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Form & Fitness Q & A

Got a question about fitness, training, recovery from injury or a related subject? Drop us a line at 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.

The Cyclingnews form & fitness panel

Since 1986 Steve Hogg ( 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 other end.

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.

Scott Saifer ( 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.

Eddie Monnier ( 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 any geography.

David Fleckenstein, MPT ( 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.

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 ( is an exercise physiologist and head coach for Whole Athleteô. He is a former category 1 & semi-pro MTB racer. Dario holds a masters degree in exercise science and a bachelors in sport psychology.

Carrie Cheadle, MA ( 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 ( 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 ( 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.

Kendra Wenzel ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 a coach.

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.

Fitness questions and answers for October 9, 2007

Adjustments needed with cleat wedges
Wide feet
High heartrate
Power profile
Health questions
Neck pain and head aches

Adjustments needed with cleat wedges

I'm a 35 yr old cat3 racer, with a majority of my races being crits, with a few longer road races throughout the year. My training sessions are usually 1-1.5 hours at high intensity (training crits), 45 minute very intense interval sessions, or 2-3 hour long sessions to keep the endurance up.

I've long known that my feet were not 'level' (it's obvious by the way that I walk, stand and that my shoes wear out) and after having some serious knee pain toward the end of this year, I got some cleat shims/wedges to try and correct the problem. I started with one on each shoe, and after several rides, moved to two shims. The knee feels pretty solid, and I've not had any real pain issues (I've also been doing IT band stretches to assist). I have noticed, however, that now my foot feels like it is further forward over the axle of the pedal. I know the cleat position fore/aft did not move, since I use speedplay pedals and the base plate is not removed when installing the shim. Is it normal that when adding shims or wedges that the cleat should be moved back just a tad, or do I need to give this time to adjust? It's not uncomfortable, just feels odd.

Greg Gilbert

Steve Hogg replies:

When you fit cleat wedges, generally speaking the angle of the foot on the pedal changes. With some, this will increase external rotation of the hip; i.e heels move in. With some it will increase internal rotation of the hip; i.e heels move out. If your heel(s) have moved in, that will give you the feeling of more foot over the pedal as the 1st MTP has moved forward as the heel has moved inward.

If the feeling you have is objectionable, move your cleat forward a mm or 2 or 3. If it isn't, persevere and make a judgement based on how your performance changes for better or worse.

Wide feet

I am a 49 year old male who rides about 150-200 km a week - commuting and as a weekend warrior, mainly road but some off-road cross country.

I have trouble finding shoes that are wide enough to accommodate my big feet and usually have to settle for buying a larger size instead (46 European). I'm presently using a pair of specialized shoes which are fine but I've ended up with a lot of "toe" area. The length of the shoe also seems to make it harder to fit cleats correctly. Have you any advice on brands that have extra wide fittings, or at least those that make some attempt to look after those of use who aren't circling weenies.


Steve Hogg replies:

both Sidi and Shimano make road shoes in extra width sizing. If they aren't wide enough, consider a custom pair of shoes.

High heart rate

I'm a 157 lb, 39 year old category 2 (male) cyclist with an unusually high heart rate. When I was 30, my max heart rate was 211. Now it's down to 200. My resting rate and anaerobic threshold are correspondingly high. While team-mates have resting rates in the 40's and even 30's, mine is seldom below 60. I have had team-mates and associates warn me to "take it easy" upon learning that I'm hitting 195+ during some intervals.

My family has a history of high blood pressure and cardiac related problems. I was diagnosed with high blood pressure during an 8 year layoff during which I "let myself go" somewhat. Now that I am racing again, the blood pressure has returned to the high end of normal (~120/80).

While, I have heard that heart rates are individual and do not indicate any problems, I have wondered about mine because it's higher than anyone I've met my age, although I'm sure someone out there is probably higher. Do I have reason to be concerned? Does my high heart rate indicate that I may have problems down the road? Is it more "dangerous" for me to get near my max heart rate compared to someone with a more normal maximum? Is there any correlation with an obstruction, enlarged heart wall or ventricle?


Scott Safier replies:

Just as a note of comfort, I've had a client with a maximum heart rate of 216 who routinely went over 200 for extended periods in races with no problems. You are in no particular danger when you ride hard any more than a person with a lower maximum heart rate and lower heart rates at intermediate levels of effort.

This doesn't mean you are in the clear though. Because you have a family history of high blood pressure and cardiac problems, you should be getting your check ups and consulting with a doctor about your heart, no matter what your maximum heart rate is. Good luck with your racing.


I have been riding now for two years and my fitness has grown tremendously. The last couple of months, though, my legs have always been tired and sore. I have taken time off and done many recovery rides to try and recover from this. I have been reading and wanted to ask your expert advice about L-Glutamine. I do have a low immune system also, and I have read that glutamine helps out with your immune system as well as muscle fatigue and soreness. I was wondering what your take on this supplement is and if this would help my situation out.


Pamela Hinton replies:

Glutamine has been a popular supplement for several years now. It also has been studied recently for its possible role in over-training syndrome.

Glutamine is a conditionally essential amino acid, meaning that under normal circumstances the body can make what it needs. Skeletal muscle is the most significant source of glutamine in the body. When muscle is broken down in response to the stress hormone cortisol, glutamine is released from the muscle into the blood. During times of extraordinary stress, such as severe trauma, burns, or sepsis, the bodyís demand for glutamine exceeds its ability to make the amino acid and it becomes essential. In clinical studies of critically ill patients, providing supplemental glutamine has been shown to improve patient outcome and survival. This is in large part because cells of the immune system use glutamine for energy and during times of stress the immune system is activated, requiring more energy. Although not nearly as stressful as a burn injury or sepsis, exhaustive exercise (e.g., running a marathon) causes a short-term (<12 hours) decrease in blood glutamine levels.

Overtraining syndrome also produces a decrease in blood glutamine concentrations. Because athletes competing in endurance events often experience a mild decrease in immune function and an increase in upper respiratory tract infections (URIs) post-event, the effect of glutamine supplementation on immune response has been studied in endurance athletes. One study found that runners who consumed glutamine immediately and 2 hours after a marathon had fewer self-reported URIs in the week following the race. Consuming glutamine for 3-4 weeks prior to competition also reduced self-reported infections in marathon runners and triathletes. However, numerous other studies investigating the mechanism behind the beneficial effect of glutamine found no effect of glutamine supplementation on immune cell functions. Iíll offer a few words of caution about glutamine supplementation, should you decide to do a self-experiment despite the lack of strong supporting evidence. Glutamine is not stable in solution and exposure to UV light degrades it as well.

So once youíve mixed your concoction, drink up right away. The effective dose (0.1g of glutamine per kg of body weight) should not be exceeded. Amino acids compete with each other for absorption in the intestine and consuming an excess of one amino acid can create a deficiency of another. High intakes of protein or amino acids puts undue stress on the kidneys. And, remember, amino acids that are not used for energy or to synthesize new proteins will be stored as body fat.

Power profile

Hello, I'm a 45 yo male 6' 190lbs and I've just completed my second full season of cycling with racing goals. This is my first with a power meter. My year end power profile test (15s 9.7 w/kg, 1m 6.1 w/kg, 5m 4.5 w/kg and FT 3w/kg) pretty much reflects my training with an emphasis on TT's and endurance and very little on sprinting. I'm satisfied overall. However, my sprint numbers are very low IMO and this leads to a couple of questions.

Do these low numbers explain my weekend rides where I stay with the group at first but get dropped after an hour or so and a few 30 mph surges?

Do I train these sprint efforts during next years base phase or do I wait until the build phase?

When I do start adding these in how would you incorporate them with my usual 3 weekday and one weekend endurance rides?


Michael Smartt replies:

A quick note for those who are not familiar with Power Profiling, it was developed by Dr. Coggan as explained here:

Using a power meter in this way to learn something about yourself can be a lot of fun and very informative, but there are a couple of things to keep in mind with PP before I get to your questions about scheduling.

First, there is a learning curve when it comes to field testing on your own, especially with the shorter efforts. With the 5sec test, technique and gear choice can make a difference while the 1 and 5min tests can be somewhat effected by pacing. All tests will be effected by your training status/how well recovered you are over the previous few days to weeks.

Second, motivation to push yourself to the limit in order to produce a true representation of your abilities can be very challenging for some people. If you are the type that needs to be in a competitive situation with others to 'bury yourself properly', then field tests are likely to underestimate your abilities w/o at least simulating a race scenario with the help of a few friends. In this case, many have found that they can more successfully 'cherry pick' their best numbers from races over the course of a season to produce a comprehensive power profile.

Given all of that, your power profile will reflect two primary issues: your natural genetic gifts and the kind of training you typically do. Considering the latter, it's no surprise that your PP turned out the way it did (although I would suggest that you have a lot of potential to raise your FTP given your 5min power and doing so would improve your time trialing).

Your genetic talents will bear themselves out in the results even more over the long haul as you will find that you can only effect your profile via training to a certain degree. For example, if you naturally have low anaerobic capacity and power, you will not be able to raise your 5sec and 1min numbers all that high even if they were all you focused on. Improve those numbers, of course, but your genes will limit how far you can go.

As for your weekend rides, it's hard to say, but if you are suggesting that short, very hard efforts (eg: <2min) are where you lose the group, then the answer to your question is certainly 'yes'. As you found in your profile, short-term power is the weakness you need to work on IF you want to make yourself more of an all-round cyclist. Having some amount of short-term power in your legs is indeed critical for group racing, just keep in mind that even if it's you weakness, it's secondary to FTP. The more you can raise your FTP, the less you will experience fatigue from any effort, short or long-term. And If time trialing is your ultimate goal, then raising your FTP is even more important.

As for scheduling, you have a lot of options there. Many coaches advocate sprints all year round to maintain leg speed and top end power, while others choose to incorporate it into the build and race phases. What will work for you depends on how well you recover from certain types of training, your overall training load, what motivates you, your primary racing goals, etc. Over the long-term though, I think that you will find that you can increase both your FTP and your short-term power if, at certain times of the year, you dedicate just one of your weekday workouts to shorter intervals. The rest of the time focus on raising FTP and recovery.

Health questions

I really enjoy your fitness section and have always found it useful. I am hoping some of your medical professionals will be able to offer some advice regarding my current situation. I have attempted to include only pertinent information. thank you for your time.

I am a 32 year old male (5í11, 32 yrs old) and with the exception of 3 years off for school, have been racing road and mountain bikes for 10 years.

I have lived in the Phoenix metro area for the past two years moving from a less urban environment.

In early April of last year I contracted what seemed to be a run of the mill cold which lodged itself in my lungs producing a hacking cough, lots of post nasal drippage and generally feeling under the weather for about a week. I usually get sick about once or twice a year and each time it is with these symptoms. In the past few years Iíve just followed the three ĎRísĒ and within a week or so it clears up. Iíve also used small dosages of prednisone which has always cleared me up within 2-4 days. In this case, after about 10 days nearly all my symptoms went away except the limited lung functioning and near constant post nasal drippage. Even after doubling the dosage of prednisone, these symptoms didnít go away. Most acute is the feeling that I simply couldnít take a deep breath.

I was diagnosed with asthma as a child but have always controlled it by taking a puff of my Albutrol inhaler before every ride and until now this has always served me well. I continued to race throughout the spring with pretty miserable results. Despite similar training as years past, my results were significantly worst they had ever been.

With the exception of asthma, Iíve never had other noticeable allergies. However, I was referred to an allergist and got a complete allergy test. I didnít test positive for anything that alerted the allergist as to my condition. He did however put me on a number of steroid and non-steroid inhalers as well as various allergy medicines. Iíve had a CT scan of my lungs and head which returned no abnormal results. Iíve also had blood tests for valley fever and a host of other possible viruses all coming back normal. I have also been seen by a Pulmonologist who is unable to offer any suggestions.

Over the summer I raced in Belgium and the symptoms seemed to lessen however, this was highly variable. Some days it was largely unnoticeable and some days Iíd get dropped very quickly. Since returning to the USA in mid August I have been doing only easy 1 to 2 hr rides, 2 to 3 times a week. However, when I do attempt a few efforts at or above LT the problem remains the same; I am simply unable to take deep breaths.

I am able to ride all day and can ride tempo and even just below LT pretty easily but anything at or over LT is very difficult. I just canít seem to take a deep breath. And when I inevitably get dropped, I really get dropped. I cannot seem to recover after these efforts. It feels in essence like Iím having an asthma attack despite using my inhaler. Off the bike I often notice shortness of breath simply walking around. I find myself trying to take deep breaths (much like a reflexive yawn) throughout the day. I use my Albutrol inhaler 5-10 times a day yet it seems to provide only temporary relief.

I am truly at wits end with this issue. I hope to continue racing next season but it seems not worth it if I canít get my lung functioning back to normal. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Ophir Sefiha
Tempe, AZ

Kelby Bethards replies:

Well, you have explained a truly frustrating situation. Based on what you have told us, it seems that you are close at times to being ok, but it is inconsistent.

Which allergy and asthma medications were you given? Search through the cyclingnews database or archives for asthma and allergies. We have written a few things about this.

Asthma, seasonal (or environmental) allergies and eczema can hang out together in the same circles. They can all be present or just a few of them. FROM what you have described it seems to me that you have EIA (exercise induced asthma). That being said, you have environmental triggers. Meaning, you moved somewhere else, and your symptoms disappeared occasionally. There is a whole host of things that come into play with environmental allergies and asthma triggers. Humidity, wind, pollens, season and temperature to name a few.

It seems to me that your asthma is controlled well enough to get by. BUT, at the extreme efforts your airways are clamping down a little. AND at all out and even less than all out efforts, if you can't get all the oxygen you need, you will in essence lower your LT and "pop" at a lower HR and so forth.

That would be why, in my humble opinion, you did fine on certain days in Belgium and worse on others. EIA is not necessarily like a light switch, ON/OFF. It can come in varying intensities.

Not that throwing medicine at people is always the answer, but it may be that your current medication regimen needs modifying.

All that being said, I am assuming you are not over-trained or otherwise ill.

Neck pain and head aches

I'm 23 years old, 182 cm and 72 kg. I got hit by a car at a roundabout last Christmas (2006) at a low speed; she was doing about 35-40 km/h (It was her fault. who knew give way to the right also included cyclists..?), I didn't suffer many injuries considering, just a haematoma in the left hip, bumps and bruises and a tennis ball sized elbow from the resulting kiss with the Tarmac, all of which has healed.

Since then I started to get back pain both lower and upper, as well as neck pain right up to the base of the skull. This pain is at it worst during a ride at the base of my skull especially when in drops but not always. Now I get a headache or sometimes a migraine after every ride. This has caused me to almost stop riding since the onset of these headaches. I have also been seeing a chiro for 6 months which has almost stopped the day to day pain, but has not stopped the headaches post rides. I'm wondering weather this impact has affected my position on the bike, or if the headaches are caused by something else?? maybe worth a trip down to see Steve?

Any help to get me back on the bike headache free would be much appreciated!

Matt Lovell

Steve Hogg replies:

A big hit can move you around skeletally. Your chiro should be on top of that side of things but if you are not the same person functionally that you were, then head aches can arise. From time to time I see someone with a history like yours. At the moment, you are okay day to day but not post ride. That means that some combination of what you do and the bike position you have is causing you problems.

A couple of tips:

1. Make sure that your upper body is more or less unweighted when riding reasonably hard. If you have to heavily use your arms or shoulder complex to support weight or resist pedaling forces, then that may play a part in your ongoing problems.
2. Have a good look at your cleat position. This probably sounds strange, but the more stable your feet are on the pedal, the less requirement to use upper body effort to maintain a position on a bike under load. Have a look at these posts for guidance, regarding cleats and regarding the ball of your foot.

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