Form & Fitness Q & A
Got a question about fitness, training, recovery from injury or a related subject? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
I am 39 year old. I've been an avid cyclist since about age of 20, but start monitoring my heart rate for past 4-5 years (only because heart monitors were scarce in the country where I am from). My resting heart rate is bout 48-55 and I can sustain a max rate about 178-180. I noticed that even if I come to group rides well rested, my heart rate right at the start place is slightly elevated at 80-95 bpm. Can it be because I am a little worried about how ride will go? Is it normal to have a slightly elevated heart rate right before the group ride?
Yes, it is normal to have a slightly elevated heart rate before an event that causes you some anxiety or excitement. I've seen racers on the start line of time trials with their heart rates hanging in the 140s even as they sit and wait for five minutes or more. I'm a little surprised that you would still be anxious or excited about group rides after riding 20 years. Is the 80-95 bpm measurement made after you ride to the start (more normal) or as you first throw your leg over the bike (stranger but still nothing to worry about).
My question is - how do you find a good coach and the right coach for you? I am 21 years old and just upgraded to Cat 2 road racer. I would like to compete competitively in Cat 2 next season, and in the long run develop towards Cat 1. Thanks.
There are a number of important factors which come into play when selecting the right coach for you. For example, a coach's background which matches your primary sport for which you are training, their education and/or coaching certification, personality fit, coaching packages which fit your budget, location of coach, etc. I'd encourage you to write down specific questions which you have for a coach and then take time to personally interview a few potential coaches to see which one might work best for you. Getting references from people who have worked with your potential coach is a good idea too.
There are some great coaches listed here on the cyclingnews.com Fitness and Form panel. Perhaps you could contact one or more of these coaches. If you need additional assistance finding a coach, please feel free to visit http://www.MyEnduranceCoach.com. This is a website which I own where hundreds of cycling and multisport coaches are posted, and we even have a new Coach Finder service.
I seem to be having a few dramas getting comfortable on the bike nowadays, and I have two problems I really want to solve - as a result of these I get a sore lower back and power delivery problems.
Firstly, I have issues with my back. I have a broken bone at the base of the spine, effectively pushing my lower back inwards. I also have some mild shermans disease in the top half of my back, resulting in a slightly rounded posture at the best of times. As a result, the two muscles that run parallel to the spine at the top half of my back are generally very tight. I go to the chiropractor to have the structural issues managed usually once a month. I have had instances where my hips are out of wack also. Ive been told my back issues are structurally related and not muscular. I have fairly strong abs and back generally.
I do work in an office all day also.
Yes, I have inflexible hamstrings relatively, but I'm working on stretching and so on. I could touch my toes in a pinch, depending on the stretch you do.
I ride a Bianchi 928 carbon 53cm bike. With a pazzaz all carbon seatpost and SLR saddle (this is the only saddle I've liked since the old avocet o2 racing saddle). The reach from centre of bars to front of seat is 55cm and to the rear of the seat is 83cm. I generally use the measurement to the rear of the seat as this is where I sit, well towards the rear of the saddle. I'm using a 130mm stem. The saddle is positioned slightly towards the rear on the rails (just past centre point) - towards the rear of the bike, not quite 2/3rds. I've had the saddle all of the way back using a 120mm stem (same reach overall) but I felt this was making my back worse, but now I'm not so sure. I feel comfortable on the reach.
I have an 83cm inseam and ride with the seat at around 71.5cm, depending on where you measure to (middle of seat or middle of seatpost clamp). I find that I ride a low seat compared to others of the same leg inseam, but if I ride higher, I feel I lose power. Having said that, I think I'm struggling for power in the hills anyway. Sometimes, the seat feels right in the hills, but a little high on the flat or right on the flat and a little low in the hills.
After 30 minutes of riding, I do sometimes get tightness or discomfort in the upper hamstrings (towards the buttocks), but this will dissipate after another 10-20 minutes or so.
When I ride, I often get discomfort right at the base of the spine (that funny bone that sticks out) and sometimes this is more prominent on the left side also. In both instances it is on the level of the base of the spine. This is not necessarily painful, but is noticeable and affects my riding. Moving forward or back on the seat brings relief, but it returns quickly.
I also have an issue where the left foot will sometimes get numb on my little toe, from pressure against the shoe (numerous brands of shoes - Carnac, Sidi, Shimano and now DMT). The DMTs have been better in this regard. But again, I think it's because that leg tries to twist the foot in. I've set up the shoes so that the heel can just touch the crank arm on both sides. I ride Look keos with full float. The shoes are about 3mm from the crank at the pedal. The cleats are pretty much set so that they are as far back on the shoe as possible. I also drop my heel considerable when pedalling.
I think overall it's a seat position related issue, as regardless of where I sit in relation to the bars, once the back pain is there, it doesn't really go away.
The bars are approximately 7cm below the seat - raising them up or down 1cm either way has no impact on the back. Using the test of letting the handle bars go in the drops, I could maintain my position for a short period of time.
The Bianchi seat angle (I've since found out) is 74 degrees. I was thinking that I would be better served to going to a bike with a slacker angle (73 degrees) and getter further back, without increasing the angle of the hips. The Cervelo 51cm carbon r2.5 was the frame I was looking at as an example. It's a 73 degree seat tube, a 53cm effective top tube (0.5cm less than the Bianchi) and as such, I could have the seat further back with the same overall reach and actually be further back on the bike.
If it matters, I'm 29 years old, 72kg (not overweight) and 175cm tall.
Do you have any thoughts?
It would be nice if I could see what you looked like on a bike but here goes. The first thing to do is to make sure that everywhere that you contact the bike you are as stable as possible. Have a look at this post and set your cleats up accordingly. Once you've done this, make sure that at whatever angle each foot wants to sit on the pedal, there is a reasonably even amount of rotational movement either side of that. Don't choose a cleat rotational angle that may be what you would like it to be. Rather choose a rotational angle that is where each foot naturally wants to be under reasonable load. Once you have done the above, mount your bike on a trainer and level it.
From what you say, your back pain may be because of undue stress placed on your sacro iliac joints; that is if I understand you correctly. Any over flexing of the lower back will only add to that. You need to find a seat position fore and aft that allows your pelvis and lower back to lean forward without having to flex to a degree that you cannot tolerate for whatever period that you wish to ride. Given what you have said about back pain, you may have to move the seat forward to allow this. The trick is to find the point where you can do this but still pass the balance test that you will find here with other background info. Bar height will have an effect on this also - how flexible is your neck?
Your bars have to be at a height and brake hoods positioned consistent with allowing you to exercise all of your hand placement options with ease. Given your Shermans disease, this may mean that the ideal bar height is where your upper back is flat. Unless your neck and upper back are very tight, you should be able to get away with this. I have a client currently with Shermans disease and good neck flexibility. He is able to ride with his upper back running down towards the neck to a fair degree and still see where he's going while riding with hands in the drop bars, without using anywhere near his full range of neck movement. This may not be you though. Unless you have longer than average arms, your overall structure probably dictates an above average bar height.
Once you have read those posts and experimented a bit, get back to me with any specific queries.
Might you comment on the pros and cons of consuming glucose tablets on long rides?
Pros: Glucose tablets are a convenient calorie source.
Cons: They are more expensive and less interesting in taste than many other calorie sources and provide no advantage in performance compared to other sources of glucose or glucose polymers. If you are doing long rides, interesting food becomes important because the desire and willingness to eat sometimes fade.
I am a 35 year old male, and I have not been able to do any form of cycling for over 5 years due to soreness from the saddle. I cannot pinpoint this injury to any specific event as the symptoms (soreness, numbness, pins & needles) developed slowly over a period of about a month until I got so sore I couldn't bear to sit in the saddle.
Previous to this I had been cycling competitively on the road from the age of 12 and had raced at international level.
After consulting all types of doctors, physio's etc I was diagnosed with PNE (pudendal nerve entrapment) by a team of doctors in France. They basically said that there was no treatment that would allow me to ride the bike again. There is an operation but it is only performed on patients with severe symptoms.
I had never heard of this condition, nor of any sort of injury which permanently stopped anyone cycling due to soreness from the saddle. I have since tried every type of saddle out there, and found cut out designs to be the best, but whilst they don't hurt while on the bike I get sore afterwards, even if I only ride for 10 minutes.
Could you offer any advice on this condition, or have you experienced any other cyclists you have had similar problems? Thanks.
This is not something I have ever come across before. With what part of your body do you feel that you support the majority of your weight on the seat?
Neil Teggart then responded:
Firstly, thanks for your reply.
I always felt like I was quite evenly balanced between saddle, pedals and bars. Now if I try the bike I feel comfortable on a cut out saddle as long as I sit in a reasonably upright position, though after riding for only 10 minutes I would be sore for the next few days (soreness, numbness, pins and needles in perinium area)
Anything I have ever read on this type of saddle induced soreness is only ever temporary, though this condition has lasted over five years.
Do you bear significant weight on the perineum or rather is it under the sitbones?
If you are bearing a large portion of your weight on the perineum, I can understand the problem. If you are not, the only thing I can think of is if the nerves around the hamstring point of origin [sitbones] are being irritated. Even then, I don't know enough about neuroanatomy to know whether that could cause your problem. Perhaps Dave or Kelby have some thoughts on this.
I'm a 36 year old male amateur cyclist/triathlete. After increasing my training to get "race fit" I experienced a cold and took a few days off training to recover. After three days I felt better but my quads suddenly started to spasm, became tender and painful, and I could hardly walk. I hadn't started training and in fact was only walking casually at the time.
The doctor thinks my autoimmune system is attacking my muscles. I don't have any specific injury just agonising cramp-like pain moving all around the major quad muscles (no where else) and extreme tenderness of the muscle. It can be unbearable at times. Physio can't help and it would be unbearable anyway.
I can't walk far and have to stay away from stairs etc.
There's this chemical in our blood - creatine Kinase (CK) - that is associated with muscle damage. Normal range is 100-180. In 2002 when I last had this problem seriously (I did have a minor episode about one year ago) my level was 1,174, which was obviously high. Blood tests yesterday revealed it was 6,600.
I've just finished a course of cortisone tablets for 5 days and have submitted blood for tests again today. The attacks started nine days ago after almost three days of rest (no training).
This is the same pattern as in 2002:
1. Period of hard training (yes, too much obviously),
2. Took several days to a week off due to flu/cold
3. Feeling better and driving to track session when the legs went into spasm - very painful
My health is actually fine and I feel good apart from the muscle attacks. Cold symptoms, etc, have gone.
Obviously there's a link with overtraining affecting the immune system but why I just don't get a cold / flu like everyone else is beyond me. Any advise or information would be appreciated as the doctors are a bit baffled.
I have a few questions for you. Have you had any other blood work done, like your CK or anti-nuclear antibodies or ESR or the like, when you are healthy feeling? Are they abnormal then?
When you become ill do you take adequate rest? My simple monkey-brained explanation of that is for however many days you are "very sick" you need to take it easy (slow rides, with gentle ramp up) for twice as many days as you were ill.
The autoimmune process is a difficult one to diagnose and to get a handle on, but everybody feels that to some extent when they are ill - muscle aches, fatigue and so on.
To clarify definitions: You have an immune system, and when it attacks your own body, that is an autoimmune disorder. Somehow it thinks it needs to fix or remove something that is your own.
If you haven't considered this, you may want to see a Rheumatologist to help you further.
I am a 45 year old recreational road bike rider. I ride 150 to 200 miles per week. I am struggling to determine my proper crank arm length. Is crank arm length based solely on anatomic measurements or the intended purpose of the road bike (flat riding, climbing, or time trailing)? Thanks
Crank arm length is so individual that it cannot be based just on leg length or even on leg length plus intended use. Just yesterday I fit a fellow who is normally proportioned at 6'4" (193 cm) with a 36" (91cm) inseam for whom 177.5 mm cranks are definitely too long even though this is proportional to a rider with a 34" (86 cm) inseam riding 167 mm cranks . In his case, his feet are quite small for his height (size 44) and this is probably why he can't use the long cranks. Another rider might need shorter cranks than suggested by height or inseam because of flexibility or pedaling style.
My theory, open to discussion, is that cranks should be as long as possible without being too long. How do you know if they are too long? You set the saddle set-back and height according to the oft cited recommendations of Steve Hogg, putting the saddle as high as you can with no feeling of reaching or stretching for the bottom of the stroke. Once you've got the saddle height set, you pay careful attention to the feeling of pedaling over the top of the stroke. If you feel at all crunched up at the top of the stroke, your cranks are too long. If you're not sure, try pedaling with one foot against a slight resistance. If there is a "clunk" as your foot comes over or you can't get over the top, try shorter cranks. If you are smooth over the top and are not reaching at the bottom of the stroke, your cranks are not too long.
If I don't squat for only a couple of weeks my maximum squat plummets, so if we only power squat in the off season during a power phase, do we lose that power gained during the racing season; does your body maintain it, or am I missing something that happens physiologically?
When training intervals, if you've worked up to 95% of maximum heart rate, and as your heart rate comes down during the rest minutes it only stays at, say, 85% for 30 seconds even though you are making no effort, does that provide the same benefit as training at 85% for 30 seconds hard?
And finally I read somewhere that all the benefits of a hard workout don't take full effect for 10-15 days; if you train intensively in the meantime what happens to your body?
These are great questions that get to the root of why we train. When you don't power squat for a few weeks, how does your new, reduced max compare to your max before you started squatting at all. If I'm not mistaken, your reduced max will be quite a bit higher than your untrained max. It's very rare outside of match-sprinting to use close to 100% of your leg-extension strength. What you do use is some fraction of it. The closer the effort is to the maximum, the more rapidly you fatigue. So the benefit of strength training is not directly in the increase in 1-RM, but in the ability to repeatedly push some large fraction of it. In a study in canoe racers, which I hope someone repeats in cyclists, the endurance time at 100% VO2-max speed increased from roughly three minutes to six minutes after a very specific strength training program.
The heart itself is not the main beneficiary of aerobic training. Your heart rate sitting at 85% of max for a few seconds while you are recovering has minimal training benefit. Depending on your stage of development, the main benefits of extensive training may be to the aerobic machinery in the muscles or to the neuromuscular junction. These benefits only accrue while you are pedaling.
In the 10-15 days between hard training and the appearance of the benefits of that training, many things happen. Motor end plates (nerve-muscle junctions) grow, mitochondria increase in mass, aerobic enzyme activities increase and capillaries proliferate… all the things we think of as training benefits. I don't know the timing on these changes. In addition, fuel stores are replaced (3 days or so after a deep depletion), and torn muscle micro-fibrils within muscle cells are repaired (up to three weeks after a soreness-inducing workout).
I am an 18 year old road cyclist racing at a national level in the UK. I have been feeling totally run down for at least the past five weeks noticeably, and possibly even months before that. My symptoms include lethargy, headaches, sore throats, and feeling generally terrible on the bike, with the odd good day, as well as a resting heart rate elevated by around 10 beats for weeks now. I don't think it's overtrainig as I have really cut back on training and racing in the last five weeks in order to recover, but the symptoms are as bad as ever. I have had blood tests etc. at the doctors, which show everything is working fine, and they reckon chronic fatigue may well be the answer. So my questions are does this diagnosis sound right and if so, what are the best ways to deal with/ recover from this so as to be able to resume training for next year without damaging myself in the process?
I don't know if you fit the diagnosis of chronic fatigue. Five weeks is a little on the short side to be considered chronic and although you say you have been cutting back on training and racing, sometime cutting back isn't enough rest. You have a lot of the symptoms of being over trained, and I feel you may need to rest more so than you are currently.