Fitness questions and answers for November 29, 2004

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.

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.

Weight training all through winter
Watts per kilogram
Prostate numbness
Broken collar bone
Sore feet and Morton's neuroma
Time pedals correction

Weight training all through winter

I am a 22 year old male road cyclist, starting my second winter training. My concern is about weight training. I planned to do 3 months of just base training and a month specifically of weight training after the base period. This seems to make sense, because I will initially just develop endurance and then power (so I can go hard on the weight because my legs will have the endurance to handle it). But I have read some tips advising to do weight training during the base period too. Can I still benefit from the base training while doing "intense" training simultaneously?

Christian R. Petrin
Brazil

Jon Heidemann replies:

For most scenarios, you can benefit from combining base training with a strength program, but, I think the answer for your question is based on the type of strength training you are doing (% max, reps, sets, etc). vs. the total amount of weekly volume you are doing during your "base". Not all strength training should be considered "intense" for a cyclist. It is okay to combine a lower intensity weight program with base miles provided you are getting sufficient recovery between workouts.

Ric Stern replies:

The idea that you should not do any intense exercise during the base period is a myth. Some coaches have suggested that low intensity, large volume 'base' type work leads to the increased development of capillary density, and that intense work somehow damages these capillaries. However, this is untrue, and a high capillary density is correlated with a high VO2max, which is best trained with intensities that approach and are around VO2max.

Just completing low intensity, large volume work for long periods of time will, not unsurprisingly make you better at cycling slowly for long periods of time! By doing this you would detrain other adaptations that have occurred from earlier in the year (e.g., race specific fitness). While you may not need to train as intensely during the winter as during the summer (although for some riders they should), it's a good idea to do some moderate and more intense intervals over the winter period to maintain or even increase certain aspects of your fitness.

As regards weight training, it won't have a great effect on your cycling performance (assuming you do endurance cycling events such as e.g., RR, TT, etc). Primarily, it will increase your sprint power if you increase your muscle cross sectional area, however, this will be at the expense of having a greater mass to lug up hill. Additionally, the increased cross sectional area will likely result in a decreased mitochondrial and capillary density which will result in decreased aerobic capacity. This will likely have a detrimental effect on your cycling.

For most people that I coach I would prescribe a mix of intensities through the majority of the winter. what that mix is, and how intense you should go will be dependent on many factors, including, e.g., time available for training, absolute fitness, relative fitness, the type of races you compete in, etc. Additionally, I would also prescribe various types of endurance work as well (not just 'LSD' type work).

Watts per kilogram

I know that a lot of people say that if you can hold a certain number of watts uphill you can beat the competition, right? But is Watts per kilogram what matters, more than just training at a certain amount of Watts while climbing? Lets say I am 68kg, then if I can produce 350-400 Watts while climbing that will make my Watts per kilo around 4.7-5.3. What kind of Watts per kilo would I need to be competitive at the Tour? Is power output in Watts per kilo a better indicator of success? And does it also matter for endurance races and other types of racing?

Shaun Keenan
USA

Eddie Monnier replies:

When evaluating climbing performance, watts per kilogram is the right metric to use. Top contenders in a Grand Tour can typically put out roughly 6.5 watts per kilogram. Many people fail to take into account two important aspects when they try to compare themselves to professionals in the Grand Tours (Giro, Tour, and Vuelta):

1. The pro's are generating their watts often at the end of long, hard stages, with many days of hard riding preceding them; and,

2. The climbs in the Grand Tours are much longer than what we generally race in the U.S.

If you really can generate 5.9 watts/kg (400watts / 68 kg) on a climb, that's quite an accomplishment and would put you probably on par with top amateurs and domestic professionals. But I suspect it's when you're fresh and for a relatively short climb of 10 to 20 minutes. Putting out that much power with 100 hard miles in your legs for a long climb of 30 or more minutes, is another matter entirely.

One of the reasons we talk about watts per kilo is so we can track performance through weight changes and so we can make comparisons more easily between riders. But what ultimately matters isn't who puts out more watts per kilogram, it's who crosses the line first (or finishes with lowest accumulated time in the case of a stage race).

I usually use HR to prescribe Endurance workouts but sometimes include power-based efforts within the ride (e.g., "Ride 3 hours at HR xxx-yyy, and include a long climb of 20-30 minutes at xxx-yyy watts") because HR is a perfectly acceptable proxy for intensity during most Endurance type training. Power-based training is particularly useful for interval training and for performance testing. Check out the Library on my Web site (www.velo-fit.com), and those of my fellow panelists, for several articles on power-based training.

[We've just posted the first of a series of articles on power-based training; look out for more over the coming couple of weeks. - Ed]

Prostate numbness

Hello - I am very scared about a numbness in my penis that started about a month ago after a training ride.

I've been riding long distances (40's - 200's) regularly for the last 2 years - I've adjusted my position on the bike and changed saddles a couple of times to avert numbness and this has generally worked.

On a training ride prior to a double century in late October this year I felt numb. Since that ride the numbness hasn't gone away. I recently had a cycling coach help me adjust my position to what he calls the correct relations between arms, back, etc.

On the bike I feel no real numbness now. But off the bike generally, all day I feel a numbness in the end of my penis - this doesn't go away.

I am intending to ride RAAM in 2005 and clearly will need to train extensively to do this. I saw a doctor last week who told me that I've damaged nerves in my penis and that these will heal very slowly - he said if I keep damaging the same nerves then eventually they won't heal.

I'm very worried - I hope you might be able to shed some light or direct me to people or resources form which I might learn more about the risks here and the remedies / other considerations. Clearly I love biking but I'd give it up if I had to.

Any guidance would be really appreciated - thank you.

Eric Carles
San Francisco

Jon Heidemann replies:

Your concern is highly warranted. I suggest you seriously consider the following:

1. Be willing to and get several medical opinions concerning this issue. Informing each professional of the importance and high value you place on cycling activities will help you to get a more investigative approach from them.

2. Have your bike position re-analyzed by a physical therapist who is competent and experienced with cycling related issues and is willing to cooperate with your chosen medical professionals. Bike position should not be exclusively based on bone and skeletal structure, but also flexibility and strength issues.

3. Your PT and/or medical professional may suggest a different saddle design.

Broken collar bone

I am a 31 yr old male cyclist who is currently riding at B-grade level. I am typing this letter with my left hand as l unfortunately broke my right collar bone in a club Madison race on the weekend. My collar bone is now in 3 pieces, with quite a large bump visible from the outside. The Hospital/Doctors have put me in a sling and I am seeing a specialist in a weeks time. I am a little concerned about the healing process, and that I will always have this large bump. As broken collar bones are a fairly common cycling injury, I was wondering if you could give me some advise to what I should do to help the bone heal as straight as possible. I am not in pain and am able to ride a stationary trainer.

Tim
Melbourne, Vic, Australia

Steve Owens replies:

Yes, unfortunately a broken collar bone is a common cycling injury, and even worse, you had to experience that. When people fall, they instinctually try to hold out their arms to brace themselves with their hands. This will seem obvious, but there's a point. If the fall weren't broken with outreached hands, the body core would slam against the ground, damaging vital internal organs. When a person falls, they'll usually jam their hands straight into the ground. The force is transferred from the hands directly up the arm. If the fall is hard enough, the force will be passed through the shoulder joint to the clavicle (collar bone). If there's still enough force, the clavicle will break. Sound familiar?

Prevention: Cyclists take falls all the time but they don't break their collar bones every time. For the most part it's not because they "landed lucky". It's because they "know" how to fall. People often neglect teaching this, but if you "know how to fall", you'll be less likely to break any bones. The idea is to pass the forces to the outer parts of your body. You may have seen or heard of people rolling as they fall (versus taking the impact head on). This disseminates the force over time which ultimately decreases your risk for injury. I suggest if you're not as nimble as you'd like to be, take a couple of martial arts classes and/or practice slow tumbling and somersaults (without a bike) on a very soft grassy area to learn how to roll. Of course, only do this after you're totally healed from the first injury Tim! Don't hurt yourself again. If you learn how to fall, you'll likely have less injuries like this in the future.

Healing Process: If you broke your collar bone in 3 places, I'm a little surprised your doctor didn't recommend surgery to insert a metal plate or pin to help the healing process. I'm not a doctor, nor have I seen any of your x-rays, but I'd think that would be your best bet to a straighter and quicker-healing process. I believe that if there's a lump now, there will be a lump in the future when it heals. It seems you're very concerned with how it will look afterward. I'd be more concerned with functionality and range of motion, but you should let your doctors know what you're concerns are as well. I've attached a picture of a collarbone support belt that I would recommend using for additional support. The doctor may tell you that a sling is better but ask his/her advice on that. It too, takes the pressure off the healing bone. It's also a little limiting, but hey - you've got a broken clavicle! You're going to have to deal with a little bit of limitation and if you're concerned with it healing quickly and cleanly, you should keep it as still and motionless as possible.

Maintaining some level of fitness with a broken collar bone: It's great that you're already on a stationary trainer. Many people ask me if/when they should get on a stationary trainer and I tell them "as soon as you think you're able to". There's nothing wrong with it as long as it isn't impeding the healing process of the bone. There's essentially no risk in sitting on your bike in a stationary position sitting upright with your arm in a sling pedaling in circles. Granted, you won't be able to tolerate much time on the bike this way, but it's way better than nothing.

I wish you the best in your recovery!

Sore feet and Morton's neuroma

I've seen a few letters recently about problems with numb feet (e.g., Nov. 8). I'm no medical expert, but cyclists with this problem should look into whether they have a condition called Morton's Neuroma. Its symptoms sound a lot like some of the ones being reported. I had this problem myself. My understanding is that it is caused by the metatarsal bone in the foot pressing on a nerve. In my case, the symptoms were tingling in the fourth and fifth toes after about 30 to 45 minutes riding, with increasing numbness, gradually building to excruciating pain around 60-90 minutes. I could pedal through the pain for a while but invariably I was forced to stop. A few seconds after putting my feet back on the ground, the pain would disappear. At first I thought that my shoes were too small, but as it turned out I had plenty of wriggle room -- Morton's Neuroma was the culprit. The solution was an orthotic insert with a small, firm lump that fits just behind the ball of the foot. You can find this kind of orthotic in drug stores, sometimes called a "metatarsal insert," or you can buy more expensive prescription devices. Once I started using them (both while riding and for everyday use), the pain went away. Anyhow, some of the letters have mentioned symptoms that sounded very similar to mine, so they may want to consider this information. And of course, a good podiatrist would know more.

Matt McHale
Portland, Maine, USA

Time pedals correction

I happened to read Steve Hogg's response to a reader changing from Time Equipe (TBT) pedals to the newer Time Impact, with concern regarding saddle height corrections. The answer given was:

Typically when changing from the old style Time Equipe pedals to the Time Impact pedals you would need to drop the seat 3 - 5 mm. Given that you are not using the black clip in adaptors on the base of the Impact cleat, 4 - 5 mm should be right.

I believe this is incorrect. The Time Equipe pedals have a bioposition (center of axle to pedal platform) of 8.5mm. With Time-compatible shoes (as the reader indicated), there is no other adaptor, so the axle-to-shoe sole distance is also 8.5mm.

With the Time Impact, the pedal bioposition is indeed lower, at 7.7mm, BUT a different cleat is involved. With the same Time-compatible shoes, only the primary, red plastic-coated metal cleat is needed, and this cleat is uniformly about 3.75mm thick, making the complete axle-to-shoe sole distance now 7.7+3.75= 11.45mm.

This makes the Impact system TALLER than the TBT system (unless the Sport model (13mm bioposition) or plastic Sport model (15mm bioposition) are used). Subtract the difference, and the reader's saddle should be RAISED 2.95mm (I just round to 3mm), again because the same shoe is used.

The real advantage, though, of the Impact system, is when a 3-screw shoe is used. Some of the best carbon-soled shoes have thicknesses of near half of the Time (or other brand with adaptor). You usually will need to add the curved black plastic shim (just under 1mm in thickness at it's thinnest point - at the typical ball of foot location), but still the total cumulative distance from axle center to the bottom of your foot can be 2-2.5mm less than the Time TBT pedals.

I've been a 12 year user of the TBT system, and am only just this season converting a few bikes to the Impact pedals. The above details are what I arrived at after much investigation, and riding impressions seem to support it. I use Sidi shoes with the Time adaptor (about the same total sole thickness as my Time Equipe shoes - I never tried the Universole models). Incidentally, I found that the Impact cleats would not function directly with the Sidi-supplied Time adaptors. The cleat, though metal, would deform a bit where the two countersink areas were (for the two TBT cleats) and the center would bulge out. I had to find shim spacers to match the depth of these countersinks, so the Impact cleat would have a level surface to rest on. I suspect a similar problem may occur with Time-brand shoes. I have not yet tried replacing the Sidi-Time adaptor with the Sidi-Look adaptor.

Steve Hogg replies:

When the Impacts came out I went through the exercise of measuring the height implications with both Equipe and Impacts pedals so as to accurately measure the axle centre to pedal platform height and committed the difference to memory. My memory was that the difference was somewhere between 3 - 4 mm drop in saddle height. Even then I fudged an extra mm because I was not sure.

Having repeated the exercise today you are right and I am wrong, which will teach me to rely on memory. If it helps you to understand how I could not accurately remember this info, I don't set seat height by measurement.

Thanks for highlighting my mistake. I have forwarded this email and yours on to Tony who asked the original question so he can remedy the situation.

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