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Form & Fitness Q & A
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Fitness questions and answers for May 16, 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.
Fibular head pain
Baden Cooke's falling technique
Left leg/hip/pelvis problems
Neck and shoulder pain
BMX training advice
Fibular head pain
I have been a keen amateur road cyclist for 15 years. This has included racing
and lots of fast group rides, as well as a daily commute to work (10 km each
way). Seven years ago I had surgery on my left biceps femoris tendon where it
attaches to the fibular head in order to resolve chronic soreness and pain that
had kept me off the bike for over two years. During the early chronic period
of the injury, prior to giving up all cycling, I switched from Look to Time
pedals in an attempt to resolve the problem.
A local orthopaedic surgeon eventually diagnosed that my left fibular head
was large in size relative to my right leg (this was clearly observable when
pointed out to me), and that as a consequence of this and hard riding the tendon
had become irritated where it contacted the fibular head, resulting in the formation
of a bursa on the tendon - why this irritation should have happened in the first
place was not really explained. My surgeon removed the bursa and part of the
lateral side of the fibular head, and re-attached the affected parts of the
tendon. I was back on the bike in 12 weeks and soon back racing. I was never
bothered by the injury again, no matter how hard I trained or rode. However,
I have recently started riding a mountain bike to work. The bike came with SPD
After only a few weeks of commuting on it, I am experiencing the same old familiar
soreness in my left fibular head again. My sensation with the SPD pedals is
that they don't have enough float, and that I want to rotate my heel inwards
against the release tension all the time, which I end up feeling as a slight
rotational pressure in my knee. My MTB shoes are very old (2nd hand) and don't
seem to provide any capacity for to rotate the cleat adequately to relieve this
pressure. I note from research that the biceps femoris is a rotator of the lower
leg. Is the lack of rotational freedom from the SPD pedals likely to be the
source of this injury?
I am now considering whether my Look pedals (and Carnac shoes) contributed
to the original injury in the same way, as I recall always having the left cleat
rotated as far as possible inwards to reduce this rotational pressure. In any
case, is there a way to obtain more float from the SPD pedal/cleat combination.
I was intending to buy some new MTB shoes anyway, so should I stick to the SPD
pedals or get something with some more float? Are Eggbeaters a good choice for
float? I am still using the Time pedals on my road bike, and am thinking of
upgrading to RXS. Is this also a good choice for float?
Kelby Bethards Replies
What you are describing does sound accurate for your problem. I experienced
the same thing at one point, never required surgery but the pain and feel
of the "need" to rotate my heel back inward was significant and turned out
to be what I needed to change.
You have done the trouble shooting this far in stating the differences betwixt
the different bikes, so that needs to be rectified.
The bike fit panelists will have a better (than my simple monkey brained
approach) answer for the specifics of how to adjust your cleats and so on,
but I once read/heard something long long (15 yrs) ago that made sense to
me. Sit on a ledge of some sort (small retainer wall, counter top, etc) with
your feet dangling. Now let them "hang loose" - how they want to hang, and
look at how they are positioned. This is somewhat how they want to be on the
bike too. (For example, mine hang toes out a bit and toes down a bit, and
this is incidentally how my feet are when I ride) So, if your feet hang so
that the toes point out, if you will, that is probably how they will feel
best on the bike.
The problem with a lack of rotation in the pedals, as you have noted, is
excessive rotational forces inward on the lower leg, this stretches the biceps
femoris tendon too much causing tendonitis and tenosynovitis and so on. Not
to mention excess wear and tear on the menisci in the knee joint.
So, in my personal experience, the egg beaters do have more rotational options
and float abilility...too much for some and too loose for others but they
may be the right idea for you. This assumes that the rest of your positioning
For the past four months my blood has not been normal and even with B12, B
complex, Folic Acid and Iron supplementation there is no improvement. My Haemoglobin
is 14.5, Red Cell Count 4.23 and Haematocrit is 42.7. My MCV and MCH are high.
Using legal methods, how do I get my Haemoglobin to 16-18, red Cell Count to
5.50-6.00 and Haematocrit to 48-50? What sort of specialist could help me?
Pam Hinton Replies
I am curious as to why you think your blood is "not normal." Your question
implies that your current hemoglobin, hematocrit, and RBC count are a deviation
from your usual values. However, I suspect that what you mean by "not normal"
is that your values are not as you would like them to be.
In reality, your values are perfectly normal, even when compared to highly
trained athletes. A 2002 study of 169 male national team cyclists found that
the average hemoglobin concentration was 15.4 ± 0.8 g/dL and the average hematocrit
was 45 ± 3 %. Your values are within these ranges. Many nutrients are essential
for production of new red blood cells. Inadequate dietary intakes of vitamin
B12, folic acid and iron cause anemia over time. Vitamin B12 and folate deficiencies
cause anemia because without these vitamins, DNA synthesis and cell replication
is impaired. The red blood cells that remain are abnormally large, but contain
normal amounts of hemoglobin. This type of anemia is called macrocytic or
megaloblastic (large cells) anemia. Inadequate iron intake causes anemia because
iron is needed to make hemoglobin.
Iron deficiency causes production of small, pale red blood cells-hypochromic,
microcytic anemia. In the case of iron deficiency anemia, mean corpuscular
volume (MCV) is low because the cells (corpuscles) are small. Mean corpuscular
hemoglobin concentration (MCHC) also is low because the amount of hemoglobin
per cell is reduced. In addition to these nutrients, production of red blood
cells requires a hormonal signal to the bone marrow that says, "make more
cells." This signal for RBC production is the hormone erythropoietin (EPO).
EPO is produced in the kidney when the amount of oxygen present in the tissues
is abnormally low. Factors that cause low oxygen concentration in the tissues
are: impaired lung function; heart disease; anemia; and lower relative oxygen
concentration in the atmosphere due to lower atmospheric pressure (altitude)
or due to an artificial hypoxic environment (hypoxic tent). EPO causes stem
cells in the bone marrow to develop into red blood cells (instead of white
blood cells or platelets).
The most immature red blood cells released from the bone marrow into the
circulation are reticulocytes. Initially, the reticulocytes can make more
hemoglobin, but they lose this capacity as they transform into mature red
blood cells; this process takes approximately 3-5 days. The ratio of reticulocytes
to mature RBCs will increase with EPO use and it sometimes used as evidence
of doping. Mature RBCs have a lifespan of about 120 days. Once they are no
longer functional, RBCs are degraded in the liver and spleen. The iron is
"scavenged" and transported back to the bone marrow for use in hemoglobin
synthesis. Approximately 300 million RBCs die and are digested daily. In one
year, six pounds of hemoglobin are recycled.
To increase your hematocrit and hemoglobin, you need to do something that
will signal your bone marrow to make more RBCs. You can increase your hematocrit
by spending approximately four weeks at altitude (if you currently live at
low altitude). The improvements seen in performance with altitude training
last approximately two weeks after returning to sea level. Alternatively,
you could buy or rent an altitude tent. If you choose either of these options,
be sure that your intake of iron is adequate. Otherwise, your body will not
be able to respond to the lower oxygen availability and you will only increase
your fatigue. Take care.
Hello, I'm a 67 year old bike rider who has been cycling from when I was 11
years of age. I'm about 150 pounds and around 5ft 8" in height. My problem is
that when I'm out with my mates they can be chatting whilst I am huffing and
puffing. I do about 200 miles a week over about 3 days and live in an area of
England where every small town or village you either climb up to or descend
into thereby a bit of climbing is the norm on the rides I do. I've had the "puff"
test at my Doctor's, and my lung function seems to be ok? Any ideas?
Newcastle upon Tyne, England, UK
Andy Bloomer Replies
It's difficult to answer this one without sounding like we're stating the
obvious but I'm afraid it sounds like a simple case of fitness. The reason
you are puffing when your clubmates are chatting is that they are operating
at a lower level of their limit than you. All is not lost however; a well
structured training programme can deliver increases in fitness that may soon
see you 'giving' rather than being on the receiving end of this sort of punishment!
An increase in VO2 max on your part as well as an increase in power output
at your lactate threshold will see you capable of riding at higher power outputs,
and therefore speeds, at given VO2 values.
Baden Cooke's falling technique
I watched a video of Baden Cooke's high speed crash, somersault, and walk to
the finish line. Did that require some form or style to survive and walk away?
Or was he just lucky?
Scott Saifer Replies
I haven't seen the video in question, but I do have a friend whose experience
may shed some light. He's a bike racer but a former national-class judo champion.
I saw him "crash" twice. Crash is not exactly the right word since what he
actually did was dismount at 20-25 mph and land on his feet running each time.
I can't help but think his judo experience and some residual skills came into
Left leg/hip/pelvis problems
Firstly, congrats on a fantastic website...it really does have it all if you're
I am 29 years old and just commenced racing this season. I'm 6'2" and weigh
83kg. I raced for two seasons when I was much younger (16/17yrs old) but have
not been participating in any sport at a competitive level until this season.
Over the years I have been a regular gym attendee but have undoubtedly spent
more time weight training than doing aerobic exercise. Since getting into the
cycling training and reducing weight training last September/October my bodyweight
has come down by 10kg and seems stable now at around 83kg.
I started racing at entry level, cat 3 here, had some good results and within
a few weeks of the season commencing was upgraded to cat 2. But things have
basically come to a grinding halt since then as I am suffering from an injury
to my left leg, which seems to be originating in my hip/lower back. This is
now inhibiting me from riding, as the pain means that spending more than about
an hour on the bike is just too uncomfortable. It is not a very sharp pain but
more like a numbness which seems to start where my pelvis/left hip is in contact
with the saddle (is this the ischium? Feels like it's coming from the middle
of the hip joint) and goes down the back of my left hamstring. The pain gets
worse the longer I ride. There is also a lump of soft tissue where the hamstring
meets the knee joint and although this is not in itself painful it seems a bit
strange. I have been advised that my left leg could be shorter than the right
(especially as I broke my ankle six years ago resulting in a plate and 12 screws
being inserted; the plate is since removed, but four screws remain) but I haven't
had an x-ray or scan to confirm this. Any discrepancy in leg length is probably
more likely to be functional due to muscle tightness around the hip/hamstrings/hip
flexors etc, but having said that I have not experimented with any packers/insoles
Your recent posting "Leg Length Discrepancy - can't dial it in" struck a chord
with me as I feel a distinct weakness on my left side compared to my right,
and many of the symptoms described in this article apply to my situation. The
power is simply not there in my left leg, my lower back/lumbar region on one
side gets sore on intense or long rides, my left leg does not tense/flex with
the same strength as the right in any position. I have adjusted cleat and saddle
height positions and although some differences in power output have been noticable
the problem in the left leg does not change. The same symptoms occur when I'm
on the bike as when I'm in any seated position for a prolonged period which
is a problem as my job involves sitting at a desk nearly all day, driving also
triggers the same pain but unfortunately being on the bike seems to aggravate
I have been going to physio the last 5 weeks. My core strength was not particularly
good and my flexibility not great (although I always stretch) but I have been
diligently doing all exercises and stretches given and implemented recommendations
to adjust my work station and posture to ensure I am sitting correctly and am
aware of my posture/core muscles at all times but ultimately the symptoms are
persisting. My physio had expected me to react better to the regime than I have
and for that reason I am going for x-rays etc. next week. Neither my Doctor
or physio has any explanation as to what the lump at the back of my left knee
Is this something you have come across before? I am determined to get over
this bump but so far I just seem to be going backwards. Any advice is hugely
appreciated. Thank you.
Kelby Bethards Replies
The lump on the back of your knee could be a few different things. If it
is painful, it could tendonitis or tenosynovitis or a variation therein. That
is an inflammation of the tendon or the tendon sheath or the tendon insertion
into the bone. IF it is pain free, it could be a Baker's cyst, a little out-pouching
of the knee joint capsule. Also, it could be a lipoma, a little fatty tumor
(benign) that is just there. IF if just came up then I would doubt a lipoma.
Anyway, your doc or the physical therapist or an orthopedist should be able
to further delineate what the lump is. Its hard for me to tell without actually
putting hands on it.
Steve Hogg Replies
I will leave it up to the health professional panellists to comment on the
soft bump behind your knee but otherwise: You are unsure whether you have
a measurable or functional discrepancy in leg length. Find out. Have an X
-ray, scan or whatever taken in a standing,load bearing position with upper
and lower legs measured between joint centres and any discrepancies in the
pelvis noted. This way the current state of play can be known.
Next, there is obviously a problem on and off bike, and that needs to be
resolved; something you are working towards. On bike, it certainly sounds
likely that you are over extending the left leg. Do you have the same amount
of movement in the damaged ankle as in the right ankle?
If you don't, any limitation of ankle movement may have caused you to change
your pedal stroke to a degree that stresses the hamstrings. If you think this
is likely, try fitting a 5mm spacer under the left cleat and see whether that
has a positive effect. I say 5mm not because there is any magic in the number,
but because one way or the other some difference in the degree of discomfort
should be obvious. Once you have done this, let me know what the result was
and I will attempt to advise further.
Neck and shoulder pain
Hi there! About two months ago I bought a mountain bike (Giant Iguana 21in
), shoes and cleats, and started riding 30 mins a day on sealed roads for about
3 weeks and for the last four weeks have switched to 2 hour rides each Saturday
and Saturday on forest trails and gravel roads. There is a decent mix of uphill
and minor technical riding. I haven't ridden a bike (apart from the gym!) for
about 15 years.
Right from the start I have suffered chronic, sharp, pains at the top of my
shoulder blades and back of my neck! I can't seem to do anything to ease it.
I am a 40 year old 6ft tall female, with a short torso and long legs (36in inside
leg). I haven't had a fitting for the bike so I just moved the seat to the recommended
height, and the bike shop boys sorted out the shoes and cleats (without me in
I am wondering whether my short body is forcing me to strain forward too much,
and strain to lift my head. I suspect there are a few things I can do to improve
matters other than get a smaller frame. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated!
Steve Hogg Replies
Sometimes I think that shops need to think a little harder about how they
do their jobs. I wish I could get someones cleat position in the right place
without their feet in them! I would love to learn that one!
From what you say I suspect that your feeling is correct i.e., long legged,
short bodied and reaching to far out and possibly down to the handlebars.
If the seat position is too far forward the weight transfer onto the upper
body will only increase any problems. Have you a sympathetic shop that will
let you try a number of shorter and maybe higher handlebar stems on a trainer
in the shop?
Your first point of call should be the shop that sold you the bike. The bottom
line is that you are either reaching too far out or down to the bars and/or
bearing too much weight on your arms or any combination of that. If the shop
can't/won't resolve the situation, is there anyone within reasonable distance
to you that has a good reputation for bike positioning? If there is, you should
pay them a visit. Make sure that they take a structural approach to positioning
rather than a measurement based approach.
I recently picked up a pair of DMT ultimax shoes. The shoes fit my feet perfectly,
yet the original soles are pretty flat. Because of this I decided to try Bill
Peterson's Powersoles, with a metatarsal pad, to help with my high arches.
They felt really good on a hill climb I just did, yet these soles raise my
foot about 0.5-1 cm higher than the original soles. Will that affect me in anyway?
The metatarsal pads also raise my toes a lot; this helped take away any burning
pain so far, but also makes my shoe a lot more cramped. While with the regular
soles the shoes fit perfectly, (minus the void) I usually get some "burning"
by the ball of my foot - during a long ride, or when I'm powering up a hill.
And without higher arches, it felt like there was nothing under my foot, which
in some cases gave me a weird stretching/painful feeling in my arch.
Steve Hogg Replies
It sounds like you have been straining the plantar fascia. Get some cork
bartape and build yourself an arch support underneath your standard insoles.
You will need to use more than one layer and taper it so it is thicker on
the inside towards the crank arm and less thick as the arch support moves
inboard. Remove the insoles, stand on them with bare feet and play around
with the homemade arch support and once it feels good, ride the bike and test
them out and modify as necessary. If this works for you the burning sensation
will disappear and you will have more room in the toebox. The only obvious
trap is that if you use bartape or something similar it will compress over
time and need to be changed periodically.
BMX training advice
I recently returned to bmx racing 2 months ago after 20 years away. In the
intermediary years I have surfed, played soccer and done squats and followed
a basic weight training program; the squats I performed seem to have given me
more power from the start than in my teenage years, and I am now 36!
I find myself in the front couple of riders going into the second straight,
yet here it all goes downhill from there - my legs literally fail me, and start
to cease. My manualling and jumping needs improving, but I was wondering if
you could suggest a good routine; would it focus on sprinting or cardio? To
remedy this problem, I have access to a training cycle and heart rate monitor
or can train outdoors on my bmx. Any tips gratefully received.
Scott Saifer Replies
The problem you describe is probably just a matter of allowing your body
to adjust to high intensity again. When you've got a good base of strength
and aerobic endurance and you start to make maximal efforts, it's pretty typical
to be able to push hard for a few seconds, and then have your legs fail. If
you were on a bike with a saddle worth sitting on, the feeling would be that
you are sprinting along standing and suddenly your legs decide that you are
going to sit down.
If this describes you, the appropriate training, to be done only one or two
days per week, is to make maximal effort intervals similar in intensity and
length to a BMX race with a good long recovery between efforts. Continue doing
these intervals until you are noticeably tired or slower than earlier the
same day. Make sure you are well warmed up before the first effort (speaking
of which, I'm assuming you are warming up at least 30 minutes and hitting
race intensity before your races, otherwise you may need a better warm-up
rather than a change in training.)
If these race-intervals are in fact what you need, your legs will come around
and you will be able to sustain the hard efforts again within 3-6 weeks. These
are very fatiguing of course, so don't do them in the few days before a race
that you actually care about.
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