Form & Fitness Q & A
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Fitness questions and answers for February 10, 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.
Climbing, strength & anemia
Etape du Tour
Fibula fracture - recovery time?
Heart rate training
Improving the "jump"
Low heart rate
Mixing interval and endurance training
How should a rider prepare for an event that is hosted in a town where the
main street is 7,000 feet? The town says its elevation goes from 6,500-10,000
feet. Where we live the elevation is 300-500 feet. How long would we need to
be at the venue to acclimate? How much better would this be than the alternative
of showing up as close to the race date as possible?
Scott Saifer replies:
What you do about this question depends on how serious you are. Assuming
you don't have the money for an altitude tent but that you are a serious bike
racer with freedom to travel, I'd suggest going somewhere that you can sleep
at over 6000 feet elevation for about three weeks, return home for one week,
and then return to the venue one week in advance of the event. This would
make a huge difference in your ability to race at altitude. Remember that
it is spending time breathing at altitude and not training at altitude that
The next best solution is to get whatever altitude exposure you can over
the months before the event and then go to the venue about a week early. Even
a few weekends scattered over the two or three months before the event will
make a difference. It turns out that erythropoetin, the hormone that increases
with exposure to altitude and which makes you produce more red blood cells,
reaches a high peak level in your blood in the first short while after arrival
at altitude, and returns to a level above normal but quite a bit lower than
the peak within a few days. This suggests that several exposures to altitude
of a few days each might be as effective or more effective than single longer
exposures. As far as I know this idea has not been studied scientifically,
or at least I haven't seen the results published. (If you decide to give this
a try, I'd love to hear about your results.) After that the best is to go
a week early.
If you can't go at least five days early, arrive at the last possible time.
One of my clients who is extremely sensitive to his own body and has done
a fair amount of altitude racing reports that if the race finish is more than
18 hours after his arrival at altitude he notes a decrease in performance.
If you go to altitude a few days before the race, you will feel better (less
out of breath) on race day, but you will ride slower in events over a few
minutes in length. This is because one of the first things your body does
to adjust to altitude is to dehydrate itself. This makes the blood thicker
so it can more effectively deliver oxygen at low exercise intensities, but
it also decreases your endurance as you are partially dehydrated before you
begin to ride. You can not correct this by drinking more water. That will
simply make you pee more. Good luck.
Climbing, strength & anemia
I started regular cycling last fall (but I did it occasionally before) and
want to climb Mt Ventoux next summer with a bunch of friends. I'm 24yrs old,
1,87 tall, weighing around 82-83Kg and always did a lot of sports (running,
surfing, windsurfing) before I got into cycling.
I curiously read most of the "strength and cycling" articles and found the
viewpoint of Ric Stern quite plausible. But everytime I climbed so far (up to
about 1000mtrs.) it wasn't the heart or lung which made my cry, but the legs.
I really felt that with more strengh, I could climb more easily. I should add,
that I did weight training during the last 4 years, but not too intense. Is
this an aspect forgotten in the articles so far, or am I totally fooled by my
Another thing: I recently found out that I'm on the edge to anemia, my hematocrit
is 41%. It seems to lie a bit in the family. Is there any way to change this
to a somewhat more normal value WITHOUT taking any drugs?
Andrew Grant replies:
Hematocrit is the number of red blood cells in the blood expressed as a percentage.
Normal hematocrit for a male is between 39 and 52 percent. Your hematocrit
is 41% is within the normal range. The only legal method of increasing your
hematocrit is to train at altitude or sleep in a nitrogen tent.
With regard to your comment "I recently found out that I'm on the edge to
anaemia", I am presuming that you are referring to your iron levels, as a
vitamin B12 deficiency can cause a form of anaemia as well.
The results of an iron study will give you the serum iron level and the ferritin
level. The serum iron level is the circulating iron in the blood and ferritin
is the storage form of iron. Increasing your serum iron level above the minimum
of the normal range will not improve your performance. If it is at the minimum
of the normal range then your iron is not a problem.
Iron deficiency is cause by three different factors.
1. Insufficient iron containing foods in the diet (very common): Increase
the amount of red meat in the diet. Drink a vitamin C drink with meat meals
to aid absorption.
2. Poor absorption: The body requires good hydrochorlic acid secretion in
the stomach and bile secretion from the liver to absorb iron. Both of these
functions can be stimulated by bitter tasting foods. Add bitter salad and
a good quality olive oil to the diet to the diet or get a liver tonic from
your health food shop containing Dandelion root (Taraxacum officinale). You
will know if this is working because your stool will change to a light mustard
3. Residual infections: If you have an unresolved chronic infection the body
will attempt to starve out the infection. This usually applies to bacterial
infections, but I have seen similar with chronic viral infections.
Iron deficiency is easy to treat if it is done properly. A return to a healthy
iron status can be achieved in six weeks.
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!
Beppo Hilfiker replies:
Congratulations, you set your mind on a great challenge!
General training guides are hard to give without knowing your time budget,
meaning how much time you can/want to devote to your training. With an average
of 7-10 hrs training per week you should be able to build the necessary form
to enjoy the event. Quality is more important than quantity. Best would be,
to not just evenly spread the volume but to establish blocks.
General considerations: the stage is quite long and hilly - a challenging
profile. There is only one main climb. That means that you will spend plenty
of time drafting, at least until the beginning of the climb to Puy Mary, and
that means that you need to get into the "red zone" sometimes to stay with
your group. This race profile requires a complete rider!
The distance is a mental hurdle but nothing you couldn't manage. You need
to establish a good base endurance to ride all day long. Speed is a bigger
hurdle! After establishing base endurance you need to develop some aerobic
power to stay with your group in the small climbs and false flat sections.
For best results you need periodization. Focus your training on low intensity
endurance rides in the base period, approx. until the beginning of April.
Best would be to schedule a training camp in late March to put in some prolonged
volume. This base endurance training is the foundation for what follows. You
don't need to do extreme length rides in this period. Training often and regularly
is more important than doing few extra long rides. Increase the volume slightly
and plan time for recovery every three weeks. You could see such a periodization
by registering at www.2peak.com and entering l'etape as your main race, the
21 day free trial version will create a periodization that you will find on
the "Year" view.
Beginning in May start the build period. With some interval work you will
rise your threshold power. You live in a flat area? No problem. I suggest
to do force training at or slightly below aerobic power level in the flats:
riding big gears (53/12,11) in an upright position will do it - I'm told the
"Dutch Mountains" compensate the missing grade by the headwinds, use them.
This simulates hills and in the end, what counts is plain power output - not
If your stationary bike has high inertia mass you can also do force training
on the trainer. Go for a low cadence in the force intervals: 40-70 RPM. Slightly
increase the length of the these intervals. Best would be to plan a short
vacation in a hilly or mountainous area by the end of May to get some practice
in real climbing - keep general speeds low there, but do some intervals at
race speed in the ascents (3-4 days, ride 3,4,5,6 hrs per day - highest intensity
on day 1). Generally try to do endurance training in blocks.
By the middle of June you start the final preparation. Plan to stick to your
training plan in this period and to be not too busy jobwise. Training is getting
more important now with the D-Day in sight. Do an endurance block first with
one ride (almost) as long as the competition as climax - that's not necessary
but gives self-confidence. (Marathon runners/triathletes never practice race
volume in training!) This is followed by an intensity period where you work
on your power again. Make sure that you do only very easy training in the
last ten day before your peak so that you start recovered and with full batteries!
As far as race nutrition and hydration is concerned, you can find a pretty
detailed outline that would be too long to post here by clicking on the link:
Good luck! And let us know how it works.
Fibula fracture - recovery time?
I'm a 38 year old Vet-Expert/Master cyclist living in Victoria, British Columbia.
After having a respectable 2003 season as a Vet on the roads and mtb I recently
fractured my fibula while doing some off-season training (slipped/fell on some
ice while running on local trails). The hospital x-ray showed a clear spiral
fracture about 3-4cm long at the top of the bone, just below my knee. Some swelling
is visible but it's generally just a dull, aching pain - I can only put weight
on it for short periods of time.
The doctor opted to not cast the leg and said to rely on my "pain tolerance"
as a guide as to what type of activities I try to do and how soon I attempt
them, although he did say do very little for the next 3 weeks. This seems like
good advice but I'm also a bit concerned that I might push too hard too soon.
How long does it usually take for a fibula injury like this to heal? Would riding
rollers/stationary bike be reasonable to attempt in 2-3 weeks, with light resistance
if there's no pain? Do you recommend swimming or other activities for cyclists
with similar leg injuries?
Thanks in advance for any advice and keep up the great work on this site!
Victoria BC, Canada
Dave Fleckenstein replies:
While it is always a most unfortunate thing to have a fracture, you have
chosen the right bone to fracture. The fibula is essentially a non-weight
bearing bone and can tolerate a fair amount of motion without adverse effects.
Without going to Tyler-like thresholds, your physician is exactly appropriate
in stating that you can do what you want within reasonable pain limits. I
think that allowing 2-3 weeks for the initial inflammation to calm and some
bone callous formation to occur is a great idea (trying to push at that time
will only set you back) and then I feel that you could be fairly aggressive
with rollers or the turbo trainer. I would recommend waiting 6 weeks until
initiating strength training. Swimming is fine, and water jogging with a vest
(not touching the bottom) is an additional excellent workout, and almost as
exciting as riding rollers staring at a white wall....
There is, additionally, one very specific concern that I have long-term regarding
your fracture. The fibula has unusual articulations at both the knee and ankle
and can become easily displaced with the type of fracture that you are describing
and can cause a myriad of unusual knee, ankle, and foot symptoms. I would
highly recommend seeing a skilled manually trained physical therapist or sports
medicine chiropractor to have the superior and inferior fibular joints evaluated.
I have frequently performed joint mobilizations on these joints with excellent
results, but only after I have confirmation from the physician that the fracture
is completely healed.
If you need a recommendation for a PT to see in Victoria, please let me know.
I also know that if you are like me, you will be back running on the ice in
no time, and I have seen that mgear.com has shoes and special running crampons
for those true addicts who will not be denied!
Heart rate training
I'm a 14 year old male, I race road and some track.
I recently bought a heart rate monitor(Polar A3) and am wondering how hard
I should train. Should I train in between the 2 preset limits (high-175, low-134)
all the time or just train between the limits some days. If I train below the
low limit (134) will it be any benefit?
Scott Saifer replies:
There is value to training at all heart rates at some point, including below
the low limit. The majority of your training time should be between 60 and
80% of your own personal maximum heart rate, which may or may not be close
to the preset zone. Harder riding is appropriate a couple of days per week
in the month or two before the racing season. Once racing starts, I'd suggest
doing very little time above 80% of maximum except in the races.
At age 14 you should mostly be focused on getting as much time as you can
on the bike consistent with keeping your grades up and having a good time,
and not worried too much about structured training. That should start around
16 years old. if you really want to start sooner with structured training
(planned rides, heart rate zones and periodization) I'd suggest getting a
book on training, of which there are several good ones available, though I
happen to particularly like the one I helped write (Bike Racing 101 by Kendra
and Rene Wenzel, available at www.Amazon.com). You also might want to find
a coach who has some experience working with younger riders and a history
of taking them to the elite level over several years rather than getting them
medals one year and burning them out the next.
Improving the "jump"
Just wondering if Brett or anyone else, could tell me the best way to improve
my jump for the 200m sprint? I've just started track cycling and have as much
top end speed as the top racers in my age group, in my state but just don't
have the "jump" and loose ground from the beginning. Any specific weight training
or track training suggestions?
Brett Aitken replies:
Please forgive the long delay. It's been a hectic last month for me. Sprinting
and fast acceleration is a difficult physiological attribute to aquire for
someone who doesn't have it naturally ie.( a high percentage of fast twitch
muscle fibres). You can improve your ability though by focussing on efforts
with high power in short bursts. You can do this in weight training but it
can be a little dangerous for the inexperienced that try to do accelerated
squats for example.
I'd suggest getting a good book on plyometrics (vertical jumps, box jumps
etc.) to add to your cycling program which should also include regular sessions
of standing starts, hill sprints, motorpace sprints etc. and anything that
is specific to do with high power, speed and acceleration. After a few weeks
of the plyometrics you should see a good adaptation that will show in your
Low heart rate
I have recently been wearing a heart rate monitor every now and then, and have
noticed that I can't get my heart rate very high. The highest I can get it is
around 170, and 160 is all I can sustain. Does this mean I have a low max heart
rate, or is my heart just much stronger than my legs? When I get to that heart
rate my legs heart but I am not breathing too hard. If it helps, I am 14 and
my resting heart rate is 36-38.
Andrew Grant replies:
How long have you been training for?
From your information you may either have a naturally low heart rate or you
may be badly overtrained.
There are two distinct patterns with heart rate for overtrained athletes.
In the first pattern, the resting heart rate is high 5 to 10 beats above
normal. This accompanied by a raised heart rate for a measured power output
during racing and training, and a drop in performance. (There are a heap of
other symptoms with this stage).
The second pattern is more serious and difficult to diagnose. The resting
heart rate appears normal or low (as in your case), but the heart rate fails
to rise easily under training load. As soon as the load is removed the heart
rate drops like a stone. The problem with this form of overtraining is that
mimics the heart rate pattern of a very fit athlete, with the exception of
the heart rate dropping very quickly. How is your racing form?
An easy way to determine if you are in this form of overtrained state is
to stand up. Do you get head spins every time you stand up? The head spins
are caused by the nervous system not adjusting the blood pressure quickly.
If you think that you are overtrained email us back for more information.
Mixing interval and endurance training
For the last 10 weeks I've been doing some serious mileage, about 20 hours
a week. Now I want to incorporate some Lactate Threshold Intervals and Vo2 Max
intervals into my training. Could you suggest the best length and repetitions
for these specific intervals. Also, will it have any adverse effect if I continue
to do rides of 5+ hours at low intensity. I'd actually like to increase my weekly
riding to about 25 hours and still do speed work in between. Here is a brief
look at what a typical build week would look like:
Sunday: 5h below 70% with Vo2Max Intervals
Monday: 3h-4h below 70%
Tuesday: 3h-4h below 70% with LTH intervals
Wednesday: 5h-6h below 70%
Thursday: Rest Day
Friday: 3h below 70% with LTH Intervals
Saturday: 2h Recovery Ride or Rest Day
I'd really appreciate your views and comments.
Eddie Monnier replies:
I would have to know a lot more about you (e.g., at what level you compete,
the types of events you typically race, how long you've been training, your
capacity for training, etc.), to give more specific answers to your questions,
so I'll provide some general comments.
There are four factors to control in any training plan: frequency, duration,
intensity and recovery (frequency and duration can be collectively referred
to as volume). Additionally, once endurance is established, for many athletes
it can be maintained with an occasional long ride (e.g, once every seven or
ten days). Typically, volume comes down as intensity goes up. This allows
you to really focus on intensity and recovery during Build periods. That's
not to say there aren't times when it's appropriate to overreach by keeping
both relatively high, but it needs to be followed by adequate recovery or
can ultimately lead to overtraining (actually quite difficult to do, but it
Regularly doing 20+ hours as you have been doing is quite a bit of volume.
It may be that it's suitable for you, but it is a considerable amount and
more than many Category I/II riders, for example, would be logging. As for
increasing your hours by 25 percent and adding intensity, I would advise against
this. For example, for a typical rider with 20 hours as an appropriate peak
volume, I would expect volume to drop to 12-16 hours per week during Build.
This is just an example to show you relative volumes.
To address your question about what length and number of repetitions are
"best" for improving lactate threshold and VO2max, that's not an easy question
to answer because there is no clear cut answer. There are a variety of different
intervals formats that could be . For example, you could do 8 x 5-mins at
LTP (lactate threshold power) with 1-min recovery. You could also do 3 x 15-mins
at LTP with 3-mins recovery or just about anything in between.
For VO2max intervals, I like to refer to these as wVO2max (wattage at VO2max)
intervals because we're trying to improve the wattage we can generate at VO2max
more so than actually increasing VO2max. In any event, these can also take
a number of formats. I've had good results using 1-min at wVO2max (estimated
by the average power sustained in an all-out 6-min effort) with 1-min recovery
until you cannot sustain the target wattage for two consecutive intervals
(usually 10-15 efforts). You could also do 5-7 x 3-mins at wVO2max with 2-3-mins
recovery. I've also seen these prescribed in durations as long as 5-mins with
5-min recoveries, but it would require lowering the intensity below what I've
recommended here (i.e., probably to a wattage that you could sustain for 10-12
Hopefully, I've given you some things to think about. Good luck with your
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