Form & Fitness Q & A
Got a question about fitness, training, recovery from injury or a related subject? Drop us a line at email@example.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.
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.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.
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.
Spin bikes and clipless pedals
Muscle/Joint Stiffness caused by Prescription Medications
Leg muscle exercises
Varus wedge - which way?
Time trial body position
Two days ago I suffered a complex of non-displaced fractures of my left Ilium after colliding with a stray dog. I am told I will be off the bike for at least eight weeks. I am a 34-year old male who, until the accident, was planning on upgrading to Cat 4 for the next season. I have four questions:
1) What are my chances of coming back sooner?
2) Is there anything I can do to maintain some type of cardiovascular fitness in the meantime?
3) After taking two months off (assuming I have to go the whole distance), will I still have a fighting chance to ride the early-spring races in March and April, or should I focus more on the summer stuff?
4) Should I go ahead and upgrade anyway, or would it be better to stay Crash 5 (for competitive purposes) for the next season?
Scott Safier replies:
First, you have my sympathy. I have heard many times that athletes heal faster than the general public and often shock the physicians by what they can do and how soon, so yes, there is a chance of your coming back sooner by a few weeks, but not a lot more. It looks like no matter what you'll be taking most of November off the bike. The way I typically structure a training year that means you'd be ready to race in Early April. You could rush the off season to start racing sooner, but that would mean short-changing yourself on base development. Since you are early in your cycling career, development should be more important to you than current race results. I'd suggest doing plenty of base riding even if that means missing the first few races.
Check with the doctors about what you should or should not do for exercise while healing. The Ilium is a very important bone. Right now you have non-displaced fractures. If you displace them, you could end up with leg length and symmetry issues that make trouble for the rest of your life.
If you rode strongly in the 5s this year and have ridden evenly with decently competitive cat 4 buddies, take the upgrade.
To cut a long story, five years ago my right leg began to move slightly from right to left when under pressure this began to get worse, this happened in conjunction with lower back pulling over to the right, after numerous visits to three physios I eventual found by my fourth physio my sacra iliac on my right side was locked. After treatment and physio combined with palates where I found I could not stand on right leg without wobbling. I changed my cleats to Keywin's with 10+ extended shafts to allow a bit clearance between the top bar and my knee wobble. 5 years later my inner core has improved 100%, I can now complete one leg squats on my right leg and now returned to normal pedal shaft length and changed to a pair of Look Keo pedals.
I stretch regularly and do some common palate exercise as well as riding 300-350km a week on a 54cm Look 585. My Lower back still pulls over to the right as if the right buttock is pulling it down but not as regular, but the good news with a few intense stretches it becomes straight again, The problem even with my leg strength improving my right leg still wobbles when under pressure in a fast training bunch, it is not as bad as previous but very noticeable, sometimes it feel like the week spot is the right ankle as it tends to push over to the outside of the foot when the wobble occurs. I have had bike fits completed and both fits have come up with very similar figures. I have tried wedges under right foot on th4e outside to try and compensate for the wobble with no luck. Very complicated but do you have any other suggestions
Steve Hogg replies:
It sounds like you have done all the right things so far. Lateral movement at the knee on a bike generally has one of two causes; issues with the hip/lower back or issues with the foot/ankle.
Here is a check list:
1. Have an MRI, X-ray or similar and find out what the difference (if any) in leg length is. This information will be valuable in 2 ways. With most people, they will drop and rotate the hip of the long legged side on each pedal downstroke. This pelvic movement will challenge the plane of movement of the other leg (knee lateral movement). Typically, if this is happening, the knee of the short legged side will move out on the up stroke (hip drop on other side) and in on the down stroke (hip on other side moving back towards the centre line).
A lesser number of people with a noticeable leg length difference will perform the short legged version of this; i.e., they'll drop the hip of the short legged side and the knee will move laterally on the long legged side.
From what you say, it is likely that one of the other of these scenarios is what you are doing.
2. Have someone assess you and find out the structural state of play in the low back and pelvis. For instance, some people have S1 vertebrae that are fused to S2 on one side as it should be but not on the other. This sort of pelvic asymmetry will ALWAYS result in dropping or rotating one hip on the bike. The odds of this being the case aren't that high but it is worth ticking the box. It isn't that common but it isn't rare either.
3. There is a phenomenon known as cerebella motor control dominance where one side of the cerebellum dominates the other in motor control functions. Simply put, the brain prioritises one side of the body to an excessive degree. If your neurology is skewed enough for this to be the case, and a good neurologist, physio, chiropractor or osteopath should be able to tell you, then solving that problem may be the task you have ahead of you. If so there are solutions but it would be best if I left that to people properly qualified to advise you on.
If you think that 3. may be the case; get hold of Awareness Through Movement by Moshe Feldenkrais. It's out of print now but second hand copies crop up on Amazon from time to time.
Hi there. I'm a 40 year old spin instructor and would like your views on advantages and/or disadvantages on using cleat pedals on our cycles.
Scott Safier replies:
There are two related questions here: Should riders use cleated shoes and pedals on spin bikes and should a gym put cleated pedals on the bikes. Your clients will fall into two categories: More serious riders who have their own cycling shoes and will only be able to use the same brand of pedals that they have on their bikes, and less serious riders who don't own cleated shoes. Unless I'm misunderstanding your question, the answer would have to be that it makes no sense for the gym to put cleated pedals on the bikes, but that you should allow time for the riders who bring their own cycling shoes and pedals to install them before class. Riders who do large volumes of riding in a particular position are subject to injury if they change position, so they need the opportunity to pout their own pedals on your bikes.
Hello, I've been riding a bike since I was eleven and now coming up to my 70th birthday. I've got a TREK I use in the summer (such as we get in the UK) and the bike I ride in the winter (from October to March but with the weather we've had here this year I've been using it now and then during our so called Summer) My question is should you ride as light a bike as possible during the winter months weather permitting? My bike is a local build with Reynolds steel tubing, campag etc. and is heavier than my carbon Trek.
Your views would be appreciated.
Newcastle upon Tyne, England
Scott Safier replies:
Congratulations on your very long and ongoing cycling career. What bike to ride seems to me to depend on your goals? If the goal is to keep the newer bike clean and in good shape, I suppose it makes sense to save it for the drier days. For racers whose goals relate to riding a particular bike fast, I encourage them to ride a bike as similar as possible to the race machine at least a day or two per week, year round.
Does anyone know whether the beta blocker Atenolol and/or the statin Lipitor will cause stiffness in muscle or joints? I am 55 years old, 209 pounds, 5'7", have ridden about 900 miles a year for 7 years and even though I stretch after every ride my hamstrings, calves, low back, and hip area are so stiff that I can't sit on the floor with my back straight without putting my hands behind me to prop myself up.
Kelby Bethards replies:
YES, but not always. So, Atenolol generally just limits your ability to attain a high heart rate. It doesn't seem to cause much in the way of muscle aches. However, Lipitor certainly can cause muscle aches (myalgias). The myalgias in some people can actually be due to myositis (inflammation) and have problems with muscle break down. Joints don't typically hurt from Lipitor, but the muscle aches you are experiencing are concerning for statin induced myalgias. I believe people that exercise more are more susceptible to these problems. SO, head off to your practitioner and have a chat about your muscle break down troubles. You may need a different statin (yes this can actually help) or a different class of medicine.
I am a 59 year old cyclist who rides approx 120ks a week, (2x60ks on average), for fitness and general enjoyment. I am wondering what, if any, additional leg and knee exercises I should be doing, to balance or offset the strengthening of those parts of my legs gained during my normal cycling. In other words, are there areas of my legs and knees being "neglected" by doing only the cycling movements afforded when actually riding? I do not suffer any noticeable pain or discomfort. Hope this request makes sense and I look forward to your reply.
Scott Safier replies:
Riding two days per week is not likely to cause any imbalances that you need to specifically address. Pay attention to your daily functioning though and if there is anything you'd like to be able to do but lack the strength or flexibility for, work on that.
I'm a 22 year old male competitive cyclist. I wear specialized BG road shoes and use speedplay x-series pedals. Currently I have one leMond wedge under each shoe, with the thick side to the outside of the pedal. Question: My left leg tracks up and down very straight and smooth. My right leg track up straight then kicks inward slightly on the down stroke. If I was to use another shim, which side should the thick side be on?
Scott Safier replies:
It sounds like your right foot takes two different positions depending on whether it is weighted or not. When your foot is unweighted it is taking its natural or neutral position, which for you means the medial (inside) edge a bit higher than the outside. When you push down on the pedal, the medial edge of your foot drops until you are pressing all across the pedal, but that rotation of your foot is causing your knee to move medially as you begin to apply pressure. Your goal with the wedges is to fill the space so that you can push down hard; all across the pedal without having your foot leave its neutral position with regard to the height of the medial edge of the foot versus the lateral edge. That will mean setting up the wedge with the fat side towards the crank.
To correct a varus forefoot, which accounts for the vast majority of the population, you install the wedge with the thick side to the inside of the foot. The thick part "fills in" the open area created by the varus tilt, so the foot does not roll down to the inside.
I just switched from 42cm bars to 44cm. Is there a real aerodynamic disadvantage to wider bars? I feel like I'm constantly trying to pull my elbows in.
Scott Safier replies:
Yes, there is an aerodynamic disadvantage with wider bars, plus it gets harder to insert yourself in small spaces in the pack, but the real questions are comfort and bike handling. It sounds like you were more comfortable on the 42's and should go back to them. I see far more people on too-wide bars than too-narrow. One sign I often see of too-wide bars is extended wrists with the pals of the hands dropped to the inside of the bar. The body knows where the arms belong and will sacrifice wrist comfort to get there.
Has anyone established a definitive distance or relationship between the rotational point of the knee and a plumb line dropped to the centreline of the bottom bracket? I've always felt that the right bike fit started with this measurement. After getting your butt in the right spot the handlebar location can be set. Since the legs, butt and back muscles do the work the most biomechanically advantageous position emits from this first set point. This would be in the context of competitive cycling.
Scott Safier replies:
I think the short answer to your question is "no". Among other things the horizontal separation between knee and bottom bracket spindle would be affected by saddle height, saddle set back, saddle tilt and cleat position, and would also vary as the ankle-angle varies with load, even at the same point in the pedal stroke. While there might (notice I'm saying "might") be an ideal separation, it would not really constrain any of the bike fitting variables.
There have been many efforts to develop mathematical models of ideal position based on a rider's anatomical measurements. None of them consistently arrives at a position that is optimal for close to 100% of riders, even when they take dozens of rider measurements into account. See www.wobblenaught.com for one of the better systems.
I am relatively new to road cycling, riding 300km/wk with some lower grade racing. I am returning to cycling after 5 months off the bike following surgery for a herniated lumbar disc which has left me with (temporary) weakness in lower leg, mainly the calf and unable to rise up on my toes. When cycling this results in my heel dropping at the bottom of the down stroke often resulting in my knee locking out. Not only does this make it difficult to use the leg effectively, it may also result in excessive pelvic rocking which is not the best thing for the lower back. Although strapping the ankle (as for an Achilles injury) helps, are there other (temporary) modifications to the bike setup that you would recommend while waiting for nerve function and strength to return.
Steve Hogg replied:
Yes there is. Have a look at www.powergrips.com. For the time being you can use a platform pedal with a Power Grip strap. They work well. Not as secure as a clipless pedal but the next best thing and easy to use. What I would suggest is that you invest in a set of those straps and get hold of a pair of platform pedals. Fit the Power Grips and let your feet find their own position on the pedals. This will almost certainly result in you pedaling with the arch of the foot over the pedal axle. This is what you should be aiming for as doing that will relieve almost all strain on the calves.
Once you have done this, you will have to drop your seat substantially as the extra amount of foot over the pedals will cause greater leg extension.
Thanks for taking the time to reply.
Just quick one - would you advocate changing both pedals to the platforms/power grip strap, or sticking with existing setup for 'good' leg and just changing the one pedal over? I have also been referred for an AFO fitting so perhaps the combination will see me back pedalling smoothly.
Thanks again for your advice.
Steve Hogg replied:
I would suggest both pedals. Otherwise the extra amount of foot over the pedal which is necessary to relieve the calves of the need to work on the affected leg will cause you to extend one leg more than the other. You said that the problem is temporary. Use the PowerGrips with the midfoot over the pedal axle and an appropriate reduction in seat height until your calf problems is resolved and then revert to your original shoes and pedals.
Hi Steve In your work on Time Trial Positioning you have stated repeatedly if a rider has a tendency to slide forward on the saddle, then his position is off. However, nearly all the top pros nowadays climb way forward on the nose of their saddles. Are they thinking that by rotating further forward around the bottom bracket that they will be able to increase their cadence, leverage and aerodynamics? Surely they must have done wind tunnel and power-output testing to optimize their positions. Some guys, like Dave Zabriske for instance, look absolutely radical with such a far forward position and huge drop from saddle to arm rests.
I bought a TT bike this year and have done quite well following your general guidelines. The bike has a 76 degree seat angle, which rotates me considerably further forward than my 72.5 degree road bike. I have experimented with rotating forward and deepening my drop like the pros but don't feel any particular advantage, not to mention feeling considerably less comfortable. I am eager to know your opinion on this
West Bloomfield, MI
Steve Hogg replies:
In the case of any individual pro, I don't know the answer to your question. The variables that cause riders to move forward on their seats are, in no particular order -
1. Seat too far forward. This promotes pelvic instability which paradoxically means that many riders will then arch and tense their backs in an effort to stabilise bum on seat. This can only be accomplished by moving forward on the seat.
2. Bars too low or too far away. Under load most people will shorten their positions to varying degrees from what they can maintain at lower outputs. The bars and stem aren't going to move closer to the rider so the rider has to go to the bars and stem by moving forward on the seat. Many triathletes do this as they are under no limitations as to seat setback like the rider of a UCI legal bike is. Some even get away with being reasonably comfortable because they manage to bear most of their weight on their forearms and feet rather than under their perineal area. Many do experience discomfort though.
3. Pelvic asymmetries beyond a certain degree mean that the rider will struggle with pelvic stability on seat and use the same mechanism as in 1; i.e. tensing and rounding the back and tightening the arms to stabilise themself somehow. Again, this means shortening their position by moving forward.
4. UCI positional constraints. The UCI states that a bicycle seat should be 50mm behind the bottom bracket. I haven't checked on this for a while so someone correct me if I am wrong. A rider or their advisors may be convinced that a body position further forward than this is of benefit but must have their seat nose 50mm behind the centre of the bottom bracket. If so, the only way they'll be able to achieve their desired position is to have their seat position conform to UCI regs but move themselves forward on the seat.
Their are a number of other reasons, mainly to do with woeful structural fitness, but these are unlikely to play a part with pros.
As to your own case, shy away from a T.T. position that is uncomfortable. I would define lack of comfort as muscles being used for purposes they weren't designed for or for periods that they can't cope with. Either way, the bodies usual response is to enlist more postural muscles in an effort to stabilise the affected area. This can only be accomplished by a drop in sustained performance because the muscles that propel bike act phasically but evolution dictates that our brains prioritise muscles acting posturally. Over-enlistment of postural musculature on a bike robs, heart beats, blood flow and oxygen from the phasic muscles that provide the power.