Form & Fitness Q & A
Got a question about fitness, training, recovery from injury or a related subject? Drop us a line at email@example.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.
When to take a break
Lower leg injuries
Cramps in Calves
Too much float and achy knees
Leg length discrepancy #2
Hamstring and quad discomfort
Upper body pain
I'm a Cat 4 road racer (plus track for training), at 6ft tall and weighing 155lb.
I just sprained my right ankle while stepping off of a curb. The ankle rolled to the inside. There's almost no pain and I can walk with just a bit of pain running along the top of my foot towards the outside. I got an x-ray, which was clear, so they put me in an air brace. My doctor was not very helpful when I asked about cycling and rehabilitation. His answer to all of my questions was "just ease into it over the next couple of weeks," so I'm hoping you can help me out. I'm still in the early part of the season due to a prior injury, and I'm racing 2-3 times a week. I'd like to get back on the bike as soon as possible. How long should I wait to start riding? Should I take it easy for a while? Should I wait longer to race?
I can't fit a cycling shoe over the brace, and I'm not sure how long I should wait before riding without it. Any advice? Any other tips you might have to help this heal better faster would be appreciated. Thank you.
I'm 19, 6 foot 4, 82 kilos, doing around 400 km per week. I've done the road and crit seasons the last two years with mixed success. Approximately a month ago I started a new job - it is by no means strenuous, but just involves standing up all day, three days a week. Ever since I began working I've had absolutely no form. I just seem to have nothing in my legs and 40km solid ride makes me cramp, where as before I could do 120km cramp free.
I can't seem to raise my heart rate above 140 either. At the moment it's just impossible to go hard. My racing is extremely important to me so this has really got me feeling like crap, mentally and physically. I can't give up the job; I don't think I should because surely there are plenty of successful local riders who have for more physical jobs than I do. For the past month all my rides have been terrible and nothing seems to help. Any advice you could give would be much appreciated.
When to take a break
I'm a 38-year-old masters racer. I started preparing for this season in November, and have been training consistently since then, doing weeks of 12-18 hours with rest weeks every fourth week, in a periodised structure. Due to a couple of bouts of the flu, I never completed a cycle of VO2 intervals, and I haven't done any training over my threshold since March. However, I've been feeling burned out, even though spring illness cut my racing and hard training short. Is it the right time to take a break, even though I haven't done much intense training this year?
Lower leg injuries
I am a 25 year old, 6'4", 175lb Cat 3 road racer who has been training and racing for six years. I have been having trouble with my right lower leg, only while cycling, for the past five years and up until recently have not been able to figure out what the problem was despite seeing several doctors about the problem. The injury started when I raised my saddle height too quickly but never lowered it significantly despite the injury. The injury was focused mainly on the peroneal muscles, but the soleus, calf muscles and tibialis anterior were also affected.
The pain in the lower right leg usually starts at the beginning of a ride and goes away if I start to ride hard. However, the pain returns after the hard ride is over and sometimes lasts into the next day. Strangely the pain is worse and more noticeable when I am just spinning easily. I have very flat feet so I originally thought that the problem was caused by pronation, and so in response I had custom orthotics made for my cycling shoes. The posting in the orthotics only made the peroneal muscles more inflamed because I tended to pedal only using the outside of my foot.
Unfortunately, I used this insole for 2½ years before removing them just recently. Probably as a result of pedaling using the outside of my right foot I have also noted that the outside muscles of my lower right leg, the soleus and calf, are very large while the inside portion of the soleus and calf are very small and appear to be only slightly developed. However, recently I was diagnosed with having a right lower leg that was about ½" shorter than my left lower leg, probably the result of breaking the right lower leg when I was very young. I have read your tips about shimming and cleat position for other riders with short legs and have changed my cleat position using Steve Hogg's advice as well as shimming up the cleat by a little more than half the leg length difference. I have also lowered the saddle significantly which has resulted not only in slightly reduced pain but also in more power.
I have now been riding for about three weeks with the changes made but am still having trouble lower leg mainly with the peroneal muscles, both the brevis and longus, but especially where the tendon runs underneath the lateral malleolus. My question is does my injury sound like the result of a short lower right leg and if so how long should it take to notice an improvement from making up the leg length difference using shims and the new cleat technique and should I be doing anything else such as strengthening exercises to strengthen the entire lower right leg to counter balance the overly strong outside portion of the leg? I apologize for the long-winded question. Thanks.
I am a 43 year old, 152lb triathlete and long time cyclist. I too suffer from very tight calf muscles and Achilles pain. I also have been struggling with Plantar Fasciitis. I have read your very helpful comments regarding the above and would appreciate a little further clarification.
Specifically, are you recommending that the ball of the foot should be further forward, ie; the cleat is moved back toward the heel so that the pedal spindle falls somewhere behind the ball of the foot? In other words, is it correct that the pedal should be positioned more toward the center of the foot so as to not put a disproportionate force on the toes? Thank you in advance.
Ann Arbor, Michigan
I'm a 29 yr old cat 3 racer. I'm 5'10" and I weigh 173. I have a decent muscular build and tend to develop muscle mass easily. I don't have any health problems relating to my biomechanics and/or movement. In my past I've had no surgeries and I've always been injury free, although I tend to have tight muscularity and stretch 30 minutes a day five days a week to overcome tightness. I typically race crits and I have a decent sprint. Assuming my fit is correct, I've had a hard time being comfortable with my position. When I ride, my right foot points away from the bike and my left foot points towards the bike. I sometimes feel like my hips are sliding on my saddle to get comfy. What gives? Could my core, hips, abs, and back, need strengthening? Oh, I also wear arch supports at work but not on the bike. I tend to walk and run that way as well. Please help.
Cramps in calves
I've occasionally had cramps in my calves during and after races, and again last weekend. It came on during acceleration in the last climb before the finish, and was just behind the knee at the top of the calf. Two years ago, one cramp was so severe that a calf muscle tore lengthways, although that was an hour or so after the race.
Which advice would you have for this problem? I'm no contortionist, but not particularly inflexible for a 40-year-old cyclist. Could it be dehydration coupled with some inflexibility? Do minerals help as they are vaunted? Does the position on the bike perhaps play a role? Any advice appreciated.
Too much float and achy knees
I have a question about changing pedal systems and the potential effects on knees.
I've been using Speedplay X-2 pedals on my road bike for about 2.5 years. Last season I had some minor early season knee discomfort that went away as my fitness returned and mileage increased. As autumn approached, I switched to Shimano 959s on the 'cross bike for racing and commuting. I rode with them consistently from September through December. I did plenty of cross racing and commuting and my knees felt fine. I didn't ride a heck of a lot through Jan, Feb, and March with cruddy NE winter and general lack of motivation. As I have started riding again this spring in late April, back on the Speedplays, I've noticed that my knees seem to be less agreeable than last year. They're generally achy a bit while riding, though they tend to "warm up" and off and on while sitting at my desk or walking around. I checked the fore and aft & height to be sure I'm good and I am. I am wondering if going from a pedal system with some float (SPDs) to unlimited float (Speedplays) makes any difference. If it matters, I rode Looks previous to Speedplay. I switched because I heard Speedplays were easy on the knees and I could not stand the summertime Look squeaking I could never seem to eliminate.
Wayne "Achy Breaky & Creaky" Maceyka
I am a 41 year old female and I have been training for 4 months, one ride a weekend. Various lengths 40-100 miles with various terrain. I have been able to complete (4) 100 mile rides and feel pretty good throughout the ride however some rides, even the shorter ones I notice the outer parts of my knees and the back of my knee area are getting more painful when I ride, as well as my thighs (mostly the left one) get so fatigued I can't see how I can keep riding.
Now the bad news - I have a replaced right hip, have had back surgery and have one leg shorter than the other, which likely all contribute to my riding style or lack thereof and likely causes leg cramps too. I have been trying several things, diet wise, but just don't know what else to try that may make cycling more enjoyable again. I only have 1 more month before it is showtime for my cycling event.
I drink plenty of water each day, and three cans of diet coke per day but usually don't drink coke the day before the ride. I drink Cytomax during the ride, I eat pasta the night before and morning of and I eat an orange to fuel at the beginning of each ride and sometimes a harvest bar or a tortilla wrap/sandwich for lunch. Other than that I eat normally throughout the week.
I do other workouts during the week 2-3 days either swimming, cardio and weights at the gym, walk, and hike. Since some of my rides have not been painful I determined not to adjust my bike seat, pedals, etc. for fear something else may turn painful.
So that's my story. If any of you have any ideas on what I might do so that I can enjoy riding again I would sure appreciate the help.
I have been experiencing foot numbness after about 10 miles on just about every ride this year (I had Guillaine-Barres Syndrome in 2003, but haven't had any other symptoms since being treated with immunoglobulin). The numbness begins to subside immediately after getting off the bike. I did the plumb bob check and moved my saddle forward about ¼ inch. That seems to help, but the numbness still creeps up. While riding, I try to concentrate on wiggling my toes, pulling up on the pedal, anything that minimizes pressure on the feet. I'm wearing Diadora Ergo shoes with (old) Campy pedals and look cleats. Any ideas? Thanks in advance.
Some time ago I wrote in requesting advice regarding sciatica-type problems in my left glute and down my leg, with foot numbness and loss of power as the on-bike symptoms. Kelby kindly replied with some suggestions for exercises which I have followed. I am also seeing a physio at the university where I work. He has diagnosed my problems as being down to a problem with my pelvis/ sacrum. Apparently I 'drop' the right hip and so the left leg overextends and forces the lower back to work harder which results in the symptoms I have.
So far so good, but I'm beginning to think that maybe this is not all there is to the matter and I would welcome any thoughts that the team might have on the matter - particularly Steve. I'm wondering what else I might try since even though my physio has 'put my hip back' and I'm doing core strength exercises, the symptoms remain. I still have the numb foot and leg ache and loss of power. Another thing is that it seems that only my right buttock sits on the saddle - this is something I feel when riding, but someone also observed this the other day. Any thoughts/suggestions greatly appreciated
Leg length discrepancy #2
Thanks again for your response last time. I have since found it in the budget to purchase DMTs, and I'm trying to figure out what to use to build up the right cleat. I think I may be building it up slightly less, actually, though I'm not sure. I've noticed my left soleus has been significantly more sore than the right on most rides when I push hard. I wonder if this is from pointing my toes more on the left in order to compensate for excessive cleat stack on the right, which I had done to compensate for my right leg being shorter. I've also noticed that more padding on my shorts hangs off the right side than the left. I've also figured out that the left piriformis is a bit tighter and perhaps inflamed. So I've been taking extra care with those muscles, but it makes me wonder what else I might do to straighten myself out. Perhaps I've overcompensated?
The flexibility is coming along, but still some crookedness. The longer crankarms have helped, actually. Well, they seem to have helped, combined with the new bike and better position for my size. Regarding your balance test; what if I slide forward on the saddle when unweighting my hands? Does that mean I should move it forward? At this point I'm rather far back, though I do not find my hamstrings to be a limiter. So as for the DMTs, is there anything special I need to do given that the sole is carbon, in terms of buildup? Also, the sidi look plates are too flat for the sole of the DMTs, and le wedges would be too many, given the stack I need. Any ideas? I will be able to get the cleat setback I need, though, so thanks for the advice. Once again, your expertise is much appreciated. Too bad I can't pay you properly with a visit to the shop! Boston's just a tad too far. Best,
Hamstring and quad discomfort
I am a transplanted American living in Australia. I have moved from an eight month cycling climate to a 12 month one. I ride three or four 20 mile rides a week that are a combination of single track and paved road on a cyclocross bike. I am 6'3" and weigh about 220 lbs with a reasonable level of fitness.
About six weeks ago, I began to notice an early fatigue problem in my right quad under load while cycling, a very tender hamstring while sitting in the car and at the computer (but no real problem on the bike) and occasional numbness of the tendon area that attaches to the right groin area.
I'm still riding as frequently as I have been, but haven't been able to solve the right leg problems. Walking around, I don't notice problems with my hamstrings... its just sitting that is the problem.
Jervis Bay, Australia
Dean Faught then responded:
The right side (where the discomfort is) is about 2 cm wider than the left. My shoe angle appears fairly consistently forward straight ahead
I have old Mavic 637 MTB cranks with a very low profile (low q factor) and a 123mm bottom bracket, so it comes out further than the newer cranks with a more bowed profile. Could that be the trouble?
Upper body pain
I have recently moved my saddle back slightly and I have a much better feel in my legs: even fatigue and better power on climbing whereas with KOPS my quads used to burn first. I also used to rotate my pelvis forward casing pain in the perineum region so in addition to the further setback I also undertaken some Pilates to ensure that my sit bones are where they should be. Now my position at the back feels great, thank you for all your previous advice.
Now for the front. Whereas I used to be able to ride all day with saddle pain but no shoulder and neck pain, now my saddle and position at the back feels good but the shoulders and neck are sore. I don't think it is because I put too much weight on the bars: it feels as if I have a relatively light touch on them. They feel as if they may be too far away and too low, causing my shoulders to be hunched or stretched rather than being in a neutral position, which I am having trouble finding now. I think that before it was not such a problem as I slid forward towards the bars whereas now I focus on getting the position at the back correct it is now a stretch. Although I have heard it said that more set back (and better balance) could allow you reach out further, before I splash out on new stems could further set back and a change of pelvis angle mean shorter or higher (or both) handlebars? Also, which stems have the biggest rise without being flipped over: are there any with zero degrees? Many thanks.
This is the $64,000 question...I am a 27 year old roadie and ride scratch races, handicaps, two-day tours and 1 hour long criteriums. I weigh 84 kg and am 180cm tall, when I last had my body fat checked it was approx. 8.5%. I haven't had any other physiological testing done for a few years but I think I'm in pretty good shape and can be very competitive in B grade road races and can hold my own with the A grade boys in the criteriums. All the races I have ever done well in (placed or won) have been sprinting from a small group (1-5 riders) after a breakaway.
I seem to do better if I am sprinting against breakaway companions who are as tired as me but whenever I am faced with the bunch sprint I end up getting swamped in the last 100-200m and cross the line boxed in and feeling fresh physically but very frustrated! I think I am a relatively powerful rider, I can cover gaps and chase down breakaways very well but I lack that last bit of 'top end' speed (and skill) needed to finish off the bunch sprint. Do you have any training tips and/or racing techniques to improve my performance? Thanks.
Thanks for your very interesting and helpful forum. I would like to learn more about "over-reaching". I am a 41 year old male, in my second year of cycling (switched from running due to injuries), resting heart rate 44, max hr 199. I did one English century last year (solo) and was hoping to do 2 - 3 this year but no formal racing. I rode 83 miles last week.
There have been a few times in the past 4 weeks where during warming up, I've noticed my heart rate to be 15-25 beats lower than what I expect it to be (I tend to gauge this on certain mild hills). I thought that I've read that this can be an indication of "over-reaching". The first time it occurred I chalked it up to significant job stress, and took a week off the bike. Last week my intensity was up a lot, though volume was up less than 10%, and it happened again. Does this sound like "over-reaching"? What's the best way to get back into proper training? Do I need to watch out for time in the weight room (once or twice a week) that can take my heart rate into the anaerobic range? Why does the body respond with a lower heart-rate?
So take a look at the whole picture. Use other inputs at your disposal to assess your current fitness, and you'll be in a better position to make decisions with regard to your training. Have fun and good luck!
I'm a veteran racer, and do 50 or so races a season of all lengths at the Pro 1/2 level. It almost always seems that it takes me 30 minutes, or even a full hour of racing before I can race effectively. Many times I reach complete failure in my legs after the first hard effort of the race, although after riding through it, I usually ride very strongly (of course lots of good that does after being dropped)
This has seemed to be regardless of whether I'm overfresh, overreaching, overtrained, rested, tired, etc. I've tried all levels of warm-up from up to an hour with hard efforts down to five minutes with one little effort. Am I just an extremely slow starter? Is there any type of training or intervals that might help with this?
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