Form & Fitness Q & A
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Fitness questions and answers for July 15, 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.
Sloping saddle question
Foot / knee issue
Pain in right hip, lower back, pirformis area
Sloping saddle question
I've noticed through the use of 2 different saddles that they tend to slope
sideward toward the drive side with use. The most obvious explanation is some
imbalance or posture problem; however I don't have any noticeable/ unexplained
About six months ago I experienced some pain in my left hip and tightness in
the left calf, which I wonder in retrospect if it could be because it is on
the opposite side of the tilt of the saddle. This pain went away after I had
my bike professionally fit, and subsequently altered my position to a more correct
posture. Since I have no great pain, I hate to pay a doctor for a potentially
negligible diagnosis. Is a hip imbalance a possible diagnosis, and can it be
remedied? Prior to the fitting, I was using a Selle Italia Flite Gel Flow, but
have recently switched to a Selle Italia Signo Gel Flow, but have noticed the
tilting still continues despite the elastomers in the saddle and my new position.
Alexandria, VA, USA
Steve Hogg replies:
Your tendency to force the seat down on right hand side indicates you are
dropping the right hip. As to reasons, there could be a leg length difference
or more likely functional issues with pelvis, hips or lower back. I've even
seen upper back asymmetries cause a chain of compensations down the spine
that end with what you have noted. In short, there are host of possible reasons
for it and yes, a hip imbalance (which in itself can have many potential causes)
is one possible cause. The left side issues you had some time ago were more
than likely caused by your tendency to drop the right hip.
It sounds like you current asymmetries have been accommodated by the gent
who fitted you to your bike which is good, but your assumption that the absence
of pain means there is no great problem isn't a sound one.
Pain is one of the later signs that there is a problem, not one of the first.
Absence of pain doesn't equal absence of problem. I wouldn't advise you to
see a doctor either. Seeing as you are curious about this seat issue, I would
advise you to see a competent structural health professional (chiropractor,
manipulative physio, osteopath or similar) and find out what the story is.
Forewarned is forearmed.
Foot / knee issue
I'll begin noting that in all the various sports that I do, my left side has
always had the injury-prone limb, from running, to climbing, to biking, even
The foot issue: The three degrees of cant comes, I think, from the fact that
I have always had pronation problems as a runner (orthotics since 1990). The
guy who was helping me with the bike fit at the shop really zeroed in on tracking
problems that he saw happening with my left foot.
It was all over the place out of plane of rotation; taking my orthotics out
of the system and adding the cant seemed to correct it, and certainly felt better
until about 3 weeks ago. I'll also note that, during the bike fit, the pro noted
that my left knee moves out of plane at the top of the stroke with a quick outward
motion, while it tends towards the inside of plane at the bottom stroke. I'm
also doing strengthening exercises for my arches.
The hip issue: during PT over the winter, it was noted that my left leg appears
shorter than the right, but the bones seem of about parallel length. The PT
guys spent a bunch of time measuring and concluded that my left leg inserts
into the hip differently from the way my right leg does (in such a way that
when I'm bent at the hip, the length discrepancy seems to go away).
I'm pretty sure the bike fit guy watched my hips as part of the bike fit, but
didn't remark on them as much as on the foot. I did have my wife this morning
watch my butt and hips while I was on the rollers, and she said that it looked
like my entire left side was dropping, hips and back included, more than
the right side.
Steve Hogg replies:
Where to start?
Firstly, the 100% solution to your problem lies off the bike, not on the
bike. If you keep knocking on doors, sooner or later you will find the health
professional(s) with the necessary expertise and insight to point you in the
right direction. So don't give up. Given your history with ITB problems, maybe
it is time to get serious about sorting out your posture and the way that
you function. I can't stress enough that we all butt up against the limits
our structures impose on us if we ride hard enough or long enough. You are
running into limits at a level of training that isn't unreasonable. After
that crash in '06, did you see chiropractor, manipulative physio or osteopath?
If not, it is my standard recommendation based on my and clients experiences
that we all should do this. Too often, we feel recovered but experience
problems down the track that are the result of a decent hit shoving us out
of alignment. So we compensate but for every compensation we pay a price large
or small. If the severity of your problems increased post crash, something
Re the left leg; several things stand out.
1. I'm not surprised that removing your orthotics from your cycling shoes
helped. Approximately 50% of riders who have orthotics that resolve walking
/ running issues and use them in cycling shoes will experience problems with
them. The short explanation is that if you sit on a bike in much the same
way as you stand, in terms of pelvic obliquities and rotation, then running
/ walking running orthotics work a treat. If you don't, and 50% or thereabouts
don't, then they are part of the problem or another variable added to the
picture for no benefit.
2. Leg length - you need to know what the situation is. Organise a standing
long leg x ray and find out whether there is a measurable bone length difference.
Better to deal with facts than guess-timations.
3. Assuming a reasonable position, knee tracking problems on a bike occur
because of foot / ankle issues, hip / lower back / pelvic issues or a combination
of those things. The 3 degrees of cant sounds like it has helped but the "entire
left side was dropping, hips and back included, more than the right
side" that your wife noted won't be solved by canting the foot. If you have
a leg length discrepancy, a shim under the left cleat will probably help.
If you try a shim and it has no effect on your tendency to drop the hip and
left side, then the problem is definitely a hip and / or lower back problem.
On the balance of probabilities, have someone knowledgeable check out whether
your sacrum or lumbar vertebra are rotated or both.
4. American Classic make a seat post called the J Post that can be used to
'force' you to lessen that left side drop. I think in your case that it is
a band aid only. Get the x ray, see a structural health professional and let
me know what they find.
5. Once you get some good information and are on the road to resolving this
problem, make some sort of structural maintenance like yoga or Pilates part
of your training.
I am a 52-year-old male who rides between 6000 to 7000 miles per year, races
road events in the master's category and a sport class mountain bike racer.
I have been doing this for the past 16 years. I weigh 168 lbs (broke a couple
of ribs on the mountain bike and gained 10lbs) and 5'8" tall. The reason I am
getting in touch with you is because I am having BIG problems with my feet.
Usually I'm a spinner (95-105 cadence) but whenever I do something using a
big gear and lots of pressure on the pedals, such as a sprint workout, big gear
low cadence workout, climbing in big gear seated, the next day my left foot
is sore around the ball of my foot and the big toe joint. I'm pretty sure I
have the pedal set under the ball of my foot and I also use carbon soles shoes.
I use speed play pedals (have for years) on my road bike. I am beginning to
believe that maybe the speed plays don't offer enough support, over a wide enough
area of my foot, but I am not sure about that as I see that there are plenty
of pro tour riders using speed play and they ride way more and put a lot more
pressure on there pedals than I do, In your opinion are they any other pedal
systems that offer more support, or is there another problem? Any thoughts or
ideas would be appreciated before I start swapping out pedals.
Steve Hogg replies:
Why the left foot and not the right foot?
That is the question that you ultimately need to answer. Speedplays offer
quite a stable platform unless there is play between the bearings and axle,
so it is unlikely that the pedals are the root cause. The obvious possibilities
are a difference in foot morphology between left and right. This in turn may
be caused by:
1. A leg length difference OR
2. A pelvic asymmetry OR
3. An asymmetrical way of sitting on the seat.
Do you have the perception that either leg is stronger or more fluent than
Set yourself up on an indoor trainer and while pedaling in a reasonably hard
gear, have an observer stand above and behind you on a chair. Do you drop
or rotate forward one hip more than the other?
Strip to your underpants, stand in front of a mirror and run your thumbs
down on either side from the height of the lowest rib until they contact the
to of the pelvis. Does one side of your pelvis sit higher than the other?
Let me know the answers to those questions and I will attempt to advise further.
Thanks for the quick response. To answer you questions, due to a broken hip
when I was a child, my right leg is 1cm shorter than the left, also my right
foot angles out to the right due to the broken hip(that's one reason I use speed
plays due to all the float). Also, I had a podiatrist tell me once that I had
a condition in the left foot called long toe syndrome, where the bones in your
feet are to long, and anytime you put it in undue stress it inflames the joint
and also has arthritis in the joint.
Sounds like I'm a walking wreck don't it? I guess since I broke my hip when
I was so young I have learned to adjust to it (or did not realise I had the
problems until someone pointed them out) I grew up racing motocross, a runner,
and water skied after the broke hip, although the older I get the more nagging
stuff happens. I know I need to make some position changes, but am not real
sure what to do and don't want to make things worst, the local podiatrist around
here only know about running, Its just that the foot problem is getting worst
and last year I missed a cyclo cross race because of it, and its seems to be
happing more and more so I need to solve the problem.
Steve Hogg replies:
What you say sheds a bit of light on things. I would guess that the long
toes on the left foot are not the entire problem with the pain you suffer.
You don't mention any type of compensation for that 10mm shorter right leg
on the bike. You are very likely to be dropping one hip, but it could be either
one depending on your pattern of compensation.
For some people, a life time of exerting more torque at the hip with the
longer leg while they walk causes the left it Ilium to tip forward at the
top, pivoting on the sacro iliac joint (SIJ). When this happens, the SIJ range
of movement is restricted and there is a largely predictable pattern of muscular
tightness associated with that. This results in a situation where the hip,
lower back and pelvis of the long legged side work as a unit rather than independently
and manifests on the bike as a pronounced drop and rotation of the hip on
the pedal downstroke. It may be this movement that is loading the left 1st
MTP joint more than it likes.
If this is happening, then the shorter right leg would be overextending and
I would expect that to be obvious to you in the sense of the right leg feeling
less powerful or less fluent. As you haven't mentioned that I suspect that
the other general pattern of compensation is what is occurring.
And that is that you are dropping the hip of the shorter right leg to allow
it to reach the bottom of the pedal stroke. If this happens, then that dropping
and probable rotation forward of the right hip will cause the left leg to
be dragged towards the centre line and probably leave you with an internally
rotated left hip on the bike because your pelvis isn't square to the direction
of travel. It that's happening and it is probable, then you will load the
1st MTP joint of your left foot, which in your case is already sensitive because
of the arthritic condition.
You need to establish what his happening, so get on that trainer with your
observer standing by as mentioned earlier and let me know.
The other factor that adds to the problem is your cleat position. Get hold
of Speedplay part no. 13330 and position your cleats as suggested in these
1. Cleat position and
2. Ball of the foot
That will mean a rearward movement of the cleats which will likely mean greater
extension of the legs. So you may need to drop your seat a touch after moving
Ok, my wife watched me from behind and above, and she said that it looked like
I was dropping and rotating my right hip. Also I have always felt like I was
limping when I pedal. When I set my seat height, I use the old heel barely touch
the pedal using the shorter leg. After I talked with you the about the speedplay
pedals, the owner of the local bike shop let me borrow a set of the new style
Shimano pedals, saying they had a larger foot bed, but I am worried that the
lack of float with my angled out right foot might be a problem. I did install
the cleats 9mm behind the ball of my foot (size 43 shoes) and I will try them
out this afternoon.
Steve Hogg replies:
Okay, the second scenario I mentioned yesterday is likely to be what is happening.
You almost certainly need to shim up the right cleat. You will need to experiment
with how much but I would suggest 5mm as a starting point, though don't be
surprised if you need more. For every 5mm or so of shim stack, move your cleat
one mm further back relative to foot in shoe to preserve a solid feel on the
pedals. And yes, with the Shimano's, it is likely that there will not be enough
rotational movement to cater for your externally rotated right hip.
Once you have a shim stack in place, ask your wife to have another look.
If you are dropping the right hip less or not at all, good. If the shim stack
makes no significant difference, then almost certainly, you are much tighter
on the right side and that is causing the hip drop. If that is the case, you
will need to work to resolve that issue off the bike but will probably still
need a shim stack of whatever size to accommodate the 10mm leg length difference.
Ultimately, what you are trying to do is solve the discomfort issue of the
left foot. Let me know how you get on.
Pain in right hip, lower back, pirformis area
I am a woman cyclist, 39 years old. I have been riding for fitness for the
past 20 years on both road and mountain bikes. I just purchased a new woman's
Felt FW25 (Not sure if this is the model name or not).
The main reason for purchasing a new bike is that for the past 4 years I have
been having problems with chronic tightness in my lower, right paraspinal area
as well as the attachment area and my right hip/pirformis muscle. I was fitted
for the new bike which was very different from the old.
I was feeling great for a while and my back/paraspinal/pirformis was not bothering
me when I rode at all, but then, my knees started hurting. I went back to the
bike shop and the owner moved my seat back a little and up a little and then
moved my cleats. Well, now my knees are okay, but my other problem areas have
come back and after about 2 hours of riding I am in too much pain and have no
power whatsoever in my right leg and I am in spasm.
I am currently seeing a PT for this problem, but I feel that my position on
the bike is really a factor. How do I go about resolving this issue?
I don't even know where to start. Do you know anyone in the Chicago-land area
who is very knowledgeable in this area that could help me? I live in West Chicago,
IL, which is close to Glen Ellyn, Naperville, Wheaton etc.
I really am so frustrated especially since I was feeling so much better riding
and then after this last adjustment I feel awful again. I find myself not wanting
to even ride anymore.
West Chicago, IL, USA
David Fleckenstein replies:
What you are describing makes me curious that you actually have excessive
joint laxity in your lumbar spine rather than the "tightness" that you describe.
I frequently have patients who come to the clinic with complaints of tightness
and stiffness in their low back, but when I test the joint mobility
and soft tissue mobility in an unstressed position, they exhibit joint hyper-mobility
and more than normal flexibility in their low back musculature.
We know that when the spine is flexed excessively (either with slumped sitting
or prolonged forward flexion), the disc and posterior ligaments exhibit creep,
which is time dependent lengthening of those tissues.
This is not a good thing as this is one of the major contributing factors
to disc and ligamentous injuries of the lumbar spine. In my opinion, the tightness
that you perceive is actually excessive activity of their primary and secondary
stabilizers trying to guard the spine from being flexed forward any more.
These muscles are overworking to protect your lumbar spine and the pain that
you perceive is a combination of disc/ligament strain and muscular fatigue.
This is further substantiated by your observation that when your position
was changed (which by moving your saddle up and back increased your lumbar
flexion) your pain increased.
So the question becomes, how do you prevent your knee pain without increasing
you back pain? Obviously increasing your leg length helped decrease your knee
pain. I would then check to see if you can either, bring your seat forward
and up and/or bring your bars up and back which will decrease your lumbar
flexion but maintain a longer leg.
I would also recommend work to improve your stabilization which your therapist
should be more specifically addressing.
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