Form & Fitness Q & A
Got a question about fitness, training, recovery from injury or a related subject?
Drop us a line at email@example.com.
Please include as much information about yourself as possible, including your
age, sex, and type of racing or riding.
Fitness questions and answers for January 28, 2004
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.
Welcome back to Cyclingnews' fitness forum for 2004. We're pleased to welcome
several new contributors to this department, so a big hello please to Kendra
Wenzel and Scott Saifer of Wenzel Coaching, Andrew Grant of Sports Strategies
and Steve Owens of Colorado Premier Training.
We hope you find their advice interesting and informative.
Training zone determination
Etape du Tour
I am an enthusiastic recreational cyclist interested in being occasionally
competitive and even more interested in tooling around at high speeds recreationally
(group rides) when time permits.
My question pertains to bicycle fit. I am delving into the custom bike market
and being measured with regards to many parameters to create a properly fitted
frame. The result of these measurements is a suggestion for a change from my
current position (largely based on tarot cards and lunar cycles, i.e. not scientific).
I am wondering are there time tested (lab tested) theories upon which proper
seat height, fore/aft saddle position, and crank length are based (especially
considering power, heart rate, oxygen consumption). Secondly, are there saddle
height, saddle fore/aft position, and crank length measurements from pro riders
(maybe a pro rider measurements database?) that might suggest a proper fit (for
instance a 6 ft 0 inches, skinny (140 lbs), 89.6 cm inseam, with a relatively
short femur length in proportion to my leg length, and normal length arms).
I am currently testing out the frame manufacturer's suggestions, but I imagine
it will take a long time before anything new feels anything but just different.
Thanks for any suggestions.
Beppo Hilfiker replies:
If you go to www.2PEAK.com and click on the menu > tools and from there into
> tools again and choose the option > riding position, you will be able to
download an excel spreadsheet that has been created by Robert Kühnen. [Or
download it directly here
- though we'd strongly urge you to explore Beppo's
excellent site too - Ed]
Robert is the engineer that created and creates all the tests that TOUR Magazine
(Europe's biggest and most respected road magazine) uses to test equipment
and to answer questions such as yours. In this case he analyzed all the data
available and then defined an empirical approach to optimize a rider's position,
also taking into account a statistical analysis of pro riders positions. Pros
tend to ride with a longer seating length and a bigger drop, but such a stretched-out
position is not for everyone so the spreadsheet lets you choose a more or
less aggressive riding position (measure "N").
Try it and let us know what you think.
I am a fourteen year old junior racer. I have been riding thirteen to fourteen
hours a week lately, but have been warned about over training. Do you think
this is too much, and if not, could I train less and be just as fast? What would
be the best amount for me to train and still get as fast as possible?
Dave Palese replies:
The training hours you mention could be a bit over doing it for a rider your
I would look at your target events and let them dictate your volume of training.
If you are doing common junior events, I think that you'll see that the races
are pretty short, only lasting 45 minutes to an hour and a half (generally
speaking). Training sessions of high volume, three hours and more aren't really
needed. You can then afford to spend a higher percentage of your weekly training
time training more event specific abilities like speed, threshold and anaerobic
Have fun and good luck!
I recently took a job in a company that offers a gym in the same building.
For the past few months, I've been spending my lunch hour (three or four times
a week) doing spinning classes in an effort to complement my weekend road training
during the winter and my daily roundtrip commute of 25 miles which I'm trying
to do through the winter as long as the snow isn't falling. The classes vary
of course with the instructors, and most of the participants are definitely
not the cycling type so I tend to tweak it to my own preferences.
Happily, since beginning these classes and commuting (I moved in April), I've
lost about 10 pounds and I'm hoping to keep it off through the winter. However,
I'm wondering if anyone has any experience with riders that have consistently
done spinning classes (with Schwinn bikes) to complement their training and
what advantages, disadvantages as well as pitfalls there might be.
Dave Palese replies:
When I lived in the Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, USA, I did a couple of winter
training seasons on spinning bikes. The sessions were led by a great masters
racer, Jeff Rutter.
The mechanics of spinning are a great complement to your training and can
yield great benefits come spring. The effects of the fly wheel are similar
to riding a fixed gear and the benefits for leg speed are great.
Where I think most spinning classes come up short is that they are not really
intended for most training cyclists. The intensity and volume of intensity
per session tends to be too high during the early part of the training year
and then not high enough later in the winter when a racing cyclist would be
ramping up to prepare for the races just around the corner. And in general,
adequate recovery between efforts is glossed over.
What you have realize about spinning classes is that they are designed for
the same crowd who does step aerobics. The instructors have to make sure that
the folks doing the class leave feeling like they got a good workout. And
in the spinning world harder is better.
The sessions I did were run by a racing cyclist and his classes were filled
with only other racing cyclists, so Rutter was able to design the sessions
around what the group needed at the time.
I am now in the transitional period in my off-season training and with my indoor
riding I am doing weight training three times a week. When I ride indoors I
am riding strictly in my areobic zone (zone 2) for 40 minutes and warming and
cooling down for 20, some days I through in a mixture of speed work as well.
Should my bulk of riding be in zone 2 or should I just ride in zone 1 until
the preperation period begins?
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Dave Palese replies:
I don't see anything wrong with spending time in your zone 2. You'll even
burn a few extra calories, too!
If you can, right now, try to mix the trainer work with some cross training,
without regard to heart rate zones. It's a long winter. The less time you
have to spend on the trainer now, the fresher you'll be about it come the
Specialization periods later.
Get out and snowshoe, or Nordic ski. Even go to your local gym and mix up
a few cardio activities to make up a 60 minute or so session. Do a 30 minute
step aerobics class, then 15 minutes of stair stepper, and then 15 minutes
of treadmill. Whatever. It really doesn't matter.
Just have fun and break things up for now. You'll be needing to spend plenty
of time on the trainer soon enough.
Have fun and good luck!
I am a junior cyclist, 17 years old. My goal event for this season is to compete
and hopefully earn a top ten in the Longsjo Classic in Fitchburg, Mass. My question
is about peaking, tansition and peaking twice. I have all winter and spring
to prep for the Longsjo because it is the first week and June.
That is good, but there is another stage race (Green Mountain Stage Race) almost
exactly 2 months after the Longsjo. That is a sufficient amount of time between
races, but there is also a Cancer Ride (Pan- Mass Challenge) that I want to
do exactly in between the two races (my mother and aunt have both had cancer,
and my aunt has since passed, so its a really important thing to me.
I know I can finish the ride even without specific long distance training and
it is just for fun and training, but is it possible to build back up for GMSR?
Or am I just trying to fit too much into my summer season? The Longsjo is first
priorty, GMSR 2nd.
Thank you very much for your time and effort
Kim Morrow replies:
It sounds like you have some exciting goals for this season. I've done the
Longsjo Classic in Fitchburg, MA and have found it to be quite a challenging
race. Since you are focusing on two stage races as your key events for the
season, I would encourage you to build an exceptionally strong base, and to
carefully control your intensity early season, so that you don't peak too
After you complete the Longsjo Classic stage race in June, you might consider
a one week transition period followed by 2 x 16/5 day cycles. (Each 21 day
cycle would include a 16 day period with key workout sessions to be completed,
followed by a 5 day active recovery period.) This will leave you approximately
12 days to recover/peak for your second stage race. Ideally, it would be better
for have a bit more of a gap between those 2 races, but this is one approach
which might work given your time frame.
And finally, that Pan-Mass Challenge Cancer Ride sounds like an important
event to do for you, probably as important as your other 2 stage race goals.
I hope you enjoy the ride.
Have a great season.
I am 37 years old, 6ft, 190lb. A father of two, I am an enthusiastic amateur
and have a full schedule of century rides for the spring and summer. I have
a vasectomy scheduled for this week and am concerned about my recovery time.
I have talked to several friends who have had the procedure done but none of
whom are riders. I wonder if you know how long I should expect to be off of
the bike given the sensitive body/ saddle interface. I am anxious to get back
on my training schedule. Any info. would be welcome.
Andrew Grant replies:
Vasectomy will have you off the bike for one week. Plan to put your feet
up for four days and do NOTHING, during this time walk and move around as
little as possible. You will know if you are over doing it you will get that
kicked in the groin feeling!!!
The procedure is done by two small incisions into the scrotum. These are
stitched and heal very quickly. It usually takes one week for the bruising
and swelling to disappear.
One benefit of a vasectomy is that after the operation everything sits front
and centre on the bike, which is very comfortable.
Training zone determination
I use the Joe Friel Lactate Threshold system for determining heart rate training
Given that throughout the season tests can be performed as part of both training
and racing situations to determine/indicate/guess a Lactate Threshold Heart
Rate and there is usually variation in the results. What do you guys reckon
about setting training zones? Should they be continually updated based on the
most recent calculation/guesstimate or should they be determined only once yearly
or should they be set to the highest or lowest figures?
All comments welcome.
Scott Saifer replies:
I'd suggest using the one maximum heart rate that you've seen in the past
year as your max, but using the most recently identified LT day by day or
however often you identify a new LT, though if you are healthy and well trained
but not overtraining, your LT should not change by more than few beats.
Eddie Monnier replies:
There are a number of ways establish lactate threshold heart rate (LTHR)
based training zones (both in the lab and on the road). When using field tests
to establish zones, Joe and I advocate training-based efforts rather than
LTHR is not a static number, it actually changes a bit day to day and may
change materially with changes in fitness. So we recommend periodic testing
(lab or road, just be consistent in your approach) with expected changes in
fitness. For example, I typically have athletes test 3-4 times per season
(e.g., at the start of training, mid-Base, end-Base and mid- or late-Build).
Note that LTHR doesn't necessarily increase with changes in fitness. Some
athletes, myself included, actually experience a slight decline in LTHR with
fitness improvements (but an increase in lactate threshold power, which is
one of the many advantages of owning a power meter). Additionally, with enough
experience with an athlete, we sometimes test less frequently because we "know"
how their LTHR tends to change with different training phases (and then may
emphasize other tests).
Also, it's important to look for trends in the tests rather than reading
too much into any one test. The athlete's perceived exertion, known training
benchmarks and race performances act as additional corroborating evidence
for field tests.
Etape du Tour
I have signed up to ride the Etape du Tour, the longest leg of the Tour this
year in France. It's 238km with an approx. 1500 meter climb. Here's the weblink:
I am a pretty amateur cyclist. Competed on a few Olympic triathlons around
the 2:30 range and a few mountain bike races, Xterras etc. The longest I've
ever ridden in 130km.
I'm just getting back on the bike after traveling over the holiday period.
I have a few general questions:
1. Training suggestions?
2. Eating suggestions for the event?
3. I live in a really flat area with no hills. Any way to train for them on
the flats, stationary bike?
Any advice would be much appreciated!
Scott Saifer replies:
I'd suggest riding a minimum of four days per week, five or six is better.
Do 10 miles more each weekend on a single ride until you are regularly doing
120-130 miles of flats before leaving for your big ride. Do as much other
riding as you can on the other days. 90-120 minutes on three other days is
a good minimum to shoot for.
A day that long you'll do best with real food, as opposed to bars and gels.
I'd suggest sandwiches (wonderful opportunity in France) early in the ride,
and pastries near the end.
If you get fit enough, hills are just like flats that you ride more slowly
and in lower gears, so be sure to take low enough gears (a triple if you are
not cat-3 racing fit when you go). At home, do a couple of rides a week at
70-80 rpm since you'll probably be riding those cadences on the hills. Some
coaches suggest riding the trainer with the front wheel boosted to simulate
the climbing position. I'm not sure how effective this is, but it can't hurt.
Finally, a day that long will be ridden as an endurance ride, not at high
intensity, so do the largest majority of your training at a completely aerobic,
endurance pace (heart rate below 80% of maximum if you are using a monitor.)
This should feel slow at first, but you will gain speed as your body becomes
more efficient and your ability to exercise aerobically improves.
I am 43 and race men's masters expert MTB cross-country.
My AT is typically about 172ish beats per minute during race season. My max
heart rate is about 188 bpm.
How much time would you suggest for interval training a week and at what intensity?
Also, what do you suggest for the longest intervals? I have heard many say keep
them under about 8 minutes.
With most races being about 1.5 to 1.75 hours in length, what do you think
my longest endurance ride in a week should be during race season.
I am curious as you hear so many different things. I have been following Joe
Friel's methods and have followed some of Ned Overend's methods. With my work
and family schedule I typically average 6-8 hours on the bike a week.
Thanks for your comments
Scott Saifer replies:
How much time to devote to intervals depends on how much you are racing,
how you are recovering, how well you developed your base before starting intervals
and whether you are still building or tapering. This is really the sort of
question that should be discussed at length with a personal coach, but since
you've asked, I'll provide some thoughts.
First, in a week with a race on the coming weekend, there should be no extended
efforts near or above threshold, unless you are just racing for training and
don't care about performance in that event.
Second, except for occasional short stretches leading to peak periods, there
should be no more than two days per week with extended efforts near or above
AT. More risks overtraining. More for weeks or months on end almost guarantees
There are many ways to structure interval sessions. As a rule of thumb, the
upper limit of length for an AT interval could be set at twice the length
of your typical long ride. If you get four-hour rides several times per week,
work up to eight minute intervals near AT. If you ride a pro schedule with
lots of six hour rides, AT intervals could be as long as 12 minutes. The best
thing to do is to start with shorter intervals, say 3-4 minutes, see how you
tolerate them, and then make them gradually longer if you are handling the
shorter ones well. Don't plan to complete a particular number of intervals.
Instead, continue doing intervals until you are markedly fatigued, and then
cool down whether you've done one interval or a dozen. If you managed more
than five intervals of a given length in one session, you are probably ready
to make them longer in the next session
The idea that the length of the weekly long ride should be figured from the
length of the races is not that helpful. If your goal is to develop the endurance
to finish your events, then figure that you can safely ride about 30-50% farther
than you train. Most of us want to win or at least place well and not just
finish, so I'd recommend making the ride as long as you have time for and
as your body will tolerate week after week. If that hypothetical pro who does
all the six hour rides comes to your event, he's not going to lose because
he trained too far. In fact, he'll probably do quite well because those long
rides develop aerobic power and fitness as well as endurance.
One way to judge how long your rides should be is to look at what successful
riders in your category are doing. One of my clients won the NORBA NCS series
master's title in a group a bit older than yours this year after doing a lot
of five hour rides through the winter and spring, and on any non-racing weekends
through the racing season.
Good luck with your training and your events.
I'm 52, 6ft, 225lb and love to ride. Mostly mountain bikes with a group and
do just fine. Wore a heart monitor for the first time and found myself at 179
bpm at the top of a 20 minute climb. Felt great and have done this for years.
How do you know what your MAX is or when to say enough. Last ride was quite
a bit longer uphill so I left the monitor at home. I have a quick recovery and
approx. 57 bpm at rest. I play racquetball, volleyball etc. Should I worry about
Scott Saifer replies:
To find your max you ride up a long hill, preferably in a competitive situation
to keep you motivated and you just go harder and harder until you can't anymore.
When you feel like you can't go another stroke, you sprint. When you can't
sprint anymore, sprint harder. You know you've actually found your max when
your heart rate begins to decline even though you are still trying to go harder
This test is NOT RECOMMENDED FOR SEDENTARY INDIVIDUALS or people with personal
or family history of heart disease, or diabetes, or... It should be safe for
people who have been riding as hard as they can recently already. If you wonder,
ask your doctor before testing.
While it is true that the population average maximum heart rate is sort of
close to 220-age (210 - half of age is a better approximation), individuals
often have maxima that are 10-15 beats above or below the average for their
age, and this is nothing to worry about. I have had at least one client over
55 years with a maximum heart rate in the mid-190s.
Other Cyclingnews Form & Fitness articles