Fitness questions and answers for February 28, 2005

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Form & Fitness Q & A

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

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

Dave Palese (www.davepalese.com) is a USA Cycling licensed coach and masters' class road racer with 16 years' race experience. He coaches racers and riders of all abilities from his home in southern Maine, USA, where he lives with his wife Sheryl, daughter Molly, and two cats, Miranda and Mu-Mu.

Kelby Bethards, MD received a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Iowa State University (1994) before obtaining an M.D. from the University of Iowa College of Medicine in 2000. Has been a racing cyclist 'on and off' for 20 years, and when time allows, he races Cat 3 and 35+. He is a team physician for two local Ft Collins, CO, teams, and currently works Family Practice in multiple settings: rural, urgent care, inpatient and the like.

Fiona Lockhart (www.trainright.com) is a USA Cycling Expert Coach, and holds certifications from USA Weightlifting (Sports Performance Coach), the National Strength and Conditioning Association (Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach), and the National Academy for Sports Nutrition (Primary Sports Nutritionist). She is the Sports Science Editor for Carmichael Training Systems, and has been working in the strength and conditioning and endurance sports fields for over 10 years; she's also a competitive mountain biker.

Eddie Monnier (www.velo-fit.com) is a USA Cycling certified Elite Coach and a Category II racer. He holds undergraduate degrees in anthropology (with departmental honors) and philosophy from Emory University and an MBA from The Wharton School of Business.

Eddie is a proponent of training with power. He coaches cyclists (track, road and mountain bike) of all abilities and with wide ranging goals (with and without power meters). He uses internet tools to coach riders from any geography.

David Fleckenstein, MPT (www.physiopt.com) is a physical therapist practicing in Boise, ID. His clients have included World and U.S. champions, Olympic athletes and numerous professional athletes. He received his B.S. in Biology/Genetics from Penn State and his Master's degree in Physical Therapy from Emory University. He specializes in manual medicine treatment and specific retraining of spine and joint stabilization musculature. He is a former Cat I road racer and Expert mountain biker.

Since 1986 Steve Hogg (www.cyclefitcentre.com) has owned and operated Pedal Pushers, a cycle shop specialising in rider positioning and custom bicycles. In that time he has positioned riders from all cycling disciplines and of all levels of ability with every concievable cycling problem.They include World and National champions at one end of the performance spectrum to amputees and people with disabilities at the other end.

Current riders that Steve has positioned include Davitamon-Lotto's Nick Gates, Discovery's Hayden Roulston, National Road Series champion, Jessica Ridder and National and State Time Trial champion, Peter Milostic.

Pamela Hinton has a bachelor's degree in Molecular Biology and a doctoral degree in Nutritional Sciences, both from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She did postdoctoral training at Cornell University and is now an assistant professor of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Missouri-Columbia where she studies the effects of iron deficiency on adaptations to endurance training and the consequences of exercise-associated changes in menstrual function on bone health.

Pam was an All-American in track while at the UW. She started cycling competitively in 2003 and is the defending Missouri State Road Champion. Pam writes a nutrition column for Giana Roberge's Team Speed Queen Newsletter.

Dario Fredrick (www.wholeathlete.com) is an exercise physiologist and head coach for Whole Athlete™. He is a former category 1 & semi-pro MTB racer. Dario holds a masters degree in exercise science and a bachelors in sport psychology.

Scott Saifer (www.wenzelcoaching.com) has a Masters Degree in exercise physiology and sports psychology and has personally coached over 300 athletes of all levels in his 10 years of coaching with Wenzel Coaching.

Kendra Wenzel (www.wenzelcoaching.com) is a head coach with Wenzel Coaching with 17 years of racing and coaching experience and is coauthor of the book Bike Racing 101.

Steve Owens (www.coloradopremiertraining.com) is a USA Cycling certified coach, exercise physiologist and owner of Colorado Premier Training. Steve has worked with both the United States Olympic Committee and Guatemalan Olympic Committee as an Exercise Physiologist. He holds a B.S. in Exercise & Sports Science and currently works with multiple national champions, professionals and World Cup level cyclists.

Through his highly customized online training format, Steve and his handpicked team of coaches at Colorado Premier Training work with cyclists and multisport athletes around the world.

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

Richard Stern (www.cyclecoach.com) is Head Coach of Richard Stern Training, a Level 3 Coach with the Association of British Cycling Coaches, a Sports Scientist, and a writer. He has been professionally coaching cyclists and triathletes since 1998 at all levels from professional to recreational. He is a leading expert in coaching with power output and all power meters. Richard has been a competitive cyclist for 20 years

Andy Bloomer (www.cyclecoach.com) is an Associate Coach and sport scientist with Richard Stern Training. He is a member of the Association of British Cycling Coaches (ABCC) and a member of the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES). In his role as Exercise Physiologist at Staffordshire University Sports Performance Centre, he has conducted physiological testing and offered training and coaching advice to athletes from all sports for the past 4 years. Andy has been a competitive cyclist for many years.

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

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

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

Advice presented in Cyclingnews' fitness pages is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to be specific advice for individual athletes. If you follow the educational information found on Cyclingnews, you do so at your own risk. You should consult with your physician before beginning any exercise program.

Knee Injury
Peroneal tendon strain
Saddle chafing
Urinating after exercise
Tightness just above kneecap
Spin scan
Seated vs Non-seated climbing
Ride Nutrition
Glucosamine/Chondroitin supplements
Diminishing returns

Knee Injury

I am 27 years old and have cycled for fitness and recreation on a weekly basis, injury-free since my early teens. I am 11.5 stone and 5'10.5" tall. I started experiencing knee pain last October after training on a newly purchased turbo trainer, set up with my road bike. I think I over-did the intensity somewhat. My road pedals are Look Arc, (and as I have just discovered, the cleats are worn by about 3-4mm on the outer side).

The pain started some hours after riding on the trainer for only my third time - a session of about 40 mins. When it hadn't eased after 2-3 weeks, I had physio treatment on both knees in November and was told I had fallen arches in my feet, which caused a greater than normal force to be transmitted through my medial, or inner cartilage, causing it to become inflamed. It was particularly sore when I bent the knees into their end range, i.e. heel to backside. There were no signs of any other damage to cartilage, ligaments, tendons or other soft tissue. Following four or five treatments, involving traction, laser, daily leg strengthening exercises, and the use of orthotic insoles for walking and biking, the problem improved and I was able to bend knees fully without pain. I began slowly building up weekly rides on my mountain bike (with SPD pedals and shoes) from 30 - 40 minutes, then 50- 60 minutes, and things were going well until January, when after a walk of about 90mins, I had a dull aching around the knees - due to, I think, wearing additional insoles over my orthotics which arched the feet a bit too much. This aching persisted for 2-3 weeks, however, there was no pain in the end range of knee movement as had been previously.

I have since had around 5-6 weekly treatments from the Physiotherapist using acupuncture and light traction. I kept off the bike in this period, but did go swimming twice a week for the last 3-4 weeks, which I felt helped. Exactly one week ago I went for a light to moderate 40-minute mountain bike ride on a fairly flat course, after which the acute end range pain returned in the medial cartilage (although there hasn't been any dull aching or other pain - I had been riding in fairly low gears over this time since the first injury, with high cadence). This pain has eased though, over the past week, with strengthening exercises (hamstring curls, mini squats, calf raises, and hip hitches) and quad stretches into the end range of knee movement. I had an illness just over a year ago, which saw me lose about a stone and a half, (mostly muscle) in a fortnight. I have since regained about 80-90% of leg muscle mass by weekly swimming and cycling and my overall weight is as it was pre-illness.

Is there any reason you can think of for this seemingly recurrent problem? Is there any specific bike set up or exercise you can recommend? I have looked at my pedalling and it seems linear enough, though I noticed my right foot toes out slightly, the ball of my foot is directly over the pedal axle, and centre of knee joint is directly over the pedal axle also. I dropped my saddle by about 8mm (as it was over the recommended 9% greater than inside leg length (which is 812mm, 32 in.). Looking in the mirror whilst pedalling at a light resistance on the turbo trainer, I think this keeps the pedal stroke more linear at the bottom. I haven't tried it out on the roads yet, but I hope it will help.

What could be causing this knee problem, and what else should I be doing?

Davy Millar

Northern Ireland

Steve Hogg Replies

G'day David,

I would not hazard a guess about why your problem is recurring without seeing you in person. However you seem to have positioned your seat height, seat setback and cleat position by ' the book'. My experience is that this causes problems or exacerbates problems for many riders. Have a look at these posts:

http://www.cyclingnews.com/fitness/?id=2004/letters07-26#Cleat http://www.cyclingnews.com/fitness/?id=2004/letters08-09#Knee http://www.cyclingnews.com/fitness/?id=2004/letters08-16#Knee http://www.cyclingnews.com/fitness/?id=2004/letters08-16#over http://www.cyclingnews.com/fitness/?id=2004/letters08-23#Lots.

Once you have digested that and tried the suggestions, please get back to me and let me know what is happening.

Peroneal tendon strain

I am a 34-year-old male that recently got into road biking. I have been riding mountain bikes for eight years without a single problem. I picked up a road bike several months ago to do some additional training and notice that I have been getting peroneal tendon strain on my left leg while riding. It doesn't necessarily hurt very bad but it is uncomfortable on longer rides - it feels like it is straining right around the lateral malleolus as it bends around the ankle to the foot. I have tried various seat adjustments, seatpost height adjustments, orthotics, and orthotics with lateral wedging, with no change. I ride a 56cm Specialized Allez and have an inseam of 31.75 in. Thanks for your help.

Yong S. Chae

Steve Hogg Replies

Dear Yong,

You have tried a number of solutions in a general sense that I would suggest already. The one thing that comes to mind is to enquire whether there is any feeling on the affected side - of being less powerful with that leg.

If because of a leg length discrepancy measurable or functional, a rider has trouble reaching the bottom of the stroke, one compensation that can happen, though rarely, is to roll the ankle outward to reach that little bit further. Usually the top of the pedal platform is worn or abraded more on the outer surface from this. Have a look at your pedals and see if that is the case.

The other thing that may play a part is cleat position. Check the post http://www.cyclingnews.com/fitness/?id=2004/letters07-26#Cleat. If you set your cleats like that I would be interested to hear what happens. If all else fails, is there anyone in your locality that has a reputation for rider positioning to solve injury problems? If so, give them a try. If not, ask around and find someone reputable, even if you have to travel.

Saddle chafing

Hi, I'm an 18 year old male, 175 lb, 6 foot, cat 4 / comp level mountain bike racer that's looking to get into some endurance races. I've been doing a spin class one day a week with my bike team, as well as several days per week on the trainer. Last season I completed two 12-hour duo mountain bike races, but at both of these races I became extremely uncomfortable in my saddle region after 4-5 hours of riding. During my weekly training on the bike, I've recently had lots of chafing in between my legs. I constantly have to re-adjust my shorts in order to move the chamois of my shorts back into the correct position. In addition, it seems like my "parts" are being pinched between my legs and my shorts on my right side. After riding, when I take a shower, I have a rash on the inner portions of both sides of my legs. Although I wash the area with soap every day, it continues to cause discomfort and will hinder my endurance riding.

I use, on my road bike, the new Specialized Alias road saddle with my sit bone width, 143mm. But I don't think the saddle is the problem, as I get chafing on the spin bike as well. I believe it is the fault of my shorts - I have a narrow 32'' waist, but a huge 35'' inseam for my 6' tall body. Right now I'm using size medium shorts from Fox, Verge, and Performance, but all of them cause chafing. Should I be wearing a size large short? Specialized has a new Body Geometry short out - could this new chamois design help get rid of my chafing? Or is there another lubricant product that I should try, like Chamois Butter? I hope that this chafing is not permanent, and that it will resolve itself by the time my base training outdoors starts. What are your suggestions?

Thanks,

Ryan

Steve Hogg Replies

G'day Ryan,

The likely causes of your problem are:

1. Creeping forward somewhat under pressure on the bike onto the narrower part of the seat.
2. Seat a little to high causing some pelvic movement laterally.
3. Poor flexibility in musculature that bears on the hips and/or lower back.
4. Knicks that are either of poor quality or that don't fit well.
5. Any combination of the above.

You think that your knicks are the source of the problem, and you are probably right, but going to a larger size is almost certainly not the way to go as there will only be more and probably looser material to add to your chafing problem. Your inseam relative to height is not particularly long at 35". You are only a 10 - 15 mm longer than average and your waist measurement is normal for a fit person of your height and weight so I doubt that proportions are the issue unless you have really skinny thighs.
Get yourself a pair of Assos or Campagnolo bib and brace nicks as they are the highest quality out there, and make sure that they are as tight a fit as you can stand. The snugger the fit of the knicks, the more there will be friction between knicks and seat rather than knicks and your flesh.

Urinating after exercise

What a lovely subject for an email, but here's the question - my night's sleep after an evening turbo-training session is usually broken by at least four trips to the bathroom to urinate. My bladder seems pretty much full and the urine is light in colour. During my session on the trainer I sweat a great deal and drink around 300-400ml of an electrolyte drink. After the session I probably only drink about 500ml of water; usually with my evening meal. Could it be that I actually need to drink? Is there any way round this that doesn't involve some type of special products?

Rolf Rae Hansen

Edinburgh, Scotland

Pam Hinton Replies

Hi Rolf,

Yes, you definitely need to drink during your trainer session and afterwards to replace the fluid that you lost as sweat, and comparing how much you sweat when you ride the trainer indoors versus when you are out on the road is difficult to do. When you ride outside, more of your sweat evaporates from your skin, so it seems that you are sweating less than when the perspiration is dripping onto the floor. Regardless, re-hydration after a training ride is important because most athletes do not consume enough fluids during their workout to replenish the fluid lost in sweat and respiration.

In general, you should consume 24 ounces of fluid for every pound of weight lost during an exercise session. So the amount of water that you are drinking with dinner is certainly not excessive. It is recommended that you consume more fluid than was actually lost because of the phenomenon that you are experiencing, which is called "obligatory urine losses". When you consume a large volume of water within a short period of time, it can alter the concentration of sodium and other electrolytes in your blood. Your kidneys are designed to keep the concentration of the blood constant, so they respond by excreting the "extra" water. As a result, you have to get up three to four times to urinate every night. You can reduce the obligatory urine losses by drinking a beverage that contains sodium and by eating a meal that is high in sodium after your workout. Some foods high in sodium include pretzels, pickles, pizza, cheese, tomato sauce, soy sauce and ketchup. I don't know what you typically eat for dinner following a trainer session, but if your meal does not already include some of these high sodium foods, try adding a few. That should limit your nighttime trips to bathroom.

Tightness just above kneecap

I had cycled several hundred km in small distances in and out of work for a few weeks, and about 4 or 5 80km plus training spins before the problem occurred. Then one day I got absolutely frozen on a training spin, and the next day I tried to go out and felt a tightness/weakness across the top of my kneecap, bottom of the thigh.

How long can it take usually for a problem to occur after getting a new piece of equipment - ie - new pedals? I was just wondering if this due to my new Dura Ace pedals or just because of a hard cold training spin.

How do you know what adjustments to make to the cleat to remedy issues? I rested for two weeks, then went to Gran Canaria training on a hire bike for a week and didn't feel it and when I got home and trained on my own bike the tightness reappeared.

I can still cycle, its not painful, its just I am worried about pushing it racing in the coming weeks. Thank you for any ideas

Odhrán

Steve Hogg Replies

G'day Odhran,

You imply that this problem may have started either with the use of new pedals or an unusually cold ride. The cold ride I don't know about and in your shoes I would consult a good structural health professional with a cycling background or experience and have them examine you.

The pedals though are another matter. The SPD -SL's are a very good pedal system but they have one shortcoming in that they offer about half the rotational movement that other pedal systems have. Apparently this is because Mr Armstrong doesn't like a lot of freeplay. This is fine for most but means that greater care needs to be taken with positioning the angle of the cleat so as to allow a range of movement either side of where the foot naturally wants to sit under load than with most other systems.

Additionally a substantial minority of people change the angle of their footplant on the pedal under high load or as they tire. This means that the cleat angle that may have been fine at low load, or when fresh is not correct under high load, or when tired. Shimano could resolve this easily by making another cleat with a wider range of freeplay but so far they have not. Next time you are on your longer ride and you get this feeling coming on, start coasting with the affected leg forward. Twist the heel inward till you meet resistance. Was there movement?

If not, stop and adjust your cleat angle. If there was repeat the pedal and coast and twist outward till you meet resistance. If there was movement both ways then the angle of the cleat is not causing your problem. If there was no movement to one side or only very slight movement to one side, then the angle of the cleat is the likely cause.

What pedals did you change from? If it was Look, for instance, you should have lowered your seat 6 - 7 mm as the SPD-SLs are a lower profile system and mild overreaching could also be the source of your problem.

Spin scan

Recently, several friends of mine have 'tuned' their position on the bike using the spin scan and other features on a shop's 'CompuTrainer.' I am curious to hear your opinions about doing this. I am reluctant, for the simple reason that I think unless there is a gross problem with one's placement on the bike, determining your position with the aid of data would require one to ride any given position at least a few times to see if you can get used to it. Is this true? One friend says all you need is 15 minutes for your body to adapt. Hence, if you try four positions over the course of an hour, record all your data, and repeat, you can 'fine tune' your position over the course of a week or so. I think you could end up chasing perfection rather than riding.

Also, the spin scan data, which I would actually consider to be separate from the watts/speed, etc. data that they are using above, seems particularly prone to misinterpretation. For example, I can improve my score be lowering the power I'm putting out at the 3/9 o'clock portions of the stroke. By doing this, my stroke appears more even, even though actual power is going down. So how useful is this number - got a beer bet riding on the answer.

Dean Georgaris

Scott Saifer Replies

Hi Dean,

Spin scan score is an artificial number that has little to do with your efficiency. As you've noted you can fake out the Spin Scan to get a higher score by doing something that clearly lowers your effectiveness. I can make the spin scan graph come out almost perfectly straight by pulling up on the backstroke in a way that no champion cyclist ever would in real riding. The best research on pedalling mechanics of superior time trialists says that they just 'unweight' the back pedal but don't actually pull up. The perfect pedal stroke for sustained power has a huge force during the downstroke and is pretty quiet otherwise.

I'm not saying there is no way to make use of spin scan and checking a bike fit, but simply trying to increase the score is not a good goal.

Dario Fredrick Replies

Hi Dean,

It can take days or weeks to effectively adapt to a new position. Muscular recruitment is very specific to a given riding position/pedalling style, and to develop a similar level of power and efficiency in a new position takes time. Of course adaptation time can vary based upon the magnitude of the position change. A small change may take only a few rides, while a major position change can take weeks or more.

The CompuTrainer SpinScan is not a perfect tool, but like many tools, it is only as effective as its application. SpinScan gives us a snapshot of one's mechanical efficiency by estimating torque application throughout the pedal stroke. Efficiency numbers are calculated by taking the average torque and dividing it by the peak torque of each pedal stroke, multiplied by 100.

Ideally, we want to avoid unnecessarily high peak torque for a given power output. Rather, if the application of force around the pedal stroke is trained to be distributed more evenly (also avoiding "dead" spots), the rate of fatigue for a given workload will be reduced. An efficient pedal stroke will therefore usually produce a relatively high SpinScan number (>60).

Does this mean that we should "artificially" alter our pedalling style by only applying torque to specific areas to create a high SpinScan score in seeking the "perfect" position? Perhaps not. With SpinScan analysis, it is more informative to examine the natural tendencies in one's pedaling style and determine if and where improvements can be made and at what levels of intensity.

Therefore, an effective application of the CompuTrainer SpinScan to position analysis is to examine if there are any weak spots of torque in one's pedal stroke, or whether a significant imbalance appears in the power split between a cyclist's legs (>10%). In a less than optimal position or if one's pedalling style needs work, a cyclist will tend to compensate for areas of very low torque (typically up over the top) in a pedal stroke with excessively high torque (downward force) to produce a given power output. If we observe the graphical torque analysis, SpinScan gives us visual feedback as to what improving weaker areas of the pedal stroke feels like.

Perhaps a more direct use of SpinScan to position analysis would be to optimize one's aerodynamic position (either road or TT bike) without losing efficiency at various power outputs. For example, when seeking to minimize aerodynamic drag, lower is not necessarily better if you lose significant efficiency and/or cannot sustain the same potential power.

At Whole Athlete, we use the CompuTrainer SpinScan to examine a cyclist's pedal stroke by taking the power data from his or her performance test and having the rider pedal for a number of minutes in each of his/her power zones. A cyclist might be very efficient at a lower power zone, but lose efficiency as power increases or vice versa. These data give us additional information to help shape a cyclist's training at specific levels of intensity. Enjoy the beer.

Seated vs Non-seated climbing

Hi. I'm 40 year old male weighing about 150 lbs and an about 5'6". I ride about twice weekly (full-time work and two kids prevent more riding). I ride a Giant TCR Alloy with Dura-Ace 10 speed, weighing about 16.5 lbs. During the week I usually ride about 1-2 hours, including some sort of interval set. Weekend group rides last 4-6 hours for about 50-70 miles. I have worked on my climbing in the last few years and have improved, no longer getting dropped; but I want to start being at the front or even be more explosive. I stay seated on most of my climbs, but have started to ride out of my saddle some. I want to know the advantages of this style, and whether body type dictates style? Is there a way for me to be more explosive using both or one style? What is good training to improve this style? I'm open to any type of feedback and/or suggestions. Thanks for you time.

Julian Philipp.

Michael Smartt Replies

Julian,

Steady state/tempo climbing (let's assume efforts of more than 10 minutes) is all about power to weight ratio. Simply put, to improve your climbing ability, you either have to increase the amount of power you are producing or decrease the amount of weight you are carrying up the hill. The latter usually has the most profound effect on climbing ability (unless you are untrained to begin with), and of course both can only be altered to a certain degree.

To increase the amount of power you are producing, focus your mid-week intervals on increasing your Maximal Aerobic Power/VO2max (MAP) and your long TT power (Maximal Steady State). These are the physiological cornerstones of sustained climbing ability and the more fit you are in these areas, the more you will be able to "explode" and recover during and over the top of a climb. You can add short, explosive jumps within longer TT efforts to simulate the kind of ability you are looking for, but keep the overall focus on TT power and/or MAP.

Seated climbing is certainly a more efficient (lower oxygen cost; higher fat utilization; lower peak torque) means of producing power in any situation, but getting out of the saddle allows you to produce greater amounts of power for a shorter period of time (bridging gaps, catching the group over the top of a climb, etc). The decrease in efficiency experienced while climbing out of the saddle is less for lightweight cyclists however, as more of their mass is going towards producing power (ie: inherent explosiveness) and not just hanging on for the ride. As such, climbing out of the saddle is a technique used more often by the lightweight climbers who lack the ability to produce large amounts of power while seated. So yes, body type can and usually does influence climbing style to some degree, although other factors play into it as well. If you watch the pros, you'll see the likes of Pantani 'dancing' out of the saddle, surging, attacking and gaining separation from the group, while someone like Ullrich slowly picks up the pace, typically staying seated the whole time.

In the end, you have to maximize your climbing fitness and then factor in your inherent abilities, using them to your advantage as much as possible while not allowing others to dictate how you expend your energy.

Ride Nutrition

I am a 32-year-old road cyclist. I am 5'11" and weigh 160 lbs. I would consider myself to be in good physical condition. My question requires some initial explanation. I've noticed that immediately following a rigorous ride or training session, I detect a distinct smell from within my nose/lungs. I would best describe the smell as being ammonia like in nature. It lasts only about 20 minutes after my workout is complete. I do not notice it at all during my rides. Nor does it typically occur after less strenuous workouts. Also, it seems to occur regardless of whether I ride outdoors or indoors on a trainer. Am I alone in this experience? Can this be explained in any way, and should I be concerned?

Bryan Chalk

Eddie Monnier Replies

Bryan,

The ammonia-like smell you describe can be present when the body burns more protein than usual, which can happen when glycogen stores are depleted. In short, you may be "undercarbed." I'm not a registered dietician, so I cannot make specific recommendations to you, but I can say that, in general, an endurance athlete should try to take in about 3 grams of carbohydrate (CHO) per kilogram of body weight three hours before a long workout. Some fat and a protein are also appropriate. You'll need to figure out what works for you, but one of my favorites is oatmeal with a bit of almond butter and all natural preserves, along with some egg whites for protein.

It's not always practical to eat three hours in advance of a workout. One gram of CHO per kilogram of body weight would be more appropriate for a meal about an hour before a workout and some people are better off to consume this in liquid form than solid food.

You'll also need to fuel during your very long and/or hard workouts lasting more than 2 hours. During these, 30 - 75 grams of CHO per hour can be consumed to keep up with energy needs. I know that's an awfully broad range, but it depends on so many factors. Best of luck.

Glucosamine/Chondroitin supplements

Is there any value to glucosamine supplements in order to maintain joints such as the knee?
I am a 29-year-old high recreational rider/beginning racer with about 7-9 hours a week training during a week with good weather. When I first got my road bike, I struggled for a time with mild knee tendonitis, which I believe I have corrected through trial and error fit. I have occasional twinges in the same area (front of the right knee).

I've never been an adult competitive athlete before cycling, but I injured my right knee (a sprain) in a fall several years ago. I needed no treatment for it at the time, but ever since I have been more consciously cautious with my right leg, and in fact it does "click" where the left knee does not. I had never experienced pain with my right knee until taking up cycling in clipless pedals (Shimano SPD).

I write with ice on said knee after a ride - I do think my shop may have slipped my seatpost down a little after my last tuneup, but I am thinking more long term.

I would like to keep myself injury-free and make fitness gains this year, increase endurance and possibly be competitive in a race or two. Thanks.

John Miller

Scott Saifer Replies

Hi John,

My last look at the research on these substances is a couple of year ago already. At that time there was evidence in favour of glucosamine for joint maintenance and health, but not for chondroitin. Maybe one of the other panellists has more recent information.
Getting the bike adjusted to an appropriate fit is a better bet than any nutritional strategy for keeping your knees in good shape. When you get it set up in a way that does not hurt, mark the position of the seat-post with tape or paint, and write down the measurements as well so that you can duplicate them should anything happen to your bike. Personally, I would never return to a shop that changed my seat height as part of working on the bike. I need my seat at the correct height within a few mm or I get knee and or hamstring pain on the next ride. Shops that work with racers usually (but not always) understand the importance of the fit of the bike and of not messing with it.

Diminishing returns

I am a 53-year-old cyclist, 5'10" and 155 pounds, who started riding four years ago. After the first year I decided I wanted to try centuries involving a lot of climbing (between 8,500 and 11,000 feet). To accomplish this I began using a structured training program for the past three years, and I have seen improvements in my climbing, overall average speed and endurance.

As I prepare for this upcoming season I added a weight routine two times a week. I am in week 6 of a 12-week base period. Currently I do at least one high intensity bike/trainer workout a week, consisting of big gears using a couple of the Spinerval DVD's. The remainder of the bike time is spent on endurance work in HR zone below LT.

I hope to see continued progress in my climbing, endurance and average speed. However, I am getting older and suspect that at some point the work will be more for maintaining vrs improving. Is there any research regarding age and improvement of performance? Should my training program be different from what is generally recommended based on my age?

By the way - prior to taking up cycling I was a periodic runner and completed two marathons when I was in my mid 40's.

Paul Evans

North Carolina

Pam Hinton Replies

Hi Paul,
Once an athlete has achieved their genetic potential through training, the goal is to maintain peak fitness, regardless of age. You are right in your assertion that maximal performance declines with age. Starting about age 35, lean body mass, muscle protein synthesis, resting metabolic rate and maximal oxygen consumption decrease at a rate of about 3-5% per decade. This age-related decline is due, in part, to the fact that people tend to decrease their training volume and intensity as they get older.

However, you can attenuate the age-associated decline in maximal heart rate, oxygen consumption, and lean body mass by maintaining your training program. Master athletes, especially those who strength train, often have more muscle mass and greater strength than younger sedentary individuals. In fact, one study of untrained men and women (19-37 years) found that age had no effect on improvements in exercise performance after four months of bicycle training (45 minutes at 80% of maximum heart rate, 3-4 times per week).
The older subjects exhibited improvements in maximal oxygen consumption, lean body mass and rate of muscle protein synthesis that were no different from those observed in the younger subjects. So, as long as you persist with your current training program, incorporating high intensity intervals once per week, you should be able to maintain your aerobic fitness. Since you are relatively new to cycling, you are likely to continue to see improvements as you improve your pedalling efficiency, develop cycling-specific muscles, and basically just learning how to make a bike go fast. Old dogs may not be able to learn new tricks, but mature 'new' cyclists are a different breed!

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