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.
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.
Recovery meal content
Average heart rate and training indoors
Recovery from an injury
Hydration - sodium and potassium
Virtual reality trainers
Cramped up on a long race
Left foot numbness
I have just started cycling, as I row over the summer but I am now at university and not near any rivers. I was wondering if you had any information on pedaling cadence and power output relationships for optimal performance?
Scott Saifer replies:
Optimal cadence depends on the length of the event you are doing and whether acceleration is required. Since you haven't said what your event will be, I'll provide a wide range of data points for you.
Very short events like the 200-meter sprint on the track involve very high cadences, typically ending up around 170 rpm, but also very low cadences as sprints often start from a standstill or very low speed. Track sprinters have to be able to make good power at all cadences up to the peak cadence.
Professional road race sprints are typically contested around 130 rpm, while the majority of racers on flats and slight up hills will pedal 90-105 rpm. Most but not all riders decrease cadence a bit when going uphill. Standing climbing is usually around 75 rpm. Road racers need to be very comfortable at 90-110 rpm, with the ability to keep riding anywhere from 60 to 130 rpm for at least a short while.
The hour record which involves no forward acceleration after the start has been many times in the past 100 years, and always with a cadence between 103 and 108 rpm. That suggests to me that this is the optimal cadence for sustained, very steady efforts.
Ironman Triathlon winners use much lower cadences than road cyclists, typically around 80 rpm. In Ironman Triathlon, efficient use of fuel and oxygen is a key element of success. This type of efficiency is optimized at cadences lower than those typically employed by road racers, and Ironman cyclists, even those who win, don't ride quite as fast as equally elite athletes who compete exclusively on the bike.
If you are just getting started as a rider, I'd suggest a target of getting your cadence over 90 rpm. This doesn't mean that you should go out on your next ride and do over 90 rpm no matter what. Rather it means that you should pedal you highest cadence at which you are comfortable, smooth and powerful. If this is below 90, ride one gear lighter than the most comfortable so that you spin a little faster. Over a period of a few weeks or months you will develop the smooth pedaling style needed to stay over 90 rpm all the time.
Eddie Monnier replies:
You asked about an optimal cadence versus asking about"most efficient", which is quite astute of you. This is because"efficiency" has a particular meaning in exercise physiology; actually, there are four different types of efficiency, which I won't go into other than to say that each is a measure of work expended vs. work accomplished.
For cycling, power is a function of angular velocity (we'll call it"cadence" to keep it simple) and pedal force. So you can produce more power by pressing on the pedals harder (ie, more force) or pedaling a higher cadence (ie, greater angular velocity), or both.
Why do I mention this? Because while studies have shown that the most efficient cadences (eg, typically in the 50-60 rpm) at various power outputs are lower than those self-selected even by"mashers" (eg, 80-85 rpm), there are other considerations besides the energy cost. These considerations include biomechanical variables such as muscle stress, joint movement, etc. and muscle fiber recruitment. In fact, some model-based studies have shown that biomechanical variables are minimized at cadences of 95-105, which more closely aligns with the common self-selected range of 90-100 rpm. And while many people mistakenly think that higher cadences use more fast-twitch (FT) muscle fibers, FT fiber recruitment is based on the magnitude of force more than the speed of movement. So while a higher cadence may be less efficient, the average effective pedal force is lower.
Finally, caution should be used when looking at average cadences of world class performances and drawing conclusions for cyclists either in other specific disciplines or at different levels. For example, lots of people want to emulate Lance Armstrong when they TT, but they fail to recognize that (a) Lance is putting out huge amounts of power and (b) likely operating at a higher percentage of his VO2max. Scott points out that cadences for the Hour Record have been in the range of 103-108 rpm. It is likely that future records will also be achieved in this range because the record setters share certain physiological attributes. But the average competitive cyclist who is certainly putting out considerably less power, likely operating at a lower percent of his or her VO2max, and may have dramatically different ratios of muscle fiber types, would likely adopt a somewhat lower average cadence for optimal performance over the same sixty minutes.
As Scott suggests, ride and focus on being smooth at whatever cadence comes naturally. Over time as you become more experienced and stronger, you may well find that your optimal cadence increases. And if you're like any of the Elite rowers I've known, the transition will come quickly and you'll be putting a world of hurt on your cycling friends before you know it. Maybe you'll even reach the point where 103-108 IS optimal for an hour effort for you!
I have a question concerning the type of carbohydrate consumed following exercise. This is somewhat of a follow-up question to an answer given in a recent Fitness Q&A (Aug. 30).
After a hard training ride I take in approximately 1-1.5 g/kg of carbohydrate along with some protein. I make use of high glycemic sources of carbohydrates such as breakfast cereals, pancakes, etc. Some of the carbohydrates which make up this initial meal are simple sugars. The rest of the day I still focus on taking in adequate amounts of carbohydrates (8-10 g/kg) but try to make use of nearly all complex sources such as whole grain breads, oatmeal, pasta, vegetables, etc. This routine seems to work very well for my recovery.
I have noticed that many recovery drinks contain nearly all simple sugars such as dextrose or glucose. My question is this: if the content of the initial recovery meal consists of too many simple sugars (sucrose, dextrose, etc) compared to complex carbohydrates is that a greater chance that some of those carbs might be stored as fat if they cannot be used immediately? If I need to take in 100g of carbohydrates following training for the initial meal is there a disadvantage if the ratio of simple to complex is 80% to 20% as compared to, say, 50/50? As an example, would I have the same benefit from occasionally consuming a bowl of low fat (15% fat) ice cream instead of a bowl of breakfast cereal if the amount of carbohydrates ingested are the same?
In connection with this, what about maltodextrin? It is my understanding, perhaps mistakenly so, that the more complex the carbohydrate the more of it can be stored as glycogen. Maltodextrin is considered to be a complex carbohydrate with a high glycemic index. If not consumed during or immediately after exercise will the body be able to store the maltodextrin as it would carbs coming from pasta or would the body simply use what it can at the time and simply store the rest as adipose tissue?
Pam Hinton replies:
For a thorough analysis of the glycemic index (GI) and its usefulness, see the September 6, Fitness Q&A. That your pre- and post-race meal routine is working well, confirms what sports nutritionists recommend: high GI foods during, and immediately after, exhaustive, glycogen-depleting exercise and low GI foods the rest of the time.
Note that it is the availability of the dietary carbohydrate that determines how easily it can be used to make glycogen. Remember, GI reflects how quickly and how much your blood glucose increases after eating a food. Straight glucose is the reference with a GI of 100, causing the largest and most rapid elevation in blood glucose level. The terms "simple" and "complex" refer to the number of sugar (glucose) molecules in a carbohydrate. For maximal glycogen repletion, it is the GI, rather than simple vs. complex, which is important. As you point out, there are some complex carbs that are also high GI - synthetic sweeteners like maltodextrin, are an example. In contrast, most complex carbs in fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes will be lower on the GI scale.
There is no reason to worry that the simple carbs you consume in your post-race meal will be converted into fatty acids and stored in your adipose tissue. After exercise, your muscles use fat, not carbs, for energy so the glucose is available for glycogen storage. This happens because the enzymes needed to make fatty acids from glucose and store them as triglycerides in fat cells are inactivated. At the same time, the rate of fatty acid release from adipose into the blood is increased to supply the muscles. There is also an increase in fatty acids transport into the mitochondria of skeletal muscle where they are burned to produce ATP. The rate of glucose transport into muscle also increases post-exercise. The net result is that there is more glucose getting into the muscle and it is used to make glycogen. So, whether you eat a bowl of low-fat ice cream or a bowl of cereal, the carbs will end up where you need them. It's almost as if they had their own zip code. Too bad US Postal didn't hook up with the food industry to use that for a marketing campaign. But then, they never asked me.
As the weather gets colder and nastier, it's time to start breaking out the rollers and trainer and ride indoors. I'm a 21 year old male Cat4 cyclist. I'm starting to put on the base miles for the next season doing some VO2 work. But for some reason I can't get my HR up in the areas where that I train at when I'm on the open road.
A few days ago on the trainer I was trying to do the type of effort that would be a 30min Time Trial on the open road, but for some reason I couldn't get my heart rate above 130/140 BPM and maintain an effort that would last for 30 minutes, I could throw it in 53x11 and surge but burn out very quick. Same thing happened on the rollers, I could try for a harder effort, but in 53x11 I'd be around 150 BPM. I didn't really expect too much out of the rollers, but definitely expected to be in the 170s on the trainer. On the trainer during my warm-up my HR is in the 110s, where I'd normally be in the 120s to 130s.
Am I doing something wrong? On the trainer my legs feel the same as if my HR were around 160/170 BPM on the open road but it's actually around 130 according to my HRM. I don't think it's my bike fit, even if it were I should still be able to get my HR up there. As for the hardware I'm using a CycleOps Fluid 2 trainer, with the resistance unit at about 2 rotations of the knob like the manual says, and I'm on Kreitler all aluminum narrow rollers. I hope it's just something small that I'm doing wrong, because at this rate, I'm not going to see any improvement of my VO2 or LT at the beginning of next season.
Scott Saifer replies:
There are several possibilities. First I'm assuming that you are using enough resistance on the trainer that you are not simply spinning out. Yes?
If you are using enough resistance, the next most likely explanation relates to heat dissipation. When your body can't get rid of the heat it generates, it protects itself from overheating by decreasing work output. Think about how lethargic you feel and how hard it is to get moving on a hot, humid day. If you don't have a source of cold air and one or more strong fans blowing on you, this is likely your problem. By the way, the fitter you get, the more this becomes a problem. The more power you put out, the more waste heat you produce as well. I remember doing some testing in a garage with several older and not particularly fit masters racers when I was a strong senior. None of them needed a fan to be be comfortable, while I did. Their lactate thresholds were around 200 Watts, while mine was over 300.
A third possibility comes to mind. Are you warming up about as long indoors as you would outdoors? If you are trying to go hard less than 20 minutes into your ride, you could suffer at a lower heart rate than you would experience after a longer warm-up. I hope one or more of these ideas is helpful.
I'm a 50 year old male with multiple sclerosis who rides a carbon fiber road bike 150 miles or so a week. I've recently developed feelings of numbness and seeming weakness in my left leg and lower left abdomen that last about 1 or 2 seconds, then disappear, which don't affect my ability to ride or actually affect my leg strength.
I thought I had a new MS symptom, but my neurologist tells me I probably have nerve root compression instead. His advice is to buy padded bicycling shorts (which I already have) and a new bicycle saddle"with more padding." As well as stop bicycling for a week or more.
Bicycling is my way of dealing with MS, don't want to give it up, but my research is not turning up any clear advice on what kind of saddle to buy. (Currently I have a Selle San Marco Euro Luxe that came with my bike.) I'm not experiencing genital numbness. Any suggestions? I'm also thinking I should stand up in my peddles more often, examine my biking biomechanics, and launch a leg, lower back and abdominal exercise regime.
Steve Hogg replies:
Your neurologist may well be right in his assumption re your numbness. As always though this begs the question, why the left side only? The answer is always in a general sense, left/right asymmetries of function. If you can find anyone who knows their stuff to position you, I am sure that your problem could be resolved. Ideally you need to find someone who takes a capability based, rather than measurement based approach to the task of positioning you. If they are good at their job, you should not be a challenge to them. Re your last sentence; do all of those things. The more effort you put into improving structural function off the bike, the greater the payoff on the bike.
I am a"salty sweater" as described in one of your responses long ago. What is your opinion of E-Lite Sport (www.crampnomore.com), or at least the notion behind it? I have tried various sports drinks over the years, eating salty foods, etc., but still suffer from late race/ride problems. I don't usually cramp, but my performance takes a dramatic downturn. My face can be covered in white salt residue, regardless of hydration, after a hard ride or race.
Pam Hinton replies:
There's the product and then there's the notion behind it. There are three significant differences between this sports drink and others. The amount of sodium in this beverage is about 50% higher than other drinks. When diluted per the manufacturer's instructions, the sodium concentration is 790 mg per liter, which is slightly higher than the recommended concentration of 500-700 mg per liter. This product also contains large amounts of potassium and magnesium. There is really no need to consume potassium and magnesium during exercise, since only tiny amounts are lost in sweat compared to the total amounts of these electrolytes in the body. What is missing from this beverage is something you will definitely need if you are going to race for more than 60 minutes-carbohydrate. In order to maintain blood glucose levels you will have to consume carbohydrate from an alternative source-energy bars or gels or plain old food. The argument for omitting the carbs from the beverage is rather specious-you "don't normally salt sugary foods". Hmmm. Okay, but your muscles still need both salt (sodium) and sugar (glucose) to function properly.
The manufacturer also recommends using this product to "electrolyte load", which is apparently a take-off of "carbo loading". Carbohydrate loading works because we are able to store excess dietary carbs as glycogen for future use. The problem with the concept of "electrolyte loading" is that we do not have stores of sodium and potassium in the body. The concentration of sodium in the blood is highly regulated, so that it remains relatively constant. For example, if you eat a meal that is high in sodium, your kidneys retain extra water to keep the concentration of sodium in the blood stable. Potassium is the primary electrolyte located in the fluid inside of cells. If you consume extra potassium, your cells cannot retain it because it would cause the cells to take on extra water and burst. Instead, the excess potassium is excreted in the urine.
So the bottom is line is that, when properly diluted, this sports beverage will work to replenish sodium during exercise. For salty-sweaters, it has the advantage of a higher sodium content than other beverages. But, be forewarned, you will run out of gas if you don't fuel up with carbs as you go.
I am a new convert to cycling and about to enter my first winter. Friends have advised to get an indoor trainer. However spinning for hours at a time in a garage will I feel soon lose its appeal. I have recently seen adverts showing indoor trainers which can be linked to a pc to give more interest to training sessions. Are these simply arcade games are can you recommend details I should look for in the purchase of such a gizmo?
Dario Fredrick replies:
Any tool is only as useful as its application. You could certainly consider a PC-linked trainer as a video game if used as such. However, many ergometer-trainers with a PC video option will allow you to program specific courses or training situations if desired, while measuring data such as power, cadence, speed and heart rate. At Whole Athlete, we have used the CompuTrainer 3D extensively, and have found it to be an effective tool for testing, biomechanical analysis and for indoor training.
An important advantage to using a trainer-ergometer with your own bike as opposed to a stationary cycle-ergometer is that cyclists become very specifically adapted to their position on a bike (including saddle, bars, pedals, crank length, etc.), which is difficult to mimic even on the most adjustable stationary cycle-ergometers.
I would look for an ergometer-trainer that allows you to use your own bicycle, while at minimum measuring power output, and if possible providing cadence and heart rate data as well.
I'm a 46 year old male, 165 lbs riding 12-14 hours a week. I train myself for races and mostly do TT's from April-September. I just recently competed in a grueling 100 mile, 11,500 ft of climbing timed event. This was an event 3 weeks after I raced Mt. Washington, although this year I crashed.
Things were going relatively well on this race until just past the 60 mile marker. That's when I got a huge cramp in both my lower inner quads just above the knee. It was during a climbing portion of the course when this happened. It got so bad that I had to dismount and work them out for 5 minutes. After that any excessive pressure pushing the pedals on climbs made them cramp up again and forced me once again to dismount. Luckily, I had switched my double for a triple for this race. So spinning was my option to get through the tough climbs. What I can't understand is that I properly hydrated 48 hours prior to the event, carbo loaded 2-4 days in advance and was consuming roughly 30 ounces of Gatorade (which works for me) per hour. Additionally, I was consuming 1 power bar about every hour as well. Two factors that maybe a reason for this. 1) The triple had a 175 mm crank verse my usual 172.5mm and 2) at the last feed zone I gave up on 100% Gatorade and used pure water. On the latter 5 minutes after drinking the water my cramp mysteriously went away!
I thought I had this race planned out but obliviously that was not the case.
What do you think was the problem causing the cramps?
Steve Hogg replies:
I am assuming the area that you describe as cramping are your VMOs, that is the inner head of the quad. This plays a part in lateral stabilisation of the knee. Your cramping could conceivably have been caused by a combination of an unfamiliar crank length, the demands of a tough event and your particular idiosyncrasies of function. The test would be if it occurs again with your usual crank length. The wider Q factor of the triple would have meant you pedalling with your heels turned further in and toes turned further out than on your narrower double chainring setup as the contact point with the pedals is further from the centre line. If you did not check the rotational angle of your cleats, it may have not been ideal which in turn can cause The VMO's to fight a bit potentially. If cleat angle was not a problem, the slightly changed mechanics of your pedalling could have tipped you over the edge in this heavy climbing effort unless you had accustomed yourself to the triple under similar load conditions in the period leading up to the race. It may be that either or a combination of these was the problem.
Is glutamine all it is cracked up to be?? Does it do what the reviews say? Does it promote muscle growth by assisting the body natural growth hormones and to what extent?
Dario Fredrick replies:
Available research tends to support the claim that glutamine supplementation aids in maintaining immune function during periods of intense training, but it is not conclusive in supporting its role as an anabolic (tissue building) ergogenic aid.
I am a 37 year old cyclist (former long-distance runner, ice hockey player) who has gotten into cycling over the past four years. I ride a decent amount (more than 7,000 km this year so far), and mix my training between hard and easy spins, with rides ranging from 70 - 100 km. I also like climbing, so I tend to pursue routes that incorporate a fair amount of ascents.
Several times I've experience substantial cramping in my adductors after I've been riding very hard, typically after 100 kms of riding, requiring me to get off my bike and stretch. Most recently, it happened during a 17 km climb about 85 km into a 165 km ride, and the cramping began shortly after cresting (it was a warm day and I was well-hydrated as well). These instances have occurred while running a higher heart-rate than I tend to dwell in (180+).
I'm curious for advice on how to: 1. avoid this from recurring; 2. how to recover from it (it's been 2 weeks since my most recent bout, and I'm still sore).
Steve Hogg replies:
Adductor cramping on a bike, while not rare, is not that common. Adductors can function as a subsidiary pelvic stabiliser on a bike. Generally they are only called on to work hard enough to cramp if the rider is severely unstable in a pelvic sense on the bike, and is enlisting everything possible in an attempt to stabilise. Does your climbing style cause you to rock from side to side?
Are you particularly tight in hip flexors, glutes, hamstrings, lower back etc? If so, and possibly if the seat is too high, this can cause the rider to move around pelvically while at the same time unconsciously trying their best to remain stable. The first step is to have yourself structurally assessed by a good hands on style of health professional and if necessary get back to me with more information.
I've had historical problems with an SI joint that will seize up, particularly during stress, and my psoase is prone to getting tight...which I can relieve via stretching and massaging the abdomen. Incidentally, running aggravates those elements, which leads me to not pursue running. Hip flexors and hamstring are prone to tightness, and the lower back gets sore strictly via SI and psoase... and when it gets sore, I can relieve it via ab stretches/massage.
I've been fit on the bike and have a quiet style (not a lot of movement in hips, shoulders), and ride a high cadence, and the problems tend to be when I'm really pushing things, ie the recent 17 km climb. This recent bout has left with the sore adductors and tight hamstrings, particularly the right side (which I infer I'm favoring).
The problem is in the right side SIJ, same as the adductor that's bugging me. I actually cramped in both adductors, but the right side's plaguing me at the moment.
Steve Hogg replies:
A restricted SIJ causes the hip and ilium on that side to function more or less as a unit on a bike, rather than independently. Typically this will mean the hip on the affected side drops on the downstroke. The question is why is that SIJ tighter than the left?
There is a plethora of possible reasons. Do you drink consume milk or non cultured dairy products in any quantity?
If so, there is a correlation I have noticed between right side hip flexor tightness [ which in turn can be indirectly responsible for SIJ restriction] and dairy consumption. In some cases, when all the usual treatments have been exhausted with little or no result, abstinence from dairy foods can make a big difference with regard to right side restrictions. It won't hurt to give it a try but don't get your hopes up too much.
Have you ever been checked for a measurable leg length discrepancy? A restricted SIJ is not uncommon on the long leg side. The only off the bike advice I can give is to seek good professional help. There is always a reason for asymmetric patterns of tightness. Sometimes it takes a while to find someone with the necessary insight.
On the bike: Make sure that you are as stable as possible on the seat with the minimum enlistment of upper body musculature. If you find that you don't have a measurable leg length discrepancy, have an observer watch you pedal under load from behind. If as I suspect, you are dropping the right hip, twist the seat nose slightly to the right. This will square your hips up to a greater or lesser degree. If you feel obviously twisted, you have gone too far. Next, find some adhesive backed material and build up the right side rear of the seat in the area where you bear your weight by 3mm. This will lessen the degree of hip drop. You will probably find that you have to fit a 3 - 5 mm build up under the right cleat at the same time. This should lessen the tendency to drop the hip and make your adductors fight to stabilise the pelvis.
Give this a try and let me know how you go.
You say you have been professionally fitted to the bike. If this involved a measurement based method rather than a structure and capability based approach, it would pay you to read over the appropriate posts in the archives for the last 2 months or so. If you have any queries about any of this, get back to me.
I am 34, and just coming back to cycling after 16 years off. Being back on a bike, I'm reminded of a problem I had as a teen in which my left toes would go numb after 20 or so minutes on the bike. If I lift the sole of my foot slightly from the floor of the shoe, it does help momentarily, but that is only a short term comfort.
Thus far, after 3 weeks back at it, I've only had my right toes go numb once, and that was during a cool early morning ride, and I'm more apt to think that the chill caused numbness on that occasion. I am using the same shoes I used when I was 18, but they seem to still fit great. Plus, I went through a few different brands of cycling shoes in my teens, and I remember that they all caused this same numbness.
Lastly, I do remember that with some of my non-cycling shoes (Doc Martens, for example) I did get a similar numbness, on both feet, if I remember correctly. I've been wearing running shoes or Clarks for many years now and do not experience any numbness other than on the bike.
Obviously, my best bet would be to visit a podiatrist, but I was wondering if you had any experience with this or possible stopgap fixes.
Saint Louis, MO
Steve Hogg replies:
Given that this is in issue for you on and off the bike, go see that podiatrist. What is likely to be happening is that the nerves plexus between the metataral joints are being compressed. A good podiatrist will be able to address this with relative ease with a varied height lift across the lateral arch or by isolating the particular joint[s] by other means.
I wanted to provide a follow up to the many fit debates recently regarding passive seat positioning.
I have taken over a month off racing and high intensity riding while getting used to the 'new' position of my seat recommended by Steve Hogg (August 2nd & 9th). Fortunately I have been able to find a relatively comfortable position after checking the necessary requirements (teetering balance, proper reach, proper cleat positioning, comfort for long hauls, and good leg extension regarding my pedaling style). Unfortunately, after this long period of adjustment, my most recent intensity ride where I ramped up the pace compressed my groin and was painful. I spent much time considering what my body was doing when this happened, and I found that I was flexing my lower back and gluteal muscles similar to how I do during a leg press. By flexing my glutes I was extending my hip and in-turn compressing my soft tissue while staying in my drops.
My question is, am I going to have to learn to not flex my gluteal muscles upon extension of my leg in order to maintain a proper 'passive position?' I examined many pictures of professional cyclists while time trialing and road racing and saw that in all their positions, regardless of how far forward they were on the seat, they all had (what looked like) relaxed glutes throughout their pedal stroke. Is this part of the passive position that was recommended--learning to pedal at high intensities without flexing these muscles?
Steve Hogg replies:
Having your glutes and lower back working as you describe are desirable and entirely natural unless it is being overdone. Passive pelvic stabilisation does not mean non enlistment of the glutes. The glutes are the largest and potentially most powerful muscle group in the body and there job is to extend the hip. So what you are feeling in that sense is fine.Passive pelvic stabilisation in the sense that I use it, means minimum enlistment of torso musculature to stabilise the bike. As previously described, the way to achieve this is to have the seat far enough back that the majority of upper body weight can be borne without unnecessarily loading up the arms and shoulder complex. So let your glutes work. The perineal pressure you are feeling is not fine and if memory serves, was the problem you were having with your original query. Here is a 'to do' list of likely reasons for what you are feeling.
1. Your email suggests that this is an intensity related issue at the moment. If you only feel discomfort at high intensity, you may be creeping forward slightly on to the nose of the seat in an unconscious attempt to re visit your old seat position. A simple check is to put hands in drops at moderate intensity and look between your legs and see how much seat nose is visible. Then go harder and see if less seat nose is visible. If so, this is the likely cause.
2. Lower your seat 3 - 5 mm. Does this eliminate or reduce severity?
3. Is the seat level, nose up or nose down?
I find that most seats for most people need to be slightly nose up. In the range of 0.5 degrees to 2 degrees. The shell shape of many seats means that when sitting with hands on top of bars or on the hoods, everything is fine. But when on the drops there is a feeling of slipping forward off the middle of the sit bones and onto the perineum.
4. Are you inflexible in the lower back. Beyond a certain point, tightness here means that the pelvis and lower back tend to function as a unit rather than independently. This can mean that as the rider reaches forward and down for the drops, that they rotate their perineum into the seat and load it up.
5. If you are reaching too far out to the bars or too far down to the bars or a combination of both, under load you will shorten up and drag yourself forward on the seat. How much did you move the seat back from your previous position and was it necessary to change stem length?
6. What brand and model of seat do you use and how much use has it had? Seat choice is the most personal equipment choice of all. Most males can cope with most seats if they are positioned properly, but there is huge individual variance.
Of the above, handlebar height and/or reach is the most likely cause but far from the only possibility. When you are riding at high intensity with a lot of pressure on the pedals, this should lighten the load on the seat if anything, unless there are other factors at play. Let me know how you get on.