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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.

Cyclingnews also has the full directory of all Form & Fitness questions and answers to our expert panel in a separate archive.

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 May 8, 2005

Power at LT threshold
Lower leg and foot pain
Seat angles and power
Shaved legs

Power at LT threshold

I was recently tested on LT Threshold. My maximum heart rate is 192, I am 5' 7 149 lbs and have been riding for about two years. I plan on doing some racing as a Cat 5. I searched previous articles in the archives but did not see an article regarding my question. I was tested on a veletron with a heart rate monitor. The test was done on 5 minute stages while maintaining same cadence throught the testing. After 5-minute stages, wattage was increased 25 watts on a gradual hill simulation. My results were: 174 beats per minute was my LT.

Power at LT was 210 watts. This was figured out by graphing the stages of my heart rate and where the biggest fluctuation was. My question is this: what are some intervals that help develop one's power at LT if you do not own a power meter? I have read that power is the main objective in training in this area because of the outside factors that can affect heart rate (temperature how you are feeling, etc). Any information on this would be helpful, thanks.

Ric Stern replies


Firstly, it's important to clarify that you haven't had your LT measured. Although there are a few different definitions of LT there are some common points, these being that you have to have blood drawn (usually a finger prick capillary measurement or from an ear lobe) and your blood is checked for the amount of lactate.

The most common definitions of LT are the work rates that elicit a 1 mmol/L increase in lactate over exercise baseline levels (giving a lactate of and 2.x mmol/L) or the work rate that elicits a fixed lactate of 2.5 mmol/L. These measures of LT are actually quite low, and the work rate would be about 10 to 15% less than that, which can be maintained maximally for ~ 1-hour. Work rate is measured in power output (watts - W) for cycling or velocity in running (m/s or km/hr).

I'm guessing that what someone thinks they measured is the HR associated with what you can maximally sustain for about one hour. However, your TT HR (for want of a better descriptor) can vary at the same power output by a significant amount (about 10 or more b/min) depending on previous training and acute fatigue.

People have been training to increase sustainable power output (etc) since prior to power meters. I'm guessing that you actually want to increase your sustainable/TT power rather than your LT power per se (although they are very closely correlated, such that an increase in one results in an increase in the other). There's many ways of increasing this power, which would mainly revolve around you riding at a near TT intensity.

This would include one to four intervals of 15 to 30 mins duration, with a few mins easy recovery between each effort. Cadence should be in your normal range, and i would suggest doing a mix of these intervals on flat or hilly roads, and occasionally indoors on the trainer. This would coincide with about zone 4 in my training schema. Other longer efforts at around zone 3 for 60 to 120 minutes and shorter efforts of 3 to 10 minutes at zones 5 and 6 will also help increase your sustainable fitness.

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 Xrays 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 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.

Catherine Miller


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?

Catherine then responded:

Thank you for responding. Since I wrote you, I have made some discoveries in training and with my physiotherapist.

First, I have been able to move the cleats back and have them stay in place. I just needed to move them back significantly to keep them from slipping forward. What I thought were 5mm markings on the shoe were in fact 1/4 inch markings, so I needed to move them back farther than I initially thought anyway. The right side feels fine, but I think my left cleat might need to move back even more relative to the right.

Second, the lateral foot pain is only present on the right foot. It's the most pronounced at the attachment of the peroneal tendons in the foot, but occasionally the pain will appear on the top of the foot near the base of the outer 3 toes. (Pain at the attachment point in the upper calf has been alleviated by therapy). I feel discomfort on plantar flexion and dorsiflexion more than when I engage the peroneals to move the foot laterally. I've been using massage and ultrasound therapy on the tendons, and I have just started strengthening exercises for the ankle. Unfortunately, I am limited in the exercise I can do in that regard, because several resistance based exercises aggravate my talar dome injury. I've found that pedalling with my toe pointed more and with slightly more weight on the lateral foot alleviates some of the pain. In general, though I only feel the foot pain on the bike when I stand on the pedals (which I do not do often).

Third, I forgot to mention that these problems slowly arose after I moved the seat one notch higher. I don't think I am sitting too far back. I moved the seat, because I felt that I relied too heavily on my quads and the downstroke when I sat lower. I am not overextending my knee at the new height. (I initially felt my original position on this brand of bike was about 1/2 notch lower than where I had sat on the previous brand I used last fall). From reading postings, I think this move made the cleat position problem more noticeable, which is why I've mostly been playing with cleat position. I tried cycling with my orthotics in my cycling shoes, but that didn't seem to help apart from providing some more arch support.

Fourth, the left hip is quite tight. I think it's accurate to say it is a "snapping hip," because I frequently feel a pop when I walk, in the part of the stride where the left leg is the farthest behind me. With stretching and myofascial release techniques, that hip can move as much as the right (in fact, the right hip will crack more under these pressures), but I can't make it move this well on a regular, functional basis without assistance. When I was a baby, my left foot was turned inward (I think - it could've been outward, I can't remember for sure), and I had to sleep in a brace to correct the problem. This could be the root of my asymmetry.

The lower glutes and hamstrings on the left side are consistently underdeveloped compared to the right, while the hip muscles and glutes higher up near the top of the pelvis are more developed on the left compared to the right. Since the foot pain has begun, I have noticed that my left quads are becoming much more developed than my right, and my left upper thigh is slightly larger overall. (yet the appearance of the right leg is better in terms of lean muscle tone). I don't know if I'm favouring the right leg because of the injuries or whether this indicates a different problem.

My physio realized that my right SI joint was out of alignment, as I have suspected for the past 16 months (my doctor had said I was fine). This problem has been fixed, and we are working on strengthening the pelvic area so that the muscles will continue to hold it in its proper place. The right hip and leg is more curved outward, while a comfortable position for the left leg on the bike would point my knee slightly inward. (I do not position the cleats such that I toe-in, because then I definitely overload the outer head of the left quadriceps). When I am on a horse, I tend to have my right stirrup slightly longer than my left, despite my sitting slightly off the left side of that saddle, which is why I feel that I have better reach and function with my right leg. That said, my left is more stable, and is my dominant leg. It is sometimes too still and stable, in that when I ride horses, I tend to rub the fur off a spot on the left side of the horse's belly with my left spur, and on the bike, when I pedal with one leg at a time it's harder to pedal with my left leg, particularly in the upstroke.

I haven't considered a shorter crank on the left side, because I am currently only using bikes provided for me by my university rec centre. I will certainly look into this when I buy a road bike. But my first purchase will probably be my own Spinner trainer (because of the risk of further injuring the right talus as a novice clipped in on the road), and I'm not sure how I could adjust that bike.

In an experiment this week, I tried sitting more off to the right side of the saddle, and I felt that this actually freed up the movement of the left leg some, though I still felt some weakness on the upstroke. This makes me face the left handlebar more. Do you think I should try lowering the seat again? Or do you think I still haven't found the proper cleat position for this seat height? My doctor doesn't think an MRI is indicated at this time, but my physio and I are at a loss, because the right peroneal does appear strong and the pain is generally localized at the attachments. It's possible, but not probable, that I have a stress fracture of the 5th metatarsal. Given the problems with my left leg (old tibial stress fracture, worse ankle drawer test, and tight hip) I can't understand why I keep injuring my right leg (OCD-talus, SI joint misalignment, more painful medial tibial stress syndrome, and the new foot pain).

I found a massage therapist experienced in myofascial release techniques. She said that my ilia were still out despite adjustments from the physiotherapist. The left one was too far forward, and pulling on that foot caused no motion in my upper body. The right SI joint still had limited mobility and the front of the ilium was too far back, and rotated inward.

After treatment, my range of motion in a forward bend or hamstring stretch was dramatically improved, especially on the right. On the bike, I can feel increased activity in my left hamstrings and my right quads. My adductors on the right side are still tight as are the abductors on the left, and I continue to slip out of alignment easily. The right hip still feels internally rotated at the front of the pelvis. This may be a result of being born with my left leg outwardly rotated (I may have said the opposite before, but I checked with my parents).

You've said a lot about foot varus in other threads. I may have a plantar-flexed 1st ray or forefoot valgus (the first metatarsal has "dropped", though it will dorsiflex normally). My physiotherapist has added a slight wedge under the outer forefoot. Since my hips have been adjusted, it feels that the medial wedge I already have under the arch needs to be raised slightly to help the motion of the first metatarsal. I am leaning this way, because a day of cycling and walking caused some pain and swelling around the talar dome injury, the deltoid ligament, and the rear, medial part of the arch under that ligament. Although I supinate to compensate for my problems, with my hip and knee more aligned, I could be overpronating more at the ankle. I have trouble balancing on my right leg. When I've put my orthotics in my cycling shoes, however, I haven't noticed any difference in my pain level.

Although the peroneal tendons have been the major site of foot pain, the pain was alleviated by almost 90% after the tibialis anterior muscle and the tendons between that muscle and the ankle were manipulated with deep tissue massage and ultrasound (compared to maybe 30% temporary improvement with treatment of the peroneals alone). The foot pain returns in the morning, but analgesic salves and self-massage has helped. When the hips slip back out, however, the foot pain returns in full force.

I'm working figuring out what the correct, aligned position for my body feels like both on and off the bike. I am still concerned that there is something I am doing on the bike that contributes to my alignment problems. Since I need to train my muscles to hold my bones in their proper place and not revert to old, crooked habits, I'm interested in anything you can suggest.

Steve Hogg replies


You have significant problems and I'm not sure that via email is the best way to deal with this; for what it is worth here are a couple of observations.

You mention that your orthotics don't improve your situation on bike. That being the case seek a bike specific solution regarding your feet. My experience is the orthotics that are well prescribed for walking or running issues and then used for cycling shoes are of benefit approximately 50% of the time and of no benefit or indeed part of the problem the other 50% of the time and there are good reasons for that.

Next, you mention that when you move to the right on the seat, your left leg feels stronger and more stable. Can your spinning bike be modified with a shim or whatever to use a conventional 27.2mm seat post? If so, there is a temporary to medium term solution. FSA have a range of seat posts with what they call a Data Head. The seat rail clamp is comprised of an upper and lower cradle and a longitudinal piece that runs fore and aft over the top of the upper seat rail clamp. This longitudinal piece is tightened down over the seat rail clamps by two bolts. One at the front and one at the rear. The upper seat rail clamp is located centrally by two projecting pins that are either side of the longitudinal piece. If these two pins are filed or ground off ( 10 seconds with a grinder), then the rail clamp assembly can be moved laterally approximately 12mm to either side.

This range of posts are available in zero, standard and significantly more than standard rearward offset so whatever you are likely to need in terms of seat setback is available. If you can fit one of these, and based on what you have said, and move your seat laterally to the right side this will improve the way your left leg functions and then you can reevaluate what you feel are the relative extent of your problems and tackle them on a priority basis.

Let me know how you get on and from what you have said, stick with that masseur.

Seat angles and power

I am a 23-year-old cat 3 with a couple of questions about geometry, muscle groups and wattage. I currently ride a carbon Felt with a 75 degree seat tube angle and pretty aggressive positioning - I am considering switching to a regular 73 degree geometry and have ridden both in previous years...I am curious if there is any information out there as how wattage, pedalling efficiency (spinscan) and muscle efficiency is affected by the hips being rotated in the more aggressive position similar to a time trial bike.

Am I wrong in thinking that being more vertical (steeper seat tube angle) would create a more up and down circle and increase calf muscle use, compared to a traditional angle (73 degree) creating a larger area and less of a dead spot in which a rider must pull and push at the bottom and top of circle (as this is recommended for the better pedal stroke)?

I'm wondering if the 73 angle would produce more watts, but the steeper angle seems to be a more natural race position because of how the body naturally roles forward on the saddle and rotates the hips when the body is on the rivet; I know there is a lot of info for triathletes as to why seat tube angles assist in running after the bike ride, but how does it effect power and efficiency? Thanks for any help.


Steve Hogg replies


I have to say at the outset that I have no idea what you need and what would give you the best performance from the options you are looking at because I know nothing about you other than what you have told me, which isn't much.

The relative merits of 75 vs 73 degree seat tube angles owe more to the function, technique and proportion of the rider than to one or the other being 'better'. The number placed on a seat tube angle is unimportant. What is important is how appropriate a given seat tube angle is for a given rider. There is a bit of latitude as well. On your 75 degree seat tube angle frame, that number assumes you have the seat in the middle of its range of adjustment on a standard offset seat post. If you have it all the way forward on the rails, then you are riding an effective seat tube angle of 76 degrees more or less. If you have it all the way back, you are riding 74 degrees effective, give or take a touch.

You mention that you like an 'aggressive' position. I'm not sure what aggressive means ( I think "effective" is the word that I would most like to apply to someone's position) unless you have been reading tri magazines where it is used to connote bum up/ head down positioning. To ride effectively like that, you don't necessarily need a steep seat tube angle. You need an appropriate seat tube angle and the flexibility to ride like that. I ride with my bars 120mm below my seat on a frame with a 71.7 degree seat tube angle because that is what is most effective for me and I am flexible enough to be able to do it comfortably. My position is probably what you mean by aggressive but i use a relaxed seat tube angle. There is no magic in the number of the seat tube angle that I ride, it works for me.

What you need to do is find out what works for you. If you look in the archive there is a lot of positional advice that you may care to apply in an effort to find out what works for you.

What is an "up and down circle"?

To solve your problem. Why don't you borrow a suitable frame with a 73 degree seat tube angle, ride it for a while and make a judgement? Don't get hung up on numbers or speculating about theoretical advantages/disadvantages. Ride both options for a while for alternate weeks and it should become obvious to you which is best in your case.

Shaved legs

Could you please tell me what the pros and cons of having shaved legs are? I'm a 35 year old male second season club rider who is struggling to entertain the idea of shaving their legs. I was told by one guy the only reason to shave your legs is for massage purposes, and by another, if you were to have an accident on your bike wether it be racing or training the wound(gravel rash) would take longer to heal because your hair follicles carry bacteria which stay in the wound prolonging the healing process. If the main reason is the latter then fair enough I will shave my legs. I see all the pro riders have shaved legs and practically all the other club riders but that does not make me feel the need to shave my legs unless there is a practical reason for it. Any advice will be greatly appreciated.


Scott Saifer replies


Shaved legs make a tiny difference in aerodynamic drag. They can receive a massage without pulling hair. They are easier to apply sunscreen or embrocation and also to wash it off later. They look good. In an accident, they may even slide more smoothly with less tearing away of skin. But the real reason that most club riders shave their legs is because most club riders shave their legs. For a cyclist, going in public with hairy legs is kind of like a male going in public in a skirt as far as how others perceive you. Some won't care, some will laugh behind your back.


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