Fitness questions and answers for May 20, 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.

Severe anemia-myelodysplastic syndrome
Training on a heavier bike
TT bars too wide for handlebar
Left / right leg power imbalance
Foot stability

Leg length / pelvic asymmetries and the K-Force seatpost w/ data head
Hamstring injury from quick switch to time trial position
Knee and back ache
Seat to bottom bracket length, what's the range in which people sit?
Leg length or pelvic assymetry?

Severe anemia-myelodysplastic syndrome

I have recently been diagnosed with this condition. I am female, 57, ride approx 150 miles/week and have been riding for fitness for more than 15 years.

I would like to know any information on how and when I could return to riding. I live where it is very humid - Florida. Any suggestions? I might need a bone marrow transplant as well.

Could I be stronger when I get back to riding?

Scott Saifer replies:

Your condition is well beyond my area of expertise, but I can assure you that if you are anaemic and are able to get that corrected, you will be stronger immediately when you get back on the bike and that you will begin to respond to training to a much greater extent than you could when you were anaemic. When you are anaemic, your muscles don't get much of a challenge even when you ride hard, so you don't get stronger. Once you fix the anaemia, more oxygen is available and your legs can work hard enough to start getting stronger again.

Training on a heavier bike

I'm a 53 year old male who trains 5 days a week and races a few times a year. A couple of years ago I picked up an older LeMond Poprad cyclo-cross bike as an early season/poor weather ride, to spare my LeMond Zurich some wear and tear. I re-geared the Poprad for the road, changed tires, matched its rider position to the Zurich, and was pleasantly surprised to find that the ride was buttery smooth compared to the stiffer Zurich. As time has gone by, I find myself training almost exclusively on the Poprad, reserving the Zurich for fast weekend group rides and races. The smoother Poprad ride lets me train longer and harder without beating up my body on the rough local roads. The Poprad weighs about 4 lbs more than the Zurich. This seems to give me a strong psychological boost whenever I ride the Zurich as it seems I can fly uphill and accelerate quite quickly. This boost is very useful when I race.

Is training on a heavier bike a recognized training technique? Are there any cons to this that I should be aware of?

Joe Rebholz
Prior Lake, MN

Scott Saifer replies:

Deliberately training on a heavier bike for no other purpose is silly, but doing it to preserve your good bike makes sense. The only down side is that the two bikes will handle a little differently, and you are not getting a lot of practice cornering or getting in and out of the saddle on your racing bike. Those skills can save your race or your skin, so you want to get some practice time on the light bike.

TT bars too wide for handlebar

I bought a pair of Scott Clip on aero bars but the handlebars on my road bike are too wide for the brackets. Is this a common problem or are all new bikes now using wider bars? To fit them I have to look at either machining the brackets or making brand new brackets.

Scott Saifer replies:

Handle bars continue to come in a variety of diameters, and aero bars continue to be made for specific diameters or to come with a big clamp and several spacers to allow them to fit different bars. If you are enough of a machinist to know that your bars will still be strong enough to be safe after you machine them, go for it. For the vast majority of riders with files or grinding wheels, I'd suggest getting aero bars that are made to work with the road-bar you have.

Left / right leg power imbalance

I'm a 43 year old male cyclist, riding in mainly crits and road races. My overall power is good as shown by lactate threshold power tests. I recently installed a Polar CS600 w/ power, and it indicates that I'm producing about 8% more power in my left leg than in my right, on average.

I can't help but think that if I could correct this by bringing the power in my right left up to match that in my left leg, my performance would improve, especially in stamina at race pace, which is currently my biggest weakness. Any tips on increasing the power in my right leg? Or could this be a problem in my fit or elsewhere? I've had my fit professionally analyzed, and no problems were found. However, that fit session did not include leg length checks, pedaling analysis, etc.


Steve Hogg replies:

The short answer is to find someone to fit you who has the tools to assess your pedal stroke in real time so that the effects of any changes made to your position can be checked and refined as necessary. Once this is done, it is a really good idea to return for a potential tweak after 3 - 6 weeks of regular riding. Any changes made can cause you to autonomically modify your technique post fit. This may mean that you develop a subtly different technique. If so, 3 - 6 weeks afterwards is a good time to recheck.

Foot stability

Hi, where do I start? I am a 30 year old 6'2" cyclist with foot stability issues. My inseam measure 95cm and I ride both a Felt & a Cannondale 60cm road bike. The problem I experience is that my right leg/foot are just not working right, my right knee want to hit my top tube on the way down and it just feels like I cant put full power down through my right foot. I have Sidi Genius 5 road shoes with SPD-SL cleats jammed as far back as they can go.

First off a little history. When I got my Cannondale years ago I was riding around with no problems, then I decided to "optimize" my position on the bike and video taped myself on the trainer and WOW I pedalled heel down all the way down through to the six o'clock position. I also had my seat setback to about 13-14cm behind the BB.

So I started reading. Reading about fit theory and all that jazz. I moved my seat up to about 103cm and about 8cm behind the bottom bracket. It felt great when I first started then when I got tired or when I had to pedal into the wind I notice my right leg wanted to slam into the top tube on the way down and sometimes I got a sharp pain in the front left side of my right knee. It feels like I have to use quite of bit of my quad right above my right knee (or pedal toe down using my calves) just to stabilize the leg and it feels like I am losing power doing this. The best fit I had was when I had the seat down to about 101cm and 10cm behind the BB with my right foot turned out a bit and saddle turned left a bit. I was doing centuries and had a FT of 320 but I remember that my right leg was still brushing my top tube and I just felt there must be a better way because everything I read says that higher=more power. I do have superfeet insoles coming and am hoping this helps but was wondering if you might have any ideas.

Phew, sorry for being so wordy!


Steve Hogg replies:

The moral to the story that you have told is that if you are not having problems with your position, be happy. Go back to the position where you were happiest; seat height of 1010 mm and seat setback of 100mm. That should sort out the knee problems and leave you with the internally rotated hip only; ie. the right knee contacting the top tube. From there, here is a suggested 'to do' list.

Leg length / pelvic asymmetries and the K-Force seatpost w/ data head

This email relates solely to my recent purchase of a K-Force Seatpost with Data Head.

After asking two other road riders I know who are using K-Force Data Head seatposts to help either correct functional pelvic differences or just natural tendency leg-favouring differences, I was confused about exactly which way a person should be adjusting the Data Head seatpost in the horizontal plane. Moving it left or right given they have one leg shorter than the other and thus have pelvic asymmetry.

If a person's one leg is shorter than the other (and all other bike variables are maintained constant), would it be correct/logical to say that the Data Head seat is going to be sliding sideways toward the shorter leg by an ever so small amount?

Or is the other way around, sliding away from the shorter leg, to bring them the stability on the seat and thus stability in the bike position they are looking for?

I am trying to think in terms of the pelvic bones and my two feet making a triangle, and thus the seat being the pivot point underneath the top of the triangle.

In my case my left leg is 6mm shorter than my right, verified through Xray; I do seem to drop my left hip when powering in the drops but weirdly my left heal flares out away from the bike.

Also, my left pelvis bone versus my right pelvis bone, for years now, has felt like it is sitting the hardest on my current seat (though, for years I've had the nose of my saddle slightly pointed to the right, which eliminated all saddle sores, brought my left hip forward, and seemed to help matters).

I've never had thigh/knee/feet pain. The pain I am developing is right hamstring pain but more worrisome, I am getting inner hip/groin pain which is causing me discomfort. I do extensive daily core conditioning and stretching, and can combat much of this pain through these those two endeavours.

I thought the K-Force Data Head seatpost would help me much more in fighting the pain I am developing than only having my seat slightly pointed to the right and trying to play around with seatpost height and/or cleat inserts.

David P Whetzel

Steve Hogg replies:

I don't modify FSA seatposts with Data Heads to allow lateral offset of the seat to correct for leg length differences. I use them to laterally offset a seat only when the rider does not sit over the centre line of the seat by some margin and I have exhausted every other method I know to get them to sit over the centre line. Sometimes a leg length difference may be part of the entire picture but I would never attempt to correct for a leg length difference alone by laterally offsetting the seat.

Hamstring injury from quick switch to time trial position

I recently completed my first duathlon which consisted of a 5km run, followed by a 30km bike, followed by another 5km run. I have an extensive mountain bike racing background and recently added running to the mix.

I had no pain during or after the race, or the next morning, however when I went out for a road ride the day after the race, I had a dull ache in the general vicinity of my ischeal tuberosity. It got worse very slowly and I was over 1hr out by the time I decided to "return to base". I found that I could almost eliminate the pain by spinning at a high cadence but lower cadences brought it back on. Later in the day it also hurt a bit to climb stairs.

For the race, I ignored the rule about not making last minute changes to my bike, and threw some aero bars on my road bike. I also moved the seat up a bit, but not too far, because it was already at near to its most fwd position. In retrospect, I also believe that I was also pushing a fairly high gear (low cadence) on the bike, compared to the other duathletes. Finally, I know that I have poor hamstring flexibility, tight hip flexors, and have had back problems in the past. My body type is tall with long legs and arms and a medium torso.

Any idea as to what I might have injured and how I might adjust my bike setup to accommodate my body type and cyclists background? I have read that the very far forward seat position triathletes use is more beneficial for runners, who have less of a quad/hamstring strength imbalance than do cyclists.


Steve Hogg replies:

You have provided your own answer. The hamstrings originate "in the general vicinity of the ischial tuberosity". You have most likely strained or irritated them at the point of origin Here is a check list of what not to do next time you enter a duathlon.

Knee and back ache

I'm a 48 year old avid male cyclist, about 5'6" in height and weigh about 150lbs. My concern is that I have difficulties when standing on a climb as I feel like my left knee is giving when I do so.

I get the same feeling when I'm climbing stairs or when squatting and I feel a slight pain on the side of my left knee. My riding buddies noticed that my left foot is moving towards the centre of the bike when I'm pedaling seated. I also noticed that my left foot is nearer the crank arm when I'm pedaling in comparison to my right foot which is away from the crank arm (I'm using Time pedals). When I notice this during a ride, I try to move my right foot nearer the crank arm but after a while, my right foot is back away from the crank arm. I've also changed 3 saddles the past 3 years as they get worn out on the same spot- right side.

On rides more than 1 ½ hours, the lower left side of my back also start to ache and I'm wondering if all these have something to do with leg length discrepancy. Your advice will be most helpful.

Boyet Geronimo

Steve Hogg replies:

Your problem may or not stem from a leg length discrepancy but everything you have said suggests that you are dropping your right hip. That is why your seats have shown a right side wear pattern; that's why your right foot sits further from the crank arm; why left foot is being pulled towards the centre line and why you are overreaching with the left leg, why your left side lower back pain occurs and why your left knee niggles.

Seat to bottom bracket length, what's the range in which people sit?

Hi I'm a mountain biker that occasionally trains on the road and mostly races enduro.

I had a terrible flop in my last 12 hour which saw me pull out for a while with a sore lower back, ever since I have attempting to fix the problem.

I've been playing around with my bike position for couple of weeks now and after reading some of the stuff here I have moved to a mid foot cleat position and am starting to see some benefits, so thanks for the advice!

I'm currently experimenting with moving my seat rearwards as per recommendations in some of these threads. What I would like to know is roughly how far behind the bottom bracket should I be; is there a limit beyond which I shouldn't go? What is there a general range in which people sit?

Although I realise that it will be hard to tell anything without seeing the seat and bike (I'm 167cm and ride a medium Cannondale Rush if that helps any), I am currently trying my seat set up so that the centre (which is approximately where I sit, but I would creep forward when tight) is 20cm (in the horizontal) behind the bottom bracket. Is this too far back or within a normal range?

Mark Trotter

Steve Hogg replies:

Set your seat setback the minimum distance behind the bottom bracket that allows you to largely unweighted the upper body while pedaling under reasonable load. What that means is that if you are giving yourself a workout but are still able to maintain good pedaling technique, there should be only enough weight borne by the upper body as to allow you to steer and control the bike. If setting your seat like this involves a substantial movement of the seat forward or back, then be prepared to give yourself 3 weeks or so of low to moderate intensity habituation so that you can produce good power easily.

Leg length or pelvic assymetry?

I am female 34yr old, 58kg, 164cm height mtb'er racing at national level for the past three of years. I also use the road bike for endurance based training. As level and intensity of racing/training has increased year on year I suffer a blip in training and racing every year, coming from resultant back/hip/leg pain.

In 2005 this came to head resulting in me losing a winters training and the first half of 2006. A trip to the docs and MRI scan later I was diagnosed with L3/L4 disc herniation and proceeded with physio treatment over a three month period, but with no real improvement. A later trip to a recommended osteopath identified a "twist" in my spine along with pelvic rotation, and dysfunction at thoracic-lumbar junction, slight LLD with shorter right leg, left hip/leg musculature tight, right hip/leg musculature, flexible but painful, pain in right QL and erector spinae.

After adjustments and recommended core stability exercises and stretching, I also placed an extra insole in the right mtb shoe around the ball of the foot, and things calmed down quite a bit to allow me to continue competing moving into national elite mtb category, until mid last year, after an extremely busy start to the season and heavy work load my body gave up and became overtrained reverting back to its painful asymmetry. Very painful right hipflexor/psoas, knee, ITB, QL, erector spinae and even shoulder girdle pain. Left leg some ITB issues but minor in comparison. The original set of exercises' and stretches no longer helped ease the pain.

I visited a local physio who carried out on the bike video assessment (MTB) and was informed that my bike set up was fine, however there appeared to be a very slight LLD this time with left leg shorter, and that I also appeared to rock my hips a lot while pedalling but not too sure why. Was given orthotics to adjust slight pronation on both feet and core exercises' to aid with LLD and hip rocking. However this did not seem to improve matters in fact the orthotics made things worse, especially on the right knee. I recently carried out my own video on the turbo (road bike) with the following observations: No observed difference with leg distance from seat tube; hips still rocking; shoulders rock side to side under pressure; a lot more power/force on downstroke with right leg (possibly causing a lot of the rocking); right leg upstroke higher than left; not clear as to whether one side/hip drops.

After spending much time and money on various chiros/osteos/physios I have eventually found a physio who appears to have a good structural focus as a Pilates instructor, but with little cyclist experience. Initially a series of strectching and strengthening excercises were presecribed and when no improvement was evident, again the thoracic lumbar junction has been identified as being a culprit in the hip pain, particularly in reference to the hip flexor/psoas. There appears to be a weakness in this area which I think forces me to rotate my pelvis to the right when under pressure. This is evident when i crouch down to pick something up. I also recently requested that we look at the LLD again and this time I have been told that my right leg is shorter by 1/2 inch (10mm?), measured, no x-ray/scan.

Certainly over the past six months I feel that the right leg pain is due to an overuse of this leg perhaps due to dropping the pelvis to the right, there is a greater muscle bulk on this side. Core work (i.e. bridging exercises) indicate that my left glutes/hamstrings are weaker than right. Another feature on the bike, I rotate my right ankle into the crank arm more so than left and also badly roll out (supinate?) at the bottom of the downstroke with the right foot and I get the feeling as if my cleat is too far back on the shoe. When stretching the left side is definitely tighter in the glute region and also hamstrings. Right side while painful when stretched is actually more flexible, except for priformas and adductors. A look at my mtb saddle (have just replaced road bike saddle), the left side has "collapsed" i.e lower than right. My shorts show more wear in the right upper inner thigh region, none on the left side. I wear specialized body geometry mtb shoes on both bikes. I found that if i put a either of the specialized varus/valgus wedges into the right shoe this resolved the foot/ankle roll out, while using the varus wedge resolved any knee movement so I've kept that in. I have also moved the right cleat forward a couple of mm in order to feel more comfortable at shoe/pedal interface. This has all helped very slightly but I still cannot tolerate more than 2hr ride on mtb or 1hr ride on road bike and certainly no more than 2 - 3 sessions a week.

My question is what is the best way forward? There seems to be a number of factors at play here. I have discussed with the physio the possibility of using shims/insoles to correct LLD, surely if my right leg is shorter it should be the left leg that is doing all the work or should I focus on pelvic problems instead? My goal at the moment is to get to a position that I can be comfortably "square" on the bike with whatever mechanical aids available in order to allow me to relieve the muscular pressures enough to concentrate on working on core/flexibility and other asymmetries while also keeping a good level of fitness on the bike. Now that I have the attention of a good physio, what are the important issues which should be addressed?

Any suggestions would be much appreciated. Thanks in advance


Steve Hogg replies:

Firstly have an x-ray or scan to accurately determine leg length, what the discrepancy is and whether it is upper leg, lower leg or both. Then you are dealing with a fact rather than a judgement. As you have found, judgements vary from practitioner to practitioner.

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