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Form & Fitness Q & A
Got a question about fitness, training, recovery from injury or a related subject?
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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 January 9, 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.
Hormone changes and riding
I've been riding a lot lately and I have been developing a small bump in the
crease of my groin area. I have thought that this could possible be a saddle
sore but I have always thought a saddle sore was just a blister in a really
uncomfortable place - but this seems to be a harder mass than a blister. This
happened last season as well but was not as uncomfortable. After about 45 minutes
to an hour is when it is at its most uncomfortable. I have tried Vaseline and
I think that it might have helped a bit but I am wondering if there are any
other solutions out there? And what exactly is a saddle sore? There are lots
of bike guys I could ask but I was wondering if there is a female that may be
experiencing the same thing that could give me some advice. Less biking is one
solution that I am not willing to do. Thanks for all your help.
Fiona Lockhart replies:
A saddle sore can arise in a variety of forms, but usually it starts out as
a skin abrasion caused from chafing or pressure. They can easily become aggravated
by bacteria that arise in the warm, moist environment that is a crotch in a
chamois on a bike seat. There are general rules for avoiding saddle sores and
1. Find a bike seat that fits you well. Look for one at a bike shop that will
allow you to try out the seat and return it if it doesn't feel right.
2. Always wear clean bike shorts.
3. Invest in good bike shorts. They will be made with better materials, have
more attention to seam placement, and will usually last a very long time. For
the money you'll save with "budget" bike shorts now, you'll pay in many other
4. Lubricate your chamois with a cream to help reduce chafing; Chamois Butter,
Bag Balm, and Assos Cream are all common ones. Some people get by just fine
with Vaseline. Apply the cream to your groin area as well as a thin layer to
the chamois itself to soften it up.
5. Make sure your shorts fit well. If your shorts are too baggy, there may be
extra material that could bunch up and can increase chafing.
6. Have at least a couple of different bike shorts with slightly different chamois
or seam placements. That way, if you get a sore from one, you still may be able
to ride in another pair which doesn't have a seam in the same spot.
7. Get out of your shorts right away after you're done with a ride. Wash your
groin area right away as well. If you've got an open abrasion, apply a topical
ointment to it to prevent infection.
8. If you get a sore that is particularly bad, it's probably worth taking a
day or two off the bike to let the healing process begin; otherwise, you may
just prolong the agony and ultimately suffer more for it.
From a purely female perspective, what I have found over the years, and heard
from other female cyclists, is that just because something is "women's specific"
doesn't mean it's specific for you. Just because a saddle is "made for a woman"
doesn't mean it's going to fit you. I know plenty of female cyclists who are
far more comfortable on a "men's" saddle - I also know a few men who are pretty
comfortable on a "women's" saddle but are loathed to admit it. The same goes
for women's shorts. Some shorts makers have come up with a woman's chamois that
is absolutely huge - apparently to fit our different anatomy. Unfortunately,
that can end up feeling like a diaper to many women. Going back to #4 above,
if your chamois is bunching up, it can create more friction and actually make
things worse. So take the time to try on a number of shorts to find what fits
for you. Try on some men's shorts too; they may fit your body better.
Finally, in regard to your particular situation, it sounds like you may have
developed a cyst, which can sometimes arise from untreated saddle sores. These
usually won't go away on their own, so you should go see your doctor to see
if antibiotics can help or if you need to have it surgically removed. The best
way to avoid these cysts or abscesses from developing out of saddle sores is
to follow the instructions noted above.
Hormone changes and riding
Hello CN Team,
I have a question that I haven't seen addressed in this column, or in much
detail in any sports-oriented writings. I am a competitive female cyclist (cat.
3) and I have been taking oral contraceptives for the past five years. I began
taking them before I began cycling or became active at all. I plan to continue
using hormonal contraceptives because of their high rate of effectiveness. However,
I am beginning to wonder whether they may be detrimental to my performance on
I was hoping that you could discuss the effects various methods of hormonal
birth control (the Pill, the Patch, the Ring, etc.)on performance, and let your
readers know whether one particular type may be a better choice for endurance
Thanks for a great resource!
Scott Saifer replies
I can't address this question as a scientific authority, but can share my
coaching experience, which is that at least some types of hormonal contraceptives
can have a large negative impact on racing. A female client of mine who was
an excellent sprinter with the killer instinct of a tiger turned into an emotional
pussy-cat shortly after starting on the pill. Suddenly she couldn't engage
emotionally for the sprint.
When she quit the pill, she started winning again. One anecdote does not
prove much, so I'd be glad to hear from the other members of the panel who
might know more.
Elis B then responded:
Thanks for the quick response. Since I've been on the pill longer than I've
been training and racing I haven't had any major emotional shift that's interfered
with my ability to be competitive, win races, and upgrade. Of all the aspects
of my cycling, the ability to emotionally engage during a race is the one that
I am most confident in. I'm wondering more about the physical side of things;
for example, I'm a little stocky to start with (the proverbial brick shithouse
sprinter), and before I began taking the pill I was able to lose weight with
a little bit of diligence and exercise.
But these days I notice that while I definitely seem to tone and tighten up
as the season progresses, I don't actually lose weight no matter what dietary
changes I make and how careful I am about monitoring my food intake and expenditures.
I was also wondering whether hormonal birth control can affect overall heart
rate levels, oxygen consumption, fatigue, ability to gain lean muscle mass &
maintain an athletic body composition, etc. Thanks for the help!
Pam Hinton replies
Birth control pills, also known as, oral contraceptive agents (OCA) contain
synthetic forms of the female reproductive hormones, estrogen and progesterone.
OCA have some benefits for female athletes. They can be used to control the
timing of the menstrual cycle, avoiding menstruation during important competitions.
The risk of iron deficiency anaemia also is decreased in women who use OCA
because of reduced blood loss via menstrual bleeding. In oestrogen-deficient
athletes with amenorrhea (absence of menstrual cycles), OCA may reduce loss
of bone mass. Despite these potential benefits, plus the obvious one of birth
control, many athletes (and their coaches) worry that taking the pill will
cause weight gain, decrease aerobic capacity and negatively affect fuel metabolism.
However, there is very little evidence to support these fears. There are
only a handful of studies that have investigated the effects of oral contraceptives
on athletic performance and only a fraction of these used highly trained athletes
as subjects. It is important to recognise that the effects of OCA in trained
women may differ from those observed in sedentary women. A recent study of
endurance-trained athletes and sedentary controls examined the effects of
10 months of OCA treatment (both estrogen and progesterone) on body weight
and composition; aerobic capacity (maximal oxygen consumption, VO2max); muscular
strength; and bone mineral density.
Half of the athletes were regularly menstruating and the other half were
either oligomenorrheic (cycles at intervals greater than six weeks) or amenorrheic
(absence of menstrual cycles for at least three consecutive months). The women
with irregular menstrual cycles gained weight (124 to 128 pounds, on average)
and increased their percent body fat (17% to 20%, on average) after OCA treatment.
Despite this increase in body weight, maximal oxygen did not change with OCA
treatment (56.7 vs. 55.6 ml/kg/min). The bone mineral density of the women
with oligomenorrhea and amenorrhea significantly increased with OCA and the
improvement in BMD was greatest in individuals with the lowest initial BMD.
Ten months of OCA did not alter body weight, body composition, aerobic capacity,
strength or bone mineral density in the regularly menstruating women or in
the sedentary controls. (See Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
89:4364-4370, 2004 for the original research article.)
In addition to the female reproductive hormones, women also have testosterone
circulating in their blood; although, this male sex hormone is present in
much smaller concentrations than in men. OCA decrease the amount of testosterone
available to bind its receptor, and, thus its bioactivity. OCA stimulate the
production of a protein called sex-hormone binding globulin (SHBG), which
binds testosterone, making it inactive.
This reduction in testosterone likely explains why some women experience
a decrease in racing aggressiveness while on the pill. A study that was published
just this week found that the effect of OCA on testosterone levels persists
for 6 months after stopping the OCA. (See Journal of Sexual Medicine, January
3:104-113, 2006 for the original study.) A potential negative side effect
of OCA is their effect on blood lipids. OCA increase total cholesterol, low-density
lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL), and triglycerides (fats) in blood. High LDL
and triglycerides are risk factors for cardiovascular disease. The route of
hormone administration, i.e., oral versus transdermal, affects the blood lipid
Hormonal contraceptives, such as the patch, have a much smaller effect on
blood lipids than the pill. The hormones are absorbed through the skin rather
than going directly to the liver where they alter metabolism of fats and cholesterol.
The bottom line is that there are both positives and negatives associated
with hormonal contraceptive use. It is unlikely, however, that OCA have significant
negative physiological effects on athletic performance. Take care.
As a result of not recovering from a crash back in September my specialist
has told me I need to have an Arthroscopic Subacromial Decompression operation
on my shoulder, to clean a bone spur which is prodding a tendon in my shoulder.
Any idea (approximate) how long after the operation I can get back on bike.
If its going to be two months or more will I lose all of my current fitness
levels or will training right up to the op be 'money in the bank' so to speak
Scott Saifer replies
I don't know how long you will take to recover from surgery but do know that
many riders with shoulder injuries continue to train on a trainer starting
just a few days after the injury, so if you are willing to suffer on the trainer,
it is definitely worth trying to be fit before surgery.
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