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Fitness questions and answers for July 10

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.

Optimal race weight
Choc milk redux
Fixed Cleats
Crank length
Cycling and osteoporosis
Raw food diet
Foot numbness with new shoes and pedals
Pedal stack height
More on women's saddles #1
More on groin pain

Optimal race weight

I'm a 24-year-old male category 3 and collegiate racer in my first full season of racing. I train about 12-15 hours per week. I have had the most success in longer road races and stage races, especially those with lots of climbing. I have a question about the optimal weight for performance in these types of races.

In this article, you discuss weight and performance, and you tell a rider that the optimal range for a 5'9" cyclist is 135-155 pounds, and say "Note that there is a low end of the range."

At the start of last season, I was completely untrained, and weighed 160 lbs. I am 6'0" tall. Progressively over the first 9 months or so of training, I lost about a pound every two weeks. My weight stabilized at about 138 lbs, and has been that way for the past 3 months.

I note that most professional riders who are my height, even those who are climbers, tend to be heavier than I am by 7 to 12 pounds.

You say there is such a thing as too light. Do I need to gain weight to be more successful? If so, can you suggest some good strategies for adding mass in the most productive way? Should I simply increase calorie intake, should I do more resistance training to add muscle mass, or something else entirely?

Thanks for your time,

Tyler Stetson
Portland, Oregon

Scott Saifer replies:

Chances are very good that you could increase sustainable power in such a way as to maintain or slightly increase power to weight ratio for climbing but increase absolute power for flat land riding if you were to gain some mass in your leg and butt muscles. You could also improve your sprint. Based on your current weight and height, I'll guess that if you get to the end of a hilly race with a group, you are not the fastest sprinter, and you have to work harder than the competition on descents.

Choc milk redux

A couple years back, a coach of mine spoke of the value of chocolate milk as a recovery drink. Hoards of my teammates flocked to the tasty treat however I stayed true to some of those highly engineered recovery drinks and pointed to out the questionable and hydrogenated ingredients in some of the "kiddie brew" my mates were chugging down.

Flipping through a popular US cycling magazine, I saw an article heralding chocolate milk and how much better is does in side by side testing with the fancy (and pricy) stuff I buy.

What is the real scoop?

John Mattio

Pam Hinton replies:

The popularity of chocolate milk as a recovery drink skyrocketed earlier this year following the publication of a study demonstrating that it is an effective recovery drink (Karp et al., 2006). The researchers had 9 trained young male cyclists perform a glycogen-depleting interval workout, followed by a 4 hour recovery period and then another workout at 70% of VO2max until exhaustion. During the recovery period, the participants consumed ~500mL of recovery drink immediately after exercise and another 500mL 2 hours after exercise. The subjects performed the testing on 3 separate occasions to determine the efficacy of 3 different recovery drinks: low-fat chocolate milk, Endurox R4, and Gatorade. In the chocolate milk and Endurox trials, subjects consumed similar amounts of energy (~400 kcal), carbohydrate (~70 g), and protein (~19 g). Energy (~105 kcal), carbohydrate (30 g) and protein (0g) intakes were significantly lower in the Gatorade trial. The subjects were allowed to consume as much water as they wanted during exercise and recovery.

Fixed Cleats

How do you experts feel about fixed cleats? I'm currently using black Look Keo cleats with no float at the advice of a physical therapist who suggested them to address some lower leg problems. I'm about 2,000 miles into my current season with them and they seem to work for me really well. We obviously paid a great deal of attention to cleat position and dialed them in over the course of several hundred early season miles, with some minor adjustments to seat position as well.

Our thinking was that some of my behind-the-knee pain and continual calf tightness was at least partly a function of those muscles having to stablize the foot on the pedal relative to the float on the red cleats I was using previously. Simultaneously, I addressed some flexibility and strength balance problems, through yoga among other things.

I'm just curious since almost everything I read talks about the benefit of increased float, while I seem to have found the best success with no float. I've also become a dedicated proponent of complementary strength and flexibility work as part of my training.

John Flumerfelt
Portland Maine USA

Scott Saifer replies:

There is actually some research on this topic. Roughly 75% of cyclists in one study I recall did as well or better with free-floating cleats than fixed cleats, but another 25% reported more problems with floating than fixed cleats, so this really is a case where one product or method is not ideal for all riders. You must fall in the 25% group.

Crank length

I'm a 38 year old male who road races.

My query concerns changing crank length - if you change it should you adjust saddle height?

Also, how do you suggest that saddle set-back should be measured?

Rory Wyley

Steve Hogg replies:

Overall seat height should stay the same with one qualification which I will talk about in a second. If you increase crank length by 5mm for example, drop your seat post 5mm further into the frame. This will leave you with an unchanged seat height as measured from top of seat to pedal axle centre. The qualification that I would put on that is that sometimes, not often, but I have seen it happen; a noticeable change in crank length can cause a change in pedaling technique with the end result being a lower or higher seat height than previously.

Cycling and osteoporosis

When surfing on the web I came across an article suggesting that cyclists are particularly prone to suffering osteoporosis because they practise a low impact sport. Does that refer to all kinds of cycling? One thing is sedately pedalling along so that you barely break into a sweat, and another is the kind that involves pounding up mountains, standing on the pedals and pulling hard on the handlebars. I always thought any kind of exercise that builds up muscle was good for the bones. I would be grateful to know your opinion.

Lucy Brzoska

Pam Hinton replies:

You are not the only rider who has become concerned after reading about the increased risk of low bone density in cyclists. I have heard the argument that you make about sedately pedaling along versus stomping on the pedals before. I think that there's a bit of denial going on in the minds of those who try to make the case--and rightfully so. None of us want to acknowledge that the sport we love has a potential downside along with all of the many health benefits it brings. The latest information, however, is not all bad news, with a little extra effort, there are things that you can do to strengthen your bones.

Raw food diet

I'm a 33 year-old Cat 3 roadie and I've recently become intrigued by raw food diets. Although I have not taken the plunge, as I evaluate the foods that I typically eat, I notice that they generally are pretty raw to begin with: lots of vegetables, fruits, and nuts. I don't eat meat for no other reason than I don't really like it. However, I do eat lots of breads and cereals, so my diet is also rich in starches. The evolutionary logic behind a more raw diet makes sense to me, but I'd like to hear your thoughts about it. Note that my goal is not to lose weight, but to try something a bit more natural that would also provide adequate nutrients for cycling.

Steve Smith
California, USA

Scott Saifer replies:

I have little doubt that you could get adequate nutrition from an all-raw diet, but the argument that living closer to the prehistoric condition is somehow going to be better for you as a general rule is downright silly, evolution or not. Your body is the result a process of evolution, but so is your brain and your society and culture. Your body evolved to survive without shoes, sunscreen, and titanium bike parts, but then someone figured out that life is longer, nicer and less painful when you use these things.

Foot numbness with new shoes and pedals

I purchased a new road bike, shoes and pedals approximately two months ago, and I have been experiencing numbness in my feet. I am 33 year old male, weighing about 215 pounds. My pedals are Look-style Nashbar Z11, and my shoes are Louis Garneau Ergo Air Revo with red Look cleats. Numbness sets in after 35-45 minutes of riding, starting in my big toe and spreading quickly through the ball of my foot to my other toes. I have adjusted the cleats several times, most recently to position more of the cleat over the area of numbness in an attempt to better distribute the stress of pedaling on my foot. This has worked for my right foot, but not for the left. My saddle height and fore-aft position seems to be good: I have not experienced any pain or discomfort in my ankles, knees or hips. Is this something that will go away over time, or should I buy new pedals with a larger platform area? If new pedals are the solution, what brands and models of pedlas should I be looking at?

My previous pedals were Look compatible Shimano Ultegras from 1991. I remember these being very close to a pair of Look pedals my brother had (might have been Look PP196, but I'm not sure). My old shoes were made by Look, circa 1997. Unfortunately, I don't remember the model, but they were quite wide compared to the shoes I have now.

I did some hunting around online for possible causes of numb feet, and I found an article that suggests the saddle might be involved. My current saddle is a Selle Italia XO Trans Am. I find it has more padding than I like, and it has a centre cut-out that really doesn't do anything for me. I tend to wiggle around on the saddle to get comfortable after I stand up. I'd like to replace it with a Selle Italia SLR, which looks quite similar to my old saddle, a Vetta SP Tri Shock. Could the saddle be part of the problem?

Mark Heiden
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Steve Hogg replies:

I am intrigued when you mention that your previous shoes were wider than the ones that you have now. Is there any sense of lateral compression across the forefoot when you are wearing your new shoes?

Pedal stack height

First, thanks for a great web site overall. I've learned much from the fitness section & have been following Steve Hogg's advice on positioning.

Given the "dynamic" approach to fit, I"m wondering what Steve & other contributors think of compact vs. standard road frames. Are compact frames more "user friendly" in terms of fit, ie. offer more flexibility in range of fit within each parameter of sm, med, & large? Or, is this also a drawback vs a traditional if one gets a traditional that "fits" (loaded question given Steve's comment that the only measurement he's concerned about is standover ht). Meaning, stem length & seat setback etc. likely to be "better" on a traditional than on the "wider" range on a compact? Or, if you're in the proper "range" on each, are the differences meaningless? What's the most important size consideration on a compact?

Also, how important is pedal/cleat "stack height?" Is this marketing hype or does it make a difference in power transfer & pedaling dynamics? Like the above on frames, are the differences between higher end road pedals likely to be big enough to to make any difference?

Thanks for your time & indulgence.


Steve Hogg replies:

A compact frame and a conventional frame of the same materials, wall thicknesses and dimensions, top tube slopes aside have no real meaningful differences. The compact frame should be stiffer because of the smaller main triangle but have a more flexible seat post because more of it is exposed. The conventional frame should be slightly stiff but have a less flexible seat post. To what degree these qualities are apparent will depend on the relative slope of the top tubes. In saying this, I am assuming that the same seat post is used in both.

More on women's saddles #1

Just a quick tip to Steve Hogg and Robin Crumpton with regards to ladies saddles.

My partner started cycling 3 years ago and tried around half a dozen different saddles and ended up on a Fizik Vitesse which she now swears by (rather than at......) all the women cyclists we have recommended try this saddle who have then actually proceeded to try it now also use it. (about a dozen from memory)

We tend to break it in by fitting it a few deg nose down for the first few days use then lift the nose to the 'normal' position (2-3 deg nose down)

Might be worth a try

Matt Rowley
Leamington Spa, UK

Steve Hogg replies:

I used to use a lot of Vitesses but my experiences were that the approval rating under a large number of female backsides was more like 50/50. I used to stock 7 or 8 different womens seats and am happy to sell seats on a try for a fortnight and bring back if unhappy basis. In the recommendations that I made, I tried to stick to seats that experience has shown me will suit a large majority of women.

More on women's saddles #2

Mr. Steve Hogg doesn't mention the new Selle San Marco Aspide "Glamour" women's saddle, which comes both with a cut-out or without one. It's way lighter than anything else women's specific on the market (185 g) and super comfortable. I never would have bought something women's specific before this one came out because they're all so damn heavy. But I gave this one a shot and was totally shocked and amazed at how great it is. I'm completely converted and don't ever want to buy another saddle. Highly recommended to women who want performance as well as comfort.

Marian Jamison

Steve Hogg replies:

There were a host of seats that I didn't mention. I tried to stick to the ones that as I said, I have extensive experience with. The seat you mention has not been available all that long ( at least in Oz) and to date, I have only seen one example which was the day before your email arrived. I am going to order both versions and experiment a bit with 'problem children'.

More on groin pain

Thanks for the advice.

I have backed off harder rides and started the focused counting on the right side which has alleviated some stress on the left and is very much working the right. I have also begun a lifting program to strengthen my right leg which I am doing 2 days a week right now.

My question now is how many moderate rides should I be doing a week with a focus on the right side and how should I space that out with the days I lift weights so I don't overuse the right side, etc.?

So, example should I be riding Sun, Tues, Thurs, Sat and lift Monday and Friday?? or another combination.

Thank you again.

Andrew M. Joyner
State College, PA

Steve Hogg replies:

My best guess is that you should prioritise cycling and weights in alternate weeks. That way your leg doesn't get 'used' to what you are trying to do and is stimulated afresh. If you have 5 days a week to train, why not try the first week with 4 rides and 1 weights session and the second week, 4 weights sessions and 1 ride or something similar. What you don't need to do is over stress the leg, so maybe 3 and 1 week about would be better.

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