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Form & Fitness Q & A

Got a question about fitness, training, recovery from injury or a related subject? Drop us a line at Please include as much information about yourself as possible, including your 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.

The Cyclingnews form & fitness panel

Carrie Cheadle, MA ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 any geography.

David Fleckenstein, MPT ( 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 ( 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 other end.

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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 a coach.

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.

Fitness questions and answers for April 10, 2005

Lysine question
More sore hamstrings
Hip pain
Knee pain
Saddle options
Eating and training
Lactate threshold
Hill climbing

Lysine question

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 future outbreaks.

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.

Peter Rhodes

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 upset.

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 fat).

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 side?

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.

Hip pain

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 remain.

Thank you in advance for any help or suggestions that you may offer.

Tom Goldbacher

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.

Knee pain

Hello Cyclingnews,

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.

Mark Angel

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.

Saddle options


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?

Mike Bowles

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.

Jackson Smith

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.

Lactate threshold


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.

Sai Yeung

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.

Hill climbing


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 result.


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