Fitness questions and answers for May 30, 2005

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

Form & Fitness Q & A

Got a question about fitness, training, recovery from injury or a related subject? Drop us a line at fitness@cyclingnews.com. Please include as much information about yourself as possible, including your age, sex, and type of racing or riding. Due to the volume of questions we receive, we regret that we are unable to answer them all.

Carrie Cheadle, MA (www.carriecheadle.com) is a Sports Psychology consultant who has dedicated her career to helping athletes of all ages and abilities perform to their potential. Carrie specialises in working with cyclists, in disciplines ranging from track racing to mountain biking. She holds a bachelors degree in Psychology from Sonoma State University as well as a masters degree in Sport Psychology from John F. Kennedy University.

Dave Palese (www.davepalese.com) is a USA Cycling licensed coach and masters' class road racer with 16 years' race experience. He coaches racers and riders of all abilities from his home in southern Maine, USA, where he lives with his wife Sheryl, daughter Molly, and two cats, Miranda and Mu-Mu.

Kelby Bethards, MD received a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Iowa State University (1994) before obtaining an M.D. from the University of Iowa College of Medicine in 2000. Has been a racing cyclist 'on and off' for 20 years, and when time allows, he races Cat 3 and 35+. He is a team physician for two local Ft Collins, CO, teams, and currently works Family Practice in multiple settings: rural, urgent care, inpatient and the like.

Fiona Lockhart (www.trainright.com) is a USA Cycling Expert Coach, and holds certifications from USA Weightlifting (Sports Performance Coach), the National Strength and Conditioning Association (Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach), and the National Academy for Sports Nutrition (Primary Sports Nutritionist). She is the Sports Science Editor for Carmichael Training Systems, and has been working in the strength and conditioning and endurance sports fields for over 10 years; she's also a competitive mountain biker.

Eddie Monnier (www.velo-fit.com) is a USA Cycling certified Elite Coach and a Category II racer. He holds undergraduate degrees in anthropology (with departmental honors) and philosophy from Emory University and an MBA from The Wharton School of Business.

Eddie is a proponent of training with power. He coaches cyclists (track, road and mountain bike) of all abilities and with wide ranging goals (with and without power meters). He uses internet tools to coach riders from any geography.

David Fleckenstein, MPT (www.physiopt.com) is a physical therapist practicing in Boise, ID. His clients have included World and U.S. champions, Olympic athletes and numerous professional athletes. He received his B.S. in Biology/Genetics from Penn State and his Master's degree in Physical Therapy from Emory University. He specializes in manual medicine treatment and specific retraining of spine and joint stabilization musculature. He is a former Cat I road racer and Expert mountain biker.

Since 1986 Steve Hogg (www.cyclefitcentre.com) has owned and operated Pedal Pushers, a cycle shop specialising in rider positioning and custom bicycles. In that time he has positioned riders from all cycling disciplines and of all levels of ability with every concievable cycling problem.They include World and National champions at one end of the performance spectrum to amputees and people with disabilities at the other end.

Current riders that Steve has positioned include Davitamon-Lotto's Nick Gates, Discovery's Hayden Roulston, National Road Series champion, Jessica Ridder and National and State Time Trial champion, Peter Milostic.

Pamela Hinton has a bachelor's degree in Molecular Biology and a doctoral degree in Nutritional Sciences, both from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She did postdoctoral training at Cornell University and is now an assistant professor of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Missouri-Columbia where she studies the effects of iron deficiency on adaptations to endurance training and the consequences of exercise-associated changes in menstrual function on bone health.

Pam was an All-American in track while at the UW. She started cycling competitively in 2003 and is the defending Missouri State Road Champion. Pam writes a nutrition column for Giana Roberge's Team Speed Queen Newsletter.

Dario Fredrick (www.wholeathlete.com) is an exercise physiologist and head coach for Whole Athlete™. He is a former category 1 & semi-pro MTB racer. Dario holds a masters degree in exercise science and a bachelors in sport psychology.

Scott Saifer (www.wenzelcoaching.com) has a Masters Degree in exercise physiology and sports psychology and has personally coached over 300 athletes of all levels in his 10 years of coaching with Wenzel Coaching.

Kendra Wenzel (www.wenzelcoaching.com) is a head coach with Wenzel Coaching with 17 years of racing and coaching experience and is coauthor of the book Bike Racing 101.

Steve Owens (www.coloradopremiertraining.com) is a USA Cycling certified coach, exercise physiologist and owner of Colorado Premier Training. Steve has worked with both the United States Olympic Committee and Guatemalan Olympic Committee as an Exercise Physiologist. He holds a B.S. in Exercise & Sports Science and currently works with multiple national champions, professionals and World Cup level cyclists.

Through his highly customized online training format, Steve and his handpicked team of coaches at Colorado Premier Training work with cyclists and multisport athletes around the world.

Brett Aitken (www.cycle2max.com) is a Sydney Olympic gold medalist. Born in Adelaide, Australia in 1971, Brett got into cycling through the cult sport of cycle speedway before crossing over into road and track racing. Since winning Olympic gold in the Madison with Scott McGrory, Brett has been working on his coaching business and his www.cycle2max.com website.

Richard Stern (www.cyclecoach.com) is Head Coach of Richard Stern Training, a Level 3 Coach with the Association of British Cycling Coaches, a Sports Scientist, and a writer. He has been professionally coaching cyclists and triathletes since 1998 at all levels from professional to recreational. He is a leading expert in coaching with power output and all power meters. Richard has been a competitive cyclist for 20 years

Andy Bloomer (www.cyclecoach.com) is an Associate Coach and sport scientist with Richard Stern Training. He is a member of the Association of British Cycling Coaches (ABCC) and a member of the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES). In his role as Exercise Physiologist at Staffordshire University Sports Performance Centre, he has conducted physiological testing and offered training and coaching advice to athletes from all sports for the past 4 years. Andy has been a competitive cyclist for many years.

Michael Smartt (www.cyclecoach.com) is an Associate Coach with Richard Stern Training. He holds a Masters degree in exercise physiology and is USA Cycling Expert Coach. Michael has been a competitive cyclist for over 10 years and has experience coaching road and off-road cyclists, triathletes and Paralympians.

Kim Morrow (www.elitefitcoach.com) has competed as a Professional Cyclist and Triathlete, is a certified USA Cycling Elite Coach, a 4-time U.S. Masters National Road Race Champion, and a Fitness Professional.

Her coaching group, eliteFITcoach, is based out of the Southeastern United States, although they coach athletes across North America. Kim also owns MyEnduranceCoach.com, a resource for cyclists, multisport athletes & endurance coaches around the globe, specializing in helping cycling and multisport athletes find a coach.

Advice presented in Cyclingnews' fitness pages is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to be specific advice for individual athletes. If you follow the educational information found on Cyclingnews, you do so at your own risk. You should consult with your physician before beginning any exercise program.

Ankle sprain
Terrible form
When to take a break
Lower leg injuries
Achilles problems
Hips
Cramps in Calves
Too much float and achy knees
Fatigued thighs
Foot numbness
Sciatica-type problems
Leg length discrepancy #2
Hamstring and quad discomfort
Upper body pain
Sprinting
Over-reaching
Slow starter

Ankle sprain

I'm a Cat 4 road racer (plus track for training), at 6ft tall and weighing 155lb.

I just sprained my right ankle while stepping off of a curb. The ankle rolled to the inside. There's almost no pain and I can walk with just a bit of pain running along the top of my foot towards the outside. I got an x-ray, which was clear, so they put me in an air brace. My doctor was not very helpful when I asked about cycling and rehabilitation. His answer to all of my questions was "just ease into it over the next couple of weeks," so I'm hoping you can help me out. I'm still in the early part of the season due to a prior injury, and I'm racing 2-3 times a week. I'd like to get back on the bike as soon as possible. How long should I wait to start riding? Should I take it easy for a while? Should I wait longer to race?

I can't fit a cycling shoe over the brace, and I'm not sure how long I should wait before riding without it. Any advice? Any other tips you might have to help this heal better faster would be appreciated. Thank you.

Steven Frankel

Kelby Bethards replies

Steven,

Without seeing your ankle in person it's tough to say. That being said, I think you can resume riding when it doesn't hurt too much to turn a pedal round and round. Most sprains, truly, take 6 weeks to heal. HOWEVER, cycling, with proper shoe/cleat adjustment, doesn't stress the ankle ligaments much. As physicians, we don't want you to sprain it again during the healing time, but if it doesn't hurt to cycle, my suggestion would be to have at it and ride. The motion is good to keep it from stiffening up to much.

In defense of your doc, he/she may not be too familiar with the cycling motion and doesn't want you to hurt it further. But, the answer, in my view about this is: start off easy, and if it doesn't hurt, you are fine to ride all you want. You can even ride with a little pain.

Terrible form

I'm 19, 6 foot 4, 82 kilos, doing around 400 km per week. I've done the road and crit seasons the last two years with mixed success. Approximately a month ago I started a new job - it is by no means strenuous, but just involves standing up all day, three days a week. Ever since I began working I've had absolutely no form. I just seem to have nothing in my legs and 40km solid ride makes me cramp, where as before I could do 120km cramp free.

I can't seem to raise my heart rate above 140 either. At the moment it's just impossible to go hard. My racing is extremely important to me so this has really got me feeling like crap, mentally and physically. I can't give up the job; I don't think I should because surely there are plenty of successful local riders who have for more physical jobs than I do. For the past month all my rides have been terrible and nothing seems to help. Any advice you could give would be much appreciated.

MT

Kelby Bethards replies

MT,
I have noticed the same trouble in the past, for myself anyway, on long call shifts. I think a lot of time when people begin working long hours on their feet, it impacts them for a while and then they adapt. Obviously, a professional calibre rider would not want to be up and around a lot, but I do know several successful cyclists (category 1 even) that have manual labour jobs.

The other thing that people often forget is to maintain good hydration while on the job. It's not adequate to just drink a glass of water upon getting home and going out to train. Always have something on hand to drink at work. Your training schedule may need to be altered also to accommodate the work schedule so as to get enough rest and training while being employed.

When to take a break

I'm a 38-year-old masters racer. I started preparing for this season in November, and have been training consistently since then, doing weeks of 12-18 hours with rest weeks every fourth week, in a periodised structure. Due to a couple of bouts of the flu, I never completed a cycle of VO2 intervals, and I haven't done any training over my threshold since March. However, I've been feeling burned out, even though spring illness cut my racing and hard training short. Is it the right time to take a break, even though I haven't done much intense training this year?

Robert Kendrick

Eddie Monnier replies

Robert,

Given your description, it sounds like a perfectly suitable time to take a mini-transition phase. I suggest you take a week off the bike. During that time, it's okay - but not necessary - to do other light physical activity, but no cycling. If you still don't have the "love" for the bike back, take a few more days.

After your break, review the calendar and decide your plan of attack for the rest of the season. Work backwards from your highest priority race (your planned peak) to determine your training phases. If you're off the bike for only a week or so, you won't be starting from scratch. You'll be able to start mid-base. You also might try three week blocks during your build phases this time (two weeks followed by a recovery week) to see if you respond better to the shortened cycle).

Finally, given your age you probably have significant work and possibly family commitments. I suggest you carefully assess your work load. Eighteen hours is awfully difficult for somebody with a full-time job and family obligations. If you're racing hard stage races, it may be necessary at times to put in this volume. But if you're focused on shorter events (e.g., criteriums, time-trials, and/or one day road races) I'd say you need to carefully assess the hours your put in. It's quite common for me to have new athletes putting in fewer hours that they did on their own, but getting better results. The key is focused training. Too many athletes just get on the bike and ride, with no objective for each workout (let alone for the season). Best of luck.

Lower leg injuries

I am a 25 year old, 6'4", 175lb Cat 3 road racer who has been training and racing for six years. I have been having trouble with my right lower leg, only while cycling, for the past five years and up until recently have not been able to figure out what the problem was despite seeing several doctors about the problem. The injury started when I raised my saddle height too quickly but never lowered it significantly despite the injury. The injury was focused mainly on the peroneal muscles, but the soleus, calf muscles and tibialis anterior were also affected.

The pain in the lower right leg usually starts at the beginning of a ride and goes away if I start to ride hard. However, the pain returns after the hard ride is over and sometimes lasts into the next day. Strangely the pain is worse and more noticeable when I am just spinning easily. I have very flat feet so I originally thought that the problem was caused by pronation, and so in response I had custom orthotics made for my cycling shoes. The posting in the orthotics only made the peroneal muscles more inflamed because I tended to pedal only using the outside of my foot.

Unfortunately, I used this insole for 2½ years before removing them just recently. Probably as a result of pedaling using the outside of my right foot I have also noted that the outside muscles of my lower right leg, the soleus and calf, are very large while the inside portion of the soleus and calf are very small and appear to be only slightly developed. However, recently I was diagnosed with having a right lower leg that was about ½" shorter than my left lower leg, probably the result of breaking the right lower leg when I was very young. I have read your tips about shimming and cleat position for other riders with short legs and have changed my cleat position using Steve Hogg's advice as well as shimming up the cleat by a little more than half the leg length difference. I have also lowered the saddle significantly which has resulted not only in slightly reduced pain but also in more power.

I have now been riding for about three weeks with the changes made but am still having trouble lower leg mainly with the peroneal muscles, both the brevis and longus, but especially where the tendon runs underneath the lateral malleolus. My question is does my injury sound like the result of a short lower right leg and if so how long should it take to notice an improvement from making up the leg length difference using shims and the new cleat technique and should I be doing anything else such as strengthening exercises to strengthen the entire lower right leg to counter balance the overly strong outside portion of the leg? I apologize for the long-winded question. Thanks.

Dan Eugene

Oregon

Steve Hogg replies

The short answer to your question of how long your recovery would take is that you should pose this to a health professional who can see and advise you based on examination. I would ease right off in intensity for sometime and ride and train at a level that gives you no grief. Which side is affected or is it both? When you look down between your legs while pedalling, is there a larger gap between inner thigh and seat post on one side than the other. If so which one? Let me know and I will attempt to advise further.

As to whether this is just because of a lower right leg length discrepancy, there is such variety amongst the experiences of people that on the surface have similar problems that it is impossible to say. You list quite a few other stressors: seat too high, orthoses that did not work, flat feet are all part of the picture. Probably other things as well. Get back to me when you can.

Achilles problems

I am a 43 year old, 152lb triathlete and long time cyclist. I too suffer from very tight calf muscles and Achilles pain. I also have been struggling with Plantar Fasciitis. I have read your very helpful comments regarding the above and would appreciate a little further clarification.

Specifically, are you recommending that the ball of the foot should be further forward, ie; the cleat is moved back toward the heel so that the pedal spindle falls somewhere behind the ball of the foot? In other words, is it correct that the pedal should be positioned more toward the center of the foot so as to not put a disproportionate force on the toes? Thank you in advance.

Tom Baughman

Ann Arbor, Michigan

Steve Hogg replies

Yes and yes.

Given that you are a triathlete and the running component of the sport tightens people up a lot; and that if you are a typical tri guy, you don't have enough time to stretch, you may need in the short term to have cleat position a mm or two further back than I have suggested in various posts.

If you have a radical forward position, calf and plantar fasciitis are often a consequence of this style of riding. This is because there is a big gap between power strokes because when a rider sits a long way forward, the crank arm needs to move further forward of top dead centre than it would with a more rearward seat position, before the rider can get over and behind the pedal axle to propel it down. This means a larger "dead spot" either side of top and bottom dead centre. This in some people can promote a pedalling technique that I can best describe as an explosive stamp at the top of the available power stroke and a coast or easing of pressure through the bottom. This explosive stamping technique puts the calf and plantar fascia under more of a load than a longer power stroke in the sense that power is applied through less degrees of arc and more forcefully.

You may not be one of the radical forward guys, but I mention it because I see it a lot with that style of position.
If you are not, your problem is likely caused by

a) tight calves
b) cleats too far forward
c) unlikely but possible that your cleats are too far back limiting ankle movement too much; d.less than wonderful feet; e. any combination of the foregoing.

Hips

I'm a 29 yr old cat 3 racer. I'm 5'10" and I weigh 173. I have a decent muscular build and tend to develop muscle mass easily. I don't have any health problems relating to my biomechanics and/or movement. In my past I've had no surgeries and I've always been injury free, although I tend to have tight muscularity and stretch 30 minutes a day five days a week to overcome tightness. I typically race crits and I have a decent sprint. Assuming my fit is correct, I've had a hard time being comfortable with my position. When I ride, my right foot points away from the bike and my left foot points towards the bike. I sometimes feel like my hips are sliding on my saddle to get comfy. What gives? Could my core, hips, abs, and back, need strengthening? Oh, I also wear arch supports at work but not on the bike. I tend to walk and run that way as well. Please help.

Brandon Cavnar

Steve Hogg replies

I suspect your self assessment is flawed in that you are confusing appearance with function. What you are saying tells me that whether you have a poor bike position or not, you internally rotate one hip and externally rotate the other on bike. This is likely to be caused by sitting with one hip further forward than the other on the seat, which in turn could be caused by a host of different possibilities, all of which have to do with left/right asymmetries of function or measurement. This is also why your hips feel the way they do on the seat

You probably need straightening more than strengthening. Find a good hands-on structural health professional to assess you and plan a solution path for postural re education and training. Realise too, that you need to learn as much as possible about your own condition from this person and be prepared to place a priority on this process from a time management point of view. If because of time pressures in the future, you are possibly faced with the choice going for a ride or a run versus doing your stretching, core strengthening or whatever; do the structural stuff and miss the ride or run.
It has taken you 29 years to be like this and the more time you set aside to address the issues, the quicker you will resolve the problems.

Cramps in calves

I've occasionally had cramps in my calves during and after races, and again last weekend. It came on during acceleration in the last climb before the finish, and was just behind the knee at the top of the calf. Two years ago, one cramp was so severe that a calf muscle tore lengthways, although that was an hour or so after the race.

Which advice would you have for this problem? I'm no contortionist, but not particularly inflexible for a 40-year-old cyclist. Could it be dehydration coupled with some inflexibility? Do minerals help as they are vaunted? Does the position on the bike perhaps play a role? Any advice appreciated.

Tim Clayfield

Geneva, Switzerland

Steve Hogg replies

I will leave it others to advise about electolytes or dehydration but the mechanical factors that could play a part are seat height and cleat position. The placement of your cramp makes either possible. Have a look at stuff in the archives about seat height and fore and aft cleat position. If that doesn't help, get back to me.

The other thing that occurs is that calves work hard posturally during a lot of actions. You say that you're not particularly inflexible for a 40 year old cyclist which is a long way from saying that your flexibility is ok and that your calf flexibility particularly is good. They may be matters to address.

Too much float and achy knees

I have a question about changing pedal systems and the potential effects on knees.

I've been using Speedplay X-2 pedals on my road bike for about 2.5 years. Last season I had some minor early season knee discomfort that went away as my fitness returned and mileage increased. As autumn approached, I switched to Shimano 959s on the 'cross bike for racing and commuting. I rode with them consistently from September through December. I did plenty of cross racing and commuting and my knees felt fine. I didn't ride a heck of a lot through Jan, Feb, and March with cruddy NE winter and general lack of motivation. As I have started riding again this spring in late April, back on the Speedplays, I've noticed that my knees seem to be less agreeable than last year. They're generally achy a bit while riding, though they tend to "warm up" and off and on while sitting at my desk or walking around. I checked the fore and aft & height to be sure I'm good and I am. I am wondering if going from a pedal system with some float (SPDs) to unlimited float (Speedplays) makes any difference. If it matters, I rode Looks previous to Speedplay. I switched because I heard Speedplays were easy on the knees and I could not stand the summertime Look squeaking I could never seem to eliminate.

Wayne "Achy Breaky & Creaky" Maceyka

Steve Hogg replies

The best approach to answering your question is to eliminate variables. Are you positive that you have the cleats for both systems in the same relationship to foot in shoe?
Are you using the same shoes for each system?
Are you positive that you have compensated for any differences in sole thickness and /or cleat height?
Is your seat and handlebar the same shape on both bikes?
If so, are they in the same relationship to each other on both bikes?
Let me know and we will go from there.

Fatigued thighs

I am a 41 year old female and I have been training for 4 months, one ride a weekend. Various lengths 40-100 miles with various terrain. I have been able to complete (4) 100 mile rides and feel pretty good throughout the ride however some rides, even the shorter ones I notice the outer parts of my knees and the back of my knee area are getting more painful when I ride, as well as my thighs (mostly the left one) get so fatigued I can't see how I can keep riding.

Now the bad news - I have a replaced right hip, have had back surgery and have one leg shorter than the other, which likely all contribute to my riding style or lack thereof and likely causes leg cramps too. I have been trying several things, diet wise, but just don't know what else to try that may make cycling more enjoyable again. I only have 1 more month before it is showtime for my cycling event.

I drink plenty of water each day, and three cans of diet coke per day but usually don't drink coke the day before the ride. I drink Cytomax during the ride, I eat pasta the night before and morning of and I eat an orange to fuel at the beginning of each ride and sometimes a harvest bar or a tortilla wrap/sandwich for lunch. Other than that I eat normally throughout the week.

I do other workouts during the week 2-3 days either swimming, cardio and weights at the gym, walk, and hike. Since some of my rides have not been painful I determined not to adjust my bike seat, pedals, etc. for fear something else may turn painful.

So that's my story. If any of you have any ideas on what I might do so that I can enjoy riding again I would sure appreciate the help.

Melissa Monroe

Steve Hogg replies

I am happy to try and advise but given your history and the small time you have left before your event, by far the best solution would be to engage some professional help with your position. You need to find someone with positioning expertise that has experience with people new to the sport with a history of problems such as yours. Ideally they need to be someone who takes a structure and capability based approach to working around your issues rather than a measurement based approach.

I am happy to offer advice, but to someone I can't see personally with a history like yours, it tends to be a lengthy 3 steps forward, 2 steps backward kind of process which doesn't help with your one month deadline. If you research the archives you will find a lot of stuff that may apply to you. Once you have finished your event and have the time for a step by step approach, let me know.

Foot numbness

I have been experiencing foot numbness after about 10 miles on just about every ride this year (I had Guillaine-Barres Syndrome in 2003, but haven't had any other symptoms since being treated with immunoglobulin). The numbness begins to subside immediately after getting off the bike. I did the plumb bob check and moved my saddle forward about ¼ inch. That seems to help, but the numbness still creeps up. While riding, I try to concentrate on wiggling my toes, pulling up on the pedal, anything that minimizes pressure on the feet. I'm wearing Diadora Ergo shoes with (old) Campy pedals and look cleats. Any ideas? Thanks in advance.

Jay Lakes

Cincinnati, Ohio

Steve Hogg replies

Where are your first metatarsal joints in relation to the pedal axle?
Have a look at this post and this post and set your cleats up accordingly. If that doesn't help, get back to me as there are various nerve plexus' in the forefoot that may be irritated. Have you had anyone assess your feet? Let me know what happens.

Sciatica-type problems

Some time ago I wrote in requesting advice regarding sciatica-type problems in my left glute and down my leg, with foot numbness and loss of power as the on-bike symptoms. Kelby kindly replied with some suggestions for exercises which I have followed. I am also seeing a physio at the university where I work. He has diagnosed my problems as being down to a problem with my pelvis/ sacrum. Apparently I 'drop' the right hip and so the left leg overextends and forces the lower back to work harder which results in the symptoms I have.

So far so good, but I'm beginning to think that maybe this is not all there is to the matter and I would welcome any thoughts that the team might have on the matter - particularly Steve. I'm wondering what else I might try since even though my physio has 'put my hip back' and I'm doing core strength exercises, the symptoms remain. I still have the numb foot and leg ache and loss of power. Another thing is that it seems that only my right buttock sits on the saddle - this is something I feel when riding, but someone also observed this the other day. Any thoughts/suggestions greatly appreciated

Darryl Gunson

Steve Hogg replies

If your right hip drop is caused by an over tight right iliopsoas, and if there are trigger points present in that iliopsoas [a couple of ifs but quite possible] you have a long term problem that won't be fixed until those trigger points are addressed. If your hip was " put back" and the symptoms remain then the job isn't done yet. Dave Fleckenstein may have some thoughts on this but recommend of a couple of books to your physio called "Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction - The Trigger Point Manual"; and "Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction - The Trigger Point Manual, The Lower Extremities" both by Drs Janet G Travell and David G Simons. They are heavy going for a layman like me but might prompt your physio a bit.

As to mechanical solutions to your current problems on bike, there is a fair bit in the archives. The most difficult problem positionally on a bike is where a rider has well developed asymmetries of pelvic function. The pelvis is the " rock" that a good position is based on. Out upper body cantilevers out from the pelvis and our legs hang down from the pelvis on a bike. Any pelvic shortcomings tend to have effects that move outward as you are finding. While there are any number of band aid measures that can be taken, the bottom line is that you need a good health professional to advise and treat and the mindset to devote the time to self education and self help to work to resolve the problem permanently, or manage it to the point where it doesn't intrude on your enjoyment of the sport.

Leg length discrepancy #2

Thanks again for your response last time. I have since found it in the budget to purchase DMTs, and I'm trying to figure out what to use to build up the right cleat. I think I may be building it up slightly less, actually, though I'm not sure. I've noticed my left soleus has been significantly more sore than the right on most rides when I push hard. I wonder if this is from pointing my toes more on the left in order to compensate for excessive cleat stack on the right, which I had done to compensate for my right leg being shorter. I've also noticed that more padding on my shorts hangs off the right side than the left. I've also figured out that the left piriformis is a bit tighter and perhaps inflamed. So I've been taking extra care with those muscles, but it makes me wonder what else I might do to straighten myself out. Perhaps I've overcompensated?

The flexibility is coming along, but still some crookedness. The longer crankarms have helped, actually. Well, they seem to have helped, combined with the new bike and better position for my size. Regarding your balance test; what if I slide forward on the saddle when unweighting my hands? Does that mean I should move it forward? At this point I'm rather far back, though I do not find my hamstrings to be a limiter. So as for the DMTs, is there anything special I need to do given that the sole is carbon, in terms of buildup? Also, the sidi look plates are too flat for the sole of the DMTs, and le wedges would be too many, given the stack I need. Any ideas? I will be able to get the cleat setback I need, though, so thanks for the advice. Once again, your expertise is much appreciated. Too bad I can't pay you properly with a visit to the shop! Boston's just a tad too far. Best,

Zach Hoover

Steve Hogg replies

Taking your queries one at a time…

Regarding the balance test and slipping forward when removing hands. It is hard to say without seeing you in the flesh. It may be that you are not yet far enough back but given the assymetries you have mentioned pelvically, it is likely that this plays a part too. When you remove your hands in a hardish gear, do you teeter for a period or do you just collapse and have to arch your back? If you teeter semi-controllably and don't have any upper back, neck or shoulder complex aches, pains or niggles on long rides, it is likely that your compromised pelvic function is the reason rather than any inadequacies of seat set back.

The left soleus and piriformis issues suggest that you are paying a left side price for a right side problem. In your case with the info you have given regarding the padding on the knicks, it seems likely that you hang to the right [short leg, which is atypical but not uncommon] and the left leg reaches further as a result. The soleus from memory plays a part in stabilising the lower limb vertically and the piriformis is an external rotator of the hip. The niggles in these together suggest that the left leg is being challenged laterally and this is likely a result of right side hip drop.

The basic issue, I would guess, is that in your case the shorter right leg has over time caused functional changes pelvically which means that while you have to pack up the right cleat, some of your issues as they currently are stem from compromised pelvic mechanics. What I am saying in effect is that you probably don't need to pack up the right leg at this stage as much as you have because you will still drop the right hip anyway, as the source of your current problems is pelvis rather than leg length, even though leg length was the original driver of these problems. Don't be surprised if, as you become more flexible and functionally symmetrical, that the packer under the right foot needs to increase somewhat as you "decompensate" pelvically.

Seeing as you describe yourself as more flexible than average, get hold of "Stretching and Flexibility" by Kit Laughlin as a self help manual. Regarding the packer, I use nylon shims that I have CNC'd in various shapes and thicknesses, but you don't say what pedals you are using. If they're Look or SPD -SL, use another cleat and using a bench grinder, grind off the front tab that engages in the pedal and grind it to whatever thickness you deem appropriate.

Hamstring and quad discomfort

I am a transplanted American living in Australia. I have moved from an eight month cycling climate to a 12 month one. I ride three or four 20 mile rides a week that are a combination of single track and paved road on a cyclocross bike. I am 6'3" and weigh about 220 lbs with a reasonable level of fitness.

About six weeks ago, I began to notice an early fatigue problem in my right quad under load while cycling, a very tender hamstring while sitting in the car and at the computer (but no real problem on the bike) and occasional numbness of the tendon area that attaches to the right groin area.

I'm still riding as frequently as I have been, but haven't been able to solve the right leg problems. Walking around, I don't notice problems with my hamstrings... its just sitting that is the problem.

Dean Faught

Jervis Bay, Australia

Steve Hogg replies

On your next road ride, look between your legs at the gap between each inner thigh and the seat post - is the gap consistently greater on one side? If so, which side? Subsidiary to that, do both feet sit on the pedals at more or less the same angle relative to straight ahead? If you get back to me with those answers, I will attempt to advise further.

Dean Faught then responded:

The right side (where the discomfort is) is about 2 cm wider than the left. My shoe angle appears fairly consistently forward straight ahead

I have old Mavic 637 MTB cranks with a very low profile (low q factor) and a 123mm bottom bracket, so it comes out further than the newer cranks with a more bowed profile. Could that be the trouble?

Steve Hogg replies

The greater gap on the right side strongly suggests that you are hanging to the left, or dropping the left hip on each pedal stroke while riding your bike. This may be because of a short left leg, or probably more likely tighter hip flexors on the left side, particularly iliopsoas. What happens is that by hanging to the left, the right leg then has to reach further and the muscles that stabilise it are under more pressure because of the challenge presented by this. Over time this extra strain presents itself as a seemingly tighter right side while the real culprit is the left side.
Find a good structural health professional, one who uses their hands and diagnostic and treatment tools, have yourself assessed to find out exactly what the short comings are and go from there.
If you are not a regular stretcher, it would be a good idea to become one.

Upper body pain

I have recently moved my saddle back slightly and I have a much better feel in my legs: even fatigue and better power on climbing whereas with KOPS my quads used to burn first. I also used to rotate my pelvis forward casing pain in the perineum region so in addition to the further setback I also undertaken some Pilates to ensure that my sit bones are where they should be. Now my position at the back feels great, thank you for all your previous advice.

Now for the front. Whereas I used to be able to ride all day with saddle pain but no shoulder and neck pain, now my saddle and position at the back feels good but the shoulders and neck are sore. I don't think it is because I put too much weight on the bars: it feels as if I have a relatively light touch on them. They feel as if they may be too far away and too low, causing my shoulders to be hunched or stretched rather than being in a neutral position, which I am having trouble finding now. I think that before it was not such a problem as I slid forward towards the bars whereas now I focus on getting the position at the back correct it is now a stretch. Although I have heard it said that more set back (and better balance) could allow you reach out further, before I splash out on new stems could further set back and a change of pelvis angle mean shorter or higher (or both) handlebars? Also, which stems have the biggest rise without being flipped over: are there any with zero degrees? Many thanks.

Simon Quirk

Steve Hogg replies

Given what you have said, it is likely that you need to shorten your stem and possibly raise the bars a bit. It is true that many people can reach further than before with an ideal seat position but it is by no means universal.

Typically, the further forward from ideal the seat position for a given rider, the more they need to shorten up under severe load to stabilise themselves. Often this is accomplished by rounding the back. When the seat set back is ideal the rider is inherently more stable and this rounding of the back under load diminishes and in these cases the rider can reach further. However while common, this is by no means universal. Have you got a rider friendly shop that would let you mount your bike on a trainer and trial a few stem lengths and angles so you could get a feel for ideal reach to bars and height of bars?

I don't know of any zero degree stems [mount at 90 degrees to steerer tube] at the moment but I am sure that someone must make one. 3t made a zero degree 1 1/8 ahead stem in the recent past called Forge Ahead. You may be able to track one down but the clamping system used in that stem makes them unsuitable for use with forks with carbon steerer tubes. Most stems available are either plus 6 degrees in the low position or plus 11 degrees when flipped. Ritchey and Oval Concepts make versions that are horizontal in the low position or plus 17 degrees when flipped. All of that assumes a head tube angle of 73 degrees.

If you can get hold of a Look Ergostem or a Salsa adjustable stem for while, either can be used to come up with a front end position that you are happy with. This can then be measured and then a stem found that allows it.

Sprinting

This is the $64,000 question...I am a 27 year old roadie and ride scratch races, handicaps, two-day tours and 1 hour long criteriums. I weigh 84 kg and am 180cm tall, when I last had my body fat checked it was approx. 8.5%. I haven't had any other physiological testing done for a few years but I think I'm in pretty good shape and can be very competitive in B grade road races and can hold my own with the A grade boys in the criteriums. All the races I have ever done well in (placed or won) have been sprinting from a small group (1-5 riders) after a breakaway.

I seem to do better if I am sprinting against breakaway companions who are as tired as me but whenever I am faced with the bunch sprint I end up getting swamped in the last 100-200m and cross the line boxed in and feeling fresh physically but very frustrated! I think I am a relatively powerful rider, I can cover gaps and chase down breakaways very well but I lack that last bit of 'top end' speed (and skill) needed to finish off the bunch sprint. Do you have any training tips and/or racing techniques to improve my performance? Thanks.

Nathanael Brown

Melbourne, Victoria

Dave Palese replies

Nathanael,

Your situation is pretty common and it makes a lot of sense. When you are sprinting from a small group the tactical situations you have to deal with are pretty straight forward.

1) You have only 4-5 other competitors to worry about and play off of
2) You have had a few laps at least to gather info about your breakaway mates and probably have already formulated a game plan based on your observations. The list can go on, but the long and short is that the sprint from the small group you describe is a tactically simpler affair than the big bunch sprint. Simply because there are very few variables that will/can enter the picture and derail you from your game plan.

Switch gears though and bring 30-40 riders out of the last corner together and the playing field has changed dramatically! Now there are not only the riders who have been raging well at the front of the race all day, but also those who have been sitting in and banking on the bunch sprint.

There aren't any keys to being successful in bunch sprints. You either love them, or you hate them. If you hate them, then you should at least do what you can to limit your losses or improve your results.

Here are a few things to think about:

1) Have a game plan. This is the cornerstone of successfully playing the game of cycling. If you don't have a plan as to how you are going to ride each race, you will consistently be riding a very reactionary race, and will always be one step behind the top finishers. The riders who do consistently well weekend after weekend make the races happen for themselves by devising a plan before the race starts, and doing what they can to keep to the plan even when events take them off course. Sometimes this means coming up with a whole new plan on the fly when the original plan just ain't gonna happen.

2) Ride to your strengths. If have had the most success getting into the break and then sprinting it out, design your game plan around that strength. I would suggest though that if by 5-4 to go, in most crits, the break hasn't happened, it ain't gonna or it's gonna be a gutsy, full-gas late attack that wins the thing. So, in those closing laps, give-up on the breakaway plan, and switch to bunch sprint mode. Bury yourself in the bunch towards the front and rest up. One thing you'll notice too when you do this is that all those guys that you mentioned come storming past you in the last 100-200 meters will be sitting right there with you. And don't just sit anywhere in the bunch. Find the wheel of the fastest guy you see each weekend and stick it! At least, if nothing else, you'll get second! This brings me to another good point.

3) The shadow knows. I have found that shadowing riders has fallen out of fashion or at the very least is greatly overlooked by a lot of the racers today. By shadowing I mean following a rider around you know to have a good track record during a race. This is a great way to learn and at the same time hold good position in the field. A couple weekends in a row, ride your races like a sprinter would. At the start find one or two riders you know to be riding well and getting good results as of late. Just follow them around for the race. Learn what it is they do that gets them consistently good results.

4) Practice, practice, practice. We could go on and on about doing this and try that, but if you don't mix it up in the bunch sprints, you won't get any better at them. Cycling is a sport in which every success is built on many failures. You have to go out each weekend, make a lot of mistakes, and get your ass handed to you, and then do it all again the next weekend. The hope is that each weekend you learn from your mistakes, and make fewer the next weekend.

Have fun and good luck!

Over-reaching

Thanks for your very interesting and helpful forum. I would like to learn more about "over-reaching". I am a 41 year old male, in my second year of cycling (switched from running due to injuries), resting heart rate 44, max hr 199. I did one English century last year (solo) and was hoping to do 2 - 3 this year but no formal racing. I rode 83 miles last week.

There have been a few times in the past 4 weeks where during warming up, I've noticed my heart rate to be 15-25 beats lower than what I expect it to be (I tend to gauge this on certain mild hills). I thought that I've read that this can be an indication of "over-reaching". The first time it occurred I chalked it up to significant job stress, and took a week off the bike. Last week my intensity was up a lot, though volume was up less than 10%, and it happened again. Does this sound like "over-reaching"? What's the best way to get back into proper training? Do I need to watch out for time in the weight room (once or twice a week) that can take my heart rate into the anaerobic range? Why does the body respond with a lower heart-rate?

Ross Durham

Dave Palese replies

Ross,

Heart rate is a tricky thing to read. You have to look at it from a couple of different angles to use it as a gauge of your current state of fitness.

Heart rate alone, higher or lower than normal, really says nothing about your fitness. You have to put it in context. If your HR is running low, but your output (measured in either watts with a power meter, or speed/performance in a common situation that you know well) is the same or greater, and your perceived exertion (how the effort feels) is normal or even lower, then your low HR is a good thing! Your training is working well. In this scenario you are producing a higher yield (output/performance) for less effort.

If, however, the opposite is happening - lower HR, reduced output and/or higher perceived effort - then there is an issue that needs to be addressed. I would start by taking some time off from hard training. Start with a week. I know that this sounds like a hard thing to do, and for the competitive athlete it is. But tough it out. A little rest goes a long way.

So take a look at the whole picture. Use other inputs at your disposal to assess your current fitness, and you'll be in a better position to make decisions with regard to your training. Have fun and good luck!

Slow starter

I'm a veteran racer, and do 50 or so races a season of all lengths at the Pro 1/2 level. It almost always seems that it takes me 30 minutes, or even a full hour of racing before I can race effectively. Many times I reach complete failure in my legs after the first hard effort of the race, although after riding through it, I usually ride very strongly (of course lots of good that does after being dropped)

This has seemed to be regardless of whether I'm overfresh, overreaching, overtrained, rested, tired, etc. I've tried all levels of warm-up from up to an hour with hard efforts down to five minutes with one little effort. Am I just an extremely slow starter? Is there any type of training or intervals that might help with this?

Stu Press

Dave Palese replies

Stu,

If you were a client of mine this is what we might talk about with regard to this issue.

First, let's do some fact finding and gathering. Keep a detailed diary with regard to your training, and racing. Your diary entries should recount and record your warm-up protocols prior to your races, AND and hard group rides that you would liken to your common racing experiences. Doing so will give you a testing ground for different warm-up types and procedures.

Second, you can't do anything if you don't look at your training. Be sure that your training is addressing the abilities you'll need to meet your goals in your races. I can't emphasize enough the importance of a training diary. Without knowing where you've been, you can't set a path to where you want to be.

Warm-ups are a tricky thing. There isn't any one protocol that will work for everyone. There are some general rules about warming up, but those too don't always work for everyone. There are several reasons for warming up: increased blood flow to the working muscles, increased availability of oxygen to the working muscles; and increased body and muscle temperature.

All of these allow the muscles to work more efficiently. Consistent use of warm-ups prior to activity can also help reduce injuries. I like to think that the warm-up is the place that you get the first hard effort of the day out the way. This is most important when you are warm-up before a crit or time trial. These events will ask alot of you right from the gun, so it is important that your warm-up includes 2-3 race intensity efforts. For a longer road race that will have a longer preamble this isn't so important. But that said, you have to find what works for you.

For crits and time trials I give my new clients this warm-up as a starting place: (1) Get to the race early. I like to get to races about 2 hours before your start. This gives you plenty of time get register, check out the course, warm-up and prep without having to rush. (2) Start warming up 1 hour before your start. Pin your numbers on and get on your bike. Spin around the area for 10 minutes real easy to make sure your bike is working OK. Then get on your trainer.

Always bring your trainer to races. After spinning at a higher than comfortable cadence and building your HR to the top of Tempo, spin easy for 2-3 minutes and do 2x4' Threshold Intervals, with two minutes rest between the intervals. Spin easy for five minutes and then do three full on seated sprints of 5-8 seconds each in a big gear. Rest for three minutes between each. Three minutes after your last sprint, take your bike off the trainer, top off your bottle (you'll only need one for this race), put on your jersey and get to the line AT LEAST FIVE MINUTES BEFORE YOUR START. Get that good spot on the front.

I hope some of this helps. Keep that diary. It will help you immensely each season. Have fun and good luck!

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