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Form & Fitness Q & A

Got a question about fitness, training, recovery from injury or a related subject? Drop us a line at Please include as much information about yourself as possible, including your age, sex, and type of racing or riding.

The Cyclingnews form & fitness panel

Carrie Cheadle, MA ( is a Sports Psychology consultant who has dedicated her career to helping athletes of all ages and abilities perform to their potential. Carrie specialises in working with cyclists, in disciplines ranging from track racing to mountain biking. She holds a bachelors degree in Psychology from Sonoma State University as well as a masters degree in Sport Psychology from John F. Kennedy University.

Dave Palese ( is a USA Cycling licensed coach and masters' class road racer with 16 years' race experience. He coaches racers and riders of all abilities from his home in southern Maine, USA, where he lives with his wife Sheryl, daughter Molly, and two cats, Miranda and Mu-Mu.

Kelby Bethards, MD received a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Iowa State University (1994) before obtaining an M.D. from the University of Iowa College of Medicine in 2000. Has been a racing cyclist 'on and off' for 20 years, and when time allows, he races Cat 3 and 35+. He is a team physician for two local Ft Collins, CO, teams, and currently works Family Practice in multiple settings: rural, urgent care, inpatient and the like.

Fiona Lockhart ( is a USA Cycling Expert Coach, and holds certifications from USA Weightlifting (Sports Performance Coach), the National Strength and Conditioning Association (Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach), and the National Academy for Sports Nutrition (Primary Sports Nutritionist). She is the Sports Science Editor for Carmichael Training Systems, and has been working in the strength and conditioning and endurance sports fields for over 10 years; she's also a competitive mountain biker.

Eddie Monnier ( is a USA Cycling certified Elite Coach and a Category II racer. He holds undergraduate degrees in anthropology (with departmental honors) and philosophy from Emory University and an MBA from The Wharton School of Business.

Eddie is a proponent of training with power. He coaches cyclists (track, road and mountain bike) of all abilities and with wide ranging goals (with and without power meters). He uses internet tools to coach riders from any geography.

David Fleckenstein, MPT ( is a physical therapist practicing in Boise, ID. His clients have included World and U.S. champions, Olympic athletes and numerous professional athletes. He received his B.S. in Biology/Genetics from Penn State and his Master's degree in Physical Therapy from Emory University. He specializes in manual medicine treatment and specific retraining of spine and joint stabilization musculature. He is a former Cat I road racer and Expert mountain biker.

Since 1986 Steve Hogg ( has owned and operated Pedal Pushers, a cycle shop specialising in rider positioning and custom bicycles. In that time he has positioned riders from all cycling disciplines and of all levels of ability with every concievable cycling problem.They include World and National champions at one end of the performance spectrum to amputees and people with disabilities at the other end.

Current riders that Steve has positioned include Davitamon-Lotto's Nick Gates, Discovery's Hayden Roulston, National Road Series champion, Jessica Ridder and National and State Time Trial champion, Peter Milostic.

Pamela Hinton has a bachelor's degree in Molecular Biology and a doctoral degree in Nutritional Sciences, both from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She did postdoctoral training at Cornell University and is now an assistant professor of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Missouri-Columbia where she studies the effects of iron deficiency on adaptations to endurance training and the consequences of exercise-associated changes in menstrual function on bone health.

Pam was an All-American in track while at the UW. She started cycling competitively in 2003 and is the defending Missouri State Road Champion. Pam writes a nutrition column for Giana Roberge's Team Speed Queen Newsletter.

Dario Fredrick ( is an exercise physiologist and head coach for Whole Athlete™. He is a former category 1 & semi-pro MTB racer. Dario holds a masters degree in exercise science and a bachelors in sport psychology.

Scott Saifer ( has a Masters Degree in exercise physiology and sports psychology and has personally coached over 300 athletes of all levels in his 10 years of coaching with Wenzel Coaching.

Kendra Wenzel ( is a head coach with Wenzel Coaching with 17 years of racing and coaching experience and is coauthor of the book Bike Racing 101.

Richard Stern ( is Head Coach of Richard Stern Training, a Level 3 Coach with the Association of British Cycling Coaches, a Sports Scientist, and a writer. He has been professionally coaching cyclists and triathletes since 1998 at all levels from professional to recreational. He is a leading expert in coaching with power output and all power meters. Richard has been a competitive cyclist for 20 years

Andy Bloomer ( is an Associate Coach and sport scientist with Richard Stern Training. He is a member of the Association of British Cycling Coaches (ABCC) and a member of the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES). In his role as Exercise Physiologist at Staffordshire University Sports Performance Centre, he has conducted physiological testing and offered training and coaching advice to athletes from all sports for the past 4 years. Andy has been a competitive cyclist for many years.

Kim Morrow ( has competed as a Professional Cyclist and Triathlete, is a certified USA Cycling Elite Coach, a 4-time U.S. Masters National Road Race Champion, and a Fitness Professional.

Her coaching group, eliteFITcoach, is based out of the Southeastern United States, although they coach athletes across North America. Kim also owns, a resource for cyclists, multisport athletes & endurance coaches around the globe, specializing in helping cycling and multisport athletes find a coach.

Advice presented in Cyclingnews' fitness pages is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to be specific advice for individual athletes. If you follow the educational information found on Cyclingnews, you do so at your own risk. You should consult with your physician before beginning any exercise program.

Fitness questions and answers for May 23, 2003

Light weights or heavy weights?
Sore shoulder
Old age
Shedding weight
Grades vs categories

Light weights or heavy weights?

I am a B grade cyclist and have this niggling question. When in the gym doing a weight session, which is better, a low weight high rep workout or, a heavy wieght low rep workout when trying to target cycling specific muscles for strength and endurance.

Singleton, NSW, Australia

Ric Stern replies:

How about no weights, and just concentrate on your cycling? No form of weight training will increase your endurance, and unless you have a clinical condition (or are a track sprinter) you already have enough strength for road/endurance cycling. See

Depending on your goals, bike sessions should be based on endurance, TT type session, "VO2 max" sessions, or high intensity sprints (or a combination thereof).

Sore shoulder

I am a 30 year old female and enjoy social cycling. I have ridden road bikes for three and a half years, dabbling in racing for a year during that time. I ride 300km/week, usually in groups and am looking forward to going with Bikestyle Tours to the Tour de France this year. My problem is I experience quite severe left shoulder pain on almost any ride longer than 40km in the last year. I like doing longer rides of 100km each day of the weekend, but end up with lots of shoulder pain as a result. I am 172 cm tall, ride a 54cm Cannondale (inner leg length 54.9 cm) but have a short torso. I use a short stem also.

I have had my bike position checked and adjusted twice, even turning my seat slightly to the left with only small improvement. Turning the seat to the right was very uncomfortable. I have tried raising the handlebars, using a different stem, to no effect. I am worried about incurring long term injuries to my neck/back if I can't address this problem. I've thought of measuring my shoulder width and comparing this to my handle bar width. Apart from that I don't know what to do next.

Helen Lang
Brisbane, Australia

Dave Fleckenstein replies

While fit can certainly have an effect on our shoulders and neck, I would question if what is going on at your shoulder is related to your bike fit. I would seriously wonder if there is an intrinsic problem in your shoulder that is simply magnified when you place the additional stress of the riding position on it.

You have made numerous fit-related changes with no real effect - maybe the pain on the bike is a 'victim' not the 'culprit.' I have seen cyclists with 'bike-related' shoulder pain with a wide range of conditions including simple impingement, labral tears, and cervical injury. Impingement is the most common fit related shoulder injury. This occurs when there is compression of the humerus and acromion. Tissues in between those two structures become inflamed - typically the subacromial bursa, biceps tendon, and rotator cuff. Pain typically occurs on the lateral part of the shoulder and can possibly radiate into the shoulder and neck.

The first thing that I would do is straighten your saddle out! This is a sure way to add back pain to your list of aches! Then I would consult a physician - preferably an orthopedic physician, who will most likely evaluate and x-ray your shoulder. I would be surprised if there is not a significant finding in the evaluation. At very least, it will rule out anything serious and will allow you to focus on bike fit. While a 54cm bike is certainly within the normal range for someone your height, I would wonder if going to a 52 might not give you more position/weight distribution options - certainly something worth a test ride!

Enjoy the Tour!

Old age

I am a 42 year old cat 2 bike racer. I am in my second serious year Of racing after coming back from a long layoff (6 years). I have In the last 4 years lost 30 pounds and raced about 20 races last year and 6 races so far this year. Over the winter I lifted heavily and put in quite a few hours getting a good base. I have to race a lot of races in 30 and 35 plus categories, which puts me at quite a disadvantage when it comes to conditioning and age of people I race against. Next year I will be 43. Can I still get faster next year or am I up against a wall in terms of age?

Brian Polhemus
Spencertown, N.Y., U.S.A.

Eddie Monnier replies:

While we naturally lose potential as we age due to physiological changes (such as decreases in aerobic capacity, maximal heart rate, ventilation, and so on) I can assure you that with focused training and smart tactical riding, one can be competitive against much younger riders. I am 39 years old and generally race Pro/1/2 and, like you, some masters (30+ and 35+). There are guys our age that are garnering podiums in very difficult races (e.g., Eric Wohlberg, Thurlow Rogers, etc.) against much younger competitors in Pro/1/2 events. Granted, they are gifted athletes but they are also competing against gifted younger athletes. Thus, your age alone won't prevent you from being competitive.

Given your long lay off, you may continue to realize improvements in your general fitness this season. As a masters athlete, you have special incentives to really focus your training (work, family commitments, etc.) and that includes making sure you have enough recovery time between hard workouts. Whereas you may have been able to do three hard workouts in a week when you were younger, you may find that you now progress better doing only two. I'm a proponent of periodization and find that many masters athletes do better with recovery weeks every third week instead of every fourth week which is used often by younger athletes.

Identify the attributes necessary to succeed in your target races and structure your training program around improving those in which you are weakest and honing your natural strengths. You'll be showing those youngsters a thing or two before long...

Shedding weight

I have a couple of questions regarding what I should do to optimize my training: I am a 26 year-old racer who has a year of racing in his legs after a seven-year absence from the sport. I am currently training, racing cat 1/2 races, and finishing medical school at the same time. When I stopped riding at age 18 or 19, I was about 5ft 10in and 128lb. Last year, when I started riding again, I was about 6ft and 183lb after years spent in the gym turning into a complete meathead. Since then, I have stopped lifting weights and have 'deflated' to about 149 lbs. My legs have roughly reassumed their cycling shape (sticks), but I am still carrying a much different physique up north: I am seriously top heavy.

On the flats, I am not having any troubles at all, regardless of whether I am in the field or in the wind. I am climbing like a brick though, particularly on long climbs. These are my questions:

1. Is there any way to selectively atrophy a muscle group? I have not touched an upper body weight in over a year. When I lift in the off season, should I touch any upper body weights?

2. Can I reasonably expect my chest and arms to continue deflating, or are they likely to level out after a certain amount of time? They don't teach this stuff in med school.

3. A couple of people have told me that I need to bulk up my legs in the off season to compensate for the heavy top. It seems that the limiting factor in all of this is the watts/kg that I am able to generate and adding any weight doesn't seem like it will necessarily help. Am I correct?

Any advice or thoughts you have would be appreciated. I realize the main tactic should be to increase my power output across the board (have considered PowerCranks for this), but the coup de grace would be to be able to drop the weight, too.

Ric Stern replies

At 6ft and 149lb, that's very light, and probably lighter than most cyclists who are smaller than you. To 'selectively' atrophy your muscles just don't use them. They'll soon disappear under the use it or lose it theory! Assuming that you are an endurance rider, there may be no need whatsoever to complete any weight training/lifting. There's no evidence that lifting is beneficial to endurance cycling, as endurance cycling just isn't strength limited (see

If you're racing endurance (road races and so on) then there's no reason to strengthen your legs. The power outputs that are required to race require very little force, such that untrained age, gender matched and healthy people can meet them.

What you likely need to do is to increase your power output (which will increase your power to mass ratio). As your (sustainable) power increases you will travel faster under the same conditions. Quality sessions that can help your power are one to three hours at about 80 percent of maximum heart rate, and one or two, 20 to 30 minute sessions at just below TT power/HR. Shorter more intense intervals (of about four minutes, say) can also be completed (see, but these should be completed closer to your peak races.

Getting a power meter, such as the Power Tap or SRM would definitely help your training as it would allow you to much better control and optimise your training sessions.

Grades vs categories

I'm an avid reader of your column: I find there's something useful for me in every edition.

I have trouble, however, with equating my standard with that of many of your correspondents; when they refer to Cat 3 or whatever, I don't know what they mean. Is it a U.S.A. thing? And why is it always 3? Is that where all the 'try-hards' like myself reside?

I race C grade in club races, and vets 3 (43 years old) or D grade in opens (although the handicapper always puts me in C, where I go as hard as I can for a bit, then get dropped on the first decent hill, or undulation). My goal for this year, after two and a half months off due to illness, is limited to going up a grade, certainly at club races, and maybe end of year crits - I'll renew my assault on the big opens next year.

It would be good to know what grade, or equivalent, your correspondents ride, so as to gauge the relevance of advice to my own situation.

Keep up the good work, and cheers from Oz.

Paul Quinn
Sydney Australia

Eddie Monnier replies:

In the US, there are five categories of amateur racing with '5' being entry level and '1' being elite, in addition to Professionals. All new racers start out at category 5. Riders can earn upgrades as follows:

5 => 4 Experience in 10 mass start races
4 => 3 Earn 25 upgrade points in qualifying races (distance and/or time minimums) in 12 months or experience in 25 qualifying races with at least 10 top ten finishes
3 => 2 Earn 25 upgrade points in qualifying races in any 12 month period
1 => 2 Earn 30 upgrade points in qualifying races in any 12 month period

Upgrade points are earned by finishing in the top six in a qualifying single day road race (10-7-5-3-2-1 points) or criterium (7-5-4-3-2-1). Points are awarded to the top eoght places (10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1) in a road race stage during a stage race and top 15 (20 down to 1 point) for a general classification in a stage race. Although there are some exceptions, most of the time Pro/1/2 race together. There are a few races where 2's race separately. Other categories generally compete independently (eg, 3's as one class, 4's as another, etc.).

It's not uncommon for racers with focused efforts to become cat 3s within their second or third season. It's materially harder to earn an upgrade to category 2 and some choose not to try because there's a big jump in difficulty between a cat 3 race and a P/1/2 race. It's extremely hard to earn a category 1 upgrade and since more often than not you do the same races as the cat 2s, there's not all that much incentive.

In addition to skill categories, there are age categories as well (juniors, age graded masters). Here in California the 30+ 1/2/3 races are extremely fast and usually only second to the P/1/2 races in terms of difficulty. Juniors can compete up in age and masters can compete down. Many racers will race multiple categories at criterium events (e.g., 30+ 1/2/3 and P/1/2).

Having said all that, I would describe the categories as:

5 - Beginner
4 - Novice
3 - Sport (locally competitive)
2 - Expert (regionally competitive)
1 - Semi-Pro (nationally competitive)

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