Form & Fitness Q & A
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Fitness questions and answers for March 13, 2007
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.
UCI positioning regulations
Left knee pain
Training whilst on antibiotics
Q-factor across cranksets
Different crank lengths
Leg length discrepancy
UCI positioning regulations
Do you ever think the UCI's overreaction to Graeme Obree's radical positioning
will ever end? Why do professional cyclists accept this absolutely daft ruling?
It is actually embarrassing watching the UCI. men with blazers checking this
out on the pro bikes at some of the races I have attended.
Sorry as a Scot who lives not that far away from Graeme it still rankles!
Steve Hogg replies:
I am sympathetic to the UCI's stated aim which is to make cycling a sport
of competition between athletes rather than technologies. The problem is that
a lot is left to be desired with the implementation of that aim and their
seemingly ad hoc rule making regarding position.
Why do riders put up with it? It's the only game in town.
At what point should I consider using a chamois cream to improve my saddle
comfort and my "butt" post ride comfort? Is it a matter of ride duration
i.e. hours in the saddle? Or is the need to use such a cream for a three hour
ride an indication that there is a problem with saddle position or with my saddle/butt
I do not get any saddle sores after three hours in the saddle and I have very
comfortable high quality bibs (Assos), I get out of the saddle every 10-15 min
for 30-60sec. I do not experience any particular saddle discomfort during the
But there is a slight tender/warm feeling, down there, post ride which lasts
for ~24 hours. After 1-2 days off the bike it all clears up. I was thinking
to try some Assos chamois cream (or something else?) but am concerned I would
be masking a saddle fit problem.
Steve Hogg replies:
From the various emails we have exchanged, I know you are fairly tight and
have a leg length discrepancy. If you are moving around laterally on the seat,
that would explain the symptoms you note. I hate chamois cream because it
is a moist breeding ground for bacteria but if functional issues mean that
there is potential for abrasion, then it is better than ignoring the situation.
The other thing is that if your seat is a tiny bit too high, too far forward,
too far back or bars a touch too low or too far away or the leg length difference
is not adequately accounted for; any of those things can cause susceptible
people to be slightly less stable on their seat than they can be.
Seat choice is a deeply personal thing. The best seat running around at the
moment in the sense that it seems to suit the widest range of backsides is
the SMP Strike Stratos. They need a bit of care setting them up but I am finding
them very popular, especially given that they aren't cheap at all.
I'm 197cm tall and have an inseam of 94cm. I have recently purchased 180mm
cranks as I have read a number of reports indicating I should have cranks at
around this length based on my inseam. My old cranks were 175mm.
After changing to the larger 180 cranks and lowering my seat height to allow
for the extra 5mm I took the bike for a ride and noticed a drop in performance.
Thinking this was possibly a bad day I persisted with the longer cranks for
a month. However, the whole month with 180 cranks was below my standard level,
especially when climbing.
I then changed back to the 175 cranks and was instantly back up to my old race
I'd be happy with the fact that the longer cranks don't work for me, but I
actually feel like I have a smoother pedal stroke when I have the longer cranks
Does this make sense? Do you think I should try the longer cranks again or
do the results of a lower performance show the results?
Steve Hogg replies:
Firstly, the right crank length is the one you can go fastest on and sometimes
that can depend on the type of racing you are into and the terrain you race
Secondly, I don't know what length cranks you should be using but would give
the 180s a go for as long as it takes you to form a firm opinion. You may
think you have done that, BUT...
Thirdly, one invariably overlooked aspect of changing crank length is chainring
size. When you go from 175s to 180s you are increasing crank length by a little
under 3%. If you are using the same size of chainrings, you are having to pedal
a larger circle just as fast as ever to go at the same speed. This means that
your foot speed increases by nearly 3% as the foot is further from the axis
of rotation of the crank.
Assuming you are using 53/39 chainrings, a fairer test would be to add just
under 3% to your chainring size. For the 53 you have now, that would equal a
54 tooth if you want to be conservative and a 55 tooth if you want to be less
conservative. For the 39 ring, replace it with a 40. Then go and ride for a
period with similar foot speed and a slightly higher gear at slightly lower
cadence and you will be making a fair comparison.
As I work myself into shape and gain strength, it only makes sense to me that
my position on the bike should improve. How often should I have my fit/position
checked and adjusted?
Steve Hogg replies:
Some people are very body aware and know when they have changed significantly.
They may not know what has changed but will be aware that something is not as
it should be. If you are one of those people, have your position checked whenever
you feel you have changed.
If you are not, once a year is about right. It is probably overkill for some
but better safe than sorry. Other things that come into whether it is time is
if there is significant weight gain or loss, significant increase or decrease
in flexibility or if there have been any injuries or accidents.
Left knee pain
This is my second year of serious cycling and last year I rode close to 6000
kilometres without any pain or aches. At the time I was running Speedplay x5s
and everything seemed quite alright. During one of my rides when I was pushing
very large gears I ended up causing some sort of injury to both of my legs.
After the ride I felt fine but 3-4 hours later there was this really sharp pain
on the sides of my knees that just seemed to not want to go away.
At first I didn't think it was a big deal so I pushed right through the
pain but it never got better, contrary to that it actually started to get worse.
I stopped training for 4 weeks and decided to get a physiotherapist's help.
He diagnosed the problem as the little tendon on the outside of my calf, right
behind the knee and on the outer edge (I think he was correct).
After 3 sessions I felt reasonably good and I was back on the bike. I gradually
moved from 2 hours of training per rides/week to 8 hours in the span of 4-5
weeks. However things have really changed since the day of that ride (November
25th 2006). My right leg seems to have recovered just fine and it is back to
normal, but my left knee seems to be in quite a bit of disarray (I should mention
that I have switched my shoes and cleats since then to the Zeros and the Nike
I have less pain in my left knee when I spin faster and when I don't push
large gears. I have no pain if I go through a really intense workout, the pain
just seems to disappear. I have been doing some core training (hip flexors,
adductors and abductors) and my knee is feeling a bit better on the bike, I
am almost painless during the days that I spend 2 hours on the trainer.
It is hard to explain but I know something is wrong with my left knee. It is
always kind of stiff and I hate any short distance walks because that's
when the aches and pains really resurface.
So to be more clear, I have a lot more pain off the bike than on the bike.
I am ok with that but I am planning to race and bike for a long time and I want
to know if I can do anything to go back to the pain free days. I had my roommate
have a look at my pedal stroke from the front and he mentioned that when I pedal
my left knee tends to go out (get a way from the top tube) when coming up (moving
from 6 to 12 position) and move in (get closer to the top tube) during the down
stroke (12-6) and he mentioned that my right leg and knee don't seem to
move half as much.
How can I address this problem? I should also mention that when I am pedaling
I can totally notice that my right leg is much close to the top tube (almost
brushes against it) than my left leg, I try to bring my left leg in but when
I don't look it just moves right out.
My pain and aches are all on the outside of my left knee (right where the IT
band and the big hamstring tendons are).
Steve Hogg replies:
Your problem is a simple one. When an organism feels pain (your double calf
injury) it will always autonomically self protect. The problem is that this
urge for self protection isn't symmetrical. All of us favour one side and for
95% of bike riders, it is the right leg that we favour or protect no matter
whether we are left or right handed or footed.
This is almost certainly what happened. No problem until you overdid it. There
is also the likelihood with Speedplays that your cleats weren't back far enough
as they don't have as much rearward adjustment as other 3 bolt pattern cleats.
This would have meant that under the severe load that you describe, you were
forced to drop your heels more than usual. Basically your seat was too high
for those kind of efforts and dropping the heels caused overextension and pain
where you describe.
Now you have a self protective neural map but it is only protecting one side
well, your right and at quite a cost to your left side. You are twisting your
pelvis forward on the right side and probably dropping your right hip. This
is probably/possibly to self protect against a pronounced varus right forefoot
- another common thing. This right hip twist/drop is causing you to overextend
your left leg and is also why the left knee moves laterally. Right hip goes
down and in towards the centre line on right side down stroke.
As a consequence and predictably, the left knee has to move outward on its
upstroke. Then as the right hip rebounds at the top of the right pedal stroke,
the left knee rolls back in on its down stroke. As a simple demonstration; stand
with your knees bent and feet facing forward. Now drop the right hip and knee
forward, in and down. The left knee has no choice but to move outward or hurt.
It has chosen to move outward.
You feel better when you pedal fast because under these circumstances, you
will point your toes more which minimises the overextension of the left leg
while ever the toes are down. The reason that you feel little or no pain in
the left knee is because you are not putting pressure on the left pedal throughout
the full stroke. You will be pushing forcefully off the top of the stroke and
coasting through the bottom.
The problem is that this isn't an efficient way to use your body and you feel
the effects off the bike. Continue like this for long enough and you will feel
it on the bike as well.
Here's a check list:
1. Be VERY conservative with seat height. Even a few mm too high will cause
you to overtly favour the right side. A good seat height is when you can force
a gear up a steepish hill and not overextend. You need to be fluent through
the bottom of the stroke.
2. Find out whether you have a noticeable forefoot varus on either side, particularly
the right side and correct with some Lemond wedges or a medial lift underneath
3. Have a look at these posts on ball
and cleat position then adjust
your cleats accordingly. If you can't get your cleats back far enough, buy Speedplay
part no. 13330 which are alternative baseplates that allow much more rearward
adjustment than the standard ones supplied with the cleats.
4. If following #3 meant a large rearward movement of the cleats, lower your
seat height again a further few mm.
6. Twist your seat nose slightly off centre to the right. This will help square
you up on the seat to some degree.
7. Once you feel like you are making headway, cultivate the practice of mentally
chanting LEFT, LEFT, LEFT, on every left side pedal stroke when ever you are
under high torque/low RPM pressure. In other words, when riding uphills. If
you can get some awareness back in that left side under load, over time you
will modify the motor pattern that you have now which isn't the one you ideally
Training whilst on antibiotics
In a recent letter someone asks about training while on antibiotics. I was
a bit surprised that the response by Dr. Bethards did not mention problems with
fluoroquninolones in particular.
I know that one should not run for a while after taking these due to tendon
problems (including ruptures) as a common side effect. Is that not a problem
while cycling? If there is no alternative anti-biotic, then should training
not be limited?
Kelby Bathards replies:
You know, you are exactly correct. There is a risk of tendon rupture with the
flouroquininolone class of medications with exercise, etc. However, it is NOT
a common side effect of this class of medication. It is a serious side effect
but I have only heard of one case of this happening.
I have written about this side effect of the medication in the past, and failed
to re-write it this time around.
You are also correct in that there are alternative meds for sinus infections.
As I had mentioned, the bigger problem is riding with an infection. The rides
should be low intensity, until the rider feels like he/she is back to normal.
I read with great interest Steve Hogg's paper on pelvic symmetry. I am currently
dealing with this issue and it is to the point where it is completely ruining
the sport for me. I can't sit still on the seat. My right hip wants to
move forward, making my body point to the left, causing the left leg to feel
out of sorts, etc. It's almost as if my right leg is acting shorter, even
though the bones have been measured several times to be equal.
Even out of the saddle pedaling, I notice that my right upper leg appears to
be more inward and pointing down, compared to the left leg.
I've had as much as half an inch of spacers under the right shoe to try
to make up for this problem, but it doesn't really help since it isn't
a true leg length problem.
I've been to chiro, physio and osteo. All of them figure I've got
some sort of pelvic problem, likely caused by some sort of muscle imbalance,
hamstrings, etc. but none have been able to help. I am going for some x-rays
soon in hopes to at least see where the bones have settled..
With regards to your suggestion of the FSA saddle that adjusts side to side,
how does this help? And if I were to try it, would I move the saddle to the
right, where my body wants to push the hip forward, or do I move the saddle
to the left?
Thanks, I really appreciate any assistance you can give. I'm on the east
coast of Canada, Nova Scotia. If I lived (a lot) closer to you, I'd come
in for an actual fitting!
Steve Hogg replies:
Shimming up the right shoe won't have any positive effect, in the sense of
stopping you twisting your pelvis if your problem relates to your pelvis or
hip. A few points for your chiro, osteo or manipulative physio to check out.
1. Alignment of sacrum.
2. Alignment of coccyx.
If either of those is less than ideal, it can cause a whole raft of hard to
3. Relative shape and mobility of sacro iliac joints
4. Do you have a noticeable difference in the patterns of flexibility/tightness
5. If you leg length was measured by external measurement, place no reliance
on the result. Scans are definitive. Even x-rays can give flawed results.
6. Check whether you have a pronounced varus rear foot or fore foot on the
right side. Sometimes what you describe is a life long autonomic self protection
mechanism for this.
7. Do you have a small hemi pelvis?
8. Have your health professional of choice perform an Unterberg test on you.
What was the result?
Once you have this info, get back to me. In the meantime, if you are going
to modify an FSA seat post, move the seat cradle to the left.
Q-factor across cranksets
I am very happy with some recent changes to my position as I bought a new bike.
However, I feel like my feet are too far apart. I am using a Dura-Ace crank.
I can not find info on the Q-factor of various cranks. I intend to purchase
a compact crank once I start riding mostly outside. Can you advise me of how
different cranks Q-factors compare? Or is another way to solve this problem?
Thanks for your help!
Steve Hogg replies:
The great majority of double chain ring road cranks have Q factors between
145 and 150mm. 10 speed Dura Ace are 147 mm from memory. To gain a noticeably
narrower Q-factor you can do one of two things or both.
1. Use older 7 or 8 speed cranks some of which had Q measurements of 135 -
140 mm depending on which square taper bottom bracket they were fitted to.
The caution with using an older crank is to make sure that when you are riding
in your highest gear (large ring/small cog) that the crank arm doesn't foul
the chain. As more gears have been added at the rear (7,8,9 and then 10 speed),
the outermost cog has moved closer to the rear dropout causing the chain line
to move outward in top gear. This is why 10 speed cranks are generally of
larger Q measurement than 7 and 8 speed cranks.
2. Use a pedal system where the cleats have good lateral adjustment. Speedplay
are a good example. Moving the cleat outboard on the shoe moves the shoe in
towards the centre line of the bike.
Different crank lengths
I read Steve Hogg's article on pelvic asymmetry and it got me pretty excited.
I am a 37 year old male cat 4 racer. I have a 2cm leg length difference measured
from a scanogram, it is almost all accounted for in the femur; my right femur
is shorter. I was born with a fully dislocated right hip and as a result have
CDH [congenital dislocation of the hip - ed]. I have less mobility in my right
hip as well.
I've moved my cleats to help a bit and have moved my seat forward a bit, both
helped. When I'm on my bike dropping a plumb line from my knee indicates that
my pelvis is rotated such that my right hip is further back than my left, exacerbating
the leg length difference, my right knee is 4 to 5cm behind my left when the
pedal is at 9 o'clock.
Briefly I tried a stack under my right shoe but my decreased hip mobility caused
too much trouble, my hip felt very tight at the top of the stroke.
To further complicate matters, my neutral right leg position is slightly rotated
out (my toes point out), my left is pretty much straight ahead.
I use egg beaters on all my bikes and ride mostly with Shimano M225 shoes but
will gladly consider alternatives.
Under what circumstances would one use crank arms of different lengths and
would moving my seat laterally towards my shorter leg be helpful? I'm worked
my pedal on that side already should me moved out to compensate for my outward
Steve Hogg replies:
Interesting cases like yours are the ones that I would much rather advise
on in person rather than via email because so much of getting a result is
trial and error. I'm not crazy about different crank lengths in principle
but when it is the least worst option, then it is worth a try and sometimes
works a treat. What you say about a shim causing you problems at the top of
the stroke means that a shorter crank on the right side is definitely an option
I would advise you try.
I would not bother with laterally offsetting the seat post unless you don't
sit in the centre of the seat. It may be that you don't sit in the centre
but get an observer to confirm that before you shell out the bucks and experiment.
As far as seat set back goes, you need to sit 'too far forward' in respect
of the left leg and 'too far back' in respect of the right leg as that is
the only sensible compromise. Let your seat set back be where you feel most
balanced and smooth on both legs, with a minimum of weight on the hands.
If you ride a road bike, settle on relatively high bars because any tendency
to roll the pelvis too far forward will cause your right hip to externally
rotate even further which isn't good. An MTB is less problematic because of
the increased bar height relative to seat.
Let me know how you get on.
Leg length discrepancy
I have had a bone measurement and my right femur is 10mm shorter than my left.
Under power I drop my left hip and I sit with my left hip more forward than
the right. I have now developed IT band syndrome on my short side which I believe
is being caused by the fact that on my short side I walk heavily on the outside
of my foot.
I am going to try a Specialized Valgus wedge on my short side to see if that
helps with the IT band issue. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Do you know
anyone who has made a full recovery from IT band issues?
Steve Hogg replies:
What you describe is quite common; the forward rotation of the pelvis on
the long legged side. That twist and the hip drop that is almost always associated
with it causes the shorter right leg to reach further and the plane of movement
of the right leg to be constantly challenged. It is that that causes the ITB
tightness. You will almost certainly find that your right quadratus lumborum
is very tight as well.
Here are a few boxes to tick:
1. Check whether you have a significant forefoot varus on the left side.
Often this is the case with a long leg and part of the reason that many people
roll the hip forward on the long legged side is because they are autonomically
protecting the knee on that side from the effects of that forefoot varus.
If you find that this is you, get hold of some Lemond wedges.
2. Twist the seat nose of your seat a touch to the left. This will allow
you to sit on the seat more squarely. If you twist it too far, you won't move
your pelvis with the twist. As much twist as anyone can cope with is when
the centre of the nose of the seat points at the left hand edge of the handle
bar stem bar clamp. Many can't cope with that so do what you can get away
3. Be wary of using the valgus wedge on the right foot as the need for them
is relatively rare. You walk on the outside of your right foot because you
have a short right leg and lean to the right from the waist down when you
4. Have a look at these posts on cleat
and ball position and adjust
your cleats accordingly. That will help your feet be stable on the pedal platform.
If following that advice means a large rearward movement, drop your seat a
few mm to allow for the increased leg extension that the more rearward cleat
position will cause.
5. Be conservative with seat height. If your seat is even a couple of mm
too high, it will exacerbate the tendency to twist to the left, as when we
are presented with any challenge, we will always autonomically favour our
6. Put a 5mm shim underneath your right shoe as a starting point. That should
relieve a lot of your issues. Play around with the size of the shim. If you
can minimise the left twist and hip drop, 5 mm under the right cleat should
be about right. If you need much more than that, move the cleat back on the
shoe 1mm extra for every 4 - 5 mm that you have to shim it up.
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