Fitness questions and answers for May 29, 2006

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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.

Road to track positional changes
Allergy question
Electrolyte absorption in a race
Blood pressure meds
Foot size
Bike fitness
Lower back pain
Carbon-soled shoes
LT training
Negative splits
Uneven leg development
Uphill riding position
Labial swelling from cycling
Riding while pregnant
Long distance touring

Road to track positional changes

Guys,

After deciding to have a go at the track last summer and making a somewhat successful transition. I only competed at club level but due to my local road ability was immediately placed into A grade. Although I only had seven nights of track racing for my track season (the second half of the season) and was competing against the seasoned trackies with a full season under the belts I still managed to begin getting results in both scratch races and handicaps.

As a result the track bug has hit and now I am beginning to take on both road and track. My question is this. Is there a difference between your position on a track bike over your position on a track bike? If so, what are the normal differences?

My position on my road bike has been setup up by me on how it feels. I have no pain and everything feels right. My position on the track bike was also setup by feel, once again no pain and feels right. But there is a distinct difference in saddle heights, with my track bike saddle nearly and inch higher. Any advice that you can provide to point me in the right direction is appreciated.

Luke Butler
Australia

Steve Hogg replies

Luke,

The inch difference is seat height sounds a lot assuming that your road seat height is ok and that you are using the same pedals and shoes and whether, if you are using shorter cranks, that seat height has been measured from pedal axle centre or bottom bracket centre.

If we are talking about general track racing as distinct from sprints/kilos, here are some typical differences:

Seat height - often lower on the track bike. Track is more about rpm than the road and a small reduction in seat height usually helps.
Seat setback - less. Typically the track bike effective seat tube angle will be 1 - 1.5 degrees steeper for the track bike compared to the road bike effective seat tube angle.
Bar height - lower. Comfort is not as much of a concern in the sense that you are on the bike for lesser periods than when on the road bike. Leverage for standing starts is increased with lower bar height. Bar height should be comfortable for the duration of the event.
Reach to the bars - Depends on how this is measured. Most often this is measured from nose of seat to centre of the top of the bar but track bars are often of deeper drop and longer reach than road bars so there is no 'rule of thumb' that has any merit. It depends on what track bar is being compared to what road bar. I hope this gives you a start.

Allergy question

Hi. I sent this to Steve Hogg, and he suggested sending it to Kelby Bethards instead. Here is my question: I have significant allergies in the spring and fall here in the Eastern US. These allergies also cause asthma-like symptoms when I race or train hard. Also, I have a significantly deviated septum (my wife says she always knew I was deviated). The doctor has recommended allegra, flonase, something called Maxair, which is an asthma inhaler, and perhaps surgery on the septum. My concern is with using these drugs and then engaging in intense exercise. I am not sure if these substances are on the cycling banned list. In any event, do you have any thoughts on allergies and cycling, and whether these drugs are harmful?

Mark Featherman

Kelby Bethards replies

Mark,

You questions are of significant concern to many racers with allergies. I will try to whittle away at this...

If you are getting asthma like symptoms from your allergies, that poses a significant breathing risk/problem. If you are racing, taking away even just a few percent points (in breathing ability and thusly oxygen delivery to muscle) makes a huge difference in performance. So, you need to decide which is the larger risk: the medicines or the medical condition and its impact?

I take care of a few people with these conditions and have pretty good success.

The Flonase, as you know, should help with nasal symptoms as should the Allegra. The maxair will be essential for reactive airways.

One, thing I would consider adding, as I have had pretty good success with it, is Singulair (I have written about this before). Allegra is an anti-histamine, one pathway involved in allergies and reactive airways. Singulair in an anti-leukotriene (or leukotriene inhibitor) another pathway involved in allergies/asthma. I have used it with success on exercise-induced asthmatics also.

SO, in essence, I try to get riders by on as few meds as possible and only on the seasons they experience the symptoms. However, that isn't the most plausible solution for all. So, without more info or actually seeing you in my clinic, I would lean towards the Singulair and an antihistamine of sorts. I would have you premedicate and carry the maxair, if it is even needed while on the two aforementioned meds. Then I would add in the Flonase (the only steroid in the bunch - although not extensively absorbed).

All meds for the most part seem to be banned. I have filled out TUE (Therapeutic Exemption Forms) for the professional women's team I take care of. WADA and UCI tend to not be completely consistent in terms of their lists of what is ok. I've attached the TUE form and the banned list from the UCI website as PDF's. Let me know if you have any questions.

Mark then responded:

Kelby,

Thank you so much for the quick reply. I appreciate all your efforts for cycling-obsessed nuts like myself. A few questions/comments; additionally, I went to an allergy doc last week, which is where I got all the scripts.

1. The allergy doc said I have fairly significant allergies, and recommended allergy shots for the next year, followed by shots every three weeks for another couple of years. Does this work?
2. The asthma issue. This only occurs during a few peak times a year, and only when racing or doing a racing training ride. Is the singulair something I could use on an as-needed basis, or do you need to take it all the time? The reason I like flonase over allegra is that I can take it more as needed; with allegra I end up taking it all the time because I am not sure when to stop.
3. Is the deviated septum worth correcting?
4. Ok, as I understand it, your thoughts are that an effective treatment might be allegra/claritin, singulair, maxair as needed, flonase as needed?

I understand the inherent difficulties of you giving anything appearing to be medical advise without a consult, so I certainly understand the limitations of the email.

Mark Featherman

Kelby Bethards replies

Mark,

1. Hopefully the allergist reinforced this, but the allergy shots do work, but ONLY if you make it through the course of shots. Giving up half way through, won't help much.
2. With Allegra and significant allergies, you may end up taking it (or something similar) all year round. Unless the shots help you. Yes, the flonase is great for the -as needed- usage. Allegra can be used to an extent that way. Singulair is something you can use as needed. A couple of racers I have on it only use it for races and a few days before. They have EIA (exercise induced asthma) and only get the symptoms at the intensity level found in races. This medicine may help your allergies quite a bit too.
3. Deviated septum. Correction will obviously not fix your allergies. It may help with prevention of sinus infections, and volume of airflow through your nose.
4. Yep. The antihistamines are going to be essential for you or the anti-leukotrienes (Singulair) or a combination therein. The others are good if needed.

Electrolyte absorption in a race

With summer pending the subject of electrolyte replacement seems ripe to revisit. My question has to do with the biology and response times to electrolyte replacement fluids. I am interested in an explanation for the both the effect and the sensation of consuming an electrolyte replacement drink in the final miles of a very hot road race following catastrophic cramping in both of legs. Two gulps of electrolytes seemed to revitalize my legs in about thirty seconds. Is this real or in my head?

I am a Master's B rider, 45, in my second year of racing. The cramps occurred in the final 5 miles of Washington's Master's Omnium State Championships in a combined field of A's and B's. The previous day there had been a TT and Crit. The race involved two loops over a 2000 foot climb with the temperature approaching 90 degrees.

I had not done a good job of pre-race fuelling. (I was distracted in the morning putting on a Mother's day breakfast and forget to make my lunch, and the race started at 12:40.) I packed two bottles of replacement drink and a packet of gu.

I found myself in a break with three Master As in the first lap riding at a pace that I found comfortable. On the second lap I started feeling an energy deficit though I was still well within my aerobic range. I ate the one goo I had; that helped a little. But by the time we got to the feed zone halfway up the climb the prospect of a bonk was becoming undeniable and I began regretting my poor race prep. Unfortunately, the bottle I received at the feed zone proved to contain only water. I consumed that fairly quickly but knew right away it wasn't enough. The rest of the climb was a real struggle though it was never aerobically taxing.

With five miles of mostly flats and headwinds to go the As in my group started attacking; all I had to do was ride wheels to win my category for the stage and a GC win. At first this was no problem, but in responding to the third or fourth attack catastrophe occurred. Every muscle in both legs, from hip to ankle, seized up. Every time I tried to move they seized up again. Eventually I got the legs going, gingerly, actually catching up with my group, but they attacked again. My attempt to match them resulted in more cramping. (Nice guys, eh, considering they weren't even my category.) With just three miles left even finishing the race was questionable. Some straight leg stretches pulled the muscles out of their contortions and I got rolling again albeit at a meagre pace.

Horrors! A pack of riders caught up with me including two Master Bs, one of them the guy closest to me on GC. A nice guy in the pack gave me his last two gulps of electrolyte replacement drink - literally about one and a half inches worth. Within thirty seconds I felt the liquid enter my stomach, followed by a tingling and some relaxation in my abdomen, and then flowing down through my legs. Just in time as the attacking began.

Wonders! My legs worked! I followed the attacks for the next two miles with no real problem. The race seemed in the bag again as the final kilometre is uphill, favouring me. With 200 metres to go my main rival attacked. Perhaps I'd used up those two gulps, but both legs catastrophically cramped again leaving me to coast, grimacing, over the finish line for second place in the stage. (I was fortunate to win the GC by one point).

Questions: Are the sensations and neuro-muscular effect of those two gulps all in my head or did the electrolytes actually get absorbed and utilized in those thirty seconds? Was the tingling sensation a signal of actual changes in my neuro-muscular status? Did my neuro-muscular system simply run out of the electrolytes in that last 200 metres?

Doug Mercer
Seattle

Pam Hinton replies

Doug,

Whew! I am exhausted just from reading your race report. Congratulations on gutting it out at the end and taking the overall win. Exercise-associate muscle cramps (EMAC) affect the majority of endurance athletes and are more common in men than women. The likelihood of cramping increases with exercise intensity and duration. Untrained athletes also are more likely to suffer from cramps than conditioned athletes. We don't understand why, but some individuals are more prone to cramping than others.

EMAC are localized to a specific muscle group, rather than globally affecting all skeletal muscles. The quads, hamstrings, or calves usually are the muscle groups that cramp. There are several theories as to the cause of EMAC. The most commonly held belief is that dehydration and the concurrent electrolyte imbalances, secondary to heat stress, cause cramping. If this were the case, one would expect widespread, as opposed to localized, cramping. A recent study of ultra-marathon runners found no differences in hydration status or blood electrolyte concentrations between runners who suffered cramps and those that did not. Similarly, a study of cramp-prone athletes found that the incidence of cramps was not affected by hydration status.

The second theory explaining EMAC, is that neuromuscular fatigue causes the muscle to become "hyper-excitable" so that the muscle does not relax, but remains contracted. It is difficult to separate out the effects of dehydration and neuromuscular fatigue because they occur concurrently during exhaustive exercise. Regardless, dehydration and sodium depletion negatively affect performance. To prevent dehydration, you want to consume enough fluid to replace what is lost in sweat and urine. This requires that you drink early and often. You need to drink early in the ride, because dehydration slows gastric emptying which then exacerbates the dehydration. You need to drink often in order to keep up with the losses.

Fluid needs will vary with individual sweat rates, degree of heat acclimatisation, and environmental conditions, but the general recommendation is that athletes consume 8-12 ounces every 15-20 minutes during exercise. Those of us who live in climates where are there are significant seasonal changes in temperature have to acclimatize to the heat every summer. During the first week of warmer weather, you will sweat more on a given ride than you would when the temperature is mild. As you acclimate, the sweat rate increases so your body cools more readily. The composition of your sweat also changes. As you spend more time in warm temperatures, the amount of sodium in sweat decreases. As a result, we are not as susceptible to dehydration and heat exhaustion after 10-14 days in the heat.

The composition of the beverage that you consume while riding also will affect the rate of fluid absorption. Drinks that are 6-8% carbohydrate will be absorbed most rapidly, while allowing adequate carbohydrate to be consumed in a reasonable volume, i.e., 1 litre of a 6% carbohydrate solution consumed in one hour would provide 60 g of carbohydrate per hour. Beverages containing glucose, sucrose, and glucose polymers are referable to those containing exclusively fructose or those with a fructose concentration greater than 2-3%. The downside of fructose is that the absorption rate is slower and the fructose that lingers in the intestine may cause gastrointestinal distress. When riding for extended periods of time, especially in hot and humid conditions, it is important to drink a beverage that includes some sodium (0.5-0.7 g sodium per litre). The sodium increases voluntary fluid intake and reduced the risk of hyponatremia.

Most electrolyte replacement drinks provide both carbohydrate and sodium, so it is difficult to determine if your body was responding to the glucose, electrolytes, or the placebo effect. The additional energy is the more likely cause of your renewed vigour. Sodium is absorbed from the intestine quickly, but not instantly. It appears in the blood within minutes of ingestion. The amount of sodium in the last two gulps of energy drink - 35-50mg - would not be enough to significantly alter the concentration in your blood nor your muscle function. I raced the Tri-Peaks Challenge last weekend in 95° summer-like weather. My team-mate, who is prone to cramping, was swallowing Endurolytes by the handful before, during and after the races. She swears that they prevent cramps, cure post-race headaches, and calm upset stomachs. I am not going to argue with her. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Blood pressure meds

I have been taking Anolotol (sp) 50mg for high blood pressure for 1 month and am having some side effects related to my cycling performance. Fatigue and heavy legs are the main problems, some dizziness also. Are there other medications which would be better suited for an active person?

Chris Andrews

Kelby Bethards replies

Chris,

I would go talk with your physician and let them know that you are an avid cyclist, the reason being that Atenolol is a Beta blocker medication; while this is good for BP in most, it lowers your maximum attainable heart rate, thus could give you the symptoms you are experiencing. I would speak to your practitioner about trying something different.

Foot size

Good afternoon from Athens, Greece

Can you help me with my problem please? I am a 38-year-old male, race in my national road cycling championship and usually end up in one of the first five-ten places. With my team I ride more than 15000km during the year. I have a problem that no one knows except my wife and my parents; because of a very serious operation I had when I was five years old on my right ankle I wear one size smaller cycling shoe on my right foot. In which position should I have my cleats? I use Shimano, and till now I used the same size shoe but the right foot was not tight, so I decided to buy a second pair of shoes of the same kind but smaller size and use the right shoe. Thank you in advance.

Leonidas G
Athens, Greece

Steve Hogg replies

Leonidas,

Your issue with different size feet is uncommon but not rare. Have a look at this post and this post regarding cleat positioning. Position your cleats as suggested there according to the size of the shoe. The other thing that occurs to me is that the difference in foot size means that you may need to add a 3mm shim underneath the right cleat to equalise the amount of leg extension of both legs.

Bike fitness

Hi

I am a 39-year-old male, I race open time trials and master A grade races. My strongest disciplines are hilly courses and time trials. I ride 400 km a week and because I love doing time trials I mainly train for them e.g. 20 minute intervals at just below TT pace once a week with a easy day then the next day any thing from 1,2,5min intervals. My fastest 40km TT is around 57-58 mins. Other rides I do during the week are 2hrs plus endurance base rides - I always have one day off a week.

Now I was just wondering over the past eight months I have been training more than I have done in the past, and I thought that with the extra training that I have been doing that I would be stronger in road racing even if I haven't been training for particular road races. I still seem to be weak at the end of these road races as I was when I wasn't doing much training. I am much faster than the guys I race against in TTs. Is this just from the muscle group I have? Or...?

Paul Barizza

Dave Palese replies

Paul,

Your training programme, though it seems to be yielding results in TT's does not address any of the abilities required for success in road races.

Your muscular endurance and endurance in general are probably at adequate levels but your anaerobic fitness, high-end power, and repeatability are more then likely not developed to a point that makes them limiters when you get into a road race situation.

Road events (i.e., crits, road races and circuit races) as you know are anything but steady events that have the participants cruising long at a consistent pace. On the contrary, the deciding moments in many road events are those that require a period of time riding at a SUPER-THRESHOLD level (higher than your sustainable power at Threshold) immediately preceded by a sharp acceleration or attack. And criteriums take this yet a step further by having participants make these types of efforts one after the other, with little rest between.

So in short, you need to add some workouts to you training to address the particular needs for road events.

Here are a few suggestions:

1) Short Intervals. 2-4 minutes in length. Heart rate (HR) should rise above your Threshold HR after the first minute and a half and remain there through the end of the effort. If you are using a power meter you can use that to dictate your intensity. Start with 4x2-3 minutes, with 3 minutes rest between each effort. Over 3-4 weeks build to doing 4x4 minutes, with 4 minutes rest between. Cadence is high during intervals, 95-105 rpm. A long warm-up and cool down is a must. Be sure that you actually rest between the intervals with very easy spinning.

2.) Short hill repeats with an attack at the top. Ride a moderate to steep hill that lasts 60-90 seconds. Ride aggressively until the last 30 seconds where you increase your gearing by one cog, stand and attack for the final 30 seconds of the effort. HR should be above threshold by the top.

3.) Crit sprints. Start with two sets of 8-10x15 seconds with 20 seconds rest between sprints. Each sprint is a maximum effort, standing, at a high cadence, 105-115 rpm. Rest for 5 minutes between sets. Over the weeks increase the number of sprints in a set to 15-20. You'll need a lengthy stretch of road for these, and make it a safe one with low traffic.

These are just examples, but I know that if you add some of this training to your week, you should see improvements in your road performance. I would say start with just one day a week with one of these sessions. After three weeks, you can increase it to two days if you aren't racing that weekend.

And don't ignore strategies and tactics for improving your road race performances. Road racing is all about saving energy and using the energy you do have wisely. I have found that many athletes who excel at time trials but struggle in road races are limiting their performance by burning too matches on tactics that are ill advised and without purpose. Hope some of this helps - have fun and good luck!

Lower back pain

Hi, I am having trouble with my lower back when I get into an aero position to crank in the small chainring at max speed. It is only on one side that I have had the problem, and if I get off the bike and stretch my back, I can finish the ride in the medium chainring. It starts in my lower back and radiates to the outside and down my right thigh, and feels like a cramp. Once it starts I am in too much pain and have to gear down. I am a 35-year-old female cat 4 racer.

My bike is a little on the small side but since the injury is only on one side, I don't think it is a fit problem. Any suggestions?

Lara Chetkovich

Steve Hogg replies

Lara,

It may be a bike fit problem, it may be a structural problem. Most likely it is a combination of both. Many, many people don't sit squarely on the seat. There are a host of possible reasons for this. You imply right side pain. Either you are tighter on the right side somewhere around the lower back and hips, and that combined with a bar height or reach that is a little too low or far is enough to give you pain. Equally, it could be the left side that is tight causing you to drop the hip on that side. In some people this causes strain on the other side.

Set you bike up on a trainer, take your shirt off so that as much of your spine as possible is visible and pedal as the cadence and effort that causes the problem. While you are doing this have a helper stand on a seat or stool so that they can look at your back from above and behind.

What I need to know is:

a. Are you sitting squarely; i.e is one side of the pelvis further forward than the other? If so, which one?
b. Are you dropping one hip on the pedal downstroke? If so, which one?
c. Do you get unstable and bounce around as your cadence rises?
d. Do you use drop bars? If so, does the problem occur when you have your hands placed in the drops or only on the aero bars?
e. What brand and model of aero bars do you use?

If you can get back to me with those answers, I will attempt to advise.

Carbon-soled shoes

Hi,

I've heard a few stories about Carbon Soul shoes causing tendon problems and that some of the pro cyclist have gone back to a plastic sole. Have you heard anything about this?

Rob Godson

Steve Hogg replies

Rob,

I have heard the same stories and seen some of the fall out first hand. In the cases I have seen to date, the common factors were:
1. Big mileage with a lot of intensity
2. Carbon soled shoe
3. Rider thought the centre of the ball of the foot was over the centre of the pedal axle. By that I mean that the cleat position was as described plus or minus a few millimetres.
4. Achilles tendon strains or discomfort. Sometimes with other affected areas as well.
5. All were resolved by placing more foot over the pedal (moving cleat further rearwards on shoe) and adjusting seat height as necessary. I don't think there is a problem with carbon soled shoes per se; rather that the lesser amount of give in the sole combined with poor cleat position pushes susceptible riders over the edge.

LT training

I am a relative new-comer to competitive cycling - I started riding on fast club rides about three years ago, and this year I'm trying my hand for the first time at racing. I recently bought a Powertap, and decided to get some testing in order to use it properly. I had my power at LT measured at 217 watts (some other stats: I'm 37 years old, and weigh about 68 kilos with about 10-11% body fat). Since I don't have a lot of weight to lose, the greatest room for improving my power to weight ratio would seem to be raising power at lactate threshold. My question is:

What sorts of gains can one generally expect in this area? I know there are all kinds of parameters (age, ability, training) that impact this, but I'm just wondering, within a certain order of magnitude, what one could possibly expect to see. Like, can I assume that I'll never get even close to 300 watts at LT? Also, I'm sure that the biggest gains come early on, and then taper off as one approaches the limits of your body. If I saw a 20-30 watt increase at LT this year, could I expect a similar increase next year, or perhaps only something like a 10-20 watt increase? Thanks for your help!

Will Thompson

Dave Palese replies

Will,

Welcome aboard!

When I test riders for power at Threshold, and it is important just to clarify the number you are actually referring to is your ESTIMATED power at ANAEROBIC threshold. And even that term, anaerobic, is highly misused. The number we use and refer to as AT or LT is simply the power one can sustain for about an hour. Determining your true LACTATE threshold needs to be done in a lab setting and involves numerous blood samples taken during the testing session.

Anyway...

When I test and retest riders for threshold power, we expect and hope for an increase of 3-8 percent. So after following a sound training plan targeted at improving your threshold power, you should be looking for a new number around 230watts.

Negative splits

Hi guys,

First off, your columns are amazing - insightful, diverse, just excellent to read.

My questions concerns negative splits for time trials. Negative splits really seems to be the way to go for maximizing your effort in a TT - I used to run negative splits all the time when I was a runner, but it was a lot easier on a track, where you could get regular splits. I'm having some trouble moving this onto the bike. I'm training generally to be able to do this skill, but with my eye solidly focused on an upcoming 40km TT. It will be a single loop, so I won't be able to get any sort of split information.

I'm male, 23, weigh 155 lbs, and have a lactate threshold heart rate of 176 on flats, with a maximum heart rate of 196-200.

How would I go about monitoring this on race day? I'll be using an HRM during the race, but probably not a power reading. If it is useful, I can borrow a power meter for training for the upcoming couple weeks until the race. How does one train for this ability?

Do you have any estimate for how conservative I should begin, and when to begin to ramp up my efforts? I realise that it's very dependent on how you feel, and I'm asking for advice based on very few parameters, but I would appreciate any advice you can give.

Thanks!

Joakim Vinberg

Dave Palese replies

Joakim,

For road ITT's splits don't really work all that well. Except in some cases you can use your turn-around time to help gauge your effort. The problem is that there is no consistency on the road like you find on the track.

Success in road TT's comes from experience. Experience riding in different conditions. Riding different courses. But most important, experience listening to your body during a TT effort.

If you want to improve your TT performances, do more time trials. Find out what your maximum sustainable effort is, get there, and hold it. You'll need to consider conditions for the day but the one who can go the hardest, longest, wins.

Also take a really hard look at your position. Many club riders I see and help with time trialling have very inefficient position on the bike that is limiting their performance. To just put the front end of the bike as low as it will go doesn't work. Also I see more often than not riders using inappropriate aero bars. The bars you put on a road bike to use for a TT are not the same as those you would use on TT/Tri bike that has a different geometry.

If you can stay in, or produce good power in you aero position, you will never see your potential in time trials. Hope this info helps.

Uneven leg development

I am a 34 year old CAT 4 cyclist. This is my first year racing and I have been training hard with 6000 miles in the past year. I have benefited from the service of a CTS trained cycling coach for the past 6 months and my racing season is not going as well as I had hoped. I don't have the acceleration or strength needed to keep up in a hilly Crit. But I am getting better!

Recently, I have taken to getting a massage after a hard effort and the masseuse noticed that my legs have developed noticeably uneven. My left calf is larger by 1" than the right; however, my right quad is larger by 2" than the left. My question is this: is there a problem with the type of training I am doing (namely very little weight training and tons of miles)? Or could this be indicative of a larger physiological issue (subconsciously compensating for a weak right knee, which I have, but not really noticed since I started riding in earnest). Or, is this just a natural adaptation?

John Deely

Steve Hogg replies

John,

The likely culprits can be any or a combination of:

a. Asymmetrically sitting on the seat
b. Asymmetric pedalling technique
c. Different cleat position relative to foot in shoe on each side
d. Functional or postural asymmetries.

Find a good structural health professional and have yourself globally structurally assessed and find out exactly what the shortcomings are. Then find someone to position you who takes a structural approach to bike positioning. If you have any queries as you go through these processes, just pass them on.

Uphill riding position

Hello,

I've been following your articles on seat positioning and have been trying to apply what I have read to my optimal seat position. I have one question that I am unable to answer. All things being equal, I find that I can increase my overall speed by .5 to 1.5 mph when I take my hands off the bars and raise my upper body to an almost vertical position. This speed increase is most notable when going up hill from slight to steep incline. Obviously I don't practice this riding technique all the time, but if I can understand why power increases when I raise my upper body I may be able to use the knowledge to determine my optimal seat/body position. My seat angle is neutral i.e., set to 0 on a standard set back seat post, I am very flexible and my top handlebar is at approx 3.5" - 4" drop from the top of my seat. Thank you.

Robert Duran

Steve Hogg replies

Robert,

The simple answer is that something about your position is either restricting your breathing or restricting your ability to apply force to the pedals when you have your hands on the bars. The question is what factor is the culprit. When you say your seat angle is neutral, can you specify more about what you mean please?

Here is a test. Find a flat stretch of road and ride along at about 35 - 38 km/h (22- 24mph) in 53x16 with your hands placed in the drop bars. Now take your hands off the bars but don't sit up. Just hold your hands slightly out from the drop bars. What happens when you do this? Get back to me with that info and we will proceed from there.

Labial swelling from cycling

I am a female, 47 years old, frequent rider (about 4-5 days a week, about 30-40 miles a day). I've been riding about 2,500 miles a season the past 6 years. Starting four years ago I developed a severe swelling of the labial tissue on the left side of my vulva from riding. During the winter I lay off riding, except the occasional spin class, and the swelling diminishes substantially. The swelling returns immediately after my first ride of the season. Occasionally it will be painful shortly after a ride, but within a few hours the pain goes away but the swelling remains. The swelling is about four times larger than the other side.

I've been to a gynaecologist who had no recommendation to correct the situation. Can you tell me what causes the swelling and what I can do to alleviate or relieve it?

Daria Gal

Steve Hogg replies

Daria,

Two things to consider here. Firstly, you shouldn't be bearing weight there at all. And secondly why the left side only? Contact is ok but not substantial pressure. This is likely to mean that either:

a. The seat is too far forward causing you support weight on soft tissue.
b. That you favour one side in the sense of not sitting squarely on the seat. Does one side on your shorts look more worn on the inside of the thigh than the other?
c. If your seat is slightly too high, this will cause most to favour one side over the other. If you are dropping your right hip for instance, that will pull your left side over against the nose of the seat.
d. If the seat is too wide for you, the extra width will force you further towards the nose of the seat which may be part of the picture
e. If you are reaching too far down or too far out to the bars, this will destabilise you on the seat and can potentially cause problems.

Get someone to observe how you sit on the bike while they ride behind you. Or mount your bike on a trainer making sure that the bike is level and have someone observe you from behind. Get back to me with what you find. In the meantime have a look at this useful document and this one, and send me any questions arising from that as well.

Kelby Bethards replies:

Daria,

Is the seat you are riding specifically for females? Is it comfortable? I am wondering if it may be a seat problem impeding the circulatory system.

Riding while pregnant

Hello coaches,

I am a 35 year old, competitive cyclist who has been racing road and off-road for almost 10 years. Now that I am weeks pregnant, I need to find some information about how much riding is safe during this time. Should I keep my heart rate low, or can I do some short crit races?

Andrea

Scott Saifer replies

Andrea,

During the first trimester the developing neural tube is very sensitive to raised body temperature. That is, hyperthermia in the first trimester is associated with neural tube defects which then turn into brain, or spinal cord problems later in development. So, in the first trimester, take it easy and don't risk overheating. Remember that during normal endurance exercise, the body core temperature rises a few degrees, so this doesn't just mean to avoid going out in the mid-day sun, but really taking it easy.

Later in pregnancy, you no longer have that threat to foetal development and it becomes safe to exercise harder. Several studies have been done that included progressive VO2-max tests to exhaustion on women much later in pregnancy, with minimal problems, so it is apparently generally safe to exercise quite hard even later in pregnancy. The few women in the studies who did have trouble from the maximal exercise testing had insufficient blood flow to their foetuses even when not exercising, but the exercise pushed them from having slow development to having foetal distress. In each case, the slow development could be identified from regular prenatal check ups, so if you do decide to do any harder riding, check in with your obstetrician first.

The question of whether you should ride in packs at speed around corners while pregnant is a separate issue from how the fetus will respond to the hard work. Crashing does not automatically cause a miscarriage of course, but it is a risk to consider.

Long distance touring

Hi

In September I am going to cycle from St Malo, France, to Santander, Spain, over 12 days. Luggage is being carried by a van. I am not travelling alone and the group I am with (15 others) consists of cyclists of varying ability, with me at the lower end of the cycling ability range. I am aged 58 years, 6ft 1 in tall, weigh 208 lbs and I would describe my fitness level as about average-ish. I usually average about 11 mph on a run of say 60 miles.

Can you suggest a training routine for the next three months that will build up my endurance so that I do not get too far behind the group?

Peter Pendlebury

Dave Palese replies

Peter,

You might want to contact a coach in your area or online to have him or here design a plan for you and help you work through the plan to acheive you goals. Have fun and good luck!

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