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Form & Fitness Q & A
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Fitness questions and answers for September 19, 2006
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.
Cramps in Calf
Crooked saddle, tight hammies and lower back
I read on September 16, 2006, the WADA voted "not to add artificially-induced
hypoxic conditions to the 2007 list" of prohibited substances and methods.
What is the latest on whether altitude tents (for use while sleeping) and/or
special masks (to be used while on an exercise bike) are of value for those
who live near sea level?
I have heard this called the 'live high - train low' method of training.
Scott Saifer replies:
There is no question that altitude tents, used appropriately, can help a
rider to boost his or her hematocrit, with effects similar an actual train-low,
Use of an altitude tent will not make the average rider into a superman,
but will give a very noticeable improvement over what the same rider can do
with the same training without the tent. Note of course that the effect is
primarily on VO2-max and power at lactate threshold, and not on sprinting
power or power for very short climbs, though sprinting will be improved if
the rider arrives at the sprint less fatigued.
Note also that sleeping at altitude, actual or simulated, has a negative
impact on recovery, so if recovery has been a challenge for you already, you'd
have to be careful to use a tent only at times when recovery not an issue,
such as when you are already well recovered from previous training.
Masks that decrease the oxygen content of the air breathed while training
will not help performance at sea level. They can help an athlete prepare psychologically
and tactically for competition at altitude, such as by allowing the athlete
to test the pace, feel and power that can be maintained at a given altitude.
I am a 49 year old male, 6' 4" tall, roughly 36" inseam and 195lbs.
I have been riding and racing bicycles since 1987 and had some success back
in my late thirties, winning medals in the Districts on two occasions. However,
when my kids came along my riding tapered off considerably, but now that they
are older, I have time again to train and have regained most of my old form.
My plan is to hit the local 50's masters racing circuit hard next year. My
question is about crank-arm length.
I am currently using 180mm crank-arms and have been for just about my entire
cycling life. I am considering switching to longer cranks (190mm), firstly on
a TT bike and then, if I like them, having a custom road frame built with a
high BB to accommodate the cranks. Also, my racing style is a breakaway artist.
Field sprints are not my thing.
Do you think this is a good idea? Will I realize any performance improvements?
I know Indurain used 190's for his hour record but do any tall pros use over
180's on the road?
Steve Hogg replies:
Before you commit money to this project, have a look at this
post of Scott's which is as good a way to determine whether you can cope
with the longer crank as you will get short of spending money.
Basically, the last paragraph is the key; i.e. in your case drop your seat
10mm and see how smooth you are over the top of the stroke. If you are, then
go get your 190's. If not, leave alone. You are long legged but how you function
will probably play at least as large a part in your crank length choice as
your inseam length.
Cramps in Calf
I have been a road bike rider for over 30 years. About six years ago, due to
knee problems, I stopped running and focused exclusively on my road bike.
I ride about three days a week, 20 - 35 miles each time, 60 - 120 miles per
week, with an average speed of 15.5 - 18 MPH depending on the terrain. I am
male, 52, 190 pounds. Lately on the longer rides, 50+ miles, I have been experiencing
cramps in my calves. First it happened just on the left, but now I am getting
the cramps on both sides. I am convinced it is not a nutrition issue. I keep
myself well hydrated, at least a 22oz. bottle every 45 minutes, plus I have
a banana a day. I am wondering if it has anything to do with the shoes, pedals,
clips or the positioning on the bike. I get the cramps most often when I am
climbing. Last Saturday, I did a 75 mile ride with a group and had issues with
cramps in my calves throughout the later half of the ride.
My bike is a Trek 2200. My shoes are Carnac, about 10 years old with the old
style SPD clipless pedals. If the problems are due to equipment, please recommend
the best type of shoe and pedal to address this issue.
Steve Hogg replies:
The first thing that occurs is cleat position. Have a look at this
post and this
post and position your cleats accordingly. If your cleats are too far
forward or much too far back, calf cramping can be one of the problems in
Also consider your seat height. When riding hilly terrain, we drop our heels
more, relative to individual technique, than we do when riding on the flat
at slightly higher cadences. If your seat is a touch too high, again, cramping
in the calves can be a problem for susceptible people.
Another matter that may exacerbate your problem is your choice of shoes.
Carnacs of the vintage that you have, have a lot of heel lift in the last.
This means that under load, many riders have to use more ankle movement than
they would with a lower heel lift last to rotate the cranks. This too can
push some over the edge.
Carnacs like yours also had cleat mounting holes that were not in the same
proportional place for every size. Basically, the larger the shoe, the further
back the cleat mounting holes proportionally. This can be a major problem
for 3 bolt cleat systems in size 42 or below and a lesser problem for sizes
43 - 45.
If your SPD's are the road version (single sided) of Shimano's mtb pedals,
then it is likely that you will have enough adjustment to gain the cleat position
recommended in the posts above. But because of the high heel lift, add a millimetre
or two to those recommended cleat positions.
The initial left side occurrence suggests that either:
1. Your cleat position is worse on the left foot.
2. You are tighter on the left side.
3. You extend the left leg more.
Crooked saddle, tight hammies and lower back
My LBS owner had me sit on the trainer and took a look at my pedalling. I am
a 35 year old, cat A cross racer and occasional road racer. I am 5'10",
170lbs and am mostly a power rider with respectable climbing ability for my
I live in a mountainous area with lots of wind. I tend to sit back on the saddle
when doing big efforts and have my bike set up with a 1.5 inch drop from saddle
to bar. I do about 8-10 hours per week and notice that I need to stretch a lot
to alleviate recurring tightness in my right hamstring and lower back.
What my friend at the shop noticed is that my saddle is worn more on the right
side and it seems to be bent down slightly on that side (it's a Sella Italia
Flite). He also noticed that my right knee comes closer to the top tube than
Other complicating factors are that my right foot is close to a full size smaller
than my left (ball of my right foot is slightly rearward of the pedal axle,
but not on the left). My right hand is a few millimetres shorter than my left
too. This leads me to wonder whether my right leg is shorter than my left.
I also had an anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction on the left knee about
15 years ago and the leg muscles tend to weaken late in the season - I seem
to favour the right as the riding season progresses. If I lift weights during
the winter, I can usually correct this.
Even if I don't have a leg length discrepancy, with the shorter foot I wonder
what things bike fit wise I can do to alleviate the tightness, possibly improve
my efficiency on the bike, and also avoid future problems. Thanks for taking
Steve Hogg replies:
Have a CT scan or waist down standing load bearing x ray done with legs measured
from joint centre to joint centre and get back to me with the results. That
way we know what we are dealing with rather than guessing.
From what you have written, it is obvious that you are dropping the right
hip. The question is why?
It may be leg length, it may simply be due to being tighter on the right
side, it may be due to having to reach further with the shorter foot, or it
may be that in the past you have developed a pattern of pedalling that favours
the right side in an effort to protect your old left knee injury.
Have that scan or x ray and let me know the result and we can proceed from
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