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Fitness questions and answers for October 11, 2004

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.

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.

Winter training
Maintaining peaks
Second hand smoke
Compact vs traditional frames
Grapefruit
Lactic acid
Acid reflux
Position
More foot issues
Ball of the foot
Knee problem

Winter training

I'm a 25 yr old male, 6' and 155-160lb, currently a cat4 racer, in my first year of racing. I'm trying to make the cat3 upgrade by the of the year, and have hopes of continuing to improve next year. My natural strengths seem to lie in long distance endurance and climbing, but a large percentage of the races in my area are relatively short criteriums or flat-to-rolling circuit races, often won by sprinters who hang with the pack until the closing rush. The skills necessary to succeed in such races have come only with considerably more time and effort, for me--my sprint, quick acceleration, and speed over short, flat stretches have all improved with training and racing over the year, but are still not fantastic.

Over the winter, I'd like to maintain and even improve on the gains I've made in these areas, but nearly every plan seems to require a return to nothing but slow mileage for a number of weeks after the race season ends. This seems like a pretty good way to lose the explosive strength I've gained. Is there a smart way to incorporate some training for this kind of strength into a winter plan, so that I'm not starting from scratch next year with regard to improving my weak points? I was thinking that I would continue to include maybe one session per week with either a small amount of short, hard intervals, or else some sprint work--is this a bad idea? Any advice is appreciated.

Michael Margarite
NYC

Dave Palese replies:

Knowing very little about you, my suggestions are these.

Maintaining peaks

I am 22 year old male trackie, aiming to break into a national squad for racing in under-23 track events, having ridden on the track for 18 months. Relating specifically to track sprinting, I need to know how best to maintain and then later re-obtain peaks of fitness.

I have had trouble this year maintaining peak fitness for big events following an initial "target race". I compete in the match sprint, Keirin and Kilo. I found I was able to peak successfully for a big championship (and win) through a good training cycle but was then unable to raise my game again the following weekend for another big championship, where I felt sluggish, tired and nowhere near as quick as I had done the previous weekend. I was following a 4 week cycle (3 on, 1 off), then a week's quality intensive work 2 weeks before the targeted race, with an easy "tapering" week in the week leading up to it. In the week leading to the next championship I did a short but intense training ride on the Tuesday, an easy ride the next day, and a short ride before the event on the Saturday and Sunday.

Therefore I'd like to know how best to a) maintain peak fitness for a big meet the week after an initial targeted race (such as what I should be doing in the week leading up to the second race) and b) how then to "re-peak" for events not much later in the season, say only 4 weeks after the first peak (e.g if one needed to be at a peak for a selection race and then be at another peak for the race you might have been selected for a month later!). Thanks for your help!

Luke Rogers
Shrewsbury, Great Britain

Eddie Monnier replies:

Congrats on winning your first target event! A great feeling, eh?

Second hand smoke

I'm a young American category 2 racer that is going to Arizona to train this winter. While there, I was thinking of getting a job as a bartender to pay the bills. My question is, how much will the second hand smoke affect my riding? Of course, I would try to find a bar or restaurant with some sort of ventilation or open enough room that I'm not constantly sitting in a cloud of smoke. It'll be nearly impossible to find a totally smoke free place, however, so how much will even a "little" smoke harm me? I'll be doing 20-25 hours a week, everything from low to high intensity.

Todd Elenz

Pam Hinton replies:

What you are really asking is, "How much will smoking cigarettes affect my fitness," because the only real difference is that the secondhand inhaler doesn't have to buy the cigs. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that the typical restaurant, bar and casino worker, who is a nonsmoker, inhales enough smoke on an average shift to experience the same health effects as a pack-a-day smoker-remember that in that environment, you're breathing smoke with every breath, not just when you light up. Even restaurants and bars with no-smoking sections and those with expensive ventilation systems are no better than those that allow smoking anywhere on the premises. The ventilations systems remove the smell, but not most of the more than 4,000 chemicals contained in cig smoke, which is why the Environmental Protection Agency classifies secondhand smoke as a class A carcinogen.

Compact vs traditional frames

I am going to splurge a considerable amount of money on a new bike and I am trying to decide whether to go with a compact or a traditional frame. Its going to be used for racing and training when the weather is beautiful (well, at least, for the first few months or until the newness wears off). Basically, I've read a lot of stuff of varying quality and knowledge on the two frame geometries and I was wondering if one of you guys could give me a more realistic idea to what the actual difference really is.

Peter Pienkowski

Dave Palese replies:

There isn't much hard info out there to say whether one frame type is better than another.

Grapefruit

A couple of recent studies are lending some credibility to the health claims of grapefruit; specifically weight loss, lower cholesterol and reduced risk of certain kinds of cancer.

The studies go on to indicate that these benefits are possibly linked to a flavoniod called naringin. This flavoniod is present in most citrus fruits but especially in grapefruit. Apparently this flavonoid limits the bodies ability to utilize and store carbohydrates - thus the weight loss effect.

As such, I was wondering if grapefruit (or citrus in general) would be detrimental to the performance of an endurance athlete? Should I be avoiding a glass of grapefruit juice in the morning with breakfast?

Jeff Erler

Pam Hinton replies:

There is no reason for endurance athletes to purge their refrigerators of grapefruit and grapefruit juice. As you noted, grapefruit received some media attention about a month ago for its ability to promote weight loss. Researchers measured changes in body weight over a 12 week period in 100 obese men and women. The subjects were randomly assigned to consume ½ grapefruit, grapefruit juice, grapefruit extract or a placebo with each meal. The researchers found that the subjects who consumed grapefruit in any form lost more weight than subjects who received the placebo (~about 3 pounds vs. 0.5 pounds). During the 12 weeks, all subjects were instructed to walk 30 minutes three times per week to ensure equal energy expenditure among groups. However, the subjects could eat whatever they wanted during the study, so it is impossible to be certain that the difference between groups was due to grapefruit consumption. Individuals who are obese are often "insulin resistant", meaning their bodies don't respond to normal levels of insulin, so the pancreas secretes more of the hormone. The researchers did not determine how grapefruit promotes weight loss, but speculated that it might work by correcting the insulin resistance associated with being overweight. In that case, grapefruit would actually enhance the body's ability to use carbohydrates for energy, particularly in the muscle. Endurance athletes, however, won't derive this benefit because they are not insulin resistant to begin with.

Lactic acid

Wonder if you could answer a question about body chemistry. I am a road cyclist. My son does some mountain biking. He recently made an off-handed comment that spitting gets rid of lactic acid. That was news to me. Is it true? And related to that, when I start out road cycling I often tear up with very acidic tears. It takes me a while to clear them out, then I'm fine. Are those tears expelling lactate acid?

Richard White
Haileybury, Ontario

You bring up a very interesting and often misunderstood topic. The short answer to your questions is no, it is not true that saliva or tears expel lactic acid. There is virtually no lactic acid outside the muscle cell, and what most people refer to as "lactic acid" is not really lactic acid at all.

Scott Saifer replies:

While it is conceivable that tiny amounts of lactic acid end up in saliva, the amount being expelledf by spitting would be so trivial as not to be worth considering. I think your son is either misinformed or yanking your chain.

Acid reflux

I am 22 years old male who has been cycling for about 7 months. I suffer occasional acid reflux and gastro-irritation post rides, I have seen the doctor, and taken blood samples but there seems to be nothing wrong with my stomach nor liver. I wonder if you know what might have caused it?

Jason Jia

Pam Hinton replies:

This would genuinely qualify as a pain in the neck. The only personal experience I have with this phenomenon would be friends who have learned the hard way what and when they can and can't eat prior to high-intensity races like crits. So it might be that a little gastric circumspection on your part will do the trick.

Position

I have read Hogg's theory but a stable/balanced pelvis can be obtained within a huge range. Using his theory I can mash a 53x11 from my modified KOPS position (knee just behind pedal spindle (KJBPS)) and then slide all the way to the nose of my saddle and then all the way back to the tail of the saddle and still not fall forward or use my abs/back to resist falling forward. I tried it spinning a smaller gear with the same results (Hogg recommends pushing a big gear). So that doesn't really help me. I've been using basically the same position for 15 years so it feels comfortable but can I drag a few more watts or efficiency out of my aging legs by sliding the seat back 1cm, 2cm...? If I gain a few watts but start having pain that's not acceptable though. When you look at bikes in the pro peloton they have their saddle jammed all the way back plus have 30mm set back posts so I wonder if I'm missing out on some power (or power earlier in the stroke). Any input would be greatly appreciated!

Justin Maines

Steve Hogg replies:

I think you have missed the point of what I have said. I have advocated on this forum that seat setback should be such that the rider should teeter on the point of balance. What you are saying is that you can support your upper body weight well in a wide range of butt on seat positions, which is not the same thing. The other thing is that the gear that I mentioned as the test for this was ' under reasonable load'. 53 x 11 would seem to me to be an unreasonable load for a majority of riders. It is easier to pass this test outdoors than indoors. Outdoors there is a 30km/h, 40km/h or whatever wind hitting you in the chest which aids balancing. Indoors this is not the case and teetering is ideal. If a rider has very poor pelvic mechanics on the bike passing the balance test will be much harder than someone with good function and dynamic core strength. The bigger the gear you choose to use to perform the balance test, the easier it is to pass. The easier the gear you choose, the harder it is to pass. Try the balance test again in a gear that you can push on the flat with some effort at 90 - 95 rpm and get back to me. The reason I advocate trying the balance test in a biggish gear is that I am uninterested in how people perform at 30 km/h in a bunch talking to their friends. What I am interested in is how those same people perform under pressure. This is when their true 'body language' for want of a better term is revealed. The more functional the rider, the harder they can ride without sacrificing technique and 'fighting' the bike.

More foot issues

I have recurring foot numbness that ends up feeling like my toes have been banged with a hammer. I have tried new shoes, bigger shoes, new pedals, saddle and now I think that it may be related to cleat position. I have fairly large feet (size 47), have pretty flat feet and walk a bit like a duck. I have looked back on some of your past letters and am looking for an indepth description of proper cleat placement. For example, fore/aft position, position in terms of medial and lateral positioning as well as how much my cleat position should replicate how I walk.

Roger Gorke
Maryland

Steve Hogg repies:

Roger responded:

I actually checked where the ball of my foot was in relation to the pedal axle. The ball of my foot was way, way in front of the axle. I moved the cleat forward and will give that a shot. I rode this morning in to work and things seemed to be ok. It was hard to tell because it was kind of chilly and my toes were a bit numb from the cold. I should know more on the way home.

Shoes - Carnac Ellipse and Northwave Revolution (The Carnacs seemed to be better but the cleat position was bad on both shoes.) Pedal -- Dura Ace 7800

I will look in to getting a pro fit done.

Steve Hogg replies:

it hadn't occurred to me that you may have your cleats too far back. It is relatively rare. Too much foot over the pedal could be part of your problem. Generally speaking too much foot over the pedal will cause the pedal stroke to be jerky because ankle movement is limited too much and so there is no 'flow' at the bottom of the pedal stroke. Do you have any sense of clawing your toes while pedalling, particularly under load?

Ball of the foot

One for Steve Hogg. When you talk about putting the cleat center/pedal axle behind the ball of the foot (about 9mm for me size 45), what part of the ball of the foot are you talking about? I've always used the inside edge (of the ball of the foot). But it seems that the ball of the foot is curved. So, at the inside of your foot it is further back, at your mid foot it is further forward. Maybe it is my ignorance of anatomy, but where should I be referencing the 'ball of the foot' (inside/outside/middle?) to appropriately place my cleat in relation to it?

John Parker

New Mexico, USA

Steve Hogg replies:

'Ball of the foot' is a layman's term for the 'first metatarsophalangeal joint' which in turn is more commonly known as the 'first metatarsal joint'. What each of these terms refer to is the large knuckle at the base of the big toe. By comparison the joint at the base of the little toe is the 'fifth metatarsophalangeal joint' or 'fifth metatarsal joint'. The others in between are numbered depending on proximity to the first. What you need to do for positioning the cleats is to put your cycling shoes on and locate by feeling for them, the front and rear edges of the first metatarsal joint and the top and bottom of the joint.. One you have found these use a reasonably fine marker pen to put a dot at the midpoint. Now hop on the bike and pedal in a reasonably hard gear and eyeball the angle your feet sit on the pedal. It may be toe in or out, it may be different on each side.

Knee problem

I am a 33 year old male who has been competitively Cycle/MTB racing for 8 years and riding for 11 years. My problem (as it seems) is a typical Cycling one in that I have a problem with pain in my left knee (right is fine).

Here's some history. It began around three years ago. Two years ago I had a professional set-up done which included new shoes and orthotics for both Road and MTB to correct alignment and improve foot stability, new saddles for both to improve pelvic stability and a shorter stem on my road bike, seat positioning including fore/aft as well as cleat positioning fore/aft. This helped hugely, but has not cured the problem.

This winter was the first time in 3 years that I rode with no knee niggles (usually worse over the winter) and had been doing 2.5 hour rides on the MTB and around 7 hour weeks with no problem. The injury has repeated itself at the start of the season (September October) for the past 2 years, then faded after building up my volume to an average of 12-14 hours a week. We had our first road ride of the season, a fairly big one of 4 hours and my knee started to hurt after 3.5 hours, this was 7 weeks ago and it has not settled down since. I don't think it was the fact the ride was on the road bike, seems to be caused by duration, not which bike I am riding. I was set-up on fixed cleats (I use the new Durace Pedals) and have put floating cleats on 3 weeks ago to see if that would help, but has made no difference. Since the injury it makes no difference weather I ride my road bike or the MTB, the pain is the same and I have had it on and off the bike. Even walking at times the pain is there. I have tried taking a few days off at a time more than once and this has made no significant difference either. Also makes no real difference weather I spin or ride at a steady/hard pace, if anything when I push a harder pace the pain is not quiet as intense as if I spin.

I have a good technique, smooth pedal stroke and stable upper body, cadence of around 95 on the road bike and 85 on the MTB.

I also do a lot of core strength work on my back/abs with a Swiss ball and yoga for stretching.

I have seen physios/chiropractors over the years and currently working with a local physio who is still trying to find out exactly what the problem is, no luck just yet but have only had 2-visits with him and he is trying acupuncture currently. I have seen an orthopaedic 2 years ago and another 4 weeks ago and have had fresh x-rays each time which show no degeneration or problems with the knee joint(s) or structure. He (current physio I am seeing) says I am tighter on my left side than right and I have been doing a lot of extra stretching on ITB, Hip Flexor and Quad but has not made any difference. I am currently doing some strength work on my left quad as it has been identified as being slightly weaker than the right.

The knee pain I get is on the inside and very sharp. It comes on between the 12-3 part of the pedal stroke and sometimes the 6-9 part of the pedal stroke. Since the injury, the pain comes on pretty much straight away. The weird thing is I can get relief be pressing on or near the base on the inside head of the quad muscle. It's like flicking a switch and the pain disappears completely. It feels like a nerve is getting pinched or crushed and my gut feeling is that the pain is being referred to the knee from somewhere in the head of the quad? I thought you may have a suggestion or idea, or may have encountered a similar thing? Steve I would really appreciate any advice you may have for me as I am very passionate about my cycling and enjoy competing at high levels, but this injury is really starting to get on top of me!

Grant Anderson
Alexandra, New Zealand

Steve Hogg replies:

it is rare in my experience for an on bike knee problem to be the knee itself. It is much more likely that the knee is loaded up because of shortcomings elsewhere. I need more information from you. Set your bike up on an indoor trainer making sure that the bike is level between axle centres. Warm up and pedalling in a hard gear [ as much as your knee allows] with your shirt off; have someone stand behind you and see if you have a tendency to drop either hip.

Grant responded:

I had a physio treatment yesterday and he really worked on breaking down the larger outer quad muscle deep inside and did some acupuncture treatment. I think he is in the right area as this morning when I did some Swiss ball, was doing lower and upper abs by lying flat on back then raising Swiss ball to 45 and 90 deg with legs extended, and when doing so at a couple of points during the raise felt a sharp pain shoot through my left knee and could really feel what was happening with the quad muscle, in how it was contracting etc since the physio as it is still very tender.

So I think he is in the right area, question is why has it happened? As you describe below, I have discovered the pain is definitely referred and not the cause, but the problem. I read your article in the current Bicycling Australia Issue on hip drop etc and found it very interesting.

Steve Hogg replies:

I think the key is the site of the pain, i.e. the inner head of the quad, the rectus femoris. It is the major muscular lateral stabiliser of the knee. It typically fires up to the degree that you are talking about if the stability of the knee is severely challenged. The question is why?

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