Fitness questions and answers for January 9, 2005

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 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.

Saddle sores
Hormone changes and riding
Shoulder surgery

Saddle sores

Hello,

I've been riding a lot lately and I have been developing a small bump in the crease of my groin area. I have thought that this could possible be a saddle sore but I have always thought a saddle sore was just a blister in a really uncomfortable place - but this seems to be a harder mass than a blister. This happened last season as well but was not as uncomfortable. After about 45 minutes to an hour is when it is at its most uncomfortable. I have tried Vaseline and I think that it might have helped a bit but I am wondering if there are any other solutions out there? And what exactly is a saddle sore? There are lots of bike guys I could ask but I was wondering if there is a female that may be experiencing the same thing that could give me some advice. Less biking is one solution that I am not willing to do. Thanks for all your help.

Amanda A

Fiona Lockhart replies:

Hi Amanda,

A saddle sore can arise in a variety of forms, but usually it starts out as a skin abrasion caused from chafing or pressure. They can easily become aggravated by bacteria that arise in the warm, moist environment that is a crotch in a chamois on a bike seat. There are general rules for avoiding saddle sores and infection:

1. Find a bike seat that fits you well. Look for one at a bike shop that will allow you to try out the seat and return it if it doesn't feel right.
2. Always wear clean bike shorts.
3. Invest in good bike shorts. They will be made with better materials, have more attention to seam placement, and will usually last a very long time. For the money you'll save with "budget" bike shorts now, you'll pay in many other ways.
4. Lubricate your chamois with a cream to help reduce chafing; Chamois Butter, Bag Balm, and Assos Cream are all common ones. Some people get by just fine with Vaseline. Apply the cream to your groin area as well as a thin layer to the chamois itself to soften it up.
5. Make sure your shorts fit well. If your shorts are too baggy, there may be extra material that could bunch up and can increase chafing.
6. Have at least a couple of different bike shorts with slightly different chamois or seam placements. That way, if you get a sore from one, you still may be able to ride in another pair which doesn't have a seam in the same spot.
7. Get out of your shorts right away after you're done with a ride. Wash your groin area right away as well. If you've got an open abrasion, apply a topical ointment to it to prevent infection.
8. If you get a sore that is particularly bad, it's probably worth taking a day or two off the bike to let the healing process begin; otherwise, you may just prolong the agony and ultimately suffer more for it.

From a purely female perspective, what I have found over the years, and heard from other female cyclists, is that just because something is "women's specific" doesn't mean it's specific for you. Just because a saddle is "made for a woman" doesn't mean it's going to fit you. I know plenty of female cyclists who are far more comfortable on a "men's" saddle - I also know a few men who are pretty comfortable on a "women's" saddle but are loathed to admit it. The same goes for women's shorts. Some shorts makers have come up with a woman's chamois that is absolutely huge - apparently to fit our different anatomy. Unfortunately, that can end up feeling like a diaper to many women. Going back to #4 above, if your chamois is bunching up, it can create more friction and actually make things worse. So take the time to try on a number of shorts to find what fits for you. Try on some men's shorts too; they may fit your body better.

Finally, in regard to your particular situation, it sounds like you may have developed a cyst, which can sometimes arise from untreated saddle sores. These usually won't go away on their own, so you should go see your doctor to see if antibiotics can help or if you need to have it surgically removed. The best way to avoid these cysts or abscesses from developing out of saddle sores is to follow the instructions noted above.

Hormone changes and riding

Hello CN Team,

I have a question that I haven't seen addressed in this column, or in much detail in any sports-oriented writings. I am a competitive female cyclist (cat. 3) and I have been taking oral contraceptives for the past five years. I began taking them before I began cycling or became active at all. I plan to continue using hormonal contraceptives because of their high rate of effectiveness. However, I am beginning to wonder whether they may be detrimental to my performance on the bike.

I was hoping that you could discuss the effects various methods of hormonal birth control (the Pill, the Patch, the Ring, etc.)on performance, and let your readers know whether one particular type may be a better choice for endurance athletes.

Thanks for a great resource!

Elis B

California

Scott Saifer replies

I can't address this question as a scientific authority, but can share my coaching experience, which is that at least some types of hormonal contraceptives can have a large negative impact on racing. A female client of mine who was an excellent sprinter with the killer instinct of a tiger turned into an emotional pussy-cat shortly after starting on the pill. Suddenly she couldn't engage emotionally for the sprint.

When she quit the pill, she started winning again. One anecdote does not prove much, so I'd be glad to hear from the other members of the panel who might know more.

Elis B then responded:

Thanks for the quick response. Since I've been on the pill longer than I've been training and racing I haven't had any major emotional shift that's interfered with my ability to be competitive, win races, and upgrade. Of all the aspects of my cycling, the ability to emotionally engage during a race is the one that I am most confident in. I'm wondering more about the physical side of things; for example, I'm a little stocky to start with (the proverbial brick shithouse sprinter), and before I began taking the pill I was able to lose weight with a little bit of diligence and exercise.

But these days I notice that while I definitely seem to tone and tighten up as the season progresses, I don't actually lose weight no matter what dietary changes I make and how careful I am about monitoring my food intake and expenditures. I was also wondering whether hormonal birth control can affect overall heart rate levels, oxygen consumption, fatigue, ability to gain lean muscle mass & maintain an athletic body composition, etc. Thanks for the help!

Pam Hinton replies

Elis,

Birth control pills, also known as, oral contraceptive agents (OCA) contain synthetic forms of the female reproductive hormones, estrogen and progesterone. OCA have some benefits for female athletes. They can be used to control the timing of the menstrual cycle, avoiding menstruation during important competitions. The risk of iron deficiency anaemia also is decreased in women who use OCA because of reduced blood loss via menstrual bleeding. In oestrogen-deficient athletes with amenorrhea (absence of menstrual cycles), OCA may reduce loss of bone mass. Despite these potential benefits, plus the obvious one of birth control, many athletes (and their coaches) worry that taking the pill will cause weight gain, decrease aerobic capacity and negatively affect fuel metabolism.

However, there is very little evidence to support these fears. There are only a handful of studies that have investigated the effects of oral contraceptives on athletic performance and only a fraction of these used highly trained athletes as subjects. It is important to recognise that the effects of OCA in trained women may differ from those observed in sedentary women. A recent study of endurance-trained athletes and sedentary controls examined the effects of 10 months of OCA treatment (both estrogen and progesterone) on body weight and composition; aerobic capacity (maximal oxygen consumption, VO2max); muscular strength; and bone mineral density.

Half of the athletes were regularly menstruating and the other half were either oligomenorrheic (cycles at intervals greater than six weeks) or amenorrheic (absence of menstrual cycles for at least three consecutive months). The women with irregular menstrual cycles gained weight (124 to 128 pounds, on average) and increased their percent body fat (17% to 20%, on average) after OCA treatment. Despite this increase in body weight, maximal oxygen did not change with OCA treatment (56.7 vs. 55.6 ml/kg/min). The bone mineral density of the women with oligomenorrhea and amenorrhea significantly increased with OCA and the improvement in BMD was greatest in individuals with the lowest initial BMD. Ten months of OCA did not alter body weight, body composition, aerobic capacity, strength or bone mineral density in the regularly menstruating women or in the sedentary controls. (See Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 89:4364-4370, 2004 for the original research article.)

In addition to the female reproductive hormones, women also have testosterone circulating in their blood; although, this male sex hormone is present in much smaller concentrations than in men. OCA decrease the amount of testosterone available to bind its receptor, and, thus its bioactivity. OCA stimulate the production of a protein called sex-hormone binding globulin (SHBG), which binds testosterone, making it inactive.

This reduction in testosterone likely explains why some women experience a decrease in racing aggressiveness while on the pill. A study that was published just this week found that the effect of OCA on testosterone levels persists for 6 months after stopping the OCA. (See Journal of Sexual Medicine, January 3:104-113, 2006 for the original study.) A potential negative side effect of OCA is their effect on blood lipids. OCA increase total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL), and triglycerides (fats) in blood. High LDL and triglycerides are risk factors for cardiovascular disease. The route of hormone administration, i.e., oral versus transdermal, affects the blood lipid response.

Hormonal contraceptives, such as the patch, have a much smaller effect on blood lipids than the pill. The hormones are absorbed through the skin rather than going directly to the liver where they alter metabolism of fats and cholesterol. The bottom line is that there are both positives and negatives associated with hormonal contraceptive use. It is unlikely, however, that OCA have significant negative physiological effects on athletic performance. Take care.

Shoulder surgery

Hi,

As a result of not recovering from a crash back in September my specialist has told me I need to have an Arthroscopic Subacromial Decompression operation on my shoulder, to clean a bone spur which is prodding a tendon in my shoulder. Any idea (approximate) how long after the operation I can get back on bike. If its going to be two months or more will I lose all of my current fitness levels or will training right up to the op be 'money in the bank' so to speak ?

Jon Moore

Scott Saifer replies

Jon,

I don't know how long you will take to recover from surgery but do know that many riders with shoulder injuries continue to train on a trainer starting just a few days after the injury, so if you are willing to suffer on the trainer, it is definitely worth trying to be fit before surgery.

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