Fitness questions and answers for November 18, 2008

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Form & Fitness Q & A

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

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

Jon Heidemann (www.peaktopeaktraining.com) is a USAC Elite Certified cycling coach with a BA in Health Sciences from the University of Wyoming. The 2001 Masters National Road Champion has competed at the Elite level nationally and internationally for over 14 years. As co-owner of Peak to Peak Training Systems, Jon has helped athletes of all ages earn over 84 podium medals at National & World Championship events during the past 8 years.

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. Clients range from recreational riders and riders with disabilities to World and National champions.

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.

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.wholeathlete.com) is an Associate Coach with Whole Athlete™. He holds a Masters degree in exercise physiology, is a USA Cycling Level I (Elite) Coach and is certified by the NSCA (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist). Michael has more than 10 years competitive experience, primarily on the road, but also in cross and mountain biking. He is currently focused on coaching road cyclists from Jr. to elite levels, but also advises triathletes and Paralympians. Michael is a strong advocate of training with power and has over 5 years experience with the use and analysis of power meters. Michael also spent the 2007 season as the Team Coach for the Value Act Capital Women's Cycling Team.

Earl Zimmermann (www.wenzelcoaching.com) has over 12 years of racing experience and is a USA Cycling Level II Coach. He brings a wealth of personal competitive experience to his clients. He coaches athletes from beginner to elite in various disciplines including road and track cycling, running and triathlon.

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.

Asymmetrical ride position
Saddle angle
More knee pain
Max heart rates
Gluteus cramps

Asymmetrical ride position

This question is in relation to my son who is 16 years old and a keen road racer. I noticed a while ago while following him that his seating position on the bike is very asymmetrical from behind. In other words his bum crack is significantly over to the right of centre on his seat. As well as this his pelvis is rotated forward on the right side when viewed from riding alongside him on the right.

I did take him to see a physio who examined him and told me that although he had some spinal curvature as viewed from the rear, there was no significant leg length discrepancy. She also felt that the curvature in his spine was not structural in the sense that when he bends forward his spine straightens out. At the end of the day she felt that his ride position was the result of bad habits and that he could alter his position.

I have tried getting him to get the feel of what a neutral pelvis position feels like on an indoor trainer but his ride position has not altered to any great degree on the road. As he tires in a race or hard training ride I have noticed that his left knee also starts to kick out and the movement of his bum on the seat towards the right worsens.

I guess my concerns are twofold. One is that although he is not experiencing any physical symptoms of his positioning at the moment, he may in the future as he gets older. Secondly, from a racing perspective I think he would be losing power from having half of his butt cheek hanging off the seat.

He is pretty serious about his racing so any advice would be appreciated. Also if there are any specialists in New Zealand you would recommend who could look at him. Otherwise it may be a trip to Sydney next year to see you!

Brett Murray

Steve Hogg replies:

I can't agree with your physio that you son can 'alter' his position by will. My experience is that this is extremely unlikely. I've seen it done but rarely and never by teenagers. As to likely reasons for what you have noted, there are many and it can be any combination of them. Here is what I would suggest before you plan a trip to Australia.

1. Find the best manipulative physio, chiropractor or ostepath that you can and have them thoroughly assess your son structurally. The kind of professional you are looking for will be happy to explain and educate you and your son as to what the issues are and what the options for resolution are.

2. On the off chance that this is the reason, have your son eliminate all dairy products from his diet for two months. If that makes no difference, go back to eating dairy at whatever level he does now.

3. Keep his meals and combinations of foods at a single meal as simple as possible. Sometimes digestive issues and food allergies can be the reason or part of the reason for a tendency to drop the right hip. It is worth finding a really good naturopath or nutritionist to test for food allergies.

4. Is your son right handed and if so, is he excessively right side dominant? As that too, could be the problem or part of the problem.

Saddle angle

I had my bike in for basic adjustment check-ups and the guys asked my husband (who took the bike in for me) to tell me that they were concerned about my seat being angled too high in front instead of having it dead level. I had actually played with it considerably before settling on this position. I do fight patellar pain and pelvic lordosis virtually every day, have a home exercise program from my PT and work hard on my structural problems.

On some days I am mostly pain free, and other days miserable. But I keep at it and continually redouble my efforts to keep that left patella and tight TFLs happy. The reason I like the seat angled back is that otherwise I feel like I am falling forward off the seat. I do tend to sit upright on my bike as it or lengthening my torso as I learn forward do seem to change the pevlic geometry such that I get less pain. Is there any real reason I shouldn't have my seat so angled? Or, what am I risking by having it angled upwards?

I am 48 years old and typically ride for about 40 minutes four or five days per week.

Katie Elder

Scott Saifer replies:

If you have found a position that allows you to be comfortable on the bike, you are justified in wanting to keep it how it is. For many riders, the best saddle tilt has the contact portion of the saddle roughly horizontal or very slightly high in front. Note that the contact area is (or should be) back on the saddle where the 'sit bones' sit. Many saddles are scooped (High in front and back, low in the middle) so setting the front and back of the saddle level actually means the contact area is sloped down, throwing your weight onto the bars.

Having the nose high just enough to get the contact patch level is generally good. The only possible disadvantage of a high front is pressure on the nose of the saddle, which can eliminate the pleasure or riding for men and women alike. You'd know if you had such pressure. Since you haven't mentioned discomfort there, I'll assume you don't have it and that aspect of your position is fine. Your other pains make me question other aspects of your bike fit, but not that one.

More knee pain

I am a fairly active cyclist, riding about 4-5 times per week, ranging from 15 to 40 miles in length (25+ usually on the weekends). I purchased a new Cannondale SystemSix and never had it fit. I had ridden a Felt for about a year (same amount of miles) and had no knee/achilles problems. After training for the MS150 century I developed some tendonitis in my achilles. After resting, stretching and doing strengthening exercises religiously, the problem dissipated.

I got a bike fit and cleat adjustment and after I felt 100 per cent I ramped up my training again. After a series of rides (30+ miles) with some faster cyclists I noticed pain in my right knee unlike I had ever experienced. The pain is on the top right portion of my right knee on the outside of my leg right where the quad inserts.

The next day I went for a short ride to see if a recovery ride would help, but it was really painful so I cut the ride short. After a solid week off I tried training again and the pain would come back off and on. This usually occurred at the conclusion of hard rides, or at the end of weekends in which I had ridden a lot of miles. Sometimes the pain would never come.

I went to the orthopedist and he said it might be some quad tendonitis and some ITB syndrome. He prescribed some Rx anti-inflammatory and told me to rest/stretch. The lateral portion of my knee where ITB usually occurs is unaffected, but I bought a foam roller anyway for general stretching.

I also noticed that my other knee would star to bother me and my legs never felt good on the bike after the bike fit. I measured every dimension of my Felt (which had been adjusted by myself over the course of 2 years) and spec'd my Cannondale to the exact same measurements (the frames are both 58cm and have similar top tube profiles).

After that the fit on my Cannondale it has been better than my Felt, but the pain in my right knee is still intermittent. The knee was affected after the bike fit and after I readjusted my bike back to my personal specifications. I stretch religiously before and after I ride, but am wondering if there are some stretches I am not doing or any strength training exercises for my quads that would help without making the pain in my knee worse.

Jonathan "Yoni" Reinfeld
Washington, DC

Steve Hogg replies:

I'll leave the experts to advise on stretching etc, but wanted to mention a couple of things. You say this problem only developed post-bike fit. What was changed with your position? Lastly, did you tell the person who changed your position of the problems you experienced subsequently? If you did, what was their response. If you didn't, you should have.

Max heart rates

I'm starting out as a competitive road cyclist, just racing my first few road crits, though i have been pushing myself in training for almost a couple of years, and truly love it. I'm a 21-year-old, and at around age 16 undertook medical tests for an enlarged heart. Through numerous diagnostics I was indeed found to have a very large heart, and one that I was told was unlikely to develop complications.

At the time it didn't phase me, though I had suspicions it had helped me to national-level sport throughout juniors. I have been training with a heart rate monitor for around a year and noticed a high capacity maximum heart rate. Standard heart rate calculators put me between 191-199 max bpm (though I understand these are likely conservative estimates), however I have consistently recorded my max heart rate on a reliable, good quality watch at around 226-228 max bpm. Have you heard of similar maximum bpm heartrates? Could this be advantageous to my cycling? I'm a little bit stuck for info on this subject in my brief research.

Tony
Melbourne, Australia

Scott Saifer replies:

All those formulae are attempts to determine a population average heart rate. Heart rates of roughly 96 per cent of individual athletes fall within 15-20 beats of the average. Your max of 226-228 is very unusual, but not higher than I've heard of before.

Maximum heart rate by itself is not an indicator of athletic ability. The heart measurement that matters is cardiac output (how much blood your heart moves per minute) and how long you can sustain a higher proportion of your maximal cardiac output. Maximal cardiac output is maximal heart rate times stroke volume. If your enlarged heart is enlarged in the sense that the ventricles are large, you have the perfect combination for cycling: large stroke volume and a high maximum heart rate. It is also possible to have a heart that is enlarged in muscle mass but with small ventricles. That is not good for cycling.

Gluteus cramps

I am a 38-year-old male cyclist, whom, after many years off the bike joined a local group one year ago and have enjoyed many happy hours of cycling during this time. Originally from Scotland I love the climate in Queensland, Australia, and this has allowed me to ride my Trek Madone weekly all year round. A typical week for me previously involved a recreational 60km on a Saturday, a medium paced 40km on a Tuesday including some pace lining and an easy 40km on a Thursday. After making good improvements throughout the year I have recently increased this to a medium paced 90km on a Saturday, a medium paced 40km on a Tuesday and a medium paced 60km on a Wednesday.

The problem I experience is an uncomfortable and at times painful cramp in the muscles at the top of my left hamstring/bottom of my left buttock as the intensity of the ride increases. It can be described as feeling like a hard block of ice the size of my fist. My inner left leg feels like it is rubbing on the side of my saddle whereas my right leg does not. During this time I feel the need to stretch it out however any stretching I do appears to have little or no effect. I recall experiencing this discomfort when riding my previous road bike as long as a decade ago and remember having to stop on the way to work to perform a stretch after a short warm up.

I recently visited a local physio who informed me that one of my hips is higher than the other and my sternum is not central above my naval. I got the impression that this was not uncommon. Other than some manipulation and a deep tissue massage, which appeared to free the tightness I was experiencing, he was unable to offer further advice regarding my riding style. Subsequent rides have been less uncomfortable but the symptoms are still there, just to a lesser degree.

I should add that I had Perthes Disease as a six-year-old but this was resolved at the time by immobilising both legs in a plaster cast for 18 months.

Is it possible for me to return my hips to the correct alignment through exercise and stretching or is my posture likely to remain this way forever? If so, is it possible to avoid the discomfort I am experiencing by changing my rising style using wedges as I would if I had one leg shorter than the other? I imagine that if my posture is inclined to one side that I am effectively riding with one leg shorter than the other as my body selectively leans to one side.

I understand that you are unable to answer all questions put to you but hoped that you may have a similar enquiry in your archive that you may be able to share with me. If this is the case I would very much appreciate it if you could.

Colin Paterson
Queensland, Australia

Steve Hogg replies:

Where you feel the discomfort on the left side is 100 per cent down to the left leg reaching too far to the pedals. You mention that you are not particularly symmetrical when standing but don't mention whether that tranfers onto the bike or not. If you are sitting squarely on the seat, dropping your seat 5mm should alleviate the problem.

If you are not sitting squarely on the seat and are sitting with right hip down, then find out what you have to do to become more symmetrical in the meantime place a shim (again, try 5mm for starters) under the left cleat.

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