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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 November 4, 2008

Right side problems
Saddle setback position
Elements for knee pain and hip ailments
Crank length
Knee complaint
Weight loss goals

Right side problems

Before this gets going, I would like to make these observations:

1) When lying flat on a hard floor, with my legs extended and ankles together, I take a deep breath and then completely relax everything from my chest down to my toes. Immediately, it is noticeable that my left foot falls closer to the ground than my right foot, and my left hip the same.
2) When standing in a shower (a hard, flat surface), I always notice my left foot and leg is either behind my right and leg, or in front of it. When I put both feet and legs together, I feel unbalanced. Also, when I look down at my torso and legs, I'd swear my body was twisting towards the left side and about to the same degree as the left foot is pointing out.
3) Both feet measure nearly identical, down to the millimetre, in width and length.
4) A definitive standing x-ray showed that the left femur is 4mm shorter than the right, but all three physio-chiropractor professionals said that shouldn't even be an issue for me because of the core strength and flexibility present.
5) Left cleat has four lemond wedges with the thick side towards the crank/inside. Right cleat has 1 wedge with the thick part pointing towards the inside. I have ridden this way for nearly 11 years, with no previous noticeable problems.
6) Left interior shoe, along with the four wedges under cleat. It has a 2mm-thick full-length insert added to account for the LLD
7) I've never had right or left knee, ankle, hip, back or muscle/tendon problems before (unlike the right iliac area, right psoas, and right adductors-down-into-rectus femoris muscle pain I am now getting). I have practiced fairly intense core strengthening and yoga stretching nearly every day for the past 20 years.
7) I have no other known medical issues, 46 years old, in seemingly very good health.

When observed from behind and above on a trainer, the right hip is dropped down, and here's the interesting part: the right hip is dropped down and "backwards", not forwards. The left hip seems to be forward compared to right hip, and possibly also dropping like the right hip. When I'm off the bike, I am obviously twisted to the left for my whole body (as mentioned in the opening observations)

When the left hip is viewed from the side, my left hip seems to be forward compared to the plane of my body and right hip. My right thigh/leg/knee is closer to the seatpost under load on a trainer, but not by much compared to the left. In fact, both thighs rub the seatpost, but neither knee hits the top tube unless I get get sloppy and careless with my form. My knees, when viewed from the front, are tracking fairly straight up and down, but I must confess again, I do focus intensely on keeping things correct, even during time trails

My heels are straight; neither heel shoots in and/or out on either foot, under any type of load. I am twisting on the bike under load; noticeably pushing or twisting the left side forward. Please note that I am left-handed, left-sided and I jump off my right leg. Strangely, though, despite my always concentrating on the left leg as if it were the problem, the left leg still feels like the smoother and more powerful leg compared to the right.

My current pain is in the following areas:

1) The right iliac and right psoas, and right hip adductor-into-rectus femoris pain is sometimes becoming unbearable, sometimes on the bike, and also very noticeable off the bike after a long ride.. The more I ride, afterwards, off the bike, the more I hurt. This all causes pain to go into the right lower back too. When this all started a few years ago, it used to be that 45 minutes of intense Yoga stretching took this pain all away, but not anymore. The right side iliac, psoas and adductors-to-rectus femoris muscle pain are with me nearly constantly, on and off the bike.
2) Then to make matters more fun, the past four months, the right hamstring is developing pain in the middle of its length (I'm 6'2", 190lbs, 10% body fat). I know you can combat that by either lowering your seat, raising the handlebars, etc., but not much helps here and I have tried combinations of it all. I am thinking the right lower back and hip issues that have recently been added to everything else is a consequence of the right side issues being suffered, thus causing the right hamstring to act up, and the right side of my lower back.

Mr. Hogg, do you possibly have any recommendations that I can do that would allow me to dissipate, or even better, remove some of the four pain areas mentioned above (right side hip iliac, right side psoas, right side adductors going into right side rectus femoris muscle, and right side lower back/hamstring)?

Jim Pall

Steve Hogg replies:

Thanks for the complete information. Hopefully the solution is simpler than the problem. Email is not the ideal way to attempt to solve difficult problems. Using it as a medium to advise people means that I have to play the odds and advise on the most likely scenario.

From what you've told me, your right side problems are the result of you sitting with the left hip forward of the right hip on the seat. If you do that for long enough or ride intensely enough, every one of the issues you've mentioned will arise slowly or quickly on the right side. I suspect as you do that this problem has existed for some time and your previous 90-120 minutes per day stretching and strengthening regime masked the problem. In other words, you almost certainly were doing the same thing but the amount of structural maintenance you performed meant that you hadn't been bitten yet.

You've been treated by three people. Is your pelvis largely symmetrical? Did any of the people who examined you mention an innominate rotation on the left side?

So what stands out amongst what you've told me?

Two things stand out and when I say this, I am working on the assumption that you are flexible, functional and strong based on what you have told me. And that lack of those qualities isn't the problem.

Firstly, your self-description of being left handed and left sided. Handedness/footedness is a spectrum and people vary from being weak right or left-handers to strong right or left-handers. A weak right or left hander is one who does everything of note with one side of the body. A weak one is one who does most things with one side of their body but does some things with the other side. As an example, I am a weak right hander. I have a stronger and more muscular right arm, write and throw with the right hand; kick with the right foot but am a left-handed wheel builder, bat left-handed and find it convenient to use some tools left-handed. Would you describe yourself as a strong left hander or a weak left hander?

If the answer is a strong left-hander then that of itself may be the problem. If you have a dominant right cerebellum beyond a certain point, you will autonomically favour the left side, and if this is marked enough, right side problems are the result. You may have to find a way to rewire yourself. There is a place in the US named the Carrick Institute which trains people to deal with this sort of thing. I know a couple of people here who are Carrick-trained and have seen remarkable changes in people they have treated over time. So one thing I would do is contact the Carrick Institute, see if they have trained anyone near you and have yourself assessed.

The second thing that stands out is the four medial wedges under your left foot. I use a lot of BFS cleat wedges and have to say that if you really need four wedges, you are in rare company. I've seen it, but not often at all. My suspicion is that you may be over-wedged and everything you describe about your left side is the result of your doing what ever you have to do to protect that left side from the effects of too much wedging and that this is the cause of the right side problems. If you used a FFMD to determine the number of wedges, this a guide only and probably 10% of the time, theory and best practice diverge. There is a definitive test to determine the number of wedges you need but it isn't something that can be done via email.

What I would suggest is that you remove two wedges from the left shoe which will mean that it is likely that you'll have to adjust the angle of your cleat. Less wedges will likely mean that your foot sits on the pedal at a different angle to now. Once you've removed the wedges and rechecked the rotational angle on the cleat, ride at low intensity for three weeks and then start to build up intensity. At that time, let me know whether you feel better or worse and if necessary, I'll attempt to advise further.

Saddle setback position

I've just started using a Fizik Arione saddle - this saddle is longer than a traditional saddle with a length of 31cm. Could you advise me on whether I should position this saddle differently in terms of distance behind bottom bracket (or saddle to handle bar distance)?

Rik O'Shea

Steve Hogg replies:

The answer is yes... and no. The length is immaterial. What matters is where the width in the seat is at the rear; what I call the shoulders and what the rail placement relative to upper is. Do you know where your old seat was placed?

If you do, then replace it where you have had it previously. Then place your bike on an indoor trainer and use a long level to ensure that the bike is levelled between axle centres. Once this is done, place your Arione upside down on top of your existing seat taking sure that the shoulders of the two seats match. Use the level to place a mark on the Arione seat rail vertical to the front edge of the seat post's seat rail clamp.

Now find the mid point on the flat section of the seat rails of both seats and measure from there to the top of both seats. Note the difference. Fit the Arione so that the mark equating with the front of the seat post's seat rail clamp is at the front of the seat rail clamp.. Once that's done, if the Arione is deeper from rail to upper than the seat it replaces, drop your seat post by that amount. If it is shallower, raise your seat post by that amount.

If you have had to raise the seat post, move the Arione forward 1mm for every 3mm you have raised the post. If you have had to drop the seat post, move the Arione back 1mm for every 3 mm you have dropped the post.

This procedure will give you a starting point as close to your old seats position as can be done by measurement. The rest you will have to refine by feel. I hope this helps

Elements for knee pain and hip ailments


Thanks very much for taking the time to reply to my question last week.

My circumstances may well act to support your "working theory". I have always been tight in the general lower back and right hip, and since riding more have developed behind-the-knee pain on the right (but sometimes the left, never both). I was thinking of a purely structural bike-related cause-and-effect for this.

But about seven years ago I was in a stressful work environment, and developed glandular fever. This remained undiagnosed and I subsequently developed a liver problem causing blood LDL to rise from normal range of 20-50 up to around 600 - it remained high for a while but subsequently fell back and has remained normal for five years. I think I eat in a healthy manner and several digestive problems (eg coelic) were investigated and rejected as being problematic. Your comment did however pique my curiosity hence my email.

While I think my current alternating knee pain can be helped by slight downwards seat height adjustment, I am also planning to check out my limb length, as I'm wondering whether the back/hip problems may have a root cause there (I have done a lot of bushwalking in the past). I also want to move my cleat position back (yes, a keen follower of the forum!), as I think will help my general bike geometry given I have very long legs and a relatively shorter torso. I also need to step up the stretching and core strength work. I'll use a local physio specialising in cycling to guide me in this.

By the way, I have found that being more consciously symmetrical on the bike, i.e, making sure I can see the front wheel rims equally when looking down, has been of benefit. Anyway, perhaps this can be "grist for your mill". Thanks again for your forum help and your reply to me in particular.

Russell Harris

Steve Hogg replies:

You're welcome. About that back of knee pain on alternating sides. Drop your seat. If the seat is a touch too high, behind the knee is one of the places you will feel it particularly if your cleats are too far forward on the shoe as you suggest. What happens is that under severe load (climbing hills or accelerating hard on the flat from moderate rpm in a big gear) the heel is dropped explosively and this is the source of the discomfort. If the cleats are moved rearwards, then ankle movement is moderated and the problem lessened but it can only happen if the seat is too high to start with.

Why you experience alternating back of knee pain is that most people have a marked tendency to favour one side but some, probably including you, are wired up better than most. That seat a touch too high causes you to favour one side by dropping that hip a touch. You then experience pain on the other side because that leg has to extend further to accommodate the mild hip drop on the favoured side. With the onset of pain, your self protection mechanism is to reverse the favoured side. This isn't that common but as I said, is a good thing in the sense that you don't blindly, autonomically protect the same side all the time.

Even with those that do, I've observed that somewhere between 100-150km into a long ride, they'll often switch.

Crank length

I'd like to start with thanking Steve Hogg for the advice he gave me about 18 months ago. My calf muscles have improved a lot since I moved my cleats back and I'm back to running again.

This time I have a question about crank length, partly related to my calf problems. I live in Switzerland, which means a lot of mountains and a lot of climbing on the bike, which is what I like to do. However, with my current set-up, Dura-Ace 53/39 with a cassette of 12-27 and a weight around 95 kilos, I just dont have the power to push a proper cadence on climbs steeper than 8-9%, Im down to a cadence of 55 on 10% climbs.

I have decided to get the new Dura-ace compact crankset 50/34, which should help me to improve the cadence and climbing (preferable in combination with some weight loss). When ordering these, I need to decide on a crank length and this is something I never really thought about before, I just now checked that I currently have 175mm which came originally with my bike. I have a 62 cm frame, shoe size 48, inseam 93 cm and I am 198 cm tall, I would assume that I should have the longest cranks available, 180mm, considering my data? I still have stiff calfs after extensive climbing and I have read that longer cranks should be better for the calves. What is your opinion, should I go for the 180mm or should I stay with my 175mm? Or maybe it doesn't matter.

Johan Lindblom,
Zurich, Switzerland

Steve Hogg replies:

I'm glad that the previous advice worked out well. Regarding the 180 mm cranks. Relative to height, your legs aren't that long but you have big feet. It is hard to be certain of a new crank length without trying them but unless you are:

1. Extremely inflexible, or
2. Have very low handlebars and a proportionally long lower leg, I would be inclined to get the 180's. If a lot of your riding is climbing, the longer cranks should help except for the foregoing caveats.

Knee complaint

I have just recently started bike commuting (three miles each way) to work and my left knee has been bothering me. After it started bothering me, I stayed off my bike for two weeks and then went to my bike shop and they helped fit the bike to me more properly (my seat was far too low) and a little too far back. I've started riding again, and while my knee isn't hurting, it doesn't feel right. Now when I squat down, with my hand on the front and a little to the inside of my knee, I can feel a little tendon or muscle pop over the corner of my knee towards the inside. I can feel it doing this each time I push down on the pedal as well.

I know it might be hard to diagnose anything from this brief description, but my main question is whether you would recommend getting clipless pedals and shoes. Right now I am riding with toe cages and regular work-out shoes. I have very high arches and tend to over-pronate and I wonder if this coupled with possibly improper shoes/pedals might be aggravating my knee? I have been hesitant to buy the shoes and pedals because I'm worried I will buy them and find that they don't help my knee issue. If you do recommend purchasing a clipless system, do you have any advice on which kind someone with my particularities should get? Any other insights as to what is happening with my knee are greatly appreciated.

Dana Stevens

Steve Hogg replies:

I'm not sure what is causing your knee problem based on the info you have given me, but the first thing I would do is get rid of your toe clips. When combined with gym shoes, it is almost impossible to get enough foot over the pedal. This alone may be the source of your problem, directly or indirectly. When you remove the toe clips, place your foot further forward over the pedal and play arond wiith positioning the foot until they feel solid and comfortable on the pedals. This in turn may mean that the seat may have to come down a bit to allow for the extra leg extension that will occur.

Once you can ride pain free, make a decision about clipless pedals. Clipless pedals aren't a must for a short commute but have the advantage of placing your feet securely in the pedals in a repeatable place every time.

Weight loss goals

Scott Saifer addressed a letter from Beth Murphy about her 100lb weight loss goal. Here are just a few more thoughts from someone who is 80lbs into a 90lb weight loss goal; I can speak from experience. Heck, it started out as a 60lb goal.

The first thing Beth needs to realise is that this is truly a life-changing experience, and to remember to take the small pleasures in life along the way. Goals change, life changes, and attitudes change during this transformation that she is planning, and it will take determination, it will be frustrating, but it will be worth it, and she will find new faith in herself as she takes on this challenge. She will not know all of the rewards until they happen, and she will not even know what some of those rewards are until they happen. Like her doctor telling her that her cholesterol numbers dropped 45 points in one year.

Remember that losing 10lbs is a huge victory. And don't watch the scale and fuss if it moves slowly or the wrong direction every now and again. It is kind of like the stock market is supposed to be, it is a long term investment with some bumps in the road, but the long-term results are worth the investment.

I started out with a 40" waist, and I am just about ready to go buy a pair with a 34" waist. Every inch was huge victory. It can be very frustrating at times when the weight does not come off. I went through five months this summer where my weight did not move one pound while I was riding 200 miles per week and running 25-30 miles per week. But I can tell you my shirt size dropped from a large to a medium. It was extremely frustrating until I went to buy a few long-sleeve shirts for winter and the long-sleeve medium shirt I tried on in May now fit and I had not lost one pound. My body was dramatically different, and it feels great.

It was important for me to set intermediate goals, not weight goals, but fitness goals. It is important to find a goal and meet it, even if the weight is not coming off like you want it to. Set long-term goals for yourself, I volunteered at a water station for a 20km run last year, and this year I ran it. I added running to my biking workout routine and made it a long-term goal to complete the race. I did a few 5km races along the way, but after finishing the 20km one, I set more goals.

I completed three triathlons over the summer and I just ran a half marathon five months after the 20km run, completing the half marathon five minutes faster than I completed the shorter 20km time by over five minutes, and I am now setting my sights for a full marathon in March. The goals should be something that you question yourself over. I was so scared the night before the 20km I hardly slept, but I lost 18 lbs during my 16-week training programme for the race, and I was so proud of myself for taking on the task, it pushed me to do more, and it helped shed some pounds along the way. I was not specifically training to lose weight, I was accomplishing a different goal, and in the end two great achievements were made.

Good luck to her, she is not alone, and I will be cheering for her!

Jeff Mertz
Waukee, IA, USA