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Form & Fitness Q & A
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Fitness questions and answers for April 24, 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.
Muscle warming gel
Knee problems - coach needed
Lower back pain
Heel rotation and power
Cleat setup and position
Hip flexor problem
Lower leg and foot pain
More energy use
Muscle warming gel
At age 62 I am relatively new to road biking/spinning. And I have noticed that
it takes me a while to warm up my legs and knees before I ride/spin. I can control
the warm-up phase when spinning.
However, warming up in advance for a ride is difficult, especially when I am
riding with conditioned riders. If I start slow, I get dropped and I see my
riding partners fading into the horizon.
Is there any value to using a muscle warming jell before I start riding? If
yes, do you have any suggestions for a warming jell that does not have an odour?
Andy Bloomer replies
The reality is that no warm up preparation will have any physiological benefit
for exercise. They work by irritating the skin and simply giving a feeling
of warmth from the blood flow being diverted to the surface of the skin. In
fact it is arguable that this will actually worsen the body's ability to exercise
as it re-distributes blood flow away from the working muscle where it is needed.
The effects of warm up preaparations are therefore largely psychological,
which is an effect I suppose that can't be under-estimated. If you look and
feel good then that might be beneficial to your motivation.
I'm from a climate that temperatures are frequently 60-70 degrees. I dislike
these temperatures because if I wear knee warmers I am too hot, and without
them my knees get a little cold and ache. I tried cutting up a pair of old shorts
and taping a small piece of them to my knee, but it has not worked very well.
I've seen pictures from the Eddy Merckx era of guys have small bandage-looking
covering on there knees. I'm not sure if warmth was their reason, but it looks
like a good idea. Are there any good products or alternate ways to stick a thin
piece of cloth to the kneecap area? Any suggestions (even long shots) are welcome.
Steve Hogg replies
Try the Campag knee warmers. They are sock type material and are only thick
at the front. The rear and sides are a more open weave. They may be what you
are looking for.
I am a 51 year old male recreational road cyclist who's been riding for over
20 years. I've had all the usual aches and pains over the years but have encountered
a new one that concerns me.
When I first get on the bike, I get a very sharp shooting pain in the upper
right area of my right testicle. After squirming around on the saddle a bit
and cocking my right leg away from the bike, the pain goes away.
There is a small spot on my right inner thigh to the inside of my pelvis that
triggers this pain. When I press on it, I can trigger the pain, and the harder
I press, the more it hurts. No numbness and no testicular pain when I'm off
the bike...just the quick stabs of pain until I get resettled. Is this pain
something I should be worried about?
I've done almost 10,000 miles on my current saddle, but think I may need to
go with something wider, thinking if I can get better support for my "sit bones"
I will be able to avoid grinding the saddle into that touchy spot. Any saddle
or set up changes you would recommend?
Kelby Bethards replies
It sounds like from the location that you could possibly have something called
epididymitis. However, it'll take a visit to your physician or practitioner
to elucidate this. I would certainly recommend you see somebody first, then
worry about your saddle position.
Knee problems - coach needed
Hi, I'm a 28 year old cat. 4 racer here in NYC. I raced as junior but quit
when I was 22. I returned to the sport late last season and have gradually increased
my work load. My problem is with my left knee - when I ride in my 53 for even
over two or three minutes I undoubtedly feel a pain on the upper part of the
inside of my knee after the ride. The pain continues through the next day. After
an anti inflammatory and elevation and ice the pain goes away.
I've worked on my cleat positioning, saddle for/aft and height, and make sure
I stretch properly before training. My pedals have a proper amount of float.
Here's the strange part: I don't have any problems when riding hills (neither
short and steep nor long and gradual) though, and I can't make sense of it.
Wouldn't the lower rpms and stress on ligaments and tendons affect me equally
on hills as they do when riding bigger gears? I am quite lean: 5'10 and 140
lbs, and I imagine that the lack of more muscle mass may contribute to my problem.
I can do three hour plus rides in hilly terrain without problems as long as
I don't push a gear bigger than a 53 x19 on the flats for anything but a short
amount of time. I'm extremely frustrated that I can't take my training to the
next level. I have even put off racing so far this season because I know I can't
hang by riding in my 39x17. I started increasing my training beyond roller sessions
quite late (late Feb.) and I'm thinking maybe it is related to doing too much
too soon. The upside is that I can spin high Rpms very smoothly! The advice
your team has given in the past has helped me considerably.
Also, can you recommend a good online coach? Price isn't a consideration (within
reason), but I'd like someone that can tailor specific workouts for me. Thank
you for you time!
New York City
Steve Hogg replies
That's an interesting problem - pain under load in the big ring but not in
the small ring. What would be different?
The only answer I can think of is upper body position. I imagine that when
you are in the big ring you place your hands in the drops or perhaps on the
brake hoods. I also assume that when pushing hard on the hills your hands
are positioned on the top of the bars or on the hoods. Can you tell me which
is the case?
I am thinking that the greater further lean to get to the drops ( if my line
of thinking is correct) is destabilising you on the seat to some degree and
changing the mechanics of how you pedal. Here is a preliminary course of action:
Set your bike up on a trainer with an observer standing on a chair or stool
above and behind you. Warm up and then pedal under load for a period with
your hands on the tops, then on the brake hoods then in the drops.
What your observer needs to tell me is whether you tend to drop one hip or
rotate one hip forward and whether the incidence of that increases as you
lean forward to place your hands in the drops. Get back to me with what you
Lower back pain
I race my road bike at the collegiate level. However, I've been having recurring
pain in the lower back, 2-3 lumbar region of the spine, right-side. It usually
kicks in around 1 hour into the ride, depending on the intensity, and becomes
much worse when climbing is involved. The pain is a shooting pain that feels
like a nerve is pinched. I've been to multiple bike fitters, who have adjusted
my fit to the point where I feel like the fit is great (sitting squarely on
the saddle, in a not-overly aggressive posture, all the other usual stuff -
knee over pedal spindle, hands relaxed on the handlebar, legs extended at the
bottom of the stroke).
The pain is only on the right side, but it can become unbearably painful, to
the point where I only want to pedal with my left leg. Like I said, it's a nerve-type
pain, possible the sciatic nerve getting pinched. I went and saw a sports doctor,
who said I may have a slipped disc, so I took it easy for two months, doing
physical therapy; after feeling pretty good and returning to the bike, it felt
good for a month, but the pain is starting to return. X-rays are negative for
any bone issues (MRI is fairly cost prohibitive). I've noticed (as you discussed
with a previous reader) that my right knee turns in towards the top tube when
riding, and am wondering if this has anything to do with it; strangely, I have
little/no knee pain. In any case, I feel like I've been to doctors, physical
therapists, and bike fitters, all of whom are puzzled. Do you have any insight?
Any response is appreciated. Thanks.
Steve Hogg replies
Aside from a scan of some sort to definitively nail the cause, the only info
you give that stands out is the internally rotated right hip ("my right knee
turns in towards the top tube when riding"). If you have an uncorrected right
forefoot varus, one common compensatory mechanism is to internally rotate
the right hip. This will prevent strain on the knee but over time will cause
problems large or small in the hip or lower back. This is one possibility,
not the only one. Check among the bike fitters that you have seen as to who
has the equipment to check your feet and let me know what you find.
There is also the possibility that this is a left side problem. If the left
forefoot is notably varus and this hasn't been addressed, one uncommon method
(but there are plenty out there) of compensating for this is to make all the
physical adjustments required on the other side of the body. If this is the
case, almost always it will go hand in hand with the dropping of the hip which
in your case would be the left side. Have your bike fitter of choice determine
which hip you drop if indeed you do and let me know that as well.
Less likely but still possible is that this has nothing to do with feet and
the cause arises elsewhere. It wouldn't hurt to have a good physio cast an
eye over you.
Apologies for my not so very good English, hope I can make myself clear!
I'm Swedish, male, 30 years old and quite new to road cycling. I'm only into
my second season as a road cyclist. By the end of my first season I started
getting pain in my right shoulder. It's located in the tendon that I guess is
either "infraspinatus" or "supraspinatus". It started getting more and more
inflamed so I took a long break. The pain stayed for several months - I could
not swim properly or lift heavy stuff without making it worse.
My general practitioner has just ordered rest and some gymnastic exercises,
but now I'm eager to get on my bike again as spring is coming (even to Sweden.)
I've been doing short rides on rollers; 30 minutes maximum, but I can feel the
tenderness the day after. (Although not even near as bad as last fall). I've
tried to pay attention to my position on the bike, ("experts" tell me the size
is right and the saddle position is correct) the pain is located to my right
shoulder, but I can feel the tendency in my left shoulder as well. I'm left-handed
and my left arm is stronger than the right. Could be a clue to why it's worse
on the right side?
The reason why I'm asking you is because I can't seem to get any sensible information
from any person I've asked about this. Shoulder problems seem to be quite unusual?
Ok, hope I didn't get too much into details.
Steve Hogg replies
Your English is fine. Certainly better than my Sverige! There could be a
number of causes for your problem. If your pectoral muscles are too tight
and you are forced to fold your shoulders towards each other, pain such as
you experience can be one of the results on a bike but usually this will happen
only if you are also reaching too far to the handlebars. Try fitting a handlebar
stem that is 10 mm shorter and possibly a bit higher. That should help.
Do you feel like you are supporting too much weight on your hands? If so,
this is likely to make the problem worse. If this is the case, the likely
reasons are any/or of the following - seat too far forward, bars too low,
bars too far away. I would start by shortening your stem length and seeing
what effect that has. If that doesn't solve the problem, please get back to
I'm a 38 year old woman new to bike racing. I've been biking forever and last
year finally trained for and completed a couple of centuries. I joined a racing
team in January for the coaching and training plans. So far it's been great
- it's gotten me off my trainer and I'm putting in the miles outdoors, which
has cleared up some overuse issues with my right hamstring. I'm averaging about
200 miles per week right now - although its more about the hours than the distance.
I've done two races, a crit and a road race, and had a good time. Actually did
OK in the road race. I'm starting to work on developing [some, any] explosive
My problem is this, I developed an ache in my right arm just above my elbow,
below my tri, in early March - about a week after getting my bike fit. My ART
guy [Active Release Technique - it did wonders for my overuse injuries] advised
me to do more tri stretches. In late March, I rode for a few days or a week
with my seat too low without realising. The ache developed into a pain on the
outside of my elbow that hurts sharply if I pick things up in a certain way
or when I twist my arm. My wrist began to ache as well.
I adjusted my seat to its proper height, and the pain has not increased, but
has not dissipated either. Upper body weight lifting aggravates it slightly
[depending on the move].
I'm loathe to cut back my bike time or to return to the trainer. Any thoughts
on what this might be and how I can address it? I've been icing it a bit, and
continuing to stretch the arm out. Should I go back and talk to the bike fitter
for adjustments? What will make this go away? Thanks for your attention.
Steve Hogg replies
Go and talk to the bike fitter again. Specifically, ask him whether:
1. You sit squarely on the seat
2. If not, which side do you favour in the sense of it being forward
A couple of questions for you:
1. Are you right handed?
2. Are you tighter in the right shoulder than the left or do you have a lesser
range of movement in the right shoulder than the left? Let me know the answers
to those questions.
Hi, I'm 5ft 8, 150 lbs and have 10% body fat. I want to get to 140lbs and 6%
body fat - can this be done? I try not eating, but it's not good! I try extra
protein, but I gain weight; I eat more and gain weight, I eat less and nothing
happens. I use a power meter and on a great week I'm putting out 10,000kj -
an easy week I'm doing about 1,000 per day for about five days.
I'm in school for acupuncture and get massages; I seem to gain muscle but for
some reason that doesn't translate to more calories burned and less body fat.
I went to the nutritionist and she says eat more! I was only doing about 2,000kcal
per day; I try to eat 500kcal a day less and lose nothing. I'm a smart guy but
for some reason I may feel real fit and ride strongly and yet I can't seem to
When I was in Italy a few years back I was down to 143 and was like 6% body
fat - the thing is I ate bread all day and it was so hot I was sweating all
the time. I live on the central coast of California and its always a bit cool,
I'm thinking the body does not want to give up the fat do to the cold? Am I
way off? Anyhow, if you had any ideas on what might help I'm all ears. I'm a
cat 2 masters rider - 35 years category.
Pam Hinton replies
Thank you for posing the most frequently asked nutrition-related question
in a refreshing way. I'll admit to feeling a little bummed whenever someone
asks why the First Law of Thermodynamics does not seem to apply in their case.
I know that my answer is going to cause some disappointment. But, the fact
of the matter is that energy cannot be created or destroyed.
To lose weight, you must create an energy deficit. This can be accomplished
by reducing your energy intake or by increasing your expenditure or a combination
of the two. It sounds simple enough, but when you start fighting your body's
built-in preservation mechanisms, it can be very difficult. According to the
Set-Point Theory of Body Weight, each individual has a genetically determined
weight that is normal and healthy for them. When you push your body away from
the Set Point by over- or under-eating, it fights back. The most significant
adaptation is for your resting metabolic rate to increase or decrease in response
to an energy surplus or deficit. So, one reason that you may be having a hard
time getting to your goal weight of 140 pounds is that it is below your Set
Point. In fact, you have evidence that this is what is happening. As you noted,
when you eat less nothing happens. Obviously, these defence mechanisms can
be overwhelmed in the face of prolonged energy excesses or deficits.
I realise that you are trying to get back to a weight and percent body fat
that you had a few years ago, so it seems possible. But consider a couple
of things. First of all, realise that there is a lot of error associated with
measuring body composition. The most accurate measurements have an error of
± 3% associated with them. So your "like 6" percent may not have been much
different from your current 10% body fat. Also, it is very difficult to accurately
determine energy intake. Unless you keep written records of everything that
you eat and drink, measuring portion sizes, for at least one week, you cannot
accurately determine energy intake. I am hinting that you may want to double-check
your energy intake-it may be higher than you think.
Here are my suggestions for you. First of all, do what you can to keep your
resting metabolic rate elevated. Don't starve yourself, eat small frequent
meals and snacks, and do 1-3 sessions of high intensity training per week.
Since you are a Cat 2 racer, you are likely doing that already. Second, re-evaluate
your body weight and composition goals. If you are "fit" and "ride strong"
at your current weight, why go through the agony of trying to lose weight?
I'm a 26 year-old male road racer who's been riding for almost three years.
During this time I have been using a powdered energy drink (CyctoPower by a
local company) during my rides but I have recently decided I'd like to cut down
on sugars and I'm also not sure about some of the ingredients found in energy
drinks. Last weeked I decided to try a ride with water mixed with a bit of fruit
juice. The ride was about 2hr20 mins and I felt fine up until the last 20 mins
when I 'bonked' for the first time in my life. I am pretty sure this must have
had something to do with not having my usual energy drink with me.
What I'd like to know is - what alternative is there to consuming sugary energy
drinks when on long rides? Should I be concerned about the affect they may have
on my blood sugar levels by boosting them artificially? Thanks,
Pam Hinton replies
I can't blame you for wondering about the long-term health consequences of
drinking chemicals like, potassium sorbate, ester gum, yellow #6, and calcium
disodium EDTA. But, you don't want to throw out the sugars (at least of most
of them) along with the artificial colours and preservatives. I know it goes
against all of the nutrition advice about avoiding simple sugars because of
their adverse effects on blood glucose, but during and immediately after exercise
you want your blood sugar to go up quickly.
Here's why. The glucose in blood (about 20 g) and in skeletal muscle (350
g) will last for approximately 90 minutes of moderate intensity exercise (60-70%
of VO2max). Once it is gone, fatigue hits hard. It is possible to delay or
prevent the onset of fatigue by consuming carbohydrate at regular intervals
during exercise. The recommended intake is 30-60 grams of carbohydrate per
hour. Drinking 16-32 ounces of a commercial fluid replacement beverage that
contains 4-8% carbohydrates every hour, would meet this guideline. Immediately
following prolonged exercise (2-3 hours), the goal is to replenish glycogen
stores so that you will be ready to train again the next day. Insulin secretion
is needed for glycogen synthesis to take place because it increases glucose
uptake into the muscle and activates the process of glycogen synthesis by
stimulating the enzyme glycogen synthase. So post-exercise, the greater insulin
secretion associated with simple sugars is a good thing.
If you read the ingredients list on an energy drink, you will see that there
are many names for sugar, glucose, sucrose, dextrose, maltodextrin, glucose
polymers, fructose, and galactose to name a few. You want to avoid sports
beverages that use fructose as the primary sugar (2-3% fructose). Fructose
is absorbed from the intestine by a unique pathway and its rate of absorption
is slower than that of glucose. Fructose that is absorbed from the intestine
also must be converted to glucose by the liver and this takes awhile. Thus,
it takes longer for an energy drink that uses fructose as the primary sugar
to elevate blood glucose and fuel the muscles than it does a glucose or sucrose
based drink. Another downside of fructose is that it may cause gastrointestinal
distress because it is slowly absorbed. Any fructose that remains in the intestine
can cause cramping and diarrhoea.
You are probably correct in attributing your first bonk to the dilute fruit
juice. The concentration of carbohydrate in full strength fruit juice would
be approximately 4-6%. So drinking water mixed with juice didn't give you
enough glucose. Another advantage of sports beverages over fruit juice is
that they contain electrolytes, i.e., sodium, potassium, and chloride. In
addition to replacing fluids, we need to replenish electrolytes that are lost
in sweat. The general guideline is to drink eight ounces of a sports beverage
that contains 500-700 mg of sodium per litre every 15 minutes. Maybe you could
lobby your local energy drink company to leave out the artificial colours
and preservatives in the CyctoPower, but keep the good stuff-the sugar and
Hi there, I am 24 years old, 6'2, 185 lbs. I am in decent shape considering
I am almost eight months out of complete ACL/Meniscus reconstruction. I don't
believe I have been overtraining, but for over a week now, I have been unable
to stay above 85% or even 80% of my max. I ride about five times a week, taking
two active recovery days of 70% maxhr or lower. My average HR is generally 160,
but recently, my max hasn't been going any higher than 177, whereas last summer
I was consistently averaging 170. I think I know the answer, but I need to read
it from someone else...am I overtraining? If so, is it best to just stay off
the bike for a while? If so, how long? Thanks for your time.
Scott Saifer replies
You are probably doing too much high intensity riding, but I cannot entirely
determine that from the information you have given. Technically, overtraining
is not just deep fatigue. To be overtrained your performance has to have degraded
while you maintained or increased training. So the real question is how your
average speeds or average powers on your recent rides compare with those of
a few weeks and a few months ago. If you've gotten faster and are near your
peak speeds, you are not overtrained. If your average speed has decreased
along with your average heart rate on similar courses and with similar effort,
you are overtrained.
I like that you have two relatively easy days per week. I hope you are trying
to get over 80% of maximum heart rate only one or two days per week. The other
days should be strictly below 80% of maximum. These are the general rules.
If you are overtrained, keep all your rides under 70% of maximum except for
one short testing effort per week. When you heart rate rises with a hard effort
to at least 95% of your old max and you can sustain 90% of your old max for
five minutes again, it's time to return to more normal training. Depending
on how long that takes, your normal training can be determined.
I'm a bit tired of sore perineal region from friction and pressure discomfort
- this is especially with longer distance tting. Do you have any comments on
alternative seats - e.g. a moonseat, and whether they have any adverse effects
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?
Mike then responded:
I was being a bit more tongue in cheek - more the wacky side of seat design
and if you had seen any viable alternative to sitting on metal hand railing.
I did a web search and came up with a couple of alternatives and also whether
the (I think ONCE) seat provided any benefit.
Steve Hogg replies
The ONCE seat that I think you mean was a Concor Supercorsa in the early
1990's. It had a large kick at rear, almost like a small backrest and ONCE
used them on their TT bikes at the time. I had one for a while (still have
it as a curiosity) and it is the most comfortable seat I have ever used;
plenty of firm padding but very heavy. I took it off after a short while
because the 'backrest' took up so much room that I needed a seatpost with
15- 20mm more offset than standard to get my butt where I wanted it. Seat
posts like that were unobtainable at the time. Every so often someone shows
me a "new and revolutionary" seat but from what I can see a railed seat
with a nose is still going to be with us for some time.
I have some ideas regarding seats but will wait until I have the time and
money to do something about it.
Heel rotation and power
I'm a 46 year old, 5'7" 132 lb male who started time trialing about four
months ago after coming from a competitive running background that left me
with a meniscus tear in my left knee, for which I had surgery about a year
ago. I currently log between 120-200 mi per week, all on my TT bike, which
still has Speedplay X pedals. My orthopaedic doctor tells me I don't have
a leg length difference (but there was no CT to back this up). I have four
(1) Riding my rollers, I recently noticed some asymmetric heel movement.
While my right heel remains pretty stable in neutral position, my left heel
rotates inwards on the downstroke, and outwards on the upstroke. The Speedplay
X's do not limit or centre this, but I'm a bit concerned there are forces
at work that might further harm my vulnerable left knee. Assuming forefoot
varus would be an explanation for this, I got some Specialized BG shoes that
definitely have more varus compensation than my old Shimano R151's. It seems
to have reduced the heel rotation a bit, but there still is some. Shall I
add shims even though there seems to be no leg asymmetry, or is the heel rotation
less of a problem than I think? With the old shoes, I also noticed a pressure
point on my right foot outside that went away when I turned the heel slightly
inward. This effect seems to be gone with the new shoes. Does that mean the
real problem is not sitting square enough on the bike? Unfortunately I can't
turn the saddle to find out, since the bike has an aero seatpost.
(2) Given my left knee, is it advisable at all to change to pedals with constrained
float, say Speedplay Zeros. What's the benefit of constrained float anyways?
(3) With the new shoes, I notice a slight increase in average power, by about
3-5W (that's on the roller, with same cadence). While I have heard that uncorrected
varus can sap power, I wonder if that is a realistic figure.
(4) Just out of pure curiosity - I seem to produce about 20-30W higher sustained
power on climbs (with a cadence in the 60-70 rpm range) than on the flats
(with 90-100rpms). While position on the bike certainly accounts for some
of that, I still see this effect when riding both in aero. What is the explanation?
Peter C. Mehlitz
Steve Hogg replies
thank you for fairly complete information. From (1) I will just about guarantee
that your left foot wandering around is actually an uncorrected right forefoot
varus. I will explain. If you have been reading this forum for a while you
may remember at different times I have mentioned that a greater forefoot
varus on the right side is very common. Equally, most riders whether left
or right handed protect their right sides and I have my own ideas why this
is so. For arguments sake let's assume that this is you. An uncorrected
right forefoot varus should lead to right knee pain because of consequent
lateral/rotational loads on the knee but this is relatively uncommon.
Because that right side protection mechanism kicks in and we compensate
in a number of predictable ways and the occasional weird and wonderful way.
One of the ways that the right side varus can be compensated for is to load
up the outside of the right foot and this is why the increased varus compensation
of the Specialized shoes reduced the pressure point on the outside of your
right foot. Another way common compensatory mechanism is to do whatever
is necessary to keep the right knee tracking straight and this often involves
pelvic asymmetries of function that cause the left knee and/or foot to wander
around. Correct the right side issue and you will minimise the left side
Plan of action: get a Lemond varus/valgus gauge or see a podiatrist with
similar tools to establish to what degree you have a forefoot varus on either
side. Once this has been established, fit 1 Lemond wedge for every 5 degrees
of varus on either foot as a starting point and refine by feel. Remember
too that your Specialized shoes have a small amount of compensation built
Have a look at this
post and this post
and position your cleats as suggested and you will go some way to minimising
any foot related issues as well. Get on a trainer and have an observer standing
above and behind you determine whether you sit with the right side of the
pelvis forward and whether you drop the right hip on the pedal downstroke.
Get back to me with what you find. Regarding question 2, the answer is no.
Why restrain the foot from finding its' natural place on the pedal. All
you do is leave yourself open to potential knee problems. Regarding question
3 - I have seen similar and larger improvements with no other change but
correcting footplant on pedal. Regarding question 4; the coaches can answer
that one with greater authority than I can.
Peter then responded:
Thanks a lot for your suggestions, which made perfect sense to me. The explanation
for the right foot pressure point was dead on. Here are the findings:
(1) Right foot has 5 deg varus, left foot is 0 deg (measured with the LeMond
forefoot measuring device at my local bike store)
(2) Moving the cleats back seem to alleviate the heel rotation a bit, but
I also feel like loosing a bit of power (while not constantly trying to generate
power from my calfs, I always tend to use them when I push hard, which might
be due to my running heritage).
(3) No apparent right hip drop or visible rotation, but I definitely sit
somewhat to the left on the bike, and would intuitively say my right hip is
(4) With one wedge under the right shoe, none left, the left heel rotation
didn't conceivably change (though I was only able to get 3 bolt pattern wedges,
not the 4 bolt Speedplay ones)
(5) One right, one flipped left (i.e. thick side outwards) feels better,
but still shows some rotation
(6) I tried one right and two flipped left, but it wasn't really different
to (4), and it feels kind of strange with an asymmetric number of wedges
Given that the shoes have some varus compensation built in the sole, (4)
makes sense. But it's not a one stop solution yet, which raises some more
(a) If the hip rotation is a "trained" compensation mechanism for the asymmetric
varus, doesn't it take some time to get this corrected? Does it vanish at
all without actively working on it?
(b) Why do I also see the heel rotation during single leg drills with my
left side (on the trainer)? If it's forced by hip rotation, shouldn't it go
away if the right side isn't engaged?
(c) Is there such a thing like a "dynamic" varus, i.e. the static measurement
on the left side not corresponding to the mechanics under load? In running,
I always had a slight over-pronation
(d) What role might stance width play in this? My feet were definitely too
far out, based on my hips.
I can't help it but think that while the right varus definitely contributes
to the effect, there is also some yet to be discovered cause on my left side.
I didn't mention that I'm quite bow legged, but again symmetrically. The right
foot had a pretty bad case of ruptured ligaments some 20 years ago, so I definitely
always was intuitively trying to protect this side during running.
Steve Hogg replies
When you have a lifetime of asymmetric function, correcting a stressor
won't totally solve the problem but it does mean that one less issue is
creating a problem. From what you have said about not sitting square and
feeling like you sit with right side of pelvis forward, it is worth twisting
your seat off centre so that the centre of the nose of the seat points at
right hand edge of the handle bar stem bar clamp. This will move the right
hip backwards and the left hip forwards and should have an effect on the
left heel rotation. Experiment with the degree of seat twist to find the
best amount. Too much twist and you won't follow the twist and will be even
less comfortable. Too little and nothing is achieved. The correct amount
is when you feel straight(er) despite where the seat is pointing.
To answer your queries:
(a) It takes time and is also unlikely that the right forefoot varus is
the sole problem. Rather that it plays its' part along with any other accommodations
you have made to function that way largely pain free and any other asymmetries
that you have, particularly around the pelvis.
(b) That means that you are not sitting squarely on the seat. That won't
change by pedalling one legged. Try the seat twist as outlined above and
then see what happens one legged. Ideally, it should improve. If not, please
get back to me.
(c) I don't know if there is such a term but have often found that there
can be little correlation between a static measurement and what happens
dynamically. Most of the time there is a correlation to a greater or lesser
degree but there is plenty of cases where this doesn't occur. A personal
I have varus forefeet and pronate but when I walk or run over a TCG GaitScan
( a computerised mat that measures pressure and duration of load of a footplant
and then compares to a theoretical perfect foot plant) I am near perfect.
So noticeably imperfect statically, much improved dynamically.
The converse is true for some as well. With me on bike, if I don't correct
the varus, no pain at all on the right, some niggles on the left because
like most, my tendency is to protect the right side. If I correct the varus,
then feel more even, produce more power and tend to sit more squarely.
If in doubt, ignore the static measurement and go with what is necessary
dynamically. Control of movement is very important if the goal is to cycle
to potential injury free.
(d) That depends on leg length and sensitivity. As the pedals move further
apart our hips don't. What tends to happen is that increased Q means a more
heel in / toe out pedalling style. Anyone who rides both an MTB triple and
a road double chainring bike will be familiar with this. Some are more sensitive
than others. I can ride an MTB without problems but I 'feel' ( have never
measured this) more powerful and smoother the closer my feet sit to the
centreline. For some people with externally rotated hips and tightness in
hips and lower back, the opposite is true. Don't worry too much about hip
width vs separation of feet. Experiment by moving your cleats laterally
on your shoe and find out what feels better for you. Don't necessarily be
disturbed if the answer is different for each foot. Best of luck.
Cleat setup and position
My friend has just purchased a road bike with Look pedals, and I was searching
cyclingnews for an article that would help him set up his cleats and his riding
position. I live in Tennessee and he lives in North Carolina about 5hrs away.
If I were there I could do it for him, but since I'm not this would be the
best way of helping him. This is his first road bike and first set of Look
cleats ( he as SPD's on his MTB). It seems like I read an article about this
a few years ago, but I've searched for 30 minutes and haven't found anything
for the beginner setting things up for the first time. The frame appears to
be the correct size for him, but he needs to be as comfortable as possible.
He is 45 and was in the Army for 20 years and broke his back parachuting several
years ago, so an extremely low, more aerodynamic position wouldn't be good
for him. I hope you can help me, thanks.
Dwayne C. Letterman
Steve Hogg replies
Here are a few posts to get him started:
That should get him started. If you use the search function in the archive,
there is plenty more.
Hip flexor problem
I am a 58 year old male recreational cyclist. four years ago suffered an
acetabular fracture right side. have ridden 9k since then w/o incident but
have experienced some slight tightening of the hip flexor on right side in
early season but seems to have resolved as i ride and fitness improves
This year, tightening worsens with even easy riding...even small grades aggravate
it very quickly - rest, anti-inflammatories, ice has not helped, and I have
started a stretching programme but am not making much progress
I don't have to work very hard for "tightness" to turn into pain at the top
of the pedal stroke on the inside of the leg as it meets the torso, particularly
if I make even a modest effort on a small grade. Fact is, this started on
a short, very easy ride
Do you have any suggestions? I have a ride in the Dolomites in six weeks.
Steve Hogg replies
I don't know why your right side hip flexors are tighter but in your shoes
would consult someone ( physio or similar ) who could tell you and set about
resolving the problem.
You imply that the tightness is pronounced at the top of the pedal stroke
so it is likely that anything that you can do to open up the angle between
upper leg and torso is likely to benefit you to some degree.
Firstly, raise your bars because that won't change the way you pedal but
will open up the torso / upper leg angle. Have someone watch you from above
and behind while you pedal under load on an indoor trainer. Do you drop
your right hip on the right side pedal downstroke?
The description you have given of the site of the pain means that it might
be an adductor that is hurting. If so, it is because you are either sitting
too high, are too tight, or are hanging to one side. Or any combination
Have you made any recent positional or equipment changes prior to the onset
of this problem?
Lower leg and foot pain
I have a mysterious injury, and I came across your site while trying to use
the Internet as a diagnostic tool.
I am a 25 year old female. I am not a road cyclist yet, though I'd like to
be in the near future. I'm currently just riding a Spinning bike 4 times per
week for 1-2 hour sessions. I started biking because it was the main exercise
approved by my doctor following a diagnosis of lesions on the cartilage of
the right talar dome. I would like to do more endurance riding than is typical
of spinning training. Currently, access to equipment is a problem, though
I do use the same bike nearly every time. I can therefore tailor my shoes
to work with that bike's pedals. I followed the same routine on one brand
of bike from Sept-Jan, and I changed brands in January (changed gyms). My
lower leg and lateral foot pain started in mid February. I find cycling to
be good cross training for my main activity, equestrian sports, and I'm worried
the problems I'm developing will affect both activities.
I do own road cycling shoes by Specialized. They are supposed to have a slight
medial wedge, which I thought would be helpful for my chronic medial tibial
stress syndrome (10 years). Because of the MTSS, the ankle injury, and a slight
curvature of my right tibia, I have become a strong supinator on the right
side. I have more range of motion in my right hip than my left, and I tend
to sit slightly off the left side of the saddle. I am conscious of this and
have been working on correcting my pelvic positioning in the saddle (the same
happens with a horse's saddle). Despite sitting to the left side, I feel that
I have greater reach with the right leg (I would ride a horse with a slightly
longer right stirrup. I do not have leg length discrepencies). I wonder if
I am reaching too much with the right, especially with the toes and the outer
side of the right foot. I tended to get hot spots, cramps, and calluses on
the ball of the left foot; maybe because I am putting too much pressure on
that pedal (the hip function is weak at the top of the stroke).
My main question concerns lateral foot pain. It seems to be some type of
tendinitis, because the pain is worse after rest, particularly first thing
in the morning. A new stress fracture is possible but there are no signs on
the X-rays yet. It doesn't quite fit plantar fasciitis, and it doesn't quite
fit peroneal tendinitis. My doctor is leaning towards peroneal tendinitis,
though the pain is only at the attachment points. The peroneals function fine
with little or no pain. Standing and walking are the main triggers, though
after several steps, the pain lessens dramatically. It seems more likely to
be the peroneus brevis, because the pain is the worst at the fifth metatarsal.
I've read what you've posted about cleat position. I have tried several times
to move the cleats back farther under the balls of my feet. They felt like
they were too far forward, even with the base of the big toe rather than at
the first metatarsal joint. Perhaps this is just a problem with spin bike
cleats or these shoes, but the cleats keep moving towards the toes within
an hour of riding after having moved them back towards the arch. I tighten
the screws as much as possible. So, I haven't been able to conduct a good
experiment as to whether the cleat positioning is to blame.
My physical therapist wants to correct the supination by changing my orthotics.
Since I would not wear orthotics with cycling shoes and I'm not sure I necessarily
supinate in them anyway (due to my equestrian background, I am more prone
to anchoring my weight on the pedals under my big toes. I just feel that I
may be trying to grab at the right pedal with my right foot). I can tell that
my right ankle dorsiflexes a little more on the upstroke, but it also feels
more relaxed overall than the left during the entire motion. Since this problem
started about a year after I was banned from weight bearing exercise other
than moderate walking, I suspect that new orthotics in my street shoes will
not be the answer.
I should mention that my illio-tibial bands and hip flexors are chronically
tight. I have slight palpable right lateral calf pain near the upper attachment
points for the peroneals. I wonder if my right hip and pelvic joint problems
are the primary problem. Do you have any suggestions for how I can make my
shoes cooperate? I am interested in getting answers not only to figure out
how to alleviate this pain but so that when I invest in a road bike and a
training bike I will know what my needs are. Or if there is no fix, I will
know that this is another sport I have to avoid before making such an investment.
Steve Hogg replies
Firstly you need to find why the cleats move under load. That is unusual
if they are tight. Consult a good bike mechanic as to why this is happening
since you haven't been able to resolve this. It just shouldn't happen if
everything is tightened and fitted correctly. You say that you sit to the
left but feel like you can comfortably reach further on the right side even
though there is no leg length discrepancy.
How limited is the range of movement in the left hip?
If it is pronounced, and your self description makes it sound that way,
have you considered a shorter crank on the left side? The lateral foot pain;
is it present on both sides or only on the right?
More energy use
I just read your post on energy use confirming that the conversion from KJ
to calories burned is accomplished by multiplying by 4-5. I've had my efficiency
tested in a lab, but that was a year or so ago and I don't recall the number.
Is that I use to get the actual calories I've burned, i.e., the CPSB (calories
per snickers bar) measurement?
For a short ride I just did: 25 miles, some hard efforts, mostly moderate
stuff, my SRM says that I burned 786.6 kJ. Does this mean I burned over 3000
calories in 90 minutes? That sounds very high to me. I'm 23 years old, 6'
tall about 178 pounds and a cat. 2 racer. I calibrate the SRM about 20 minutes
into each ride, as suggested by SRM. Any help would be great.
Scott Saifer replies
Apparently I misinterpreted the original question. I thought we were using
Calories throughout the discussion. To convert from calories of work done
to calories of energy expended, multiply by four or five (20-25% efficiency).
To convert from KJ of work done to Calories expended, just keep the same
number since on Calorie is about 4.18KJ.
And for people who are really paying attention, 1 Calorie is 1000 calories.
1 calorie is ~4.18 joules.
Ric Stern replies
It appears that in the previous answer at the Fitness Q&A there was a mistake.
Your SRM (or a Power Tap) reports mechanical energy expenditure in Kj,
in the case of your recent of 787 Kj. This is converted to the more 'usual'
food energy measure of Kcal by dividing by 4.18; i.e., 188 Kcal.
However, as Scott pointed out the human body when cycling is about 20 -
25% efficient for trained cyclists. The efficiency figure varies for actual
absolute power, cadence, road grade, etc. Thus, to get the complete picture
on how much energy (in Kcal) you expended you need to then multiply the
188 Kcal by a factor of 4 to 5; i.e., you would have expended somewhere
between 753 to 940 Kcal depending on various factors. As you divide KJ by
4.18 to arrive at Kcal and then multiply up by a factor of 4 - 5 for efficiency
you can estimate your energy expenditure by just saying that whatever the
actual number was in Kj is approximately what you expended in Kcal. In other
words, in your ride you expended 787 Kj per your SRM, and you approximately
expended 787 Kcal.
You can't really get anymore accurate than that - because even if you've
been to a lab and had your expired respiratory gases measured to calculate
your gross efficiency, your efficiency will change due to various factors.
Of course you could purchase a portable gas analyser and ride with that
at all times, but I'm thinking that, that would be somewhat cumbersome and
not much fun!
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