Form & Fitness Q & A
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Fitness questions and answers for July 1, 2008
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.
Jon Heidemann (www.peaktopeaktraining.com)
is a USAC Elite Certified cycling coach with a BA in Health Sciences from
the University of Wyoming. The 2001 Masters National Road Champion has
competed at the Elite level nationally and internationally for over 14
years. As co-owner of Peak to Peak Training Systems, Jon has helped athletes
of all ages earn over 84 podium medals at National & World Championship
events during the past 8 years.
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. Clients range from recreational riders and riders with
disabilities to World and National champions.
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.
Steve Owens (www.coloradopremiertraining.com)
is a USA Cycling certified coach, exercise physiologist and owner of Colorado
Premier Training. Steve has worked with both the United States Olympic
Committee and Guatemalan Olympic Committee as an Exercise Physiologist.
He holds a B.S. in Exercise & Sports Science and currently works with
multiple national champions, professionals and World Cup level cyclists.
Through his highly customized online training format, Steve and his handpicked
team of coaches at Colorado Premier Training work with cyclists and multisport
athletes around the world.
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.
Michael Smartt (www.wholeathlete.com)
is an Associate Coach with Whole Athlete. He holds a Masters degree
in exercise physiology, is a USA Cycling Level I (Elite) Coach and is
certified by the NSCA (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist).
Michael has more than 10 years competitive experience, primarily on the
road, but also in cross and mountain biking. He is currently focused on
coaching road cyclists from Jr. to elite levels, but also advises triathletes
and Paralympians. Michael is a strong advocate of training with power
and has over 5 years experience with the use and analysis of power meters.
Michael also spent the 2007 season as the Team Coach for the Value Act
Capital Women's Cycling Team.
Earl Zimmermann (www.wenzelcoaching.com)
has over 12 years of racing experience and is a USA Cycling Level II Coach.
He brings a wealth of personal competitive experience to his clients.
He coaches athletes from beginner to elite in various disciplines including
road and track cycling, running and triathlon.
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.
Calories and kilojoules
Cycling vs. running
Injury recovery time / fitness loss
Well designed saddles
Strange quad pain
Calories and kilojoules
When looking at my HRM or PowerTap does the calories or kilojoules of work
done correspond to actual total calories burned or just to the calories used
for the work being done on the bike? In other words; If I require 200 calories
per hour to stay alive while sitting on my sofa, and I'm using 700 calories
per hour for my workout the I would actually need 900 calories to replace calories
burned rather than the 700 that my PowerTap says.
Scott Saifer replies:
First a caveat: The calories functions on heart rate monitors are really
poor approximations of calories actually expended. The calories functions
on power-meters are much better but still not great. They are looking at the
power you put out through the pedals, and taking a guess at your efficiency.
The problem is that efficiency varies from about four calories expended for
every calorie of work done to 5 calories expended for every calorie of work
done and there is no way to refine that approximation other than by doing
an actual metabolic measurement with a gas-exchange mask at a testing facility
or lab. I don't know what efficiency the PowerTap guesses, but the result
is likely to be off by 5% on average one way or the other, and up to 10% in
That being said, I don't know if the calories expenditure functions are
supposed to be total or excess, but it really doesn't matter because the error
in the calculation is likely to be bigger than the resting caloric expenditure.
You don't use 200 calories per hour sitting on the sofa. More like 50, unless
you are doing something pretty energetic on that sofa.
Cycling vs. running
How many kilometres do I need to ride for an equivalent workout for say a 10km
Earl Zimmerman replies:
This may not be the answer that you wanted, but there isn't an equivalent
comparison between cycling and running.
The body uses different muscle groups in these endurance sports. Cycling
is more efficient thus it takes longer to burn the same amount of calories
as running. While running the body engages more muscles to propel the body
forward, thus the cardiovascular system is working harder than cycling.
Other than for beginning athletes and those using exercise for weight loss,
running won't make one a better cyclist nor will cycling make one a better
runner. Now if you are asking how fast or how far do I have to cycle in order
to burn the same amount of calories as running, then I would need to know
how fast you are running the 10K and how much you weigh.
Injury recovery time / fitness loss
I am a 50+ male cyclist, and participate in masters road races. I have a solid
base, and currently generally train (on the bike) 12 hours or so per week (I
follow a training plan; take an every 4th week recovery week, etc.). Last weekend
I was involved in a crash that resulted in various injuries (including still
quite painful broken ribs), and it looks like I might be off the bike for a
little bit (my Doc just smiled and told me I could start working out as my pain
I was targeting a race in the 1st weekend in August (a 40k time trial), and
I was wondering how much fitness one loses by effectively doing nothing for
a week (and maybe more). My current plan is to start doing soft spins as soon
as I can (maybe by the end of the week following my crash?), but I am not sure
at this point when I will be able to resume real workouts.
Scott Saifer replies:
After a week off you can be back up to full speed in 4-5 weeks, so early
August is at least possible, particularly if you can get back on in the next
few days. Broken ribs are painful, but you can train around them provided
that the breaks aren't endangering your lungs, which I'll assume they're not
given you doctor's advice.
I broke ribs a long time ago and managed to keep training pretty normally
from a few days later by wrapping them in an extra wide elastic bandage and
riding no-hands on all the climbs. I guess you've got to want it.
I'm a 26 old male cyclist, doing both road cycling and mountain biking, respectively
about 10,000 and 5,000 km per year.
Some days ago, in the morning following a mtb ride, I noticed a swollen lymphonode
in the left side of groin; it has grown to a size of 1 centimetre and it is
about double the size compared to the right one. It's not painful at all too
touch, but a few cm under, almost in the upper part of thigh, there's another
one. A little larger but not so prominant like the other, that I can feel it's
inflamed, but it is giving me a little aching.
Now, three days later I feel that the muscle of thigh surrounding the area,
just next the left groin, is a bit stiff and I' m aching in the area, being
not really able to distinguish if the pain is related to inflated lymphonodes
or to muscular matter. However, I feel more aching when walking, and especially
when flexing back the left leg, extending the upper thigh; anyway it' s very
light pain, but continuous.
For more information, I can say that I' m not in a period of hard training,
so I don't think it's a matter of overtraining, or of typical disease related
to, such Epstein-Barr virus. In the last two months I had some hard training
on the road bike and mountain bike too, but always recovering very well. In
the week preceding that ride I rode only two hours on the road at normal pace,
so I could arrive at the mtb ride very fresh, as planned.
As a matter of fact I felt powerful on mtb, riding forty-five miles, four hours,
pushing hard and being able to finish at very high speed. Even though the ride
was harsh I felt well during and after, recovering well, with no signs at all
of tiredness. Is it possible, in your opinion, that, due to the availability
of power related to the rest week preceding that, I hammered too hard (it' s
a well known ride to me, which I ride with my brother, with a lot of gradient,
and a long and very steep climb. I rode with 29\24, while normally I ride 29\28),
causing me some muscular damage, involving then lymphonodes in the area? If
not, what do you think is the cause?
Scott Saifer replies:
There are several possible causes of swollen lymph nodes and pain in the
surrounding muscle. You might have an abscess or deep infection, or something
worse, or maybe something trivial.
In any case you need to visit a doctor to rule out the infection and something
worse options. Going today would be better than delaying.
I am trying to sort out my training plans and try to tweak them into the future.
I have two fundamental problems. My first issue is with starting a race. The
effort required during the first 20 minutes hurts bad and my body has a hard
time recovering. If I start off a bit slower I am always in catch up mode but
always feel so much better during the latter parts of a race.
My second problem coincides with the first. If I start off as hard as I can
go and hold the leaders my body just shuts down after an hour. It seems that
I cannot hold a hard effort for more than one hour. I am more of a diesel rider.
If I go at my own pace I can hold an 85% effort much longer than most can but
if I push it harder at the beginning my body just shuts down. Obviously this
is not optimal for racing!
I used to race in college and took a few years off because of family obligations.
Over the past two years I have continue to improve my times and feel stronger
but I cannot seem to get over this hump. Because I am a father of three and
have a full time job I have to maximize my training hours. I currently do not
ride with a HR monitor or power meter. I want to make my training as simple
as possible and not spend hours looking at data.
Is there specific training I can do? Does this indicate a problem with my VO2max
or threshold levels?
Category: Road cat4-Mtn Sport
Training Hours: 10-15
Scott Saifer replies:
Here's the simple, probably disappointing but not unexpected diagnosis of
your problem: Assuming you are getting a good warm up of at least 40 minutes
before your races, you are not as strong as the competition.
You're not going to fix that with a different racing strategy. What you need
is a good training plan. You can get such a plan from many of the training
books on the market, but working with a coach probably makes more efficient
use of your time as the coach can make the plan for you so you can use your
limited time for training rather than reading and adjusting a plan. You will
almost certainly want a heart rate monitor. Analysing data can add to the
value of heart rate monitoring, but the bigger thing is simply to know how
hard you are training and adjust that, with the help of your coach, to help
you meet your goals. Power metering is strictly optional.
Let's start with the basics. I am a 6'4" 190 lbs 27 year old former swimmer
who turned to cycling about a year ago. After eight months of learning - about
100 miles a week - I began to gradually increase my weekly volume. I now try
and go between 200-300 miles a week, which includes a long 100-130 mile ride
over the weekend. My swimming background has dictated my training, form is necessary
to properly execute volume. Thus my reason for writing.
Over the past two to three weeks, I have experienced extreme soreness in my
left quadricep, specifically the Vastus Medialis muscle. I initially thought
it was just the standard-issue workout soreness or the fact that my right quad
is stronger than my left. However, simultaneously my lect Hallucis MTP joint
experienced a dull pain (I have not altered my cleat position) so I am wondering
if perhaps there is a correlation between the two? I use the KEO Look Classic
pedals and have the cleat as far back as they can be set. Also, my right and
left cleats are in the exact same position, because standing, both feet are
slightly pointed out at the same angle.
I guess my initial speculation would be that as I push my body harder with
longer rides, I am losing form and perhaps not dropping my heel enough or dropping
it too far. My athletic background contains a mindset that says push through
the pain. However, this is the first time I have relied on a machine to be apart
of my workout, and being that in cycling, the machine and the athlete work in
unison, so I am green behind the ears when dealing with these sorts of things.
Do you have any thoughts or suggestions?
Steve Hogg replies:
The location of the pain suggests that the plane of movement of your left
knee is being challenged as you tire. The VMO is a muscular lateral stabiliser
of the knee. The most likely reason is that as you tire, you exaggerate an
already present tendency to favour the right leg. Most riders do favour the
right leg and their are various reasons for that. So what to do?
Firstly, check seat height. If your seat is even a few mm too high, then
any tendency to asymmetric function will worsen as you tire. Try lowering
it by 5 mm and reassessing on the next long ride.
If that doesn't help, get hold of some BFS Cleat wedges and have a play.
And don't just try wedging the left shoe. Often issues such as yours are caused
by a tendency to autonomically protect a right side which needs compensation.
While you are doing as suggested, give me a bit more info. Does the left
knee waver a bit on the up and downstroke?
Or, does the left knee move outward on the upstroke or at the top of the
stroke, and inward on the downstroke?
If you look down at the gap between inner thigh and seat post as you tire
while pedaling; is there a difference in the gap between each side and if
so, on which side is the gap larger?
Well designed saddles
Hi folks, I noticed that there were some questions about the Selle SMP range
of seats posted last year and they seemed to be performing well.
I was wondering if this was still the case and what other brands/models are
recommended as being well designed?
Steve Hogg replies:
I'm a bit of an SMP fan, sell a few, and have mainly happy customers from
those who have tried them. Not everyone finds them comfortable which is pretty
much my experience with most types of saddles. I like the Composit because
though its total lack of padding means that it is hard, for many riders it
allows them to self correct any lack of symmetry in the way that they sit
because the rider can instantly feel when they are not sitting squarely on
that particular seat. Many riders can't cope with that lack of padding though.
There are plenty of well designed seats out there, but a seat is the most
personal choice you can make and some riders are far more sensitive to seat
choice than others. For that reason it is not possible to make recommendations
that are generally applicable.
Strange quad pain
I am a 46 yr-old male, train ~10 hrs/week, race crits and shorter RR(<50 miles).
I recently started getting a strange pain in my quads similar to type of pain
that one gets after doing squat exercises for the first few times. I recently
took a mid-season break of a couple of days off and on my first ride back; I
had this pain after 15 minutes riding easily. Every ride since results in the
same pain and is so intense that I have had to stop and stretch numerous times
before getting home.
I have had similar occurrences over the last 3- 4 yrs that I had attributed
to doing intense hill repeats at the same time/phase of training every year.
Fortunately they go away after a couple of days but this year is a little different
where I didn't get the pain during that time/phase, but after a rest period.
I have tried to identify possible causes- diet, hydration, changes in position
or equipment, etc. I cannot point to any possible cause and it is quite frustrating.
Steve Hogg replies:
Sounds like a tough one. Are you particularly flexible (and I don't mean
can you touch your toes)?
Assuming you aren't, how tight are your glutes? If you are unsure, find out
from a physio.
I have seen what you mention several times only and in those cases, the problem
was caused by hypertonic hip flexors neurologically inhibiting the glutes
to a large degree. When the foot is locked into a pedal, and if the glutes
just don't work at all, then extension of the knee by the quads also forces
the hip to extend in a passive sense. The problem is that functioning like
that loads the quads excessively.
There may well be other reasons for your problem, but as a first step, find
a physio and see how tight your hip flexors are. If tight hip flexors aren't
the problem, I will attempt to advise further.
Thanks for the quick response. I am fairly flexible and stretch after every
ride, with hip flexor stretches being part of my routine. Your suggestion is
interesting as the previous times that I have had this pain have coincided with
my doing hill repeats (5 x 5 min intervals at >LT). The different pedalling
effort/style would concur with your analysis, although I do vary the cadence
for some of the intervals.
One other possible factor (I might be reaching..) is that November of 2006,
I had a one time case of Thyroiditis that resolved itself. The pain was of similar
type but it was accompanied by an increased HR and the muscle pain continued
off the bike. 2 weeks ago I had a physical with blood tests and all my levels
were well within limits. Hope this narrows things down.
Steve Hogg replies:
If lack of flexibility isn't the issue, it may be that it is something simple
like seat height. You say that initially the problem arose during hill repeats
but is now present all the time. During hill repeats, where I assume you are
forcing the gear a bit, you will drop your heels more than your usual technique
because the higher torque per stroke, lower rpm style of pedaling that climbing
usually demands that. It is conceivable that your seat is too high. As an
experiment, drop your seat 5mm and let me know what happens.
I've been riding pain-free since last week Thursday and the pain has disappeared
as quickly as it had come on. I am now wondering if it is related to mental
stress due work and/or family issues - I have a couple of teenagers.;-) That
is definitely a possible link to previous years and my current situation.
Although it may seem that I am reaching, I am fairly analytical when it comes
to things and over the years have trouble-shooted this issue looking for all
the things that might have changed. On one hand the pain has gone, but on the
other I still haven't found the root cause. Fortunately it only happens once
a year for a couple of days then it goes away.
I appreciate your help and I welcome any other suggestions but I know it is
very difficult to troubleshoot something like this remotely. If this continues
in future years, I'll just have to pay you a visit down under.
Steve Hogg replies:
I'm happy for you but curious as to the cause. You mention the possibility
of this being stress related which is interesting. When we are stressed, this
can sometimes cause excessive tension in postural musculature. The centre
quad, the rectus femoris is a postural muscle and if it tightens as a response
to stress, I would expect the pain to be down the centre line of the front
of the upper leg. It is conceivable as well that the scenario I mentioned
in my first reply could happen in response to stress too, but it isn't that
likely, just possible.
If you ever find out what the cause is, I would be interested to hear about
it. Best of luck.
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