to wipe down with a Wet-One before, use Chamois Butt'r, Assos, or Relief creams and then use a Wet-One after. The alcohol in the Wet-Ones will kill the bacteria that causes these gross and painful bumps while not drying out an area that is prone to chafing (because those wipes are made for babies' butts). Plus they're cheap, available everywhere, and you can throw it in your bag for weekend racing where you can't have a shower right after to wash the valuables. One of Ed Burke's books, Serious Cycling, has a good section on saddle sores, which is where I'm sourcing everything but the WetOnes rec - that's my original (or, at least, I don't remember reading it anywhere). Dr. Ed also says that a hot bath brings them to maturity and, from my experience, a hot bath is much better than the sticky, burnt rubber smell of drawing salves.

Peter Pienkowski

Ann Arbor, MI

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