Fitness questions and answers for March 7, 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.

Stem length
Ankle pain - posterior tibialis tendonitis
Power output levels for older cyclists
Knee pain and the trans-fats, omega 6 and omega 3 balance
Neck pain
Knee tracking problems
Additional saddle chaffing info

Stem length

I have had a fit for correct riding position on my bike, but I would like a second opinion.
Firstly, I am 55 and took up recreational riding seven years ago. I ride between 50-200kms a week, depending on the time of the year and what ride I am preparing for. I am 165 cm and weigh 82 kg and have a lower back problem (work related many years ago) which restricts my flexibility. When I was fitted, I was told to replace my cranks from 172.5 to 170 and replace my 90 mm stem to an 80 mm stem at a height from the centre of the front wheel to handle bars of 60 cm. I have replaced these parts. The other recommendation was that I get a new seat post that will put my seat back 50 mm behind the bottom bracket which will give me an angle of 72 degrees instead of the 74 degrees that I have now. I have stayed with my old seat post and with my lack of flexibility I still find it painful to stay on my hoods for long periods and only ever get to my drops if I am rolling downhill. I am considering fitting a 50 mm stem hoping that might solve the problem - would you be able to share your thoughts?
Also, I have Shimano Ultegra components of 1999 vintage. In 2001 Shimano brought out 5 mm and 10 mm wedges that fitted the STI levers to help people like myself and also females that have small hands and cannot reach effectively the brake levers when on the drops of the handlebars. I do not want to buy new levers at $450 for the sake of two wedges that would cost $20. I have noticed on your web site that you have wedges for different pedals for people with different leg lengths. Do you, or do you know of anyone who has a solution to the Shimano pre 2001 STI problem.

Steve Hogg Replies

G'day Will,

I am not clear about your first query. After the fitting you did not fit a new seat post, is that correct? Do you feel overstretched or are you bearing more weight than you would like on your hands? If you feel overstretched is it the distance you have to reach out, or the distance you have to reach down that is the problem - or possibly a combination of both?

If you are stretching too far out, the solution is to shorten your stem - providing of course that your seat is in the right place fore and aft. Try the balance test that you have read about on this forum. If you are reaching too far down the solution is to raise the bars higher. If this is not possible in the sense that there is no more adjustment left, get back to me, as there a number of fittings available that will allow the steerer tube to be extended.

Regarding the STI levers, the solution is simple. The shims Shimano now provide with the R 600 [I think that is the model] levers can be retro fitted to the non short reach 9 speed levers but is more fiddling and modifying than the job is worth. Get some rubber about 3 mm thick; the thicker pieces that are supplied as shims for cycling computer handlebar clamps are ideal, and cut a piece to the appropriate size. Pull the brake lever open slightly at the top and using a decent silicone type glue, stick the rubber in place on top of the gear barrel where it would normally contact the under side of the top of the grip when the lever is closed. This will leave the lever 'open' a few mm at the top which brings the lever much closer to the bars. You may need to experiment with exactly how much of a shim you use.
Once you have got the reach right, readjust the brake calipers by letting a bit of cable through the pinch bolt on the calipers.
Another factor possibly at work is the bar drop shape. A lot of anatomic bars have a tight radius bend in the drops. This means in turn that the higher the brake levers [you should be able to ride with hands on hoods with an unbent or only slightly bent wrist] the more disproportional the distance from the brake levers become. With short fingers the situation is exacerbated further. The Deda anatomic bars are probably the best around in this regard as the radius of the bend of the drops is more open than most and the bend is situated quite high, relatively speaking, providing a near flat surface behind the brake levers. This is of benefit to many people. The only negative with these bars is the sharp 'corner' where the hand grip anatomic section flattens out at the bottom. This is just where the hands grip the bars in a sprint and is a pain.
If you go down the Deda bar route, this 'corner' can be rounded off on the inner surface by the application of a couple of strips of cork bartape. A longer one on the bottom and a shorter one on top will fill the hand much better when the bars are completely taped over this addition.
If you have any issues with the first part of this answer, get back to me please.

Ankle pain - posterior tibialis tendonitis

I sure hope you can help me out!

I'm a 38-year-old male (5'7", 145 lbs) recreational mountain biker and road cyclist and have been riding for 20+ years. Eighteen months ago I purchased my first high-end road bike (Sampson z9 with DuraAce 10) and over the course of six months worked up to riding 150 miles per week. I was feeling stronger and stronger, and planning to work up to my first century.

As I continued to slowly increase my mileage, I began to develop a nagging pain in my inner right ankle that was aggravated with walking and cycling, especially climbing. I subsequently learned that it was tendonitis of my posterior tibialis tendon.

As difficult as it was, I took several weeks off, but the pain returned with minimal effort on the bike. I took several more weeks off and did some of my own research on the internet, deciding that my problems were due in part to flat arches, for which I was already using Sole and Superfeet footbeds in all my shoes (I've had problems with plantar faciitis for years, which is part of the reason I cycle instead of run).

I replaced my pedals and shoes to improve sole stiffness and the size of the contact platform (switched from Time Attack MB pedals and 3yo shoes to Kewin pedals and Sidi Genius 4 shoes), and put two LeMond LeWedges under each pedal cleat to cant my feet out slightly. I was also professionally fitted by two different 'experts' who each recommended moving my seat back slightly, but otherwise thought my position was very good.

Over the next four months I rode cautiously. However, the slightest moderate/high intensity effort (sprint, moderate hill climb, >20 mile tempo ride) would bring back the "twinge" in my ankle. I'd take a week or two off, try again, and the cycle would repeat itself.

After much frustration, I blamed myself for this problem, and for not having the patience to let things heal; I took two months off, completely resting. But, a cautious return to cycling saw no change…the ankle pain was back with minimal effort on the bike.

So, I visited a well-respected local podiatrist. He confirmed my diagnosis of very flat arches that he described as a "significant problem". He prescribed custom orthotics for my everyday and athletic footwear and suggested I try them in my cycling shoes as well, although we discussed the fact that the motion of cycling is very different from that of walking.

It is four months later, and I have been using my orthotics religiously in all my footwear, including cycling shoes. There does seem to be some improvement in my ankle pain, especially with extended walking and standing, but my tolerance for cycling is still not anywhere close to where I want it to be.

Are the orthotics used in cycling shoes to treat flat arches different in design than those used for walking and running shoes? If so, in what way? Where can I find a person experienced in treating this kind of injury/problem (especially in the Seattle area, where I am moving in a week)? Do you have any more advice? I'm willing to do just about anything to get back to a situation where I can ride HARD - I can't imagine having to give up my bike! Thanks in advance for your advice and help.

Shane Anderson

San Diego, CA

Steve Hogg Replies

G'day Shane,

I need some more info - does your condition affect both legs, or only one? Where is the centre of the first metatarsal phalangeal joint in relation to the pedal axle centre as measured in the usual way?

Power output levels for older cyclists

I'm a 51-year old male who rides a lot but no longer races, although I do like to ride quite hard in group rides, etc. I now have access to an indoor trainer with a power meter attached, and would like to use that to check periodically on my fitness level as measured by power output (watts). Can you please tell me what in your opinion(s) would be a reasonable level of power output for a person like me? I'm 176.5cm tall and weigh in a range of 75kg-80kg depending on what month it is. Many thanks.

Chris Child

Steve Owens Replies

Christopher,

Since you're a former racer, I'm sure you have witnessed the great aerobic capacity some masters racers and recreational riders can maintain. To give more than an estimate of what your power ratings should be, I would need to know what category and discipline you raced in your earlier years. I'll try to give you estimations however.

Based on your weight I can estimate 200 watts as a good average for a 20-minute power profile, based on your weight. The power profiling zones are measures of the maximum average wattage a rider can maintain for a given length of time. Most people use 5 seconds, 1 minute, 5 minutes, and 20 minutes, which attempt to match up the different energy systems. There are several other ways to standardise power measurements as well.

A good option, since I don't know your current power profile, is the following. Test your maximum average for a given amount of time, say 5 or 20 minutes. Over time, try to increase your maximum wattage 5-10 watts at a time.

You can increase the average two ways. Firstly, by pacing better - there is a learning curve to the test. It means you're not actually fitter, but that you can use your fitness more effectively. This works for improving time-trial performance as well.
The second method is training. Increasing your aerobic capacity and other abilities will increase your fitness and give you more success on those group rides that you daydream about while at work.

Additionally, if the power meter you are using is not made by a cycling company (ie - primarily a model produced for gyms) then there is a good chance it will over estimate your wattage and caloric expenditure. Some gym machines deviate in their calibrations so patrons will favor their machines. A scientific ergometer, SRM, PowerTap, Ergomo, or Polar will have the best accuracy, followed by trainer-type attached powermeters. Most provide a good deal of precision, though. So as long as you test on the same machine you will be able to track your relative progress, but go out and buy a power meter or borrow one from a friend. A PowerTap for example, usually only takes 5-10 minutes to swap over from one bike to another.

Knee pain and the trans-fats, omega 6 and omega 3 balance

I have been following the forums on Cyclingnews for about a year now and cannot believe how many people are writing in about knee pain - especially aching in medial cartilage, and other inflammatory conditions. None of the experts on the site have mentioned the absolutely crucial dietary factor. No doubt bicycle positioning etc is critical but my experience and many people whom I have shared it with has shown that diet, especially fatty acids, is critical in a lot of non-obvious ways.

My background is as a highly competitive athlete for the past 27 years (I am 36 now) starting out wrestling, then rowing, then, since I was 19, in mountain bike racing and now road racing. I am currently an occasional competitor due to time constraints. Professionally I am a scientist in the area of environmental toxicology and have spent the last seven years studying nutrition from a cellular point of view as a hobby (versus) medical. I have come to a number of conclusions based on my research and personal experience. I was told nearly nine years ago that I had cartilage damage under my knee caps that would prevent me from cycling without extreme pain unless I had surgery. This was confirmed by three of Australia's top physiotherapists and Brisbane's supposedly best knee surgeon. No one even suggested that diet might have an impact. I quit cycling as I couldn't afford the surgery at the time.
A number of years later I came across some research (sorry can't specifically remember the source) about the role of Omega 3/ Omega 6 Fatty acid balance on inflammation and the extreme cellular toxicity of trans fats. To cut along story short I cut trans-fats from my diet completely and boosted Omega 3 through supplementation, as well as taking a comprehensive organic multivitamin, multimineral, phytofactor supplement. I began consuming 11 to 15 grams of high quality protein every 2-3 hours along with an attempt at a well balanced diet. The result has been astounding. I have NO knee pain for the first time since I was 18 and now have eliminated the joint aches and pains that I have always assumed was normal for a high performance athlete. I can go out on a 140 km weekend ride through the hills around Brisbane, easily keeping pace with riders who train twice as hard and twice much as I do and I am the one who finishes the ride feeling good. This has all happened, I believe, through paying close attention to nutrition, especially the fatty acid balance and high doses of anti-oxidants. I am extremely passionate about this and wonder why the 'mainstream' professionals are not putting much more emphasis on the role of fatty acid balance in the diet for athletes, especially for joint health? Any comments/replies on this would be appreciated, and I hope you post this for the benefit of other thirty-somethings who have been told they need surgery, and may not.

Rusty,

Brisbane, QLD

Steve Hogg Replies

G'day Rusty,

Yours is a very interesting letter. Many people who have sought me out over the years have had knee pain as their major issue. Of these, and they would number at a guess, several thousand, all were resolvable either through an improved position, or through a combination of an improved position and the ongoing but ultimately successful search for better function in the areas of the body that directly or indirectly gave rise to the knee problem. I include myself in this number as I have had no functioning medial or anterior cruciate ligament in one knee for over 30 years but can ride as hard as I like as often as I like without pain. The price I pay is that I am very position sensitive and have to pay a lot of attention to my own structure and function in a global sense which is no bad thing. Some of them were extreme cases, including one who could not ride more than 5kms at a time for 19 years, a number who were missing a patella through severe injury and others who had multiple knee operations but still had bike related pain and so on.
I'm not surprised that the health professionals didn't cover the nutritional aspect as I don't think I have ever come across anyone who has experienced joint aches as you have, as the 'normal' by product of a lot of training. They, the health pro's, probably hadn't either.
What I'm saying I suppose is that you have certainly alerted me to some interesting info which I will explore further, but I suspect that your experience in the terms of those suffering knee pains on a bike is uncommon in a percentage sense. This is probably the answer to the question you pose regarding why this info isn't more widely disseminated - I suspect not many people know about it and that most on bike knee pain can be resolved in other ways.
Thank you for your letter as what is most frustrating for the sufferer of any problem is when they see all the right people, jump through all the metaphorical hoops placed in front of them and still are none the better for the experience. Your experience highlights the fact that there is almost always a way to work around the most chronic problems, but finding the right info, in an individual sense, is often the most time consuming part of the task.

Neck pain

I had been using a stem that was way too long and as a result got a terrible pain on the left of my spine at the back of my neck (above where the trap meets the neck). It kept me off the bike for weeks and I couldn't turn my head at all. I bought the Kit Laughlin book you suggested this week and we'll see how we go. Now here's the thing - when I turn my head from side to side I hear a crackling noise in my ears. Obviously it's not audible to anyone else and I would describe it as the noise a crisp packet makes. This is due to the neck problem and I've never heard of a similar symptom in your fitness column. It's still giving me a fair bit of discomfort, any ideas?

Andy Walne

Steve Hogg Replies

G'day Andy,
My apologies for the delay in replying but I had to ask a friend in the neck business about the source of your 'neck noise'. He says that it is likely to be one of two things, or a combination of both. Both posit a stiff neck and upper back. If this is you, the first reason is possible micro tears of associated musculature as you turn your neck and the second is noise from the joint surfaces of the facet joints of the cervical vertebrae if they are compressed and tight.
Re the Kit Laughlin book; given your condition which one did you buy?
You would probably be better served by ' Overcome Neck and Back Pain' than by ' Stretching and Flexibility' for the moment at least.
If you can free up your upper back and neck then the noise should diminish or disappear.

Knee tracking problems

I am a 31-year-old, 5'10", 163lb, Category 1 racer. Recently I developed pain at the top and under the kneecap of my left knee. As I pedal, I can feel the kneecap "bumping" over the top of something. This happened a few years ago to my right knee and I seem to remember the term 'chondromalacia' being used. I was told by the doc that my quadriceps were out of balance and to do leg extensions with limited range. This worked, but now the problem is back on the other knee

I was mindful to include leg extensions in my weight routine this winter and have gradually increased my training load. I have done a fair amount of cold weather riding (90 rpm. No changes to position, pedals or cleats either. Do you have any advice to remedy this problem in the short and long term?

Matthew Gates

Steve Hogg Replies

G'day Matt,

Chrondomalacia means that the patella encapsulated in its tendon is not tracking accurately within the groove that it is supposed to. The specific causes of this are varied, but in general, on a bike it comes down to two things or a combination of both. The knee is strictly a single plane joint like a hinge. It is in the middle of two multi plane joints, the ankle at one end and the hip at the other. If the hip/ lower back area are not functioning ideally this can stress the knee as it has to follow the lead of the hip joint further up the pedalling chain.
Equally if the basic problem is one of less than ideal foot/ankle function as you apply force to the pedal; this two can force the knee through planes of movement that it is not equipped to cope with. Often, a combination of issues with hip/lower back at one end and foot/ankle at the other compounds things.
You mention quadricep imbalance. If the outer quads are too strong relative to the VMO, the inner quad and major muscular lateral stabiliser of the knee joint, then knee pain is a common result. The root cause of this quad imbalance often is poor posture, leading to compromised neurological function or poor foot plant leading to a cascade of compensatory measures further up. A good starting point would be to find a good 'hands on' health professional with cycling background or experience, and have yourself structurally assessed. This health pro needs to explain to you in terms that you understand what the issues and potential modes of treatment are so that you know what is going on as well. Ask questions and don't leave till you have an understanding of your issues and the options that are open to you as solution paths.
As you progress, if you have any queries about the bike aspects of a solution, just ask.

Additional saddle chaffing info

I would like to add a few comments to Steve Hoggs' comments about Saddle Chaffing. I am an ultra-endurance racer who has done several 24 hour mtb races. High end shorts do not necessarily equate to less chaffing. I've tried many of the more expensive brands/models only to settle on the mid-level from Voler & Pearl Izumi because they were affordable and fit well. I do use ample amounts of Bag Balm, which seems to last longer than many of the other products for chaffing. It's much greasier, but that is what makes it work. I would also suggest trying other saddles which are more narrow than your current one. Some riders seem to think a bigger saddle is better for endurance, but the larger saddle creates unnecessary contact area with your skin. This can cause chaffing on the inner thigh. Lastly don't shave the area that gets rubbed. Shaving causes tiny cuts on the skin, so that the area is already irritated before you even ride.

Eddie O'Dea

Atlanta, GA, USA

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