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Form & Fitness Q & A
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Fitness questions and answers for September 26, 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.
Hill climbing and increased strength
Anatomic cut-out saddles
Crits with hills
IT band tightness
Numbness in the sit area
I have with great interest read your interesting advice on positioning on the
bike. You have in few words summed up an ailment that I could get no qualified
assistance on where I live (Denmark). I have previously needed to put together
the solution to my problem piece by piece and now you present it almost as an
everyday occurrence in your advice. I'm 34 and started road riding 18 months
ago after a relatively unfit former lifestyle.
After six months of increasing intensity a cleat adjustment (spd) on the left
side (heel more out) gave me an exceedingly severe case of ITB syndrome on the
left leg, necessitating a one month break from the bike. On the net I accumulated
enough advice over the next few months to switch to Speedplay zero and start
stretching (a first time for me, but know I'm a stretch addict). I then discovered
that my left foot had a severe pronation when pushing down - causing the left
knee to hit the top tube, I switched to Specialized carbon pro, but the tilt
wasn't enough. Then by chance I stumbled across Lemond wedges on the net. I've
experimented a lot and now my left sided pedalling feels good with the specialized
varus cant and two wedges. I always had saddle sores in the right side of the
crotch, and it started me thinking - you probably already guessed I found my
right shin to be about 1.5 cm shorter than the right (I'm not quite sure as
to the femur, but when I'm standing I naturally put the right leg behind, the
left up front).
I have now experimented and found to be comfortable with six wedges alternatively
flipped on the right shoe. Cleats have recently been positioned all the way
back on the left (foot a little bigger than right) with the cleat just 2 mm
short of all the way back.
-192 cm, inseam 91 cm, 87 kg (down from 95)
-Frame: TT 58 cm, headtube 19 cm + 1.2 cm spacer, saddle height 79.5 cm, stem
-Saddle: Aspide arrowhead, middle of the rail, seatpost FSA 2 cm setback.
-Cranks: 175 mm (my kneecaps are approximately 1cm behind pedal spindle.)
I recently adopted your balance test, and brought my sitting position about
two centimetres back (gone from 13 to 11 cm stem) and can pedal no hands in
the drops. Interestingly - at least to me - was that this caused me to switch
back to the Aspide after having tried out the Fizik arione for two months. On
the Aspide I always felt like I was on the hard tip whereas the Arione had a
comfortable tip when in the drops. Now that I'm further back thy aspide is perfectly
supporting, I don´t go on the tip in the drops anymore and the sitbones are
resting in the saddle. Funny thing is that now the Fizik seems all wrong cause
I seem to slide forward doing the balance test, and my general feeling is that
it doesn't keep my butt in place. Just been wondering if the popularity of the
Fizik is due to its forgiveness to faulty riding positions?
I feel that I have corrected my riding position to the best of my ability,
I have stretched so that fingers goes flat to the ground when bending forward,
but I still feel tightness in the left hamstring, glute and calf - specially
in the drops. I believe that it is due to a pelvic rotation causing my left
side to be more forward than the right (I feel my left sitbone with less weight
in the saddle than the right). Well the question now is how do I correct this
best - you sometimes mentions saddle rotation, but is that really it? Are there
any specific exercises that help this condition or should I just stretch away.
Steve Hogg replies
Congratulations on being self analytical. You seem to have largely diagnosed
and sorted out your own bike problems, which is not a thing that most find
easy. To square up your hips off the bike will probably require manipulation
from a good structural health professional like a chiropractor, manipulative
physio or osteopath. Staying straight is less easy as the longer left leg
and the accommodations your body has made to it are the likely root cause
of your problem. To minimise the effects of this, it is worth talking to what
ever health professional you settle on about perhaps using a heel lift in
the right shoe to minimise the effective leg length discrepancy when walking.
Above all, stretch and do whatever you can to increase you core stability.
Time and again I have seen people with pronounced measurable asymmetries who
don't even know that they have them as they are little affected by them because
of superior flexibility and stability. These kind of people are often more
symmetrical on the bike than off the bike. Much more often I see inflexible,
unstable people who are grossly affected by even small asymmetries as their
overall degree of mechanical function is poor. Before considering whether
to twist the nose of the seat off centre, it is necessary to find out whether
you sit asymmetrically on the bike. Have someone stand behind and above you
while you pedal under load on an indoor trainer. The likely occurrence is
that you are sitting with the left hip forward.
The less likely but possible occurrence is that you are sitting square or
even with the right hip forward. If it is the left hip forward, twisting the
seat nose to the left slightly, should straighten you up on the seat as it
will bring the left hip back and push the right hip forwards. There's a lot
of variability as to how people respond to this. If twisting the seat allows
you to pedal more symmetrically, great. For some riders, twisting the seat
is a negative. If it feels better, stick with it for a while and then reassess.
For many, riding with the seat off centre is a positive step. For others,
it accomplishes nothing other than making them less stable on the seat. So
the message is try it and see. I will leave it to Dave Fleckenstein to advise
on other measures you might take in the quest for symmetry.
Hill climbing and increased strength
My question concerns the recovery and after effects of some climbing training
that I'm doing. Usually once a week in the morning before work I do a climb
up Mount Cootha (Brisbane) to maintain my hill legs. I'm generally a pretty
good climber and like the intensity of it. It's not huge but a good work-out
(3km at 6%) and I'll usually be in the range of say 88% to 94% or my Max HR
(42 YO with a Max of 187).
My question is that in the afternoon when I ride home after doing a morning
hill climb (approx 25-30 km), without fail I feel much stronger than usual I
can power up the smaller hills and feel like I can do at least a couple of km/h
more at endurance pace (75-80% Max HR). To quote the famous Julius Sumner Miller
'Why is this so?'
Would a couple of hill sessions a week (with adequate recovery) help improve
my Max Power and Power at Endurance pace. I race mainly in Crits a(Cat 2) I
figure that hill training at high intensity has got to help with the periods
of high intensity required for crits. My average HR has steadily been decreasing
in the Saturday Crits.
Dave Palese replies
If I'm understanding your question(s) here are my thoughts:
1.) The reason you feel so good in the afternoon after your morning session
is that you legs are still wide-open from that session. That's very normal.
2.) The work that you are doing with your hill session will not yield you
any significant gains in your crit events, unless your crits are very smooth
and steady efforts (I have yet to see or ride in a crit that is smooth and/or
steady). Crits are characterized by explosive power efforts and repeatability
being the limiters to success. For success in crits you'll want to add some
anaerobic training to your mix. I suggest doing such a session in the afternoon
after your hill session in the morning since your legs feel so good. There
are a number of workouts you can do, but mix it up with sets of short (10
second to 2 minute) efforts at close to your max. The shorter the effort the
more efforts you can include in each set.
Start by doing the efforts with ample recovery (easy spinning) between each.
As time passes start to reduce the rest between the efforts to work on repeatability.
The thing to remember when doing anaerobic work is that when the quality of
your effort drop off significantly during a session, it's time to call it
Hope this helps - have fun and good luck!
Anatomic cut-out saddles
I was wondering if you could offer your opinion on anatomic saddles. To me,
it makes sense to have a cut-out in the "privates" area to relieve undo pressure,
thus minimizing numbness and possible prostate problems. However, I have heard
that wiith a traditional saddle, the pressure is dispersed over a larger sitting
area and therefore provides more relief. It seems that most of the professionals
are riding the more tradional shaped saddles, so maybe they are better.(?) I
am in the market for a new saddle, so I wanted an expert opinion before I made
my purchase. Currently I am riding on a saddle with a cut-out, however I can't
say that I am overly comfortable or have not experienced an occassional tingly
Thanks for the advice,
Scott Saifer replies
Comfort on particular saddles is highly individual. I have had many clients
swear that a cut-out saddle saved their riding careers, and equally many swear
that a brief fling with a cutout saddle was a terrible mistake. What I can
say for sure is that the position of the saddle (height, set-back and tilt)
will do a lot more to cause or relieve numbness in the manly parts, or soreness
in the womanly parts, than the presence or absence of a cutout. The width
of the sit-zone is also important as with too narrow a seat, the sit-bones
settle around the seat until the pubic region comes to rest. With a slightly
wider seat the sit bones rest on top of the saddle.
My best suggestion is to throw your leg over buddies' bikes for a few minutes
each to test possible saddles. Buy one that seems like it might work and then
adjust it per the recommendations of Steve Hogg on this site. Many better
shops will offer a saddle test ride, that is, they'll let you return a slightly
used saddle as long as it looks new. Ask before you buy. One of my local shops
actually has a six-seat carousel. You can mount six saddles that you want
to try, and spin the carousel to put each of them over a fit bike one at a
time. That saves a lot of guess work. I've only seen the device this one place,
so I imagine it's not widely available yet.
Steve Hogg replies
Seat choice is a very personal thing but I think there are large differences
between seats than whether they have a cutout or not. I ride a cutout seat
but not for the reasons you may suspect. When SLR's came out I could not understand
how such a lightly padded seat could be comfortable. I put one on to find
out and was surprised by how well the shape suited me but found that after
about 3 hours someone gradually lit a cigarette lighter under each sit bone.
At least that was what it felt like. I ended up choosing an SLR Gelflow which
is the same basic shell but with more padding and coincidentally, a cutout.
In my own case I don't particularly care about the cutout one way or another.
I know plenty of riders that swear by cutout seats and more than a few that
swear at them.
The best thing to do is find a shop that will let you try a few seats before
making a purchase.
Crits with hills
Hi, I am a 35 yr old cat 4 racer, train around 100-150 mi. per week and race
when I can. I have been racing for about 3 yrs. I feel pretty strong and confident
in most of the races which are mostly criteriums. I do have problems however
when there is a hill involved. If the hill is not to steep I seem to be OK,
but if it slopes at say 8-9% I go backwards very quickly(Santa Cruz Crit.).
Is there a way to train for the power that is needed on these types of efforts
in a criterium. I think it is a lack of power not fitness. I am 5'9" 147 lbs
so I am not a natural power house, but I would like to be able to compete in
these races. Thanks for any advice
Scott Saifer replies
Yes, you can train for those sorts of efforts by making those sorts of efforts:
Warm up well, do all out sprints up hill for about ten seconds with a few
minutes recovery in between and keep going until you are noticeably tired
or slower than on the earlier efforts.
Also consider how you are riding the hill. I've done that race four times
in the Elite 3s. I also am not a power rider. The first three I finished in
the 20s. The final time I finished in the top ten. The difference was that
the first three times I tried to hold my position every time up the hill.
The final time I gained position where it was easy for me and let people pass
me on the hill. The first three times, I used up my sprint in a few laps and
then couldn't hold my position any more. The third time I refused to sprint
before the final lap and was able to move around the pack at will right up
to the end.
I'm not saying that my strategy will necessarily work for you, but that more
training and more strength is not always the answer to an apparent lack of
a particular ability.
For the last 8 months I have been experiencing episodes of tachycardia almost
any time I attempt any very hard efforts. I am 44 years old, 5'10" and 145 pounds
and am an experienced, very fit cyclist logging 5000 to 6000 miles virtually
every year since I was 10.
I have been able to do any easy flat rides, even centuries sitting in a big
pack, and can climb hills at an easy pace with no problem. The problem occurs
when attempting longer intervals or on group rides when the pace on the hills
gets faster. Then I can keep up for a while but soon see and feel my heart rate
shoot up well over 220. At that point I just can run out of steam pretty quickly
and fall right out the back. When it is coming on it seems as if I can actually
feel some pressure building in my left chest right before my HR goes from a
typical 170/175 climbing rate to over 200. Eventually I need to drop the pace
to a crawl and spin a low gear for 10 to 15 minutes to recover, then I can usually
manage to ride along at a moderate pace again. After recovering, if I try any
more hard efforts the cycle repeats.
This is occurring on group rides with the same routes and riders that I have
been doing for years and my performance is far below normal and the effort and
physical sensations are way out of proportion with past experience on these
hills and the typical pace I can normally manage. I keep a ride log and am confident
that this is not a basic fitness or over training issue. I have changed the
batteries and then purchased a new HR monitor to make sure the information is
accurate and consistent.
I have discussed this with my doctor at my annual check up and she did the
typical blood tests and an EKG that did not reveal anything unusual. I was referred
to a cardiologist who performed an ultrasound that seemed to indicate normal
heart functioning, but of course this was in a resting state. He also had me
do a treadmill stress test which was pretty inconclusive because I didn't get
anywhere near the type of top end effort a well trained cyclist could achieve.
I have been continuing to ride for the last month, occasionally trying brief
hard efforts to see if things have been clearing up. They have not and I can
pretty much bring on the tachycardia with any very hard climbing.
Obviously I am concerned that I have not been able to determine the cause of,
or know what if any long-term consequences this may condition may hold. I have
a follow up exam scheduled with both doctors and am curious if you have any
experience with similar issues and can suggest other possible things to test
for. At this point I am anxious to get it resolved but am not sure if is cardiac
in nature or possibly some type of virus or respiratory infection, blood parasite
or a form of exercise induced asthma.
Any information or suggestions you have would be greatly welcomed. Thanks.
Kelby Bethards replies
Did your cardiologist mention doing anything called a "King of Hearts" or
an event monitor of any sort? I will often order one of these tests for instances
such as yours, where you are having symptoms we can't seem to "catch" in a
lab or at rest. It is like an EKG lead or set of leads, not all 12, but you
wear it around doing your daily life and push the button on a little box,
about the size of a page and it records your hearts electrical activity, similar
to an EKG, but only when you tell it to. IF this was not discussed you may
want to talk to your doctors there and see if this is something they feel
would be beneficial.
IT band tightness
I am 6'3" and 176 pounds, male aged 36, cat 4 and single speed/expert MTB racer.
I have been riding at least 2000 miles per year for as many years as I can remember,
although this year is on track to be closer to 4000. In the last month I have
developed a sloppy pedal stroke. Under moderate to high pressure the right leg
juts out at the top of the stroke, no pain involved. a week before I noticed
the knee movement i was walking and suddenly changed directions and crossed
over the right leg and felt a sight sting. I do have tight IT bands. Any clue
as to what may have happened? No change in riding style or position. I switch
between a pair of Sidi G4 and Pearl Izumi Flow shoes. Thanks for your help!
Steve Hogg replies
The short answer is no. If all was fine and nothing has changed with your
equipment, then that only leaves you as the variable. It is worth having a
structural assessment by a good structural health professional to find out
what has happened.
Numbness in the sit area
I am a 33 year old male and have just recently got back into cycling. I am
178cm tall and weigh 88kg. I used to do a reasonable amount of cycling although
it has always been intermittent; I didn't cycle for three years and then a year
ago decided to cycle around France covering 2500km. Since then, I did very little
cycling until a couple of months ago. I am now riding about 300kms a week and
feeling no ill effects except last Sunday on a long ride I went numb around
the perineum and reproductive bits and pieces; clearly a concerning development!
This only occurred after about 120km and after about 20 minutes of reasonably
hard work in the saddle.
Everything returned to normal after slowing and standing out of the saddle
for a few kilometres. Later I felt a tingling sensation either side of the perineum
where the Specialized bio Avatar saddle takes the pressure: it is one of those
saddles that has a cut-out and claims to retain the blood flow to the important
bits! I have only ever experienced numbness once before that I can remember
and that was on a saddle without cut-outs and when I was hunkered back into
it climbing the Alpe d'Huez. Obviously there is a correlation with the amount
of effort I am making and the relation to saddle position.
There is so much conflicting evidence about all of this that I would like an
expert's opinion on whether these cut-out saddles are worthy of the hype or
whether I would be better off with something like a Fiz:ik Arione that supposedly
is better for having greater contact area, not less. I also notice that none
of the pro cyclists seem to use cut-out saddles. I have set up my saddle height
and set-back according to the traditional calculations based on inseam and am
generally comfortable; the reach is short, if anything and I favour a shallow
drop from the saddle height to the bars of around 6cms and ride mostly on the
hoods. Any help in ensuring I don't do any permanent damage would be most appreciated!
I should add that I don't seem to have any erectile problems, but that is not
to say that damage is not being done. Thanks in advance for your advice.
Steve Hogg replies
I applaud Specialized for trying to bring some method to choosing a seat
and making what is essentially the same seat available in different widths.
However their seats are as loved or loathed as all the other brands out there.
I wish I could give you more to go on, but as ever choice of seat is the most
personal of all. I have never come across any seat that has unqualified approval
from a large majority of riders. Don't fall into the trap of lumping cutout
seats all into the same category. Just as with non cutout seats, there are
other variables like cross sectional shape at the rear, width at the rear,
longitudinal profile [ whether there is dip or not and how much], how quickly
the cross sectional shape at the rear rolls down from the centre to the edge,
where along the length the shape dictates the rider sits etc.
All of these variables occur in cutout and non cutout seats and are probably
of more importance than whether there is a cutout or not. As a retailer, I
have found that it is smart to have loaner seats so that people can buy them,
ride them and return them either for a new one if they like it, or to try
another if they don't. Look for shops with a similar ethos. When you find
a seat that suits your particular needs, buy it, and if you find they are
going out of production, buy a couple so that you won't have to go through
the selection process too often.
Last week, I wrote to you about pain on the ball of my foot after riding for
100kms. What I found out last weekend was that it wasn't in the area I just
mentioned. It was on the big toes.
What I noticed was a blister like feeling minus the water on both toes at the
sole area. I hope you can help.
Scott Saifer replies
This is a tough on to diagnose by email, but the fact that you have a blister-like
feeling suggests that the undersides of your toes have been rubbing hard against
the insides of your shoes. Are you by any chance clenching your toes when
you pedal, perhaps all the time or perhaps only when climbing or riding hard
or maybe when riding bumpy pavement? If so, you need to relax your toes. For
some people this will just be a matter of remembering not to clench. If your
feet tend to float around in a too-big shoe, it may not be possible to relax
them without getting a shoe that fits better.
One other possibility: Check your socks and the inside of your shoes to make
sure there is no seam or fold of fabric in the offended area.
If neither of these explanations seems to match your situation, please try
to send more details.
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