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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

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.

Jon Heidemann ( 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 ( 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.

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.

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. 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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.

Michael Smartt ( 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 ( 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.

Fitness questions and answers for July 1, 2008

Calories and kilojoules
Cycling vs. running
Injury recovery time / fitness loss
Lymphnodes disease
Performance limit
Quadriceps pain
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.

Jeff Harmon

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 many cases.

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 run?


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 allowed).

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.

Lymphnodes disease

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?

Rome, Italy

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.

Performance limit

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?

Age: 31
State: Colorado
Category: Road cat4-Mtn Sport
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 165lbs
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.

Quadriceps pain

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?

Mark Trotter

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.

Wayne replies:

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.

Wayne replies:

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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