Fitness questions and answers for May 1, 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.

Cyclingnews also has the full directory of all Form & Fitness questions and answers to our expert panel in a separate archive.

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.

Intensity
Nausea on long rides
Elbow tendonitis and saddle sores
Set up tweaks
Sweat rates
Upper hamstring soreness
Persistent bike fit issues

Intensity

Hello,

I'm a former category 3 racer returning to racing after 2 years (career comes first). This season I put in what I thought was a great base. 220 to 300 miles during the heavy weeks about 120 on my down weeks. I trained all I could.

My fear and my question is - in my desire to return to the volume that I once had I left some of the intensity out. I did very few sprints and only a few days of hill work. It is now May and I did my first crit and did horribly - the two previous road races where fine, however. My main question is if I didn't have a well rounded regime as far as intensity goes, how would I go about gaining that, or do I have to suffer like Jan? Thanks. By the way, Cyclingnews is the best site on the net. No joke.

Anthony Stephens

Dave Palese replies

Anthony,

Welcome back to the sport.

It's not too surprising that your had a better experience in you road race versus your crit. If you haven't done any high intensity (Threshold and above) and no power work (sprints, hill reps and the like--short very hard efforts) then crits are going to be difficult for a while, and you will always be playing catch-up.

I suggest 3-4 weeks where you include at least 1 power session, two if you aren't racing. I wouldn't boycott the races either though. Use them to work on, and get back to the basics that will bring consistency to your performances. 1.) Get a good start. And 2.) hold position and re-establish position after losing it. This in itself will be a workout and a half. Put the final result out of your mind for the time being. If you can't acheive the above goals with some consistency, then results will be hard to come by.

Backing-up, before you start your 3-4 week power block, I would so some solid Threshold and Submax (VO2 Max) work. This will help prime the high aerobic engine for the power sessions. For 2 weeks, include one session of Threshold intervals where, after a good warm-up, you ride for 6-8 minutes at 5 beats below to 3 beats above you Threshold heart rate. Rest for 3-4 minutes, and repeat 4-5 times. Get a nice cooldown. Unless you have very flat or steadt terrain, I suggest doing this session on the trainer.

During this two week period, also include a session that has you doing, also after a good warm-up, 4-5 efforts of 3 minutes each, building to your threshold, plus 6-7 beats for the last 90 seconds - rest for 5 minutes between efforts.

Separate the two workouts above with at least one day of easy spinning for 30-45 minutes. And I mean easy. Threshold minus 20 beats max!

Now it is time for the hard work. For the next 3-4 weeks, in addition to racing, include on session a week (usually Wednesday is a good day for this) of crit sprints, on the road or trainer. Warm-up well. After the warm-up, do 3 sets of short (8-10 second) sprints. Each set contains 5 sprints separated by 30 seconds. Ride easy between sets for at least 5 minutes. Use a BIG gear (53 x 15-12) for sprints at 100+ rpm with max effort for each sprint.

I would take a week easy after following the plan above and then you should see you crit performance improve.

I encourage you to put just as much thought and effort into how you race strategically and tactically as you do developing the physical engine. Cycling is all about saving energy. Get a good start so you aren't chasing for position the first three laps, and once you get good position in the group, hold it. What is good position? A good rule of thumb is, if you have to use your brakes in the corners, you are too far back. Have fun and good luck!

Nausea on long rides

I have a problem with pronounced nausea on rides longer than 70 or 80 miles. On a century ride yesterday, I couldn't force myself to take in anything but water for the last 25 miles because of stomach upset. On rides of shorter duration, I can eat the usual energy sources (Clif Bars, bagels, bananas, fig bars, Gatorade, etc.) with no particular problem, but couldn't tolerate the same things toward the end of the longer rides I've done lately.

I don't think I ate too much (two bananas, a bagel and one Clif bar, a bit at a time). I stayed well hydrated and didn't have trouble finishing the ride, but I am training for a century with 12,000 feet of climbing, most of it near the end, and I am concerned that I will need energy I can't take in for the later stages. Any advice about nutrition choices less likely to cause nausea, or specific remedies for the symptoms themselves, would be much appreciated.

Gary Wagoner

Pam Hinton replies

Gary,

It sounds like you are vigilant in your efforts to stay fuelled and hydrated during your long rides. Honestly, you may be doing too good a job at eating on the bike. I know that's probably a surprise to you, since sports nutritionists are constantly harping on the importance of carbs and fluid during endurance events. However, your gastrointestinal tract has limits on how much it can digest and absorb. During exercise, your stomach and gut can handle much less food than when you are at rest.

This is because blood flow is diverted away from the gastrointestinal tract and digestive organs to the working muscles, heart, lungs, and brain. As a result, the rate of digestion and absorption is slowed way down. Food takes longer to be digested and emptied from the stomach. Absorption of glucose, amino acids, electrolytes and fluid from the intestine into the blood stream also slows down. It's the food in your stomach and the nutrients that stay in the intestine that cause nausea, vomiting, cramping and diarrhoea. The upper limit to how much carbohydrate you can absorb during exercise is 60 grams per hour.

Sodium intake should not exceed 7 g/litre/hour. I am assuming that you were drinking Gatorade or a similar sports drink during your ride, up until the last 25 miles, because you seem like the conscientious type. My answer is based on that assumption. Estimating your carbohydrate intake over the century ride, which probably took 6 hours to complete, gives 60 g (2 bananas), 40 g (1 bagel), 45 g (Clif Bar), and 360 g (Gatorade, 1 litre per hour). That's a total of 505 g or 84 g per hour, which well above the recommended intake of 30-60 grams per hour. Again, this based on the assumption that you are drinking one litre of Gatorade per hour.

If this is the case, I suggest drinking plain water with the food sources of carbohydrate. If my assumption is incorrect, it is possible that your symptoms simply are due to exertion. The diverted blood flow, if prolonged, can cause a series of events in your gut that result in nasty symptoms. Inadequate oxygen and nutrient delivery to the gut for a prolonged period of time can damage the intestinal cells. Disruption of the cell membrane sets off a series of biochemical and immune reactions that cause gut cramps, diarrhoea, vomiting, and gastrointestinal bleeding. Damaged cell membranes are "leaky" and there is a net flux of calcium into the injured cells.

The increase in intracellular calcium concentration activates phospholipase A2, the enzyme responsible for cleaving arachidonic acid (AA) from the membrane phospholipids. Free AA is metabolized by cyclo-oxygenase and lipoxygenase to prostaglandins, thromboxanes, and leukotrienes. Prostaglandins cause fluid and electrolytes to accumulate in the intestine, leading to diarrhoea, cramps, and vomiting. Heartburn also can be attributed to prostaglandins because of decreased oesophageal motility and relaxing of the sphincter between the stomach and esophageus.

The smooth muscles of gastrointestinal tract contract in response to prostaglandins, causing cramps. Both prostaglandins and leukotrienes cause the blood vessels that feed the gut to become more permeable to fluids and to red blood cells. As a result there is less blood flow to the intestine and an increase risk of gastrointestinal bleeding. Leukotrienes attract immune cells to the damaged cells. In the process of engulfing and destroying the injured tissue, the immune cells generate unstable free radicals that cause additional damage to cell membranes.

Hopefully, over-fuelling is the cause of your problem. If not, there's not a whole lot you can do. Be sure to start your rides well hydrated and replace fluids during the ride. Dehydration causes a reduction in blood volume that will exacerbate the reduced gastrointestinal blood flow during exercise. Drinking a Coke or other carbonated beverage may help. The gas that gives soda pop its fizz can form a barrier between the acid in the stomach and the esophageus and reduce the nausea and heartburn.

Elbow tendonitis and saddle sores

Thanks for the great column. I read it regularly but have never seen a problem quite like mine. I am a 44 year old recreational road cyclist and rode about 3,500 miles/year, often for 3-4 hours at a time. I've been cycling for about three years. I have two distinct problems and wonder whether they might be related and what you would recommend.

First, I have a recurrent saddle sore issue, always in the exact same spot, on my left side, basically at the point where my leg ends and my glut begins. I religiously use chamois cream, keep the area clean, wear good quality shorts, etc. My doctor gave me a prescription for bactroban, which I apply to the area 2X/day. This regimen keeps the situation tolerable, but the sore never goes away completely.

Second, and more concerning to me, is tendonitis in my left elbow. (I am a righty, by the way). It was diagnosed last summer as tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) after I let it get so severe that I could barely pick anything up with my left hand. I can't think of any activity that I participate in other than cycling that could have caused this. I have lifted weights regularly for years without any problems, but the problem never surfaced until I started putting in some serious miles last summer. The doctor had me wear a wrist brace for several weeks and the rest eventually caused the pain to subside completely over the winter. As the weather has warmed up this spring and I've been getting out on my bike more often, I am starting to feel some tightness in my elbow and fear I am heading for a recurring bout.

Over the winter I had my bike fitted, which resulted in slightly raising the saddle, increasing the rise and decreasing the length of the stem, and rotating the bars back a bit. Although I definitely feel more comfortable on the bike now, this doesn't seem to have helped with the aforementioned problems. Since both the arm and saddle so problems are on my left side, I am speculating that they might be related, but am at a loss as to how, or what might correct these situations. Any advice you can give would be greatly appreciated - thanks again for a fine column.

Steve Nickerson

Steve Hogg replies

Steve,

I will almost guarantee you are not sitting squarely on the seat and are favouring one side. If your legs are the same length more or less, then it is likely that you are hanging and twisting forward to the right to some degree which would have the effect of making your left arm reach further to the bars (elbow pain?) and differentially loading each side of the seat (saddle sores?).

Conceivably too, you could have a measurably or functionally shorter left leg which would reverse the scenario above. If that is the case, then the saddle sores are because you load the left side more heavily and the elbow problem is because of the bracing needed (without any conscious thought involved) against the hip drop and consequent challenge to pelvic stability on seat that would accompany a hang to the left pedalling technique.
Mount your bike on an indoor trainer, level the bike and pedal under load with your shirt off. You need an observer standing above and behind you to determine which hip is dropping and /or rotating forward.
Get that info back to me and we will proceed.

Steve then responded:

Thanks for the response. I do have a leg length discrepancy which the person who fit me attempted to address by altering the cleat position on my left shoe. I will try the trainer exercise and get back to you.

Steve Hogg replies

Steve,

Having a different cleat position relative to foot in shoe to accommodate a leg length discrepancy is about the worst way I can think of to tackle that issue. The only qualifier I would put on that is unless there is a massive difference in size between each foot. You are far better off with a shim under your cleat and for every 5mm that you have to shim the cleat, move the cleat 1mm further back relative to foot in shoe to help negate rocking torque.
Which leg is short?
What is the difference?
Where is the difference; upper leg, lower leg or a combination of both?

Set up tweaks

Hi,

I'm a 30 year old male recreational rider. I am 6 feet tall and weigh 158 lbs. Over the course of the past couple weeks I have been playing with the cleat position on my Carnac shoes because after about 30 minutes I get numbness between my big and middle toe.

During this period, I have been more conscious of my foot position and my overall position on my bike. One thing I have noticed is that I tend to pedal with my toes down. During my custom fit session for my bike, I remember the fitter pushing my heals down at the 6 o'clock position.

This is where I should add that my flexibility is poor, which I believe is the reason I'm not getting my heals in the proper position. My solution to this problem was to lower my seat (Selle Italia SLR) by 2mm, which has seemed to helped. I've actually increased my speed by about 1.5mph since lowering my seat. I feel like I am spinning better with the seat at its new position. In addition the numbness in my toes seems to be getting better.

The problem now is that I seem to be a little less stable on my bike. Should I move my seat back since I lowered the seatpost? If so, how much? Or, should I just stick with the original set-up and work on my flexibility?

John Mason

Steve Hogg replies

John,

Dropping your seat 2mm has the effect of also moving it forward 0.7mm give or take a fraction - in other words, next to nothing. What do you mean by less stable on the bike?

John then responded

Steve,

Thanks for responding to my email. When I say I feel less stable on my bike, I mean that when I pedal at a higher cadence the bike feels more twitchy in the front wheel. It's harder to ride along a straight line. I remember having a similar feeling when I was riding a bike that I wasn't fitted for and it ended up being too small of a frame for me.

The position I was in was more over the cranks, and as a result, I think I was putting too much upper body weight on the handle bars. Since I am having a similar feeling on my current bike, I thought maybe I should move the seat back slightly to "stretch" me out over the bike more. Let me know what you think. Thanks again.

John

Steve Hogg replies

John,

From what you say, rearward seat movement may be the answer or at least partly so. One other thing though. There is nothing wrong at all with pedalling toe down if that is your natural technique so don't worry about pushing your heels down at the 6 o'clock position as you were advised. I would like to see anyone do something that was contrary to their natural technique under racing loads and heart rates.

Like all people, increased load will make you drop your heel more relative to your natural technique so as to allow you to get your foot over and behind the pedal axle as soon as possible after top dead centre (TDC) in the pedal stroke. Equally as the rpm rise and the requirement for high torque per revolution pedalling diminishes with increased cadence, you will point your toes more.

One thing to consider is that if your natural technique tends towards what I call toe dipping then you will need to have your seat further back to comfortably bear your weight and unload the handlebars. A toe down pedalling style means that the major vector (direction of force) on the pedals is to the rear. "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction" as I'm sure you remember from high school science.

Your toe down pedalling style tends to shift your body weight forward and increase the load on the upper body. This is particularly likely if you were set up 'by the numbers"; i.e. ball of the foot centred over the pedal axle centre, tibial tuberosity over the pedal axle (KOPS) etc. So if that is the case, almost certainly your seat needs to move back until you can pedal in a hardish gear with hands in the drops and the ability to remove them for short periods without collapsing forward.

If your seat is too far back you will be able to do this with ease which is not what we want. You need to use some effort but be able to teeter on the point of balance for a period and only need your arms to lightly support your upper body and to steer with. From what you have said, this doesn't sound like your current situation.

Another matter is your cleat position. If your cleats are in the commonly recommended centre of ball of foot over pedal axle centre, this won't do much for your on bike stability either. Have a look at this post and this post and set your cleats up accordingly which should make a positive difference to your toe numbness.

One potential problem with that advice is your choice of shoes. Carnacs for years have had their cleat mounting holes in different places proportionally speaking relative to shoe size. Basically the smaller the shoe the further forward in a proportional sense the 3 hole Look compatible holes were. Size 42 or less it is rare for me to be able to get a cleat where I would put it on a Carnac shoe. Size 43 - 45 the likelihood was somewhat below 50% and above size 45 it was rarely a problem. That said, I don't know the state of play with their current range as I haven't seen a Carnac shoe in 12 months or so.

If you do need to change your shoes to gain the cleat position I am recommending then Sidi, Shimano, Nike, DMT, the current Time (relabelled DMTs) Specialized, Gaerne, Diadora shouldn't be a problem in the sense of fore and aft cleat position. Of those, Nike and DMT have the most rearward cleat mounting hole positioning.

Sweat rates

Hi,

I was wondering if there was any formula or way to determine how much water to consume during a bike ride. I don't want to carry extra water/fluids if I don't have to, for weight reasons, but I also don't want to be dehydrated. Where I'm riding now, do to the number of steep hills, I can get a pretty good work-out in an hour or so. What is your recommendation on the amount of water to be drinking?

Jeff Manning

Ric Stern replies

Jeff,

Indeed there is a way of calculating your fluid losses and requirements.

This can be achieved by subtracting your post exercise mass from your pre exercise mass. Approximately, each kg deficit is equal to about 1 litre of fluid. For example;

Pre exercise mass = 70 kg
Post exercise mass = 68 kg
Cycling for 2.5 hours
Total fluids consumed during cycling = 1.5 litres

Pre exercise (70 kg) - post exercise (68 kg) = 2 kg fluid deficit. Total sweat loss = fluid deficit (2 kg) + fluids consumed (1.5 litres) = 3.5 litres

Sweat rate = total sweat loss (3.5 L) / cycling duration (2.5 hrs) = 1.4 litres per hour (in this example)

Sweat rates vary tremendously depending on gender, exercise intensity, environmental conditions, etc., so you'd need to carry out these calculations on a regular basis to establish your fluids needs. Note, that it may not always be possible to replace your fluids at the correct rate (as you may not physically be able to drink enough).

Also, rather than using plain water, a commercial sports drink, consisting of carbohydrates (in a 4 - 8% solution) with electrolytes would be the best option.

Upper hamstring soreness

Hi,

I recently went on a group ride which turned into more of a race. Afterward, my left upper hamstring felt pretty sore. It hurt to walk up stairs that night but the next day, it felt much better.

I never had this soreness before with my current bike setup and have been pretty happy with my setup. I followed Mr. Hogg's advice, got information from the body scan and listened to my legs to get to my current setup.

My question is: should I change my bike setup to alleviate stress on the hamstring? Or put it off to too much too soon and avoid the group ride trap until I'm fitter. I don't want to adjust the position and get into trouble somewhere else. For example, moving my seat too far forward to fix the hamstring issue and then running into knee problems.

Here are my details:

Age: 40
Height: 5'7''
Weight: 148lbs
Bike: Cannondale R600, 54cm
Cranks: Shimano Compact, 170mm
Saddle Height: 73cm
Saddle setback: about 8cm, accounting for unused portion of the narrow part of the seat (Fizik Arione)
Handlebar drop: about 6cm
Stem: 80mm, 100deg facing up
Pedal setup: big toe metatarsal little less than 1cm behind spindle.
Cycling goals: 23 mph on the local 10mile TTT, then get into racing at Cat 5 level.
Current Training: 5 days per week, 1 long ride 2 hours, 1 speed work out, 2 one hour aerobic rides in zones 1-2 (Joe Friel's definitions), 1 threshold workout/group ride.

I like to ride in a group for the experience but I am debating if I would be better off just doing a controlled threshold work out on my own. Currently I do about 100 miles per week.

Also - the terrain around here is hilly and there really is no finding a truly flat ride. A "flat" 20 mile ride would include about 500 feet of climbing overall. Please let me know if you need more information and thanks in advance!

Marc Davidson
Massachusetts, USA

Steve Hogg replies

Marc,

Pain where you describe it is almost always caused by slight overextension of the leg and there are a number of potential reasons for that. Given that it is only happening in one leg those reasons are:

1. Seat 3 - 5mm too high. Most people will tend to favour one side more than normal in the sense of hanging towards that side if the seat is slightly too high. The great majority hang to the right which means that the left leg has to reach further than the right. Intensity of effort exaggerates this effect. Solution - drop the seat by 3 - 5mm.

2. You may have a small measurable or functional (tighter left hamstring?) difference between legs. Solution - as above or possibly a 3 mm shim under the left cleat if there is a measurable difference. Basically, the simple solution is to drop your seat a bit, do a similar ride and reassess.

One other thing; you say "Peddle setup: big toe metatarsal little less than 1cm behind spindle". I hope that isn't a typo as is should be centre of first metatarsal joint a little less than 1cm IN FRONT of the pedal axle. If it is not a typo you should move your cleats back a long way. If so, this will cause greater extension of the leg and you may need to drop your seat another 5mm to accommodate that 18mm or so rearward cleat movement. Let me know how you get on.

Persistent bike fit issues

I have bee reading Steve's responses and recommendations regarding many bike fit questions for months now. Here is some background and my situation.

HT/WT: 70 inches/155lbs Pedals/Cleats: Dura-Ace 2005/Full float Cleats with 1 set of Lemond wedges set as you noted in previous posts for size 43. Crank: D-A 172.5mm

I'm a Cat 1 Road, MTB and Cyclocross racer with the latter one being my most successful; competing in World Cup events this last season. I've been tested with Lactate and Vo2 semi-annual basis for the past 3-4 years. My training volume is about 17 hours of training per week, not including competitions.

My problem is that when doing seated efforts my left leg starts to loose power and I have to stop the effort or get out of the saddle to continue on. Once I feel this coming on the damage is already done making the "out of the saddle" move that last futile resort. The location of the pain is the left inside quad/hip. The inside side of the left knee quad head area or medial side and behind the knee with an accompanied small amount of outer left hip pain.

This pain/problem appears only when I'm seated. When I do off road anything I'm off and on the saddle enabling me to not fatigue my left leg. This is the reason why I'm able to do much better in cyclocross then in a TT. I can compete against the same people on the road and I'll be minutes back, but when the cycling turns off road the tables are turned. Frustrating!

What I have done: No x-ray or MRI Computrainer spin scan: 60-55 left leg, 40-45 right leg under hard, normal and minimum effort. I completed this test for the first time last week. I stretch and perform core exercises 3-5 times a week depending on my training intensity. I've rode Power Cranks for a year now with excellent results. I'm now able to produce more power because of this training. I fear that I have strengthened both legs in their current state. One the days I ride the PC's I still feel the symptoms after the training regardless of which crank I use.

I've performed the trainer test with a spotter looking at my pedalling as your have requested in previous posts. Findings: my right hip rotates down/drops and my left heel drops lower on the down stroke than my right foot. I lowered my saddle height 3mm and I put a 3 mm shim under the right clear and moved it rearward 2mm. I've had this set for about 3 weeks now with no real reduction in symptoms.

I hope that this information is helpful. Please let me know if you have any further questions or tests you need me to do - thank you.

Michael Gallagher

Steve Hogg replies

Michael,

Well, we can't allow that to continue! What you are saying in effect is that under load while pedalling with bum on seat, you hang to the right which increases the distance the left leg needs to reach. This lack of leverage/control is autonomically accommodated by dropping the left heel more which further increases the extension of the left leg. Yet you still put out more power with the left leg!

I'm impressed but the only way you can be doing this is if your left leg pedalling technique involves an explosive effort for the top half or so of the pedal stroke and more or less coasting through the bottom of the stroke.

This would explain the symptoms you have and why they disappear when off the seat because then the seat isn't locating you and you are free to move to the centreline which would even out the distance that either leg extends. Getting your backside to move towards the centreline (that is, to the left) is all or a large part of the solution.

A plan of action:

1. Get an X-ray or scan and determine whether there is a leg length discrepancy and whether it is lower leg, upper leg or a combination.

2. Find a bike shop or podiatrist who can determine forefoot varus/valgus and find out what degree and on which side(s)

Get back to me with the answers to 1 and 2 and we will go from there.

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