Form & Fitness Q & A
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Fitness questions and answers for October 16, 2007
The Cyclingnews form & fitness panel
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Optimum climbing cadence
Deep vain thrombosis
Fore/aft cleat position
Concussions and the older cyclist
Hip joint pain
Hamstring tendon injury
I'm a 42 year old male who used to race/ride for 25 years but still go out
for training rides with my ex team-mates. I always had custom bikes because
of my un-proportional body. I'm 6' tall with 31 inseam, 42 shoulder, 175 lbs
and wear size 44 shoes. I also have fairly long arms. I had a 55 frame but the
top tub was too short. Then I had a 58 to 60 frame and the seat tube was too
long. Currently, I have 2 custom made Serotta Legend Ti (tradition geometry
not compact) and they are very comfortable. Their measurements are, 53 seat
tube (c to c), 58 top-tube (c to c), 73 degree angle for both HT/ST, 100cm Wheelbase,
I just bought a Time VXR in Medium (compact geometry) that has 51 seat tube
(c to c), 56 top tube (c to c), 73 degree ST angle, 73.5 HT angle, 99cm Wheelbase,
120mm Stem wheelbase and I find this bike even more comfortable than my custom
My question is when I have my foot clicked into my pedal with my crank arms
at 180 degree (perpendicular to the ground) and turn my front wheel, the tip
of my foot slightly touches very back of my front wheel. Should I be concern
with this or is this normal?
Scott Safier replies:
The touching of toe and front wheel is known as "toe-overlap". It is common
and not a cause for concern unless you are in the habit of pedalling tight
corners at a walking pace. If you are, be careful to point your toes down.
Optimum climbing cadence
Are there any rules and/or techniques for determining optimum pedal cadence
while climbing for an individual? The reason I'm asking is that I was climbing
the other day on a moderate incline (5 percent or so) which is constant for
7 kilometres. I was in the small chain ring (39 tooth) and was 'blowing up'
trying to maintain the speed of my companions. (22-23kph)
Other times on the same climb I am in the big chain wheel (53) and find that
my legs are burning like crazy but I can maintain the same speed as I did with
my little chain wheel without blowing up.
I know Lance said 100rpm is good but like Ullrich I prefer lower dieseling
style gears although I'm a 'spinner' on the flats.
To add to this a fellow cyclist has been advocating low cadence/high gears
as intervals (2k long) which I have been doing for some time to build power.
I'm powerful but I'm in limbo as to what my cadence should be. The intervals
are 65 RPM & 85% Max HR.
I have access to a HRM & cadence functions.
Pretty confused about what my body and coach are trying to tell me. What do
I do - spin or push??
Scott Safier replies:
Here's the perspective from a racing coach: Keeping up is all important and
most people can ride a little faster at a lower cadence at least for a little
while. The trade off is that if you climb a big hill at a low cadence, recovery
takes longer and you'll be using up your sprint before the finale. So, in
a competitive situation, use the lowest gear that allows you to keep up. In
training do a mix of efforts over the whole range of cadences you might ever
need in competition so that you'll be ready for whatever you need to do.
Whenever I ride for over 50km I start to feel numbness in my genitals, as like,
you know that nasty feeling when your leg falls asleep while you are sitting
on it or when you held it on the table for a while! Well, this numbness is then
with me for 2-3 days and I really don't feel much down there, so you can imagine
my girlfriend going crazy about not having you know what! What should I do,
I mean this is really starting to annoy me! Oh, my seat is Selle Italia Filante!
Kelby Bethards replies:
If you are getting numbness for 2-3 days after a ride you NEED to change
something! You are risking permanent damage. Not infertility but impotence.
Your seat is either too high, adjusted wrong, or you need a new seat. This,
in my opinion, is important for you to understand. STOP riding your bike until
you recover completely and get a new seat setup. Whether that means a new
seat or adjusting yours correctly. You should NOT HAVE ANY numbness at all.
Deep vain thrombosis
I'm a 45 yr. old male and have recently torn my right MCL and bruised the tibial
plateau of the same leg... 4 weeks from the date of the injury I developed a
DVT that ranged from my lower calf to my upper leg...
4-5 days prior to going to the hospital I had severe pain and assumed I had
a case of sciatica not even thinking of deep vein thrombosis. Subsequently I've
been diagnosed with Factor V leiden thrombophilia and am 2 months into recovering...I'm
looking at 6 months of being on Coumadin and wearing compression hoisery on
the affected leg.
I've gotten some conflicting information as to how long (if ever) I can expect
the pain and swelling to subside from the site of the clot... I'm very keen
to get back to my regular regimen of training and am just curious if anyone
could give me some thoughts from personal experience or somewhere to look for
info regarding my situation?
Kelby Bethards replies:
That is a tough question.... I would expect the pain and swelling to resolve
in your leg over time. How much time is difficult to say. It all depends on
your vasculature and the extent of the clot. The clot usually doesn't dissolve,
so much as becomes cannulised (little tunnels through the exiting clot). The
clot then becomes "integrated" into the vessel wall. Anyway, if you have a
large clot it may take longer to resolve.
The risk from exercising comes from 2 things: clot fragments mobilizing and
travelling to your lungs and so forth. The second risk, obviously, is taking
Coumadin. The medicine causes your blood to not clot very well and if you
were to crash, bleeding can be a problem. Not from scrapes necessarily but
in the brain and tissues.
So, here comes the legal caveat. Go ask you health care practitioner about
your specifics. Then, when he/she says go ahead and exercise, be careful.
Fore/aft cleat position
Steve Hogg mentioned in an answer on cyclingnews.com that if the person's cleats
couldn't be moved far enough back, to contact him.
I've got some issues with numb spots mostly related to cleat position. I have
the Look cleats now moved back as far as possible, and this helped my condition,
but I'd like to get just a bit more. At least to find out if that helps. A shoe
width increase helped already.
I was wondering what solution you had for getting the cleats back a bit more?
I'd thought that some extender might exist to screw into existing holes and
provide adjustment to 3 new holes, but either I'm not finding the right term
to search on, or it doesn't exist.
Using Shimano shoes properly sized, so the existing holes are in the correct
place, for an average rider anyway.
Steve Hogg replies:
The only solution I have for you is this:
1. On a Look cleat there is a vertical line on each side which equates with
where the pedal axle is if the cleat is pointing straight ahead. Use a marker
pen and place a dot beside where each vertical line meets the shoe sole.
2. Buy a pair of Speedplay Zeros with Speedplay part no. 13330 which are
alternate base plates with much more than the usual base plates fore and aft
3. Speedplay's with standard base plate have approximately 5mm LESS rearward
adjustment than your current Looks but when used with part no. 13330 have
up to 10mm MORE rearward adjustment potential.
4. If using Keo's, drop your seat slightly; 2 - 3mm should be sufficient
to allow for the greater extension of the leg that a more rearward cleat position
usually causes. If using the higher profile older Look Deltas, then you will
need to drop your seat more like 9 -10mm in total
Concussions and the older cyclist
I can sometimes be a little slow on the uptake, and hence my dilemma. I just
turned 54; I have been riding bikes for over 50 years. I'm a cat 1, and have
been racing since 1983 or so.
I make it a point to avoid crashes, but sometimes things happen. On my 50th
birthday, I was rear-ended in a hit and run in my car with a big pickup truck,
and later realized I'd suffered a concussion in the process.
Just a year ago, I went down in a cyclo-cross race and hit my head hard with
my helmet on. The result was: broken ribs, collarbone and collapsed lung as
well as a sore head despite wearing a helmet. Then three months ago, I was taken
down by a vicious wild animal on a concrete road I wasn't wearing a helmet and
as a result I broke more ribs, fractured my scapula, and ended up with a big
bloody crack on the noggin.
For several weeks thereafter, I was dizzy, light-headed, and suffered annoying
headaches. it later occurred to me that most likely I'd endured yet another
My question is this: how long is the recovery for folks my age from this kind
of thing? Everything I find has to do with high school student, or professional
athletes, all of whom are 25-35 years younger than me. What's in store for me?
Kelby Bethards replies:
So, what you are alluding to is something called Post Concussive Syndrome
(or Post Concussion Syndrome). What is that you ask? Well, just what the name
implies. It is not uncommon (we like saying that in medicine), for people
with head bonks to have a concussion. As you may have learned, there are varying
degrees of concussions. Minor to very severe. And, as you would imagine, given
the severity of the concussion, the recovery from that concussion can be varied.
The symptoms that you describe; headaches, dizziness, lethargy, nausea, confusion
and so on (I know you didn't mention all of these) are the major features
of PCS. These symptoms can take weeks and even months to recover from completely.
So, the meat of your question. You have an older brain. What is the time
frame for you? Hard to say. In the studies we know a few things, older brains
heal slower, But athletic brains heal faster. I'm sure I'll get lambasted
for simplifying that one as such. Let 'er rip readers. Generally speaking,
older bodies heal slower. The brain is not an exception to this rule. That
being said, athletes in general heal better than the more sedentary counterparts
The important thing we have learned is that we do NOT want people having
recurrent concussions in general, but more importantly, before the prior concussion
I will forward you a synopsis of PCS and let you peruse it at your leisure.
I'm a 50 year old, 5'8" tall and 168 lbs. cat 4/ masters/on the road, and a
sport mtb on dirt. I also race (love) cyclo-cross . I have been riding and racing
for fifteen years and have averaged anywhere from 5000 to 6000 miles per year.
The problem that I am (always) having is that when riding at threshold, my speed
is not that fast (21-22mph).Also, it seems as if I'm at threshold on group rides
before others. I believe my max heart rate is around 185bpm and threshold is
165bpm, I see heart rates up to 177-179 several times during races. I have the
ability to go over threshold and recover, up to a point then just fall apart.
My training includes long easy miles, sprints, threshold repeats (2 * 30') and
short intervals although I don't do all listed workout throughout the year.
Any suggestions or thoughts would be appreciated.
Jon Heidemann replies:
It appears from your training description that your present training targets
the general spectrum of road cycling requirements (lower level aerobic training
from your long easy miles, threshold training & "super" anaerobic training
from your sprint workouts, etc). However, since you wish to be able to ride
faster at what you believe to be your threshold, I would suggest focusing
on that portion of your training regimen for the following suggestions:
First things first, try to verify your true threshold. There are many topics
on the forum that address determining your threshold, but if you have difficulty
finding those topics, most of the writers on the forum can help you or get
you pointed in the right direction. If what you believe to be your threshold
is too low or too high, targeting a specific intensity for specific training
will not proficiently achieve what you hope to by doing those workouts. If
you are confident your threshold is accurate or you have had it tested recently,
Anytime you hope to increase your threshold speed or power output, it is
important that you train your aerobic system for efficiency and be as aerobically
powerful as possible. This is akin to building a solid foundation for a quality
house. If the foundation is poor, the house you put on that foundation will
be poor. The long easy rides you mention are not detrimental to your overall
training routine, but, often long easy miles eventually start to become junk
miles, especially as your fitness level increases.
Aerobically, I would suggest spending some time working on your ability to
produce as much power or speed as you can and still stay just under what you
believe to be your threshold (5 to 7 beats below threshold, for example).
It appears you are using heart rate to gauge this and that is fine. Targeting
this area of intensity once or even a couple of times per week for at least
a full cycle of training before you begin to work on threshold or higher intensity
seems to prepare most riders well. Whether you choose intervals or not, the
key is to start with a certain amount of overall time spent just below threshold,
gradually increasing that amount of time as the training cycle progresses.
For example, if you can do 30 minutes at this level during the first sub-threshold
targeted ride, maybe by the fifth sub-threshold targeted ride you might be
up to 50 minutes….you will have to gauge this on your own for what is most
appropriate. As easy as this may sound, this is actually very taxing work
and proper recovery from these workouts is imperative. And, it is not unusual
for your speed to drop as you continue through the workout.
After you have completed at least one training cycle of the above (and you
can obviously do more if you want), beginning to focus on "threshold and greater"
work may now be appropriate. Your 2x30min threshold workouts are in mind,
but you might want to start with 2x15's first and gradually increase that
workload to 4x15's & 3x20's. Then move on to 2x30's or even greater as you
become more trained. The key here is to spend some amount of time at or just
over threshold and give your body time to adapt via training and recovery.
Using shorter intervals initially might allow you to ride faster before fatigue
sets in. It's important to note your average speed between intervals 1 to
3 or 4. Any significant differences between the first and last will indicate
you may be targeting too hard a pace. A slight difference is OK as that is
presumably normal fatigue.
Lastly, shorter duration VO2 intervals (ie 2, 3, & 4 minutes, for example)
can also help to train systems involved in lower level threshold work. You
can even put them in the same training cycles as above, but, I would caution
you to be very careful about adding them into the threshold cycle. The training
stimulus can be high during this early phase and to add them can very hard
to recover from. In fact, I tend to either prescribe them during the aerobic
phase (even though some consider them to be anything but aerobic), or after
the threshold phase. In the circumstance you describe for yourself, I suggest
doing them after the aerobic and threshold phase.
Please understand these are general recommendations. Variations on timing
and combining the above workouts are acceptable, but doing so increases the
importance of recovery. During the initial months of the season, combining
them may even slow overall adaptation. However, later in the season after
you have made some progress toward your goals, the combination of these workouts
might be a good way to help to simulate the various physiological demands
required during group rides and races. A reputable cycling coach may be able
to help you formulate a good plan so that you can build your weekly training
schedule into solid training cycles that include proper recovery for efficient
Hip joint pain
I am currently in physical therapy for hip joint pain after I felt a pop in
my hip during a very hard effort (860 Watts while seated). I was wondering if
my saddle could be causing some of my hip problems. I have only been riding
it this season. I have the most control over my bike with this saddle hence
why I ride it. It is the Selle SMP Pro. It is a fairly wide saddle and I am
thinking that its unique shape may be interfering with my hip function. Is this
Steve Hogg replies:
Interesting question. The best answer I can give you sight unseen is possibly.
If the Pro is too wide, you will find that it either forces you forward on
the seat when you are going hard or that the back of your leg just under the
glute will contact the rear of the seat. If that's the case and I suppose
it is possible, the SMP Stratos may be a better choice as it is narrower.
It is more likely though, that something about the way you function pelvically
is not symmetrical or that there was a pre existing propensity or issue that
the hard effort pushed you exacerbated.
Hamstring tendon injury
First, I've learned a ton from the Cyclingnews fitness Q&A - My thanks to all
When I start building miles & fitness I seem to get same ligament injury in
my hamstrings/knees. Trying to figure out where root cause is: Position, muscle
imbalance, stretching, gain muscle strength quicker than tendon, pedalling technique?
From online anatomy images, it is one of the tendons behind the knee from either
the semitendonosis or semimembranosis (Can't figure out which.) Of the right
knee's cross section, if the Patella is north, then this tendon pair is at the
South-West corner. Of the two, the problem tendon is to the east (away from
With knee at 90 degree, no muscle tension, I can cram 2 fingers between the
pair about 1.5-3 inches from knee axis, and it sings a 'therapeutic' kind of
good pain. The injury comes on very quickly, slow to heal, and only seems to
subside after months of lower intensity. This leads me to believe it is more
a ligament problem than muscle strain.
I thought this was just a first year injury (December last year), but it resurfaced
a few days ago and now I'm worried.
Lean race weight 155lbs, currently 168.
Sprinter body type (5s 1100w just about any day of week), FTP 230ish.
Always loved cycling from age 7-21 commuting/mtb, 6yr hiatus and been back now
riding 2yrs roadie. I will be starting my first racing season next spring on
the road/criterium circuit.
Recent changes/possible causes in sequence of my best guess:
1) Moderate sprinting from standing start.
2) Moving cleats back 4mm & saddle forward 3mm (did not lower saddle.)
3) Trying to pedal circles out of saddle. (May have flexed hamstrings at too
tight of a knee angle.)
4) Recently did some Stair Running
5) Recently did some Jumps from slow roll
6) Not Stretching (Though I regularly use a baker's rolling pin to work out
tightness in legs.)
7) Saddle height is adjusted for forced heels down pedalling where it feels
more powerful for steady state pedalling circles. But my natural style is heels
Michael Smartt replies:
As you have alluded to, there are several possibilities for the pain you
are experiencing, some of which I can't speak to without seeing you in person.
However, you have brought up several issues related to technique and training
that I can address and which I feel are the most likely cause for your pain.
First of all, there are now several studies demonstrating that "pedalling
in circles" (while seated) is both less efficient and not the technique adopted
by elite level cyclists. In order to pedal in circles, you must increase the
activation of the lower hamstrings through bottom dead centre of your pedal
stroke and during the upstroke (pulling the heel of the foot towards the saddle).
I've often heard this related to scraping the mud off the bottom of your shoes,
but the pertinent issue is that pedalling in circles suggests reducing peak
torque (down stroke) and negative torque (upstroke). While this is not only
inefficient, you are effectively asking your hamstrings to put out as much
power as the much more powerful quadriceps and glutes. The result is either
putting too much stress on the hamstrings or a reduction in power output from
the quads and glutes so that the hamstrings can "keep up". For a more detailed
write up check out this
While I've never seen it studied, trying to pedal circles out of the saddle
as you have described is likely putting excessive stress on the hamstrings
as well. Anecdotally, if you are looking to increase leg turnover while out
of the saddle, I recommend utilizing the upper body and hip flexors (Illiopsoas)
to pull the knees towards the chest and get that pumping, running motion you
see from the best sprinters. If nothing else, this will provide you with a
technique that will limit the activation of the injured area.
However, overall you should re-evaluate your choice of training techniques
and focus if they are perpetuating the problem. For example, the standing
start can be an effective on-the-bike force workout, but its application is
limited, especially when you consider the amount of stress it imparts. Focusing
on raising your FTP, VO2max and anaerobic capacity will provide you with far
greater benefits for racing and can be done without applying any near the
stress of standing starts.
If these adjustments in your training do not relieve the pain your are experiencing,
I recommend two things: checking your bike fit from someone who can speak
to the anatomical issues I have described and that are related to your hamstring
injury; and if necessary, visiting a physical therapist who can treat the
area, asses any possible muscle imbalances and check your flexibility.
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