Form & Fitness Q & A
Got a question about fitness, training, recovery from injury or a related subject? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
I was recently reading your form and fitness Q & A page trying to find an answer to a question that I believe many of the athletes on my collegiate soccer team have mistaken, or there might be some confusion around. They commonly refer to a pick up run after a couple of hard days of practice as a lactose run, but from my understanding lactose doesn't build up in the body causing soreness - isn't soreness caused from lactic acid? There was one question that briefly spoke of lactic and lactose, but I am still seeking a clearer understanding.
Eastern Washington University
Scott Saifer replies:
You are at least half right. Lactose is the principle sugar found in milk, made of one molecule each of the simple sugars glucose and one galactose. It is not made by working muscles during exercise. It is the stuff that causes intensitinal distress in people who are lactose-intolerant.
Lactate is a byproduct of muscle work. It combines in the blood with hydrogen ions to form lactic acid. For many years it was thought that lactic acid caused muscle fatigue and failure, but this turns out not to be the case. Direct injection of lactic acid or lactate into a muscle does not cause a burning sensation or muscle failure.
In my lexicon, a lactose run would be a run to the local icecream parlor of a post-exercise milk-shake.
I'm a 45 year old recreational rider, 6'1", 240 lbs. I'd be in decent shape at 210, but after running a marathon in 2001 I spent several years tracking down the cause of the pain in my right hip. It turns out that I have a herniated L5 vertebra, and a condition called spondilolysthesis, which is defined as a weakness or instability in the spine, which in my case involves tiny stress fractures in the same vertebra (this is attributed to decades of wear and tear, as an amateur boxer and a runner).
I started cycling last summer, and I've been more focused this year (8-10 hours a week, endurance base with more intense intervals), and it seems to help my back. I ride a Giant OCR1 compact frame that's a few years old: this year I had it fitted, and the fitter suggested that the frame was a tiny bit too small (compact frames not as good for big riders?). After riding for an hour or so, however, I tend to develop pain in my neck-trapezius-shoulder, but only on the right hand side. It's definitely improved since having the bike fitted, but hasn't gone away. More recently, I've developed some kind of sore bump (a cyst? incipient saddle sore?), next to my perineum on the right hand side, which has kept me of the bike for a week, so far (it seemed to shrink, I tried a 20 minute ride, which inflamed it). Finally, when stretching I notice that my right hamstring is tighter than the left.
So, I'd appreciate any advice on the separate problems, but as they are all on the same side (I'm right handed, by the way), I wonder whether I should be looking for some misalignment or asymmetry (which seems plausible, given my back condition), and if so might I expect my right hip, say, to be ahead or behind, etc., or what would you look for?
Steve Hogg replies:
The most likely scenario is that they are all related. I will just about guarantee that you are not sitting squarely on the seat. There are two likely scenarios that would equally explain your issues. The most likely is that:
1. You hang to the left to twist your pelvisforward to the left. That would explain the upper trap shoulder pain because the right side of the upper body would have to reach further to the bars. The tighter right hamstring would be because the left side hip drop / pelvic twist causes the right leg to overextend relative to the left. The saddle sore is because you are sitting over to the left of the seat which pulls the right side of the groin closer to the seat and loads it every time you drop the left hip or twist it forward.
2. It is less likely but possible that you are hanging to the right. If your right psoas is significantly tighter than your left, then indirectly, right hamstring tightness is usually part of the picture as the right glute would be inhibited and the hammie has to work harder because of the compensations and neurological inhibitions that are often part of the picture. The right side upper trapezius / neck / shoulder issues would be because you are investing more upper body effort on the right side to brace against the right side pelvic twist or hip drop. The right side saddle sore would be there only if the right side twist is pronounced.
Set your bike up on an indoor trainer, warm up and pedal under load with your shirt off. Have an observer standing above and behind you . Which side of the pelvis do you drop or rotate forward on the seat?
There is a lot of stuff in the archives about this and similar problems. Once you have had a look, if there are any unanswered questions you have, you can get back to me.
I'm a 44 yr old serious recreational rider having just got back on the bike after 20 odd years because of a knee injury that has brought an end to my Australian football playing days.
My previous stint on the bike involved a bit of road racing at club level and the training required to allow me to be competitive in races without setting the world on fire.
I stand at 180cm (at touch under 6'), weigh 74kgs with about 16% body fat and would consider myself healthy apart from one dodgy knee. Not that dodgy though, that it stopped me from ascending Mt Ventoux recently. I have an inseam of 87.2cm and I'm currently riding a Giant TCR with a compact Road frame size M (purchased 2nd hand from a bike shop in Bangkok where I reside).
The M size may be bordering on being a bit on the small size, hence I'm currently looking for a new bike here in Bangkok, but getting "good" advice on frame sizing for one is difficult and 2 getting "bigger" frames is also not that easy.
Anyway I'm getting off topic. My problem is one of numbness, which I don't recall having experienced previously. Bangkok being relatively flat city means that on long rides (60+ kms) there is not too many occasions that require me to get out of the saddle. The numbness affects both feet - toes through to mid foot area - and it also affects the genital region....yes the meat and 2 veg. Quite often the result is a feeling of no power in the legs. This is not a tiredness feeling.
No doubt bike positioning is important (which needs the right sized bike to start with) but I have been trying a few different set-ups (saddle height / for & aft) with my existing bike and all seem to no avail. I would say that generally speaking I feel quite comfortable on the bike and don't really have a feeling of being scrunched up. Most of my riding is done with hands on the hoods. Without having accurately checked I would say that my knees would be slightly ahead of the pedal axle when I'm in the 3 / 9 position obviously by degree depending on for / aft saddle position.
I can normally alleviate the feeling of numbness by getting out of the saddle and "getting the circulation going". This provides me with a short term solution, but obviously a long term one would be better. Also I'm concerned with any long term issue that may arise from this.
Steve Hogg replies:
Playing the odds of likely occurrences,unless you have an a VERY tight lower back, glutes and hamstrings, your self description of the relationship between your knee ( and I assume you mean tibial tubercle) and the pedal axle places your seat too far forward. You may need to move your seat further back than the standard seat post allows. Get hold of a FSA K - Force in what FSA describe as "full setback" which is the model with the greatest rearward offset. Failing that, treat yourself to a Fizik Arione seat. The rail length and placement on that seat allows more rear ward adjustment than most other seats. Additionally, the shape of the seat means that the rider sits further back relative to the nose than on many other seats. With one or both of those things, you should be able to relieve the perineal / genital numbness
Re the feet, assuming that you don't have any nerve compression related issues, the most likely culprit is cleat position. Have a look at these posts and place your cleats as directed: Cleat adjustment and Finding the ball of your foot. This will have a positive effect on how you bear your weight on the seat as well.
I have a question regarding the aero benefits of a TT position vs a conventional road racing position. My question is mainly this: If a steeper seat tube angle is used to allow a better aero position for TTs, why not use a similar position for road racing? I would think that the massive aero benefit would outweight the somewhat more awkward aero position. I'm not saying that aero bars should be used, just a steeper seat tube\low conventional bars. Pros seem to prefer lots of setback for road riding, but during TTs they roll forward into a steeper position. Maybe there is a super simple explanation, having never ridden a TT bike I can't really lend any experience to figure this out. Does a steeper seat tube make climbing in the saddle too difficult or something like that?
Thanks for your input, I have read all your articles and find them extremely interesting regarding cycling biomechanics. I've already switched my cleats per your recommendations and may be using your video positioning service at cyclefit for myslef and my wife. Thanks for any help and keep up the good work!
Steve Hogg replies:
Here is some background that may help answer. Wade through the first part into the meat of the article.
Next, when you use aero bars, you are reducing frontal area by bringing the upper arms closer together. This won't be the case with a forward position using conventional drop bars without aero bars, so other than a lower torso height, no aero advantage there.
Then you have the problem of supporting the significant weight transfer forward that accompanies a forward position. Assuming a rider wishes to ride like this, it is a lot easier done by bearing weight closer to the elbows than wrists on aero bar cups, than it is to have to stabilise the wrist and elbow with and bear that weight on the hands on the smaller surface area of the drops of road handlebars.
Most steep seat angled TT bikes don't handle particularly well. A lot of this has to do with it being hard to steer a bike well and bear significant weight on the hands. TT riding is about hard steady effort, not the flat out one moment, cruising the next type riding that is common in road racing over a wider variety of terrain than is common during TTs.
TT's generally don't last much more than an hour to an hour and a half in stage races. If you are going to assume a position that your body doesn't particularly enjoy, it is easier to do this for short periods occasionally, than it is to do it day in, day out.
Lastly, don't think that all of the pros who do ride as you describe, do enjoy it. I have heard some complain bitterly about their positions on TT bikes. If they didn't have aero bars, there would be even more grounds for complaint as upper body weight would be harder to support.. Additionally, a lot of them aren't going absolutely flat out if the TT is part of a stage race. If they are a GC contender or a TT specialist you can bet they are going hard. For a lot of the rest, it is another day at the office with the major concern being to finish inside the time limit and not flatten themselves for the next days' work.
Does a steeper seat tube angle make climbing more difficult?
An inappropriately steep seat angle does. If a seat angle is too steep, the pedal has to move further past top dead centre before the rider can get behind and over it to push down. I see a lot of the people who ride with steep seat angles whose pedaling technique, effective or ineffective, can be described as being like on a step machine. An explosive push at the top of the stroke but 'coasting' through the bottom of the stroke. Pedaling like that isn't the best way to ride a hill where the requirement is for moderate rpm and high torque through as much of the pedal stroke as possible.
I have a case of sesamoiditis in my left foot that I have noticed for the past month. Whenever I stand on the pedals, especially standing while climbing, the area under my big toe (the sesamoids) hurts although it is bearable. The area occasionally swells, although it is not TOO painful to walk. The problem is it continues to get worse over time.
Would any of the following help:
1) Switching pedals. I currently use Time Impact pedals (2004 model). The front of the pedal is fairly narrow. Would I benefit from switching to a larger platform in the front, such as a Look Keo or Shimano Dura-Ace?
2) Switching shoes. Currently I use Northwave Speedster, which do not have a carbon sole. Would I benefit from switching to a stiffer carbon soled shoe?
3) Orthotics - cycling specific insoles
4) Seeing a podiatrist. My reservation here is most podiatrists are not experts with respect to cycling, and I do not see what value this will provide?
Steve Hogg replies:
The first question to ask is why left foot only?
It's worth a visit to a podiatrist to check whether there is any foot issue that could cause this. If that isn't the case, here are some bike positioning boxes to tick.
1.With enough foot over the pedal, this should rarely be a problem (have a look at http://www.cyclingnews.com/fitness/?id=2004/letters10-11#Ball and http://www.cyclingnews.com/fitness/?id=2004/letters07-26#Cleat ) and follow that advice.
2. If you can't achieve the cleat positioning recommended in those posts, that could be part of the problem. I am not familiar with Northwave Speedsters but Northwaves in general have more forward positioning of cleat mounting holes than say Shimano, Specialized, DMT, Nike, Sidi, Lake, Diadora and a few others.
3. Do you have a noticeably smaller left foot?
If so, and if you have the cleats in the same place on the sole of each shoe, then they may not be in the same place relative to foot in shoe on each side.
4. Get hold of some Lemond wedges and have a play. It could be that foot morphology on the left side causes you to load the 1st MTP area on the left side.
5. Re the pedals themselves. It is unlikely that they are the problem but is possible, though if they are the problem, it is likely to be in conjunction with other factors.
Steve Cross responded:
My left leg is over 1 inch longer than the right... not sure if that has anything to do with it.
1/2) I have my cleats back as far as possible, so that shouldn't be an issue (unless I have them TOO far back, I will check).
3) Same size
4) Great idea, I thought of that but will look into 'em
5) Fair point, and you are correct, doubtful it is the pedals themselves.
Steve Hogg replies:
If as I assume, you are saying that the left leg is measurably shorter by an 1" plus, then that may have a lot to do with your problem. There is a highish correlation between a significant forefoot varus on the long legged side in my experience. No where near 100%, but at a guess, 75%+. It would be worth checking out forefoot varus on both feet.
An inch plus is a significant leg length difference. If I am correct to assume that this is measurable and not functional, how have you compensated for that on the bike?