Fitness questions and answers for October 7, 2008

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.

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.

Change of training
Hip and pedal length
Mid-foot cleat adapters
Recovering from broken Ulna and Radius
Numb toes
Heel problems
Piriformis Syndrome and cycling
Shims

Change of training

I´m an 18-year-old rider and started cycling a year ago. I used to do mainly cross-country skiing in winter and running in summer till my 16. A year ago, my friend told me about mountain-bike orienteering and took part in a few MTB orienteering races. I was chosen as a young guy in the national MTB-O team and had to start to train on the road bike.

Finally, I love training on the road bike and nowadays I spend much of my training time on it. What level of road cyclist can I reach? Is there any chance to reach the level of guys who have been training hard and regularly since their childhood? Is it too late for a rider who takes cycling seriously and who aims to perform well?

Vojta Stránský
Czech Republic

Scott Saifer replies:

It takes 2-3 years for a rider who is new to good training to get close to his or her potential as a cyclist. Starting to ride at 17 or 18, you can get to be as strong and as good a racer as anyone who started younger, but you have to accept that it will take 1-2 more years before you are at your best while the riders who have been training already are close to their best already. If you want to be a great bike racer, don't be discouraged if you are not winning this year or next. You will catch up, and when some of the others are burning out and losing interest after racing for many years, you'll be reaching your peak just in time for U23 races and perhaps turning professional.

Hip and pedal length

I am a 65 year old 6'6", 185-pound male cyclist that has been battling bursitis in my left hip for quite a while. I have finally got it partially solved with spacers under my left Speedplay cleat and NAID pain killers. I have used 177.5mm Dura Ace cranks for several years, but I am now thinking of going to 180's because I feel that I am spinning in tight circles. At the same time I would like to switch to a compact set up.

My two questions are: will this change in length affect my hip and who makes compact cranks in either 177.5mm or 180mm length?

Gary Gibson

Steve Hogg replies:

Any negative effects on your hip by increasing crank length are likely to occur because your knee rises too high at the top of the pedal stroke. To test whether you are going to have a problem, drop your seat 5mm and ride for a week or so. If you don't have problems with your hips at that seat height, you're unlikely to have problems with the 180's. A set of 180mm cranks are 2.5 mm longer than your 177.5mm cranks, meaning that your seat post will have to drop 2.5mm further into your frame to maintain the same seat height from pedal axle to top of seat. That seat post drop of 2.5 mm plus the 2.5mm extra crank length means that your knee will rise 5mm higher at the top of pedal stroke.

Mid-foot cleat adapters

I've been following a lot of the crank/pedal length/position debates for a long time, and now that I have six months until my next race I am taking the opportunity to try out a lot of the ideas which I think hold merit. First and foremost is mounting the cleats so that the spindle is behind the metatarsal. I am aware of some adapters for Speedplay pedals that will give you such a rear-ward mounting of cleats, but are there such systems for three-bolt pattern pedal systems? I've briefly looked around the internet to no avail... is Speedplay the only way to go if I want to give this a whirl?

Pete Custer
Alexandria, VA, USA

Steve Hogg replies:

You're right. Speedplay is your only option. The Speedplay part no. 13330 will allow cleat adjustment from 14mm further back to 5mm further forward than the standard Speedplay baseplate. Bear in mind though that the standard Speedplay baseplate has about 5mm less rearward adjustment than other three-bolt systems. That means that you'll end up approximately 10mm further back than is possible on whatever system you are using now. Don't confuse that with midfoot cleat position though. That would require another 30-40mm more rearward movement than is possible with part no. 13330.

Recovering from broken Ulna and Radius

My son, who is 15 this year, broke his ulna and radius during physical education in school on September 16. That same day, he had surgery where a titanium wire (or nailing, as the consultant called it) was inserted into both his ulna and radius.

My son has been a very active cyclist both road and off-road and was preparing for a special event in 2010 in Singapore. But we were heading for a selection which is any time from now and the next 3-4 months. But it looks like that is not going to happen and all that he has been preparing for the past year appears to be very much gone.

What is your advice?

Dylan Tan

Scott Saifer replies:

My advice for anyone who is returning from injury is to take one day at a time. What is the best thing that your son can do today for his cycling? Follow the doctors' advice with regard to healing and rehabbing his arm. You didn't mention when he is allowed to return to riding or whether he has been riding already, nor how talented he is. With those bits of information plus the doctors' advice, I'd give a more specific answer. If he routinely thrashes the competition, the situation is quite different than if he needs a personal-best ride to make the selection.

Carrie Cheadle replies:

It can be devastating when an injury keeps you from racing in an event that you have spent months training for. Injury is an unfortunate aspect that sometimes comes with the territory. I'm sure your son is disappointed that he will miss out on this event. Scott has some great advice - your son has to keep himself in the present and focus on what he can do right now for his cycling. Focusing on what he can do versus on what he can't do or what he will miss out on will help him feel like he has some sense of control.

Right now you son's cycling goals might have to take a back seat to his recovery goals. Since this recovery means he will miss out on this event; have him pick out another event in the future that he will be excited about training for when he is fully recovered. Cycling might be on the back burner now, but it won't be forever. And like Scott mentioned... if we have more information we might be able to get a little more specific.

Numb toes

My wife frequently has numb toes while riding her road bike with SPD pedals. She is riding a road bike with flat bars and recreational SPD pedals - the kind with a flat platform on one side and SPD clip-ins on the other. She has Shimano recreational mountain bike style shoes with laces and one velcro strap. The problem is not weather-related and occurs even with her laces are completely loose. Typically this occurs on longer rides (over one hour) and there seems to be no rhyme or reason to it... however, she notices it occurs with thicker socks more often. Even with thicker socks though she can still wiggle her toes just fine and the shoes aren't too tight in general. It gets to the point where we have to stop for her to take the shoes off and restore some blood flow. Any thoughts?

Paul Hunnicutt
Boulder, CO, USA

Steve Hogg replies:

Where does her cleat position place her foot relative to the pedal axle?

Assuming that she doesn't have a Morton's foot or other issues relating to foot morphology, I would suggest moving the cleats rearwards so that the centre of the ball of her foot is in front of the centre of the pedal axle as viewed from the side with crank arm horizontal and forward and foot level. If the cleats are too far forward on the shoes, then the plantar fascia can be stressed a lot. This can cause compaction of the metatarsal heads and nerve compression and numbness or pain can result.

Another possible reason is that the shoes may not be wide enough for her in the forefoot and the metatarsal heads may be laterally compressed for the same result. A wider brand of shoe might help if a change in cleat position does not.

Lastly, have a podiatrist check out your wife's feet because if the shoes fit okay and cleat position is reasonable, the solution may be as simple as using a metatarsal dome or similar underneath her shoe insoles.

Heel problems

I'm having some tightness on the outer edge of each foot that reaches more or less the full length... from the small toe to the heel. Its worse on my left foot, and the right is starting to feel similar, although some tightness is going up the achilles tendon on it now too. On trying to stretch it out, it feels quite painful and when massaging it with my hands it feels like I'm pulling tendons by hand which is quite painful.

I've been using a some Northwave Aerator shoes with Specialized BG footbeds in them, the blue ones. Today I was experimenting with the foot wedges that come with them to try and see if that helped, but the valgus wedge on the right seemed to make it worse.

I normally actually don't notice it on the bike unless I try to stretch out the calves by dropping the heel, bringing the foot forward and pushing it up using the other leg to help push the stretch. It's all a bit frustrating as I'm not sure exactly how to go about getting this diagnosed.... and it's time consuming making a small change then seeing if that has any effect at all.

Is there anything in particular I can do to try and track this down?

Marty Henderson

Steve Hogg replies:

Generally speaking (and I say this with some caution because there are exceptions) the area that is loaded as you describe is the area that should be wedged towards. This happens because you are autonomically trying to correct your footplant on pedal. By using a valgus wedge which lifts the outside edge of the foot as you have, you have made the problem worse because you have more than likely wedged in the wrong direction. Reverse your wedges so that they lift the inside edge of the foot. That should solve your problem (assuming of course that wedging or the lack of, is the problem).

If you run into trouble, let me know.

Piriformis Syndrome and cycling

I'm a relatively fit 49 year old - I've been cycling my whole life but I've given myself a weird injury and I'm not sure what to do. While climbing out of the saddle I apparently pulled my piriformis muscle, with the result that I have a persistent case of sciatica in my right leg only. NSAID medication helps the symptoms and I'm resting a lot.

It's been about four months now and I'm definitely feeling better but I'm worried about getting back on the bike because I have no idea what caused this. We have a very good sports medicine clinic here in Sacramento that offers bike fit sessions, with physiologists who specialize in cycling. Is it worth it for me to get a new 'fit' when I can get back on the bike?

David Mathews
Sacramento, CA, USA

Scott Saifer replies:

It's definitely worth your while to have your fit checked by someone who knows anatomy and biomechanics as well as bikes any time you have an injury that may have arisen from a bike fit problem, but I'm doubtful in your case that the problem started from an improper bike fit. You noted the problem started while you were standing, which means that saddle position would not have much to do with it unless the muscle was fatigued when you sitting and finally pulled when you stood up.

If you've got a pulled muscle that still hurts after four months, I'd suggest working with a physical therapist to get you fully functional again. At this point, whatever pull you did is healed or is not going to heal quickly on it's own. The appropriate stretching and strengthening routines would help regain function.

Shims

What a wonderful service you provide on this Q&A. Your replies are really thorough and helpful. I specialise in sports medicine but certainly am no expert on bike fit. I am just now working with an elite junior cyclist who is struggling with PFJ pain. Her knees often hit the cross bar and I think she might benefit from medial shims. Her cleats are already set to bring her heels in. I have also suggested trying a shorter crank. Am I on the right track here and if so where do we get shims in Western Australia?

Peter Nathan

Steve Hogg replies:

From what you've said I can't tell you whether you're on the right track with your athlete or not. Generally knee pain on the bike only has four general causes:

1. Poor bike position.
2. Hip lower back issues that cascade towards the periphery.
3. Foot/ankle issues that cause the plane of movement of the knee to be challenged.
4. Any combination of above.

I'm not crazy about what you say about her cleat angle being set to bring her heels in. Ideally her cleat angle should be set to allow her feet to sit where they want to on the pedal while pedaling under load and allowing a margin for error (freeplay) either side of that. Any other course of action increases the risk of loading the knees more, not less.

Medial wedges (shims lift the foot, wedges cant the foot) will probably make a difference on one or both sides as from what I can see, about 90% of riders benefit from wedging with the huge majority of those needing medial wedging.

Have a look at this link - http://www.bikefit.com/products.php and get hold of a FFMD. They can be a valuable guide to nailing down the number of wedges best suited to the rider.

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