Fitness questions and answers for August 8, 2007

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Form & Fitness Q & A

Got a question about fitness, training, recovery from injury or a related subject? Drop us a line at fitness@cyclingnews.com. Please include as much information about yourself as possible, including your age, sex, and type of racing or riding. Due to the volume of questions we receive, we regret that we are unable to answer them all.

Carrie Cheadle, MA (www.carriecheadle.com) is a Sports Psychology consultant who has dedicated her career to helping athletes of all ages and abilities perform to their potential. Carrie specialises in working with cyclists, in disciplines ranging from track racing to mountain biking. She holds a bachelors degree in Psychology from Sonoma State University as well as a masters degree in Sport Psychology from John F. Kennedy University.

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.

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.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.

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.

Short legs & cycling
Sore calves
Sex & cycling
Bike fit & cleat placement
Threaded sole inserts to increase cleat adjustment
Arch cleats

Short legs & cycling

As a result of a motor cycle accident some 22 years ago (April 1985), I sustained the following injuries :

- Compound fracture of the Left Femur
- Hairline fracture of the left femoral condoyle
- Ruptured ligament in right ankle
- Fractured 4th & 5th Metacarpals in Left hand

The femoral fracture left me with significant scarring and a leg which is between 9 - 12mm shorter than the right, and additionally, my foot is rotated about 10 - 15 degrees outwards. I have recently taken up cycling again, and as a result of some Left knee pain, sought some treatment at a physio. This turned out to be an issue with my cl-lateral ligament, which strapping solved quite well. But during this process, I became concerned that I have never been positioned on my bike properly, and sought out some expert advice.

I was setup by a local bike shop in Adelaide, who when given all of the data, positioned me with "traditional methods", and I am more than happy with the results. I was too high, seat was too far back, and my cleats needed to be adjusted to take into account my foot angularity. I also began to consult a local chiropractor who is an avid cyclist and also has a similar issue (short leg), and we are investigating further optimizing my positioning. Initial x-rays showed the effect of my short leg on my posture, but also showed up an even more serious issue in that my back is "too straight"!

My overall question relates to the optimising of positioning with regards to my shorter leg. There seems to be two sets of opinions on how best to solve this. The simple one (and chiropractor supported) is to add spacers to the affected cleat to account for the leg length. The "traditional bike fit" argues against this idea in that adding stack height to the pedal reduces the power input, and thereby exaggerating the effect of the weaker leg.

I can understand both sides of the argument, and since the leg length discrepancy is in the femur, is altering the pedal stack height the optimal solution, or are the traditionalists correct in that this will result in a greater power discrepancy between the legs due to the stack height of the pedal ?

Being a 40 year old "social rider" who is aiming to complete 50 - 150km friendly/competitive rides, TdU Challenge stages and the like, how important is this fit issue when compared to a fully competitive cyclist? Your input into what maybe the best solution is appreciated?

Michael Bachmann.

Steve Hogg replies:

If because of a functional or measurable discrepancy in leg length, a rider cannot reach the bottom of the pedal stroke on both sides without compromising pelvic stability on seat or without asymmetrically stressing their lumbar spine, then a compensatory shim or other measures HAVE to be used. Any other course leaves open the possibility of injury or debilitating niggles.

If there is a problem any other course of action is foolish. Don't take this to mean that all leg length discrepancies have to be compensated for. Some don't (most do) but, if there is a problem, what is the rider to do? Ask one leg to extend further than it comfortably can under load which risks injury? Or even worse, develop a technique where the shorter leg becomes 'lazy' in the sense that the rider doesn't apply pressure to the pedals for the full length of the downstroke as an autonomic self protection measure?

Compensate for the discrepancy to whatever degree is necessary and use both legs to their (perhaps varying) potentials. One thing to consider is that as you shim up a cleat, negative effects of rocking torque can become obvious. The easiest way to negate this is to move the cleat slightly further back relative to foot in shoe. Typically 1-1.5 mm for every 5 mm the cleat is shimmed. There is a point in diminishing returns though, because as you move the cleat back, you ask the leg to extend more.

Sore calves

I am a 54 year old 188cm 100kg rider who does not race. I ride 30km every morning with a group and 60km on the weekends. I changed my cleats to the 'arch cleat' position following the instructions set out by Steve Hogg and have had a fantastic result, I will now never return to the 'standard' position. However riding hard causes some discomfort in the very top of both my calves, so my question is: do I need to adjust my seat either up or down to resolve this issue. I amble able to ride up a rise in a bigger gear and if I let go of the drops I am stable. With the cleats in this position I am riding the best that I have ever have.

Wal st Clair

Steve Hogg replies:

I'm glad to hear that it is mostly good. Re the pain at the top of the calves, your seat needs to drop a bit more and/or your seat is slightly too far back.

Drop the seat 3 - 5mm and see how that goes. If that doesn't do the trick, raise it back to where it was and then move it forward 5mm. Either way, let me know what happens.

Sex & cycling

I know this is going to sound like a joke question, but in all seriousness I mean it. I haven't had time to browse all the health and fitness articles to see if it's been asked (I doubt it), but please, suffer me this time.

The background: I remember in high school cross country, our coach 'strongly discouraged' any sexual encounters the night before a meet, citing a supposed decrease in testosterone levels, and a corresponding drop in performance. Without divulging too much, I just want to say that conditioned superstition, a steady girlfriend, and a full race schedule make for a trying summer.

My question is this: is there any actual scientific merit to my former coach's warnings? Would a tangible decrease in performance be perhaps due to either physical exertion and/or a late night, as opposed to actual hormonal changes? More importantly, can ANYTHING a person does have a short term effect on hormone levels (androgynous or otherwise) noticeable enough to cause a performance drop? Or would the perceived drop be due to a secondary concern (i.e. late night resulting from the sex life, not actually the act itself)?

Again, I apologize if this seems absolutely ridiculous. It just seems that it could make for a potential volatile situation if my race schedule forever dictates the path of my relationships.

Other information that might be necessary for whatever reason -- I'm male, coming up on my twentieth birthday next month, ride Cat 3 and hold my own, have hopes of turning pro, and have been training for endurance sports for the last nine years.

Thanks for actually taking me serious.

Annonymous.

Kelby Bethards replies:

You, I assume, know about Greg LeMond. When he went to Europe and was racing and winning Tours, he was a bit of a new character on the scene. I vaguely remember, in an interview, him mentioning that he was able to take care of his needs, even during the Tour. (He also reportedly played golf on his rest day and liked ice cream).

Ali, the "bad man" that he was apparently took the other approach. No sex prior to events. Way before events actually.

You are young. EXPERIMENT. Do not let it get in your head that it will make a negative impact and see what happens.

I have only read a couple studies and there seems to NOT be any evidence that it will impair you. If fact, so think it may help.

See this National Geographic article.

Let're rip kid!!

Bike fit & cleat placement

I am a 6'1', 48 year old, 185 lb., 16 year veteran mountain bike racer who also does well at a few road time trials. I ride roughly 5000 miles a year combining outdoor and indoor training. I ride a new 59cm 2008 LeMond Tete de Course on the road and a 21" 2005 Trek Top Fuel off road. In addition, for my height I have an extremely long inseam; about 36" to the floor when I "really jam the book up there". Thus, my torso is relatively shorter than others my height. My shoe size is a typical 44--44.5.

Throughout my cycling career I have always had trouble positioning my cleat comfortably on my left side. I have always felt a subtle twisting or binding sensation in my lower leg as if the optimal position of my foot on the pedal was being restricted. This sensation has been with me from the start but seems to be growing as I age. It is never so painful that it forces me to stop, but is annoying enough that I know it is restricting my power output. The biomechanics on my right side are near perfect-hip, knee and ankle all rotate in the same plane, toe slightly in, and virtually no wobble in my right knee. On the left, however, it appears as though my knee wants to wobble through the pedal stroke to compensate for the restriction in my foot placement. At first I thought the sensation was due to my foot wanting to be wider; hence I moved my red Look Keo (it was the same with previous Shimano pedals and shoes) cleat to the inside of my Specialized pro carbon shoes to maximize the q factor, but that didn't work. Although it seemed completely counterintuitive, I moved it opposite thereby moving my foot inward. I feel a small amount of relief, but my cleat adjustment is maxed out. In addition, my heel wants to rotate outward even further at the bottom of each peddle stroke but is prevented from doing so by the limits of the float.

Now here's the kicker: when I ride my mountain bike with my Eggbeater pedals, my foot settles in to a toe-out, heel-in position opposite my road bike and the twisting sensation vanishes! Seat height and fore-aft saddle position are identical. The only difference I can discern is a fractionally wider q-factor by a few millimetres on my road bike. When I forcibly duplicate this position on my road bike, my foot will immediately wander back to the previous position and the restrictive sensation returns. My chiropractor tells me I have a tiny leg length discrepancy with my left being fractionally shorter. Can you offer me any guidance as to what to consider next, short of riding Eggbeater pedals on my road bike? I did, in fact, try Crank Brothers Quattro's but really didn't care for them. The cleats squeaked badly and the stack height was noticeably greater. The Looks work well for me, aside from the issues noted above.

Jim Martin
Troy,MI, USA

Steve Hogg replies:

The most likely cause of your problem is simple. You are dropping your right hip and/or rotating it forward on each right side pedal downstroke. This challenges the plane of movement of the left leg and what you describe is typical of a moderately severe tendency to this. This scenario is the most common functional asymmetry in cycling and 95% of riders do it at some level, great or small. The other 5% perform the left side dominant version of the same thing. If there was a text book, you have given a 'text book' description of common issues resulting from this.

The reason it has got worse as you have aged is that you are becoming less flexible and more fixed in asymmetrical patterns of movement, and if you stretch, you are either not stretching enough or are have a stretching regime that doesn't address your particular issues.

The reason that this problem is not apparent on the mountain bike or probably more accurately, is less apparent; is that the more upright torso position on the MTB provides less of a challenge to your on seat pelvic stability and symmetry.

So what to do about it?

Here are some boxes to tick:

1. Have a podiatrist or good bike positioning person check you for forefoot varus. It is likely that you have either a greater right forefoot varus and your neural pattern of motor control 'protects' the favoured right side by sacrificing the left side in the process. Again, very common. If you find this is the case, use some Bicycle Fitting Systems cleat wedges (used to be LeMond wedges) to compensate for the forefoot varus. This won't stop you dropping your hip as there are likely to be differences in flexibility between left and right hips and the muscles that bear on them, but it will remove one stressor. If you find that you have a noticeable left forefoot varus, wedge it to, but for starters, try using one less wedge than is 'recommended'. This is because your right side dominant pedalling style is dragging your body to the right and if you wedge your left cleat to much, it will cause additional problems.

2. Have a good physio or someone else appropriately knowledgeable globally assess you structurally and plan a flexibility and core strength regime to allow you to function more symmetrically in general. The more functional and symmetrical you are off the bike, the more functional and symmetrical you will be on the bike.

3. Consider raising your bars in the short to medium term. It is the forward lean to the bars that is exacerbating your tendency to favour the right side.

4. It is really important that you have a good cleat position. Cleat position plays a huge part in our stability on the seat of a bike and if our feet aren't stable on the pedals, we will feel the effects on the seat. Have a look at these links regarding cleats and the ball of your foot.

Threaded sole inserts to increase cleat adjustment

I spied somewhere a couple of months ago in a discussion about pedalling with the middle of your foot, a suggestion for how to move the cleat fixing from its normal position and referring to a Shimano part number for the new threaded inserts which would be required. (Look fixing).

I've looked and I've looked since but I can't find this reference any longer.

I don't want to change to mid-foot pedalling; because I have one foot which is fully one size longer than the other, I simply want to be able to push the cleat on one of the shoes further forward than the present positioning of the threaded inserts will allow, despite having routed out the elongated slots in the cleats to their maximum. I'm almost there but not quite! I need another couple of mill. and the only solution is to put in another set of threaded inserts just ahead of those positioned by the manufacturers. So, if you could let me have the Shimano reference again, I'll try to find someone who can supply me.

Curiously enough, despite my feet being odd sizes, I find they are equally comfortable in the shoes which are both a 47 (Sidi Genius). It's just one of the cleat positions which is a tad wrong. Nor is the solution it seems, to buy odd-sized shoes. I've already tried that with 2 different sizes of Time and the positioning on both the 46 and the 47 is identical. I could go on experimenting with shoes from other manufacturers but good cycling shoes aren't that cheap and I don't have a bottomless purse.

The other solution would be of course, for someone to start manufacturing cleats with scope for extra length adjustment. I've not heard of anyone doing this although I'm nothing like as up to date as you gentlemen. I'm sure there must be a lot of cyclists out there who have odd feet, just like me, to whom this would be a blessing.

Len Tondel
La France Profonde

Steve Hogg replies:

The part what Shimano call an SH - R121 Cleat Nut. The part no. is Y4YN01000. It is the 3 hole, Look compatible metal fitting that you are after. They make several others but I don't have the part numbers for those.

Arch cleats

On August 7, Scott Saifer and I will embark on a shoe modification project to make my shoes compatible with arch cleat position.

Second, an additional benefit of arch cleats is more aerodynamic position. Since moving the cleats will require lowering of the saddle, it would be reasonable to lower the bars also. Lower saddle and lower bars obviously result in a lower rider profile. Sorry if this has been addressed already.

Vlad Luskin

Steve Hogg replies:

You're correct but will likely find that you can't drop the bars to quite the same extent as you will need to drop the seat. A typical seat drop when moving from forefoot cleat position to midfoot cleat position is 30 - 40 mm. A lot depends on what the arch shape of the shoe that you are modifying is like and how much it has to be 'filled' in. You will find that the greater hamstring (and quad) enlistment will limit how far you can drop the seat. If you are reasonably flexible in and around the hips, you should be able to drop your bars 2/3 of the distance that you drop your seat. If you are not reasonably flexible, expect to drop the bars about half of the amount that you drop the seat.

Many people (not all) need to move their seats further forward too, though the degree varies a lot as it depends on what their previous position was. Rejig your position using the balance test and you should be in the vicinity. There is a bit of trial and error involved in moving to arch cleats. Scott is a thinker so you shouldn't have any real problems. It will feel weird at first but if you ride 50kms with midfoot cleat position and then return to your previous position you will get a shock! Try it.

I would be interested to hear how you get on.

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