Topics: Hill training simulation, Scott comes clean RE: shaving your legs, Rebuilding endurance after a Laryngectomee, ITB syndrome
Got a question for the fitness panel? Send it to email@example.com. Try and include as much relevant information as you can think of. The more details you can provide the better the panel can tailor their response to your question.
Emails may be edited for length or clarity, but we try to publish both questions and answers in their entirety.
To find advice that relates to you more easily:
Hill training simulation
I‘ve recently caught the competitive bug and quite intend on being a racer in the near future. As a means to get serious, I read Joe Friel’s The cyclist training bible. In the book, Friel recommended the general to specific approach to training. In the force or strength area, Friel’s recommendation was to train with weights then proceed to riding in progressively harder hills.
Considering I live in a flat area and the only significant hill is 50km away, it is simply impractical to incorporate that in to my training. I’ve read here and there that grinding a big gear can be an equivalent to training in the hills. In fact, in my Garmin device there is a list of template workouts and one of the workouts is hill simulation which basically calls for big gear grinding intervals. Is there any validity to this approach? If it is a valid way to substitute hills, what should I know before I do this kind of workouts? What would a typical hill-sim workout look like?
Scott Saifer says:
Yes, low cadence/high force riding is acceptable as a substitute for climbing practice and will indeed help you prepare physically for climbing in races about as well as climbing in training. You should probably make the 50km trek to the hills a few times to boost your confidence and familiarity with hill climbing. Also, there is nothing you can do on the flat that is adequate preparation for twisty descending, so for safety sake, be sure to work some descending practice into your program before doing any races that include challenging descents.
As far as what to look for in using big gear riding as a substitute for climbing: Don't do big-gear work until you are sure you have your position dialed in and are riding pain free for long rides in light gears. Big gear work in a position that is already bothering your knees or back may cause some serious harm. After you've been training by spinning for 6 hours or more per week for a month or more, add some rides where you pedal along at 70 rpm in your usual endurance heart rate or power zone for an hour or more at a time. That's a good power builder in itself. Once you've been doing that few weeks without problems, it's time to do some real on-bike strength training. There are many ways to do that. One of my favorites is the Big Gear-Little Gear exercise: Warm up for a while at an easy pace and then start switching back and forth every 5 minutes between a gear that gives you 90 rpm on the flat and a gear that gives you 50-rpm on the flat, but keep switching between those same two gears no matter where you are in the ride, so you might switch to the big gear while climbing a steep hill some times. Stay seated and grind it out always in your endurance zone.
Another less intense version of the same exercise is to switch back and forth every 3 minutes between 50 and 90 rpm in your endurance zone.
If you have any knee pain or your muscles get sore, go back to spinning an easy gear for the rest of the day.
RE: Shaving your legs, Scott comes clean
Dear Mr Saifer,
Thank you for your reply.
But I must say I do not understand the benefits. I frequently receive professional massages at the sports club that I am a member of. The masseuse always covers my body with a towel and the massage is done through the towel so I don't think shaving the legs would make any difference. Also, are the legs the only part of the professional bodies that receive massages?
I apply a lot of sunscreen to my legs, arms, face (I have a beard) and the hair does not present any problems. Again, if applying sunscreen to shaved skin is somehow more effective, why don't pros and amateur riders shave their arms as well as their legs?
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Scott Saifer says:
Okay, I have to tell you the real reason pros shave their legs. It's because pros shave their legs. There are lots of reasons to do it, but ultimately they do it because all the other riders do it. I've heard that pros shave so that it they crash and have to have bandages, the bandages won't stick to the hair, but I don't believe that most pros plan to crash so while that is a reason to shave, I don't believe that's why they do it. I've heard that hair sticks to asphalt and makes road rash worse as bigger chunks of skin get pulled off, but again, I don't think that's why they shave.
I'm not familiar with through the towel massage. I'm sure it can be done, though I suspect that it detracts from the experience when the masseur can't see what he or she is working on and there is no skin-to-skin contact. With shaved legs one can do a bit of massage anytime, anywhere without a towel or lubricant. I'm sure pros could arrange to have towels and lubricant present so again, the ability to get a massage doesn't adequately justify shaving.
It's been said that smooth legs might decrease aerodynamic drag and improve competitiveness. It's also been said that a bit of hair could act like the turbulators on airplane wings, actually deceasing wind resistance by disrupting laminar flow and easing the separation of the air from the leg. Since smooth legs being faster makes intuitive sense, aerodynamics could explain shaving. Some pros do shave their arms as well.
Some riders say they shave because "chicks dig it". Many riders say that the first few days after shaving for the first time sliding between clean sheets is an awesome experience. Maybe some pros are closet sensualists.
Bottom line though is that riders shave because pros shave, and pros shave because pros shave. There are lots of arguable reasons but I don't think individual riders necessarily have reasons in that way. On the other hand, show up at a racing club ride in a new town with hairy legs and see how you are received. You'll be accepted much more readily if your legs are smooth.
Building endurance again after a Laryngectomee
I'm a 63-year-old Laryngectomee who used to be a very active recreational cyclist - 4,000-5000 miles a year, including some back-to-back centuries. In the FWIW department, in 1998 I created - my idea with a lot of help from a group of cycling buddies - a week long supported summer ride under the auspices of the Cascade Bicycle Club, called Ride Around Washington.
I quit smoking and drink/drugging in the late '80s but a few years ago I was diagnosed with laryngeal (voice box) cancer, and now breathe through one of those holes (tracheostoma) in my neck. After fully recovering from a third surgery in as many years (to allow me to eat), I am just beginning to get back on my bike.
My first ride was a whopping 26 flat miles last weekend, and I didn't know if my quads or seat were sorer at the end. Even though it was a very flat route, however, I found myself sometimes breathing heavily. Also, as I live in Puget Sound, there are not that many flat miles around (that don't have good sized ridges in between), and I live on top of a hill. I am fearful that when I hit a hill, I'm simply not going to be able to get enough air. Will a slow, steady growth in cycling miles, progressively working in small to larger hills, get me back to being comfortable on any terrain? What sort of gym exercises might I do to build cardio-pulmonary endurance?
Scott Saifer says:
Congratulations on quitting smoking etc and on having the drive to get back on the bike after what must have been a terrible experience.
You bit off a big chunk riding 26 miles your first day back on. I would have had you go out for 20-30 minutes a few times to get started, maybe adding 20 minutes to your longest ride each week, so you'd be going 26 miles after a month or more.
It's no surprise you'd be breathing heavily or that you'd end up sore with such a big first ride after a long time off. Yes, building up gradually will have you back to decent fitness in a few months, with speed coming gradually after that. The first few months should be mostly easy spinning. Since you don't have flat roads available, you might start with your bike on a trainer and cardio machines in the gym for the first month. By then you should be able to ride slowly up moderate hills without getting sore or out of breath.
My question relates to the Iliotibial band and possible causes of tightness.
I develop tightness and discomfort in my left ITB from time to time (not every ride) when riding my TT bike (Scott Plasma) the tightness/pain extends from just above the hip down to the knee joint, and appears to be aggravated when I get into my aero position (photo attached) I don't have any trouble when riding my road bike, with the same shoes/cleats however the ITB did flair up after changing my worn cleats on my training bike.
I also develop the same symptoms when walking on the beach with the slopping shoreline doesn't seem to matter which leg is on the "high side" but it is always the left ITB that tightens.
I'm 36, 5'6 65kg have been riding for 10years and normally ride about 500km a week. I use Look Keo pedals, LG shoes, 175mm cranks on my TT bike (170mm on road bike)
Any help would be appreciated.
Steve Hogg says:
The most common reason for left ITB pain on a bike is that the rider is not sitting squarely and is dropping the right hip. This challenges the plane of movement of the left hip with experiences similar to yours as the result.
Why your TT bike and not your road bike?
Because the lower torso position is more of a challenge to your pelvic symmetry. It may be that your bars are too low, or are too far away or that your seat is too high. It also maybe a latent issue even on the road bike, but that the road bike position is kinder to you, so you feel no ill effects. Conceivably too, you may have a shorter left leg. Has anyone ever mentioned that in the past?
In simple terms you have two choices -
1. Raise your bars until the problem disappears
2. Diagnose the structural problem that your beach walking experience suggests you have and do what you have to do to fix it.
Better still, do both.
There is info in these posts that will probably be useful.