Fitness questions and answers for April 3, 2005

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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 fitness@cyclingnews.com. 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.

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.

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 any geography.

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.They include World and National champions at one end of the performance spectrum to amputees and people with disabilities at the other end.

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.

Brett Aitken (www.cycle2max.com) is a Sydney Olympic gold medalist. Born in Adelaide, Australia in 1971, Brett got into cycling through the cult sport of cycle speedway before crossing over into road and track racing. Since winning Olympic gold in the Madison with Scott McGrory, Brett has been working on his coaching business and his www.cycle2max.com website.

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.cyclecoach.com) is an Associate Coach with Richard Stern Training. He holds a Masters degree in exercise physiology and is USA Cycling Expert Coach. Michael has been a competitive cyclist for over 10 years and has experience coaching road and off-road cyclists, triathletes and Paralympians.

Kim Morrow (www.elitefitcoach.com) has competed as a Professional Cyclist and Triathlete, is a certified USA Cycling Elite Coach, a 4-time U.S. Masters National Road Race Champion, and a Fitness Professional.

Her coaching group, eliteFITcoach, is based out of the Southeastern United States, although they coach athletes across North America. Kim also owns MyEnduranceCoach.com, a resource for cyclists, multisport athletes & endurance coaches around the globe, specializing in helping cycling and multisport athletes find a coach.

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.

Preventing cramp
Power to weight ratio
Muscle tightness
Road bike prep and training
Kneecap pain
Sore hamstring and calf
Eating and weight loss
Type of training
More cramp

Preventing cramp

Hello,

I am a 40 year old Cat 2 with 20+ years of experience. I recently competed in a 55 mile RR consisting of 5 laps of rolling terrain with one small climb in it. At roughly the beginning of the 5th lap I began to experience cramping in my quads. The temps were in the upper 40's to about 50, no rain, little wind. The average speed was about 28 mph. I normally train with a power meter. I get about eight hours during the week and about 4-6 hours on the weekend including a three hour 45-50 mile group ride on Sundays.

Before and during the event I ate and drank well, (Accelerade and gels during, and good meals prior) was comfortable with the speed, never felt overextended at all. During the 4th lap I felt great. I felt so good I knew I could compete in the sprint. Then the cramping hit I can't figure it out. Do you have any ideas that I might consider for cause? I am 40 yrs old, 6 ft, 150 lbs.

My weekly training includes interval workouts of various lengths and efforts. My Threshold power is 310, VO2 measures at about 71-72 this time of year, diet is good /healthy, and I do squats and lunges with a barbell twice a week. Do you need more information? I really felt I was riding within myself and not extended at all. This is the first time I ever experienced such severe cramping. I was able to finish with the group but had to dial back a lot, lag the climbs, spin and pray not to get dropped. Thanks in advance.

Larry Byvik

Ric Stern replies

Larry,

I'd guess that cramps have hit everyone at one time or another, and are one of those things that most sportspeople have gotten at least once. I certainly can recall having had them in the past in races and having to soft pedal and pray I didn't get dropped!

It appears that cramping isn't related to dehydration (as dehydration affects the whole body and cramps only occur in the exercising muscle), but is most likely related to muscle damage and muscle fatigue.

This most likely means that your fitness wasn't at the required level for the event or you already had too much muscle fatigue - e.g., from previous sessions. The race may not have felt difficult, and that you were within yourself, but that feeling can often occur when you are excited/in a group situation, for example, you may not be concentrating on how you are feeling - you maybe more interested in what's going on around you and therefore you are distracted from the pain - until really severe pain, cramp, hits you.

I'd therefore suggest that you either need to look at your pre event preparation - to make sure you are going in fully recovered and/or not fatigued or look at increasing your sustainable TTpower and MAP.

Power to weight ratio

When calculating your power to weight ratio, is it best to use your maximal sustainable 20 minute power, 30 minute power, 40 minute power, or 60 minute power?

Steve Palladino
Santa Rosa, CA

Ric Stern replies

Steve,

It really depends what you're trying to find out. For example, perhaps you want to know about your sprinting prowess, in which case you'd look at something like 5-second power to mass ratio, or maybe you want to know your power to mass at MAP, in which case you'd use that. However, if you wanted to look at power to mass ratio for time trialling it depends what you're comparing it to. Perhaps you have a regular 40-minute training time trial that you ride, in which case you'd look at power to mass over the 40-minutes.

It really depends what you're trying to calculate, and why. Please let me know, and we can tell you more!

Muscle tightness

Hey guys,

Two questions; first in the leg length posting of March 27 you suggested yoga, pilates or similar classes - that relates to my first question. I suffer from perineal tightness in the hamstring (and occasional cramping), what aside from stretching would be the best method for increasing flexibility in hamstrings (and overall).

The second question, which may be related, is that the day after a hard effort I have soreness in my quads and in the IT band as well. Is it just being under trained that causes it, or improper technique? I ride about 5,000 miles a year in training, with a pretty good eye towards recovery rides after a hard effort.

I am a Swede in the body mould of Magnus Backstedt, with a little extra body fat then Maggie's 3%.

John Wickstrom

Steve Hogg replies

John,

I don't know of any method that of structural self improvement that doesn't involve at least some stretching. Some of the health professionals on the panel may be able to advise further on that. One thing that works for some is buy, read and apply "Awareness through Movement", by Moshe Feldenkrais. You won't harm yourself and may well benefit.

Your second question implies what the first does; that you are tight and don't function well in a structural sense. The solution to that is the same in general terms as the solution to the first query. Improve the way your body functions as a structure. Again, stretching is likely to be involved.

Road bike prep and training

I am a 55 year old male who, for the last 6 years has ridden a mountain bike to work and back for fitness and fun. The round trip is 24km on a bush track.

Many years ago I rode racing bikes (won the WA State Schoolboys Championships in 1964); yes, that is a long time ago!

I have decided to ride in the Menzies to Kalgoorlie Classic early in June (132km), and have just purchased a nice lightweight road bike. I'm a shorter rider at 5 foot 3 inches in the old lingo.

My query/questions are: Am having trouble getting used to the clip less/ lock type pedals. After about 45minutes I get pain in the feet on the outside, about opposite the ball of my foot. Have tried changing the position of the cleats? But it has made no difference. Should I just persevere? It has only been a week. I use toe clips on the mountain bike.

Leading up to an event such as this, what would a good training programme entail? I can still do my short morning rides to work, and have every Friday, Saturday and Sunday available for longer rides.

Is there a simple formula for setting up the seat height, position, head stem angle etc for comfort and power?

Jim Grundy

Steve Hogg replies

Jim,

I will make the assumption that you have the cleats positioned at an angle that allows either foot to find its' natural angle on the pedal and still allows a measure of free movement either side of that position. If you are not sure, then that is the first box that I would tick. Once that is done, set your cleats up as suggested in this post, and this post. After that, is the problem still apparent? If so, there are two likely causes.

Firstly, nerve compression somewhere between lower back and feet. Are you tight and inflexible in the lower back?
Do you suffer from low back pain at all?

If the answer to either of those questions is yes, go and see a good physio, chiro or similar and get some advice on a program of self improvement as that may be all or part of the problem. Whether that is the case or not, you may have varus forefeet. What this means is that the front part the rear of your foot are not in a single plane, with the forefoot rolling in toward the big toe relative to the heel.

One way we unconsciously compensate for this can be to load up the outside edge of the foot when pedalling. To eliminate this as a potential cause try this.
Make a paper fitting and tape it the underside of your cycling shoe insole. Do so like this: Get a sheet of A4 paper. Fold it along the short axis 4 times in total until you are left with a strip approximately 20mm wide x 210mm long. Get some packing tape and stick this along the inside edge of both shoe insoles starting at the heel. It must reach at least as far as the front of the first MTP joint (ball of the foot). Make sure that this paper build up doesn't go past the centreline of the insole at the rear. It may have to be trimmed to prevent that.

Fit one of these to each shoe and go for a ride. Check that cleat position still allows you to have freeplay either side of where your feet want to be naturally on the pedal. The fitting of the paper will change that angle to varying degrees. Now go for a ride. If the problem is gone, that's great. If it is reduced but still present, you need more of the same. This time though, only fold the paper three times so that it is about 40mm wide and overlay it over the first bit again taking care that the new piece doesn't go past the centreline of the heel of the insole. Then test ride again checking the cleat angle allows freeplay either side of where each foot sits on the pedal. If trying this doesn't resolve the problem or increases its severity which is unlikely but possible, please get back to me.

Ric Stern replies

Jim,

Excellent that you're still cycling and still liking it. I hope I'm still riding when I'm your age and older.

I can't answer all your queries as regards set up, but would suggest that a good starting point for seat height, measured from where you sit on the saddle to the top of your pedal, with your cranks directly in line with the seat tube and measured to the lower pedal (6 o'clock) is 100% of greater trochanter height. Your greater trochanter is located where there is a bony protrusion on the outside of your leg below your hips. If you stand upright and rotate your leg outwards and upwards, the point of rotation is where your greater trochanter is located. There are some images here to help further.

Your training should be based around the needs of the event (i'm not sure what the event in question is like), your fitness goals (e.g., increased fitness - increased lactate threshold, increased MAP, weight management), and the time that you have available to train (no point suggesting you ride for 4 hours a day if you only have an hour morning and evening). Ourselves or one of the coaches here would be able to help you prepare well for the event.

Kneecap pain

I am a 27-year-old male Cat 3 road racer and have been cycling for about two years. I am experiencing sharp knee pain on the inside of my left kneecap. Any type of bend in my left leg brings pain to the knee. It is like the kneecap is rubbing and is out of sync. Is this a common injury called "runners knee"?

I have been professionally fit and know my measurements on the bike. I believe the problem started when I was out on my training bike and my saddle height was about 1cm to low. In addition, I was trying a new pedal stroke, (toes down and piston like movement up/down) in contrast to my normal stroke of pedalling circles. The rumour is that this stroke increases watts substantially and I was curious. After that ride I went back to pedalling normally and iced the knee with some rest days. The pain subsided and I trained as usual. A week later I raced and had some severe pain after. Is this serious and do you have any healing tips? I am currently taking Motrin and ice twice a day.

Craig Smith

Steve Hogg replies

Craig,

I won't attempt to advise on the nature of the knee injury. That is best left to the health professionals but I want to comment on the 'more powerful' pedal stroke technique training that caused this problem.

Pedalling technique is determined by who and what you are and the parameters of bike position that you set yourself. It's a largely autonomic activity; that is happening at a level below conscious control. Conscious control intrudes from time to time while training and racing in the sense of "corner coming up, I will stop pedalling briefly at the apex for ground clearance" or "have to increase cadence to close gap" etc. But most of the time we are not thinking about how we pedal.

If you look at the greats of cycling over a long period you will find a wide range of technique. Merckx was massively heel down under any load, Hinault was middle of the road and Anquetil was massively toe down and all were the great riders of their respective eras. Between them they just about spanned the range of pedalling techniques and so we can assume that no particular pedalling technique is an indication of cycling proficiency. Under load, we will revert to whatever technique comes naturally to us because that is how our brain and body work. We can learn to change technique if we devote a lot of time to the task, but for the great majority, this is wasted time.

Set the parameters of position that you are happy with and refine your technique by riding a lot. Your brain and body will work out the rest.

Sore hamstring and calf

I recently took up road racing after an absence of nearly 12 years. I was a top underage and junior rider and was forced to give up after two bad crashes - one resulting in a severely torn right gastroc, the other causing a herniated disc in the thoracic region. After nearly two years of doing nothing I took up weight lifting and gained considerable mass (height 167cm, weight 92kg, 11% body fat).

I resumed cycling in October 2005 and I have dropped to 80 kg and discontinued weight training. I used my old racing bike all winter and for the most part found it ok; however, on long climbs I would find myself pulling up with my left leg trying to get my left foot further back in the shoe, my right knee also turns in towards the top tube and now that I have started racing in high cadence situations my left hamstring and soleus get fatigued and sore very quickly, forcing me to slow dramatically. I have tried lowering the saddle and moving the cleat on the left shoe forward, both of which proved counter productive. I am currently riding a new frame with the exact dimensions as my hack bike, however, I still have not gotten used to the new ultra hard saddles as they were never so hard when I raced before. Please, can you give me some advice?

Richard Dunne

Steve Hogg replies

Richard,

Mount your bike on a trainer, warm up to a reasonably hard gear at 90 rpm or so, ride with your shirt off and have someone stand behind and above you. I strongly suspect from your self description that you are not sitting squarely on the seat but need your observer to confirm this. What I need to know is whether you are dropping your right hip down and forward on each pedal stroke?

And whether you are sitting with your pelvis twisted forward on the right side?

If you are, and it is common, then what you describe is easy to understand. If for a number of common reasons you are twisting forward on the right side and/or dropping the right hip, then this will bring the right knee closer to the top tube but also make the left leg reach further to the pedals. This would explain the hamstring fatigue and possibly the soleus fatigue as well if the left leg is moving laterally during the pedal stroke. Get back to me with what you find and I will try and advise.

Eating and weight loss

Hello,

I have been pretty diligent at trying to lose some weight this winter while I am in my base building period and running a caloric deficit won't harm my race performance.

Because I work for a living, there are times when my workouts have to happen in the evening and might finish within an hour or two of my bedtime. I recognise that not eating after my workout will compromise my recovery and replenishment of glycogen stores. At the same time, eating late at night is not very helpful for weight loss it would seem.

However, if I eat after my workout but yet still have a caloric deficit for the day, am I still working toward my weight loss goal? Do the two cancel each other out? What would be your suggested strategy to satisfy both the weight loss and recovery goals simultaneously?

Steve Bonadio

Pam Hinton replies

Steve,

The key to weight loss is, as you put it, "running a caloric deficit." It does not matter when you eat or exercise, as long as your energy expenditure exceeds your energy intake. The reasoning behind the "eating late at night makes you fat" myth is that food turns to fat while you sleep. However, if you are waiting to eat dinner until late at night, presumably you did not eat dinner earlier. The nutrients that you ingest will be used to replace the stores that were used to sustain you during your between meal fast.

Of course, if you are ravenous by the time you eat your late evening meal and, as a consequence, eat more than you would otherwise then a weight gain might result.

There are observational studies in humans and controlled experiments in monkeys showing that night time eating does not cause weight gain. So continue doing exactly what you're doing. Exercising in the evening and eating afterwards to optimise recovery will not jeopardise your weight loss plan. Take care.

Type of training

Hi I'm 50 years old and 220 lbs - I want to get to 182 lbs. I am a mountain bike enthusiast, having raced in my local races, the Scottish cross country series.

I've been racing for two years now in the 'fun' category, but now that I've turned 50 I want to enter the grand vet cat...so I've two goals to achieve:

1. Get to 182 lbs
2. Not come last in the races

On a Sunday morning I do a 25-mile cross country ride on a not too technical course and on a Wednesday morning - I do a four mile jog and as of next week I will do a road ride on a Wednesday morning and a four mile jog on a Friday night followed by a 25 mile cross country mtb ride on a Sunday morning.

Can you give me any advice on how to achieve my goals? I don't want to win my races just to do better.

Marco Righetti

Ric Stern replies

Marco,

I'm not sure how you've arrived at wanting to reduce your weight to 182 lb (83 kg) from 220 lb (100 kg). How much you can lose will depend on what mass you can lose, and to know this you would need to have an accurate measure of body fat %. This can be done by qualified personnel with either metal skin fold callipers, with underwater weighing, or DEXA scans. If you don't know what your body fat percentage is, you might not be able to lose all the mass you want, as too much of it could be lean body mass (e.g., muscle and not body fat).

It appears that you are only cycling a couple of times a week and supplementing this with a couple of jogging sessions. While the jogging will help with weight management, it won't necessarily be specific to your cycling needs and increased performance. Additionally, with what appears to be a fairly small volume of training, increasing gradually the volume and frequency of training will better help you manage your weight, bring it down, and increase your fitness. Gradually adding in one or two more sessions a week (time permitting) will greatly help with this in both of your goals.

More cramp

Hi

I am 3rd cat rider starting my racing season. Have found that in my first two races I have gone quite well but started to get cramp in the final 10k of a 70k race.

I don't have a problem on long training rides only in races. I am a sweater even in the early cold days of the year, and will drink plenty throughout the race.

Is there anything I can take during or before racing?

Trevor Burke

Ric Stern replies

Trevor,

Looks like cramp is the issue of the day - just had another similar question!

It's unlikely that you can take anything to prevent cramp that occurs in races. The exact reasons why cramps occur aren't known exactly, but it's thought it's unrelated to dehydration or e.g., lack of sodium. It is however, important to take a carbohydrate-electrolyte drink when racing (and training) to offset fluid loss.

Most likely the cramp is caused by fatigue/lack of fitness, which can be redressed with proper training and increased fitness levels. You may not experience the cramp in training rides, as you're not going hard enough for long enough so you don't get as fatigued as when you race (and hence don't cramp).

The training that may help prevent fitness, and importantly increase your fitness is that which increases your lactate threshold (and TT power) and your VO2max (and MAP). These types of training are often done in zones 2 - 5, which will specifically work at increasing the most important (for a roadie and other endurance racer) aspects of fitness. Our zones 2 - 5 can be seen here. We can also help prepare you with training/coaching to have your fitness at a higher level and hopefully prevent your cramps,

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