Fitness questions and answers for February 5, 2008

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

Form & Fitness Q & A

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

Richard Stern ( 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 ( 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 ( 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.

Bike fit
Hill training
Training optimisation
Spring training
Saddle life expectancy

Bike fit

I started getting spasms and recurring strains in my left calf while riding 4 years ago (I always hung off the left side of my saddle). At this time, I had been riding seriously for 3 years and was a strong age group triathlete. The calf spasms/strains were followed shortly by random pain in my right foot (navicular area) while running. Later that summer, I ran a half marathon and severely strained my left calf and right hamstring. After getting over the hamstring injury, I tried to get back into riding but kept getting left calf spasms.

The spasms finally subsided after I gave the leg rest. This took me a year to get over. As I was getting back into riding, I strained the outer attachment of my left hamstring at the knee while doing some jumps. This pain has really never left (2 years). No matter how long I take off of riding, the pain still comes back. It is especially intense when I ride with hard efforts.

In a setup where the bike is set up symmetrically (pedals, seat, etc), my right knee is closer to the bars than my left knee. My left leg also tends to externally rotate. In fact, when I got a fit from my LBS, they instructed me to keep the heel "out". I did it for two rides and this resulted in severe pain in my hamstring/knee attachment, which took weeks to get over.

I've tried lots of different strategies to fix the pain (wedges, cycling orthotics, speedplay adapters to bring the cleats further back, lowering my seat, etc), but can't seem to figure it out. I had a fit by John Cobb recently, who noticed right away when I walked bare-footed that my hips were "twisted" so that my left hip stuck forward and my right leg had a longer swing phase. He tilted my saddle slightly to the right (it's an ISM saddle, which feels good) and adjusted my cleats so that my left cleat is forward (closer to my toe) and my right cleat is back (closer to my heel) as far as each can go. I ride speedplay pedals.

At the time of the fit, I could not tell if it felt better or not. But after doing a ride later that week, the attachment pain came back. Now, I'm getting that same left hamstring/knee attachment pain even when I run (once a week, 20 minutes) - which has never happened.

Eric Johnson

Steve Hogg replies:

G'day Eric,

Interesting history that you relate, what I would suggest is this:

1. Have a standing long leg x ray or MRI taken to determine whether there is a measurable leg length discrepancy. From your self description it is likely that you have a shorter left leg but it would be nice to know that rather than proceed on a guess.

Armed with that information you can consider whether a heel lift or something similar would be advisable in your walking shoes.

2. If you don't do it already, take up yoga, Pilates or other kind of functional exercise regime with a view to becoming more symmetrical in the way that you function on and off the bike.

3. Reconsider your bike position. By twisting the nose of the seat to the right, you are perpetuating your left hip forward style of riding. I don't say you are wrong because in some cases all you can do is go with the way you currently function as the least worst option but only after trying the alternative which is to point the seat nose off centre to the left. Doing this will bring the left hip backwards to some degree and allow you to be sit more squarely on the bike. You will need to experiment with just how far to the left the seat nose points. There is no value in having it point further off centre than you can cope with and get a positive result in the sense of sitting more squarely.

4. Change the fore and aft cleat position of your left cleat. Have a look at these posts on cleats and the ball of your foot and set your cleats up accordingly. If the cleats have to move rearwards on the shoe which is likely, you will need to drop your seat somewhat to allow for the greater extension of the leg that will occur with a more rearward cleat position.

You will also, based on what you have said, need to shim up the left cleat as it will be moving further rearward than the right one because of your difference in cleat position relative to foot in shoe on each foot as well as reaching further because of the change in where your seat nose is pointing. While I am on that subject, differential cleat position is the worst solution for a measurable or functional leg length discrepancy unless all other options have been tried and trial and error has shown it to be the 'least worst' option available to you. All it does is cause a difference in the pattern of muscle enlistment in each leg and far more often than not, creates or exacerbates problems as you have found.

You need to work towards functioning more symmetrically. Differential cleat position will hinder your progress towards that objective and likely cause injury or niggles in the process.

As you shim up the left cleat you are moving that foot further from the pedal platform. Beyond a certain point, this will mean that the left foot is less stable on the pedal. Generally speaking, move the left cleat 1mm further back on the sole of the shoe for every 5mm of shimming that you place under your left cleat. This may sound strange given what I have said above so I'll explain further. Moving a cleat further forward on the shoe, of the foot, on the leg that is measurably or functionally shorter in an effort to allow that leg to reach further only places additional and unnecessary strain on the muscle chain further up. Doing this can create issues with anywhere from the plantar fascia, Achilles tendon, calves, knees or hamstrings depending on individual morphology and susceptibilities. You need stability under foot, not lack of stability. As you shim up a cleat and coming off top dead centre under load during a pedal stroke, the shim causes the foot to be further back over the pedal as the heel is dropped. Moving the cleat 1mm back for every 5mm of shimming reduces this tendency because it moves the foot forward over the pedal a touch. Ideally you should move the cleat further back than that again for every 5mm of shimming but then the greater extension of the leg required by the more rearward cleat position largely negates the effect of the shim. Long experience has shown me that 1 mm in 5 is the best compromise for the widest range of people.

5. Lastly, as a Speedplay user and depending on what brand of shoes you use and how well they fit you, you may not be able to achieve the cleat position as suggested in the posts that I gave links to. If that's the case, purchase a pair of alternative Speedplay base plates; Speedplay part no. 13330 which will allow up to 14mm more rearward adjustment potential than the standard base plates.

Hill training

My name is Alex and I am 30 years old. I am 6 feet tall and weigh 200lbs. I am an avid road rider and I live in Miami Florida. I am having a problem with the hills and bridges. I ride three times a week but not including a long ride with the group on Sunday morning. We start off great and I can lead the pack great but when we approach bridges or some small hill my heart climbs to high and I run out of breathe that make me fall back. Sometimes I can recover by falling back in the pack if I'm up front and sitting back in the pack being pulled and them getting in the hunt for the front again.

There are times that I am sitting too far back in the pack and them I get drop from the pack. I have great speed on the bike and great leg strength to catch the group after some miles. I am training with high rpm's on two of the three training days that I ride and the third day is for speed training. I usually find some trucks to draft or some cars. I don't know what else to do for training. My max heart is 185bpm and my normal ride heart rate is between 149 - 155bpm. Thank you for your time and patience's with my letter.

Alex Bucci

Dave Palese replies:

Hey Alex,

It's tough to diagnose your issue without some more information. In general it sound like your current training program isn't preparing you for the hills and bridges.

Tell me more about the hills. How long are they time-wise? How steep are they - gradual, steep? Does the group attack the hills hard, or is cruising over the hills still putting the pinch on you?

Let me know, and I'll try to help.

Training optimisation

I was wondering if you could help me with a question. I have a 20km commute to work each way. If I do my commute in around 35 minutes each way (power zone endurance or quality endurance using Rich Sterns zones) and then later in the evening do another hour or two (with specific tempo or sub threshold work) on the trainer does my body know that I didn't do 2 and half hours in a row?

What I am wondering is if I do this most days of the week do I really need to worry about getting a 3 or 4 hour session on the weekend (usually on the trainer due to weather)?

I mostly race mountain and crits in the summer so no nasty 200 k road races usually.

Kingston, Ontario

Dave Palese replies:

Hey Steven,

The short answer is, no, you body doesn't know that you split the workouts. Actually, your body doesn't care.

Now, that is the short answer. The long answer can vary depending on your goals and needs. As far as calorie burn, and the aerobic benefits of training, splitting the sessions is just as effective as doing them as one. That said there is a component of endurance that is sacrificed when splitting the sessions.

But I will say this, as a very general statement, if your race season consists mostly of mountain and criterium racing, then you may not need to do training rides lasting 3-4 hours. Many of my clients don't do long rides lasting more than 2:30. The length of your long rides is dictated by the endurance demands of your events. I don't believe in riding for the sake of riding. Every pedal stroke with a purpose, right?

The way you are splitting your time sounds good to me generally speaking. I might suggest making more of your commute. Maybe some on the bike strength work or short, spaced-out jumps during the ride. Just some thoughts.

Spring training

I'm a 54 year old Canadian going south to the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina in March to do a bit of early season riding. I've been pretty good about getting on my trainer and snowshoeing this winter but since I live in the Snow Belt road riding is not practical for me. For many of my riding buddies the mountain bike or cyclo-cross are options but I am a cabinet maker and a bad fall would put me out of work. I'll arrive in Ashville and be on the road for the first time this year, and I'm wondering if you have any advice regarding the way to build the mileage and how to handle rest and recovery? In the past the excitement of warm weather gets the rides off to a fast start especially on the first day, and no one want to take a day off. Typically I let the group go and try to spin for the first morning just to prevent injury and keep the climbing nice and easy for the first day or two, but after that I just can't help trying, however unsuccessfully to stay with the younger and faster riders. The two questions I have are; is there a pattern for 1 or 2 week early season training blocks, obviously the power or heart zones would be based on each rider but I'm just looking for how you would approach this? The second question is if I go too hard despite your advice can I do anything to minimize the damage?

Henry Levy

Dave Palese replies:

Hey Henry,

The schedule for a camp is determined by the goals. If you goal is to get some chamois time in, then I would focus on just that.

Make you rides progressively longer as the camp goes on. Maybe the first day is a just a recon ride to open the legs after travelling, 1.5-2 hours. Then on days 2 and 3, you might go longer and steadier, 3 hours, them maybe 30 minutes to an hour more on day 3. There needs to be an agreement in the group to hold back on the hills, or at least wait at the tops of the hills. On a ride truly focused on endurance, it's important to meter your efforts so that you finish the ride strong, even if the ride is over varied terrain. So hold back on the hills.

I'd rest with a shorter ride on day 4 maybe, 1 hour coffee shop ride maybe. Then do another 2 day block and keep repeating until the end of the trip.

That is very simple, and doesn't include much variety. You could throw some shorter days in there with higher intensity, maybe some climbing to test the legs, who knows.

Saddle life expectancy

This is not really a fitness question, but I have been experiencing saddle soreness which has become noticeable in the last month or two.

I have not changed the amount of kilometres I do, or my position. But I did notice the padding on my saddle seems softer than it used to be.

How much life is expected out of a saddle? For information mine is a Fizik Pave which has seen less than 9000 km's of wear.

Perth, WA, Australia

Scott Saifer replies:

The expected life of a saddle varies a lot with how it is used. Heavier riders, riders who sweat more, riding in the rain and other sorts of abuse shorten the life. A light rider who waxes the saddle every time it gets wet will have it last a lot longer. That being said, 9000 km would be enough to do in some of the lighter saddles in use today. The key observation though is that you have more soreness and the saddle is different than it used to be. Try a new one and see if you feel better. If not, save the old one for a back-up.

Also you should note that the fact that you have not changed your position does not necessarily mean the position is good, even if it was good before. As you get stronger or weaker, redistribute body weight, improve flexibility, change your preferred cadence, get and recover from injuries or a host of other things that might change, your ideal fit changes. This is yet another reason that fitting systems based on body measurements are destined to be poor approximations to a really good fit for riders who are not exactly typical in strength, fitness, body weight distribution, flexibility and so on.

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