Fitness questions and answers for April 30, 2008

Form & Fitness Q & A

Got a question about fitness, training, recovery from injury or a related subject? Drop us a line at 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 ( is a Sports Psychology consultant who has dedicated her career to helping athletes of all ages and abilities perform to their potential. Carrie specialises in working with cyclists, in disciplines ranging from track racing to mountain biking. She holds a bachelors degree in Psychology from Sonoma State University as well as a masters degree in Sport Psychology from John F. Kennedy University.

Jon Heidemann ( is a USAC Elite Certified cycling coach with a BA in Health Sciences from the University of Wyoming. The 2001 Masters National Road Champion has competed at the Elite level nationally and internationally for over 14 years. As co-owner of Peak to Peak Training Systems, Jon has helped athletes of all ages earn over 84 podium medals at National & World Championship events during the past 8 years.

Dave Palese ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( has owned and operated Pedal Pushers, a cycle shop specialising in rider positioning and custom bicycles. In that time he has positioned riders from all cycling disciplines and of all levels of ability with every concievable cycling problem. Clients range from recreational riders and riders with disabilities to World and National champions.

Current riders that Steve has positioned include Davitamon-Lotto's Nick Gates, Discovery's Hayden Roulston, National Road Series champion, Jessica Ridder and National and State Time Trial champion, Peter Milostic.

Pamela Hinton has a bachelor's degree in Molecular Biology and a doctoral degree in Nutritional Sciences, both from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She did postdoctoral training at Cornell University and is now an assistant professor of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Missouri-Columbia where she studies the effects of iron deficiency on adaptations to endurance training and the consequences of exercise-associated changes in menstrual function on bone health.

Pam was an All-American in track while at the UW. She started cycling competitively in 2003 and is the defending Missouri State Road Champion. Pam writes a nutrition column for Giana Roberge's Team Speed Queen Newsletter.

Dario Fredrick ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 website.

Richard Stern ( 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 ( 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 ( is an Associate Coach with Whole Athlete™. He holds a Masters degree in exercise physiology, is a USA Cycling Level I (Elite) Coach and is certified by the NSCA (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist). Michael has more than 10 years competitive experience, primarily on the road, but also in cross and mountain biking. He is currently focused on coaching road cyclists from Jr. to elite levels, but also advises triathletes and Paralympians. Michael is a strong advocate of training with power and has over 5 years experience with the use and analysis of power meters. Michael also spent the 2007 season as the Team Coach for the Value Act Capital Women's Cycling Team.

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.

Knee pain
Mid-foot cleats: value of aft positioning with traditional shoes
Difference between Sidi Genius 5.5 carbon composite and Hi-Tech carbon
Involuntary slowing?
Arch cleat = lower back pain
The ultimate gel?
Patellar tendinitis and the wedge
Stretching confusion
20's or 23's

Knee pain

I am a 42 year old male rider doing recreational rides, usually a mixture of hills (30-50km) once or twice/week and then a longer flat ride (100km). I started riding again about 12 months ago and feel I've built up my fitness to a reasonable level. But I have a persistent problem with pain at the rear of the right knee. It can be helped with hamstring stretches as well as stretches for the top of my calf but after a long ride the issue re-emerges. Self-massage shows the area is painful. I also feel my right hip is noticeably less flexible than my right.

I did have an older bike (61cm) but have just upgraded to a 60cm Trek Madone. I was hoping with a current bike fit the issue would sort itself out but no joy. I have noticed that my left shoulder is higher than my right, and has been so for some years. Like most of us I work at a desk and computer. One bike fit chap mentioned that core strength is often lacking in people who work as I do - but could this be related to the knee pain? FYI I had two bike fits done (one for a prospective custom-fit bike); both came out remarkably close.

Also, elsewhere in your column you allude to the natural variability in professional fitness advice. So far I have not sought professional advice. Is there some way to be pointed towards good practitioners? I am limited in my knowledge and would prefer to not to head down blind alleys! I am from Melbourne, Australia.

Thanks in advance for anything you can advise.
Russell Harris.

Steve Hogg replies:

Your problem is likely a simple one and is that you are overextending the right leg. The larger questions are why and what do about it.

Mid-foot cleats: value of aft positioning with traditional shoes

Per the ongoing dialog discussing the relative benefits of mid-foot cleat position, I have some rather run of the mill inquires. Like most training techniques is this something that one should introduce into a training regime early in the season or is it liked to something similar to switching to Q-rings which most users report taking a handful of rides to adapt too? Also for those of us with shoe/cleat combinations that prevent true mid-foot setup, can we expect some (although lessened) performance gains by moving our cleats as far back as our current shoe/cleat combination allow and would this change be recommended by the true mid-foot converts?

The limited empirical data and biomechanical descriptions all make sense to me however I've be racing long enough to know that overnight changes to bike position, gear, etc, usually result in unpleasant and untimely disasters. So before I (being part of the majority of racers probably not able to achieve true mid-foot cleat position) run downstairs and slam my cleats into the back seat can one of your noted authorities please comment on this hybrid cleat positioning?

Pittsburgh, PA

Steve Hogg replies:

The short answer is that I don't know. I don't know where your cleats are now relative to foot in shoe so it is a bit of a leap to speculate on what may happen if they move back further (how much further is possible?)

Difference between Sidi Genius 5.5 carbon composite and Hi-Tech carbon

Thanks for your recent article on Sidi Genius 5.5 Carbon Composite shoes. Could you tell me the difference between the SIDI Genius 5.5 Carbon Composite and SIDI Genius 5.5 Hi-Tech Carbon (in particular with reference to the sole and stiffness)?

The reason why this is of interest to me is that I had previously bought a full carbon sole shoe - there was definitely no energy loss is power transfer to the pedals, but unfortunately the extreme stiffness and lack of "give" in the sole gave me a sore right knee.

Steve Hogg replies:

I am not totally clear on which is which; memory fails me, but the version with the one piece carbon sole is more rigid than the version with the bolt in insert type carbon sole. Neither are as rigid as many other brands of carbon shoe sole. Sidi resisted carbon soles for years believing that there was such a thing as too much stiffness in a shoe sole. Now that they have carbon soles to fight marketing wars, theirs are not as rigid as many competitors.

Involuntary slowing?

I am a 44 years old, none racer, avid cyclist, I ride for the most part consistently about 2-3 times a week for the last 5 plus years. I have maintained my fitness level constant for the most part, except lately.

I stoped riding for 2 weeks as the winter was rainy and cold and then I got sick with the flu, but since about 3 months ago I got back to my usual mileage, but I am getting slower and slower every week, feeling a lot more tired than usual. I have been getting muscular soreness and pain in my legs the day after a ride for the last month or so, with no other explanation about my health, except for an acid reflux syndrome which I do not think is related to this. A recent physical examination returned a negative result and my weight is normal. Any ideas?

Oscar Leal

Scott Saifer replies:

This sounds like a very frustrating situation, with several possible causes, medical and non-medical. First I would consider nutrition: are you getting enough carbohydrate to support the training you are doing? If you are maintaining weight and getting about 50% or more of your daily calories from carbohydrate, this is not your problem. If you are losing weight, or are maintaining on a low-carbohydrate diet, you should look into increasing your carbohydrate consumption. Could there be any other nutritional problems? Do you avoid salt for instance? That can lead to fatigue.

Arch cleat = lower back pain

Hi. At the start of this cycling season I moved my cleats as far behind the ball of my foot as possible to try and emulate the biomac/arch cleat position. This resulted in my cleat being 2.5cm (a change of 1.7cm from my previous position) behind the ball of my foot. To accommodate for this change in cleat position I dropped my saddle 1cm.

When riding the new cleat position feels quite comfortable and perhaps more efficient. However, after about 2hrs of riding my lower back (Quadratus lumborum?) becomes quite fatigued. In my previous cleat position and saddle height, lower back pain was never an issue, so this is surprising to me (Come to think of it, I made the same cleat and saddle height changes last year with my MTB and got the same back fatigue).

Anyway here are my questions: 1) When switching to a more arch oriented cleat position is lower back pain or fatigue common?
2) Or is this back fatigue only common to those with saddles too high for arch cleats?
3) Also, all my recent adjustments seem to have my saddle height in free fall (lower quads next to knees burning...drop the saddle, broken neck...drop the saddle, arch cleat...drop the saddle), are their any ques for when a saddle is too low (Back pain?).

Michael Kemp
East Lansing MI USA

Steve Hogg replies:

Firstly, with the centre of the ball of your foot 25mm in front of the pedal axle, you are no where near mid-foot cleat position, even if you have a small foot.

The ultimate gel?

I have been using honey (combined with ham sandwiches) on my bike rides in lieu of the many gels available out there. I also take a couple of spoonfuls after the ride for recovery. Is honey the oldest and ultimate gel? Is there any science to support the benefits of honey for on the bike nutrition?


Scott Saifer replies:

There is nothing magic about any of the gel products on the market. They are all mixes of various amounts of various nutrients that are widely available in "real" foods. There is very little evidence to support the inclusion of any of the special ingredients (amino acids, proteins, herbal stuff, and caffeine) in the gels.

Patellar tendinitis and the wedge

I've been having knee problems while riding my bike for about 1 1/2 years. It started as patellar tendinitis, which I went to physiotherapy for. In the process of trying to heal the tendinitis, the physiotherapist had me switch to Specialized Body Geometry shoes with a built-in wedge.

For several months I built up slowly on the bike, riding gently and not too far. But I developed new pains around my knee cap, and on the upper tibia, which the physiotherapist called a shin splint. Even with the new pain, he insisted I keep doing my gentle rides.

I've stopped going to physio, but have carried on with the exercises and stretches. After a break from the bike in late fall, I started up again on my indoor trainer in January, still using the Specialized shoes. After gentle rides of 15-20 minutes, I developed knee pains around my kneecap, and my knee was a little sore the next day. I carried on like this for several weeks, and finally decided to ditch the wedge and go back to flat shoes.

That seemed to go OK until I started riding outside again recently. The pains around my kneecap and upper tibia started again, not constant but fleeting, changing as I changed the position of my foot on the pedal.

Do I need orthotics? (My last physio told me no) Do I need someone to evaluate my foot position on the pedal? Do I need a sports doctor or knee specialist? I've had x-ray and ultrasound and they showed nothing.


Scott Saifer replies:

There are several possible causes of your pain. A proper bike fitting including a cleat adjustment would be a good place to start. The pains you describe certainly could arise from a bad bike fit and bike fit should be eliminated as a possible cause before you consider orthotics or physical therapy.

Steve Hogg replies:

You say " I've been having knee problems while riding my bike..."

Stretching confusion

I am a 30 year old cat. 3 male, and have been road racing for five years.

I was looking around the internet the other day looking for some suggestions on stretching routines. Some of the articles I found though (including Wikipedia), were claiming that stretching actually decreases athletic performance and does not contribute to injury prevention. I've always practiced before and after workout stretching routines as well as incorporating yoga into my weekly training. Could you please explain where these claims stem from and suggest an optimal routine?

Scott Saifer replies:

Thanks for the awesome question. This is a very controversial topic and here's my best effort to cut through the controversy and provide a balanced view. The evidence that higher levels of flexibility impair certain sorts of exercise performance (especially running and jumping sorts of exercises, and repetitive motion exercises like cycling and running) is incontrovertible. The absence of evidence for stretching preventing injury is pretty convincing too, but some people swear they have to stretch to keep their back or knees functional. What's going on?

Dave Fleckenstein replies:

The truth is that there is no one correct program for all. Ideally, we would all have a very individualized system of stretching and stability based on our specific needs. In general, I don't prescribe stretching as a short term performance enhancer. Flexibility is of value for those individual who have restrictions preventing them from attaining correct alignment due to soft tissue and joint restrictions. Often I have seen bike fitters adapt the bike to someone's pathology rather than correct the pathology (or guide them to someone who can correct it), usually because they do not recognize normal from aberrant motion patterns.

Dario Fredrick replies:

If we examine the available research, there is no compelling evidence to support either the ergogenic or detrimental effects of stretching on exercise performance, and apparently none that directly examine endurance performance -- which is what's relevant when talking about cycling & road racing. Of the available research on the topic of stretching and exercise/strength performance, the evidence is divided. There are a few published studies that have looked at stretching and its effects on explosive muscular efforts or strength endurance (typically measured as maximum # of repetitions of a strength exercise such as a leg press at a percentage of 1 repetition max. weight), but as mentioned, the results are mixed.

20's or 23's

I am 6'1" 160, and I prefer to ride 700x20's because of the lower rolling resistance. I feel there is less drag on the rear end. I live in an area where it is not highly technical in terms of downhills and constant turns so I have not had a problem with grip. I have had the back end come loose on up hill sprints, but that seems to be a problem for some of my friends to who run 23's. However, they do think I am crazy for running super thin tires. What do the pros do in dry conditions (non pave')? Any recommendations?

Matt Starr

Eddie Monnier replies:

After reading your question, I immediately thought of the saying "measuring with a micrometer and marking with a grease pencil." My intent is not to give you a hard time, but rather, to use a bit of humour to highlight how relatively common it is for cyclists to look for the little things and ignore the more important, more impactful ones.

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