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Fitness questions and answers for September 25, 2006

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.

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.

Prostate and positioning
More on lunchtime riding
Home-made shims
Cramps after time off
Susanne Ljungskog's cleat position
Base training follow-up
Maximum heart rate

Prostate and positioning

I would like to have your opinion on how you would position one on their bike for a person who is a serious cyclist and competes in triathlons but a history with prostate problems.

Duane Millslagle

Scott Saifer replies,

I would suggest looking into better nutrition, hydration, training, pacing or recovery. If you have had problems with your prostate, which is a gland that sits more or less between your legs and could conceivably be damaged by riding in a bad position on the bike, I'd suggest adjusting your position to get most of your sitting weight onto your sit bones and away from the nose of the saddle.

  1. Make sure the bars are high enough that you are not compelled to bend over so far that you weight the nose of the saddle.
  2. Make sure the bars are not so far from the saddle that you are forced to weight the nose of the saddle.
  3. Make sure the nose of the saddle is high enough (usually 1-2 degrees up in front but sometimes more) to rock your hips back onto the saddle.

This may seem counter intuitive, but unless your lower back is very rigid, lowering the nose of the saddle makes your pelvis roll forward maintaining or increasing pressure on the saddle nose. Some people swear by saddles with cutouts. My experience is that in the vast majority of cases they are not needed if the rest of the adjustments are right.

More on lunchtime riding

Like a lot of cyclists, I am trying to find more ride time in a hectic schedule with kids, work etc. Can you benefit from 45 minute to 1 hour rides during the week at lunch? Should they just be base miles or at a higher intensity?

James Davis,
Wakarusa, KS

Scott Saifer replies:

Longer rides would be more effective, but if you have a choice between a short 45-60 minute ride and no ride, the short ride is the better choice by far. I've worked with enough riders to see that there is a definite pattern that those who routinely go two days at a time with no ride definitely progress much more slowly than those who ride every other day or more frequently.

Home-made shims

I have read for some time postings and replies concerning leg length difference, the problems it can cause, and possible remedies. Steve Hogg's advice on 'packing up' the short leg has brought me much relief from patellar tracking issues related to these differences. His method of using paper inside the shoe I have tried, and while it worked, I found the paper to deteriorate too quickly. This approach also required too much material inside the shoe for good comfort. This morning I had the idea to use something more permanent, while at the same time addressing comfort.

I grabbed an empty, quart-sized motor oil container and proceeded to make my shims from that. In addition, as a variation, I decided not to shim only inside the shoe, but at every joint between the shoes and cleat as well. The first shim I cut and placed between the sole and adapter plate for my Sidi shoes. The next between the adapter and Look style base plate for my Speedplay pedals. The last shim outside the shoe I placed between the spring plate and Look-style base plate. Inside I used another two layers that span across the ball of my foot from big to little toes.

On the test ride, I felt more weight being placed on the inside portion of the ball, so I cut a little half shim to span from middle to little toe, and used duct tape to hold all the shims inside the shoe. This now felt a bit too much near the outer edge, but pretty darn good overall, so two appropriately sized pieces of duct tape back towards the inside again, and the weight is perfectly even across the ball of the foot. Of course, you can stack this however you need to get the results that work for you.

My point is that using this plastic, and shimming at different points between foot and pedal, can be used to fine tune the stack, and minimize the amount needed inside the shoe to correct for both height and tilt. It also means that longer fixing bolts are not necessary, as each shim is thin enough to be accommodated by what you have already. Hope this helps those looking for a solution to their discrepancy problems.

Aaron M,
Colorado Springs, CO

Steve Hogg replies:

I have suggested paper as an alternative to external wedges from memory. This is because it is easy to fit, easy to remove if it is the wrong solution and anyone can do it. Other materials are more permanent and preferable. The only situation I can think of where I suggested paper to accommodate a leg length discrepancy might have been as a short term measure in an MTB shoe where there is a dearth of solutions for anything more than a small shim under the two-bolt cleat.

Cramps after time off

I recently saw this question from Viktor in Sweden about getting cramps after time off the bike. I happen to have the same symptoms, and I am not entirely comfortable with the reply of Steve Hogg. In particular, I wonder how the cause could be a high saddle and/or not enough foot over pedal when I only experience the symptoms when I take a break after longer periods of regular training. In certain cases, I even experience the pains while walking. I have been experiencing muscle pains that no one else in my riding group seems to have had before.

I am a 46 year-old male road rider and I have been riding for over 10 years, the last 4 years of which have been pretty competitive. Over the last 4 months, I've followed a very structured training program based on Joe Friel's cycling training bible. It peaked with a 4-day 500km stage race, with lots of climbing over the last two stages. I did very well in the prep races and the stage race, surpassing the goals I had set.

After the stage race, I started to taper off my riding frequency and intensity, and about a month after the stage race stopped riding completely for about a week due to work commitments. About 4 days into the week when I did not ride, I started to experience severe muscle pains in my thighs when I would walk even relatively short distance. Now that I am trying to resume riding, I get the same pains. Even with the lowest intensity rides, my thighs hurt so much that I can't pedal after just 10 minutes. What is causing this problem, and how can I prevent and treat it?

Robin Valdes

Steve Hogg replies:

I had some further correspondence with Viktor that made me equally unhappy with my reply as you were. From what he told me subsequently, something is going on that is almost certainly not position related.

Susanne Ljungskog's cleat position

I read your cleat position articles (ball of foot 1cm forward of the pedal axle) a few months ago [you can read them here and here - ed] and followed your advice as it made sense to me and the results have been faster times over the same distance with similar or even less effort.

Then on Wednesday of this week I was watching the women's World Time Trial Champs on TV and one of the British commentators mentioned Susanne Ljungskog's unusual pedalling style. They proceeded to chat about the fact that she'd received advice from a German scientist regarding cleat position and she has been riding for six years now with her cleats fixed near the arch of her foot. She actually has shoes specially made for her so that the holes for the cleats are much further back on the shoe.

I read on her web site that they found that this position uses much less oxygen and energy for the same power output. I am curious to have your opinion on this compared to your own advice. I have started testing Susanne's approach and so far the results have been positive, i.e. more comfort, faster speed, faster times for similar or less effort.

Also, have you come across any riders who have issues with the overlap of the feet with the front wheel that is caused by these 'new' cleat positions? I'm assuming that it's not an issue and I've not experienced any problems, but I couldn't help wondering.

Paul Nielsen-Mazewski

Steve Hogg replies:

Interesting stuff indeed! I wasn't aware of the lady you mention and have only positioned cleats that far back rarely. It was always for compelling reasons that weren't performance related and more to do with reducing pain or strain while people were recovering from nasty injuries. My experience with cleat position is this:

Ball of the foot over the pedal axle = a lot of effort required to stabilise foot on pedal + lesser performance for most riders + potential for injury in a susceptible minority of riders. The kind of cleat positioning I espouse = less effort required to stabilise foot on pedal + improved performance for most riders + lower potential for injury.

The very limited experience I have of the kind of cleat positioning that you cite for Susan Ljungskog is that:

  • Stability on pedal is tremendous.
  • Performance at low to moderate RPM is very good.
  • Performance at high rpm becomes a bit problematic because it is harder to ride at high RPM as ankle movement is limited and fluency is compromised.
  • Pedalling technique off the seat is limited as pedal stroke is jerky.
  • Potential for injury to achilles tendons and calves rise because of lack of fluency in pedal stroke when ridden at higher RPM (95+).

It may well be that for some people (who knows, maybe a lot of people?) that the negatives can be overcome with time and care. I have to say that the various people whose cleats I have set up like Ljungskog's were for short to moderate periods only to help overcome other problems. If she has done this for six years without negatives, then I imagine she has become very efficient within the parameters she has set herself. It would be interesting to explore further and if you are volunteering to be the test pilot, I am sure that everyone who reads the forum would be interested to hear how you get on and what you find to be the pros and cons.

Re: toe overlap. Yes it can be an issue occasionally with a rearward cleat position but generally speaking, overlap isn't a problem if the rider is aware of it and reasonably competent. I have to differentiate too between what I call 'technical overlap' and dangerous overlap. Technical overlap is the kind that may occur performing a walking pace U-turn. This limited degree of overlap makes it near impossible to hit a foot on the front wheel while riding at any speed above 8 - 10 km/h. The rider would have to turn the wheel so far that they would likely crash before their foot hit the wheel. Dangerous overlap is just that, dangerous and only rarely occurs, although it would be more common with Ljungskog's style cleat positioning.

In conclusion, I do not have a set opinion on her cleat position but it would be an interesting exercise to explore.

Base training follow-up

I read your comments about base training and prescribing up to 50% in Tempo and have some questions. Using Friel's training bible as a baseline, are you saying that during the Base 1, 2 and 3 periods you prescribe, riders spend up to 50% of their weekly hours in Tempo (i.e. Zone 3)? Alternatively, you may be saying that you prescribe a ride or two each week during the base period in which the rider spends up to 50% of the time in Tempo with the presumption that the other four or so rides during the week are in Zone 2. Can you explain? Thanks!

Mark Zimbelman

Dave Palese replies:

I would say something more like the latter scenario you mention. When a rider does his or her longer rides during the week, they would spend 50% of each of those sessions riding at TEMPO. If, and I wouldn't do this, I prescribed that a rider do only long Endurance rides during a training week, then I may tell that rider that 50% of each of those rides should be at TEMPO. Then, in that case, 50% of that rider's total training that week would be at TEMPO. However, I do not ever prescribe training weeks like that.

Maximum heart rate

I am 24 and I have been cycling for about a year and a half. Recently, I started using a heart rate monitor to help control my rides and to get maximum effect from them. After about 40 minutes of cycling on flat terrain, I started on a steep climb (I usually do not climb this mountain, reasonably high % of gradient). During the ascent, my heart rate rose steadily until it 213 BPM - it didn't suddenly jump up like it can with interference, etc. Is this normal and what does it say about my overall capacity?

James Coote

Scott Saifer replies:

Your maximum heart rate is at least 213 BPM. This is unusually high but not unheard of. It says nothing about your capacity or potential as a cyclist. What matters is how fast you are going or how much power you are producing, not how high your heart rate is. If you can ride a flat TT at 200 BPM, but you are doing 15 mph at the time, you are slow. If you can ride the same TT at 28 mph, you are fast, no matter what heart rate you run during the race.

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