Fitness questions and answers for August 1, 2008

Got a question about fitness, training, recovery from injury or a related subject? Drop us a line at...

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.

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 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. 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.

Calf/Hamstring soreness
Constant pain in achilles
Q-Factor
What next?
Jock itch and Chafing

Calf/Hamstring soreness

I'm a 26 year old female cat three racer; I've been racing road (I enjoy crits and TTs and do road races mostly for the "character building" aspect) and track this spring/summer and will do cross in the fall. I've been racing bikes for six years, though it has only been the past three that I've been into road, having started with mountain.

I had a problem arise a couple of months ago where I would get a pain on my right leg, toward the right side of the inside of my knee, right above my calf. My hamstring would also feel tight while riding, so I wasn't sure what was going on. I invested in the Stick as other people recommended it, and when using it, under the right knee was noticeably more tender and rough/chunky than the left knee. I said that I would take time off the bike, but I only half-heartedly did and continued with track racing for a bit.

I did a track practice where it ended up really sore at the end, so I decided I really needed to take some time off. The most concentrated pain was under the knee, right above the calf. The hamstring pain was more of a general tightness while riding then sore the next day, along the whole length of my thigh. Both of these would get worse from overextension, like walking down stairs or walking/standing around in my cleats (with my toes elevated). They would not hurt if I just spun, but anytime I tried to push (which is basically all the time on the track) they would come on, not immediately but after a while. They would be sore for a couple days after they hurt while riding but were not generally sore in everyday life. I can't pinpoint an event where the pain first started.

I should preface this with the fact that I had a similar but worse pain in my leg last year - but only above the calf and not in the hamstring. I can pinpoint this injury: I did a 2-hour track practice on cranks borrowed from a guy who was over 6'. I'm 5'4" and didn't bother to lower the saddle to account for the stretching. I really damaged my right calf muscle and was out of commission for a couple weeks. This did spur me to finally get a real bike fit from a PT who also is a racer (I would see her normally but my insurance doesn't cover her practice). This was probably late April or early May of last year. I applied the fit to my road, cross, and track bikes, got cranks that actually fit and didn't have any problems until about April of this year.

I had made an appointment with a sports medicine specialist at my university (University of Washington). She said the pain was concentrated right where the hamstring muscles overlap with the calf muscles under the knee, so it was ambiguous where the problem was exactly. She suspected it was more the calf, as that was the problem last year, and we scheduled some PT, also through the university;

I've been seeing the PT for the past 3-4 weeks. The PT proceeded to tell me that the pain was probably because I had relatively weak hips and core; he barely looked at the areas of pain at all, which made me skeptical. I'm sure strengthening my hips and core is never a bad thing, but I was expecting slightly more focus on the legs. I decided to stick with it for a while, as maybe the approach would get somewhere.

Eventually, he did have me do quite a few hamstring exercises and stretches, but he put very little focus on the calf.

One thing he told me was that I should try to change my riding position so that I'm in more of a "neutral spine" by "sticking my butt out" while I'm in the saddle. I wasn't quite sure what he meant, as that seems like it would just rotate the pressure forward and away from my sit bones. Today, my final meeting with him, he told me he was watching the tour, and it drove him crazy because all of the cyclists weren't in the position he suggested!

I brought up my point of how having your butt out would mean putting pressure forward which isn't pleasant. He then went on to say that saddles are made for being on your sit bones, which is what I would assume. I tried to figure out more how he meant for people to sit because it seems the more I "stick my butt out" the less I am on my sit bones. He got pretty defensive when I just started asking for a clearer idea of what he meant saying that he just gives me the tools and the ideas but I need to apply it to my riding, which didn't answer my questions at all.

He's clearly not a cyclist, nor do I think he has any real idea what he's talking about, truthfully. Does the pain I've described sound like anything you've seen? Is the PT I saw as full of crap as I feel he is?

I'm going to be going more easy for a while, but I do want to get back out on the track before season ends. I've recently re-checked the fit of my bikes, just in case I somehow changed something without paying attention, and they should be okay. I just did my first ride in a couple weeks on this past Saturday: 24 miles on a smooth, paved trail. I didn't have any problems, though my legs felt kind of "weird" at first (probably because I haven't used them in that way for a while), but by the end everything felt fine.

I apologize for the length. I'm kind of annoyed with the PT, but I also wanted to put out the full story.

Rachel

Steve Hogg replies:

The short story is that you are overextending your right leg. You may have a shorter right leg; you may drop your left hip causing you to reach further with your right leg; you may just be tighter as a result of your previous injury, though I don't think that is the full story. You originally injured this area riding cranks that were too long without adjusting seat height but only injured one leg. Why?

At some level there was a pre existing issue, whether it be pelvic symmetry, leg length or functional differences between left and right sides. As an experiment, drop your seat 5mm and reassess.

Does dropping the seat give you relief wholly or partially?

If it improves the feel on the right side, were there any negatives on the left side over the top of the pedal stroke?

The other thing to check is cleat position. If you have your right cleat too far forward compared to the left cleat (and I don't mean relative placement on the sole of the shoe but relative placement to foot in shoe as foot length and proportions can vary between feet), then you will load up the calf and in an effort to produce power, explosively extend the right leg, meaning push hard, but not through the full stroke.

This type of compensation tends to cause the rider to drop the heel and ballistically stretch the calf and occasionally hamstring tendons. Re cleat position, have a look at these posts:

Cleat position and
The ball of your foot.

After you have dropped the seat and possibly adjusted your cleats, let me know what the outcome is.

Constant pain in achilles

I currently ride around 7000 miles per year and I have been experiencing a constant pain in my achilles tendon on one foot for some time now. The pain is worse off the bike (walking, stretching) than on the bike and has lead to me taking a break from riding. The pain spot is located just above the edge of the shoe on the heel and it gets swollen every time I do a big effort on the bike.

My saddle position is probably OK; I have not made any major changes in the last year and have been riding the same shoes etc. The injury itself wasn't inflicted in crash or similar. Do you have some answer to what may be happening?

Luka
Slovenia

Steve Hogg replies:

Have a look at these links and position your cleats accordingly.

Cleat position and
The ball of your foot.

If following that advice doesn't solve the problem, please get back to me.

Q-Factor

I have a question about the Q-factor---which, in my mind, should include your pedals and their centre of your respective cleats. No one really talks about this.

Over the past 8-9 years, I have worn out 3 sets of identical pedals that can no longer be purchased. These pedals had a very narrow width between the crank and the centre of my shoe's Look cleats (my cleats can not be adjusted as they already are as far as they can go in allowing me to get a narrower Q-factor).

My question is this: I been to an untold number of local bike shops, and have measured all of the existing pedal systems, and none have this narrow of a Q-factor that my old pedals allowed me.

I cannot afford to spend $500 and hope something like Look's carbon CX-7 pedals (with Q-factor adjustability) somehow allow me to get close to my old Q-factor (I only ride 2000 Shimano Dura-Ace cranks, never swap them out as I have 2 brand new pairs left of them)? Well, I purchased, after all the pedal measuring, the next best thing: a pair of Ritchey Pro Logic pedals.

Still, even with these narrow Q-factor pedals, my Q-factor is now wider by a dead-on 5mm on each pedal to the centre of my cleat (please remember, my cleats can not be moved any further). I am getting some structural pains on the outside of my knees and feet that I have never felt before. This has to relate to nearly a decade+ of riding the exact same Q-factor and no other.

Should I be worried??

Or will my structural body slowly adapt to this wider Q-factor, again which must be causing the problem mainly because I tested my theory: I put the old pedals back on, rode for 10 days, and the pain disappeared. My shoes are the same, my cleats are the same (Ritchey pros accept red/balck Look style cleats). I am a regular pilates and core-muscle/flexibilty exerciser, so there isn't much left in that avenue to fight this pain. Thus the question remains, should I ignore the pain that is coming from this increased total of 10mm to my Q-factor, and hope my body breaks into after another 3-4 months or longer? Or is there some adjustment I can do to account for the wider Q-factor (i.e. lower my seat 1 or 2 or 3mm, or something else?) Thank you for any help and/or tips.

David P. Whetzel

Steve Hogg replies:

Firstly, never ignore pain. It is a message that your body is sending you and it is worth listening to you. Transient mild discomfort is one thing; pain, particularly if it gets worse over time, is another.

What concerns me is that you are so sensitive to foot separation distance. Many people prefer and feel better with either a wide or narrow foot separation distance but don't feel pain. Can you ride an mtb comfortably?

If so, MTB's have Q factors of 20+mm wider than double chain ring road bikes. If not, I strongly suspect that a wide Q factor isn't the root cause, but rather that a narrow Q factor masks another more fundamental issue. My first guess is that you have internally rotated hips and that as your feet move further apart than you are used to and have trained yourself to, your hips are forced to work differently and what you feel is the result.

Have you ever tried any cleat wedging?

That would be the first thing I would try. My initial thought is that by internally rotating your hips (narrow Q) you are allowing less than perfect feet to contact the pedals squarely (by which I mean no inversion or aversion of the foot) and your knees to track well. As your feet have moved further apart, your hips are forced to externally rotate and the price you then pay for having the feet contact the pedals squarely is to load up the ITB.

It is likely that you need to evert (raise the inside edge) your feet on the pedals. From previous mails you have sent to the forum I know you are in Belgium. If you can't find any BFS Cleat Wedges locally, send BFS an email via info@bikefit.com and they'll tell you where they can be found.

Once you have experimented with various numbers of wedges (and don't be surprised if you need a different number under each foot) I would be interested to hear the result.

Lastly, if the scenario I have described isn't correct, get back to me for Plan B.

What next?

I'm a competitive 44 year old Cat 5 father of 4 with a bunch of top 20 finishes and limited training time wondering what I need to do next to go faster with a lower heart rate. My max heart rate is around 191bpm.

During my weekly club sponsored race of about 30 miles on a two mile loop my effort on a small 400ft climb ranges from 170 to 180bpm. During solo training rides I usually maintain a 145 to 170bpm rate. Should I still be doing intervals with heart rates in the 170s & 180s at this point to continue to increase my lactate threshold level or should I be holding my heart rate at something else for longer training rides?

Jeff

Scott Saifer replies:

If you are racing or doing hard club rides once or twice per week, you are getting all the intensity you need from those rides. The rest of your rides should be dedicated to recovering from the last hard ride and building base. The exact upper limit of base-developing intensity is open to argument, but in general keeping your heart rate below 80% of maximum (153 in your case) should work fine. So, if you are tired from previous rides, go easy for 45-60 minutes. If you are feeling good, go as long as you have time for with your heart rate below 153. If you do that consistently for 3 weeks, you'll note a near miraculous improvement in your ability to go hard and fast in your races.

Jock itch and Chafing

I'm 20 years old and I ride about 200 miles a week. About 2 weeks ago after 3 days of really hot and humid riding I came down with a rash on my genitals and inner thighs. It was splotchy red, itchy, and after the 3rd day, my skin was raw and cracking. Since then I have been applying Lotrimin AF anti fungal cream and Monkey Butt powder (talcum with some calamine) over the cream to keep the moisture down.

I have stopped riding since then, except for 2 test rides and continued the cream and powder application, and though my condition has improved over the 2 weeks, the rash is still lingering. My inner thighs have small welts or bumps that were very easy chafed on my test rides or if I go for a run, even with lots of "Sport Stick" lube or Chamois Butt'r Any tips how to kick this? I really want to get training again but fear it would make the rash last forever if I do not wait until it is completely healed.

Scott Saifer replies:

First, I've had the same situation so you have my sympathy. One of the other panellists may have more recommendations, but it sounds to me like you are doing most of the right things already. You don't say how often you are applying the Lotrimin, but err on the side of too frequently rather than not frequently enough. Every few hours would be great. Then, letting the area really dry is key since the fungus lives only on moist skin. That could mean sitting with your pants off and a fan blowing over that area to remove moisture as well as the drying powder you are already using. There is a slim but real chance that the something in Monkey Butt is causing an allergic reaction that is helping to maintain your problem, so I'd suggest switching to plain, unscented talc if you can find it.

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