Form & Fitness Q & A
Got a question about fitness, training, recovery from injury or a related subject?
Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
Fitness questions and answers for August 14
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.
Favoring the right side
Hot Spots and Wedges
More on bars
All the testosterone doping dialogue seems to revolve around ratios, test methods,
etc. There is a noticeable silence in these public forums re: a candid explanation
about why an elite cyclist might use synthetic testosterone--meanwhile Landis
repeatedly points out the futility of intermittent or event-specific dosing.
I have heard from competitive cyclists that it is commonplace to use testosterone
patches the night after racing to accelerate muscle recovery. Could this be
a simpler and more obvious explanation for the presence of exogenous testosterone
in the A and B samples after stage 17? Is this practise and application commonplace?
Does it work?
Kelby Bethards replies:
I am writing this without much knowledge of how to use the drugs for doping
or research into such things. Call that unfortunate, or fortunate, depending
on the circumstance. I probably will get a bunch of email toward my incompetence,
but I'll give it a whirl. They just don't teach us the usage of drugs for
illegal sports reasons in med school or residency.
If you think about what the ideal doping drug would be……a drug that makes
all the pain disappear, makes a rider faster, stronger, etc and recover instantaneously:
and is not detectable. And doesn’t have any long term ill effects. In the
real world there isn't just one wonder drug for all this. There are drugs
to help accomplish various aspects mentioned.
In the past/and currently, riders would try to stay on the envelope of testing
technology and stay ahead of the abilities of the labs. With EPO for example,
it was so much like our body’s own EPO that it make testing for synthetic
EPO very difficult. Thus the indirect way of testing…..haematocrit. If a riders
haematocrit was too high, it was suspect for EPO use.
To your question about testosterone: Testosterone should help riders be able
to recover quicker, feel less pain and in some circumstances become more aggressive.
It does work, but it is also detectable. SO, yes, you are correct, this is
the “reason” Floyd is in trouble. The testing found exogenous (aka synthetic)
testosterone in his samples. Floyd is maintaining that he doesn’t know how
it got there.
That being said, I have not heard much in the media about the following...
Tests can be wrong. Almost all tests have a potential for a false positive
or false negative. For example, over 300 tests were performed on the Tour
riders this year. Only Floyd’s sample was positive. I am oversimplifying this,
but what if a test has a 98% accuracy rate (not the actual term the medicine
community uses but that’s ok)? That means there could have been 6 false positive
test during that time.
I am not saying this is the case, just something to think about. I think
they need to do completely different test method to confirm the results. Which
they may have done, its just difficult to ferret out facts on this case.
I wonder if you can help. I find that I am susceptible to cramp in my legs
on longer or harder rides. Some sources say that a shortage of salt and electrolytes
can lead to cramp (others say it has no effect) so I have upped my intake. This
does not seem to have made a difference. What else can I do to reduce the risk
Scott Saifer replies:
Here's the text of a handout from Wenzel Coaching on some causes and cures
of cramping in cyclists. I hope one or more of the ideas in it is helpful.
What is a cramp?
Cramps are strong involuntary muscle contractions. They can occur at any
time though they are most common during or shortly after hard exercise. They
can occur in any muscle, though in cyclists they are most common in the quads,
hamstrings and calves. They can be so strong that they cause you to launch
out of a chair or actually pull a muscle.
There are many causes of cramps, though on a fundamental level they are all
the same. When you move, your brain sends signals to your muscles requesting
a contraction. The central nervous system receives feedback on the strength
of the contraction that has occurred, from which it can make fine adjustments
so that you can make a controlled movement. If the feedback says that the
contraction is harder than expected, the brain can send instructions to contract
less. If the feedback says the contraction is weak, the brain can send a signal
to contract more. As a muscle fatigues, the brain sends more signals to tell
the muscle to contract to get the same strength of contraction. When the muscle
becomes too fatigued to do what is asked of it, the brain sends a continuous
contraction signal, which initiates a cramp.
Causes of cramps and how to correct them
Anything that fatigues a muscle can bring on a cramp, and anything that keeps
a muscle fresh helps prevent cramps. Talk to your coach about which of these
might be your particular problem.
Inadequate training: You may cramp towards the end of a long or hard ride
simply because you have not trained adequately for the distance or the intensity
of your ride. Make gradual increases to volume and intensity. Pushing a big
gear: One clue that you may be doing this is if you find yourself standing
each time you need to accelerate. Another clue is measuring your cadence below
85 rpm for much of a hard ride. The cure? Switch to a lower gear. Spin to
save your legs. Get a larger rear cog or a triple crankset if necessary.
Dehydration: Muscles don't contract well if they don't contain their normal
amount of water. Stay hydrated.
Fuel: Muscles can't contract if they don't have a good supply of glucose.
Keep eating carbohydrate rich foods on longer rides. Eat something at the
start of the ride, after about 30-40 minutes and every 15-20 minutes thereafter.
Aim for about 300 calories per hour if you are under 150 pounds and 350 if
you are over 150 pounds. Electrolyte balance: Muscles will cramp if they don't
contain their normal amounts of sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium,
and those amounts change during exercise. Salt your food and eat plenty of
If you don't eat a lot of dairy, take a calcium supplement. Calcium based
antacids such as Tums have cured many cases of cramps. Take one before every
ride and one each hour of the ride if you have been having cramps. don't wait
for the cramp to take the calcium. Some green vegetables eaten raw, particularly
spinach, will leach calcium from your system and make it hard for you to maintain
a good calcium level. Avoid excessive amounts of raw spinach.
Creatine Monohydrate supplementation: Much anecdotal and some laboratory
evidence point to creatine supplementation (especially loading) as a cause
of cramps, especially if the athlete is at all dehydrated. If in doubt, avoid
Tight muscles: Regular stretching of muscles that tend to cramp can reduce
Impaired circulation: Muscles that are not receiving a good blood supply
are deprived of oxygen and fuel. They will not recover from one contraction
to the next and so will fatigue quickly. Do what you can to correct pressure
points on the saddle, in your shoes, in your shorts and anywhere else they
might interfere with circulation.
Heat or cold: On hot or cold days some people will cramp even if they do
everything else right. On hot days, do what you can to keep cool. As well
as staying hydrated, dribble water on your jersey and shorts and through your
helmet every once in a while. Chose shadier and flatter routes on hot days,
unless you are racing and don't have a choice. On cold days, dress warmly.
Favoring the right side
Being an asymmetrical rider myself and favouring my right side, I always find
Steve's bike fit questions concerning asymmetry fairly interesting. In a link
to an article on his website, he states that 95% of riders favour their right
side, independent upon whether they typically favour their left or right hand
in other matters. He hypothesizes that society favours left brain thinking and
since the left brain controls the right side and that riding a bike is a left
brain activity, that will cause the favouring of the right side.
Now I am an electrical engineer, not a medical professional, but I gave this
some thought after pushing hard through an interval last night. My hands were
not symmetrical on the handlebars. My left hand was half on the hood, half on
the tape behind the hood but my right hand was ready to shift the rear derailleur
(Campy Record 10-speed). As cyclists, we don't shift chainrings that often but
shift our rear derailleur quite frequently. Even when not shifting, our hand
is ready to shift causing an asymmetric position on the handlebars that I believe
translates to dipping the right hip and pointing the right foot outwards more
than the left foot.
What do you think? I am now going to concentrate on keeping my hands in the
same position and see if that makes a difference.
Steve Hogg replies:
I'm not an a health professional either so don't worry about it. I can't
guarantee the correctness of my hypothesis but can guarantee that the right
side bias is out there amongst cyclists
What do I think about your idea?
In your specific case who knows, but across the board I can't agree. Track
riders and single speed mtb'ers exhibit that right side bias to the same relative
degree as riders of geared bikes. No gear levers on their bikes.
The majority of adults who start riding after 30 years off the bike exhibit
the same right side bias when they reenter the sport.
The majority of new riders who haven't ridden since infancy do so as well.
A personal limiting factor for me for many years has been my knees. I'm 56
and ride a road bike mainly to stay fit. When I am physically tasked riding
up hills it feels like the muscles around both knees are burning just like your
thigh muscles might feel when they burn. As soon as I transition to a lesser
slope or a flat where I can "rest" the burning disappears. The pain isn't disabling
but primarily uncomfortable. I have no other knee problems and no pain that
persists when I am off the bike. If you have an explanation and a training regimen
that would help mitigate this condition, I would appreciate your response.
Steve Hogg replies:
Are you sure that your seat isn't too low?
As a test, find a hill and ride up it in a hard gear at around 80 -85 rpm.
Take an Allen key with you and keep raising your seat in 5mm increments until
you know you are too high. You do not want your hips rocking or any sensation
of not being fluent at the bottom of the pedal stroke. Once you have established
the maximum height where you meet those requirements, drop the seat a further
2- 3mm and that should be about right.
After you have done this, I would be interested to hear the results.
Steve Murphy responded:
I re-measured my seat height and it was right on .883 x inseam. I raised 5mm
and I will get back to you with my experimentation results.
Steve Hogg replies:
The 0.883 has never had any credibility and so is a largely irrelevant relationship.
There are too many other variables to consider.
1. It takes no account of crank length
2. It doesn't consider overall height of shoe soles, pedal platforms, and
3. It doesn't consider cleat position. Cleat further forward means ability
to reach further. Cleat further back means greater leg extension for the same
measurable seat height.
4. It doesn't consider individual differences in pedaling technique under
load. For some it is too high. For others too low.
5. No consideration of differences in flexibility. Tighter hamstrings means
lower effective seat height etc, etc.
6. Etc, etc, I could go on for some time. It is one of those ideas that has
achieved currency because of repetition. It must have worked for someone somewhere
at some time. But it is not something that I would care to apply widely.
That said, it is unlikely that you have your seat ridiculously low which
was my initial reaction. I seem to have had a run of people through my business
lately with chronic knee problems. Most of these were largely sorted out by
raising their seats 30 - 50 mm! There were other factors of course but I thought
that maybe you were a continuation of this run.
The other things that could be part of the problem are cleat position and
seat position fore and aft. Here are a few previous replies that may help
Pelvic asymmetry #1
I've enjoyed reading your articles on the website as well as the letters and
articles on cyclingnews.com. I am a USA Cycling Level II coach. One of my athletes
is a young talented guy riding in Denmark for the summer. He turned me on to
your articles, especially the one on pelvic asymmetry. He suffers from a left
hip rolled down and pelvis twisted left (i.e. right hip closer to the handlebars)
configuration. The idea of using the K-force seatpost sounds great! What was
particularly exciting is that I too suffer from a left hip down problem. My
difference is that my pelvis is twisted rightward (i.e. left hip is closer to
the handlebars; left knee closer to the top tube than the right). In both of
our cases, we tend to worsen this as the miles accumulate during the race season.
I have thought about the appropriate direction to shift the saddle on the K-force
post. The trouble is I've thought about it way too much and have thoroughly
confused myself. My question is this: In both of our cases, is the goal to shift
the seat leftward thus bringing the left ischium back on top of the saddle or
is it to shift the seat rightward extending the reach of the relatively under-extended
left leg (but leaving the left ischium rolled off the side still perhaps)? Also
what about the twisted pelvis? Is there any role in rotating the seatpost? Again,
if you do rotate the seatpost are you trying to twist the pelvis back in line
or are you trying to accommodate the twist of the pelvis?
For both of us, the article describes what may be Shangri-la in terms of bike
fit. The whole issue makes me, at least, feel very odd on the bike. Trouble
is, I am feeling the oddest when I am my fittest. Undoubtedly, more diligent
stretching would help.
Thanks for any help you can give me.
Joshua G. Barton, MD
Steve Hogg replies:
Your last and second last lines are telling. If you tend to noticeable asymmetries
of function and "I am feeling the oddest when I am my fittest. Undoubtedly
more diligent stretching would help." You feel odd at the point of max fitness
because you are considering fitness as cardiovascular efficiency and muscular
strength. That is a poor and incomplete definition of fitness. You and your
athletes problems don't stem from having well developed lungs and legs. They
stem from poor structural fitness which means in turn that neurological fitness
is probably compromised as well.
More diligent stretching would certainly help. You both have the engines
but haven't given the chassis you house them in the same consideration and
priority as you have given engine development. So I would suggest both of
you having a global, shirts off, structural assessment from someone who knows
what they are doing and work to minimise the effects of whatever is identified
and remedy the situation over time.
Now to the offset seat post. From your description, you both would need to
offset the post to the right. That assumes that there is measurable limb length
difference. For instance, sometimes a hip drop /rotation is caused by overly
protecting a short leg. That is not that common but worth considering. If
that is the case, then the seat would have to move to the left, but from what
you have said about underextension of the left leg, this is possible, but
not that likely. The goal is always to make the athlete on bike as functionally
symmetrical as possible even if the bike ends up not being symmetrical. It
would help greatly though, if you could find out the underlying reason(s)
that cause you to both drop and rotate your left hips forward. It could be
a varus forefoot uncompensated for, it could be a left side pattern of tightness,
it could be neurological thing etc etc. You may find that you have to have
the seat pointing back towards the centre line of the bike as well. Experiment
and see what feels best.
Look upon the laterally offset seatpost as a way to minimise functional asymmetries
on a bike and by all means do it, but realise too that it would be better
to tackle the root cause reasons for those asymmetries, what ever they may
Pelvic asymmetry #2
I'm a keen A/B grade road rider from Perth. My problem relates to Steve's pelvic
symmetry article. I have only been riding for 2 and a half years and have experienced
is this time due to my obsession with the sport a number of cycling related
injuries which have been addressed through proper positioning and physio. My
problem is I can't even with all the strengthening exercises in the world stop
rotating my right hip forward under severe load.
With continuous hard training this has led to excessive internal rotation of
my left leg which has caused my piraformis to be continually in spasm bursitis
at the tendon and sciatica at my left hamstring. I have just had 5 weeks off
and intend to begin training now that all the pain has settled down and would
like to test your theory on lateral seat positioning. My question is which side
off centre do i begin to position the saddle while sitting on the bike?
Steve Hogg replies:
The simple answer is 'to the left' but I had better explain a few things.
You have problems that are causing you grief and you are looking for a magic
bullet. A magic bullet is a single measure that makes problems go away. There
are no magic bullets. There are ways to work around most problems but there
are limits. A laterally offset seat post may help but probably not on its
own, given the constancy of the problems you relate. It will almost certainly
help as part of a package of other measures. It is not as simple as move your
seat to one side and hey presto, all your problems go away.
1. Have you had your forefoot varus checked?
If not, do so as it is likely that you have a pronounced right forefoot varus.
This can cause internal hip relation under load if left uncompensated for.
2. Do you drink a lot of milk or eat a lot of hard cheese. If so, stop for
a few months. Don't ask me the mechanism because I don't know and don't want
to even speculate, but I have noticed over a long period that a percentage
of people with similar right side problems to yours have them die down or
even disappear when they give up dairy foods. This doesn't happen for the
majority of people with your kind of problems but seems to have a positive
effect for enough to make it worthy of mention.
3. What do you call proper positioning?
4. Do you stretch a lot?
5.What have you been told about your problems?
By that I mean:
a. Is one leg measurably longer than the other? he only definitive way to
tell that is by a standing waist down x ray or a CT scan. Anything else is
a guess, good or bad.
b. Do you have restricted SIJ motion on one side?
c. Do you have an innominate rotation on one side?
d. Is the right iliac crest tipped forward?
e. Is one iliac crest higher than the other?
f. Are you right or left footed and which foot is longer and by how much?
Ask your physio the answer to those problems and get back to me if you wish.
Hot Spots and Wedges
I have been getting terrible hot spots on my left foot while cycling. I tried
many of the earlier suggestions such as "Move the cleat back so the ball of
your foot is more forward of the spindle" and I now have custom fit foot beds
(The vacuum made kind).
Well according the fine "Andy Pruitt's Medical Guide for Cyclists" he recommends
using LeMond Wedges to help alleviate hot spots on your feet. How does that
work as I though the wedges were aimed more towards hip and knee problems.
My guess is that the hot spot might be a symptom of a knee misalignment, or
foot varus , and by correcting this with the wedge, it will relieve the hotspot
caused by the body trying to compensate for the forefoot varus.
I have noticed too, that I get a hot spot in the same location if I am on my
feet a lot. My doctor did x-rays and found no indications of problems. What
am I missing here?
Steve Hogg replies:
I'll preface this and say I am not a health professional but here is what
I would do in your situation. If you are getting hot spots both on and off
the bike on the left foot only, then there is either an issue with foot morphology
or you are more heavily loading that foot in both standing/walking and cycling.
You don't say what part of the foot is affected and so I can only offer general
Go and see a physio and have him to a shirt off, stripped to your underpants
global assessment of you structurally. If you have a short leg or pelvic alignment
problems, they could conceivably cause your pain. Have the physio explain
in terms that you understand just what your issues are and if they have any
implications for your feet.
Once you are armed with that info, go and see a sports podiatrist and see
whether the way your left foot is put together is the reason or part of the
reason for the problem.
More on bars
I recently read Steve's reply to the question about Pro Bars and Stems on the
Cycling News Fitness Q & A Forum and found it very helpful. I was hoping however,
that you could provide me with just a little more direction.
I current ride on Easton EC90 anatomic bars and have yet to find a comfortable
and safe hand position in the drops. I am an average sized person 5'10" but
have very small hands. I have found that when I find a comfortable position
on the drops I can barley reach the STI Levers, (i.e. I can just get the tip
of my middle finger around the break lever). When I set up a position that allows
me to reasonable reach the STI Lever the wrist angle is far to great and my
hands start to tingle and the reach to the hoods becomes less comfortable.
I was thinking of switching to a non-anatomic bar with a short drop. Could
you provide me with some good recommendations?
Thanks for the help.
By the way, your direction on cleat placement has made a huge difference in
my comfort and climbing ability on the bike. Thank you!
Steve Hogg replies:
A Modolo Venus would be a good starting point for a bar to suit, but to my
knowledge they are only available in 26.0 clamp diameter. The bar you have
isn't bad. Here is the least expensive way to tackle it. Position the rearmost
lower section of the bars so that it is anything from level to running up
towards the front by no more than 5 degrees. Choose the angle that feels best
ignoring the needs of brake hood placement for the moment. Now position the
brake hoods at a height that is comfortable and minimises the angle of the
wrists when holding the brake hoods. From what you have said, you will now
have the levers in a position that is hard to reach from the drops. T. Go
to a rubber store and buy a small amount of 4 - 5 mm thick rubber. This is
to make a shim. Open your brake quick release lever and cut out a shape in
the rubber that you can glue to the underside of the brake hood body where
the top of the gear barrel would normally contact it. This will prevent the
lever from fully closing and bring it closer to your fingers. Your brake calipers
will need to be readjusted once this is done.
Shimano do make a short reach STI lever. It will work with all their current
10 speed stuff and costs a touch more than a pair of Ultegra STI's.
Other Cyclingnews Form & Fitness articles