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Form & Fitness Q & A
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The Cyclingnews form & fitness panel
Carrie Cheadle, MA (www.carriecheadle.com)
is a Sports Psychology consultant who has dedicated her career to helping
athletes of all ages and abilities perform to their potential. Carrie
specialises in working with cyclists, in disciplines ranging from track
racing to mountain biking. She holds a bachelors degree in Psychology
from Sonoma State University as well as a masters degree in Sport Psychology
from John F. Kennedy University.
Dave Palese (www.davepalese.com)
is a USA Cycling licensed coach and masters' class road racer with 16
years' race experience. He coaches racers and riders of all abilities
from his home in southern Maine, USA, where he lives with his wife Sheryl,
daughter Molly, and two cats, Miranda and Mu-Mu.
Kelby Bethards, MD received a Bachelor of
Science in Electrical Engineering from Iowa State University (1994) before
obtaining an M.D. from the University of Iowa College of Medicine in 2000.
Has been a racing cyclist 'on and off' for 20 years, and when time allows,
he races Cat 3 and 35+. He is a team physician for two local Ft Collins,
CO, teams, and currently works Family Practice in multiple settings: rural,
urgent care, inpatient and the like.
Fiona Lockhart (www.trainright.com)
is a USA Cycling Expert Coach, and holds certifications from USA Weightlifting
(Sports Performance Coach), the National Strength and Conditioning Association
(Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach), and the National Academy
for Sports Nutrition (Primary Sports Nutritionist). She is the Sports
Science Editor for Carmichael Training Systems, and has been working in
the strength and conditioning and endurance sports fields for over 10
years; she's also a competitive mountain biker.
Eddie Monnier (www.velo-fit.com)
is a USA Cycling certified Elite Coach and a Category II racer. He holds
undergraduate degrees in anthropology (with departmental honors) and philosophy
from Emory University and an MBA from The Wharton School of Business.
Eddie is a proponent of training with power. He coaches cyclists (track,
road and mountain bike) of all abilities and with wide ranging goals (with
and without power meters). He uses internet tools to coach riders from
David Fleckenstein, MPT (www.physiopt.com)
is a physical therapist practicing in Boise, ID. His clients have included
World and U.S. champions, Olympic athletes and numerous professional athletes.
He received his B.S. in Biology/Genetics from Penn State and his Master's
degree in Physical Therapy from Emory University. He specializes in manual
medicine treatment and specific retraining of spine and joint stabilization
musculature. He is a former Cat I road racer and Expert mountain biker.
Since 1986 Steve Hogg (www.cyclefitcentre.com)
has owned and operated Pedal Pushers, a cycle shop specialising in rider
positioning and custom bicycles. In that time he has positioned riders
from all cycling disciplines and of all levels of ability with every concievable
cycling problem.They include World and National champions at one end of
the performance spectrum to amputees and people with disabilities at the
Current riders that Steve has positioned include Davitamon-Lotto's Nick
Gates, Discovery's Hayden Roulston, National Road Series champion, Jessica
Ridder and National and State Time Trial champion, Peter Milostic.
Pamela Hinton has a bachelor's degree in Molecular
Biology and a doctoral degree in Nutritional Sciences, both from the University
of Wisconsin-Madison. She did postdoctoral training at Cornell University
and is now an assistant professor of Nutritional Sciences at the University
of Missouri-Columbia where she studies the effects of iron deficiency
on adaptations to endurance training and the consequences of exercise-associated
changes in menstrual function on bone health.
Pam was an All-American in track while at the UW. She started cycling
competitively in 2003 and is the defending Missouri State Road Champion.
Pam writes a nutrition column for Giana Roberge's Team Speed Queen Newsletter.
Dario Fredrick (www.wholeathlete.com)
is an exercise physiologist and head coach for Whole Athlete™. He is a
former category 1 & semi-pro MTB racer. Dario holds a masters degree in
exercise science and a bachelors in sport psychology.
Scott Saifer (www.wenzelcoaching.com)
has a Masters Degree in exercise physiology and sports psychology and
has personally coached over 300 athletes of all levels in his 10 years
of coaching with Wenzel Coaching.
Kendra Wenzel (www.wenzelcoaching.com)
is a head coach with Wenzel Coaching with 17 years of racing and coaching
experience and is coauthor of the book Bike Racing 101.
Richard Stern (www.cyclecoach.com)
is Head Coach of Richard Stern Training, a Level 3 Coach with the Association
of British Cycling Coaches, a Sports Scientist, and a writer. He has been
professionally coaching cyclists and triathletes since 1998 at all levels
from professional to recreational. He is a leading expert in coaching
with power output and all power meters. Richard has been a competitive
cyclist for 20 years
Andy Bloomer (www.cyclecoach.com)
is an Associate Coach and sport scientist with Richard Stern Training.
He is a member of the Association of British Cycling Coaches (ABCC) and
a member of the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES).
In his role as Exercise Physiologist at Staffordshire University Sports
Performance Centre, he has conducted physiological testing and offered
training and coaching advice to athletes from all sports for the past
4 years. Andy has been a competitive cyclist for many years.
Kim Morrow (www.elitefitcoach.com)
has competed as a Professional Cyclist and Triathlete, is a certified
USA Cycling Elite Coach, a 4-time U.S. Masters National Road Race Champion,
and a Fitness Professional.
Her coaching group, eliteFITcoach, is based out of the Southeastern United
States, although they coach athletes across North America. Kim also owns
a resource for cyclists, multisport athletes & endurance coaches around
the globe, specializing in helping cycling and multisport athletes find
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?
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 www.cyclingnews.com/fitness/?id=strengthstern
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).
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.
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!
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?
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
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
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...
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
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
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.
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
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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