Skip to main content

Fitness questions and answers for September 20, 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.

Cadence
Recovery meal content
Average heart rate and training indoors
Recovery from an injury
Hydration - sodium and potassium
Virtual reality trainers
Cramped up on a long race
Glutamine
Adductor cramping
Left foot numbness
Unnatural flexion?

Cadence

I have just started cycling, as I row over the summer but I am now at university and not near any rivers. I was wondering if you had any information on pedaling cadence and power output relationships for optimal performance?

Justin Evans
New Zealand

Scott Saifer replies:

Optimal cadence depends on the length of the event you are doing and whether acceleration is required. Since you haven't said what your event will be, I'll provide a wide range of data points for you.

Eddie Monnier replies:

You asked about an optimal cadence versus asking about"most efficient", which is quite astute of you. This is because"efficiency" has a particular meaning in exercise physiology; actually, there are four different types of efficiency, which I won't go into other than to say that each is a measure of work expended vs. work accomplished.

Recovery meal content

I have a question concerning the type of carbohydrate consumed following exercise. This is somewhat of a follow-up question to an answer given in a recent Fitness Q&A (Aug. 30).

After a hard training ride I take in approximately 1-1.5 g/kg of carbohydrate along with some protein. I make use of high glycemic sources of carbohydrates such as breakfast cereals, pancakes, etc. Some of the carbohydrates which make up this initial meal are simple sugars. The rest of the day I still focus on taking in adequate amounts of carbohydrates (8-10 g/kg) but try to make use of nearly all complex sources such as whole grain breads, oatmeal, pasta, vegetables, etc. This routine seems to work very well for my recovery.

I have noticed that many recovery drinks contain nearly all simple sugars such as dextrose or glucose. My question is this: if the content of the initial recovery meal consists of too many simple sugars (sucrose, dextrose, etc) compared to complex carbohydrates is that a greater chance that some of those carbs might be stored as fat if they cannot be used immediately? If I need to take in 100g of carbohydrates following training for the initial meal is there a disadvantage if the ratio of simple to complex is 80% to 20% as compared to, say, 50/50? As an example, would I have the same benefit from occasionally consuming a bowl of low fat (15% fat) ice cream instead of a bowl of breakfast cereal if the amount of carbohydrates ingested are the same?

In connection with this, what about maltodextrin? It is my understanding, perhaps mistakenly so, that the more complex the carbohydrate the more of it can be stored as glycogen. Maltodextrin is considered to be a complex carbohydrate with a high glycemic index. If not consumed during or immediately after exercise will the body be able to store the maltodextrin as it would carbs coming from pasta or would the body simply use what it can at the time and simply store the rest as adipose tissue?

Rob Weiss
Arkansas, USA

Pam Hinton replies:

For a thorough analysis of the glycemic index (GI) and its usefulness, see the September 6, Fitness Q&A. That your pre- and post-race meal routine is working well, confirms what sports nutritionists recommend: high GI foods during, and immediately after, exhaustive, glycogen-depleting exercise and low GI foods the rest of the time.

Average heart rate and training indoors

As the weather gets colder and nastier, it's time to start breaking out the rollers and trainer and ride indoors. I'm a 21 year old male Cat4 cyclist. I'm starting to put on the base miles for the next season doing some VO2 work. But for some reason I can't get my HR up in the areas where that I train at when I'm on the open road.

A few days ago on the trainer I was trying to do the type of effort that would be a 30min Time Trial on the open road, but for some reason I couldn't get my heart rate above 130/140 BPM and maintain an effort that would last for 30 minutes, I could throw it in 53x11 and surge but burn out very quick. Same thing happened on the rollers, I could try for a harder effort, but in 53x11 I'd be around 150 BPM. I didn't really expect too much out of the rollers, but definitely expected to be in the 170s on the trainer. On the trainer during my warm-up my HR is in the 110s, where I'd normally be in the 120s to 130s.

Am I doing something wrong? On the trainer my legs feel the same as if my HR were around 160/170 BPM on the open road but it's actually around 130 according to my HRM. I don't think it's my bike fit, even if it were I should still be able to get my HR up there. As for the hardware I'm using a CycleOps Fluid 2 trainer, with the resistance unit at about 2 rotations of the knob like the manual says, and I'm on Kreitler all aluminum narrow rollers. I hope it's just something small that I'm doing wrong, because at this rate, I'm not going to see any improvement of my VO2 or LT at the beginning of next season.

Dave Chiu

Scott Saifer replies:

There are several possibilities. First I'm assuming that you are using enough resistance on the trainer that you are not simply spinning out. Yes?

Recovery from an injury

I'm a 50 year old male with multiple sclerosis who rides a carbon fiber road bike 150 miles or so a week. I've recently developed feelings of numbness and seeming weakness in my left leg and lower left abdomen that last about 1 or 2 seconds, then disappear, which don't affect my ability to ride or actually affect my leg strength.

I thought I had a new MS symptom, but my neurologist tells me I probably have nerve root compression instead. His advice is to buy padded bicycling shorts (which I already have) and a new bicycle saddle"with more padding." As well as stop bicycling for a week or more.

Bicycling is my way of dealing with MS, don't want to give it up, but my research is not turning up any clear advice on what kind of saddle to buy. (Currently I have a Selle San Marco Euro Luxe that came with my bike.) I'm not experiencing genital numbness. Any suggestions? I'm also thinking I should stand up in my peddles more often, examine my biking biomechanics, and launch a leg, lower back and abdominal exercise regime.

Doug Kempf

Steve Hogg replies:

Your neurologist may well be right in his assumption re your numbness. As always though this begs the question, why the left side only? The answer is always in a general sense, left/right asymmetries of function. If you can find anyone who knows their stuff to position you, I am sure that your problem could be resolved. Ideally you need to find someone who takes a capability based, rather than measurement based approach to the task of positioning you. If they are good at their job, you should not be a challenge to them. Re your last sentence; do all of those things. The more effort you put into improving structural function off the bike, the greater the payoff on the bike.

Hydration - sodium and potassium

I am a"salty sweater" as described in one of your responses long ago. What is your opinion of E-Lite Sport (www.crampnomore.com), or at least the notion behind it? I have tried various sports drinks over the years, eating salty foods, etc., but still suffer from late race/ride problems. I don't usually cramp, but my performance takes a dramatic downturn. My face can be covered in white salt residue, regardless of hydration, after a hard ride or race.

John Newell
Iowa

Pam Hinton replies:

There's the product and then there's the notion behind it. There are three significant differences between this sports drink and others. The amount of sodium in this beverage is about 50% higher than other drinks. When diluted per the manufacturer's instructions, the sodium concentration is 790 mg per liter, which is slightly higher than the recommended concentration of 500-700 mg per liter. This product also contains large amounts of potassium and magnesium. There is really no need to consume potassium and magnesium during exercise, since only tiny amounts are lost in sweat compared to the total amounts of these electrolytes in the body. What is missing from this beverage is something you will definitely need if you are going to race for more than 60 minutes-carbohydrate. In order to maintain blood glucose levels you will have to consume carbohydrate from an alternative source-energy bars or gels or plain old food. The argument for omitting the carbs from the beverage is rather specious-you "don't normally salt sugary foods". Hmmm. Okay, but your muscles still need both salt (sodium) and sugar (glucose) to function properly.

Virtual reality trainers

I am a new convert to cycling and about to enter my first winter. Friends have advised to get an indoor trainer. However spinning for hours at a time in a garage will I feel soon lose its appeal. I have recently seen adverts showing indoor trainers which can be linked to a pc to give more interest to training sessions. Are these simply arcade games are can you recommend details I should look for in the purchase of such a gizmo?

Steve Wood
Lancashire

Dario Fredrick replies:

Any tool is only as useful as its application. You could certainly consider a PC-linked trainer as a video game if used as such. However, many ergometer-trainers with a PC video option will allow you to program specific courses or training situations if desired, while measuring data such as power, cadence, speed and heart rate. At Whole Athlete, we have used the CompuTrainer 3D extensively, and have found it to be an effective tool for testing, biomechanical analysis and for indoor training.

Cramped up on a long race

I'm a 46 year old male, 165 lbs riding 12-14 hours a week. I train myself for races and mostly do TT's from April-September. I just recently competed in a grueling 100 mile, 11,500 ft of climbing timed event. This was an event 3 weeks after I raced Mt. Washington, although this year I crashed.

Things were going relatively well on this race until just past the 60 mile marker. That's when I got a huge cramp in both my lower inner quads just above the knee. It was during a climbing portion of the course when this happened. It got so bad that I had to dismount and work them out for 5 minutes. After that any excessive pressure pushing the pedals on climbs made them cramp up again and forced me once again to dismount. Luckily, I had switched my double for a triple for this race. So spinning was my option to get through the tough climbs. What I can't understand is that I properly hydrated 48 hours prior to the event, carbo loaded 2-4 days in advance and was consuming roughly 30 ounces of Gatorade (which works for me) per hour. Additionally, I was consuming 1 power bar about every hour as well. Two factors that maybe a reason for this. 1) The triple had a 175 mm crank verse my usual 172.5mm and 2) at the last feed zone I gave up on 100% Gatorade and used pure water. On the latter 5 minutes after drinking the water my cramp mysteriously went away!

I thought I had this race planned out but obliviously that was not the case.

What do you think was the problem causing the cramps?

Domenick Presa
New Jersey

Steve Hogg replies:

I am assuming the area that you describe as cramping are your VMOs, that is the inner head of the quad. This plays a part in lateral stabilisation of the knee. Your cramping could conceivably have been caused by a combination of an unfamiliar crank length, the demands of a tough event and your particular idiosyncrasies of function. The test would be if it occurs again with your usual crank length. The wider Q factor of the triple would have meant you pedalling with your heels turned further in and toes turned further out than on your narrower double chainring setup as the contact point with the pedals is further from the centre line. If you did not check the rotational angle of your cleats, it may have not been ideal which in turn can cause The VMO's to fight a bit potentially. If cleat angle was not a problem, the slightly changed mechanics of your pedalling could have tipped you over the edge in this heavy climbing effort unless you had accustomed yourself to the triple under similar load conditions in the period leading up to the race. It may be that either or a combination of these was the problem.

Glutamine

Is glutamine all it is cracked up to be?? Does it do what the reviews say? Does it promote muscle growth by assisting the body natural growth hormones and to what extent?

Luke Butler
Australia

Dario Fredrick replies:

Available research tends to support the claim that glutamine supplementation aids in maintaining immune function during periods of intense training, but it is not conclusive in supporting its role as an anabolic (tissue building) ergogenic aid.

Adductor cramping

I am a 37 year old cyclist (former long-distance runner, ice hockey player) who has gotten into cycling over the past four years. I ride a decent amount (more than 7,000 km this year so far), and mix my training between hard and easy spins, with rides ranging from 70 - 100 km. I also like climbing, so I tend to pursue routes that incorporate a fair amount of ascents.

Several times I've experience substantial cramping in my adductors after I've been riding very hard, typically after 100 kms of riding, requiring me to get off my bike and stretch. Most recently, it happened during a 17 km climb about 85 km into a 165 km ride, and the cramping began shortly after cresting (it was a warm day and I was well-hydrated as well). These instances have occurred while running a higher heart-rate than I tend to dwell in (180+).

I'm curious for advice on how to: 1. avoid this from recurring; 2. how to recover from it (it's been 2 weeks since my most recent bout, and I'm still sore).

Phil Hofmann
Munich Germany

Steve Hogg replies:

Adductor cramping on a bike, while not rare, is not that common. Adductors can function as a subsidiary pelvic stabiliser on a bike. Generally they are only called on to work hard enough to cramp if the rider is severely unstable in a pelvic sense on the bike, and is enlisting everything possible in an attempt to stabilise. Does your climbing style cause you to rock from side to side?

Phil added:

I've had historical problems with an SI joint that will seize up, particularly during stress, and my psoase is prone to getting tight...which I can relieve via stretching and massaging the abdomen. Incidentally, running aggravates those elements, which leads me to not pursue running. Hip flexors and hamstring are prone to tightness, and the lower back gets sore strictly via SI and psoase... and when it gets sore, I can relieve it via ab stretches/massage.

I've been fit on the bike and have a quiet style (not a lot of movement in hips, shoulders), and ride a high cadence, and the problems tend to be when I'm really pushing things, ie the recent 17 km climb. This recent bout has left with the sore adductors and tight hamstrings, particularly the right side (which I infer I'm favoring).

The problem is in the right side SIJ, same as the adductor that's bugging me. I actually cramped in both adductors, but the right side's plaguing me at the moment.

Steve Hogg replies:

A restricted SIJ causes the hip and ilium on that side to function more or less as a unit on a bike, rather than independently. Typically this will mean the hip on the affected side drops on the downstroke. The question is why is that SIJ tighter than the left?

Left foot numbness

I am 34, and just coming back to cycling after 16 years off. Being back on a bike, I'm reminded of a problem I had as a teen in which my left toes would go numb after 20 or so minutes on the bike. If I lift the sole of my foot slightly from the floor of the shoe, it does help momentarily, but that is only a short term comfort.

Thus far, after 3 weeks back at it, I've only had my right toes go numb once, and that was during a cool early morning ride, and I'm more apt to think that the chill caused numbness on that occasion. I am using the same shoes I used when I was 18, but they seem to still fit great. Plus, I went through a few different brands of cycling shoes in my teens, and I remember that they all caused this same numbness.

Lastly, I do remember that with some of my non-cycling shoes (Doc Martens, for example) I did get a similar numbness, on both feet, if I remember correctly. I've been wearing running shoes or Clarks for many years now and do not experience any numbness other than on the bike.

Obviously, my best bet would be to visit a podiatrist, but I was wondering if you had any experience with this or possible stopgap fixes.

Patrick Hawley
Saint Louis, MO

Steve Hogg replies:

Given that this is in issue for you on and off the bike, go see that podiatrist. What is likely to be happening is that the nerves plexus between the metataral joints are being compressed. A good podiatrist will be able to address this with relative ease with a varied height lift across the lateral arch or by isolating the particular joint[s] by other means.

Unnatural flexion?

I wanted to provide a follow up to the many fit debates recently regarding passive seat positioning.

I have taken over a month off racing and high intensity riding while getting used to the 'new' position of my seat recommended by Steve Hogg (August 2nd & 9th). Fortunately I have been able to find a relatively comfortable position after checking the necessary requirements (teetering balance, proper reach, proper cleat positioning, comfort for long hauls, and good leg extension regarding my pedaling style). Unfortunately, after this long period of adjustment, my most recent intensity ride where I ramped up the pace compressed my groin and was painful. I spent much time considering what my body was doing when this happened, and I found that I was flexing my lower back and gluteal muscles similar to how I do during a leg press. By flexing my glutes I was extending my hip and in-turn compressing my soft tissue while staying in my drops.

My question is, am I going to have to learn to not flex my gluteal muscles upon extension of my leg in order to maintain a proper 'passive position?' I examined many pictures of professional cyclists while time trialing and road racing and saw that in all their positions, regardless of how far forward they were on the seat, they all had (what looked like) relaxed glutes throughout their pedal stroke. Is this part of the passive position that was recommended--learning to pedal at high intensities without flexing these muscles?

Steve Hogg replies:

Having your glutes and lower back working as you describe are desirable and entirely natural unless it is being overdone. Passive pelvic stabilisation does not mean non enlistment of the glutes. The glutes are the largest and potentially most powerful muscle group in the body and there job is to extend the hip. So what you are feeling in that sense is fine.Passive pelvic stabilisation in the sense that I use it, means minimum enlistment of torso musculature to stabilise the bike. As previously described, the way to achieve this is to have the seat far enough back that the majority of upper body weight can be borne without unnecessarily loading up the arms and shoulder complex. So let your glutes work. The perineal pressure you are feeling is not fine and if memory serves, was the problem you were having with your original query. Here is a 'to do' list of likely reasons for what you are feeling.

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month*

Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

after your trial you will be billed £4.99 $7.99 €5.99 per month, cancel anytime. Or sign up for one year for just £49 $79 €59

Join now for unlimited access

Try your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1