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Fitness questions and answers for October 14, 2008

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.

Jon Heidemann (www.peaktopeaktraining.com) 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 (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. 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 (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.

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.wholeathlete.com) 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.

Earl Zimmermann (www.wenzelcoaching.com) has over 12 years of racing experience and is a USA Cycling Level II Coach. He brings a wealth of personal competitive experience to his clients. He coaches athletes from beginner to elite in various disciplines including road and track cycling, running and triathlon.

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.

Rotating foot
Overtraining
Knee pain
Position issue
Spacers for MTB cleats
Knee bend
Speedplay cleat extenders

Rotating foot

I am a 30-year-old male recreational rider who rides mostly cross and 24 hour races. I have ridden competitively at some times and quite actively for the past 10 years on a mix of MTB, road, cross, and fixed throughout the city.

This past spring, I started to notice what I can only describe as 'a new bad habit'. It seems that when pedaling, my right foot has begun to rotate about the axis of my cleat, through my normal pedal stroke, resulting in my heel moving closer then farther away from the bike as I pedal. At first I attributed it to a loose or incorrectly adjusted cleat. Then maybe I thought it was a problem with a certain pair of shoes and kind of left it at a theory, since it didn't seem to be a major concern and I couldn't really pinpoint it.

However, yesterday I was commuting home from work on my cross bike and it occured again. This time I was riding eggbeater pedals with these little clip-on platforms that Crank Bros provided with a pair of my wife's Smarty pedals and normal street shoes. Even without being attached to the very smooth pedal and being able to place my foot at any angle, I could feel my foot rotating as I pedaled.

I am trying to figure out what possibly is causing this and what my next step is: leg/thigh/foot length difference? Any insight what to try next?

Cory Benson
Prague, Czech Republic

Steve Hogg replies:

If this is a recent problem, what has changed?

Cory Benson then responded:

The problem is indeed recent; it is in the last 4-6 months, having only really become annoying in the last two or three months.

I haven't specifically changed shoes. I have a new and an old pair of Sidi Dominators that I rotate back and forth with depending on mood and weather. About a month after I noticed the problem, I had the sole of my new right shoe delaminate. I thought this may have been my problem and sent it of to be repaired. (Now I wonder, did my new foot movement overstress the shoe? A little chicken-and-egg dilemma.) That being said, I have noticed the issue with the second pair of shoes, now normal street shoes as well, and the shoe that was sent back and repaired by Sidi in Italy. Cleat positions seem to remain the same.

I primarily notice the problem on my mountain bike, on which I did install a jones H-bar about 8 months ago. The normal reach position is very close to what it was before, but it is possible that I may favor the more forward position more than I rode on bar ends previously? Seat position has remained unchanged. On my secondary bike, where I haven't noticed the problem as prominently, I recently upgraded a severly worn Flite for a new Arione, and installed it at the same height and approximated the fore-aft position (because of the drastically different shape.) The third, the commuting/fixie/cross where I have noticed the problem with street shoes has remained unchanged, but truthfully is about 6cm too small for me and has since been taken out of service.

No recent falls, but I stopped weekly Yoga practice about 18 months ago due to work pressures and language barrier issues after moving to a new city. It is probably safe to say that I am a bit less flexible now than I was a year and a half ago.

Off and on over the past 18 months, I have also had minor bloating and a perceived increase in intestinal gas, which I have attributed to a significant change in diet and new job/city stress. Any sluggishness (which thankfully has been minor) I like to blame on the 100+km mountain bike rides my wife drags me on, in lieu of my lack of fitness, as my workday riding volume has generally decreased in the last 2 years.

Wow, looking back on all that is a bit scary. When I started to respond to your questions, I thought I would write 'NO' to them all and say I would lower my saddle. I will try that though and will keep you updated. Any more insight into my answers/extra background info would of course be greatly appreciated.

Steve Hogg replies:

Three bikes and differing degrees of the same problem on each means that at some level, your position plays a part.If you can find a competent bike fitter who takes a structural approach to his job, it would be worth getting checked out.

Overtraining

I'm a competitive cyclist, both mountain bike and road, I'm a 16 year old (nearly 17) male; my height is 180 cm and weight is about 67kg.

For the last 3-4 months (since June) I have gradually been seeing a drop in performance levels.

Just before June I had started to do efforts and up my training. I did this to counter a bad spell of races - big mistake! I also hit a patch of about five big races within six weeks. And they were my first races for about 5-6 months. Between the 5-6 months I continued to train, though.

I have diagnosed myself with about 65 per cent of the symptoms of overtraining, including, constant fatigue, loss of motivation/interest and competitive drive. At first I had a little one week break. Then I continued to train, but not too much, just enough in addition to weekly road races.

Then the evident feelings hit me, but at the time was clueless to what was happening! I was losing my competitive drive, motivation (and I got my new road bike at this time so I should have been motivated), feeling slow while training, not enjoying training.

This continued for 2.5 months, Mid-August, when I was recommended a two-week break. I took it and felt a bit more enthused, but after one week, it hit me. I went for a planned easy 30km spin, was cut down to 14km and averaged 16km/h, (usual I average around 27-30km/h).

I have continued on for a few weeks and had the same kind of ride the other day... that being said I have had some good rides but the feeling isn't there and now it's coming to be that about 50 per cent of my riding is unbearable. It's really scary and I do want to race competitively again! But am really worried if I will recover from this.

What can I do, It's been about four months now (of the constantly fatigued legs and slowly decreasing motivation) and about three weeks since I had my first unbearable ride. I was thinking of resting (actively and passively), including light cross training, and light spinning on the bike for 25 minutes maximum plus a balanced diet and stretches.

Ryan Hargrave

Carrie Cheadle replies:

If you aren't already - I suggest working with a coach that can teach you how to utilise periodised training to prevent overtraining in the future. Overtraining usually means under-recovery. Overtraining is extremely complex and what brings it on for one person is different for another AND recovery from overtraining for one person might look different than another. I've seen athletes take from three weeks to over a year to recover.

Knee pain

Hi, I'm a 47-year-old male that has recently been bitten by the road biking bug. Last year I rode over 3000 miles and lost around 35 pounds. In the course of the season I rode with cyclists that were training for the Lotoja Classic, a 206-mile race from Logan, UT to Jackson, WY. I decided that I wanted to give it a try this year. For Christmas I got some Sidi Genius 5s. As soon as the time changed and I could get out in the evening I started riding and I put 1500 miles in with the Sidis and was always fighting with hot spots on the outside of my feet. I decided to get a professional fitting and they moved my seat up and back and shortened my stem as well as installing some shims under my cleats.

Long story short, I got an inflamed IT band. I put my position back to what it was and went back to my old shoes and was able to rehab it in time to race Lotoja (206 miles in 11 hours 29 minutes - actual riding average speed was 18.5mph) but I still had some discomfort. But then on the following Monday the pain was so bad that it took me off the bike. The pain has switched from the left knee to the right knee. The pain is on the outside of the knee (at about 7 o'clock and an inch away in relation to the patella). I've really eased up on the riding and I can ride about 20 miles or so before it starts bothering me but I'm really worried about next season. Will laying off it over the winter let it recover? Should I experiment with cleat placement over the winter? By the way, I'm not really a masher, either.

Ken Hicks

Steve Hogg replies:

Firstly, have a look at these posts and position your cleats accordingly. That should eliminate cleat position as a potential stressor.

Ken Hicks then responded:

Thanks for getting back to me. I'll see what happens when I put the bike on the trainer. Yeah, I meant wedges. I'm using Look Keo pedals so the float angle should not be an issue so I'll try lowering my seat a bit. It was initially raised about 10mm by the fitter and I put it back down to where it was after the inflamed IT band but I've been fooling around with it to try and find a happy medium.

Steve Hogg replies:

If your bike fitter used a goniometer to determine seat height, be a little sceptical of the result. I think it's a flawed method. Often if the seat is too high, we will autonomically choose a side to protect and a side to sacrifice. If ITB problems only occur on a bike and on one side only, a seat height that is too high is often the reason or part of the reason. Let me know how you get on.

Position issue

I am a 34-year-old, B grade cyclist. Last year I had a crash during a bunch sprint where the chain ring from another bike went through my left elbow shattering the Olecneron. the short version from the surgeon was "we pulled out all the bits and replaced the 2 largest pieces and pinned them". So now I have 4 pins in my left elbow. The nature of the injury has left me with a loss of 25 degrees loss of extension in the left elbow and significant muscle loss in the lower triceps.

I currently have a 120mm stem 42cm bars.My saddle is the Specialized Toupe Team. I have made no adjustments as yet and have just ridden according to comfort on the bike. Fellow riders have noted that although my hips are level my shoulders are slightly off, when on the hoods and tops of the bars. My personal adjustment when on the hoods to counteract the extension issue is to ride more aero and bend the right arm more. I have noticed that when riding that the bike itself is slightly leaning to the right as well.

My question is; although I have continued to race and have had some significant results which have resulted in me being picked up by a local team, what position changes relating to bars and saddle could be made to adjust to this loss of extension?

Luke Butler
Australia

Steve Hogg replies:

So no pain or discomfort?

Spacers for MTB cleats

I am a cat 3 road racer and have visited multiple doctors to figure out my leg length discrepancy. After getting a structural x-ray of both legs side-to-side we found out that I have a 2mm difference in my tibia and 2mm difference in my femur. So in total I have compensated it by putting a 2mm spacer in my road cleat and moving the pedal back 2mm in order to make up the 4mm difference.

The spacer I use on my road cleat I received from a doctor in Boulder, but he misdiagnosed me with a 6mm difference as he did not do a full scan just an x-ray of my hips so the other 2mm was purely muscular that I have corrected with physical therapy. I cannot find any spacers like the one he gave me that can be used on the MTB pedals. His was a solid piece of plastic that is indestructible and I have no problem engaging the cleats on my Shimano road pedals.

My question is I bought a set of Le Wedges for SPD cleats and they would never stay in place and when I could finally engage the pedal it would not hold the cleat for very long without twisting the cleat in the shoe all around. I would tighten the cleat as much as I could but it still did not correct the problem.

Is there a better set of spacers out there that I can use for MTB pedals besides the wedges?

Stuart Gregory

Scott Saifer replies:

I've had good luck cutting spacers out of the tops of yogurt tubs, but something is odd about your experience with the Le Wedges. I've installed many sets and not had any problem with getting the cleats to stick. Is there a chance your screws are not the right length or that you are for some reason unable to tighten them adequately? The ones that take an allen-key can be made a lot tighter than the ones that demand a flat-blade screw driver for instance.

Knee bend

When properly positioned what would optimal knee bend be between (seat height, foot at 6 o-clock)? I'm between 28-30 degrees.

Randy Houston

Scott Saifer replies:

There is no one ideal angle for all riders for several reasons. First, there are some technical problems with the concept. At what angle will you set your ankle and foot when you take the measurement? Horizontal? The angle your take when pedaling with minimal effort? The angle you take when pedaling hard but spinning? When you are mashing a big gear up a hill? In each of these situations, your foot and ankle angle at the bottom of the pedal stroke will be a bit different and the knee angle will change with the foot angle. The only measurement you can make without a motion capture camera would be a static measurement, but the knee angle when sitting still on the bike may not be particularly close to that you have when pedaling. Even with a motion capture camera you have to pick a cadence and force.

Speedplay cleat extenders

I read a tip last week from Steve Hogg and decided to give them a try. Best $25 I ever spent!

I hadn't been able to get my cleat far enough back before, so I was skeptical of his cleat position theories. My feet have never been completely comfortable no matter what shoe I tried. I got the cleat extender because of his recommendations more out of desperation than faith. All my foot pain went away! I did two 60-mile rides to get my legs used to the change, moved my seat up a bit, and suddenly everything clicked. I'm amazed. Reading his fit papers and going with them got me into a very fine fit, all the irritating little pains are gone, I breathe better, my ITB feels great, and I can walk after a hard session.

Thanks Steve!

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