Form & Fitness Q & A
Got a question about fitness, training, recovery from injury or a related subject?
Drop us a line at email@example.com.
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 December 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.
The truth about socks
More about bone density
Excess body fat
The truth about socks
I'm a 26-year-old male who did not start cycling until I was 23. I was a college
swimmer, distance events, and wanted to do triathlons in order to keep in shape.
I am a bit top-heavy, with broad shoulders, and I've always been aware that
my physique is not perfect for cycling. Also, I live in Syracuse, New York which
allows for only a fairly short training season. Despite these limitations, I
continue to improve at a gradual pace.
One of the reoccurring problems I have had is toe numbness, which actually
seems to affect the entire front of my foot. I never expect to be "light"
on my bike and avoid all numbness, but I have been struggling to go on rides
of more than 30 kilometers without discomfort. A new Specialized seat and expensive
insoles have helped this problem quite a bit, but I still have trouble with
numbness on rides that last more than an hour.
Recently, I was taking an indoor cycling class and forgot to bring my socks.
To my amazement, the numbness that I usually felt toward the end of class completely
disappeared. I have tried this several more times with great success. The socks
I use are fairly cheap lycra, completely non-descript. I'm wondering if I can
continue this sans-sock routine during the open road season.
So, is it my socks that have been causing my numbness? Or, more importantly,
does the absence of socks allow that much more room in my shoe? Is it safe,
advisable, or even sane to ride long distances without socks?
Syracuse, New York
Scott Saifer replies:
It's not so much that socks make your feet numb as that having anything too
tight around your feet makes them numb. It sounds like your shoes, without socks,
are just the right size and with socks they are too small.
Yes, it is okay to go sockless for the road season, so long as you don't end
up with chaffing or blisters. You'll know from training if it is okay for you
to race that way. Note that on hot days your feet will swell, as they may also
after longer and harder rides. That means that on particularly hot days your
perfect shoes may be too small again.
While it is okay to go sockless, I would still suggest that you get a pair
of shoes that has room for socks. If you stick with the current shoes, be sure
you let them air thoroughly between rides lest your former car-pool buddies
start needing to bring their dogs, or extra work-stands to all the races.
More about bone density
Just read Pamela Hinton's reply
to the bone density question.
My question: any studies comparing cyclists to sedentary folk? That is to say,
it makes sense that we have less bone density than runners and triathletes,
but how do we compare to couch potatoes - and what does that mean in terms of
injury and other risks?
I guess what I'm getting at is, how worried should I be? I'm a typical time-pressed
master racer, and if I have to regularly engage (2-3 times per week) in jumps
etc, that's a significant amount of time away from cycling.
If it's a legitimate, serious long term health risk, I'll do it... but frankly
I'd rather be on the bike with that time and energy.
Richardson TX USA
Pam Hinton replies:
Thanks for the follow-up question. The results of a bone density test give
you absolute bone mineral density and a comparison with a reference population.
The reference population is sedentary, young adult males and is specific for
Osteopenia (BMD 1 standard deviation below the average for young adult males)
and osteoporosis (BMD 2.5 standard deviations below the norm) are defined relative
to this reference population. In preliminary results from our cross-sectional
study, nearly 40% of the cyclists had osteopenia of the spine. This is a concern
because low BMD is associated with increased risk of fracture; each standard
deviation below the mean increases the chances of fracture by 1.5-2.5 fold.
Adding another component to your training regimen may seem too time consuming.
But, if you think about it, it takes less than 5 minutes to do 100 jumps.
I am pretty sure that all of us can spare 15 minutes per week if it will reduce
our chances of developing osteoporosis.
I have a body issue and a comment. The body issue is this. I have noticed for
the past few years that when I am riding I often "hunch" my right
shoulder up towards my ear. It is only on the right side, and I have to check
in with myself often on rides to tell myself to relax the shoulder down.
I'm a 44 year old racer and I also commute when I can. When I commute, I carry
a messenger bag; the strap goes over the left shoulder. I notice this phenomenon
more when commuting, so I am not sure if it is the bag, or if I am just noticing
it more because I am not going anaerobic.
The comment is about your balance test for sizing. I have a fairly strong core
and am pretty flexible. Thus, I can do the balance test at varying heights.
How can I tell if I am where I am supposed to be, or if it is just because of
Finally, when the hell are you going to come over to the States and do some
Steve Hogg replies:
Firstly the right shoulder. You are likely using it to stabilise but the question
is why? The likely candidates are:
1. Twist right hip forward and down on each right pedal downstroke and brace
against this challenge to pelvic stability on seat by thrusting the right shoulder
2. Do the same as suggested above but drop /rotate the left hip. This can cause
the right arm to reach further forward and thrusting the shoulder forward helps
in that regard. This is less likely than 1. but still possible.
3. Have twist in the mid thoracic vertebrae that causes you to twist the upper
torso to the right. This is less common again but there are a few people out
there who display this pattern. When they do, it is usually hand in hand with
more weight felt on the right hand and / or numbness in the right hand.
4. Many other uncommon compensatory patterns but the three above should cover
95+% of people who thrust their right shoulder forward.
Now to the balance test. I am not quite clear about what you are asking. I
am assuming you mean that you can pass the balance test at various bar heights
and stem lengths. Is that correct? If so, here are some cross checks for people
a) You need to have the bars at a height that allows you to see forward comfortably
while riding on the drops under pressure (high load, high heart rate) without
using more than about 85% of the range of motion of the neck to see forward.
b) An early warning sign for a rider who is reaching to far out and down is
perineal pressure behind the scrotum when they reach down to the drop bars,
so make sure this isn't the case.
c) If you think you have the bar height and reach where it should be and can
pass the balance test, get on a trainer and do a 10 minute AT effort. At the
end of that, by which time you should be feeling the pinch, ask yourself whether
you are having any trouble maintaining your position. By that I mean are you
arching your back, creeping forward on the seat, or otherwise being less than
relaxed. The acme of position is when the rider feels like an effort is killing
them but to onlookers looks relaxed and like they are taking it easy.
d) If the 10 minute AT effort was no problem, then go and race the bike in
that position and hurt yourself. Still no problem maintaining the position?
If yes fine and feel free to experiment further with a longer stem or lower
bar, retesting after each change. If no, (if you are too low but close and your
self description of being flexible and with good core strength is accurate,
then tight spinal erectors are an early warning sign post ride) then the bars
need to come back or up or both.
e) From what you have said about the right shoulder, there is some sort of
asymmetry happening. If you reach too far out or down, the effects of this are
likely to become more pronounced. An observer with a good eye would be able
to see this in a controlled situation; i.e. indoors.
Re when am I coming to the States - I get the same question regularly but I
can't just step off a plane and say "Hello America" - I have a family
to support and a mortgage to pay.
A lot of people contact me and ask what it would take to get me to your side
of the pond for a period, but when I tell them, they realise it is an organisational
task. Unfortunately their interest usually only extends to getting themselves
fitted if I was already there or perhaps listening to me rattle on at a seminar
or similar, not being involved in organising the customers I would need to pay
for the trip and make a living while I was there.
I have my quiet period here, in my case winter which is the northern summer
so I am open to offers. So far (and some of them have been from Pennsylvania)
they haven't amounted to anything more than individuals querying on their own
Excess body fat
As an athlete and training guru, I just wanted to point out some information
regarding the effect of excess fat. The main effect is caused by the oxidation
of fatty acids, causing in turn hydroxy radicals, peroxylradicals, and other
free radicals. The more intense your workout is, the more free radicals your
body will generate. The damage they do results in feeling stiff and sore, reducing
the exercise or quality of work that can be done. Exercising before the body
has fully recovered will subsequently allow the remaining free radicals to produce
even more damage and a higher number of free radicals (try reading A. Gerutti
'Oxy-radicals in Molecular Biology and Pathology)
So where does that leave the athlete? If you carry excess fat, it would be
best to limit the amount of exercise done at the highest levels of intensity
( personal record attempts, anaerobic levels, 4 kilometer pursuit efforts).
You should consult a nutritionist who could help you determine the level of
antioxidants you require. Overweight athletes require higher levels of vitamin
E, C, and CoQ10.
The best plan is to loose the weight. Your athletic performance will no doubt
suffer during the weight loss phase. But rest assured, it will climb back quickly
and higher once your fat levels are reduced to athletic levels. Always aim for
under 10% in a safe and slow reduction.
Scott Saifer replies:
This is intriguing. I am aware of the free radical cascade following exercise,
the vicious circle of damage and soreness, and the effect on lipids
in particular, but have never heard of differential effects depending on body
If anything, I thought since free radicals continue doing damage until they
are quenched, excess body fat might help decrease muscle damage or that it would
make no difference at all since free radicals generally travel a very short
distance before reacting with something else.
I agree that overweight athletes would do better to focus on weight loss first
and leave the hard efforts and record attempts for later, but do you have anything
to back up the idea that being over-fat has an effect on recovery or soreness
independent of the sometimes concomitant effects of being in poor aerobic condition?
David Fleckenstein replies:
While I don't question the negative effects of free radicals on the body, I
would question strongly whether free radicals are the true source of perceived
post exercise soreness.
Microtrauma induced soft tissue tearing and the resulting inflammatory cascade
is much more likely the source of post exercise soreness - I am unaware of nociceptors
(pain nerves) that are receptive to free radicals.
Other Cyclingnews Form & Fitness articles