Form & Fitness Q & A
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Fitness questions and answers for August 5, 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.
Recovery from mononucleosis
Training in high temperatures
Knee - arthritis from overuse
Sastre and crank length
Hey, I am 47 years old and into fast riding although I used to race more than
12 years ago. I took a about a 10 year layoff and started riding again early
last year; actually I had a brief start the year before but did not stick with
I moved to Colorado 2 weeks ago, coming from the low altitudes of Memphis TN.
I am adjusting to the altitude but recently have started experiencing shoulder
cramps during fast rides either when exerting myself during a long gradual climb
and even more recently on a hot and dry 84 degree day up and downhill into a
headwind; my head was down a lot. I try to hydrate and sprinkle water on my
body to stay cool. I never have cramped like this on my bike; my rides average
about 1 hour. What do you think is going on?
Pamela Hinton replies:
Cramps can result from dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, or simple muscle
fatigue. In general, if the cramping is localized to a particular muscle,
fatigue is most likely cause of the cramp. It certainly won't do any harm
to stay adequately hydrated, but I suspect that the shoulder cramps had more
to do with the extended time off and the hard effort in a different position
on the bike.
I am a 44 year old male 6'1" 190 lb recreational cyclist training about 100-150
miles per week. I recently completed a century ride, and about 2 hours post
ride as I was getting out of the car, I experienced severe leg cramps then fainted.
I regained consciousness before the paramedics arrived, and my vital signs and
hydration level seemed adequate to them so I did not go to the hospital.
In order to put my family at ease and continue riding, I have agreed to see
a doctor specializing in sports medicine for an evaluation. What kind of examination
or tests would you recommend that I undergo?
My most recent physical with my family doctor was completed last December.
There were no issues at all during the physical which included an EKG. I am
not on any prescription medicines nor do I take any OTC for chronic use. There
is some history of heart disease in my family, but those affected were lifelong
During the last 20 miles of the century, I experienced some mild cramping that
I was able to spin through without stopping. It was in the 90's so I ate well
and consumed roughly 1 bottle of water and one bottle of sports drink per hour.
Immediately after the ride, I ate a big lunch, took some Aleve and applied Aspercreme
to my legs in an effort to aid recovery.
Scott Saifer replies:
I'm glad to hear you are consulting with physicians as that is the right
thing to do any time you experience odd and potentially dangerous symptoms.
In this case, it sounds like you probably fainted from low blood-pressure
on standing, and were cramping from dehydration or electrolyte imbalance after
a long hot ride. Having a large meal drew blood to your gut and away from
muscles and brain, making the dehydration effect worse. No matter what the
EMTs said, 2 bottles of drink and water per hour is not enough for a rider
your size on a 90 degree day.
To avoid the same problems in the future, you'll need to drink more on long,
hot rides, and probably consume more electrolyte replacement to maintain blood
volume and blood pressure. Tell your doctors what you experienced and ask
for whatever tests they suggest, but the main test I'd suggest is getting
weighed before and after rides and drinking more exercise drink until you
lose only one pound or so on a long ride.
Finally, if you've been avoiding salt in your daily diet and you don't have
high blood pressure, stop avoiding salt. Start salting your food routinely
in the hot, sweaty cycling season.
Recovery from mononucleosis
I am a 45 y/o Cat 3 male who developed fever, chills, swollen glands in my
neck and a sore throat that lasted three weeks. Tests proved mononucleosis (after
two rounds of antibiotics failed). I hardly did any exercise for 2 weeks after
the diagnosis (6 weeks after onset of symptoms).
After a week without a sore throat and with less fatigue I did back-to-back
2 hour rides with a few, short, hard efforts. The next three nights I had a
fever and night sweats with horrible fatigue. Now I feel better again. I don't
want to experience the night sweats and fatigue again; when can I start training?
Scott Saifer replies:
I know this will come as a major bummer, but typical times to get back from
mono to the point where you can train without getting sick again are in the
range of six months to one year, and even then some people take longer.
Training in high temperatures
I live in the Middle East and at this time of year have to train in temperatures
of up to 40 degree's centigrade and humidity's of sometimes 80-90%. How do conditions
like this affect the body under load and are there any down or upsides to training
in this environment, apart from the need to drink ridiculous amounts of water
and to wring out your clothing after every ride.
United Arab Emirates
Scott Saifer replies:
There are several interesting effects of training in high temperatures and
high humidity. Principally at such temperatures the dissipation of heat becomes
unavoidably the limiting factor to performance. That means the speeds or powers
one can put out in extreme heat are less than what one can do at lower temperatures
and one simply cannot train as hard or as effectively.
The reasons are that humans use sweat evaporation as the principle mode of
cooling and that we cannot function with body temperatures more than a few
degrees above normal. Dissipating heat by evaporation of sweat requires delivery
of heat from the core and working muscles to the skin. That heat is moved
from the core to the skin by blood which would be flowing through muscles
at lower temperatures, so the first problem is that there is less blood available
to deliver oxygen to the muscles. Then, evaporative cooling is less effective
in high humidity, so one simply can't effectively cool oneself by sweating
in those conditions. The brain will shut down muscle activity to prevent overheating.
Overheating causes coma and death, so not overheating is a better choice.
I don't mean that you can't use muscles when it's hot, but that the effort
required to make a contraction force that would feel easy in cooler temperatures
becomes greater in warmer temperatures.
So, to answer you question directly: The downsides of training in 40 degree
Celsius (104F) and 80-90% humidity are that it is relatively ineffective and
you are at risk for death by heat-stroke. The upside is that if you ever race
somewhere warm, you will be well adjusted to the heat.
If you want to train effectively you need to do the same things that your
competitors who live in snow country do in the winter: Find someplace safe
to ride where the temperatures are more conducive to physiologically effective
training: Get out the indoor trainer and ride somewhere air-conditioned.
Knee - arthritis from overuse
I hope you maybe able to give me some advice. I am a 50 year old (5.11" and
about 77kg) recreational cyclist but have done some sportifs and audax events.
In the summer I do about 200 miles a week, less in the winter.
I have not had a problem with my knees until a couple of weeks ago when coming
back from a weeks cycling and noticed my right knee was swollen, it hadn't ballooned
out but was noticeable. There was no pain in the knee but it was stiff and I
could not bend it fully. I used RICE and the swelling went down and flexibility
However, I can still not kneel on the leg as there is pain across the area
just above the knee. I have also noticed when I walk either there is soreness
in the calf (as it the muscle is tight) or the hamstring. When I cycle there
is no pain in the knee during or after cycling.
I have been to a physio (does not have a cycling background) who thought (after
feeling both knees) it was arthritis due to overuse. All he could suggest was
making sure I eat portions of oily fish, beans/pulses and cutting down on the
I would not want to cut down the millage and was wondering what your view was?
I try and eat a healthy diet and include oily fish, pulses etc. I also take
cod liver oil as a supplement. Is there anything else I can do?
I have read the answer to a question in 2005 but it related to Rheumatoid Arthritis
and so am not sure whether it is applicable.
Scott Saifer replies:
Thanks for the inquiry. There are many causes of knee soreness and inflammation,
including arthritis. I would suggest that if you are concerned about arthritis
you have a proper diagnosis by a physician who can order appropriate tests.
Meanwhile, whether or not you have arthritis, there are things all cyclists
need to do to keep knees from getting sore. Among them: a proper bike fitting
by a competent fitter; avoiding low-cadence/high-force pedaling; keeping your
knees warm in cool weather; stretch; always build up mileage gradually and
build again gradually if you take more than a few days off; and use arch support
or wedges if needed. If you have done all these things and still have knee
pain, you probably have arthritis and will need to back off mileage while
the cartilage heals, and then build up very, very gently again after several
months. If you have been breaking any of these rules, you may get off easy,
just by beginning to obey them and recovering more quickly.
Hello I am a 27 year old cyclist, currently trying to regain some fitness after
losing a lot of form after bad weather and other commitments impinged on my
Recently I have been suffering from a recurring pain in the outside of my left
knee, Previously I have experienced pain and inflammation in the centre of the
back of the right knee, consistent with overextension - a reduction in saddle
height has corrected this. However the new pain occurs initially in the outside
of the back of the left leg, centred around the large tendon in this region.
The pain then appears in extreme circumstances in the outside of the front of
the knee, between the outside shin joint and Patella.
The pain does not appear to occur in the centre of the back of the knee joint
as consistent with ligament inflammation from overextension, and a small saddle
reduction has not yet alleviated the problem.
I feel I have quite a good position and smooth pedalling style - both knees
almost rub the very narrow top tube on my bicycle at the start of the downstroke,
the small gap is very even between left and right legs.
Compared to many other cyclists who display prominent asymmetries and even
bow legged knee-out positions, I am pretty happy with my position on the bike.
My flexibility is very good, being able to easily touch the ground with open
palms and bring my knees to my shoulders.
However I have noticed that more of my weight is carried on the right side
of the saddle- I gave a noticeable pressure point around the right sit bone
which is absent on the left hand side.
In general, I suffer from no other problems on or off the bike.
Steve Hogg replies:
Your being able to bring your knees to your chest indicates good glute flexibility
but touching the toes indicates nothing other than good ability to flex the
lumbar spine. Unless you can touch your toes with an extended lumbar spine,
which is very uncommon. Re your problem. The type of pain you have and where
you have it confirms that you are not sitting squarely on the seat. Your comment
about loading the right sit bone is almost certainly the cause of your problem.
Why do you load the right sit bone?
Common causes are - pelvic asymmetries, leg length differences and unresolved
foot issues. The first thing I would do is contact a good structural health
professional and get knocked into shape.
I read your page on a regular basis and it is very informative. I have a question
that may be very basic but I can not wrap my head around it. What is the difference
in performance between longer and shorter crank lengths? Are shorter lengths
better for climbing?
Steve Hogg replies:
The answer to your question is an individual one. There are so many factors
the influence choice of crank length that the answer to your question that
works for you may not work as a general recommendation for others. Generally,
people contemplating a change in crank length are looking at going up or down
1 size; i.e. 2.5mm. A marginal difference in crank length usually makes a
marginal difference in performance, though there are occasional exceptions.
Sastre and crank length
I watched Sastre in the final TT and noticed he right knee wobbled to the outside
on the downstroke. I thought it was interesting too that such a finely tuned
athlete at this level could perform with such a glaringly odd pedal stroke.
Re crank length: isn't it possible that the inability to comfortably turn a
longer crank arm is learned over years of riding and is more likely due to inflexibility
(or some other developed physiological factor). I ask this because my understanding
is that you should ride with the longest crankarm possible. I am 5'10", a powerful
rider, and believe I generate more power to the road with longer arms (I run
175mm on all my bikes - road, cross and MTB). How about Leonard Zinn's writings
on this matter, recommending very long (up and over 200mm) crankarms, particularly
for tall riders?
Steve Hogg replies:
Re your comment about Sastre: It is unlikely that he is a perfect specimen
in a structural sense, so don't expect perfect technique. Another thing is
that if you watch Sastre on his road bike, he internally rotates his right
hip. As a rider adopts a more prone torso position, such as on a TT bike,
any asymmetries of function from the pelvis down are magnified.
Somewhere along the line there is a trade off of aerodynamics vs. performance.
His TT ride was pretty good, so it would seem that his position hadn't pushed
him to the point where he suffered a performance drop or injury, at least
over that distance and time. Add in the effects of racing for 3 weeks and
what you saw was a strong rider, probably tired, doing his best to turn the
pedals within the positional parameters he has chosen and the structure that
Re crank length: what you say is eminently possible. There is a lot of talk
about proportionality regarding crank length but my view is that the functional
ability of the rider is at least as important, if not more so, if exploring
the use of long cranks. And by long cranks, I mean relatively speaking, not
in absolute terms. You're 5'10' and I have no idea of how functional you are
or what your leg length and proportions are but 175mm doesn't seem extraordinarily
While I don't have any magic formula for crank length here are a few comments
formed from observation of many riders over many years.
1. A rider should be riding the longest cranks that allow them to pedal comfortably
at cadences that they routinely need to sustain.
2. Generally, the shorter the legs, the proportionally longer the crank that
the rider will cope well with. Conversely, the longer the legs, the proportionally
shorter the cranks that the rider will cope well with.
3. I have yet to see a rider cope really well with crank lengths above 180mm
for all around use and racing, unless they also have a foot size of size 48
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