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Form & Fitness Q & A
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Fitness questions and answers for November 21, 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.
Foot alignment while pedalling
Knee tracking problem
Intensity during rest period
Foot alignment while pedalling
Hi. I have a question about foot alignment while pedalling. I'm a cat 4 racer,
and have been riding for the last 3 years. I'm 22 years old and I ride about
3000-4000 miles each year. For the last 2 years I've been riding on Look A5.1
pedals. I really liked them, but after knee surgery last November, I needed
to get a pedal system that allowed a little bit more "natural" movement in knee
and foot on my right side. So I switched to Speedplay X-2's and I've been very
happy. I find that my foot pivots slightly from side to side during the pedal
stroke to match the natural tendencies of my formerly bad but now much better
The strange thing that I have noticed now that I have more float available
is that when I start pedalling harder, my right heel starts to pivot outwards
from the bike, giving me a pigeon toed stance on my right foot only. This doesn't
cause me any discomfort, and I find that I do it subconsciously. When I notice
I'm doing it, I try to correct myself and concentrate on keeping my foot more
inline with the bike, but as the ride drones on, I tend to revert back to the
original heal out stance. I'm curious what could have caused this and if it
will have any lasting effects on my knee health or my riding ability. I don't
walk pigeon toed, as a matter of fact, I walk slightly duck footed (I know lots
of bird references). When I was younger my hips were checked to see if there
was something out of alignment causing me to walk that way, but nothing was
found at the time. I don't have any impairments walking, running or anything
else either. If it helps, the knee surgery was a laparoscopic procedure to remove
a piece of tissue that was stuck in my joint and abrading the contact surfaces
of my knee joint quite badly. It was a piece of tissue that should have been
broken down by my body when I was an infant, but for some reason decided to
hang around and cause me problems later. So I had it removed, and nearly all
of the pain I experienced from its presence disappeared.
Any insight into my mysterious heal out stance on the right foot only would
be greatly appreciated.
Steve Hogg replies:
If it makes you feel better, you're not alone. What you describe isn't rare.
You are unlikely to hurt yourself because under load, your foot is ending
up at the angle on the pedals that your body wants it to. Have you had any
pain or discomfort like that? If the answer is no, don't worry about it.
As to why you function like that, there are several potential reasons, all
to do with asymmetric pelvic function and accidents at birth or development.
If you really want to know the answer, find a really good physio, chiro, osteopath
or similar and have them do a global structural assessment.
In the meantime, just enjoy your riding.
Knee tracking problem
I just read your article on moving knees. I have a similar problem which is
complicated with left anterior knee pain, probable chondromalacia. I recently
had a bike fit and was noted that my left knee goes lateral and right medial
on the downstroke. Here is some important information. I am a radiologist and
my scanogram showed no appreciable leg discrepancy. I am flat footed on the
left and have a high arch on the right. The bike fitter suggested a longer axle
on my left pedal (speedplay X1) and a increased Q factor to correct the left
I am only 5'6", 130 lbs with narrow pelvis and small feet. So this to me was
not the correct fix. What do you think? Would customize orthotics or wedges
help? The right knee is fine so I'm not that concerned on that side.
Thanks in advance for your help.
Maui, Hawaii, USA
Steve Hogg replies:
In the absence of a measurable leg length difference, a visit to a good physio
or other competent structural health professional will probably reveal functional
asymmetries of various kinds. The most common problem for left leg issues
is that 95% of riders self protect their right sides and to varying extents,
sacrifice the left side. Whether you are doing this or not, I don't know but
an easy way to find out is this-
Set your bike up on an indoor trainer, warm up thoroughly and pedal under
reasonable load while stripped to the waist. Make sure that the bike is levelled
between axle centres. Have an observer stand on a chair above and behind you
and what I want to know is whether you drop and/or rotate one hip forward
on the pedal downstroke on that side.
Let me know the answer to that and I will attempt to advise.
I've been reading the fitness Q&A column for a couple years now and have
always found the advice to be very informative and helpful, and so now that
I'm running into a problem I'm writing for advice.
I'm relatively new to competitive road cycling, but have made it my goal
to reach Cat 1/2 status next season. I'm up to Cat 3 so far, and won a race
this season. I'm training about 14-16 hours a week and will maintain that
through the winter and then try to step it up to 18-20 in my build phase.
I'm 183cm tall and 82kg. That's far above my race weight. I'm doing my best
Jan Ullrich impression this off-season…
Anyhow, I've had a niggling problem with my knee for a little over a year
now. It's only discomfort, not pain, and has not hindered anything from
riding to walking up and down stairs. It's concentrated on the top of my
tibia, just to the inside of the knee cap on my left leg. Occasionally it
radiates to where the knee cap tendon joins the tibia and up into the knee
cap. Sometimes after periods of sitting with my knees bent I "have to" straighten
my leg and "crack" my knee, just as some people "have to" crack their knuckles.
Although I occasionally have to do that with my right knee as well, and
I have no discomfort there. I notice it the most when I'm really concentrating
on "pushing" over the top of the pedal stroke, from the top to forward horizontal
positions. I also noticed the other day on the trainer that my left leg
is noticeably weaker during one-leg pedalling drills.
I have seen my doctor, a sports physio and even talked to a former European
professional regarding this problem. I've been told its Patellofemoral Syndrome
(PFS) or bursitis or my knee ligaments "getting used to" the repetitive
motions of cycling. My doctor prescribed some knee strengthening exercises
and the physio basically told me not to do anything and see if it goes away.
I've been doing the knee strengthening exercises (reverse step-ups and shallow
one leg squats), and I've eased off the intensity of my training. I even
took a month off at one point. My knee discomfort isn't getting any worse,
but it isn't getting better. Both my doctor and physio have felt/manipulated
my knee and have assured me that there is no physical damage being done.
Any insight into this would be very helpful.
Steve Hogg replies:
The question that always occur when I read mail like yours is "Why one
side only?" The problem arises because you are doing something with that
left knee that it doesn't like. There are a wide variety of reasons that
may be to blame. It could be a combination of several. Below is a list
of things to check that may help.
1. If seat height is even a fraction too high, the inherent tendency
everyone has to favour one side, most often the right side, is exaggerated,
leaving the left leg mildly overextending and usually with it's plane
of movement challenged. Try dropping your seat 5mm and persevere for a
week and see if there is any positive difference.
2. It is possible that your left leg is functionally or measurably shorter
than your right, again leading to mild overextension. Again drop your
seat 5mm. If that works for you but the right leg feels cramped, then
either the right leg is longer or as per 1, in that you are favouring
the right side in the sense of dropping the right hip on each right side
pedal stroke but not rebounding to the centre for the left leg's pedal
3. While I think it is less likely, it may be that you favour the left
side and your problem arises because of under extension of the left leg
and the reverse of 1 is the case.
4. You need to eliminate the simple things; Are your cleats in the same
place relative to foot in shoe on either side (and that doesn't necessarily
mean in the same place on the shoe sole)?
Before you say yes, have you checked?
Is your left cleat much more worn than your right cleat?
Do you have rotational movement on either side of where your foot naturally
wants to sit under load? For this last, check both feet. You wouldn't
be the first person I am aware of where the problem cleat angle was actually
the non injured side and that self protecting that side caused problems
for the other side. I'm not saying that this is the case, but it worth
5. Are you significantly tighter in and around the hip and lower back
on one side than the other?
6. Do you have a significant difference in foot size or height of arch
and instep between left and right feet?
7. Lastly, as a cross check; mount your bike on a trainer making sure
that it is levelled between axle centres. Warm up thoroughly and pedal
in a gear that makes you work hard at 85 - 95 rpm. Have an observer standing
behind and above you on a chair. What he needs to look for is whether
you are dropping or rotating one hip forward on the pedal stroke of that
I am not sure how to describe something I go through almost every year
about this time, but after last nights nearly sleepless battle, I am going
to try. I go through periods where my thighs burn like they have a lactic
acid overload when I am just idle. Last night it was so bad I couldn't lay
still for more than a few seconds, though that was the worst it had ever
been. Mostly it's just been a discomfort. For some background, I am usually
active on the bike throughout most of the year, and starting September I
wind down quite a bit. I have periods where I get out a few times a week
(I did squeeze in 4 rides in the last week of Daylight Savings Time), so
I have always felt like my leg muscles were going through some period of
adjustment to the relative idleness. They are burning as I write this.
So, have you ever heard of this before? Is there something wrong with my
diet? Am I missing some key mineral? Or is this just a quiet little secret
that athletes keep to themselves? I am not sure what other information to
give. Male, 48, cyclist for 30+ years, mostly veggy diet for past 5 years,
but I have been eating meat again this year.
Oh yeah, and I stopped drinking coffee 3 days ago, cold turkey. Probably
a 3-4 large cup a day drinker. I broke down this morning and had 2 nice
big cups of caffeinated tea, and I feel better.
Thanks for any information,
Little Silver, NJ, USA
Scott Safier replies:
I'm sorry you are suffering and that I don't have a good answer for you.
Many riders report some small degree of muscle pain during a rest period,
but definitely not the majority and not as bad as what you are describing.
I hope one of the other panellists will have a recommendation for you.
I am a 5'11", 190lb, CAT 3, male, cyclo-cross racer in Colorado. I race
mainly criteriums during the road season and cyclo-cross races this time
of year. I can usually get a prime or two at the criteriums, but rarely
have enough power at the end of the race to position myself and sprint for
the final. My main issue this time of year is that I can get a great start
at every 'cross race (top 5-10 consistently) and can maintain position for
a lap or two, but after about 10-15 minutes, I fade and may end up losing
30 to 40 places throughout the rest of the race resulting in a mid-pack
finish. What should I work on to improve this? I feel fine during the first
couple laps, but it seems like either the guys get faster, or I gradually
Scott Safier replies:
You need to work on two things. First is pacing. If you start hard and
get a position in the front few riders but then fade, you are wasting
energy to get that seat at the front of the race and fading back farther
than you need to as a result. Think of it this way: You sprint into 5th
spot off the line but end up 20th in the race. If you simply settled into
20th from the start, you'd end up in the same spot with less energy expended
so you might be able to move up several spots in the final lap. If you
perfectly pace CX race you go off the line fairly hard but settle into
a pace you can sustain around the time you meet the first major obstacle.
For the first third of the race you might be holding even with the riders
around you or getting passed by a few. My the middle of the race you are
holding even and in the final third you are passing all the riders who
started too hard and are holding even with the other riders who paced
well. Then in the final lap or two, you go hard and pass a few more. You
may object that if you don't start hard and go hard for several laps you
can't win, but you'd be wrong. The truth is if you can't hold even with
the leaders without going hard, you can't win.
That brings us to the second part of my recommendations: Cross is an
aerobic sport. It's essentially an obstacle course time trial where some
of the obstacles are fixed and some are riders (and some are fixed riders).
You need to build a big base of aerobic fitness before the season starts
if you hope to compete. Unless you are racing flat courses, you weight
also puts you at a big disadvantage.
You didn't describe your training year, but I'd guess from the fact that
you ride cross and crits that you don't have many months in which to build
you aerobic fitness. If you want to be good at cross, you need to train
for it. If you want to be good at crits, you need to train for that. If
you want to be good at both, you can't race full seasons because there
simply aren't enough months in the year. For my riders who are more serious
about cross, I recommend starting the cross-specific training in June.
They then race cross from September or October through December and train
for the road or MTB season until April. That means they only get to race
road from Mid-April through May. Then it's time to get serious about cross
There is a group of racers who can race road and cross year round and
stay strong year round: Those who are so talented and so well trained
that they are so much faster than the competition that they can race their
events as base training.
Intensity during rest period
I am a 44 year old road cyclist. My question is about the period of time
at the end of your season. Obviously this is a time of rest and recovery.
I try to cross train and change my riding i.e. MTB during this time for
a mental break as well. Friel's bible puts a calculated HR to stay below
to ensure recovery during this period.
I have heard discussion by other riders/coaches of limited volume of intensity
in this period to sustain some level of fitness. e.g. 4x2.5min intervals
at 5min TT intensity or similar. What are your opinions?
Also when training starts building again obviously volume of training gradually
increases. Have you found the volume of intensity or the level of intensity
the critical factor in creating too much fatigue too early. Once again the
Friel approach advocates a HR/Power level below a certain calculated point.
I have heard that limited high intensity work i.e. as above or 20x30 sec
intervals could be used at this point and slowly increased. Limiting volume
of intensity rather than intensity.
I realise that individual athletes have different needs and listening to
your body is a good guide to make sure you keep fresh, but I'm wondering
if there are training absolutes on the above issues of intensity training
during transition or base periods.
Dario Fredrick replies:
I agree with your approach to the off-season/transition period in that
you include some cross training and MTB riding. It is indeed useful to
not only change the physical stumuli of day-to-day training, but the mental
stimuli as well.
Regarding whether or not including short TT intervals, consider what
you want to accomplish in this period. If your goal is to fully rest and
recover from a long season of training and racing, high intensity training
should be avoided until you have experienced a macro-level of recovery.
By macro-level, I mean examining your cycles of training and recovery
from the perspective of the entire year, and from one season to the next.
I would recommend at least a few weeks of relatively low to moderate intensity
exercise. At Whole Athlete, we have found it useful to have our athletes
detrain somewhat (at least in terms of top-end, high-intensity fitness)
so that they can rebuild to a similar or higher level heading into the
Once you begin to rebuild your base, including some short high-intensity
efforts can be beneficial. However, 20x30 sec sounds like too much at
first, particularly if they are max efforts. I would recommend doing some
on/off style intervals, such as a 10 min interval (in the saddle) alternating
between 10 sec on (95-98% effort) and 50 sec off (easy to moderate). As
the weeks progress, you can increase the length of the "ons," eventually
up to 30 sec on / 30 sec off.
Generally speaking, I think most highly motivated athletes in this modern
age can benefit from more recovery. Many of us tend to stimulate the stress
response of the nervous system much more than necessary in daily life,
which is counter-productive to optimal recovery and performance. If you
were to keep your training load exactly the same from one year to the
next, but simply improve the quality of your recovery, you will likely
experience an improvement in performance.
Good luck with your training.
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