Fitness questions and answers for October 31, 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.

Nerve damage
Choosing shoes
Leg length
Power cranks
Heel position asymmetry
Moving cleats back
Spot reducing
Re-occurring shingles
Recovery from a broken wrist
Cleat position
Training with power

Nerve damage

I am still having some serious problems with my ITB in my right leg. I have had my bike setup checked and re-checked and I am happy that my setup does not seem to be my problem; I have also seen several physios and sports physician's and the general consensus is that I have some functional differences that need to be sorted out and that this will take a lot of time.

The current physio that I am seeing explained to me that my right hip is forwardly rotated and lower. When I stand with both feet together and go down my leg on the one side with my hand I can reach further on my right side than when I go down on the left side. He also gave me a wedge that I have to put in on the right shoe that lifts my right heel and part of the side of my foot. I wear this in my cycling shoe as well as my everyday shoe. The problem that I have is that after several weeks (six) of this and some good training the problem has now come back again, and I feel that my main problem is that no one seems to be able to understand what I need to do to help me sort out this while I am on the bike!

Is there any way that I can make changes to the bike to make it possible for me to ride while we are trying to sort out these differences and get me straiten out. My current physio has made some suggestions that they want to try and build up the saddle on the right side, but I am not sure if they understand exactly if this would be the right thing to do - to try and relieve the strain on the ITB.

Someone also suggested that I get and operation where they gut the ITB (Is this an option?) I'd appreciate any advice I can get.

Willem

South Africa

Steve Hogg replies

Willem,

Without much more detailed knowledge of you and how you function, it is hard to advise with any certainty. I think what you need to do is to perhaps go back a step. At 29 years of age, this is not a recent problem. It is more likely that you have had this problem for some time but have run out of ways to compensate for it without pain.

Why not make sorting your problem out by changing the way your body functions a priority for a year or so. Still ride the bike but for recreation rather than competing at what ever level. Your initial reaction will likely be NO! But you need to realise that the body you have needs to last you for another 50 years and now is a good time to start preparing for that if you want to have a long ACTIVE life.

Regarding the operation: I am uncomfortable advising but will say that it will not change the circumstances that led to this ITB problem, just lessen the severity for weeks, months years; who knows? Go back to square one, find the right structural health people if you haven't already and start rebuilding and improving the way you function.

Choosing shoes

I have written in before about knee tendonitis and related issues, and I have another somewhat related question:

Do any of you recommend or counsel against certain brands of shoes with respect to functionality and pedalling technique? I have tried Sidi (so, so), Carnac (I liked these to some extent, but I believe they were half a size too small), and DMT (favourite so far). I should probably note that I use Sole custom footbeds in my cycling shoes. I need a new pair of shoes and am trying to decide what to buy from a functional standpoint. Are the new Carnacs lower stack height better functionally than before? Thank you very much for your time.

Chris Barker

Steve Hogg replies

Chris,

It's very hard to recommend shoes without any real knowledge of your problems and their causes. What I can do though, is recommend shoes from the point of view of their ability to allow the majority of people the kind of cleat position that I recommend. The brands that next to nobody have a problem with in that regard are DMT and Nike. Next best in terms of cleat placement are Shimano, Sidi, Specialized, Diadora, Gaerne in no particular order.

I am not that familiar with the newer Carnacs, having only seen a couple of pairs. The amount of heel lift seems to have lessened but I can't comment with any authority about the relative position of the Carnac cleat mounting holes until I have seen more sizes of them.

Leg length

Steve,

You stated to a reader on October 17, 2005 that,

"The other consideration you need to think about is how this discrepancy has caused your pelvis to compensate. Many people like yourself, with a long right leg, will end up with an anterior iliac crest on the same side. This typically means that you may be sitting further forward on the seat with the right side of your pelvis and reaching a lesser distance to the pedals with the longer leg. To find out whether this is happening, fit your bike to an indoor trainer and while pedalling in a bigger gear, have someone positioned above and behind you look down at how square you are on the seat. You may not twist to the right because not everyone who has a long right leg does, but enough that I should mention the possibility. If you find this is the case, get back to me for further advice."

Well, I have experienced that on my trainer. At first I thought that there was some alignment problem with my frame, or the trainer was warped, and I would always wear a hole on the inside of the thigh of my shorts because of the discrepancy. I eventually realized that I have a leg length issue myself. The left one being longer than the right.

When I used to run, my right tendon just above the tensor fasiae latae would become agitated and inflamed and hurt for several days after, affecting my gait, especially when walking uphill. It has since stopped occurring, but I think that is from unconscious compensation.
My question is that since it is no longer causing a problem, should I leave it alone, or should I correct it for the sake of efficiency?

Gavin Douglas

Louisville, KY

Steve Hogg replies

Gavin,

As I can't see you and don't know how you function, I will take the sensible [cowards?] way out and say that if you don't have an issue at the moment, and can be reasonably sure that you are not doing anything that will create a problem, leave it well alone.

Alternately, if you want to do some hard work and are prepared to perhaps go backwards a step before moving forwards, find a good structural health professional to assess you and suggest a course of action for making you function more symmetrically. If you choose to do that and encounter any problems, let me know.

Power cranks

This is a question for Mr Hogg who did such a fine job making me more comfortable on the bike. I have been using power cranks for almost six months now. I have never been able to ride more than 60 miles with them before my hip flexors give out completely.

While I feel that I am very comfortable using regular cranks (no numbness in my hands or perineum, minimal neck or shoulder stiffness on century rides) I know my pelvis is very unstable with the power cranks. Both bikes are set up exactly the same. I am more stable with slow cadences but once I increase the cadence above 90, stability decreases dramatically.

I think that if I lower my seat or move forward (both will likely decrease the work of the hip flexors) I would be more stable, but don't want to change my position with regular cranks. I also under use my quads/glutes in direct proportion to cadence which is similar to the prior posts. You probably do not recall but my left leg was always weaker, smaller and less efficient and the power cranks do help equalising my legs. Have you had time to ride a set, and do you have any ideas?

Mike V

Steve Hogg replies

Mike,

Here is what I would do:

You have marked asymmetries of function which PC's may help but are unlikely to fix. I would stick to the distances that you can ride the PC's comfortably and every couple of months, try a ride 10% or so longer than that comfortable distance to see whether there has been an improvement in your ability to tolerate them. From what you have said previously, you stretch regularly and have done so for some time but are still quite inflexible.

Regarding my own experience - the people at PC sent me a pair to try after criticisms I have made previously regarding their use by people with tight hip flexors. If nothing else they have the courage of their convictions. From the time the PC's arrived I felt star crossed. First a fall, then the flu and finally a lengthy insomnia attack. The end result is that I have been off the bike for just over 4 months.
I rode to work today and fitted the Power Cranks and will ride them home this evening. After 4 months off though, I am going to have to start training from scratch. I will post on my Power Crank experience every fortnight.

After I have some experience on them, I might have an idea or two for you and so will keep in touch.

Heel position asymmetry

First off - the fitness and training forum you support is outstanding! I've just stumbled on it today and am going blind trying to soak up all the insight and advice. I wish I had these words of wisdom 20 years ago. The fact that your team takes the time to consider questions carefully and respond with such detail and genuine concern is all but choking me up.

I'm 40 years old, male, a road and mountain biker (done a variety of races on/off over the past 15 years as a club team level rider - just for fun). I'm admittedly heavy at 200 lbs and 6 ft. I've ridden my body hard and as a teenager, I broke up my left femur in a gnarly motocross race accident and had two surgeries for it. Cycling generally helps and I always feel best when I'm on two wheels. I've never been measured for a leg length difference - can it be done at home?

Oddly enough the leg I broke is trouble free and the other has been problematic for years. When I first started road biking with fixed clipless pedals, I set my fixed cleats to be symmetric and I developed show stopper pain on the inside of my right knee. After some research, rest, and recovery I repositioned my right cleat to the max possible heel out position afforded by the pedal. The sensation was that my heel would like to be further away from the frame but my knee was now happy enough to at least continue cycling. This change, along with pre-ride stretching was adequate to keep me riding but the problem, while improved, persisted along tolerable right ankle soreness and obvious sense of body asymmetry. It was a balance between knee and ankle discomfort (I knew I could find pedals/shoes that would allow my heel to rotate further but I suspected my ankle would not hold up) and I'm sure I looked pretty strange with one heel roughly parallel to the longer bike axis and the other swinging into outer space.

Subsequently, I've used or tried a number of different pedals and shoes over the years but SPD or SPD-R (each with the floating cleats positioned as far back on the shoe as possible and as heel out as possible on the right foot) have been the only compromise (SPD - small contact area or SPD-R discontinued) that has worked out. When I tried the Speedplay Xs years ago, I was amazed at how far my right heal wanted to go and how much rotational movement it tended towards. Look ARCs seemed too sticky and I felt like I had to consciously reposition and tweak my foot to the seated sweet spot after any unseated effort and I had pronounced right ankle soreness. (I noticed a recommendation to trim down the rubber pad in the middle to free the float a little, but doesn't that lead to vertical slop?). The times I tried had spring to centre float and no cleat rotation adjustment - worked for the left leg but the right was obviously fighting the spring. Summarizing, my left leg has been robust and insensitive to any pedals I've tried (Look, Time, Speedplay X, SPD, SPD-R) but SPD and SPD-R with limited float have worked best for the right. By the way, I've always ridden SPDs on the mountain bike with both cleats at max aft on the shoe and max heel out on the right - never had any significant problems or discomfort with that setup with looser and generally softer shoes.

Based on the posts I've studied, I think one root cause theory having nothing to do with past injuries (best case maybe) is that I have a significant varus on the right foot that I naturally compensate for with heal rotation. The heal rotation relieves some knee strain at the expense of ankle strain. The SPDs have been more agreeable than other shoes because of their narrow and small contact mud shedding heritage allows for a less rigid connection and a little more freedom for the foot motion in roll. The float characteristics of SPD, free but limited in range, allow for sufficient and necessarily limited, heel out range.

I got pretty excited about the possibilities when I read a post by Steve Hogg where a guy had a similar heel out thing going on. He stated that as his Look cleat wore down on the outside from repeated road contact his heel migrated back towards the frame. Could it be that simple? Does that suggest a wedge under my right cleat (fat side nearest the frame) would likely bring my heel in and restore some symmetry after all these years? If so, is it also likely that my right foot will also be more stable (roll and rotation), making it worth another try with a modern relative wide contact Look or SPD -SL pedal? Apologies for the long history and thanks in advance for your thoughts and recommendations.

Bob Nantz

Patuxent River MD

Steve Hogg replies

Bob,

You may have a varus right forefoot, you may not, but it certainly sounds like the right hip is internally rotated. I need to ask you a few questions.

Is the right ankle pain on the outside of the ankle?

A test - and you will need an observer: Place a 300mm [12"] rule with the short edge against the skirting board of a wall. Stand with your heels hard back against the wall and in the inner edge of each foot closely aligned with the long edges of the rule. When I say closely aligned, I mean inside edge of heel and forefoot up against the rule.

Have your observer kneel 3 or 4 feet back in front of you and focus on where the kneecaps are pointing. For right and left kneecaps separately, are they pointing straight ahead, outwards or inwards? If both are pointing in the same direction; eg outwards; is one pointing to a greater degree than the other?

Strip to the waist and place the rule against a step. With your heels against the rule, can the observer behind and above you see which side of your lower back is further forward than the other?
Still stripped, face the mirror and place the thumb of each hand on top of the iliac crest on each side. The iliac crest is the top of the pelvis above your hips; i.e. if you move your thumbs down from your ribcage, the iliac crest is the first bone you will come to. Is one thumb sitting noticeably higher than the other and if so, on which side? Let me know these answers and I will attempt to advise.

Moving cleats back

Thanks to Steve Hogg I moved my (Shimano Ultegra) cleats back about 5mm and noticed an improvement in the way my quads feel post-ride after two rides. Less of that dead feeling for sure!

What I would now like to know is what do I need to do with my saddle position if I move my cleats back 5mm? Lower saddle by about 2mm to compensate, or move it forward by about 5mm to compensate for the modified leg bend angle? Should I do both or neither of these?

I ask because I notice a different feeling as I am pedalling (I can't quite explain it yet) but perhaps this is normal and something I will get used to and therefore I should not change my saddle position at all? Thanks you very much in advance

Yuri Budilov

Melbourne, Australia

Steve Hogg replies

Yuri,

Your legs are extending slightly more because of the more rearward cleat position but the larger change is more than likely the reduced ankle movement that accompanies this. I don't know how appropriate your seat height was before and so it is hard to advise definitively.

If you were happy with your seat height previously, try dropping the seat 3 or 4mm and reassessing. If in doubt and you are not having problems in the sense of any twinges or niggles; spend a week or so getting used to the new feeling and then go and ride some hills, seated in a hardish gear.

That exercise should soon tell you whether you are too high or not.

Spot reducing

I'm a 45 year old competitive male cyclist, starting my second season of winter training. At 6'1" I currently weigh about 180 and lost about 20 lbs since the start of my cycling about two years ago. I try to eat healthy, but I don't diet and have not changed my high carb eating habits since starting cycling. With a reading of about 17-18% body fat (according to a fat measuring electronic scale), I still apparently have some room to lose more weight and increase performance if I can maintain the same power.

One concern I have is that most of my weight loss tends to come off the face, arms and legs, with these areas looking very lean (especially face) and other areas, such as chest and back storing more of the fat - although it is uniform. I realise that common thinking is that you can't spot reduce, but I'm wondering if there is any truth to the tale that some types of foods store fat more readily in the trunk area. I guess I'm not overly concerned, but if I were able to lose enough weight to reach my 10-12% fat target - which is not that low compared to most competitive cyclists, I think I would look like a zombie.

Kevin Smith

Pam Hinton replies

Kevin,

In this case, the common thinking prevails. You cannot control where you store fat or which parts of your body will lose it first. Eventually, with sustained fat loss, you will lose the excess from your chest and back. If it's any consolation, the pros have the thin faced zombie look, too. As long as you stick to your target of 10-12% body fat, you aren't likely to compromise your health or performance. Good luck.

Re-occurring shingles

Cyclingnews team,

I have been a competitive cyclist in all disciplines for over 20 years on and off, and have at my best raced in Belgium on the road and won age group medals at international duathlon events.

The problem at the moment is a re-occurrence of shingles when I start my higher intensity workouts. This time around my base period has been about three months long and I have steadily increased duration up to around 18 hours a week max. I had a heart rate cap of 160bpm (max 190bpm). This base period came after a four-month layoff due to another bout of shingles while training for the duathlon world's. During this time I was still active but completed no structured training.

I am fully aware of the correlation between overtraining and immune suppression; however, I monitor health and vitality, check morning pulse rate, eat very well and get good sleep so I just can't put my finger on the problem. Is shingles something that affects many athletes? And if so how is it treated? I am on an anti-viral medication called Valtrex at the moment. Is it possible to continue with light exercise or will I delay my recovery time? Also when do you know when to get back into it again?

I am 35 years of age weigh 70kg, VO2max at beat 74ml/kg/min and at best have a power to weight ratio of 6.5watts/kilo, (I also have a degree in exercise science). Any help to allow me to get back to my best would be greatly appreciated.

Mark

Kelby Bethards replies

Mark,

I guess for me, the question is how do you feel? Do you feel ill? Is the shingles patch large? Any pain, and where is it? Questions like these…

I would be concerned, and still am, about overtraining. BUT, that is not the only stressor that can cause the varicella virus to resurface. Life stress can also cause a flair up, but varicella can also pop up for no specific reason.

Valtrex is certainly a good treatment and some people will require pain meds and steroids to control the after effects (sequelae) of shingles. I would talk to your doctor about being on the medicine once a day (chronic suppressive dose) for a while to hopefully help keep it away and see if he/she has any other ideas.

If you do not feel ill and just have the rash, then I would think it would be ok to do light exercise. I would suggest starting back at it again when you don't feel ill and the rash is healed. Please keep in mind that without seeing you, I am just speculating. Talk to your doctor about when to return if you have questions.

Recovery from a broken wrist

Hi,

I fractured my scaphoid bone during a MTB stage race in the Alps this last summer, doing a nice superman into a patch of asphalt. The race doctor wrapped it (thinking it was a sprain I suppose), gave me some pain killers and I continued racing and training for three weeks.

In spite of this ill-advised punishment of my feeble wrist, a cast seemed to do the trick when I eventually got it properly treated. After about seven weeks, I was ecstatic to learn the fracture had healed. I had avoided the dreaded possibility of surgery and I could supposedly jump back on the bike - yeah! The problem is that now, going on four months after the injury and a month after the cast was removed, my wrist is still very painful.

I find it difficult to hold MTB bars on semi-rough terrain, paddle, XC ski, or even carry my small daughter for long. It aches and the range of motion is still limited, although very slowly improving. I am sure you have seen your fair share of broken scaphoids. So, presuming the bone really is healed (which I am getting rechecked now), is this typically a traumatic injury from which it takes a very long time to recover? Might therapy of some kind speed up recovery? Presently I am limiting my workouts to lots of running and a bit of easy swimming. By the way, I am a 35 year old who, as you can see, sometimes has a hard time stopping...in every sense.

Rick Van Camp

Finland

Kelby Bethards replies

Rick,

The scaphoid is a bone that is a tough one to heal. The cast was a good idea from the beginning and I often will cast people without radiologic evidence of a fracture if my physical exam leads me to believe there is a scaphoid injury. The blood supply is such that it heals slowly and if it doesn't heal, it requires surgical repair.

Now, can it hurt four months out? Yes, it is possible and if you have a concomitant ligament sprain that can take a while to heal, thus adding insult to injury. I am also 35 and have an ankle that hurts during soccer from a hellacious sprain 18 months ago. It's tough getting older!

I do think it's wise to see your doctor again and either x-ray the area again or have a bone scan/MRI, depending on your doctors preference, to make sure you are healed. If so, then easing into your rougher workouts (bumpy rides) may be needed along with anti-inflammatory medicines.

Cleat position

Hi there

I'm a 41 year old male vet cyclist who has been having problem with what can best be described as "hot feet" when riding beyond a few hours. The area around the balls of my feet gets progressively sore to the point that it is difficult to stand while riding. I prefer to stand while climbing but there may well be a simple explanation for this.

I recently read your posts about cleat position and now realise that I may have been mistaken to follow the old adage about positioning the ball of the foot over the pedal axle. If anything, the ball of my foot was very slightly behind the axle. The problem has probably been exasperated by my laid back seat position (10cms behind the bb) but I guess that is all relative to my rather long leg length. I have a 90cm inseam, with the upper leg (hip to knee) of 46cm, and lower leg of 56cm. One other detail is that I ride 180cm cranks.

Anyway, I have just gone to adjust my cleats back and have found it impossible to get the ball of my feet as far forward of the axle as you have recommended. The furthermost forward I can get is 7mm, well short of your guide-line of 11mm. I use Shimano SPD SL shoes and cleats and my feet are size 46. Maybe I have excessively long toes? The distance from the tip of my large toe and the center of the ball of my foot is roughly 85mm. My shoes are a good snug fit in width and length so it is not just a case of the shoes being too big. Short of changing shoes and possibly pedals I can't see a way around the situation.

The other related question is, 'If I change my cleat position do I need to also make changes to seat height and fore-aft seat position. I have played around with a few simple levers etc to see what effect a change of about 10mm would make to my knee position and it seems to me it is very minimal to virtually nothing at all. What is your take on this? Many thanks in advance.

Terry Macpherson

New Zealand

Steve Hogg replies

Terry,

I am surprised that you can't get the cleats as far back as I suggested with the combination of shoe and pedal that you use, but it happens occasionally. DMT and Nike have cleat positioning holes further rearward than just about anything else out there so you might consider them.

Regarding the seat height implications. The more rearward cleat position will cause you to extend your leg more and you might need to drop your seat 3mm or so. The other implication that often offsets that greater extension to some degree, particularly if you tend to pedal with a heel dropping technique, is that the more rearward cleat position tends to moderate ankle movement to some degree.
The heel droppers tend to evolve to a less heel dropping more middle of the range pedalling style, which sometimes means that they can reach a bit further.

My advice is to go for a few rides and adjust seat height by feel after you have ridden a few solid hills ON the seat.
Your off the seat technique may be caused by the cleat position you have had and consequent lack of leverage.
I know that your cleats are still too far forward and you probably should consider another shoe, but the changes you have made should diminish or relieve your problem. Let me know how you get on.

Terry then responded:

Hi again Steve,

Thanks for your comments. I have had another look at the position of the ball of my foot relative to the pedal axle in the new cleat position.

The distance measured is clearly dependent on the position of the foot.
Is the measurement made with the cleat/pedal contact points level (with SPD SL shoes that means the heal is elevated) or with the shoe flat (this would mean the heal is effectively down)

I'm just about to head out for my first ride with the new cleat position so it will be interesting to see if I begin to notice some changes - hopefully no pain in my feet for starters. Many thanks for your help.

Terry

Steve Hogg replies

Terry,

For cleat position purposes, level the shoe between where the sole joins the upper underneath the middle of the heel as viewed from the side and where the sole joins the upper underneath the pedal axle. This will work for the majority of shoes and certainly for the ones you have.

The pain you have been feeling is likely to be the plantar fascia being overworked where it attaches to the metatarsal heads at the base of the toes. Let me know how you go.

Training with power

Hi there. A question about training with power for the coaches.

Assume that at the start of a training program, a rider does a test to determine LT power output and power zones for interval training. One would hope that as the training program progresses, power at LT improves. Is there a simple formula for determining how to factor improvements in power output into power zones, or is regular (monthly or so) testing the answer? Thanks.

Andrew McRae

Scott Saifer replies

Andrew,

Regular testing is the only way. Different athletes will respond to training with different power gains and at different rates. Setting your zones to low may waste time or might do no damage at all, but setting your zones too high and then riding in them more than a small amount leads to burnout and overtraining, so you would not want to ride in a zone that came from anything but tests on yourself. There are also factors that will bump your zones down (fatigue, stress, illness). If you fail to adjust the zones at these times, you will be training too hard, even though you are training in your own tested zones. That's why the power-meter will never be a substitute for body awareness. Heart rate monitors will also never be complete substitutes for body awareness.

Back to top