Skip to main content

Fitness questions and answers for July 31

Form & Fitness Q & A

Got a question about fitness, training, recovery from injury or a related subject? Drop us a line at fitness@cyclingnews.com. 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.

Leg length differential
Fused Ankle
Floyd's Bike Fit
Lower back pain
Post-op Knee problem
Mono and its effects on racing and HR
Ball of foot
Power Output
High Heart Rate Threshold

Leg length differential

I had a rather disappointing summer where I managed to break both my neck of femur 3 months apart (bike crashes). As a result there is a 3cm differential in my leg lengths. Now 6 month post the last crash with the aid of customised shoes the associated problems are subsiding and I am once more looking to improve my cycling performance. Apart from building strength can someone please advise the best way to adjust for this on the bike and where to find it. I was in a comfortable position prior to this and rode with a flat pedal stroke, now on the left side I ride quite toey to compensate.

Jay Heather

Steve Hogg replies:

When there is a substantial difference in femur lengths, there are a number of things to consider.

Fused Ankle

I recently had ankle surgery that fused the joint. What would be the best pedal to use? I have been using Look pedals on my road bike while I'm using standard quill pedals with toe clips on my commuter & touring bikes. I ride approximately 3000 kilometres a year and participate in hill climb races as well as long distance road races in addition to my commute riding.

Steve Hogg replies:

The fused ankle means that you won't be able to reach as far at the bottom of the pedal stroke with that leg. That means that you will need a shim to help work around this. You need to experiment with how large a shim. Experience with people with fused ankles suggests that 5mm is a good starting point but don't be surprised if you need more.

Floyd's Bike Fit

I am a 47 year hold Cat 4 racer doing road races and hill climbs. I just had my bike refitted for my aging body (a 57 cm Bianchi titanium XL reparto corse with an Easton SL fork) at the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine. They replaced my flat 120 mm stem with a 110 stem with a 15 degree rise and placed the levers high on the bars. This has resulted in a fit where holding the levers is the most comfortable and default riding position. While I was skeptical, they insisted that this more upright position will give me more power and avoid back pain.

In watching the tour, I noticed that Landis appears to ride with a stem with a rise and the hoods very high on the bars. My questions: is Landis unique in his use of a stem with a rise and hoods placed high, and second, is this position preferred over the classic long flat stem with a long reach to the hoods? Finally, if so, why are most of the pro bikes still fitted that way?

Terence C. Gill
Denver, CO

Steve Hogg replies:

Landis is far from uncommon in the pro scene in having his bars high. In my experience with pro bike riders, they have just as many structural issues as the rest of the population. Three factors that you and I don't have allow them to get away with their structural inadequacies.

Lower back pain

Much of the fantastic advice you have given to others in the past has helped me immensely on the bike, in terms of positioning and comfort, many thanks! I would, however, appreciate some advice (if you have any) on curing lower back pain. I am a recreational rider looking to take up road racing early next year. I currently ride roughly 150 – 190 miles a week; I am male, 30 years old, 166cm tall and weigh 60kg. In the past I have had issues with comfort on the bike – I suffered with pain at the base of my neck for a long period of time. I sought help by paying for a full Serotta fit session and had my position altered and LeWedges placed above my cleats to correct a varus tilt in my feet. After a period of roughly a year riding in the new position (feeling more but not entirely comfortable) I suffered a nasty broken wrist as a result of collision, which subsequently kept me off the bike for about 6 months.

On getting back on the bike again, after having returned to a sedentary level of fitness, I found I couldn't get comfortable. I felt like I was expending a great deal of energy by simply propping up my torso, which seemed to me to be the result of being quite far forward on the bike and spinning the pedals at a high cadence, which was something I was accustomed to doing before the accident. I searched through your archives for advice on positioning, and having discovered several relevant articles, made changes to my position. I moved the ball of my foot forward in relation to the pedal axle to roughly 7mm, I moved my saddle position back and lowered it fractionally, and I lowered my handlebars. The result of the changes being that I have started to tilt my pelvis forward slightly, my back is now much straighter and my upper body more stable, which has eradicated my neck pain, I feel most comfortable riding in the drops, I don't feel like I'm propping my torso up any more, my feet feel planted on the pedals and as a bonus I seem to be very low and in a pretty aerodynamic position.

Finally to the point: though I am now more comfortable on the bike than ever I do suffer with lower back pain when pushing bigger gears and riding hard. My usual rides are 50 to 60 miles long on a hilly (usually windy) route. I will average around 17 – 19 mph, which feels like a good workout at a comfortable pace, but if I want to increase speed, push bigger gears or climb hard I suffer with pain and stiffness in the lower back. I feel like I'm unable to develop power because my back is weak. When pushing bigger gears, I don't feel as if I'm overloading one muscle group in my legs and my torso feels quite relaxed so my effort is expended pretty much through my legs but my lower back just tightens up. Is this a common problem? Can I expect to develop strength in my lower back over time or is there something else going on here? And is it plausible that having ridden for a couple of years with a relatively upright pelvis and arched back that my legs have developed a small amount of cycling specific strength in this position which my back hasn’t?

Steve Hogg replies:

Given what you have told me, there are a number of potential reasons for your problem. In no particular order, the likely culprits are:

Post-op Knee problem

I am 43 years old, ride 1000 km per month with lots of hills, weigh 80 kg, 182 cm tall. I was operated on for chrondromalacia two years ago, and the surgery went well. However the doctor told me to ride slowly. What's that doc? I chose surgery precisely so I could do the opposite, to ride as I used to do.

When I hammer I still feel the pain. The doctor tells me everything is okay, just don't hammer. Since medicine doesn't have the answer, here goes my question:

If my knee cap is above the axle of my pedal when the cranks are at 3 pm, I suppose I am in the right position. But what happens to my quadriceps when my knee cap is above the axle or below? How do I minimize the pressure from my quadriceps so my knee cap does not get involved?

Andres J. Lenis
Colombia

Steve Hogg replies:

You are overloading your quadriceps and having tracking problems with the knee cap. Firstly have a look at these posts and position your cleats as instructed - http://www.cyclingnews.com/fitness/?id=2004/letters07-26#Cleat and http://www.cyclingnews.com/fitness/?id=2004/letters10-11#Ball That should help to some degree, large or small. Next, buy some LeMond Wedges http://www.lemondfitness.com/products/lewedge/index.html and experiment carefully with their use underneath your cleats.

Mono and its effects on racing and HR

I a 23 year old Cat 2 racer who just got my upgrade at the end of June. I am 6ft and weigh 175 and consider my self an all-rounder. I can hang with the guys in the mountains and sprints, but usually take my wins in solo breaks with about 2-5 km from the finish in crits. About 3 weeks ago I came down with a headache (not the worst ever but it still hurt) and an elevated resting HR, a jump from 42 to 65. The doctor ran no test and passed it off as a tension headache. I raced that weekend (poorly) and then left for Wisconsin's Superweek the next week. My resting HR was in the mid 60's still. Racing was very tough and my legs were getting ripped off me. I thought that I was just out of my league. When I got home, I was still feeling very weak and my resting HR was still 65ish. I now had a sore throat so I went to the doctor and demanded tests. It turns out I was positive for mono. Here are a few questions.

1. Should I have demanded tests when my resting HR was high for a week?
2. How would undetected mono effect my racing?
3. How should I approach my recovery?
4. Any other things I should know?

Thanks for all of your help,

Chris Coble
Fremont CA USA

Scott Saifer replies:

1. No, though you should have rested and if the heart rate did not come back down within a few days, you should have requested testing.

Ball of foot

If my the ball of my left foot and right foot differ from each other because of the feet themselves being different in size (one is slightly longer than the other) should this effect the position of my cleat in relation to the ball of my foot guideline? As of now, I have the cleats positioned differently, but only slightly, but I can still feel the difference when I ride, though it does not cause me any sort of pain. I am just wondering If I should leave it be or change it and have both cleats the same. I really do not believe in the "if its not broken then don't fix it" attitude, so whenever you guys can give me a reply I would appreciate it, thanks

Giancarlo Bianchi

Steve Hogg replies:

Think of each foot independently and position the cleat in the same relationship to foot in shoe on each side. If this means that each cleat is in a different place on the sole of the shoe, then fine. What you want is for them to be in the same relationship to foot in shoe.

Power Output

I was using an indoor cycle in the gym the other day, and cycled for 25.00 mins at a set load at 95+ RPM. After that time, the machine said I had burnt 520kcal. This equates to 1450 watts. Assuming 20% efficiency in power transfer to cycling, that means I exerted 290 w to power the cycle, for 25 minutes.

How does this information compare with other cyclists? I suspect this is within the 'average' or 'below average' bands, but would you be able to give me some guidelines?

FYI I am 19 years old, 67 Kg.

James Cornford.

Ric Stern replies:

The main issue is simply going to be whether the indoor cycle is accurate or not. Most gym cycles I've seen have been terribly inaccurate (above or below the actual power output). There's also the question of whether the data is reliable or not (is 290 W on the unit, 290 W every time you ride it, or a different amount?).

High Heart Rate Threshold

I am 22 years old, live in the flat lands of Miami, FL. I have been cycling for close to two years now, but started racing competitively about 4-5 months ago. Am currently a cat 5 racer but am working on moving up soon. I hate the local cat 5 races, no one wants to pull and everyone is trying to win, so I just attack and if they want to go with me that's fine, it not I'll have fun doing what I do best, TT.

Anyways, on the last crit that I did I broke away solo early in the race, wasn't a breakaway, I just saw the peloton wasn't chasing the 4 guys up front, so I bridged the gap and once I got to them they were already toast, all after a one lap, 1 mile effort! Once I got to the front and started setting a fast tempo as the peloton was probably 5-7 seconds behind, I look back and am there all by myself. Decide to go full gas as the local crit races are 45 minutes plus 3 laps of one mile each.

Wasn't looking at my heart rate while riding but I knew it was up there. When I got home and downloaded the data I was amazed to see that I was actually above my TT avg hr the entire time while I was in the breakaway. Which brings me to my question, I know am young and can have maintain higher hr for an extended amount of time compared to my cycling buddies (All above well 30), but is it normal to be able to maintain such a high heart rate for a long time, or do the pros basically maintain a high heart rate like this in the TT's?

My favourite race is TT, as I am pretty good at them. I know when am doing a TT I can keep it at 192 bpm for at least an hour, if I start to go above 194 I start to feel it a bit and once I slow it down to like 190 I can feel am recovering... Do I have some kind of gift that my body can tolerate this? Its not in my direct genetics as everyone in my family is obese and so was I while growing up, until I I took a nutrition class, although I've always been involved in sports!

Freddy Viera

Scott Saifer replies:

190-194 bpm is pretty high for a sustainable heart rate, but not outside the normal range. Of course humming birds have sustained heart rates a hundred beats per minute higher without even pedaling. The more important question is how fast you can ride at whatever heart rate you can sustain.

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month*

Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

after your trial you will be billed £4.99 $7.99 €5.99 per month, cancel anytime. Or sign up for one year for just £49 $79 €59

Join now for unlimited access

Try your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1