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Form & Fitness Q & A
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Fitness questions and answers for September 2, 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 Athleteô. 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.
Post dinner hunger
Balance problems on the bike
In a recent fitness answer Scott Saifer said "If
you can't engage your hamstrings in the drops, your bars are too low." Steve
once replied to me and said that few people he knows have lost appreciable power
by changing position, but you imply that positions beyond the capacity of the
individual can be limiting, which makes a lot of sense. Can you expand upon
Iím always interested in angle of hip closure, which I see as one of the delicate
balances that you have to manage if youíre trying to optimize your power to
aerodynamics. I know that the bar to saddle drop is going to come into play
on road bike and time trial bike when you are trying to get the most out of
your position, but are the hamstrings where you being to loose the power with
a more aggressive position? Can the aggressive position, too much hip angle
closure, be adapted to by spending more time in the drops and/or more time stretching
those muscles to allow them to function at greater extremes?
Steve Owens replies:
Iíll try to clarify that for you. Itís a question that comes up a lot and
something every cyclist is after. Few people loose a ton of power when you
make changes to a position, but almost all people loose some power when changing
a position. Thatís a matter of training adaptation and efficiency. Itís determining,
in your case, what is the most aerodynamic position that you can attain because
of its tremendous advantages - over 70% (conservatively speaking) of the power
youíre producing on the bike goes to overcome air resistance - then taking
that position and measuring the power output relative to your Ďbaselineí,
or regular position. With positional changes, youíll see power output changes.
Itís the process of teaching your body to adapt and perform in that position
that is the other important part of the equation. The process is basically
1. Determine the most aerodynamic position and equipment you can legally
2. Determine power output changes from baseline to Ďnewí position.
3. Devise a plan to help you get your power output to original baseline position
power - at least.
Now, you mention hip angle. Hip angle is very important also in developing
power. When you close the hip angle, you will most likely see a decrease in
power (at some point). Power decrease varies from one person to another, as
does that angle of the hip and the respective power loss. There are two things
I consider and would give advice with - the first being that lower isnít necessarily
Ďfasterí, so you might not need to go as low as you think. The other thing
is very important - try to maintain hip angle. There are certain exercises
you can do to strengthen the muscles that support the way your hips stay.
If you close your hip angle, you stretch your hamstring muscles, making it
more difficult to produce power. You can rotate your hips back (so they are
more neutral), which will help dramatically with power development on the
bike. Itís hard for me to write in a few paragraphs what exercises to do,
but you can get your body used to maintaining a certain hip angle without
too much effort. What it basically would come down to is ride more, and stretch
Attaining the most optimal position with respect to power output and aerodynamics
is definitely an ongoing process. It takes time and dedication. If you ride
your TT bike a few days a week - even starting in the fall for a subsequent
year - then youíre doing well. Your body needs time to adapt to the position.
And as funny as it sounds, you can in many cases, attain a faster position
(from point A to point B) with even an initial power loss. Itís simply because
of the relevance of wind drag. That said, when your body adapts to the position,
you can make dramatic improvements.
Hi guys, just a quick one,
What are your thoughts on training on the bike, presumably only spinning, with
light (<1kg) weight attached to each ankle? I'm thinking of the boxers and fighters
practice of sparring with overweight gloves so that come competition time, their
hands would be moving much faster. Does this sound feasible? Or could the extra
stress potentially damage the connective tissues, therefore doing more harm
Have you guys ever heard of this? What do you think?
Ric Stern replies:
It's highly unlikely that adding weights will improve your cycling as opposed
to just cycling harder. Why not just cycle harder (i.e. generate more power)
and at the same time also develop the skills required to ride a bike at higher
velocities. Obviously, to travel at the same velocity uphill (under the same
conditions) with ankle weights compared to without ankle weights will require
more power to be generated, which would lead to greater fitness, but this
could be achieved simply by riding harder. If you were to travel at a slower
velocity with weights (compared to without weights) then you'd not necessarily
be generating greater power output.
Post dinner hunger
I'm a 21 year old male, 5'9" and around about 155lbs at race weight. I'm currently
a 3 around half way towards gathering all of my points to upgrade to the 2s.
I train anywhere between 10 and 20 hours a week depending on the time of year.
My questions pertains to a phenomenon I've noticed since I first started cycling
around 14 years of age, although it's lessened over the past couple of years.
I find that some nights, after a full meal for dinner and consistent, clean
eating throughout the day, I'm still ravenously hungry. It starts out with a
piece of fruit and perhaps a rice cake an hour after dinner although it may
degenerate into peanut butter sandwiches or even bowls of cereal. I can eat
and eat and eat and feel that my stomach is full but still feel hungry, as if
I could eat a second dinner if I wanted to. It doesn't seem to matter what kind
of riding I've done during the day. It's happened when I've had hard intervals
and it's happened when I've done nothing but a short recovery ride. I haven't
really noticed a pattern in terms of foods eaten prior, either; that is, it
doesn't only happen after I eat certain things for dinner or the day of.
First, I'm curious as to the physiological occurrences that cause these feelings.
Second, I'd like to know if I'm doing something wrong with my diet and what
I can do to keep my appetite suppressed after finishing eating for the day.
Scott Saifer replies:
Congratulations! You're a bike racer.
More seriously, unless you are eating high-glycemic foods off the bike, you
are just experiencing what it is to be a fit, athletic young man. If you are
eating high-glycemic index foods off the bike, stopping will probably reduce
but not eliminate that seemingly excessive hunger.
Balance problems on the bike
I am totally perplexed!!! When cycling I find that my butt (unbeknownst to
me) slides left on the seat resulting in me not being balanced on the seat.
Going from the upright riding into the aero position exacerbates the problem.
I have asked other riders to confirm that I lean to my left and they acknowledge
that I am not centred on my seat.
Utilizing the seams in my cycling shorts, I estimate that my seat slides about
one and a half inches to the left. In the past I have felt that I was (for lack
of better term) leaning to my left but was able to compensate for it. For example,
last year I participated in TTs averaging 25 mph. However, this year if I approach
19 mph I feel so uncomfortable that I cannot maintain the aero position and
change to the upright position. Some more background...
If I jump on another bike I still have the sensation that I am leaning to my
left which makes me believe the problem is biomechanical or something wrong
with my overall sense of balance. Just to be sure I had my bike tested to see
if it was straight and it passed with flying colours. I had my chiropractor
x-ray my legs to see if there was a length differential. No difference was noted.
Regardless I put shims on my left Look cleat that measures about 2mm in thickness
hoping it might help. I noticed no difference. When I tested my leg strength
on a power meter (one leg spinning) my left leg proved slightly stronger than
Steve Hogg replies:
What you describe isn't common but isn't rare either. There are various reasons
it can occur so here are a couple of things to check. Firstly, if this is
a relatively recent occurrence, what has changed?
Do you have a new frame, a new position, or have you had a crash or other
Have you changed shoes?
You are seeing a chiropractor who has said there is no leg length inequality.
Ask him to confirm that your pelvis functions symmetrically. What you describe
can happen (not will happen) when someone has -
A restricted left sacroiliac joint
Any combination of psoas, glutes, QL and hamstrings which are noticeably tighter
on the left side. If you stretch, you will know whether you have an asymmetric
pattern of flexibility.
A deformity of one ischium (sit bone)
Sometimes there can be a twist in the thoracic or lumbar spine that can cause
a rider to sit askew... I would be betting on some kind of pelvic issue. If
we have a restriction somewhere in or around the pelvis, it will always be
more pronounced when we lean down to the aero or drop bar position. Unnecessarily
steep or slack seat tube angles can exaggerate this tendency as well, but
torso position relative to horizontal plays a part. I've lost count of the
number of riders I've seen who have noticeable functional asymmetries on their
road or tri bikes, but these either disappear or aren't as severe on their
mtb. The higher bar position is less of a challenge to on bike pelvic stability.
Lastly, your proprioceptive awareness may be skewed. Have you had any neck
problems in the recent past?
If you try everything above for no result, or, if while you are investigating
you need to ride more symmetrically. Get hold of an FSA K Force Lite seat
post with Data Head in whichever offset (there are 3) that you need. On this
post the 2 halves of the seat rail clamp are secured along the centre line
by a fixture on top that runs front to back. It is in turn secured with 2
screws, one at the front, one at the back. The upper of the two halves of
the seat rail clamp have 2 little spigots on them; one either side of the
upper fixture. If you file these spigots off, both halves of the seat rail
clamp can be moved to either side of the centre line by approximately 12mm.
Make this modification and move the seat to the right of the centre line of
the bike as this will bring your backside back to the centre line of the bike.
I would try 5mm to the right at first and if that isn't enough, experiment
incrementally with more.
While this will work, it is worth finding out why you function so asymmetrically.
Often situations like this are the end result of 'normal' asymmetries that
get worse over time because the rider doesn't do enough structural maintenance.
Or if they do, it is poorly directed.
Steve Hogg answered a question on the suggested
crank length on Aug 26, making some convincing statements about work done
at different pedal rates with varying crank lengths. You write about power output
in ways I don't understand. Iím hoping you can help me explain this in terms
of physics and kinesiology.
According to the laws of physics it takes the same energy to carry a load up
a hill no matter who carries it. How do we understand the difference between
individual efforts it takes to carry this load uphill? Do we need to consider
the potential energy of the person much like a tightened spring?
My buddies with physics degrees insist that there is no difference in the work
done yet given the same weight individual/bike systems one rider can feel as
though they did more work than the next similar individual/bike. Any help understanding
this would be enlightening.
Scott Saifer replies:
Steve may want to answer as well, but your question seems to have more to
do with physiology and psychology than with physics. Two riders of identical
dimensions on bikes of identical weight and dimensions would most likely feel
that they had done different amounts of work climbing the same hill at the
same speed because human bodies do not have a way to measure absolute effort
or work. What we can do is feel how hard we are working compared to our own
abilities or limits. If your two seemingly identical riders have different
power at lactate threshold, one rider will be closer to the threshold than
the other when making the same effort, and that's something they can feel.
Riders producing a few watts above threshold power feel that they are working
pretty hard. Riders who are making the same power but are riding 20 or 30
watts below their own personal higher threshold feel that they are cruising
with moderate effort. Does that answer the question you meant to be asking?
Steve Hogg replies:
I agree with Scott, if that's the question you're asking. I think what you
mean based on re reading the answer I gave to the gent regarding crank length,
is that you think my answer contravenes the laws of physics, which it doesn't.
I'd better qualify what I'm about to say by explaining that I'm not an exercise
scientist, while Scott and a number of the panellists are, and I would defer
to their views in this matter. You're implicitly focusing on the metabolic
cost of the rider, whereas the system we're talking about (and I assume, though
you don't specify, that the difference in crank length is the sticking point
that is concerning you) is comprised of a rider plus bike with the variable
being crank length.
If we assume two identical riders and bikes with the only variable being
crank length and also measure power at the rear wheel, then the same amount
of power will be produced to carry an identical bike and rider up a hill.
However the rider with the shorter crank will have a higher metabolic cost
because the shorter crank length is a lesser multiplier of the work he performs.
His 'twin' has a longer crank length that is a greater multiplier of the work
the rider performs, which in turn means a lower metabolic cost, all other
things being equal.
That example can't be extrapolated to suggest that longer is always better.
There is a cost in turning a longer crank that my explanation above doesn't
consider. Shear forces on the knee increase because the knee is flexed more
at the top of the pedal stroke and the size of the 'dead spot' in the pedal
stroke increases (not in degrees of arc, but in length). So a longer crank
usually makes life easier at low to moderate cadences and life harder at high
cadences particularly when high cadence is paired with high output. Individual
differences in function, proportion and type of riding that the rider prioritises
means there is no clear cut 'rule' to determine optimum crank length.
I was recently diagnosed with hypothyroidism. My TSH levels where around 6.0
and 4.95 from the several tests that where done. It looks like I've had this
for quite a while. Even though I "look" fit I have always carried around an
extra 10lbs or so.
I know this explains why I'm often tired and can sleep through a plane crash.
But my main question is once I get this fixed will my racing ability improve
at all? And roughly how much of an improvement do you think I will see?
Scott Saifer replies:
There are two hormones that are important in diagnosing hypothyroidism. TSH
or thyroid stimulating hormone tells your thyroid gland to make more T4. T4
is the hormone that up-regulates your metabolism. It is standard but somewhat
misguided procedure to diagnose people with high TSH as hypothyroid. In the
general population, TSH is high when the thyroid gland is not responding normally
to TSH by producing normal amounts of T4. The gland is said to be "failing".
I call this sort of diagnosis somewhat misguided because highly trained endurance
athletes often present with high TSH and normal T4, also called "subclinical
You didn't mention how much you train, but if you are serious about your
racing, have a follow up test of your T4. Being 10 pounds overweight and frequently
tired could be hypothyroidism, or it could be simply overeating for the exercise
you do and poor or inadequate sleep.
If your T4 is actually low and you manage to correct it with supplemental
T4, your performance will improve immensely. I have had one client go from
Masters National Champion level performance to inability to keep up with the
local pack after thyroid failure. With supplementation, this rider is back
to competing at the old level. If your T4 is not actually low, taking supplemental
T4 will not have any effect on your weight or your performance.
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