Saturday, November 22, 2014

Physical Therapy

If you constantly have nagging aches and pains during or after workouts, your next best friend might be a physical therapist.

Competitive cyclists and runners are notorious for having a ‘train through the pain’ attitude.

After all, conventional wisdom says “no pain, no gain” — right?

We tend to ignore that lingering soreness in our feet, ankles, knees, hips, back, shoulders or neck thinking that our next bike or run session will ‘work out the kinks’ and make the aches feel better.

Instead of backing off on workouts and trying to identify the ‘root cause’ problems that led to these nagging injuries, we usually turn to pain medications such as ibuprofen to give us short-term relief.

Many athletes, however, are discovering that physical therapists can both evaluate and treat chronic sports injuries and are a great resource related to the detection and correction of biomechanical issues that cause those injuries.

Kim Martin, the director of Therapy Services at Community Hospital, says that the most common cause of non-trauma injuries to cyclists and runners is overuse (doing more than the body will tolerate).

“Training is important for success,” says Martin. “However, too much too often can lead to overuse issues that can become chronic in nature if not addressed.”

“The keys to injury prevention are warming up, stretching and not over-training.”

Martin suggests warming up for at least 15 to 20 minutes prior to strenuous activity with either light jogging/cycling and dynamic stretching to get the muscles warmed up with good blood flow to prepare the muscles for the activity.

He also recommends an easy cool-down period after the workout followed by static stretching to allow the muscles to return to pre-activity length and condition.

Dr. Kelly Moore, Assistant Clinical Professor of Physical Therapy at Angelo State University, says the most common running injuries he encounters are to the plantar fascia, hamstrings and back.

“A physical therapist can help identify the root cause of the injury, provide rehabilitation therapy and mitigate the risk of future injuries,” says Moore.

“Information such as the wear pattern on a runner’s shoe, data from a gait analysis and identification of abnormal movement patterns can all be used to develop a corrective treatment plan that might include specific stretching and strengthening exercises.”

Curtis Cramblett, a physical therapist, experienced cyclist and the founder of Revolutions in Fitness (, says that cyclists can also benefit from a thorough musculoskeletal evaluation by an experienced physical therapist to identify physical limitations or weaknesses that may cause biomechanical issues and pain while cycling.

Cramblett and his associates provide evaluations and bike fitting services for top cyclists and cycling teams nation-wide.

In his 2013 University of California video presentation ‘Bike Fit: It’s All About the Bike,’ Cramblett explains that posture and body mechanics, both on and off the bike, play a significant role in identifying an optimal position on the bike to allow for efficient and pain-free cycling.

The video is almost an hour in length, but if you’re a serious cyclist who wants a professional explanation of bike fit and related injury issues it’s a must watch. You can view the video at

One difficulty related to accessing physical therapy services is that many insurance companies and medical organizations may require a referral from a medical doctor.

If you find that’s the case, start with a visit to your primary care physician and ask for both a PT recommendation and a referral.

Remember — physical therapy might be the solution to nagging injuries.

Upcoming Events
Dec. 7: Bike Through the Lights:
Dec. 13: Run Rudolph Run:
Now-Jan. 4: Texas Cup cyclocross series:
Jan. 7-11: Cyclocross National Championships:

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The More Things Change

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Although I'm not going to 'fess up about how young (or old) I am, I've been cycling and running for long enough to see some dramatic changes in the equipment used for these sports.

The thing that hasn't changed, however, is that cyclists still have to push on their pedals and running still means quickly putting one foot in front of the other.

Like many other men my age, I learned to run (or to hate running) during basic training in the military.

The famous Nike waffle trainers didn't appear on the scene until almost a decade after I completed my 'government issue' running lessons.

Running was also much lower-tech back then - no MapMyRun web sites, heart rate monitors, GPS watches or RunTracker apps on smart phones to post each workout on Facebook.

Most runners kept track of their workouts using pencil-and-paper training logs from Runners World magazine.

To measure the length of different running routes, we simply drove around the course using our car's odometer to determine the route's length (note - gas was also less that $1 per gallon at that time).

After being a somewhat-serious runner for a few years, I decided to take up cycling as a form of cross-training.

My first adult bicycle was a 'high tech' 10-speed Sears and Roebuck bike with 36-spoke 27" wheels,

My initial cycling apparel consisted of running shorts or jeans, athletic shoes and a baseball cap (no helmet in those early days).

Today there's a company that is solely focused on manufacturing bike-friendly jeans for cyclists (

In the early 80s mountain bikes started growing in popularity and I upgraded my ride to a bright yellow rigid-fork off-road bike that had a seven-speed rear freewheel, big fat tires, a triple front crank, indexed thumb shifters and platform pedals with toe cages and straps.

One of the important riding skills in those days was being able to flip the pedal over and get your shoes into the toe cages while trying to get moving again after stopping.

Fast forward to today and one of the 'new' trends in fun-to-ride bicycles is a reincarnation of those original mountain bikes complete with a steel tubing frame, rigid fork, fat tires and retro-style shifting.

The road bike and multisport bug caught up with me in the late 80s and I became the proud owner of a Bridgestone RB-1. That bike, a classic that's no longer in production, was made from lightweight thin-wall steel tubing with lugged joints and outfitted with top-of-the-line Shimano 600 components that included indexed down tube shifters.

 Today you'll see carbon fiber bicycle frames and components, 11 speed shifting with integrated shift and brake levers, specialized running shoes designed for every imaginable type of running activity, high-technology electronics to track your workouts, and expensive workout clothing that's marketed as being much faster than the older apparel.

Concurrently, retro bike components such as thumb shifters are selling for a premium on eBay, old-school wool jerseys and steel-framed bikes are back in vogue and flat-sole 'zero drop' running shoes with waffle treads are the hot ticket for many runners.

And yet - some key things have not changed.

Cyclists are still pushing on the pedals to make their bikes go forward and runners still have to quickly put one foot in front of the other

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Upcoming Events
Dec 7: Bike Through the Lights,
Dec 13: Run Rudolph Run,
Now-Jan 4: Texas Cup cyclocross series:
Jan 7-11: Cyclocross National Championships,
flat pedals with reflectors, a heavy frame that made from cheap sewer-pipe-grade steel and friction shifters that clamped onto the stem.

completed my 'government issue' running lessons.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Layer Up for Winter Workouts

Cold fronts are coming through and the weather forecast calls for a wetter-than-normal winter, so it's time to get your outdoor winter workout wardrobe ready.

Although West Texas has (comparatively speaking) very mild winters, the next four months or so will have days when it's cold, wet, windy or all of those combined.

In fact, you may get a taste of the cold and some northerly wind during the upcoming week.

There are multiple factors to consider when selecting clothing for winter cycling and running, but the most important are wind and water resistance, warmth, moisture transfer (sweat), low light visibility and multi-use functionality (i.e., can it be used for both cycling and running).

Most of us also have to consider cost since technical workout apparel can be expensive.

You want to save the cotton sweatshirts and pants for lounging next to the fireplace after working out.  Although cotton initially feels warm, it will quickly saturate with sweat and cause you to become chilled instead of keeping you warm.

Let's start with the upper body base layer that touches the skin. Depending on the temperature, this could be as simple as wearing a short sleeve Dri-Fit T-shirt under a long sleeve top.

For cool-to-cold conditions, go with a long sleeve base layer such as the long sleeve compression tops from BCG (the Academy Sports house brand, $17). These are much less expensive than name brands such as Under Armour.

Wear this base layer under a cycling jersey or long sleeve polypro T-shirt and you'll be amazed at the added warmth and moisture transfer.

Long sleeve cycling jerseys also make great cold weather tops for both biking and running since the rear pockets serve as a 'fanny pack' to carry gloves, a cap and essentials such as an emergency rain jacket.

In colder, windy or wet weather you'll need a wind and water resistant outer shell that is lightweight and can be carried in the pocket of a cycling jersey if needed. One of my favorites is the lightweight Pearl Izumi Barrier jacket. These retail for around $70 but you find lower prices if your shop around for closeouts on previous year models.

For the really cold days, layer a lightweight shell like this over several layers of polypro or fleece long sleeve tops.

One cheap trick for an emergency rain top is to carry one of the 'disposable' vinyl ponchos. These aren't pretty and do trap moisture inside, but they'll block wind and keep you somewhat dry if you get caught in a sudden downpour.

The lower body is fairly simple since you don't need a lot of layers. A good pair of medium weight polypro tights (yep, guys - I said tights) will be all that you need to bike and run in most West Texas winter conditions. 

Cyclists should note that although there are tights with a sewn-in cycling pad, it makes more sense to go with the non-padded version so that you can wear your normal bike shorts and also use the tights for running.

For the rare conditions when tights are not warm enough, wear a thin pair of nylon wind pants over the tights or layer them over a thin pair of long underwear.

Your feet, hands and head also need to be protected during cold weather, but you don't have to break the bank to do so. For running, a single pair of mid-weight polypro or wool socks will usually keep your toes toasty.

Cyclists may need a little more foot protection in cold, windy or wet weather but be advised that thick hunting socks are usually too bulky for snug-fitting cycling shoes.

A better approach is to layer a medium-weight pair of polypro or wool socks over a thin pair of liner socks, and then - if more warmth or water protection is needed - slip a small plastic bag over the toes inside the shoes.

Long socks also help by eliminating the gap between the shoes and the tights or wind pants.

Layers also work well to keep hands warm. Many people make the mistake of wearing thick bulky ski gloves for all winter conditions, but a smarter approach is to have a thin pair of polypro liner gloves that can be worn alone under cycling gloves or layered under an insulated wind-and waterproof shell.

I've found that long-finger work gloves, especially the ones from Western Safety with non-slip dots on the palms, work great for cool weather cycling.

You'll lose a lot of body heat from the head so wearing a cap when running or under your bike helmet is a must. A simple and inexpensive polypro or wool 'watch cap' works fine for either sport and can easily be carried in a pocket if you start to overheat.

The last suggestion for winter workout clothing is 'go bright' so that motorists can see you in low-light conditions.  You can buy expensive jackets, tights and even shoes that are reflective, but a less expensive option that works as well is to wear bright colors and - for those dawn or dusk workouts - simply carry an inexpensive blinking light.

Remember - 'layer up' is the key to dressing for winter workouts.

Upcoming Events
Nov 15: West Texas Masochist Run II,
Dec 13: Red Nose Rudolph Jingle Bell Run,

Saturday, November 1, 2014

A Special Kind of Cyclist

It takes a special kind of cyclist to enjoy pedaling for a week through Colorado’s high country with each day’s ride being 60-100 miles over routes that include long leg-burning climbs up steep mountain roads.

Lynette Havens, a longtime friend and former faculty colleague at Aims College in Greeley,
Colorado, is one of those special cyclists.

She’s also the perfect role model for anyone who wants to challenge themselves with a lofty cycling goal and then work hard to accomplish that goal while overcoming any obstacles that might arise.

Havens has completed the week-long Ride the Rockies bike tour twice (2008 and 2012) and has also ridden numerous one-day cycling tours along Colorado’s Front Range.

However, there’s more to her story than just putting a lot of miles on her bike.

For starters, this 57-year-old grandmother has only been cycling for eight years and completed her first Ride the Rockies during her third year of cycling.

Prior to getting a bicycle, she was a recreational runner who occasionally competed in 5K and 10K fun runs until bad knees forced her to give up running.

She had her first knee replacement in 2009 and the second this past July.

“I’ve completed one Ride the Rockies with two bad knees and another with one artificial knee,” said Havens. “I’m confident that I can do it again with two artificial knees.”

When she decided to get serious about cycling her objective was to train for something ‘big’ and Ride the Rockies was what she decided to focus on.

“I’m motivated to ride long distances because of the satisfaction I feel when I’m done,” said Havens. “It’s always a lot of fun to do, especially the climbing.”

“I remember looking at my bike hanging on the back of the car after completing the last Ride the Rockies and feeling absolute amazement that such a machine could take me over the Rocky Mountains. I couldn’t help but feel an enormous sense of pride.”

Havens does different types of cycling workouts depending on the time of the year.

During warm weather she rides 3-4 times per week on bike trails or on the rolling roads around her home in Greeley, and she also does workouts on hilly routes through the Front Range foothills.

Most of her training rides cover 30-40 miles at a pace of 16-18 mph on the flats and 12-13 mph on moderate inclines.

“I remember when my speed on the steeper climbs was about 4 mph,” notes Havens. “ I can now maintain 8-10 mph on a fairly serious uphill.”

Starting in October of each year and continuing through the cold winter months in Colorado, Havens rides her bicycle inside on a stationary trainer while using a video training program called Spinervals.

“The video program is designed to train participants all winter long while varying the training distances, cadences and focus," said Havens. “The shortest indoor ride workout using the videos is one hour and there is generally a two- to three-hour ride during each week.”

“After the six months of using the indoor cycling program, I’m in really good shape and ready for serious outdoor cycling when the season starts in the spring.”

Havens also notes that the physical benefits of her cycling workouts extend beyond just being able pedal up steep roads easier.

“My resting heart rate is much lower than it was a few years ago, I have definitely increased the muscle tone in my legs, and my overall endurance had increased considerably.”

When you think ‘long distance cyclist’ and ‘high mountain roads,’ the first athlete that comes to mind is typically not a petite 57-year-old lady with two artificial knees.

Think again — this lady is the real thing and she has the ride results to prove it.

Lynette Havens is a special kind of cyclist.

Upcoming Events
Nov. 1: 30K of the Dinosaur trail race,
Nov. 1: Six Hours of the Dinosaur mountain bike race,
Nov. 15: West Texas Masochist Run II,
Dec. 13: Red Nose Rudolph Jingle Bell Run,

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Rain Makes for Bike and Run Fun

I was lucky enough last week to get in a bike workout and then a transition run on a cool day with light rain falling.

That wet workout reminded me of some epic events from past years that took place in really wet conditions.

Although many people instinctively retreat indoors to the stationary bike or treadmill during inclement weather, bike and run events or workouts that take place in rain (or mud, or snow) are special and should be looked forward to.

One of my most memorable ride-in-the rain events took place on the second day of the 1999 Ride the Rockies cycling tour in Colorado.

That day’s ride was a 76-mile trip from Cortez to Telluride with the final part of the route going over the 10, 222 foot Lizard Head Pass and then down into Telluride.

As is typical in the mountains during the summer, storm clouds had started building over the higher terrain during the early afternoon and as the pack of 2,000 cyclists slowly pedaled their way up toward the top of Lizard Head, we rode straight into a heavy thunderstorm.

The final ascent to the summit and the twisting 1,500-foot switchback descent down into Telluride took place in blinding rain, hail and thunderous flashes of lightening — an experience that none of that year’s tour riders will ever forget.

On another occasion, I raced the annual Barking Dog Duathlon in the rural eastern Colorado community of Keensburg on a late spring day that was marked by steady, unrelenting rain with the temperature hovering around 45 degrees.

The Barking Dog was the largest duathlon in Colorado, so there were hundreds of athletes splashing through standing water during the running legs of the race and then doing jet ski imitations on their bikes.

All cyclists had the pleasure of riding 30 kilometers while enduring what’s know in cycling lingo as ‘a cold-water enema’ with the water being thrown upward off the back wheel constantly pelting each rider’s lycra-encased posterior.

Trail running races that take place during rainy conditions always end up being epic events, and race #3 of the 2012 San Angelo trail running series took ‘wet and epic’ to a completely new level.

The rain started falling on Friday and was still coming down at a steady rate on Saturday morning as runners lined up for the start of their 15-kilometer slog through the trails in San Angelo State Park.

Uphill and downhill sections of trail became small rivers with cold-water rapids and the flatter lowland sections morphed into muddy swamps with ankle-deep mud and water.

The park’s Nature Trail, normally a flat and fast stretch of red dirt winding through mesquite and cactus, was transformed into a red-mud lake with several inches of water covering a long and treacherous churned-up mud pit.

The options were run slow, walk fast, and try not fall with some runners laughing that swimming might have been a faster option.

It was wet, muddy, hard, cold, slippery, and miserable — all great ingredients for an epic race in the rain.

Here in the desert we don’t get to play in the rain a lot, so let’s hope the forecast El NiƱo weather pattern materializes this winter so we can do a lot of riding and running in the rain.

When the drops start falling, just lace up those running shoes or get on your bike and go outside to enjoy the wet conditions.

I guarantee you’ll enjoy the experience - rain combined with cycling or running is a recipe for fun workouts and epic races.

Upcoming Events
Nov. 1: 30K of the Dinosaur trail race,
Nov. 1: Six Hours of the Dinosaur mountain bike race,
Nov. 15: West Texas Masochist Run II,

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

We're in A Bike Racing Drought

If you live in the San Angelo area and want to compete in cycling races, be prepared to travel out of town to find events.

Our city is experiencing a severe drought as relates to road and mountain bike racing.

With the exception of the upcoming 6-Hour Dinosaur mountain bike event and the small time trials put on by the local cycling club, there hasn't been an organized road or mountain bike race in San Angelo since the Red Bluff Mountain Bike Challenge took place in October of 2009.

It wasn't always this way.  During the 80s, 90s and as recently as the mid 2000s San Angelo was a hotspot for bicycle racing. 

Our community hosted the Texas road cycling state championship event twice (1997 and 1998) with bike racers from all across the state converging on San Angelo.

The Dog Days multi-day stage race in the late 80s and early 90s also attracted a large number of out-of town cyclists.

Other cycling and related events that once took place here in San Angelo but are no longer on the calendar include the Tour de Burma race (now a non-competitive tour), the TMBRA and West Texas Championship Series mountain bike races that were held in the State Park, the Spillway Hill off-road duathlon, Striders duathlon, Wool Capitol triathlon (replaced this year with a new event) and the criterium races that were held in the downtown area and also around the Santa Fe golf course.

The four-week cyclocross series that took place on the ASU campus from 2010 through 2013 also disappeared from the calendar this year.

The current 'bike race drought' in San Angelo is a local phenomenon since cycling and bike racing are growing at a steady clip in other parts of Texas and across the nation.

As an example, a two-day cyclocross event last weekend in Manor (east of Austin) attracted over 800 participants from across the state and the recent Hotter 'N Hell event in Wichita Falls had almost 14,000 participants.

There are a number of factors that have contributed to the current bike race drought in our region, but the most significant reasons are the cost, complexity and time commitment facing individuals or groups that want to promote a race.

Race promoters must select a non-conflicting date, try to line up sponsors, identify and mark a suitable course, obtain permits, purchase expensive liability insurance, find volunteers, arrange for police support for road races, develop a safety plan, market the event, buy items such as race numbers and awards, and then hope enough people sign up to avoid losing money on the event.

For anything larger than a small local club event to be financially successful, the race must attract a significant number of out-of-town participants. 

Given San Angelo's remote geographical location compared to the larger population centers in Texas and also today's high fuel and hotel prices, it's become much harder to attract out-of-town racers unless the event is something completely unique, offers good prize money or has some designation such as being a state or regional championship.

Other factors that have impacted local bicycle racing include more events of other types to choose from (especially running), the high cost of buying what is perceived to be a 'race-worthy' bike and the simple fact that many local cyclists today prefer moderate-pace, more social 'Facebook' rides (pedal easy, stop, and post ride pictures) instead of hard race-training workouts.

Hopefully the bike race drought will end soon, but in the interim - if you live in San Angelo and enjoy racing your bike, be prepared for some significant windshield time as you drive elsewhere to compete.

Ride On, San Angelo, and remember - the local community is suffering through a bicycle racing drought.

Upcoming Events
Oct 25: Armydillo 10K,
Nov 1: 30K of the Dinosaur trail race,
Nov 1: Six Hours of the Dinosaur mountain bike race,
Nov 15: West Texas Masochist Run II,

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Bike Pedals

Most new cyclists and some experienced riders overlook the importance of the pedals on their bicycle.

They assume that pedals are pedals — just something that you push down on to make the bicycle

That’s not quite the case — in fact, there are multiple types of bike pedals and the type you use can significantly impact your cycling.

The earliest bicycles did not have pedals. Frenchman Baron von Drais built what is believed to be the first bicycle (called a Draisienne) around 1817. Riders propelled these early two-wheel machines by simply pushing with their feet while sitting on the bike’s seat.

In 1839, a Scottish blacksmith named Kirkpatrick MacMillan came up with the idea of mounting pedals directly to the front wheel of those early push bikes. His pedal bike had a 30 inch diameter wood-framed and iron-rimed wheel with pedals attached to arms that were connected to the wheel’s axle.

Over the years, many different types of pedals have been designed ranging from simple flat ‘push down’ platform pedals to the sophisticated ‘clip in’ pedals that are now common on higher-end bicycles.

Platform pedals are still used today — they’re what you’ll see on most entry-level bicycles and on some bikes used for downhill mountain bike racing.

The advantages of flat pedals is that any type of footwear can be used and new cyclists don’t have to worry about ‘clipping in or out’ of a retention system.

The disadvantages, however, are that the rider’s foot isn’t securely fastened to the pedal and the rider can only produce power when pushing down on the pedal.

If you want to test this yourself, sit on a spin bike or a bicycle mounted on a stationary trainer and try to pedal with only one leg. You’ll quickly see that having your foot simply resting on the flat pedal doesn’t work very well since your foot isn’t secured to the pedal. Flat pedals can be significantly improved by adding toe clips and straps (example:

Toe clips will mount to most flat pedals, can be used with any type of footwear, and will secure your shoe to make your pedaling more efficient.

There will be a short learning curve as you figure out how to flip the pedal over and insert your foot into the clip.

Although flat pedals with toe clips were the norm for everyone years ago, most serious cyclists today have switched to clip-in pedals (sometimes called ‘clipless’ because they don’t have the toe cages). A good discussion of this type of pedal along with pictures is posted at

Several different types of clip-in pedals are available, ranging from the double-sided mountain bike and touring pedals ( to single-sided road bike ‘race’ pedals (

Although many new cyclists are worried about not being able to clip out of clip-in pedals, this isn’t a significant problem. The pedals’ retention tension can be adjusted to be very loose and the ‘twist-the-foot-out’ technique used to unclip from the pedal is easy to learn.

All types of clip-in pedals require a dedicated cycling shoe since the ‘cleat’ which clips into the pedal must attach to mounting holes on the shoe’s sole.

You’ll also have to match up the shoe type with the type of pedal since most cleats for single-sided road pedals use a three-bolt mounting system while the majority of mountain bike pedals require a two-bolt mount.

Most recreational cyclists (on both mountain and road bikes) will probably be happiest using a clip-in mountain bike pedal such as the Shimano SPD. These pedals are double-sided so the rider can clip in on either side of the pedal and the compatible shoes have a recessed cleat pocket that makes the shoe much easier to walk in.

If you currently ride using simple platform pedals and want to improve your cycling, upgrading to a better type of pedal may just be the ticket.

Remember - pedals are pedals, but some work much better than others.

Upcoming Events
Oct. 18: Heart Walk 5K,
Oct. 19: West Texas Half Marathon and 5K,
Oct. 25: Armydillo 10K,
Nov. 1: 30K of the Dinosaur trail race,
Nov. 1: Six Hours of the Dinosaur mountain bike race,
Nov. 15: West Texas Masochist Run II,