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Form & Fitness Q & A
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Fitness questions and answers for April 10, 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.
More sore hamstrings
Eating and training
Hello and thanks for your time. I have a question about lysine and diet. I'm
a 32 year old from New Hampshire, USA, racing category 3 events. I'm prone to
cold sores (Herpes virus) and I have had a lot of luck with lysine supplements
when breakouts do occur. I've been doing some reading on foods that are high
in lysine, hoping to integrate them better into my diet to help control any
Generally the causes of cold sores for me are too much sun (I use a sunscreen
of SPF 30), dry/cracked lips from windy days and just plain old over taxation
of my system. From what I have read, the foods high in lysine all seem to be
meat (beef, chicken, fish, eggs, etc) legumes and dairy (cheese, yogurt, milk,
etc) related. The stuff I have read says to avoid foods high in arginine which
may actually contribute to cold sore outbreaks - foods such as chocolate (not
too tough to avoid), seeds, and "cereal grains".
It is this last one that concerns me. I want to make sure I am getting proper
amounts (and types) of carbohydrates in my diet. I'm a big fan of cereal with
milk in the morning, and I'm definitely a believer in the pasta and whole grain
breads and rice (all foods with higher arginine) for carbohydrates.
My question is - will I be getting adequate and proper amounts of carbohydrates
if I start focusing more on the lysine rich foods like yogurt, milk, potatoes
and lentils, while starting to diminish my intake of things such as grain breads,
pasta, etc? I do not plan on eliminating them completely, but I was wondering
if I'd be getting the same quality of carbohydrates? Is there a "diet" you would
recommend? I've also been taking 500mg of lysine supplements every other day,
but I do read that you should not do this long term without some sort of break
in the cycle. Thank you for your feedback.
Concord, New Hampshire
Pam Hinton replies
You ask a very interesting question about using nutrition to alter the course
of a disease. As you would expect, immuno-nutrition constitutes a large part
of clinical nutrition research. Before I attempt to answer your question,
we need a little background on amino acids. You have probably heard amino
acids referred to as the "building blocks" that are used to make proteins.
There are 20 amino acids that are used in protein synthesis. Some can be made
in the body and are called "nonessential amino acids;" others must be consumed
in the diet and are termed, "essential." Amino acids can be grouped based
on their chemical properties: neutral; acidic; and basic.
Arginine is a nonessential, basic amino acid that can be made in the kidney
when dietary intake is inadequate. The typical Western diet provides approximately
3-6 g of arginine per day, mostly from plant proteins. Because arginine can
be converted into nitric oxide (NO), it has been studied as a potential ergogenic
aid, immuno-stimulant and cardioprotective agent. NO may improve athletic
performance by increasing blood flow via vasodilation, although the evidence
supporting an ergogenic effect is equivocal. Arginine supplementation of immuno-suppressed
surgical patients increases immune function, accelerates wound healing and
improves patient outcome. NO may protect against heart disease by inhibiting
the development of atherosclerosis and by enhancing blood flow.
Lysine is an essential, basic amino acid, so it must be consumed in the diet.
The RDA for healthy adults is 38 mg/kg body weight/day. Good food sources
are red meat, pork, poultry, cheese and tofu. Lysine is used in the synthesis
of collagen, which is a structural protein of the cartilage, tendons, bone
and skin. Amino acids that are not used in protein synthesis are converted
either to glucose or to fatty acids, depending on their chemical structure;
excess lysine is used to make fatty acids. Lysine is used to treat and prevent
the reoccurrence of cold sores, which are caused by the herpes simplex virus.
Lysine is effective because it blocks the virus from replicating. A dose of
1000 mg per day was found to reduce reoccurrence of symptoms in one study;
3000-9,000 mg per day is the suggested dose to treat existing symptoms. Chronic
supplementation studies suggest that these doses are safe, but may cause gastrointestinal
Now, to answer your question; the reason that some advocate limiting arginine
is that arginine and lysine antagonize each other. Because of their similar
chemical structures, they compete for the same intestinal transporters. However,
it is unlikely that the amount of arginine you consume from foods would appreciably
reduce lysine absorption. As alternative to oral lysine supplements, you might
try topical lysine applied to the affected skin. A preliminary study of a
skin cream containing lysine, zinc oxide and other ingredients improved symptoms
in 30 subjects with a history of cold sores; unfortunately, the study did
not have a control group. Obviously, if the externally applied lysine is effective,
you won't have to worry about the arginine in your diet. Take care.
More sore hamstrings
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 167 weight 92kg 11% body
I resumed cycling in October 2005 and I have dropped to 80kg 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 both 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.
Richard then responded
Many thanks for your prompt reply. Unfortunately my wind trainer will not fit
my new carbon frame so I asked a friend to drive behind me with a camcorder.
As you suggested my right hip was forward and knee turned in. Today when racing
I made a conscious effort to push my left hip forward and while it did feel
a little unusual, the fast flat portions of the race were more comfortable and
power seemed more evenly distributed between both legs with little discomfort
in my hams. However I did feel that I really had to try and keep this position
and wondering would it come more naturally over time or is there something I
can do to help the situation?
Steve Hogg replies
The most common reason for what you describe is an uncorrected right forefoot
varus to a degree not common on the left. Get hold of a Lemond "foot protractor"
(sorry, not sure what Lemond call it) and some Lemond wedges. Have someone
measure the forefoot varus on both feet. I suspect from everything that you
have said to date that you will find that the right foot is significantly
worse. Fit some Lemond wedges between the sole and cleat of the right shoe.
As a starting point, 1 wedge for every 5 degrees of varus is about right and
you can add/remove and refine from there.
This won't totally solve your problem because their will be functional changes
from a lifetime of functioning like this that manifest themselves as an asymmetric
pattern of tightness. Typically, the right side hip flexors and glutes are
tighter than the left and the left side hammies are tighter than the right.
By fitting the wedges you are addressing the original stressor and with increased
attention to stretching will improve markedly. Almost certainly there will
be a difference in the height of your iliac crests with the greatest likelihood
being the right side is higher.
This may or may not be related to a measurable difference in leg lengths
and it is worth having that quantified. The only definitive way is by a CT
scan or X-ray.
Once you have done the above and assuming that everything I advise is correct,
another thing you can do is count left side pedal strokes from time to time
when you think about it on training rides. Power and to some extent symmetry
will follow awareness. By counting left side pedal strokes you are 'waking'
up the brain to the existence of the left leg.
Worst case, you might possibly find that you don't have a noticeable right
forefoot varus. If so, get back to me and I will advise along another route
to sort this out.
I am 30 years old. I ride road and MTB and play ice hockey. I live a very active
lifestyle and I'm generally healthy. However, I have developed a burring pain
in my inner left hip while riding my road bike. This pain is intensified with
increased mileage and effort. It feels like some type of tendonitis (Origin
of the Gracilis) but no one has been able to offer any answers. X-ray and MRI's
have all been negative.
Let me give you my history - I had a right knee reconstruction about seven
years ago, which resulted in tight hip flexors and hamstrings. My left lower
back seems tighter than my right side. My quads seem to be over utilised while
my hamstrings and gluteus seem to be under worked. Observers report that I appear
to be seated squarely on the saddle and have a smooth cadence; however, I feel
like my left leg drives the bike more but also extends or reaches more. My left
leg is dominant in both size and endurance.
I have tried many of your suggestions with mixed results. When I attempt to
raise my seat to take load of my quads the inner hip pain increases - when I
slide my seat back my lower left back begins to hurt.
I ride a trek 5200 with SPD pedals and Nike shoes. I should note that I began
to develop saddle sores about two years ago more on the left side than the right;
this is about eight months after getting the new Trek frame. That's when I began
adjusting my bike set up. My hip pain began about four months after I began
messing with my bike. The saddle sores are all gone but the hip pain and frustration
Thank you in advance for any help or suggestions that you may offer.
Steve Hogg replies
Proceeding on the assumption that it is the origin of the Gracilis that is
the problem; the gracilis is an adductor of sorts and relates mainly to large
movement of the thigh. Adductors tend to fire up on a bike when pelvis stability
on seat is poor. Under these circumstances we tend to enlist whatever is necessary
to stabilise the pelvis and while you say you sit square, your self description
of the over-enlistment of the left leg makes this doubtful.
The saddle sores on the left mean that either you drop the left hip or perhaps
push much more forcefully on the downstroke on the left side. Is it possible
to have a CT scan or X ray to determine whether there is a measurable difference
in limb length?
Is it possible that the recovery from the knee reconstruction on the right
caused you to develop a technique which heavily favoured the left? You mention
of a seat height increase exacerbating things only confirms that either favouring
the left leg or reaching too far with the left leg is the problem. The left
side lower back tightness may be another sign of overextending with the left.
Try lowering the seat 5mm and see if that is positive in any way. If it is
but you start to get right side problems, put the seat back up and fit a 5mm
shim under the left cleat. If either way, you end up with some improvement,
lower the seat another 5 and move the seat back 12 -15 mm. This should unload
the quads to some degree and force greater enlistment of the glutes. If this
is not what happens, get an observer to feel your glutes while pedalling under
load on a trainer.
They should feel like they are working (alternately contracting and relaxing).
If this isn't the case on one or both sides, those tight hip flexors might
be inhibiting the glutes in a neurological sense. The whole picture that you
paint suggests that your structural fitness (posture, flexibility, core strength)
is far from ideal so taking up anything that improves this has to be a positive.
Try what I have suggested and let me know what happens.
I am a 59-year-old cycling nut. I ride 4-5000 miles per year in the Colorado
Mountains - 70% of what I ride is on the road. In the last year I have developed
a pain on the lower lateral side of my right knee.
At one point last year the pain got so bad I had to stop the bike and walk
it. It was at that point that I went to a doctor. Other than noting some Arthritis
in the knee joint (where I have no pain), my Orthopaedic doctor could not offer
much help and suggested I see a physical therapist for a bike fit.
I should mention that the pain started about two months after I changed to
the SPD-SL cleat system (changed from old SPD cleats). The PT readjusted my
seat positioning and realigned my cleats (SPD-SL with 5 degree float) to the
pedals. He noted that I tend to be flatfooted and suggested mouldable foot inserts,
which I purchased later. While the adjustments helped, it did not eliminate
the pain. However, I noticed significant improvement later when I installed
the foot inserts.
I venture to say the pain almost disappeared for a while. Unfortunately, after
a month of riding the pain has returned. This may be because I'm riding the
road bike more but I also notice it gets worse when I'm doing a hard ride requiring
a lot of power from my legs. . The pain seems to be where a large tendon from
my hip passes (or is attached to) that area of my knee. (Normally my pedal stroke
is smooth and in one plane, however occasionally the knee seems to want to move
in towards my crossbar). The pain is not as significant on my mountain bike
(cleat system is SPD) but I cannot say it entirely goes away.
In investigating this I thought perhaps the foot insert might have degraded
its support of the arch so I put some padding under the arch to test it. It
helped a little. But I also have started using a knee support, and I've developed
an additional pain now. The new pain is in the hip and seems to broadcast along
the tendon that attaches between the hip and the lateral side of the knee. At
this point I'm not sure what to do? I have started doing stretching exercises
for that tendon. I have also started core body strengthening (situps, crunches,
etc.) Before I start spending more money on different shoes or different shoe
inserts or changing clips, what do you suggest? Is there something I can ask
the professionals to investigate further? Thanks for your help.
Steve Hogg replies
Any good physio should be able to advise you the best way to recover from
your (common) problem. My advice is to change your pedal system to something
with more float. SPD-SL's are a good pedal with one notable limitation. The
5 degrees of float is not enough for some people. I come across a small but
steady number of people whose footplant on the pedal changes between low load
and high load and in many cases the amount of rotational movement in the SPD-SL's
is not enough to accommodate this. This is doubly likely as your problem only
surfaced when you left a system with 10 degree float and ability to cant the
foot unthinkingly, to a system with 5 degree float and a more fixed connection
to the pedal.
You could play around with wedges in respect of canting the foot but the
path of least resistance is to go back to your old pedals and shoes.
I'm a bit tired of dealing with a sore perineal region as a result of friction
and pressure discomfort, especially with longer distance time trialling. Could
you offer any comments on alternative saddles, eg, a moonseat, and any adverse
effects this may have on performance?
One of the pro teams had odd-looking seats on their tt machines several years
ago - what happened to these?
Steve Hogg replies
There are four aspects to your problem:
1. How functional you are in a structural sense
2. Where the seat is fore and aft and nose up/down and how this forces you
to bear your weight
3. How appropriate a given seat is for you
4. The effect of other parameters of position on how you bear your weight
on the seat; eg, height and reach to the bars and cleat position.
Can you supply some more info please?
Eating and training
I am a somewhat fit cat 4 racer and I have two unrelated questions:
When I am doing a 3-4 hour endurance ride, how often should I eat, and what
are the best types of foods to eat (without shelling out big money for three
energy bars a ride)?
Also, what's the typical training plan for a Cat 3 racer? I understand that
in the US most races are fast crits, so interval training is a must. How many
interval sessions per week, how many endurance rides, etc? Thanks.
Scott Saifer replies
Have a big bite of something carbohydrate rich and easy to chew and swallow
every 15-20 minutes. Target calorie consumption is about 250-350 calories
per hour, including your energy drink. The right amount for individual riders
depends on how well trained you are, how hard you are riding and the weather,
but two good rules of thumb are: if you come home hungry or are ravenous a
few hours after a ride, you need to eat more on the ride. If you come home
feeling full you ate too much, or the wrong things.
Favourite non-bar foods among bike racers include bananas, bagels, sandwiches
(PB&J, PB & banana, cheese and jam, turkey or egg or tuna only early in rides
on non-hot days so it won't rot), boiled potatoes, yams, fig bars. I personally
used to eat tofu and onion sandwiches because they tasted okay and my moocher
ride buddies never seemed to want any of my food.
The typical training plan of a cat 3 is pretty bad, so I wouldn't suggest
that you pick your training plan by imitating what they are doing. When you
do put your plan together, limit yourself to two hard days per week, whether
those are intervals or races or hammer rides with the buddies. No matter what
else you include, base rides will always be the key to fitness and racing
success. You have to keep the volume up.
I had a performance test recently and it showed that my lactate threshold was
at 162 heart bpm. In theory and based on any recent research, when one gets
fitter after the relevant training and racing, would you expect one's threshold
to go up or down [in heart bpm]? Please let me know…thanks.
Scott Saifer replies
As you get fitter coming up from zero, the lactate threshold heart rate increases.
Once you are decently fit, the heart rate at threshold is pretty stable, but
the power at threshold can continue to rise for several years, and is the
variable in which you are most interested if you want to be successful as
a bike racer.
I'm just curious - how much time could be saved if weight was shed in 10lb
units? I weigh 220lbs and climbed Lookout Mountain in 26 min. (4 mile w/1200
ft of climbing) Assuming I maintain the same power, I was wondering how much
time could be saved for every 10 lbs of weight loss.
Scott Saifer replies
Climbing speed is pretty close to inversely proportional to total weight
of rider-plus kit-plus bike. Climbing time for a given climb is close to proportional
to total weight. So if your bike and kit weigh 25 pounds, and you weigh 220,
you can use this formula to figure your new time at a new weight:
New Time = (Old time) x (New rider weight + bike and kit) / (Old weight +
bike and kit)
Plugging in your data points we get:
New time = 26 min x 235/245 = 24 minutes 56 seconds, about a 1 minute saving
for each 10 pounds lost.
These numbers are approximate for at least two reasons: First is that as
you get lighter and go faster, your cadences will change, which will change
the power you are able to sustain, especially if you have been climbing with
a low cadence due to running out of gears. Second is that you will probably
gain some power if you lose the ten pounds by riding more, or lose some power
if you lose the ten pounds by dieting hard with reduced ride quality as a
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