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Form & Fitness Q & A
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Fitness questions and answers for July 3, 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.
Burning feet sensation
Varying crank lengths
Heart rate and fatigue
Numb toes for three weeks
Riding with an iPod
Burning feet sensation
I'm 30 year-old, male, and looking back to getting into riding more seriously
(again). I don't ride very much now, but I'm hoping to start up again (the sooner
the better, because I miss it!).
Previously when I rode, I was always plagued by very sore feet (road or MTB).
It seems to me that the pain originates from the outsides of my feet, and slowly
spreads to my arch and then entire foot. Eventually, my feet would go mostly
numb and I could ride ok (not that that was a solution).
The pain usually would start within 2-3 miles, so something is obviously wrong.
I've tried all kinds of shoes (Lake, Specialized, Sidi, Nike, and I currently
have Sidi Geniuses) and all cleat placements I can think of. I currently have
Look pedals as well, PP296 I believe.
I notice that my walking shoes always have wear on the outside heel, so that
makes me think that I am pushing with the outside of my feet and heel when I
walk. When I ride, I have a feeling that I am twisting my feet from mostly straight
to more of a 'pigeon-toed' position. I have tried to minimize this by keeping
my knees closer to the top tube. I did try some Dr. Scholl's gel inserts/heel
cups and that did help by about 50 percent.
I'd like to get past this so I can start racing MTBs again and do some good
road riding as well.
Thanks for your advice!
Steve Hogg replies:
Do you have a callous underneath the 5th mtp joint (base joint of the small
toe)? If you do and combined with your self description of pedalling technique,
it is almost certain that you have a noticeable degree of forefoot varus.
Buy some Lemond wedges and experiment with your road shoes with the thick side
of the wedge(s) placed to the inside of the shoe nearest the crank arm. If that
gives you relief, and it is likely that it will, build up the inside of your
MTB shoe insole with whatever means possible. Folded paper works well in the
short term and rubber strips of appropriate thickness work well long term.
Varying crank lengths
I have two bikes - one I commute on and one that I ride/race mainly on weekends.
They are very similar bikes - same brand, same setup - just from different ends
of the weight & price scale. The 'commuter' has 175mm cranks and the other
has 172.5mm cranks. I guess I have three questions:
1. Am I likely to encounter any problems (knees, muscle memory etc) riding
bikes with different crank lengths?
2. Will I get any benefits from riding a heavier bike with longer cranks when
I get on my race bike with shorter cranks?
3. Depending on Q1 & Q2, should I look for a matching pair of cranks?
Steve Hogg replies:
Realistically, 2.5mm of crank length is something like 1.5% of an increase
or decrease and shouldn't make a marked difference providing you use both bikes
regularly enough to develop a motor pattern appropriate for each. For some people
though, that isn't the case and the small increase or decrease in crank length
makes a marked difference.
I am a big believer in eliminating variables and ideally, if you have a race
bike and training / commuting bike, you should have the same contact points;
i.e crank length, seat shape, bar shape and width, pedal type and shoes for
each, as well as the same relationship between them (same position) . That way,
when you go from one to the other there should be zero chance of having a problem.
Re the heavier bike (I'm ignoring the crank length issue in light of my reply
above), you will certainly get a lift when racing on a lighter bike than your
training bike. Whether this is a mental or physical lift, I don't know or care,
but it works for most people most of the time.
Heart rate and fatigue
Like Richard (Heart rate concerns),
sometimes I wonder about my HR figures. I am a 47 year-old male, 173 cm and
65 kg. I've been a competitive cyclist for four years, was a smoker/drinker
for 15 years before that and had a 17 years surfing career before discovering
the high life. My weekly average is 260 km, including races when I normally
average 158 bpm. After I wake up my rest HR is 42-45 and I have reached 193
MHR during a sprint - 195 MHR on an indoor trainer.
At the moment I can not get my HR higher than 166 bpm - sprinting. I am not
reaching my top speed at the moment and I am finding hard to get motivated to
get on the bike. Are these signs of fatigue, after a period of 10 months of
training and racing? Or just the winter blues as I am in the southern hemisphere?
Having some important events coming up in the next two months, I have no time
for a proper break. Is there anything else I could do to be prepared for those
Scott Saifer replies:
A heart rate that won't come within roughly 30 beats of a recent maximum is
a sign of extreme fatigue, or a significant disease such as heart disease or
hormonal problems. The lack of motivation suggests fatigue. The lack of top
speed could be illness or fatigue. The problem could also be related to nutrition
(do you get enough carbohydrate?), electrolytes or several other factors. If
you've recently changed your diet or lost weight, increase your caloric intake.
If you restrict salt in your diet and don't have high blood pressure, start
eating more salt.
If you have no reason to suspect salt or carbohydrate deficiency, take a very
easy week and try again for a maximum heart rate with an effort long enough
to let the heart rate really rise (keep hammering gradually harder until the
heart rate plateaus). If the new max isn't quite a bit higher than 166, go see
An easy week could be made up of rides no longer than 90 minutes and no harder
than 137 bpm on the heart rate.
I'm a veteran rider. In stage races I find it difficult to get sleep at night
as I find myself too hyped up. The spokes just keep on turning in my head and
I even get scared. This has been a bad problem for me already 18 years ago in
the Tour of Tasmania. I resorted to sleep tablets but even this often failed
to knock me over and beside that it does not provide relaxing sleep.
Do you know of riders with the same problem or do you have other good advice
(besides sending me back to the looney bin)?
Thanks in advance
Carrie Cheadle replies:
I've seen this with many athletes. Either the night before a race or in the
middle of a stage race, your head hits the pillow and the wheels in your mind
just start spinning and they don't stop. Problem is, you'll be so exhausted
from spinning all night, that you won't be able to spin the next day!
Start by coming up with your winding down ritual. This is something you should
be doing at home to practice and get consistent with. About an hour before you
want to go to bed, whatever it is you are doing (reading, watching TV, etc.)
make sure you dim the lights. That's your first cue that it's time to start
If you do choose to watch TV before bed, make sure it isn't something that
is too stimulating. Then, come up with your ritual that helps clear your mind
of that day. This will take practice! As you brush your teeth, undress, etc.
reflect on the day. What was your favourite part of that day? Once you cross
the threshold into your room or turn down the covers of your bed, that is your
symbolic way of leaving the day behind you. Good, bad, whatever.
Next tool to try is progressive relaxation. It's a relaxation technique that
moves through all of the muscle groups in the body and helps you to relax each
one until your whole body is relaxed. If you have never tried this, there are
all kinds of CDs that you can buy that will take you through this exercise.
It's a great thing to do in bed, especially when the wheels don't want to stop
turning. It's a skill and once you develop it, it has been shown to help people
Numb toes for three weeks
I have been riding for 10 years, somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000+ miles per
year, and experienced some brief toe numbness on occasion while riding. This
sensation has always disappeared nearly immediately after riding until three
Three weeks ago - and just four days after completing a 400 mile, four day
ride from Ottawa, ON to Kennebunkport, ME, my big toes went numb in the toenail
and toe-end area, especially towards the inside of the foot. This sensation
has persisted now for three weeks.
I have had two good massages, which have helped the problem, as well as an
examination by a doctor who performs EMGs. The massage therapist was able to
work out a lot of muscle cramps, and hit some nerve ends in my feet that nearly
blew me off the massage table. The doctor squeezed between my big and index
tow and I nearly knocked us both off our chairs with reflex.
The doctor thinks my shoes (specifically dress shoes) as well as riding (perhaps
cleat placement and time in saddle) are causing the problem. I wear lots of
dress loafers at work (not my favourite) and Sidi Genus 4s with Speedplays centered
under ball of foot while riding.
After taking two weeks off from riding, I expected more recovery. I am looking
for directions to take to diagnose or alleviate.
I am a 35 year old male, 220lb, 6'1" rider riding a Litespeed Vortex (only
two times , ~80mi since issue began - but specifically for the first time the
day before symptoms began) and a Ritchey Breakaway (nearly all rides for past
The Breakaway is definitely more comfortable (steel, higher bars) than the
Litespeed (lower bars, shorter wheelbase, same top tube.) At my larger size,
I am not much of a racer, more of a 'very fast' club rider.
Any thoughts are appreciated!
Steve Hogg replies:
Have a look at these posts and cleat
and ball position and position
your cleats accordingly. There is a 50% chance that this won't be possible with
Speedplays. If not, order Speedplay part no. 13330 which will allow you to move
your cleats back further.
That should make a noticeable difference to your toe numbness but the location
of the origin of the pain, between the 1st and 2nd MTPs suggests that footplant
angle on the pedals is at least part of the problem. To that end, once you have
positioned your cleats according to the posts above, get hold of a packet of
Speedplay compatible Lemond wedges and experiment a little. If you get into
any trouble, let me know.
Riding with an iPod
I've ridden with an iPod for the past year, using it on approximately 75% of
my rides, and just about every intense workout ride. I feel it's not inappropriate
on the roads I use; I am very good at staying on the right side of the road...But
that's not the issue...
In races often I just don't feel I can motivate myself to push to the hardest
of my ability. It's almost like a blockage in the path between my brain and
my legs; only a portion of my intended power is expressed. I cannot quantifiably
say this is the case, only subjectively.
Recently in a race I felt like as I sang a song in my head, I could push a
bit harder. I've convinced myself that I may have "conditioned" my
body to only push hardest under the influence of music, and have decided against
using the iPod again in training, which, no matter what, is probably a good
thing anyway. So, is this "conditioning" possible?
Scott Saifer replies:
What an interesting experience. Yes, what you describe is possible. Stop training
with the iPod and see if/how that affects your racing after a few weeks. Then
Carrie Cheadle adds:
As you already know, there are a lot of different factors that could contribute
to not being able to push yourself in a race. However, if you almost always
train with your iPod and suddenly you take that stimulus away, it's possible
that you could condition yourself to not pushing as hard when the stimulus is
Since you don't have your iPod in races, you have to come up with others 'tools'
to get yourself to push harder. Singing to yourself is a great way to get pumped
up and fill your head with something other than thoughts about how much pain
you are in! Imagery is also a powerful tool you can use for those big climbs.
Imagine that you are being pulled up by the riders in front of you, or that
with every rider you pass you suck out all of their energy and it moves directly
into your legs - whatever it takes to make your brain control your body so your
body doesn't give up.
Music can be a powerful motivator. If you want to use your iPod, I would use
it during your pre-race warm-up to either get yourself pumped up or calmed down,
whichever one you need to get your intensity to an optimal place in preparation
for your race. You could also pull it out every once in a while for training.
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