Q&A on Crank Length, Power Imbalance, Injuries, and CBD, with Colby Pearce

Colby Pearce joins Fast Talk for another Q&A episode to discuss crank length, power imbalance, the potential of CBD, and how to return after an injury.

cyclist Flagstaff mountain autumn foliage
Photo: Chris Case

We bring back a former frequent guest, Colby Pearce, who has since graduated to his own show, Cycling in Alignment.  

We start with a discussion on crank length, determining what you need, and how consistent you should be across your, presumably, large fleet of bikes.  

That leads to a discussion on power imbalances, what constitutes an issue when it comes to imbalances, and what you can do to correct them if they arise. 

Next we turn our attention to CBD, and address its claimed anti-inflammatory effects. Is this something we want, or something we want to avoid, so the body’s natural inflammatory process can take place? We discuss. 

Finally, we’ll take on the topic of returning from injury, both the psychological and physical ramifications of that long process. 

All that and much more today on Fast Talk. Let’s make you fast! 

Episode Transcript

Chris Case  00:12

Hey, everyone, welcome to Fast Talk your source for the science of cycling performance. I’m your host Chris Case.

 

Chris Case  00:18

Today we bring back a former frequent guest, Colby Pearce, who has since graduated to his own show Cycling in Alignment, and we’re going to tackle some listener questions.

 

Chris Case  00:27

We start with a discussion on crank length, determining what you need and how consistent you should be across your presumably large fleet of bikes.

 

Chris Case  00:36

That leads to a discussion on power imbalances, what constitutes an issue when it comes to imbalances, and what you can do to correct them if they arise.

 

Chris Case  00:45

Next, we turn our attention to CBD and address its claimed antiinflammatory effects. Is this something we want? Or something we want to avoid, so that the body’s natural inflammatory process can take place? We discuss.

 

Chris Case  00:59

Finally, we’ll take on the topic of returning from injury, the psychological and physical ramifications of that one process.

 

Chris Case  01:07

All that and much more today. Let’s make you fast.

 

Chris Case  01:14

Welcome, everyone to another episode of Fast Talk. I’m your host, Chris Case. Got an all star crew today, some familiar names, awfully familiar names, I think. Guys know this guy, Trevor Connor, Coach Connor, he’s here.

 

Trevor Connor  01:29

Thanks for the invite. Nice to be on the show.

 

Chris Case  01:30

You’re welcome. We’ve got Ryan Kohler, head coach, and we’ve got this guy Colby Pearce that used to be on our show, then we said, Colby, you should do your own podcast. He’s gained a lot of experience. He’s done some bizarre things. Talked to some great people done some meditations even. Here is, welcome Colby.

 

Colby Pearce  01:54

All star cast plus me.

 

Chris Case  01:57

Let’s jump into some questions today. We’ve got some great ones, as always keep them coming.

How to physiologically and physically return from an injury

Chris Case  02:05

First question comes from Ryan Vinz and he’s in Lancaster, New York. I don’t know if that’s a Lancaster, or if it’s a true Lancaster but it’s in New York, not Pennsylvania. His question pertains to returning from injury. I’ll read it now.

 

Chris Case  02:22

“I’m six weeks on from fracturing my femoral neck from crashing on the road. I now have three screws in my femur keeping things together. Before the injury, I was in the best shape of my life; I was training 16 to 20 hours a week. Being a lover of your podcast I’m definitely a data and science nerd and have been fine tuning my training over the last few years and have had noticeable changes. All of that is out the window right now as I’ve been forced to stay off the bike for seven weeks, then I’m allowed to do spinning on the trainer with no resistance before I can finally be cleared at a total of 12 weeks after surgery. The main problem I have is not just the physical, but also the mental. Being a numbers guy, I did my best to stay away from looking at any of my numbers dropping like a rock, but that has been tough. I’ve been doing as much strength work and yoga as I possibly can, which I know will help me once I can really get back on the bike. What is your advice for how to come back from this from a riding perspective. I obviously can’t do any sort of testing to see how much power I’ve lost and since most training measurements are based off of FTP, I am lost as to how I can accurately measure much of anything such as TSS, which relates to CTL. I know that I can of course just enjoy being able to ride again, but from a mental perspective, not being able to measure anything I can do accurately is killing me.”

 

Chris Case  03:41

Guys, what do you think? Who do who wants to?

 

Trevor Connor  03:44

So I’ll start this because there is a bit of a jerk answer to this and I’ll take on being the jerk.

 

Trevor Connor  03:52

So he said he’s a numbers guy, but then said he’s having a hard time looking at the numbers because he’s not seeing the numbers he wants. So I’m going to throw a bit of a challenge back and say being a numbers guy is more than just looking for your biggest best numbers. Being a numbers guy means- to truly be a numbers guy means you look at your numbers for what they are, and you use them to direct your training. So I- was at the final line he said what to do if his numbers aren’t accurate? Those numbers are accurate, they’re just not as high as they used to be because he had a serious injury. So they are accurate and if you’re a numbers guy, you should be using those numbers, even though not what you want to see, say these are the right numbers and I should be using these to direct my recovery and my return to full strength. Not looking at them and saying well they’re not the numbers I want therefore they’re killing me and they’re not right. So I’ll- that’s the jerk answer. I’ll let you guys take it from here.

 

Chris Case  03:52

Jerk Connor

 

Trevor Connor  03:53

Let’s go to the really nice guy answer. Ryan, what would you like to say?

 

Ryan Kohler  04:17

There are numbers that you can measure accurately during this time, it’s nutrition. And that’s the one thing that’s missing a bit from here. So, you know, and I look at this question, and I see, you know, a lot of the issues of being able to measure the numbers, you know, it’s yeah, your fitness is declining, your volume is down from 16 to 20 hours a week, and you’ve taken on other things like yoga and strength, so that’s great, but then it seems like there’s still this, this kind of mental gap that’s missing to analyze and measure something. So, you know, training 16 to 20 hours a week, there’s a particular multiplier on our metabolic rate that needs to happen and that’s going to help us recover and perform adequately, you know, but now volume is down, you’re not doing 16 to 20 hours a week and there’s still physical stress on the body. So I think a big thing that’s missing here is that nutrition piece. You can track your intake, you can monitor that, and, you know, really understanding that there’s still a multiplier because this is still physical stress. So just because now you’re not training as much, and you’re just recovering doesn’t mean that nutrition should take a hit as well. So you can think about that, and maybe measure intake; see what it is compared to what you were doing during your 16 to 20 hours a week volumes, you know. And that’s really gonna help speed that recovery process and when you’re back, you’ll be able to kind of return quicker, I think, too.

 

Chris Case  06:29

Colby, what would you add here?

 

Colby Pearce  06:30

I will run with the theme and expand on what both these gentlemen have contributed, which is: Ryan, you made a great point about nutrition. As we know, when you’re healing, an osseous fracture, or broken femoral neck in this case, that’s going to increase the caloric demands of your body a lot. Bone takes a lot of energy to heal. And so I would suggest that you could dig into your nutrition specifically, obviously, you’re not burning a bunch of carbohydrates because you’re not out or using a bunch of glycogen up during your threshold efforts and all the hard stuff you’re doing on the bike, but that doesn’t mean your caloric demands have gone down that much. Maybe they have maybe they haven’t, depends a little bit on how much gym and yoga and how active your lifestyle is now that you’re learning how to walk again, probably. But this is a great time to emphasize nutrient dense food, a good time to emphasize foods that are going to promote healing. Well, what are you healing? You’re healing a bone. My suggestion would be have a lot of bone broth in your diet, there’s a simple actionable piece of advice.

 

Colby Pearce  07:31

Also, I would say, touching on what Trevor mentioned about zones, I don’t think you really need to know what your FTP is right now. That’s a goal that’s going to serve you better later on when you’re more developed, when you’ve regained some aerobic fitness. In the short term, your focus needs to be more about process goals, less about outcome goals. So when you are riding again, your objective, I think, should be to look internally and focus on sensations. One way to avoid that, since you like many riders, tend to look at numbers a lot, here’s another really simple tip: take a tiny piece of electrical tape, place it over the field on your head unit that displays power. So then you’re going to record but not observe. Now you can just enjoy riding your bike and feel how hard you should be going. Listen to your body. This is a really important time to let your internal sensations guide your training load. Because if you’re fixated on numbers, right now, all people do this, if I asked everyone in this room right now, what their five minute “power,” air quotes is, probably what we’ll all do is historically reference the single one time we ever wrote five minutes at the best of our lives, and add five watts to that and then say that’s what I did. And that’s just human nature. We all optimize history. We have revisionist history a little bit, but we also tend to remember our best performances. But as the old saying goes, you’re almost never as good as your best day and you’re never as crappy as your worst day. Training is about making average days become predictable and high level. So when you focus on numbers, you’re looking historically in the rearview mirror, what you used to do, that constant state of comparison is going to lead you to a state of unhappiness, because what you’re going to see is it’s a perspective of lack of, it’s less than perspective. I am less now than I was then. That’s not constructive. Focus on what you are now. What you are now is getting healthier, getting stronger. This is a chance to do things like work on breath work, work on mobility, increase your strength when you can, obviously subject to the rate of recovery of your injury. So I think there are a lot of helpful and potentially growth oriented aspects of your fitness and conditioning you can look at, you’re going to be happiest during this process of challenge if you look towards that direction instead of always checking out the rearview mirror.

The pros and cons of short verse long crank lengths

Chris Case  09:47

Great. Let’s move on to our next question, has to do with crank length, comes from Jim Guerrero. He asks, “What does the research say about crank length? I’m 5’10” and have ridden 175 millimeter cranks on my road bikes since I started racing in the mid 90s. Last year, I got a triathlon bike. When I got a fit before buying a bike, I learned the current thinking is shorter crank on a tri-bike due to hip angle or something like that. So I got to tri-bike with 170 cranks. Switching back and forth between 170 on the tri bike and 175 on the road bikes works just fine. But I’m wondering if I should switch my road cranks to 170s and that leads me to ask you guys what the research says?”

 

Chris Case  10:32

I think I’ll start here with Colby because of your bike fitting expertise, I’m sure you have some knowledge to drop on, Jim.

 

Colby Pearce  10:42

I’ll do my best. So CliffNotes version on this is that there are a lot of reasons for people to go with shorter cranks and very few compelling reasons for riders to push the boundary and go with longer cranks. And the physics of it gets quite complex, but I’ll try to give you the really simple version.

 

Colby Pearce  10:58

Power is made up of two components: cadence and torque, or how hard you push and how quickly you push. And how hard you push in a circle is called torque. How quickly you push in circle is called cadence. So you can increase your power one of three ways: you can push harder, you can push faster, or you can do both. When you increase crank length, you are asking the athlete to push with the same amount of force over a much more quickly because of course, as you expand the diameter of a circle, in order to keep the same number of revolutions the foot has to move at a much faster speed. But you’re also increasing the range of movement the athlete has to perform over. So that’s the equivalent of going in the gym and asking you to do a much deeper squat with the same amount of weight and a quicker pace to each rep. So every time we increase crank length, we’re actually adding to the demand in two ways, the demands of the sport. So this is why even tiny increments in crank length can really quickly add up to an increased functional challenge for an athlete.

 

Colby Pearce  12:00

Hip angle is a factor in bike fitting, and it is a reason why you can reduce crank length, but I honestly think it’s a bit of a red herring in the sense that a lot of people focus on hip angle. Hip angle is like the functional threshold power of fancy bike fitting. It’s a thing that we all look at, but it’s not necessarily the end all be all of any fitting decision making process. There is no one variable that does that for any aspect of bike fitting, but.

 

Colby Pearce  12:25

So the factors that I would consider when evaluating a client’s crank length might include stability of the hips and pelvis, core control, breathing pattern, formoral length formoral to tibia ratio. So is the rider trading for a really long, hard gravel race? Or are they training for the local state time trial championships, for example. Different demands of the event, one has a much more aerodynamic component to the event, the other arguably little to no aerodynamic demand, however, hip angle does play into the handling of the bike.

 

Colby Pearce  12:55

So point being is, we can look at science and try to figure out what it says about crank length for a given group of riders, maybe 12 subjects or 20 subjects if we’re talking about an unusually successful study in recruiting of our random college students. But if all those subjects have different parameters than you, vastly different physical parameters, that alone is enough to skew the data, in my opinion, to where it probably won’t really apply that much to you. Does it mean we can’t learn anything from the studies? No, of course not. We can learn something. But we always have to take it back to the n of 1, which is you, Jim, which means does a longer crank length suit you? Some of that comes down to your particular riding style. I have made recommendations that many of my riders who are challenged with long crank length, for any of the reasons I talked about go to shorter length, and have had largely good success. The riders that thate doesn’t work for tend to be riders who are somewhat light in stature or who’ve been riding for a long time, we’re talking three plus decades. They tend to have a specific riding style, which is very torque oriented. I think there’s also probably a relationship between muscle fiber type and how they distribute force on the bike. It also comes down to what kind of racing they like to do. Surprisingly, some riders who are crit riders prefer longer cranks and that’s probably because they feel the benefit of the acceleration out of the corners.

 

Colby Pearce  14:07

But really, on paper and philosophically the only riders who are justified in pushing the envelope and crank lengths are World Tour riders getting paid to ride their bike who are trying to win the Vuelta. And the reason is, every year the Vuelta has about half a dozen finishes up really steep climbs, we’re talking 20 plus percent, and in those conditions, you are one out of gears, two going as hard as you can, and three probably out of the saddle at least 50% of the time. And in that particular set of conditions the longer crank you have, the faster you will go. The problem is that you have to carry around that long crank length for the rest of the whole season, do all your training, all your flat rides, all your motor pacing, all your criteriums, all your classics, all the other events that these other Vuelta riders are doing, hypothetically. So if you’re an amateur in the US, you’re training for Mount Washington hill climb, and that’s your peak race, or Pikes Peak, yeah, you could probably push the envelope on crank length but understand that you have to deal with the added functional challenges of increased foot speed and increased range of motion for all the rest of your training. If you’ve got chronic back problems, if you’ve got chronic knee issues, particularly in the inter-aspect of the knee that is under the patella, if you’ve got chronic IT band pain, even chronic shoulder pain, that can be an indicator that you’re pushing the envelope too much on crank length.

 

Chris Case  15:20

A follow up question then would you suggest if somebody goes to a shorter crank length on one bike that they do it consistently across every bike that they have in their fleet?

 

Colby Pearce  15:33

Great question. Again, it depends again, on the demands of the event. If you’re talking about a typical rider has a quiver of bikes such as a time trial bike, a road bike, a cyclocross or mountain bike, everybody has that, right? I mean, I do.

 

Chris Case  15:45

I have times two.

 

Colby Pearce  15:46

Probably three of those in each category. The proper number of bikes to own is always n plus one. So, when you’re talking about that, not necessarily because you could argue that on the track or the time trial, you want to end- you want to fluff things towards the shorter range, because those are events that

 

Chris Case  16:03

Fluff things towards the shorter, I like that.

 

Colby Pearce  16:06

Shoo, shoo things.

 

Chris Case  16:07

Yeah

 

Colby Pearce  16:08

Corral is a better word. You know, like a herd of kittens? You want to shoo those kittens towards the shorter end of the crank range for you. And on the mountain bike, for example, you might want to choose to go to the longer end. Again, it depends, are you competing in short track and cross country? Or are you just using your mountain bike for long adventure and get lost in the forest type of rides, where your cadence is going to be lower and your torque to me higher than you can tolerate that longer crank length?

 

Colby Pearce  16:33

So I- and I’ve gotten this question repeatedly from a lot of my clients, just in the last couple of weeks. Do I need to have the same crank length on all my bikes? I feel like there’s probably a maximum crank length for some riders where passed that they fall off a cliff and their function really suffers. And for those reasons I talked about, those are clues that tell you that that might be part of the problem. Back pain, being the most obvious one. Back and knee pain I would say are the two big ones. So if you’re experiencing those, and you’re on the longer side of crank length for you as an athlete, and I’m not saying we reference any chart, I’m just saying rule of thumb type of situation, then you might consider going shorter. But below that crank length, there’s really no adaptation, it’s basically the difference – it’s the same thing as going to the gym and asking someone to do a “ass to the grass” squat, which is a very deep squat, and then asking them to do a quarter squat. Now, pretty much even if you’re not a gym person, you can understand that if you have to do a full range squat, where your butt almost touches the floor, you’re gonna be able to lift a lot less weight than if I asked you to do a quarter squat, which is only one quarter of the full range. So we’re gonna be able to produce a lot more force and a lot more quickly through that shorter range. So when you go to a shorter crank, that’s really what you’re asking yourself to do on the bike. You’re producing the same path of force that is circular, but quicker and with a with more force potentially because it’s reduced range of motion. It’s a reduced neurological and mechanical demand on the athlete.

 

Colby Pearce  18:03

So basically, the answer is no, you don’t have to have the same crank lengths on all your bikes. But you should respect that there’s probably a cliff that some people can fall off of on the long end. And there is on the short end, too. But we’re talking about, look at the science for this, it’s like 120s. I mean, if you want to study this search, Jim Martin University of Utah, you’ll find some of his podcasts and studies where he talks about how crank length- you can go amazingly long and short and really not see a lot of differences, bigger than most people think. People are agonizing over two and a half or five millimeters and unless you fall off that functional cliff, it probably doesn’t matter to be honest. There are three ways to change the lever arm when we’re making power and applying it to the rear wheel. One is to change your crank length. The second is to shift your front derailleur and the third shifter rear derailler, that’s assuming, you know, you’re not on a one by road bike, which is really cool now. So remember, now those have slight different implications in the lever arm, but fundamentally you’re changing gear ratio in all three equations.

 

Trevor Connor  18:56

They did some interesting mountain bike studies not all that long ago, where they tried different crank lengths and the conclusion of those studies was there’s tendencies in the data. But for the most part, it’s like you said, it just didn’t really make that big of a difference.

 

Chris Case  19:10

I will plug also your episode on how to pedal a bike that we also ran on the Fast Talk channel. If you want more about this you talk a little bit about some of these same themes, the crank length, the Vuelta, and so forth and so on. But way more about how to pedal the bike and the physics of that practice and the nuances of that practice in that episode so check that out if you want more.

 

Chris Case  19:36

Ryan, did you have anything to add here?

 

Ryan Kohler  19:38

Yeah, I was thinking along the same lines of, yeah, within the typical crank lengths that we see the differences are pretty marginal. I mean, I’ve been tempted on my single speed mountain bike to go, you know, I’m riding 175’s now across all my bikes, but yeah, I’ve been tempted to think about even going potentially lower for certain races. Do I wanna to accelerate a little bit better? But really looking at the science that’s out there, then that’s one of those where, well is it worth it? Do I feel like spending the time to change up my cranks? Probably not because I need to get the kids to bed so I just leave and it’s fine, so, so yeah.

 

Chris Case  20:10

Going online and shopping for 177.5 crank arm lengths.

 

Trevor Connor  20:16

As the long time time trailer, we all know the answer here is 180s with a 60 tooth chain ring on the front and 11/19 straight block on the back.

 

Colby Pearce  20:26

Do you wnat hear a funny anecdote?

 

Trevor Connor  20:29

Well you don’t ever go above 50 rpm. Why would you do that? That’d be insane.

 

Colby Pearce  20:33

You can check out my anecdotal story that Jamie talks about Johan Bruyneel and how when he first went to Postal and got to Europe, he had 180 on and what Johan did there, that’s a good – That’s on my podcast.

 

Colby Pearce  20:43

But one additional point on that, Ryan, since you brought that up, in terms of singlespeed. So just to kind of clarify the paradigm for people, the other situation where you have long cranks and they really help is from accelerations in a big gear from a dead stop. For the first few pedal strokes, that longer leverage really going to help you. But if you continue to accelerate, then you suddenly have to deal with this giant foot speed in this huge circle to deal with that. So if you put on 180s and go to your singlespeed mountain bike race or maybe racing cross locally on your mountain bike, single speed or cross single speed bike, you’re going to get this massive acceleration for the first couple seconds, I’m talking three, four seconds out of each turn, and then suddenly you run into this foot speed limiting factor. So there’s this balance on crank length, particularly for single speed races, where things get really tricky, or on the track. And so it ends up being whole Goldilocks crank arm selecting situation.

 

Ryan Kohler  21:37

Yeah, I think with the- it’s interesting, yeah, you mentioned in that scenario, the 175’s are great for mostly everything and our local short track series here. But then this thought was doing stage racing on it of “Okay, well, do I want to be able to spin that up a little bit easier at times and change it, but in the overall it’s like, that’s three days out of the year versus pretty much every other day. Find the one that works for 99% of the time and just run with it.

 

Colby Pearce  22:04

All the days, yeah. I mean, when you change something on race day, I don’t know, Trevor, what do you think? Is that a good scenario? Like, let’s train on one thing all year and then change it the day before a race?

 

Trevor Connor  22:13

I disassemble my bike and rebuild it with all new parts morning of a race every time? Let’s just, why would you not do that?

 

Chris Case  22:20

And this is why you don’t put bar tape on because why would you bother if you’re just gonna break it down afterwards?

 

Trevor Connor  22:25

Exactly.

Analyzing power imbalances and how to correct them if necessary

Chris Case  22:27

All right, moving on. Power imbalances is the the theme of the next question. It comes from John Allison in Salt Lake City. He writes, “I now have a dual sided power meter and the analytics show that I consistently use my left leg more than my right, usually between one and 2%. I don’t notice it while riding my bike, but is this something I should be concerned about? Regardless of how hard or easy I go, it’s always around one to 2% left leg dominant. If it is something I should be worried about what should or can I do about it?” Who wants to start?

 

Trevor Connor  23:05

Well, Colby’s gonna have a better answer than me. So I’ll try to sound intelligent before he blows me out of the water. I have that left, right balance on my Garmin. My personal opinion and from the little bit of research I’ve done is 1-2% is mostly within margin of error, and just not really something to get that cut up in. I can tell you from experience back, was a 2016 when I threw my back out really badly? I got on the Garmin and I was 39/61.

 

Chris Case  23:38

How’d you put your back out that time?

 

Trevor Connor  23:40

In the middle of a crit.

 

Chris Case  23:41

Oh gosh.

 

Trevor Connor  23:42

It was really fun. And I finished the crit I’m proud to say – not very well, but I finished. When you saw those imbalances, like I could feel it. I could feel the one leg just wasn’t firing. I was mostly pedaling on the other side. I did a another race with that 39/61 and did not last very long. So if you start seeing something like that, worry about it. I’m not sure I’ve ever personally seen 50/50 or if it is it’s mostly just periodic accidental rides. So my answer is simply I wouldn’t get caught up in a 1-2%. But Colby?

 

Colby Pearce  24:19

I would agree with that. It’s very common for me to see people with 58 sorry, 48/52 or 49/51. I do see some 50/50, but as you said, Trevor, it like comes and goes during periods of a workout or a file or whatever.

 

Colby Pearce  24:33

What we need to kind of dig into a little bit here is the actual science of or the construction of the power meter, because this is a really important detail that will influence how you see the data and this comes down to statistics and understanding the data you’re looking at. You have to have discernment. So are we talking about a power meter that is a true left/right sided power meter or are we talking about a power meter that only measures in one location and actually models left-right? Because those are totally different. As an example, any pedal based system where you have strain gauges on both the left and right pedal, those are true left-right power meters; meaning they take the measurement at the left pedal, take the measurement at the right pedal, and they can show you both left and right power broken down into some sort of graph where you can see either vectors or bars of different forces at different points in the stroke. Pioneer also does this on their power meter and you have to have their software because in order to get that much data, you have to have a higher resolution of transfer rate, etc. So if you own any number of crank based power meters, specifically, we’re talking about the disc that replaces the spider of the crank arm. So between the crank arm and the chainring, those power meters are not, generally speaking, not true left-right power meters, they’re modeling left and right power. The hang up here that we can see with a simple thought experiment is, let’s pretend that you have a 60/40 distribution 60% on the left and 40 on the right. Does that equal 100? Yeah, okay, cool. So-

 

Chris Case  26:05

Yes, it does.

 

Colby Pearce  26:06

Hashtag math. So we have 60% of the power on the left, ostensibly, and this is we’re talking about using a model the power meter or one that that models left-right distribution. Well, you might assume that you’re pushing 10%, harder on the left. So you go out on your bike ride, and you say, I’m going to push harder on the right, push harder on the right, push harder on the right. Well, what if- what’s happening in the left-right power meter is it’s taking the sum of the total torque for an entire pedal revolution, it doesn’t tell us where that’s coming from. It just figures out what the right side and left side power bands are and it displays those in the data. So the challenge here is if you’re pushing equally with your left and right side on the front side of the power stroke, or the power phase, which we could define as from 12 o’clock, or when the cranks vertical, on the drive side all the way down to six o’clock, or when the crank is vertical at the bottom of the stroke on the right side, that’s your power phase, if you’re pushing equally on the left and right sides, but you also have to be yanking up really hard at nine o’clock with only the left hamstring, but not on the right, then that alone can easily produce a 60/40 power distribution. Because this power meter doesn’t tell us where the power is coming from. So then if you see that number, and you make that assumption, you go out and start pushing harder and harder on the right on the downstroke, you’re actually getting farther from the target of wanting to make a more symmetrical left and right power balance. Hopefully, you can see that illustration.

 

Colby Pearce  27:35

So this is where these numbers, they’re really a 50,000 foot view, we want to be looking in like thousand foot view increments. And if you want to actually disassemble an impact the left and right power distribution numbers properly, you have to really have some discernment and look at the right data and in order to do that you have to have a true left-right power meter and you have to look at a lot of data over a lot of different conditions, a lot of different power demands, durations and torque demands. And you’ll find that those change for most riders; as torque gets higher the power distribution changes left to right, and also where you make it in the stroke changes left to right. So it’s actually quite a complex wormhole to dig in. And I, to be honest, I wish that the whole left-right balance thing didn’t really exist, because I think it just throws people on the wrong track more than it helps them. Except to say that we’ve had this conversation now we’ve all got a little better understanding of what we’re looking at, for the numbers,  that’s a plus to take out of it. But it’s really not a very useful metric in and of itself.

 

Chris Case  28:32

It’s like if you’re right around that 50/50 mark, you’re doing what your body’s gonna do naturally. If you’re way away from that mark, you’re going to notice that anyways, and  probably look into it?

 

Colby Pearce  28:45

I mean, well, not necessarily, that’s the other problem, Chris. Like you could be, we could have the same rider who’s pushing equally on left and right and pulling up really hard on the left side hamstring. Okay, what if that rider is now pushing down harder on the right, on the power phase, weaker on the left on the power phase, but pulling up harder on the backside of the left pedal stroke, so they get a 50/50, but they’re actually quite imbalanced. And I’ll tell you from experience in the fit lab, that whenever someone pushes way harder on one side of the power phase and pulls up with the other hamstring, inevitably they get twisted around the axis of the saddle and this is when they come in and say they’re so puzzled. “I feel so twisted on the bike, I don’t understand” as though the only person who’s ever experienced this. And I mean, Ryan can back this up, I’m sure like, how often do we hear this, right? It’s like, people are twisted around the axis of the C-tube all the time, because we all have tiny symmetries and how we make power and just like compound interest, those get magnified over time.

 

Trevor Connor  29:39

Another really good point you brought up is,  you brought up all the complexity of this and also the fact that remember most of us don’t have perfectly equal legs. Most of us have a bit of a length discrepancy. Most of us have one leg that’s stronger than the other. If you actually had a perfect 50/50, you’re probably not normal. Most of us shouldn’t be 50/50.

 

Trevor Connor  30:02

But putting all that aside, you brought up a good point of don’t start going, “Oh, look, I’m doing 53% on the left, 47 on the right, so I need to push harder on the right.” I don’t think that’s ever the solution. I think if you actually do have a true discrepancy, it’s always a functional thing. Like I use my example in my back, I didn’t look at that discrepancy go, “Oh, I need to push a lot harder on my right leg now.” It was “No, I need to do something about my back, it’s out.” And so for anybody, if you do have a true discrepancy, figure out what the functional issue is don’t try to push harder on one leg.

 

Colby Pearce  30:36

Dig deeper.

 

Ryan Kohler  30:37

I’ll add a little bit about what John said here and I think goes back to Trevor’s last point where he says, “I also noticed that my left quad is slightly bigger,” I think it is more about those insights that you take away from it. If it’s a consistent thing you see in your power 1-2%, yeah, that may just be within the accuracy of the meter, it may not mean much, but then if you take a step back and say, “Oh, well, I noticed that my left quad is a little bit bigger. Okay, let me think now, let me think back about how I move or how I how I stand throughout the day.”

 

Ryan Kohler  31:06

When I was at the CU lab, we did you know, we would test people, and then we would do some functional assessments, and we would measure some muscle glycogen. And we saw similar tendencies where people would stand a certain way or move a certain way and then we would also see that show up in their glycogen measurements and just balance left to right. We would see some vastly different scores and then someone would say, “Oh, yeah, well, I do notice I always stand a certain way or move a certain way.” And that might give us insight into helping to correct that. Versus having to try to correct it, like trying to pedal harder on the right, and get this hyper focus on your pedaling dynamics, when it might be something more foundational.

 

Colby Pearce  31:44

That’s a great point, knowing your body and understand your own symmetries or asymmetries. I mean, how many of us move symmetrically through daily life? Do we start our car with the same hand all the time? Yes. Do we write with the same hand all the time, most likely?

 

Chris Case  31:58

Open Doors

 

Colby Pearce  31:59

Open doors, stand on one leg when we’re standing for awhile, all those things. So for us to look at a power meter and suddenly demand that we’re going to make symmetrical movement is a bit detached from what bodies do. I mean, where’s glycogen stored? It’s stored in the muscles in the liver. Well, do muscles get swollen whenever they’re full of glycogen and water? Yes. Does the liver get swollen when it’s full of muscle, when it’s full glycogen and water? Of course. Do you think this giant organ on the right side of your thorax is going to impact your function somehow? Like, try carrying around a 12 pound kettlebell in one arm for half a day and see what happens to your neck and your back? Makes sense, right? So none of,- we’re not symmetrical. We’ve got more lobes of lung on one side than the other. That’s just a few of the major asymmetries, but then you add movement patterns on top of that, and you’ve got a holy mess. So numbers, man.

 

Trevor Connor  32:49

So this was about a year ago, one of the magazine’s had the prize for the most symmetrical actor or actress in Hollywood-

 

Colby Pearce  33:01

Brad Pitt

 

Trevor Connor  33:02

Julia Roberts.

 

Colby Pearce  33:03

Julia Roberts?

 

Chris Case  33:03

Yeah, they often will say that symmetry is, quote, unquote, most beautiful to the eyes psychologically and so that there’s some of that. But I mean, Colby you might not think you’re symmetrical, but you’re pretty damn symmetrical, if you know what I’m saying.

 

Chris Case  33:21

I’ve been manifesting asymmetry.

 

Trevor Connor  33:22

It’s coming out of you right now.

 

Colby Pearce  33:23

Thank you.

 

Chris Case  33:24

Let’s move on to the next question please.

 

Colby Pearce  33:25

I’m comfortable with this.

Are the anti-inflammatory effects of CBD good or bad?

Chris Case  33:28

All right. This question comes from Henry York. He’s in Monument, Colorado. He asks, “CBD is being marketed as a way to improve recovery for endurance athletes, however, CBD is anti-inflammatory and I thought inflammation was a necessary part of your body’s healing process. Furthermore, other anti inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen, have been shown to impair recovery? Are my concerns about CBD as anti inflammatory properties warranted? And are its other benefits, like better sleep worth using CBD for recovery?”

 

Trevor Connor  34:05

So let me start this one. We actually talked a little bit about this beforehand. And I want to start it simply because I know this is referencing an episode we did a while ago about inflammation and how actually inflammation is essential to the whole adaptation process. And we explained that in a lot of detail.

 

Trevor Connor  34:24

So I’ve been asked about this a few times since and something I want to clarify is, there is both beneficial inflammation, so you go out and do a hard ride, you cause muscle damage that causes inflammation, that inflammation is part of the repair process. that’s beneficial inflammation. You get sick, you have inflammation, your immune system responds, you have inflammation, that’s again, beneficial inflammation. We also have aberrant I just learned it-

 

Chris Case  34:58

Aberrant

 

Trevor Connor  34:58

Yeah, well that’s good Canadian

 

Chris Case  35:02

Aberrant would be Canadian, aberrant would be American.

 

Trevor Connor  35:07

Oh god, how longwere you thinking about that?

 

Chris Case  35:08

I just came up with that.

 

Trevor Connor  35:11

So we have aberrant, look out for that bear, inflammation, which is just inappropriate inflammation. It shouldn’t occur, it only has negatives. It’s not going to produce adaptations, it’s not helping you. Quite frankly, most of our chronic illness that we have in Western society is due to chronic low grade aberrant, or how do you pronounce it?

 

Chris Case  35:35

Aberrant

 

Trevor Connor  35:36

Aberrant inflammation. So what would be ideal is to address that inappropriate inflammation while allowing the appropriate inflammation, the good inflammation, to happen. So we spoke out a little bit against things like NAIDs, so your non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs because they don’t really discriminate. They’re going to reduce all inflammation, including the good kind. I haven’t really read the research on CBD but people who are big proponents of CBD, I think, claim that it reduces all the bad inflammation, but doesn’t touch the good inflammation, which I’m a little skeptical of, but I have to read the research. So Colby, take it from there.

 

Colby Pearce  36:24

Well, this gets into a discussion about hormesis, the hormetic effect of exercise, and this is what Trevor touched on. Like, you go out and do a set of hard intervals or a long, hard ride and we sort of demonized inflammation and there’s a reason for this. There’s an inflammation that we want. That’s part of the natural training and stress recovery cycle. You hit yourself hard with training over one day or over several days, and then you’re in the valley of fatigue, and then your body responds to that fatigue and then get stronger. That is hormesis, that process is how you adapt to training. So if you interrupt that inflammation cycle with all these things, like CBD, or you could even put a whole bunch of other things in this category, slew of antioxidants, cryochambers, you know, massage, whatever else, you know, all kinds of theraguns, stuff like that, well, theraguns a bad example, but anything that would reduce inflammation would go in this category, and compression might be one. And if you’re blunting that natural, inflammatory response to the exercise load, you could argue that you’re undoing the point of that training. So you go out and pommel yourself and then you don’t let your body respond with its own natural mechanism of healing and strengthening then you’re undoing the point of the entire exercise.

 

Colby Pearce  37:39

I think what Trevor’s talking about aberrant, aberrant, an emphasis on the right syllable is how I like to say that, is you- if you go out and pummel yourself endlessly, it’s like going to a swimming pool and making a wave. You make a wave, let’s say you’ve got a kickboard, you make a big wave, and it goes over the side of the pool and splashes up and hits your friend in the face. Haha, that was funny. Okay, there’s my wave, that’s my training load. And then I let the pool calm. And then I make another wave. Well, if you keep making waves, and waves and waves, eventually, the water just becomes so turbulent that the entire pool in my perfectly hypothetical analogy overflows and spills all over the neighborhood. What have you done? You’ve created too many waves and too much chronic inflammation. And you’re not working to relax, to rejuvenate the body to bring down the levels of inflammation. This is how eventually we would get into overreaching or overtraining to not go down that terminology wormhole that you guys unpacked in a podcast recently about those terms. So there is a point when we can use tools such as CBD or other anti inflammatory methods to help us put the brakes on our chronically overloaded Yang lifestyle where we’re always training and doing intervals and doing the things, dropping the kids off at yoga, and then going to do our five hour ride and getting up at four in the morning to get on Zwift. When we add too many of those things, we get chronic inflammation, or aberrant inflammation, and that causes lots of long term negative health consequences.

 

Colby Pearce  39:06

So the nuance of this is you can consider using anti inflammatory methods. I think some of the leaders in this area right now are talking about the application of the timing of those. For example, you do intervals from 8am to 10am, on a Wednesday morning, because it’s COVID and you work from home just like most people do. And you don’t have to be at work at eight and then you don’t take your glutaphone and your CBD at 11:30 with your lunch. You wait until the evening, so that in the evening, you let your body’s natural inflammatory process happen during the day, let it play out, let your legs be heavy, let them be sore when you get up from your lunch table. Let them be achy. That’s part of the the normal response we have from training. We do not want that to carry over the next day. And so some people would suggest that you take these things at night, so you get a nice calm night of sleep and your body can recover and then wake up the next day and you can go do more efforts or whatever you’re gonna do.

 

Trevor Connor  40:04

And you just brought up a really good point that inflammation, good or bad, causes soreness, it causes pain. And that’s, I think a lot of this effort to reduce inflammation was about well, I don’t like the soreness. I don’t like feeling that pain. Remember, that’s your body’s way of saying, “Okay, you’ve done some damage. Now, I want you to stop damaging me. So I can repair and the quickest way to stop you from damaging me is to make it sore when you walk around. So you don’t want to walk around.” So yeah, none of us particularly- well, I kind of like soreness. Not everybody particularly like soreness.

 

Colby Pearce  40:43

Well, you’ve learned to recognize that that’s the result of hard training probably.

 

Trevor Connor  40:46

Right.

 

Colby Pearce  40:46

So it’s a positive association for you.

 

Trevor Connor  40:48

I look at it and go, yeah, I’m sore, but boy, I’m gonna get some great adaptation from this, this is great.

 

Colby Pearce  40:52

Right, you know you did your work.

 

Trevor Connor  40:54

A lot of people don’t like that feeling. So they take these anti inflammatories and go “Oh look, now I feel great. This is helping me”

 

Colby Pearce  40:59

That’s masking.

 

Trevor Connor  41:00

Right.

 

Colby Pearce  41:01

And, or worst case, blunting the hormetic response.

 

Trevor Connor  41:04

Exactly.

 

Colby Pearce  41:05

Do you agree, Ryan?

 

Ryan Kohler  41:06

Yeah, yeah. And I mean, I have one athlete in particular, who’s he’s gone through that process of using like NAID’s and then getting into CBD. And it’s been an interesting process just watching that because, I think, for him, he went from cycling to running, and, you know, started to get those aches and pains. So it was interesting watching how he was able to discern the types of soreness or pain that he was getting. So yeah, you know, with him, it’s been, he started to take CBD and then change the timing of it, like you suggested, and to really make it so he can complete his workouts that he wants to do and it’s actually allowed him to then go and run longer and get that overload but, you know, having just a good idea of what should it feel like when I’m done with the run versus, you know. It’s been nice for that sort of allowed him to then just improve the timing and continue running and enjoying that. So it’s been more from you know, I mean, he’s really just developing arthritis is really what it is, you know, so it’s, but that’s been nice to see where he’s been able to adjust it to continue enjoying that activity. And, and still progress.

 

Colby Pearce  42:07

Interesting. Trevor, you mentioned a study about some pros at a really famous bike race that talked about oxidative stress do you want to-?

 

Trevor Connor  42:13

Right, and so remember, inflammation and oxidative damage are not the same thing. Oxidative damage can contribute to inflammation, but you’re still talking about slightly different things here. But it continues with that theme of- we used to, or the science used to be very big on how do you reduce inflammation? How do you reduce oxidative damage? How do you stop all these things that actually our body needs to go through if we want to perform at our best. Our bodies develop natural antioxidant defense mechanisms. And we mentioned this in a previous episode as well. There were some fascinating studies, looking at basically, either untrained individuals or average athletes to very, very top level, and show that people who aren’t very well trained can very quickly be overwhelmed by oxidative stress. So you go out and do a hard ride, you build up a lot of oxidative stress, and your body just can’t handle it. But they, I think it was at the Dauphine so they were studying top level cyclists and study them over a week long stage race. And they said it was on the top in the world, you know, in these studies they don’t mention the actual race, but when you read it, you can figure out what it is. I think this was at the Dauphine and measured the net oxidative load in their bodies. So not- it didn’t just look at how much oxidative stress they were producing, but also, you know, the combination of oxidative stress with natural antioxidants. And showed over the course of the race, their net oxidative stress went down because even though they were producing a lot of oxidants, their natural antioxidant defense systems were so good, it was overcompensating. And that’s what you see in trained individuals. And some of these studies made the argument that if you are taking antioxidants, your body’s going to go and get it exhaustively so why would I bother developing my own systems?

 

Colby Pearce  44:21

This plays into the marketing that we see all over, you might see results from a study where someone comes out with a new antioxidant or a new supplements of almost any variety you can imagine and they get some massive performance gain. And then we’re all scratching our heads going, well, I know a guy who took that the other day and I still dropped him on the ride. He didn’t get 27% better, why was that? Well, in an untrained individual who suddenly has this carpet bomb of antioxidants, you might see a large percentage of gain if you gave them back to back exercise protocols to which they were on accustomed because their systems aren’t acclimated to that type of stress. But this is what training is; trainings about humbling yourself, and then letting your body respond. And when the chips fall, you get to see how your body is capable of responding to some types of stress and other types of stress just put you in the grave and hurt you really badly. And then you go, maybe I shouldn’t train so much that way. That’s the art of training.

 

Colby Pearce  45:14

And that’s why- that’s a hard thing, that’s one thing I’ve always had an instinct on as far as taking supplements to offset my body’s own natural systems, to me doesn’t make sense, because there’s no positive outcome to it. And let me explain why. Let’s say you’re taking a supplement that suddenly shortcuts one of those pathways. Well, what’s the old saying, “There’s no metabolic free lunch.” So if you’re trained at a certain level, to handle a certain load, and then you take a supplement, and it allows you to dig deeper and deeper than you ever done, particularly before in a certain type of interval that targets a very specific energy system. Do you think that you’re not going to pay a price for that? There’s a reason why your body can’t handle 25 minutes worth of work of intense VO2 in February when you haven’t done VO2 for five months. So now suddenly you take this magic cream or potion or whatever  and you go out and do 25 minutes of VO2 and go “Look at me, I’m Superman.” I don’t know, specifically, I can’t comment how that’s going to come back and you’re going to have to pay the bill, but the bill is going to come to that at some point. There are no magic bullets in the world of training, there’s no metabolic free lunch, like that’s going to come at a price. So when you try to short circuit, that natural pathway, it’s not going to work out in the end. I’m sure of that. That’s just a coaching philosophy I have in particular, but I’d like people to think about that paradigm. Maybe they don’t agree with that particular statement.

 

Trevor Connor  46:32

And I do think we need to give a quick addendum here of we are talking about supplemental antioxidants. Because I actually got this question of well, should I be eating fruits and vegetables because they have antioxidants in them? Look our bodies do expect us to consume a certain amount of antioxidants that’s natural to the body. The only way to completely eliminate antioxidants from exogenous sources, so external sources, would be to not eat fruits and vegetables, which is not a healthy approach to diet. So your body’s expecting a certain amount, but when you take a supplemental form that’s a mega bomb of antioxidants to the system. So you do need them but try to get him through natural sources try to get into a good healthy diet.

 

Chris Case  47:25

That was another episode of Fast Talk. For Coach Ryan Kohler, for Coach Colby Pearce and for Coach Trevor Connor. Thanks for listening.

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