Form & Fitness Q & A
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Fitness questions and answers for April 3, 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.
Power to weight ratio
Road bike prep and training
Sore hamstring and calf
Eating and weight loss
Type of training
I am a 40 year old Cat 2 with 20+ years of experience. I recently competed
in a 55 mile RR consisting of 5 laps of rolling terrain with one small climb
in it. At roughly the beginning of the 5th lap I began to experience cramping
in my quads. The temps were in the upper 40's to about 50, no rain, little wind.
The average speed was about 28 mph. I normally train with a power meter. I get
about eight hours during the week and about 4-6 hours on the weekend including
a three hour 45-50 mile group ride on Sundays.
Before and during the event I ate and drank well, (Accelerade and gels during,
and good meals prior) was comfortable with the speed, never felt overextended
at all. During the 4th lap I felt great. I felt so good I knew I could compete
in the sprint. Then the cramping hit I can't figure it out. Do you have any
ideas that I might consider for cause? I am 40 yrs old, 6 ft, 150 lbs.
My weekly training includes interval workouts of various lengths and efforts.
My Threshold power is 310, VO2 measures at about 71-72 this time of year, diet
is good /healthy, and I do squats and lunges with a barbell twice a week. Do
you need more information? I really felt I was riding within myself and not
extended at all. This is the first time I ever experienced such severe cramping.
I was able to finish with the group but had to dial back a lot, lag the climbs,
spin and pray not to get dropped. Thanks in advance.
Ric Stern replies
I'd guess that cramps have hit everyone at one time or another, and are one
of those things that most sportspeople have gotten at least once. I certainly
can recall having had them in the past in races and having to soft pedal and
pray I didn't get dropped!
It appears that cramping isn't related to dehydration (as dehydration affects
the whole body and cramps only occur in the exercising muscle), but is most
likely related to muscle damage and muscle fatigue.
This most likely means that your fitness wasn't at the required level for
the event or you already had too much muscle fatigue - e.g., from previous
sessions. The race may not have felt difficult, and that you were within yourself,
but that feeling can often occur when you are excited/in a group situation,
for example, you may not be concentrating on how you are feeling - you maybe
more interested in what's going on around you and therefore you are distracted
from the pain - until really severe pain, cramp, hits you.
I'd therefore suggest that you either need to look at your pre event preparation
- to make sure you are going in fully recovered and/or not fatigued or look
at increasing your sustainable TTpower and MAP.
Power to weight ratio
When calculating your power to weight ratio, is it best to use your maximal
sustainable 20 minute power, 30 minute power, 40 minute power, or 60 minute
Santa Rosa, CA
Ric Stern replies
It really depends what you're trying to find out. For example, perhaps you
want to know about your sprinting prowess, in which case you'd look at something
like 5-second power to mass ratio, or maybe you want to know your power to
mass at MAP, in which case you'd use that. However, if you wanted to look
at power to mass ratio for time trialling it depends what you're comparing
it to. Perhaps you have a regular 40-minute training time trial that you ride,
in which case you'd look at power to mass over the 40-minutes.
It really depends what you're trying to calculate, and why. Please let me
know, and we can tell you more!
Two questions; first in the leg length posting of March 27 you suggested yoga,
pilates or similar classes - that relates to my first question. I suffer from
perineal tightness in the hamstring (and occasional cramping), what aside from
stretching would be the best method for increasing flexibility in hamstrings
The second question, which may be related, is that the day after a hard effort
I have soreness in my quads and in the IT band as well. Is it just being under
trained that causes it, or improper technique? I ride about 5,000 miles a year
in training, with a pretty good eye towards recovery rides after a hard effort.
I am a Swede in the body mould of Magnus Backstedt, with a little extra body
fat then Maggie's 3%.
Steve Hogg replies
I don't know of any method that of structural self improvement that doesn't
involve at least some stretching. Some of the health professionals on the
panel may be able to advise further on that. One thing that works for some
is buy, read and apply "Awareness through Movement", by Moshe Feldenkrais.
You won't harm yourself and may well benefit.
Your second question implies what the first does; that you are tight and
don't function well in a structural sense. The solution to that is the same
in general terms as the solution to the first query. Improve the way your
body functions as a structure. Again, stretching is likely to be involved.
Road bike prep and training
I am a 55 year old male who, for the last 6 years has ridden a mountain bike
to work and back for fitness and fun. The round trip is 24km on a bush track.
Many years ago I rode racing bikes (won the WA State Schoolboys Championships
in 1964); yes, that is a long time ago!
I have decided to ride in the Menzies to Kalgoorlie Classic early in June (132km),
and have just purchased a nice lightweight road bike. I'm a shorter rider at
5 foot 3 inches in the old lingo.
My query/questions are: Am having trouble getting used to the clip less/ lock
type pedals. After about 45minutes I get pain in the feet on the outside, about
opposite the ball of my foot. Have tried changing the position of the cleats?
But it has made no difference. Should I just persevere? It has only been a week.
I use toe clips on the mountain bike.
Leading up to an event such as this, what would a good training programme entail?
I can still do my short morning rides to work, and have every Friday, Saturday
and Sunday available for longer rides.
Is there a simple formula for setting up the seat height, position, head stem
angle etc for comfort and power?
Steve Hogg replies
I will make the assumption that you have the cleats positioned at an angle
that allows either foot to find its' natural angle on the pedal and still
allows a measure of free movement either side of that position. If you are
not sure, then that is the first box that I would tick. Once that is done,
set your cleats up as suggested in this
post, and this post.
After that, is the problem still apparent? If so, there are two likely causes.
Firstly, nerve compression somewhere between lower back and feet. Are you
tight and inflexible in the lower back?
Do you suffer from low back pain at all?
If the answer to either of those questions is yes, go and see a good physio,
chiro or similar and get some advice on a program of self improvement as that
may be all or part of the problem. Whether that is the case or not, you may
have varus forefeet. What this means is that the front part the rear of your
foot are not in a single plane, with the forefoot rolling in toward the big
toe relative to the heel.
One way we unconsciously compensate for this can be to load up the outside
edge of the foot when pedalling. To eliminate this as a potential cause try
Make a paper fitting and tape it the underside of your cycling shoe insole.
Do so like this: Get a sheet of A4 paper. Fold it along the short axis 4 times
in total until you are left with a strip approximately 20mm wide x 210mm long.
Get some packing tape and stick this along the inside edge of both shoe insoles
starting at the heel. It must reach at least as far as the front of the first
MTP joint (ball of the foot). Make sure that this paper build up doesn't go
past the centreline of the insole at the rear. It may have to be trimmed to
Fit one of these to each shoe and go for a ride. Check that cleat position
still allows you to have freeplay either side of where your feet want to be
naturally on the pedal. The fitting of the paper will change that angle to
varying degrees. Now go for a ride. If the problem is gone, that's great.
If it is reduced but still present, you need more of the same. This time though,
only fold the paper three times so that it is about 40mm wide and overlay
it over the first bit again taking care that the new piece doesn't go past
the centreline of the heel of the insole. Then test ride again checking the
cleat angle allows freeplay either side of where each foot sits on the pedal.
If trying this doesn't resolve the problem or increases its severity which
is unlikely but possible, please get back to me.
Ric Stern replies
Excellent that you're still cycling and still liking it. I hope I'm still
riding when I'm your age and older.
I can't answer all your queries as regards set up, but would suggest that
a good starting point for seat height, measured from where you sit on the
saddle to the top of your pedal, with your cranks directly in line with the
seat tube and measured to the lower pedal (6 o'clock) is 100% of greater trochanter
height. Your greater trochanter is located where there is a bony protrusion
on the outside of your leg below your hips. If you stand upright and rotate
your leg outwards and upwards, the point of rotation is where your greater
trochanter is located. There are some
images here to help further.
Your training should be based around the needs of the event (i'm not sure
what the event in question is like), your fitness goals (e.g., increased fitness
- increased lactate threshold, increased MAP, weight management), and the
time that you have available to train (no point suggesting you ride for 4
hours a day if you only have an hour morning and evening). Ourselves or one
of the coaches here would be able to help you prepare well for the event.
I am a 27-year-old male Cat 3 road racer and have been cycling for about two
years. I am experiencing sharp knee pain on the inside of my left kneecap. Any
type of bend in my left leg brings pain to the knee. It is like the kneecap
is rubbing and is out of sync. Is this a common injury called "runners knee"?
I have been professionally fit and know my measurements on the bike. I believe
the problem started when I was out on my training bike and my saddle height
was about 1cm to low. In addition, I was trying a new pedal stroke, (toes down
and piston like movement up/down) in contrast to my normal stroke of pedalling
circles. The rumour is that this stroke increases watts substantially and I
was curious. After that ride I went back to pedalling normally and iced the
knee with some rest days. The pain subsided and I trained as usual. A week later
I raced and had some severe pain after. Is this serious and do you have any
healing tips? I am currently taking Motrin and ice twice a day.
Steve Hogg replies
I won't attempt to advise on the nature of the knee injury. That is best
left to the health professionals but I want to comment on the 'more powerful'
pedal stroke technique training that caused this problem.
Pedalling technique is determined by who and what you are and the parameters
of bike position that you set yourself. It's a largely autonomic activity;
that is happening at a level below conscious control. Conscious control intrudes
from time to time while training and racing in the sense of "corner coming
up, I will stop pedalling briefly at the apex for ground clearance" or "have
to increase cadence to close gap" etc. But most of the time we are not thinking
about how we pedal.
If you look at the greats of cycling over a long period you will find a wide
range of technique. Merckx was massively heel down under any load, Hinault
was middle of the road and Anquetil was massively toe down and all were the
great riders of their respective eras. Between them they just about spanned
the range of pedalling techniques and so we can assume that no particular
pedalling technique is an indication of cycling proficiency. Under load, we
will revert to whatever technique comes naturally to us because that is how
our brain and body work. We can learn to change technique if we devote a lot
of time to the task, but for the great majority, this is wasted time.
Set the parameters of position that you are happy with and refine your technique
by riding a lot. Your brain and body will work out the rest.
Sore hamstring and calf
I recently took up road racing after an absence of nearly 12 years. I was a
top underage and junior rider and was forced to give up after two bad crashes
- one resulting in a severely torn right gastroc, the other causing a herniated
disc in the thoracic region. After nearly two years of doing nothing I took
up weight lifting and gained considerable mass (height 167cm, weight 92kg, 11%
I resumed cycling in October 2005 and I have dropped to 80 kg and discontinued
weight training. I used my old racing bike all winter and for the most part
found it ok; however, on long climbs I would find myself pulling up with my
left leg trying to get my left foot further back in the shoe, my right knee
also turns in towards the top tube and now that I have started racing in high
cadence situations my left hamstring and soleus get fatigued and sore very quickly,
forcing me to slow dramatically. I have tried lowering the saddle and moving
the cleat on the left shoe forward, both of which proved counter productive.
I am currently riding a new frame with the exact dimensions as my hack bike,
however, I still have not gotten used to the new ultra hard saddles as they
were never so hard when I raced before. Please, can you give me some advice?
Steve Hogg replies
Mount your bike on a trainer, warm up to a reasonably hard gear at 90 rpm
or so, ride with your shirt off and have someone stand behind and above you.
I strongly suspect from your self description that you are not sitting squarely
on the seat but need your observer to confirm this. What I need to know is
whether you are dropping your right hip down and forward on each pedal stroke?
And whether you are sitting with your pelvis twisted forward on the right
If you are, and it is common, then what you describe is easy to understand.
If for a number of common reasons you are twisting forward on the right side
and/or dropping the right hip, then this will bring the right knee closer
to the top tube but also make the left leg reach further to the pedals. This
would explain the hamstring fatigue and possibly the soleus fatigue as well
if the left leg is moving laterally during the pedal stroke. Get back to me
with what you find and I will try and advise.
Eating and weight loss
I have been pretty diligent at trying to lose some weight this winter while
I am in my base building period and running a caloric deficit won't harm my
Because I work for a living, there are times when my workouts have to happen
in the evening and might finish within an hour or two of my bedtime. I recognise
that not eating after my workout will compromise my recovery and replenishment
of glycogen stores. At the same time, eating late at night is not very helpful
for weight loss it would seem.
However, if I eat after my workout but yet still have a caloric deficit for
the day, am I still working toward my weight loss goal? Do the two cancel each
other out? What would be your suggested strategy to satisfy both the weight
loss and recovery goals simultaneously?
Pam Hinton replies
The key to weight loss is, as you put it, "running a caloric deficit." It
does not matter when you eat or exercise, as long as your energy expenditure
exceeds your energy intake. The reasoning behind the "eating late at night
makes you fat" myth is that food turns to fat while you sleep. However, if
you are waiting to eat dinner until late at night, presumably you did not
eat dinner earlier. The nutrients that you ingest will be used to replace
the stores that were used to sustain you during your between meal fast.
Of course, if you are ravenous by the time you eat your late evening meal
and, as a consequence, eat more than you would otherwise then a weight gain
There are observational studies in humans and controlled experiments in monkeys
showing that night time eating does not cause weight gain. So continue doing
exactly what you're doing. Exercising in the evening and eating afterwards
to optimise recovery will not jeopardise your weight loss plan. Take care.
Type of training
Hi I'm 50 years old and 220 lbs - I want to get to 182 lbs. I am a mountain
bike enthusiast, having raced in my local races, the Scottish cross country
I've been racing for two years now in the 'fun' category, but now that I've
turned 50 I want to enter the grand vet cat...so I've two goals to achieve:
1. Get to 182 lbs
2. Not come last in the races
On a Sunday morning I do a 25-mile cross country ride on a not too technical
course and on a Wednesday morning - I do a four mile jog and as of next week
I will do a road ride on a Wednesday morning and a four mile jog on a Friday
night followed by a 25 mile cross country mtb ride on a Sunday morning.
Can you give me any advice on how to achieve my goals? I don't want to win
my races just to do better.
Ric Stern replies
I'm not sure how you've arrived at wanting to reduce your weight to 182 lb
(83 kg) from 220 lb (100 kg). How much you can lose will depend on what mass
you can lose, and to know this you would need to have an accurate measure
of body fat %. This can be done by qualified personnel with either metal skin
fold callipers, with underwater weighing, or DEXA scans. If you don't know
what your body fat percentage is, you might not be able to lose all the mass
you want, as too much of it could be lean body mass (e.g., muscle and not
It appears that you are only cycling a couple of times a week and supplementing
this with a couple of jogging sessions. While the jogging will help with weight
management, it won't necessarily be specific to your cycling needs and increased
performance. Additionally, with what appears to be a fairly small volume of
training, increasing gradually the volume and frequency of training will better
help you manage your weight, bring it down, and increase your fitness. Gradually
adding in one or two more sessions a week (time permitting) will greatly help
with this in both of your goals.
I am 3rd cat rider starting my racing season. Have found that in my first two
races I have gone quite well but started to get cramp in the final 10k of a
I don't have a problem on long training rides only in races. I am a sweater
even in the early cold days of the year, and will drink plenty throughout the
Is there anything I can take during or before racing?
Ric Stern replies
Looks like cramp is the issue of the day - just had another similar question!
It's unlikely that you can take anything to prevent cramp that occurs in
races. The exact reasons why cramps occur aren't known exactly, but it's thought
it's unrelated to dehydration or e.g., lack of sodium. It is however, important
to take a carbohydrate-electrolyte drink when racing (and training) to offset
Most likely the cramp is caused by fatigue/lack of fitness, which can be
redressed with proper training and increased fitness levels. You may not experience
the cramp in training rides, as you're not going hard enough for long enough
so you don't get as fatigued as when you race (and hence don't cramp).
The training that may help prevent fitness, and importantly increase your
fitness is that which increases your lactate threshold (and TT power) and
your VO2max (and MAP). These types of training are often done in zones 2 -
5, which will specifically work at increasing the most important (for a roadie
and other endurance racer) aspects of fitness. Our
zones 2 - 5 can be seen here. We can also help prepare you with training/coaching
to have your fitness at a higher level and hopefully prevent your cramps,
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