Fitness questions and answers for September 19, 2005

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.

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.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 ( 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 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 ( 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, 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.

Left knee pain
Numbness in toes
Shoe size relative to position
Moving on the bike
Fitness with age
Foot pain/cramp
Heel-down solutions
Look pedal tension
Change in racing position
Back surgery

Left knee pain

Hi, I am a 34 year old male. I am into recreational cycling and have been having issues with knee pain. It didn't seem to start until I started using clipless pedals. I started with Shimano spd then spdr. I am currently using Speedplays (original not zeros.)

Here is where it gets complicated - my left foot is a half size larger than my right. But that's not all. There is probably a half inch difference in the height of my knee caps. The left knee is lower than the right, and I don't have any pain in my right knee, just my left. Any suggestions on cleat position and/or spacers?

Mike Carey

Steve Hogg replies


Numbness in toes

I wonder if you have any suggestions for alleviating numbness in my toes. Some quick info on me - I'm 33, 5'11, 172 lbs, riding a Giant TCR Compact Alu, size medium, 172.5 mm cranks, Look pedals. I ride almost every day between 25 and 40 miles; I rarely do distances over 50. I'm sure that I am not nearly flexible enough in my hamstrings, and on longer rides I will sometimes get an ITB issue in my left hip (usually flat road hammering after 50 miles or so). I have always had numb toes on the bike, even after 10 -15 miles (the more climbing there is the less numbness I get), I switched to the Specialized Pro Carbon shoes and this did help at first (Metatarsal Button insole). I have a tendency to pedal heels down a lot at the bottom of the stroke - my cleats feel fine, with no particular pressure on any one part of the foot. I've read through your replies to other people about knee action, foot angle, leg length differences and don't seem to exhibit any of those problems (but maybe I do have some). Any ideas on initial steps to alleviate the numbness? I also went to your site and I'm starting a full hip, back and leg stretching routine.

Thanks in advance

Justin Stirling

Steve Hogg replies


Shoe size relative to position

Hi Guys,

I have a distinct size difference in my feet. My Left foot is 1.5 sizes longer and 1.5 sizes wider than my right. Although I have, I feel, found my best position for climbing and riding tempo, I feel that now I should look into some corrective measures.

Can I adjust my cleats, (LOOK Red, LOOK 296 pedals running 3 Degrees of float), or do I need to look into adding shims or the like to make up the differences. Any advice you can provide is appreciated.

Luke Butler


Steve Hogg replies


Moving on the bike

Normally I'm in good health, and although I could be thinner, I am within healthy parameters (180 cm, 76 kg) the question doesn't include the healty part, nor pain or the like.

This year I'm riding races, doing group training and improving on those pretty quickly. I've got a nag for suffering, holding on and trying to ride offensively. But my mates say that although I ride pretty fast and strongly I tend to move the back wheel and use a lot of road. I haven't encountered any dangerous situations, but I fear people are a bit worried staying on my wheel and I think I might not ride very efficiently at my top endurance speed. I also seem to be afraid in sharp corners and the like, losing a few metres and regaining them with sheer force. I don't seem to have a real sprint compared even to some riders who are generally a bit weaker than myself. I seem not to be able to sprint over 55km/h or so in the bunch sprint where others get over 60km/h.

I tend to think that it could be that I'm riding a steel frame. It could also be that I have relatively long legs, and an upper body that's a bit short, and thus I have been put on a frame too big for me. Although I have compensated a bit by buying a shorter stem, it could also be that I'm mostly racing on Spinergy wheels (which are allowed in non-licensed races.)

It's not all that important since I'm still making progress at 30 years of age, so I must be doing some things right, but the remarks of the last few weeks have made me wonder. I might want to by a new, stiffer racing bike this winter and I want to know if I shouldn't listen to my local dealer when he says that a 60 cm frame is good with an 180 cm body.

Great complete website by the way - love the whole thing. Usability is also great. Keep up the great work!

Ivar Brouwer.

Steve Hogg replies


Fitness with age


I'm a 35 year old male that has restarted training after about 10 years off the bike. Previously in my younger day I was very fit and at county champion level of fitness (hill climbs), although my speed on flat time trials was poor. Having read through a lot of material I'm curious as to what competition level can be obtained (or expectation for a 25-mile flat time trial) at such an age given the time off the bike and the decrease in VO2max. The one benefit I may have is that I apparently have a horseshoe kidney (joined) that was detected during an ultrasound scan that should provide a higher AT limit. My current regime is about 60-80 miles per week (day on day off) over the last two months since restarting training, and I'm looking to increasing this through the winter.

A few details about me:

- Resting HR 42-44

- AT 158-159

- HRmax 183 (not maxed out test)


Karl Tomlinson

Scott Saifer replies


Foot pain/cramp

This is a problem I have suffered with for several years. It started with mountain biking and now as I've switched to road bikes it has followed.

Basically if I have my shoes tight enough that I have no "slippage" in the toe box or the heel it causes my feet to hurt and cramp. It doesn't matter what shoes I am wearing as it does it with all of them.

If I loosen the straps/laces enough to alleviate the problem I don't feel like I am adequately "hooked" to my pedals and as a result I'm wasting effort. Would you have an ideas or suggestions? Thanks.


Topeka, KS

Steve Hogg replies


Heel-down solutions

Aren't your cleat position recommendations for heel-down riders rather than toe-down? I'm a toe-down rider and it seems to me that with my cleats far forward and seat far back I am getting "behind" the stroke earlier as it passes the 12 o'clock position. And my foot gains greater leverage on the downstroke with the metatarsal joint to the rear of the pedal axle, especially since I am continuing to force the toe down through the bottom of the stroke.

Jeff Warren

Steve Hogg replies


Look pedal tension

Perhaps not a straight fitness question but I would appreciate some guidance on how to use the variable float tension on my Look A5.1 pedals. What are the trade-offs between the four tension options offered.

Tony Rich

Steve Hogg replies


Change in racing position

Hey, I am going from road races and crits this year to almost exclusively TTs and an Ironman next year. My question is this: I want to do a lot of my training on my road bike because I love that thing so much, so should I get the saddle position more forward to mimic my TT bike (the tip of my saddle is even with the middle of the BB on the TT bike)? How much efficiency would I lose by training in two different positions? By the way, the Ironman I'm doing is hilly. I'm 35 years old.

John Hessian

Steve Hogg replies


Back surgery

I am a casual cyclist (120 miles a week) who has recently had back surgery for congenital spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal). The type of surgery performed was a spinal decompression at L2/L3 and L3/4 to widen the spinal canal which I am told was 60% narrower than in a normal person my size (I am 25 years old and 6ft 4in).

I had been suffering with leg pain in both legs for about four years. I discovered cycling during this period as a means to stay active and keep my weight down. I ride a standard road bike but never use the drops as it causes pain in the lower back. I feel no pain when cycling using the tops of the bars but am stiff for a while afterwards and feel a little extra leg pain from time to time during the rest of the day. I do not consider these serious side affects as nearly every physical activity caused me some discomfort before the surgery.

Is cycling in a road bike position affecting my condition in the long term due to the excess bending forward? Do you have any advice as regards cycling position or stretching exercises? I am keen to continue road cycling once I recover from my surgery but do obviously not want to aggravate my condition.

Andrew Lynch,


Steve Hogg replies


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