Fitness questions and answers for September 11

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.

Chocolate milk... soy?
Stretching
Cycling and male fertility
Fainting while riding
Foot pain
Forward seat position
Leg length differential
Quad and hamstring cramping
Time Equipe pro pedals & cleat position

Chocolate milk... soy?

I heard over the summer that chocolate milk was a good thing to drink for recovery. I've been drinking it this summer mixed with some whey protein and have been pleased with the way my legs feel the next day. I was curious if the same advatanges that chocolate milk had were transfered over to soy chocolate milk. I didn't know what it was in the milk that aided in the recovery process, so I didn't know if soy milk would be any better or worse, but my system can't always take a big dose of lactaid after a hard workout.

Erik Turner

Scott Saifer replies:

There may be something magical in cow milk, but so far as I know the beneficial elements are the protein, sugar and water, all of which are present about equally in soy or cow chocolate milk. The soy milk in my fridge says it contains more potassium than the cow milk in my fridge. If anything I'd expect that to be a point in favor of the soy milk.

Bottom line: Give it a try. See if the soy milk gives the same pleasure in the feeling in your legs the next day.

Stretching

I'm an 18 year old recreational rider who is doing 2 hour rides a few times a week. I'm not a very limber person and I usually do only two or three very basic stretches before and after my rides. I'm constantly sore and I think i'm missing some key stretches. What are the essential stretches every cyclist should do before and after a ride?

Will Pollock

Scott Saifer replies:

A few years ago I read a self-help/philosophy sort of book that suggested the introduction of a new word that would mean something between "yes" and "no" which was definite, not "maybe". The proposed new word was "po". You've asked a po sort of question here. There are no "key stretches every cyclist should do". The goal of stretching, if it is needed, is to develop the functional flexibility to efficiently and comfortably ride the bike. A rider who can already do that does not need to stretch. A rider who cannot pedal smoothly and comfortably should first get a good bike fitting to maximize performance with the current level of flexibility, and should then work on the specific elements of flexibility that continue to interfere with riding, or that seem likely to enhance performance, such as stretches that allow the rider to get lower or narrower, or to bring the knees closer to the top tube.

Dave Fleckenstein replies:

I would take a slightly different approach to Scott, mainly due to the fact that I deal not as much with the healthy cyclists, but those who have become injured. Anytime that the body is subjected to repetitive activity, there is accumulation of breakdown and postural adaptation. If the body is constantly accumulating a pattern and not consistently perfoming maintenance to offset the repetive activity, than negative changes occur. In the case of cyclists, I tend to see excessive mobility present in the lumbar spine (accelerating the likelihood of degenerative changes) due to prolonged lumbar flexion, weak stabilization musculature, and tight lower extremity musculature (which limits normal motion of the pelvis and lumbar spine). I highly recommend my athletes perform fairly regular hamstring, hip flexor, and hip musculature (particularly piriformis and iliotibial band) stretching.

I would caution that there are many wrong ways to stretch and few right ways - I am making a more detailed program for CN this fall. I regularly have clients who mistakenly think that bending forward to touch the toes equates to hamstring stretching, when it reality it more closely correlates to stretching the lumbar spine - not a good thing to do consistently. I participate (cautiously) in yoga, and watch people trying to strain and struggle in poses (such as downward dog) and, rather than swallow their pride and use props or stretch less to maintain a strong neutral spine, they end up creating local stresses on the spine and are ultimately doing more harm than good.

Finally, as I live in a town that has a formula driven fit program that in my opinion creates more pathology than performs improvement, I would urge caution at being fit without first assessing normal mobility. The bike fit should be adapted to your current body and the mistake that most bike fit "pros" make is that the body will somehow adapt to an aggressive position. I can tell you absolutely it will not. If you are fit to an aggressive position without having adequate flexibility, the hamstrings do not lengthen, the lumbar spine does so preferentially, making support structures such as the disc and ligaments excessively lax. This leads to accelerated breakdown of the lumbar spine. Bike fitting is a constantly evolving project.. If I have a higher level racer who requires a more aggressive position, I will assess the ability of the racer to attain that position, prescribe a flexibility and stabilization program to enable them to succeed in that position, and slowly bring them to the desired position.

Here is a PDF of the very basic, generic stretches that my clients perform intially - if you have any questions please let me know.

Cycling and male fertility

I want to know whether there has been much research on the issue of cycling and its effect on male fertility. I ride (at most) 200km per week.

David Raftery
Australia

Scott Saifer replies:

There are two components to male fertility that could be of concern: sperm quality and ability to deliver. If the bike fits correctly and you are not experiencing numbness of equipment while riding, there should be no negative impact on ability to deliver. Sperm quality can be decreased by overheating of the testicles during cycling or any other sport. This effect is temporary, so I've had a few clients who have been advised by their doctors to ride or run at cooler times of day when they and their wives had decided to have babies.

"Don't worry, I've had a vasectomy" and "don't worry, I'm a cyclist" are in no way equivalent.

Fainting while riding

A week ago I was riding to work like every morning when I fainted and fell to the ground cold (never fight an inanimate object btw...). I broke the left collar bone, hit the side of my head hard (no helmet...I know, I know) and also ruptured my ear drum.

I'll live. But I am curious why I fainted. I am an active adult (42 yo riding 6000 km/year) and was going at pedestrian pace when it happened so effort was not an issue. What should I look for during a check up? Low electrolytes? Heart problems? Low blood pressure? Thoughts?

Juan
Washington DC

Scott Saifer replies:

There are plenty of reasons why a rider might faint. Some of them are totally benign and can be fixed by changing the diet or hydration behaviors. Others are more serious medical conditions. The possibilities will be distinguished by tests that a coach can't do over the internet and can't order for you. The important thing is to get to a doctor and let that doctor help you figure out what happened and what treatment is needed. You may now feel totally normal, but I'd suggest not riding again outdoors until you get a diagnosis. Think what would happen if you fainted again on a fast descent or in front of a large truck.

Foot pain

I've been experiencing localized foot pain around the area of the 5th metatarsal/cuboid on my left foot. The pain is worst after a ride when I put weight on it to walk. Also, I've noticed that my left thigh is slightly numb to the touch and larger then the right side? I use DMT RSX shoes w/ speedplay zero cleats and 1 wedge under the cleat. Another related item is that I've pulled the fixing bolt out of the speedplay adapter plate a few times, but only on the left side?

Steve Hogg replies:

One of the ways that riders can compensate for an undiagnosed varus forefoot is to load up the lateral aspect of the foot. Check and see whether there is a callous underneath the 5th MTP, that is the base joint of the little toe. If there is, that is likely to be your problem and maybe you need more wedges to resolve.

If you don't have a 5th MTP callous on the left foot, the other thing that occurs to me is that if you favour your right side as a majority of people of people do, you may be dropping your right hip. Ask the blokes behind you in a bunch if this is the case. If so, this will drag your left leg inwards and some people who do this put a lot of pressure on the outer aspect of the left foot to try and keep a good angle of footplant on the pedal. This may also explain why you have pulled the fixing bolts out of the left cleat adaptor. This happens because you may not be exerting force up and down on the pedals but laterally loading them as well. If you are dropping the right hip, get back to me and I will advise.

Forward seat position

I read with interest Steve Hogg's comments regarding the lack of power while positioned in a forward seat position. I am only commenting based upon a layman's personal observations. It seems to me that more power is generated while forward of the bottom bracket as characterized by track racers and road racers who move forward to stand during their biggest power outputs. Even though the a rider doesn't enter the power stroke on the chainring as early as while sitting, it appears that the actual wattage generated is much greater. That is why all sprints require the rider to stand if he/she has any chance of winning a sprint. I know that sprints do not equate to a 4 hour road race but it seems that the body could adapt to a forward position for long periods of time and thus be generating more average power during that same duration of time.

I used to ride in a forward position for racing and found that I could accelerate quicker and sustain a higher power output for long races. My body adapted to the forward positon and I did not feel much discomfort. Now I ride more upright and back from the bottom bracket. I do feel more power climbing while sitting back and more upright. While in the forward positon I used a higher cadence to climb at the power outputs that I now climb while seated further back. However, I feel that my racing ability has diminished. I broke my back while mtn biking which forced me to change my body position upright and back of the bottom bracket. I agree with Steve in that eveyone's body is different and need to be positioned on the bike accordingly. One size does not fit all. Therefore, I would argue that for some people a more forward position is beneficial while for other individuals a more relaxed position is better.

Jon Peterson

Steve Hogg replies:

Good question. Let me start at the start. I'm not sure what comments and context of mine you are talking about. If you can be more specific, I will give you a more specific answer.

If you are talking about a 'forward position', then I can't see what relevance your comments about sprinting have. Of course a rider generates more power when sprinting off the seat than they do when riding on the seat. Off the seat, a rider is not just using the muscular force of leg extension to drive the cranks around but also of body weight. The legs are not only exerting force but to some extent supporting that body weight as well. Additionally, a lot of arm and upper body musculature is activated to stabilise the rider and to resist pedalling forces. So we are left with a situation of 'more power, more muscles enlisted but for shorter duration' than when riding on the seat. I can't see what that has to do with what I think you are trying to say. Even track sprinters and kilo riders whose races are of very short duration, spend more time on the seat than off the seat. That should tell you something.

Now to 'forward position'. It is a funny term. We all recognise it when we see it, but I have never heard two people give the same definition and I am not sure that I have one either. I have heard definitions ranging from:

1. Seat further forward than the UCI allows.

2. Tibial tubercle in front of the pedal axle. (KOPS)

And the one that I prefer

3. Where a riders seat position is forward to the point that they support much more weight with their arms and upper body than is necessary to steer and control a bike.

To tackle those one at a time.

Re definition 1. I don't think a seat further forward than the UCI allows is necessarily a forward position. It depends on the rider and their degree of functionality. I am not just talking about the obvious case of small, short legged riders having to adhere to the same minimum distance behind the bottom bracket as taller riders, but differences in function. Often I come across clients who are that tight in glutes, hamstrings, hips and low backs that the only way that they can have their pelvis roll forward without hyperflexion of the lumbar spine is to move the seat forward. Often to a non UCI legal position. Correctly done they are not loading their upper bodies because their inflexibility means that their ability to extend their torso is poor. This in turn means that their 'effective' torso length is quite short and and they do not throw a lot of weight forward even though by any measurable definition, they have their seat further forward than most and often illegal in a UCI sense.

Re definition 2. The same scenario as in definition 1 means that a lot of riders who are as described above, are likely to be measurably further forward than tibial tubercle over the pedal axle centre (KOPS). ( I don't know because I don't measure for this. I think it is a largely irrelevant relationship) But I wouldn't say they have a forward position. Rather that they have an effective position for their body type and degree of function. What does 'effective' mean to me. It means that a rider can ride pretty much ride as they want to without problems arising by being in that position for the periods of time and intensities that they wish to ride.

Re definition 3. This is where problems arise. For a fuller discussion of that have a look at this article.

Even then, I don't say that there aren't people around that can ride fast like that. There are and they fall into two camps. Those for whom a position like that is ideal and they are a tiny minority. And a larger group who perform well riding like that but pay a price for that performance over time. They are adults and can make their own decisions and take responsbility for those decisions. There is also a larger group who don't perform particularly well.

Which brings me to my last point. You say "everyone's body is different and needs to be positioned on the bike accordingly. One size does not fit all. Therefore, I would argue that for some people a more forward position is beneficial while for other individuals a more relaxed position is better".

I agree with that and always have.

Leg length differential

You recently commented on correcting this problem with someone else. I have the same problem. You told him that Speedplays were very good for this but there were some traps with them. I have Frogs and have tried to shim but in doing so, they will not click into the pedal. Could you tell me how to overcome this problem? I am having a problem with my right hip and an abrasion where the seat rubs my inner thigh. Thanks for taking the time.

Joe St Clair

Steve Hogg replies:

I should have been more specific. I was talking about Speedplay road pedals, not the offroad Frogs. Frogs can be shimmed if you wish to go to the trouble. The Frog pedal body is in two halves bolted together. You will need a 2.5mm allen key and a knife blade to pull them apart and reveal the axle and bearing assembly. A shim can be machined up from aluminium or plastic to separate the two halves of the pedal body by the desired amount but you will need to be or know a good toolmaker or machinist to do this. Also you will need longer than standard screws to bolt the body and shims back together.

I have investigated and done this in the past but Frogs sell in miniscule numbers in this country so I have never bothered doing anything about it commercially.

Quad and hamstring cramping

I am a 6'0' 188 male and I am having problems when I mountain bike long distances. At around 2000 feet of vertical climb my quads and hamstrings seize up in both legs with excruciating pain. It is to the point where I have to dismount and massage the pain out. It will be good for a mile or two and then it repeats itself. I makes long rides very difficult. People tell me to eat more bananas because it is a build up of lactic acid but I tried that and it didn't help. Please help me with any advise.

Eric Shults

Scott Saifer replies:

Here's some advice from a Wenzel Coaching article on cramping:

What is a cramp?

Cramps are strong involuntary muscle contractions. They can occur at any time though they are most common during or shortly after hard exercise. They can occur in any muscle, though in cyclists they are most common in the quads, hamstrings and calves. They can be so strong that they cause you to launch out of a chair or actually pull a muscle.

There are many causes of cramps, though on a fundamental level they are all the same. When you move, your brain sends signals to your muscles requesting a contraction. The central nervous system receives feedback on the strength of the contraction that has occurred, from which it can make fine adjustments so that you can make a controlled movement. If the feedback says that the contraction is harder than expected, the brain can send instructions to contract less. If the feedback says the contraction is weak, the brain can send a signal to contract more. As a muscle fatigues, the brain sends more signals to tell the muscle to contract to get the same strength of contraction. When the muscle becomes too fatigued to do what is asked of it, the brain sends a continuous contraction signal, which initiates a cramp.

Causes of cramps and how to correct them

Anything that fatigues a muscle can bring on a cramp, and anything that keeps a muscle fresh helps prevent cramps. Talk to your coach about which of these might be your particular problem.

Inadequate training: You may cramp towards the end of a long or hard ride simply because you have not trained adequately for the distance or the intensity of your ride. Make gradual increases to volume and intensity. Pushing a big gear: One clue that you may be doing this is if you find yourself standing each time you need to accelerate. Another clue is measuring your cadence below 85 rpm for much of a hard ride. The cure? Switch to a lower gear. Spin to save your legs. Get a larger rear cog or a triple crankset if necessary.

Dehydration: Muscles don’t contract well if they don’t contain their normal amount of water. Stay hydrated. Fuel: Muscles can’t contract if they don’t have a good supply of glucose. Keep eating carbohydrate rich foods on longer rides. Eat something at the start of the ride, after about 30-40 minutes and every 15-20 minutes thereafter. Aim for about 300 calories per hour if you are under 150 pounds and 350 if you are over 150 pounds.

Electrolyte balance: Muscles will cramp if they don’t contain their normal amounts of sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium, and those amounts change during exercise. Salt your food and eat plenty of bananas. If you don’t eat a lot of dairy, take a calcium supplement. Calcium based antacids such as Tums have cured many cases of cramps. Take one before every ride and one each hour of the ride if you have been having cramps. Don’t wait for the cramp to take the calcium. Some green vegetables eaten raw, particularly spinach, will leach calcium from your system and make it hard for you to maintain a good calcium level. Avoid excessive amounts of raw spinach.

Creatine Monohydrate supplementation: Much anecdotal and some laboratory evidence point to creatine supplementation (especially loading) as a cause of cramps, especially if the athlete is at all dehydrated. If in doubt, avoid this supplement.

Tight muscles: Regular stretching of muscles that tend to cramp can reduce the cramping.

Impaired circulation: Muscles that are not receiving a good blood supply are deprived of oxygen and fuel. They will not recover from one contraction to the next and so will fatigue quickly. Do what you can to correct pressure points on the saddle, in your shoes, in your shorts and anywhere else they might interfere with circulation.

Heat or cold: On hot or cold days some people will cramp even if they do everything else right. On hot days, do what you can to keep cool. As well as staying hydrated, dribble water on your jersey and shorts and through your helmet every once in a while. Chose shadier and flatter routes on hot days, unless you are racing and don’t have a choice. On cold days, dress warmly.

Time Equipe pro pedals & cleat position

I’ve been attempting to locate the perfect riding position for approximately one year now and I feel I’m just there. I can’t explain why I think I’m just there but it feels like I am.

There is however one obstacle stopping me at the moment and that is obtaining the cleat position that you recommend. I’m using Time equipe pro pedals and Carnac quartz shoes and I just cannot get the cleats far enough back behind the pedal axle to achieve your recommendations. I tried Speedplay pedals for a month or so but I have a recurring injury with both medial meniscuses in my knees, an old ski injury, and I found that clipping out of Speedplay’s really aggravated the injury so I switched back to my old Time pedals.

Any suggestions please?

Mark Cooney
Dublin, Ireland

Steve Hogg replies:

Are your Times the older style more or less, large triangular pedals that predated the Impacts?

If so, you must be using the Carnac with the Time adaptor sole insert. Is this correct?

Proceeding on that assumption, you have a problem. Carnac Quartz shoes don't have the cleat mounting holes in the same proportional place on each shoe size. So the smaller your shoe, the further forward proportionally the cleat mounting holes are.

This is why you can't get your cleats back far enough.

To do this, you need to change to a well fitting shoe where cleat mounting hole placement won't be a problem (current DMT, Specialized, Nike or Time [rebadged DMT's] are the pick in this regard at the moment) but then you won't be able to use your older pedals without a Time / Look adaptor that is no longer made.

You need to change shoes and pedals basically.

Which Speedplays did you try, the Zeros or X's? I would be surprised if you had a problem getting out of the X's as there is next to no resistance to unclipping. It is more that you have to turn your heel so far out that inadvertent release is unlikely.

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