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Form & Fitness Q & A
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Fitness questions and answers for January 6, 2009
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.
Debilitating foot pain
MSM and whey
Interpreting blood test results
Saddle fore-aft position
Lower core body
Debilitating foot pain
I am 54 years old, and have been riding and racing since the '80s. Still in
great shape and racing well. I am 5' 8" and weight is 160lbs. I have entered
into my winter program which includes lots of body weight and light resistance
training as well as time on the trainer doing intervals. I have pulled out my
heavy mountain bike for winter riding outside.
I am experiencing nearly debilitating foot pain when I get into the hills and
put lots of force on the pedals. I love to climb and this is really concerning
me. The pain is in the ball of my foot, right behind the second toe in the fleshy
part of the front ball of the foot. I have moved my LOOK pedals as far back
as they will go.
I bought new top-line Specialized body geometry S Works road shoes in August,
which helped, after using Sidi Genius 5 shoes previously. I am thinking that
with all the squats and other exercises that I am putting additional stress
on my feet, although I'm not sure. I was also wondering if riding in the cold
temperatures of Buffalo, NY, might be adding to the problem.
Scott Saifer replies:
There are several possible causes of the pain you describe. Here are three
things to check out along with possible solutions. If none of these fit your
situation, or the solutions don't help, consult a podiatrist that has worked
with cyclists before.
One common cause of such pain is lateral compression of the ball of your
foot. Any chance your shoes are squeezing your feet a bit from side to side
in the toe box or just behind? If so, the solution is most likely to have
the shoes stretched a bit in that area or to get an extra-wide shoe.
Next, is there any chance your are 'clawing' the bottom of the shoe with
our toes? If so, move the cleats back on the shoes however much it takes to
allow you to relax your toes while pedaling.
Some people have one metatarsal head (the boney knobs, of which there are
five, that make up the ball of the foot) lower than it's neighbours, putting
a lot of pressure on that spot. If you have such a "dropped" metatarsal head,
your problem can probably be solved with a foot-bed that has a depression
where that bone needs space.
If your toes box is already tight, this won't help as you'll end up with
your whole foot compressed, so you have to have a shoe with enough space to
allow for the extra insole thickness. Also, if you add insole thickness, you'll
need to drop your saddle a similar amount to keep your old knee extension.
MSM and whey
A number of cyclists I ride with, including myself, take MSM and some type
of protein powder. There are two people that buy their supplements from their
acupuncturist who is also a RD and sells very expensive supplements. I buy MSM
at 7.99 per 100 tablets and use whey protein from various companies that sells
for between $23-25 for 30 servings (23gms/serving).
The two people who buy from their acupuncturist pay $35 for the same amount
of MSM and $70 for the same amount of whey protein. Naturally, the brand they
buy is not available in retail stores so they have been told the value of the
what they are buying is far superior to MSM and whey protein you could buy in
My question is: isn't whey protein pretty much a constant? Is there a form
that would be 2.5 to 3 times more expensive that would justify paying that much
more? Is Methyl Sulfuric Methane a chemical that can vary enough in it's production
that would make a certain brand cost four times more?
I have a pretty good background in nutrition and feel they are paying more
because their beloved and trusted acupuncturist is basically making money in
a pyramid-type supplement business. I would love your input. Thanks for your
Pam Hinton replies:
Let me start with a little background on the regulation of dietary supplements
in the United States. Dietary supplements include vitamins and minerals, herbal
preparations, phytochemicals, enzymes, and glandular extracts. Dietary supplements
are big business, with annual sales amounting to billions of dollars.
Regulation of dietary supplements is codified in The Dietary Supplement Health
and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994. This act of Congress established that substances
classified as dietary supplements are not "drugs." As a result, although the
FDA is responsible for the regulation of supplements, the rules differ from
those governing foods and drugs.
According to DSHEA, manufacturers of dietary supplements are not required
to provide evidence of efficacy or safety prior to marketing the product.
Nor are supplements required to have FDA approval or to be registered with
the FDA before they are produced and marketed. The FDA does not monitor the
identity, purity, quality, composition, or strength of dietary supplements.
Therefore, supplement manufacturers are responsible for establishing their
own manufacturing guidelines and quality control. Before the FDA can take
regulatory action against a potentially harmful dietary supplement, the agency
must prove that the product is harmful. A recent example is the weight loss
Because the consumer cannot be certain that their supplement of choice contains
the active ingredient in the amount advertised and that it is not contaminated
with unlisted ingredients, the admonition, "buyer beware" should be taken
Now, just a bit of information on the two supplements in question. Methylsulfonylmethane
(MSM), which is the oxidised form of dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO), is present
in low concentrations in some fruits and vegetables. MSM supplements claim
to treat a wide variety health problems, but MSM is most often advertised
to improve osteoarthritis.
Two recent meta-analyses (Osteoarthritis and Cartilage 16:1277-1288; Arthritis
Research 8:R127) identified only two placebo-controlled, randomised clinical
trials of MSM. Both concluded that the evidence for the efficacy of MSM to
reduce the pain of osteoarthritis is moderate at best and that long-term safety
data are lacking.
Whey protein, which is a byproduct of cheese production, accounts for 20
percent of total protein in cow's milk. There are several whey proteins: ß-lactoglobulin,
a-lactalbumin, and bovine serum albumin are the most abundant; immunoglobulin
and lactoferrin are present in small amounts. Whey contains the essential
amino acids in optimal amounts and therefore has a high biological value.
Because whey contains branched chain amino acids, in particular, leucine,
it is a popular supplement among athletes, especially body builders. In addition,
to supplying essential amino acids for protein synthesis, the whey proteins
have other biological activities, including immunomodulat ion. Whey is available
in several forms: concentrate, isolate, and hydrosylate. The bioactivity of
the isolate and hydrosylate tend to be less than that of the concentrate.
I hope this helps you decide whether buying the more expensive supplements
would be money well-spent.
Eddie Monnier replies:
In addition to Pam's comments, I would add that there are some lines of supplements
only sold by licensed health care practitioners that claim to adhere to quite
rigorous standards versus common practice in the industry, list all ingredients
and are hypoallergenic. One example is Pure Encapsulations, which claims to
submit all of its products to third party labs for testing and certification
versus label claims.
I have used the products (I am not a licensed health care professional so
don't distribute them). They are more expensive but their policy of listing
everything on the label and their quality control standards gave me some additional
comfort that testing positive for a banned substance due to cross contamination
is extremely unlikely (there is a risk and there are documented cases of positives
from over the counter supplements that were contaminated and/or did not fully
disclose their contents).
Interpreting blood test results
Hi, I am a 20-year-old, male category 1 cyclist and am trying to figure out
what to make of my low RBC, hemoglobin, and hematocrit numbers. I recently received
a blood test in follow up to ones I have had previously, for the purposes of
a study I was conducting using an intermittent hypoxic device. I am disappointed
that my blood markers still remain low and would like to do something about
them to get them more into the normal range. I am confused also since my iron
levels seem to be ok.
I have been taking a heme iron pill supplement daily for the last 2-3 weeks
(since the results of my last test). The product is called Energizing Iron (by
Enzymatic Therapy) - it contains 200 mcg B12, 2mg iron per serving and I've
been taking three servings per day, as the instructions state.
My question is: am I anaemic? Based on my RBC, hemoglobin, and hematocrit,
I am... but my iron and B12 levels (a bit jacked up from the supplements) seem
ok. Whatever the cause, I really would like to get my RBC, hemoglobin, and hematocrits
more into the normal range. Also, I took this blood test after a couple days
of easy riding in preparation for physiological testing, which I conducted later
that day. Also, it is strange that my values are so low while my VO2 max tested
so high (85). Is there no connection there?
Maybe it hasn't been long enough since I started taking this supplement for
a new blood cycle to take place. What is your advice? Keep taking the B12 supplement?
Switch to a iron supplement? Or is there just nothing I can really do? Any help
Scott Saifer replies:
You need to discuss what to do with your doctor, but here's a bit of understanding
of what is going on. Your red cells contain normal amounts of hemoglobin but
you don't have as many of them as you should. New red cells are relatively
large and they get smaller as bits tear off as they age.
MCV is mean cell volume and yours is on the high side because you have an
unusually large percentage of young cells. The old cells are missing. You
are anaemic in the sense that you have less than normal hemoglobin concentration
and red cell count, but your bone marrow is making normal red cells as fast
as it can. It looks like you are losing red cells because of your purpura.
A doctor should help you confirm this.
The combination of a hematocrit of 37.5% and a VO2-max of 85 is very unusual.
As long as your numbers are stable though, I wouldn't worry about them, other
than the platelet count. With a count of 14, you're at risk for bleeding and
need to be concerned about getting hurt in a crash and not stopping bleeding.
Again, that would be something to ask the docs about.
Saddle fore-aft position
Please forgive me if this topic has been covered, but I see a lot of information
regarding shoe and cleat position but not so much regarding the saddle fore-aft
position. In short, how should this be determined? Should the old standard (myth)
of knee over the spindle be used? What exact part of the knee should be measured?
What are the benefits or detriments in changing the riding position to a further
back or further forward position - I notice that triathletes and time trailers
sit far forward yet I have read that a forward position brings more of the fast
twitch muscles into play which doesn't seem like it would be the most beneficial
Scott Saifer replies:
This topic has indeed been addressed extensively. Steve Hogg has written
about it many times. Here's the very short version. Check the archives for
more detail. The farther forward the saddle, the more weight on your hands.
Weight on hands is bad as it tires your upper body, transfers road shock to
your neck, makes steering challenging and so on.
On a road bike, move the saddle back far enough that you can move slowly
and with excellent control from drops to hoods while pedaling with moderate
effort. If you have to tense to make the shift, or are tempted to do one hand
at a time, your saddle is too far forward. Many bike won't let you get far
enough back, so you may need a seatpost with extra set-back to get balanced.
On a TT bike to be ridden mostly on flat straight roads with aerobars, the
seat can be farther forward. On such a bike, put the bars as low and forward
as you can and still see down the road without straining your neck, then set
the saddle fore-aft to meet your butt where it wants to be to keep your back
and shoulders comfortable.
Damien then responded:
Thanks for the quick response. I did not make it clear that I was mostly interested
in the effect on pedaling force, rather than upper body comfort, but I will
check the archives.
Scott Saifer replies:
So long as the bars are adjusted to maintain the same hip-angle, pedaling
force will be affected by extension, which is affected by both seat fore-aft
and seat height. Within the range of fore-aft positions that can be accomplished
on a standard road bike, there not going to be a difference in pedal force
independent of seat height. That is, as you move the seat back, if you lower
it to maintain extension and raise the bars and shorten the stem to maintain
hip angle, the pedaling force will not be significantly affected.
Lower core body
I love reading your fitness section.
My question is what is a lower core body workout and what does it do for you
in cycling? I've heard the term 'lower core body' a lot lately.
Scott Saifer replies:
I'm not sure about this one. I've heard about the core and about the lower
body, but never the lower core body. Usually when people talk about a "core
workout" they mean exercises to strengthen the muscles of the abdomen and
low back, and sometimes the hips. Some of these contribute to stabilisation
of the pelvis during pedaling.
The major pedaling muscles (glutes, quads, hamstrings) all attach to the
pelvis, so when they contract, there are two things that happen: they pull
on the femur (thigh bone) and they pull on the pelvis. Either one could move.
If the muscles that stabilise the pelvis are weak, the pelvis moves and less
force is delivered to the femur. If the muscles that stabilise the pelvis
are strong, the pelvis is still and more of the muscular effort goes to drive
Bike racers don't need super strong core muscles, but they do need adequate
strength to keep the pelvis stable, including while sprinting or climbing
out of the saddle. It is not true that every rider would benefit by increasing
core strength. Some have adequate strength and would do better to invest the
time in other sorts of training, but many others would in fact ride more strongly
if they had stronger core muscles.