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Fitness questions and answers for February 7, 2005

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.

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.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 ( 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 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 ( 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, 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.

Crank arm length?
AT, LT, VT I'm confused
Back pain solution
Elevated resting heart rate
Spleenectomy and VO2
Heel and toe
Heart rate
Maximum power ranges
Saddle query

Crank arm length?

Hello. I'm a 31-year-old Cat.3 racer in the United States. I'm 6' 2" tall and weigh 175lbs. My specialty is sprinting and I'm an ok climber. I have a 34" inseam. The distance from the side of my hip to the pivot in my knee is around 18". The distance from the pivot in my knee to my ankle is also right around 18" (inches). I use a size 47 shoe. A gentleman I have recently gone to for some coaching told me that my 180mm crankarms were way to long for me. He mentioned going with maybe a 175 or even a 172.5. Do you have any suggestions?

Just for some background. This issue got started because we're doing spin up drills where we eventually get up to 145rpm. I told my trainer that when I hit 130rpm (seated) I can't get much higher because I feel like my knees are going to fly out. It's like I start to completely lose composure and it feels very odd. I asked him if crank arm length could dictate how fast you can spin. That's when I told him the cranks were 180's and he looked at me like I was mad.
Thanks for any help you can offer me on this. Thanks again!

Christine Guest

Steve Hogg Replies

G'day Christine,

AT, LT, VT - I'm confused

I've been riding/racing competitively for about 5 years. I'm 40, a middle of the pack MTB sport rider, and a very green cat 5 road rider. A couple years ago, I went to a USCF cycling coach and had an LT test done, and found my LT to be about 161. I followed some of the guidelines given to me during this consultation, but relied mainly on the MTB training bible as I couldn't afford a coach. I've since read a few other books related to cycling-specific training and I'm more confused than ever as to what my zones should be.
I have the following data, which may or may not be helpful - my max HR is 198 - I've hit this level 2-3 times in the last year. My resting HR is 50. My average HR on a recent one hour 40 minute MTB race was 178; I gave it all I had. On long (3.5 miles) uphill 4-5% grades, I can breathe through my nose exclusively and have an average HR of 172-174 for intervals up to 15 minutes in length. Given this information, can you tell me what my "training zones" are and what the difference is between AT, LT, and VT? Thank you for your time and I'll look forward to your response


Mesa, AZ

Dario Fredrick Replies

Hi Steve,

Back pain solution

I suffered back pain problems similar to those described by Neil in the Jan. 31 fitness letters. Like him, I tried exercise, stretching, chiropractic treatment and position adjustments made under the close supervision of a coach. Nothing helped, and I eventually gave up racing and considered giving up riding altogether. Then I read Grant Peterson's bar height theories and I raised my handlebars to approximately one inch below my saddle top. The back pain disappeared almost immediately. I wonder why more coaches don't consider this simple solution to back pain, as an aero position is worthless if you can't ride.

Mike Hagburg

Bismarck, ND

Steve Hogg Replies

G'day Mike,

Elevated resting heart rate

Has any of the panel got any experience of the following - I am 37, and returned to cycling last spring, after 12 years. I have run 4-5 times a week in those 12 years, and have had a resting heart rate of 52 bpm for a number of years.

Since last Christmas (2004) my resting heart rate has increased to 60-62 bpm for no apparent reason. I have been doing 130-150 miles per week since October, and don't feel in any way overtrained. I am eating and sleeping well, of constant weight, maintain full hydration, and have not had any significant infections recently.

What really concerns me is that when out on a steady level 2 ride, I seem to be working at a higher heart rate at a given speed than before Christmas (referenced against a regular training partner). It appears as if the increase in heart rate has also occurred at the top end (although my max heart rate does not seem to have increased.) Regards,

Ian Rawson.


Andrew Bloomer Replies

Hi Ian

Spleenectomy and VO2

To what extent is my oxygen uptake and utilization affected by having my spleen removed from my circulatory system? I understand that the spleen helps remove "spent" red blood cells. I am interested to know what has replaced this function in my body and what if anything I can do to replace/enhance/supplement the duties of my lost organ.

Joe Branch


Pamela Hinton Replies

Hi Joe,

Heel and toe

My name is Michael Kemp. I'm male, 28 years old, and a Cat 2 road racer. I recently had a medical bicycle fit. My fitting has produced some mixed results. I am extremely comfortable in the arms/shoulders/back from the reduced co-pit length, and additionally, I think my power/strength has improved with my now more open hip angle. Oddly enough the increase in power/strength may have revealed/exacerbated another problem.

I have a little scoliosis so I sit on my saddle tilted toward the left leg. I believe this creates a leg length difference. Also, I tend to pedal with my heel down more than my toe down. As a result, the left calf is tighter than the right (ie, because the left calf doesn't have to drop as far to achieve the same leg length). I believe this to be a muscular adaptation due to me having ridden in this pelvic tilted position for over 10 years.

I don't really notice any effect of this if I'm 'spinning'. However, when I go to use my new-found power, I really notice that my right ankle drops more. I believe my increased power/strength puts more stress on my 'tilted left pelvis/more flexible right calf' compensatory mechanism -ie- the increased power/strength placed on my more flexible right calf allows my dropping of the heel to additionally straighten my leg on the right side more so than in the past.(Sorry it took so long to get to that). In any event, I'm beginning to notice some pain (maybe more like stiffness) at the back of my knee as a result of this. It's like my saddle is virtually too high for the right leg. I don't suppose this was ever a problem in the past because my super stretched-out position prevents me from generating enough power/strength to stress my right leg. I feel like the two twins you evaluated. One was pedalling toe down and the other was pedalling heal down. Except I have one of each of their legs.

I've only made one modification in an attempt to improve the problem. I cracked a crank a year ago. So campy sent me a new arm. The problem with tapered squares is they begin to sink onto the axle further every time you tighten the crank. So basically I had two crank arms at two different Q-factors. Unfortunately, I had the wider Q-factor on the 'left leg/tilted down side of the pelvis, which only worsened my tilted left position. I changed the Q-factor on my left pedal cleat and that pushed my hip back to a more even position. Enough so that when I ride with my prostate now (sort of) sits on the right side of the saddle. A significant improvement in my pelvic tilt but my leg still seems to straighten when under my new increased load.

I don't want to be a whinny puss because I know I'm never going to be perfect in the saddle. But I also don't want to destroy my one knee in favour of the other. So the point of this being - help! I guess I have a series of questions - feel free to answer any question I should have asked.

1) Do you think my current modification was wise?

2) Are there additional modifications you would suggest?

3) Do you think shimming or packing up one side in favour of the other would help in this case? I'm apprehensive to pack up one side in favour of the other in fear that it might worsen my scoliosis. Is it going to worsen my scoliosis? Which side do I pack up? How much do I pack up one side?

4) When spinning, it feels like my heel is not pressed as far back in the right shoe as my left heel is in its shoe. I pushed both my cleat back as far as possible to remove this feeling (I know your ball of foot forward of pedal axle so in case you were wondering. My shoes are about a cm too large, so moving my cleat all the way back leaves the ball of my foot dead centre over the pedal axle). So, I often wonder if I'm sitting with one knee further forward than the other. I think that's a twisted pelvis/hip. However, whenever I ask my girlfriend to observe me from 'behind and above' she makes no note of twisting forward on the right or left. Instead I get a "no dear' and a pinch on my rear. Could a twisted hip or pelvis (?) be part of this problem too? Are there any other ways to evaluate twisted pelvis?

4) I suppose this is more of a question for a physical therapist. I've been diligently trying to improve my structure using some exercises, and I'm considering aggressively stretching my left/tight calf to try and lessen the effect of my 'flexible right calf compensatory mechanism. Is this nonsense?

5) Are all my questions nonsense and will lead to zero improvement in my position?

6) Does this problem sound significant enough that I should consider being re-evaluated?

7) Should I give-up cycling and take up knitting instead?

Michael Q. Kemp

Tucson Arizona

Steve Hogg Replies

G'day Michael,

Heart rate

I am a 58-year-old cyclist and in winter, because I am mildly asthmatic, concentrate my rides on a turbo. My resting pulse is around 54bpm.When working out I ride for periods of up to 1.5 hours, increasing gearing and heart rate after warming up. However, to reach 121 to 138bpm, which I understand to be the max for someone of my age, seems very hard indeed. Despite thrashing the pedals my max hr ticks along at 114-115 - is anything wrong or should I just push higher gears to hit the target?
Thanks for your help

Tony Freeth

Andrew Bloomer Replies

Hi Tony

Maximum power ranges


I just picked up a trainer (from Performance Bike) that has a "power" readout. In an unprepared test, I turned out about 900 maximum watts. A friend said that he and others he rides with have maximums around 1200 - 1500. I know I could do a little better, but these seem very high - the Joe Friel Cyclist's Training Bible seems to indicate values closer to mine... can you point me to (or quote some averages for) typical max watts for amateur cyclists? Thanks!

Ryan and Jennie

Ric Stern Replies


Saddle query

I have just changed my saddle from a SLR-Sella Italia to a Flight-Sella Italia. Do I need to drop my seat height, as the Flight seems a little higher?

Paul Hazlewood

Steve Hogg Replies

G'day Paul,

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