Fitness questions and answers for August 2, 2004

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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.

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.

High heart rate
Caffeine
Shoulder cramps
Penile numbness and perineum tenderness
Painful toes
Junior racing and preparing for mountains
Foot numbness/cleat positioning
Any suggested exercises or stretches?

High heart rate

I'm a 24 year old bike racer, 5'9" and 130 lbs, who started racing this summer. I've been riding seriously (150-220 miles a week) for the last year and a half now, and I've noticed my resting heart rate, which is in the high 50's, is still higher than a lot of bike riders who take their training less serious than I do. My question is, can a resting heart rate be a determining factor of HR training zones as well as max HR? For instance if I keep my HR at 128-136 during a 4 hour ride I feel like I haven't done a thing, and I recently did a time trial where I kept my HR between 192-194 for 25 minutes without going into the red. Is the fact that my engine idles a little fast going to affect my ability to improve?

Josh Bonner

Dave Palese replies:

The short answer is "No". Rest HR is not a determining factor in performance. Comparing HR numbers with your friends is pointless. What matters is what you do on your bike. Many things can affect resting HR, and HR in general. Focus on your training and performances. Don't get caught up in the numbers.

Have fun and good luck!

Dario Fredrick replies:

I agree with Dave that resting HR need not be factored into your training zones. Nor should it affect your capacity to improve. The same is true of max HR. However, it may be useful to track your resting HR over time to see if it changes with the quality of your training/recovery. For example, if you feel tired and your resting HR is significantly elevated ( 8-10bpm), it is an additional sign that you need better recovery and should rest.

It sounds like you already determined your maximal steady state (MSS) HR during your TT effort. Assuming that you were well hydrated and the conditions not excessively hot, 193 bpm is your MSS or "performance threshold" HR. Your training zones should be based on this level rather than max HR. Regarding your experience with ease of maintaining 128-136 bpm for and endurance ride, I typically recommend recovery ride intensity to be

Caffeine

My question has probably been asked a number of times - and I've searched numerous web sites, read books, and who-knows-what to figure out whether caffeine is actually 'bad'. The general answer I get is "too much is bad" and that caffeine causes dehydration, so if I drink enough water, does that "cancel out" the effect of caffeine?

I'm 33, cycle anything from 1 to 10 hours per week, depending on time of year and my aims, and I live in Stellenbosch, South Africa (perfect for both MTB and road cycling). I noted that Pam Hinton did not specifically note caffeine as being negative in the response a recent question regarding the use of Coke as energy drink. This led to my two questions.

In view of (a) overall health and (b) better cycling performance:

1. What is your opinion about caffeine (specifically in coffee, Coke), i.e. is it better to take in no caffeine whatsoever compared to moderate amounts?

2. What is the impact of "de-caf" coffee or Coke? Something tells me that the industry might do something else to the stuff when decaffeinating that's even worse than just using the caf-coffee, how do I know ?

Heinz Jacobs
South Africa

Scott Saifer replies:

I want to address a misconception about diuretics as well as to discuss caffeine. If some chemical or environmental stimulus is a diuretic, you can't make up for it by drinking more water. The effect of a diuretic is to change the levels of various hormones such that the amount of water that your body will keep is reduced. You always urinate away excess water consumed. A diuretic resets the threshold beyond which water is considered excess. You could offset the effects of a diuretic by simultaneously consuming an anti-diuretic, like salt. However I don't know that the net impact on performance would be good, even if the normal water balance was restored.

Pam Hinton discussed the physiological benefits of caffeine a few questions back and concluded that there are many benefits. I'll throw in one negative from my own experience. Caffeine is a stimulant. It increases arousal. High levels of arousal such as are experienced during bike racing lead to a narrowing of focus. When you are calm, you can ride, see the country-side, keep track of what's going on around you and hear a bird chirp at the same time. The harder you ride or the more aroused you are due to excitement or chemical stimulation, the less information you can process. In its extreme form this effect leads to tunnel vision during sprints. Athletes at all levels experience attention narrowing during high-intensity activity. However elite athletes know where to direct their limited attention, while beginners do not. This explains why beginners will "Break away" with the entire pack in tow for instance.

Since caffeine increases arousal and the ability to focus in sensitive individuals, it also increases the attentional narrowing associated with hard effort and can lead beginning racers to miss turns, not see overlapped wheels, sprint a lap early and do other things that they would not do if they were more calm. In short, you need to be calm to make good decisions. If you are sensitive to caffeine to the point that it makes you feel wired and jittery, and still learning the subtleties of bike racing, I'd suggest not using caffeine. Especially in shorter races, it does not confer any benefit that outweighs the disadvantages for the beginner. If you are an experienced racer who can focus where you need to keep yourself safe and competitive even with tunnel vision, tank up.

Pam Hinton replies:

For many of us, a strong cup of coffee or a can of full-test soda pop comes under the heading of one of life's little pleasures. Some of us simply enjoy the experience while others of us simply shouldn't operate heavy machinery, or try to converse, until we've had at least a second cup. You know the type-the co-worker holding the well-seasoned mug with "death before decaf" emblazoned on it. So, whether to moderate or abstain is what a friend of mine might refer to as a command decision. For sure, you don't want to consume more than 2-9 mg of caffeine per kg of body weight. Exceed this limit (about two cups of strong, brewed coffee) just before a race and, as Scott suggests, you could get so stimulated that you'd find it harder to focus and could be a hazard to both yourself and your competitors.

Decaf should be the brew of choice for individuals with anxiety, insomnia, heart palpitations, rapid or irregular heart beat, fibrocystic disease, esophogitis or ulcers, heart disease, or high blood pressure. Most healthcare professionals also recommend that pregnant women limit their intake of caffeine to the equivalent of one cup of coffee per day. Even decaffeinated coffee is not caffeine-free. An eight-ounce cup contains about 5 mg of caffeine.

Decaffeinated coffee is no worse for you than the regular stuff (except when it comes to flavor, perhaps). Essentially, the caffeine is removed from the beans by soaking them in a solvent, using one of two methods. In the direct method, the beans are steamed and exposed to an organic chemical that extracts the caffeine. The beans are then steamed again to remove any excess solvent. The indirect method of decaffeination, begins by soaking the beans in hot water which removes the caffeine (and the compounds which give coffee its flavor). The caffeine is then extracted from the water by mixing it with an organic solvent, or passing it through a charcoal filter. After removing the caffeine, the water is added back to the beans, which retain the flavor-imparting compounds. The organic solvents used in both methods are ethyl acetate and methylene chloride. Because ethyl acetate occurs naturally in plants, coffee that is decaffeinated using this chemical is often labeled as "naturally decaffeinated," even if the ethyl acetate was synthesized by a chemical manufacturer. There is some concern about the use of methylene chloride because it has toxic effects on the nervous system, red blood cells, liver, and kidney at high doses. However, the residual methylene chloride in decaffeinated coffee is very low--at least 25-fold lower than the safe upper limit set by the Food and Drug Administration in the United States.

Decaffeinated soda has even less to worry about. In the case of soda, the caffeine has to be added to get it "caffeinated."

To be sure, I don't use the phrase "less to worry about" lightly. I know that chemists and scientists often don't worry so much about the use of chemicals the way the general population might. What I'm saying here is that, in my opinion, decaffeination is a thoroughly tested, and safe, procedure. You are not going to endanger your health by drinking decaf. With respect to science, however, it seems we often are forced to trust in the experience and expertise of others. In instances like that, I often lean on the wisdom of a good cliché - moderation in all things - which is another of life's little pleasures.

Shoulder cramps

I have a tendency to get rather severe cramps and general tenseness in one shoulder after riding for any significant period. The pain builds slowly after a period on the road (about an hour) and then becomes progressively more severe. It abates after a period of rest but its cause clearly remains after the symptoms subside. I suspect it is due to some underlying misalignment. Are there any stretches or exercises which you would recommend to combat this problem - it is affecting my desire to ride.

Adrian Blomfield
London, UK

Steve Hogg replies:

There are probably a thousand reasons why your shoulder will hurt on a bike. The health professionals on this site can offer you some good advice regarding that. However, one reason that one shoulder and surrounding tissues can be under pressure on a bike is because of the rider not sitting square on the seat. This is common. If you sit with one hip forward of the other when riding, you will drop and / or rotate that hip forward with every pedal downstroke on that side. The typical unconscious way of coping with this challenge to pelvic stability on a bike, is to throw the shoulder further forward on the hip dropping side, and often to straighten the arm on the same side.

The simple way to establish whether you fit this pattern is to fit your bike to an indoor trainer, level it between axle centres and have observer standing above and behind you while you pedal with your shirt off. If you are dropping one hip it should be obvious, as should the forward thrust of the shoulder on that side.

Occasionally, people who ride like this only feel pain on the OTHER shoulder. Typically because that side is being stretched in the rear of the shoulder and / or upper back to accommodate the shoulder thrust on the hip dropping side. While that scenario is not common, it is not rare either.

Anyway, I mention the shoulder thrust because it is so common, but it may well be that your issue has nothing to do with this.

If after going through the above trainer / observer exercise, you feel that you fit the picture, get back to me and I'll give you the solution. If this is not you, I'm sure one of the other contributors will be able to help.

Penile numbness and perineum tenderness

I am a male, 24 year old, Cat. 2 cyclist who experiences perineum and penile discomfort after races and time-trial efforts. I have been riding bikes all my life, but until a stage race earlier this year where I spent many hours riding the nose of my saddle in breakaways, I had never felt prolonged numbness or discomfort. My perineum was ferociously tender and my penis was numb for multiple days after the race. I took periodic standing breaks throughout the races, but in order to keep up the pace, I was often kept in the saddle longer than I had wished.

After the stage race I purchased a new saddle (the Fi'zi:k Arione for its soft padding and extra range of movement), but have had this experience at almost every intense race since.

The problem I have found is that all the "anatomically correct" saddles are not cut away or extra-padded near the nose and front of the saddle where I move up to during hard breaks or even intense climbing. I mandate a break every ten or so minutes where I stand for about a minute. I stand over every railroad crossing and have even started downhilling standing to take pressure off.

Most of my shorts are high quality, significantly padded, and fit well. All the saddles that are "anatomically correct" appear to be nicely cut-away near the middle and back of the seat, but that is not the point that I put the most pressure on when really digging deep.

Help! I don't know what to do. A urologist may not be able to view this from a cycling perspective, and just prescribe a Specialized body geometry or Serfas Rx, but neither of those will address my problem.

I was considering cutting out padding from old shorts and sewing it in to my race shorts for ultra-thickness, but I read that too much padding might affect extra-sensitive nerves.

This is majorly cutting in to my cycling enjoyment, which in-turn is cutting in to my life, what am I to do?

Andy Vaughn

Steve Hogg replies:

The first thing that you have to understand is that if you want to keep sitting on your perineum and moving onto the nose of the seat while pedaling hard, then you are not going to have a fun life racing and your sex life will be pretty ordinary too. I would suggest that you go back to first principles and reassess the bike position that you have.

Everyone who ever rode a bike will unthinkingly do whatever they have to do to stabilise their pelvis while riding hard. This is because the pelvis is the centre if you like, of our athletic being on a bike. The legs hang down from the pelvis and the upper body cantilevers out from the pelvis. If the pelvis isn't stable problems will occur somewhere along the chain to the periphery. There are 2 basic ways to stabilise the pelvis on a bicycle, ACTIVE and PASSIVE.

Because of the compromises inherent in modern production frame design and the dearth of accurate positioning information available, a majority of riders sit too far forward. This promotes a weight transfer forward and this weight has to be borne by the arms and upper body. Sitting too far forward also promotes over enlistment of the quadriceps [and hence hip flexors, because the centre quad, the rectus femoris is both a hip flexor and a quadricep, and all of the hip flexors are functionally linked] and under utilisation of the glutes [the largest and potentially most powerful muscle in the body] and hamstrings. At moderate intensities, no problem, but at high intensity this imbalance of muscle use [and they all bear on the pelvis, directly or indirectly] destabilises the pelvis. The typical way of coping with this and what you are likely to be doing, is to grip the bars more tightly and arch and tense the back . This is a big no no. Arching and tensing the back and the consequent locking of the spine will to a greater of lesser degree, stabilise the pelvis, but at what price?

The price that you and many others pay, is that to arch and tense the back, you have to shorten up your position. You can't reach as far with a curved back under load as you can with a flatter back going less hard. The bars are not going to come back to you, you have to move forward to them by moving onto the nose of your seat. The problems you get are painful and deserving of your attention, but unfortunately only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. All of this upper body activity involves not only weight bearing on the perineum, but the enlistment of a lot of upper body musculature extraneous to the job of propelling a bike. This all has to be fed with blood flow, oxygen and heartbeats which are not then available to the legs which drive the bike. This decreases performance. Secondly, to arch and tense the back and stabilise the pelvis in this way restricts breathing. To arch and tense the back we have to enlist our rectus abdominus, the six pack, because they are flexors of the trunk. While you are reading this, moderately tense your abs. Now try and breathe deeply. It can't be done, because neurologically, the way our bodies work is that when the abs are switched on, the diaphragm cannot work properly and consequently the rider cannot use their full lung capacity. There are 20 odd muscles used in respiration of which 18 have postural implications. If any or all of those 18 are being used to bear weight or to stabilise, they are not fully available for respiration, leading to a further decrease in performance.

I could dwell at length at the mechanical inefficiencies that occur in the pedal stroke if you sit to far forward as well, but the foregoing should suffice.

There are other potential reasons that could account for your moving forward under load which I'll tackle in a moment, but what I have just described is so common that I make a large part of my living solving the issues that occur when people sit on a bike in the way you describe. Moving forward under load is so common that people think this is 'normal' under load. That is where the saying "I was on the rivet" comes from. In the days of leather seats with brass rivets, there was always a rivet on the nose of the seat securing the upper. 'On the rivet' meant you were going 'fast' - well, as fast as reduced respiratory ability and pain would allow anyway. What I have described here is the fallout of the ACTIVE approach to pelvic stabilisation on a bike.

Other reasons that could cause or be part of your problem are:

1. Bars too low and/or too far away causing you to be less than stable and to move forward under load to reach them.
2. Poor core strength that may or not be further challenged by asymmetries of function.
3. Seat that is too high so that under load the bodies easiest way to reach the bottom of the pedal stroke with power and control is to reduce the distance the legs have to reach by moving forward.
4. Any combination of the above.

What I would strongly suggest is that you adopt the PASSIVE approach to pelvic stabilisation on your bike. The most efficient way to stabilise your pelvis at the lowest metabolic cost, ie, by enlisting the minimum amount of musculature is to SIT ON IT. By this I mean that you need your seat far enough back behind the bottom bracket so that when you are going hard, you can take your take your hands off the drops without uncontrollably falling forward. You should teeter on the point of balance. If you can't do this, or you can but have to arch your back or move your arms backwards to prevent you falling forward, then you are very likely to have your seat too far forward. Those 'anatomically correct' seats that you mentioned do not have a surfeit of padding on the nose because as a human being you are not meant to sit there. We are meant to sit on the wider part of the seat which provides a more stable, not to mention more comfortable platform. The function of the nose of the seat is to locate the rider when dropping back onto the seat after an off the seat period, and to allow us to know unthinkingly when we are pointing our legs straight ahead. There are a lot of people out there who sit on the nose of the seat but natural selection means that the problems associated with this way of riding means they will pass less of their genes on.

Once you have moved your seat to a position where you can do as described, adjust your cleats to the position mentioned in the Cleat Position 1 and 2 posts on this site for the 27th of July. Once you have done that, adjust the height of, and reach to, your bars and brake hoods so that you can reach the drops, tops and brake hoods with ease when going hard. All of this is likely to mean a large change in the way you pedal a bike, which will take 3 weeks or so of low intensity riding to adjust to. If you go hard to soon with large positional changes, you will unconsciously try to fall back into old patterns of motion. You won't be able to do this as the positional parameters have changed, but you won't yet have learnt the new way either. The result is likely to feel powerless, so take it easy on the intensity for 3 weeks. After that, whatever you like.

Remember, the job of the legs is to propel the bike, the job of the upper body is not to help drag the bike down the road but to breath. And there should be no more tension in the upper torso and arms than is necessary to steer and control the bike. Get all of that right, and not only will you go faster than you usually do, but you will resolve your current problems. Best of luck and get back to me if any issues arise on the way.

Painful toes

I am 40 yrs old, started with cycling in 1989 and have been at it since then, from the beginning I have had a problem with painful toes after about 2-3 hrs of riding, and only happens from cycling, never had it from running or walking. I have used various different types of pedal systems and cycling shoes and this does not seem to make a difference. The problem gets worse as the season progresses, when I pick up my training times and distances in spring the problem is not too bad - perhaps nothing or takes longer before it becomes painful. As I progress into the summer and have built up more time the problem seems to occur easier (takes less time for the pain to become unbearable).

The pain eventually feels like someone is hitting my 3rd and 4th toes (big toe being no. 1) with a hammer, It is not constantly there, it seems to come in waves, the longer I ride the shorter the gaps between and more painful it is. It occurs in both feet but always starts in the LH foot first. Lately I can feel some slight pain afterwards on the bottom of my LH foot. This leads me to believe it may be a problem with my metatarsals, I remember from earlier days when I was doing triathlon that a podiatrist said my metatarsals are dropping. Question is: I would dearly love to be able to cycle longer distances but the pain is getting unbearable, is this situation treatable and what should I do? Is it possible to have orthotics made for cycling?
Jack Hyde
Switzerland

Steve Hogg replies:

The area of your problem has nerve plexus that can cause the problems that you have encountered if they are compressed. First order of business is to mark the centre of the ball of your foot on the top of your cycling shoes and then position the cleat so that the mark is slightly in front of the pedal axle when the crankarm and shoe are forward and horizontal. This may alleviate or minimise the problem. If doing this makes no difference or not enough difference, find a podiatrist with experience in cycling related matters. Someone like this shouldn't have a lot of trouble coming up with a set of orthoses that relieve the pressure from the affected area.

Junior racing and preparing for mountains

As both a high school cross country ski coach and a competitive cyclist I have two questions for you.

Several of the cross-country skiers who are on my high school team (16-17 years of age) are excellent cyclists. As a cyclist myself, I am all for their using cycling as cross training during the spring and summer, and early fall. I worry, however, about the number of races in which they compete and the potential for burn out. One cyclist who has tremendous potential (17-years old just moved up to a Cat. 2 and finished in 6th place in the Cat. 1/2 division of the State Road Race Championship, 10th place yesterday in the Tour Abitibi) at one point earlier this season raced 7 times in 9 days (no he was not involved in a stage race...we are talking about 7 different races). While none of the races were ultra long, one was a 78 mile road race effort. Although this was a race heavy period, I would estimate that over the course of the rest of the summer he has raced at least 3-4 times per week. When I have spoken to these young men about their racing schedule, they have indicated that the races were primarily training. However, looking at their results which have consistently in the top ten places, I doubt whether they are really using these efforts as training. As a cross-country ski coach, I would not race a skier of this age more than twice a week so as to ensure ample time for recovery. Although I realize that the sports are somewhat different and that there will be individual differences in the levels of physiological stress each cyclist's body will take, what is the ratio of training to racing that you would suggest for 16-17 year-old juniors?

My second question is of a personal nature. I am a 49 year-old Masters competitor (Cat. 3) currently preparing for a rather hilly stage race in seven weeks (The Green Mountain Stage Race). I live in the mid-west and have access only to relatively short hills (.25 - 1 mile in length). I regularly do hill workouts on what I have available climbing a series of 5 different hills three times each before doing an easy spin recovery as I move on to the next. I am wondering, however, if there is something I should add to my hill training given that the prologue of this race is a 7-mile hill climb and one stage has several long climbs of 3 miles in length that have quite steep gradients in some sections (the last 300 meters of the race is somewhere between a 17-19% gradient). Should I be incorporating some longer efforts into my training and how is this best done given the limits of the terrain to which I have access? I do have a Cardgirus trainer into which I could program "pseudo hill climbs" of this length but there seems to be a difference between climbing real hills and working out on a trainer with the resistance set at a high level. Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

Brian Abery
Minnesota U.S.A.

Dave Palese replies:

"What is the ratio of training to racing that you would suggest for 16-17 year-old juniors?"

With the info you have given me I can only offer some opinions and thoughts on the subject of junior racing and training.

On the subject of using a race as training: The phrase "using a race as training" is often over used and misunderstood. From a training perspective, a race present an opportunity to perform race intensity efforts in a competitive environment that you just can't recreate in solo training. If the rider actually trains during the race (putting little to no import on the results), racing for training is a great opportunity to push/define ones current physical limits, make and learn from mistakes, develop strategies for target events and more. So your riders may actually be using the races in a constructive way. If they are also getting good results, all the better. Doing so can boost confidence and confirm positive training adaptations. Correctly placed in a thoughtful training plan, training races can be very effective.

I am a believer, the "burn-out" or "overreaching/overtraining" stems from poor planning, usually resulting from a lack of clear and/or realistic goals. The physical and mental fatigue we usually associate with these terms are just the results.

If you want to help your athletes, get them hooked up with a coach or just talk to them about why they are doing what they are doing. See if they have clear and or realistic goals, and that the training plans they are following are structured to meet those goals.

"Should I be incorporating some longer efforts into my training and how is this best done given the limits of the terrain to which I have access?"

I live in Maine and have been over to Vermont in the last few years to support riders in and spectator at GMSR. The climbs there are hard. The App. Gap is a toughie no doubt.

In the end, you can only make the best of what you have available. I would get as specific as you can in your training. The difficulty with the climbs you will encounter at GMSR is the length of time a particular load/intensity will be required to be competitive.

I would make use of your trainer at least one day a week. Even prop that front wheel up 6-8 inches. There is no proof that an elevated front wheel yields any benefit, but it can't hurt.

After a good warm-up, do 2-3 repeats of 15-25 minutes at your climbing HR (usually 3-5 beats above your estimated AT). Build into these over the first 3-4 minutes and then maintain the intensity. You can even throw in some accelerations where you increase the work load (either increasing cadence in the same gear, or gearing while maintaining cadence) to simulate surges in the pace of the group. These can last 1-2 minutes. After the accelerations, return to your original pace.

It may not be exactly like climbing on the road, but it should stress the systems in a similar way and yield positive results.

During another workout in your training week, use that one mile hill to practice and polish your climbing technique, both in and out of the saddle. Do so at he expense of speed. Practice taking a strong posture on the bike and being balance and pedaling smoothe when climbing out of the saddle.

Foot numbness/cleat positioning

Steve Hogg had several comments recently about foot numbness and cleat positioning. I suffer numbness similar to that described by the reader Steve responded to 7/30. It's nothing that prohibits me from riding/racing, but I'd certainly like to alleviate it. I don't believe my shoes are too small, as I have room to wiggle my toes normally. His suggestion about moving the ball-of-foot center forward makes sense, and I'll try it. I have a dual question, though: 1) The cleat on my left shoe is already positioned about 2mm behind that on my right, which sets my left foot farther forward. If I don't do this, my feet feel as if I'm pushing on a different part of my sole for each side. Is this normal? (the same applies to my mountain biking shoes--Sidi Dominators size 37.5) 2) Taking the above into account, I'm not sure I could get the 7mm forward setup he recommends for my size, as my left cleat is already pretty close to the back of the adjustment area. I currently wear Sidi Genius 4s size 38. I previously wore Carnac Altitudes size 37, with the same situation present.

Scott Lloyd
Siloam Springs, Arkansas, USA

Steve Hogg replies:

To answer your first question, it is 'normal' for a lot of people to have their cleats set up differently on each shoe. Most people have two shoes the same size and dimensions but don't have two feet that are perfect mirror images of each other. Essentially, what you need to do is position the cleat so that each foot is in the same relationship to the pedal axle fore and aft taking into account that very few people have feet the exact same size and shape or place them on the pedals at exactly the same angle. From what you say about both feet feeling like you are pushing with the same part of the foot even though the cleat position is slightly different, is not unusual at all.

I'm slightly surprised that you cannot gain the cleat position that I mentioned on your Sidis. You would have had no chance with the Carnacs in your size. What pedal system do you use and is the shoe a good snug fit or slightly loose?

Any suggested exercises or stretches?

My query is about any suggested exercises to help overcome muscle fatigue that I experience in the top of my hamstrings/lower glutes during long hard rides. During hard riding, I do not feel that my cardiovascular fitness is limiting me (ie I am not having to stop or slow down due to being out of breath etc), instead I find this fatigue in these muscles is my first limiter during training and racing.

I am a 39 year old male who has been riding seriously for about 12 months. I take part in amateur racing once a week, and train over distances of 50-100 Ks about 3 times per week (in addition to weight training at the gym once a week ie leg extensions and leg presses).

Glen
Australia

Steve Hogg replies:

I'll let others appropriately equipped help you with the stretches but the solution to your problem is quite simple. Pain in the area you mention when riding hard is a function of the seat being too high. The top of the hammie, bottom of the glute is the giveaway. It only occurs when riding hard because under serious load we drop our heels more relative to our natural technique under lesser load conditions. Consequently, the leg is stretched out more and the pain you experience in the area you experience it, is the result. If the hammies were being overloaded generally, the pain would be more in the belly of the muscle. Dropping your seat 5mm should make a noticeable difference. If the problem is reduced but doesn't totally disappear, drop the seat another 3mm.

Forget any measurement based method of setting seat height. Seat height is a function of the combination of limb length and proportions, foot size, pedaling technique, shoe sole thickness, axle to pedal platform distance, cleat position fore and aft, flexibility, seat position fore and aft, and the relative differences in heel drop between flat riding with little load and pedaling under severe load.

Let me know whether you have any further problem with this.

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