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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 February 23, 2004

An hour on the trainer = X on the road
Saddle Rash
High protein diets
Electric muscle stimulators
Nutrition & weight loss
'Bonking' after eating

An hour on the trainer = X on the road

I have a fairly simple question. Given that it's base time of year up here in New England, most of my riding is still indoors. For an hour on the mag trainer at an E1, E2 pace (Friel Program) what is the equivalent to time spent on the road outside.

If my training plan calls for a 4.5hr E2 ride and I do it inside, should I still do 4.5hrs or do less. Trust me I've already done numerous 3hr+ rides inside this year and it is no fun. I don't want to end up overtraining because an hour on the trainer equals 1.5 outside. So far I've been able to match hr for hr on all except a few rides where I just felt dead.

Thanks for the help.

John E

Steve Owens replies:

I'm going to give you my opinion on this and hopefully others will chime in with theirs because opinions vary. I live in Colorado where the weather is far from steady. For example, it'll be 61 degrees here as a high and they're calling for snow tomorrow.

I coach some people in the northeast United States and know their weather is just cold all the time. I tell those athletes that in a perfect world (Tucson, AZ in the winter), you should try to hit your weekly hour goals and of course get in the work time (WT) on the bike as well. In a situation that invites hypothermia, attaining those weekly hours might be a slight problem. I have to tell my athletes that getting in the WT on the bike will have to take precedence over duration because it's not realistic to ride stationary indoors for the prescribed amount of time.

To answer your question of how much time on a trainer equals time outdoors, I go off the concept that the human body knows time and intensity, not distance. Time on the bike, whether it's indoors on a trainer or outdoors, is time on the bike. In an effort to get all the benefits of base endurance training (i.e. - increase in mitochondrial size and density, capillary density, aerobic enzyme development and general efficiency), you can't say that 2 hours inside on a trainer would give you the same benefits as 3 hours outdoors when trying to accomplish certain physiological benefits. I would be interested to hear otherwise.

Richard Stern replies:

I'd take a different view point to Steve on this. What matters during training is the power that you're producing and the duration that you ride for, i.e. the work done. During most rides outdoors (exceptions would include a pan-flat TT), approximately 20 to 30% of a ride (especially on hilly/rolling roads) is of a very low or zero intensity (i.e. power output tends to be very low or zero). This is caused by soft pedaling down hills, coasting, taking it easy on corners, having a short break (while coasting), etc. Thus, this time doesn't contribute to increased fitness as it's not at a high enough level to stress and cause an adaptation.

Added to the fact that most people find indoor training exceedingly boring, I usually make a blanket suggestion that long rides that are done inside can be reduced in duration by ~ 20 to 30% (depending on how much coasting that person would usually make, which I'd know from previous data). On shorter rides that are prescribed outdoors (e.g. 90-mins) I'd keep the indoor ride the same duration.

Additionally, it's important to know, that because outdoor cycling is variable in intensity (i.e. uphill your power will almost certainly be higher than when riding on the flat), you should to try to replicate this increased intensity indoors (e.g. a few minutes or whatever the duration of your hills are on such a prescribed outdoor ride at fairly high intensity).

Scott Saifer replies:

I'll mostly agree with Steve, but add a slightly different philosophical twist. He's entirely right that the body knows time and intensity, and doesn't know indoors from outdoors, as long as you have a source of moving air for your indoor sessions. One could argue that indoor training is more efficient in the sense that one doesn't coast down-hill, stop for cross-traffic, or wait for a buddy to change a flat. For riders who live near San Francisco, as I do, where nearly every ride is hilly and encounters at least some interference from traffic, a two hour outdoor ride might include 100 minutes of quality work, so a steady 1:40 on the trainer could be argued to be as effective as two hours outdoors.

This begs the question however of whether a rider in my neighborhood should claim two hours 'credit' for a two hour outdoor ride. Here's where the philosophical point comes in. When you show up to race, no official is going to ask to see your training log. What matters is things like how strong, how efficient and how fast you are. If your competitors are finding a way to dress warmly and get epic six hour rides in the snow all winter, your two or three hours on the trainer are not going to prepare you to win, even if they are counted correctly. If your competitors are heading off to training camps in Arizona or Mallorca, riding all day almost every day through the winter, it really doesn't matter if you are following your plan to the letter, or skipping half the days. What matters is how much quality training you are actually doing, and how it compares to what your competitors are doing.

In short, you shouldn't be asking someone else for permission to train less, you should be asking yourself if your body and mind can handle more for the months and years it takes to become a successful bike racer, and if it can, you should be asking how you are going to make the time for that additional training. If you are at the limit of what you can handle now, it really doesn't matter how much more you should be doing to match some arbitrarily defined number of training hours.

Are you training as much as you are willing to train? Can you accept the results you'll likely get based on how much training you are doing?

(None of this should be construed to mean that I support blindly adding hours if the body is not staying strong and healthy or not responding well to training. The question of how much training an individual can handle is part of a whole other topic.)

Saddle rash

I am a 35 year old male enthusiast, currently riding up to 300kms per week. I'm approximately 180cm tall, & weigh 85kgs. For some time I have been suffering from recurring saddle rash, but because I've increased my kms & ride frequency, it has become almost impossible to ride any more than 2 days consecutively, (at best), without staying off the bike for a further 2 days to allow the rash to settle enough to place my butt back on the seat for a relatively pain free ride. I've recently upgraded my seat to a "Selle Italia 3 spot gel", & purchased new nicks, on the advice of many "Experts", to no avail. Being summer in Australia also suggests training in high temperatures. What other things should I consider in this quest for relative normality?


Andrew Grant replies:

As you are an Australian you will be able to get a product called Lucas Paw Paw Ointment. Fermented Paw Paw in a bees wax base, it is bacteriostatic and antifungal. Works really for saddle and nappy rash.

[Also, There was a discussion about this in our letters page a while ago. You can read what our readers had to say here, here and here. -Cyclingnews Eds]

High protein diets

I'm really perplexed by this whole high protein diet craze. On one hand, it seems that it works for some people, but as an athlete, I worry about not having enough carbos to keep the legs going 'round. Everything in the US has gone "low-carb" crazy (even beer!), but there doesn't seem to be any eye toward total calories. What's the real deal and is a revision of the old food pyramid in order?

Steve Smith

Scott Saifer replies:

Low carb diets are not suitable for more serious endurance athletes. You are correct that one must consume starchy carbohydrate to sustain extensive endurance training. I like to think of starchy carbohydrate as fuel. If you don't tank up before a long drive, you won't finish the trip. If you don't tank up after a long drive, you can't go anywhere the next day. If you tank up even though you haven't driven, the fuel ends up in a puddle around your waist.

To make that a little more clear, low-carb diets are great for people who don't exercise or who exercise very little. If you exercise 30-45 minutes per day, you can probably sustain good effort from the carbohydrates found in non-starchy fruits and vegetables. The more you exercise, the more carbohydrate you need to consume. The cutoff for different people will be different, but training less than 45-60 minutes per day for someone who is already trained probably does not require any starchy carbohydrates. Beyond 60 minutes, small amounts of starchy stuff are needed. Beyond four hours per day, you need a lot of starch, the classic bike-racer diet of pasta, bread and potatoes.

If you train a lot more one some days than others, adjust your diet accordingly, eat like a professional racer on days when you ride longer than a couple of hours, and like a diet-conscious sedentary individual on the days when you train less than a couple of hours.

Electric muscle stimulators

I am 15 year old male, I race road a lot.

After races I have really tight muscles which prevent me from riding for 3-4 days after a race. Can you tell me what the best way to loosen muscles. I can't stretch in one leg because it gives me pain in my knee. I have heard electric muscle stimulators loosen muscles is this true? Are there any other alternatives?

Scott Saifer replies:

If you are getting so tight that you can't ride for 3-4 days after a race, there is something wrong with what you are doing before the race. Warm baths, stretching and gentle massage can help loosen tight muscles, but it sounds to me as if there is something not right in your training. Since you haven't said anything about your training, I can't say what the problem might be.

Nutrition & weight loss

I have a quick little question for you. I am a 19 year old Cat 3 who has been racing for 3 years now. From the start, I have had a little extra fat around my gut, and inside my quads that I'd like to get rid of. Based on the measurements of a Tanita scale, my body fat percentage is around 9%. I ride around 250-350 miles a week during the season. Off season I do at least 12 hours of activity, be it ride outside, ride the rollers/trainer, play raquetball, yoga. I'd really like to get ride of this last bit of lagging pudge, and increase my strength to weight ratio. I'd appreciate any insight.

C. Chesebro

Brett Aitken replies:

The key to weight loss is to focus on increasing your metabolism since this is where the majority of calories are burned throughout the day (before and after you've finished exercise).

Metabolism is affected by a number of factors with the core ones being nutrition and exercise. On the nutrition side you should be very careful about dieting. Diets don't work because most people lose muscle as well as fat which effectively means they have lost weight but still have a relatively high body fat percentage. The loss of muscle reduces the body's metabolism (in an athletes case, power as well) and usually the dieter ends up putting the weight back on as a result.

However weight loss is still dependant on calories out versus calories in and a 500 calorie deficit per day for calorie intake is recommended. For an athlete to do this you should reduce your fat intake down to a minimum of 20% of total calories and increase your protein/carbohydrate intake. Also spread your daily calorie intake out over 6 meals which helps keep your blood sugar levels more constant.

On the exercise side of the equation any muscle gain and/or aerobic exercise such as cycling will help push your metabolic rate up. The best form of exercise for weight loss is high intensity (75-90% of max hr) using intervals (5 to 15 minutes) as the basis and it should be done early in the day to gain the advantage of an increased metabolism over the remainder of the day. Even better is if you can go out after the high intensity intervals and then ride at low intensity for an hour or two where you will really tap into your fat stores. If you incorporate this into your programme 3 times a week it won't take long to see a difference.

"Bonking" after eating

I am a male, thirty-eight years of age and like to refer to myself as an intermediate road cyclist/racer. I have become aware of a problem that occurred during my last three 100km races, so I need a little help on this one. I start the race off in good spirit, drink regularly (every 10 minutes) my CHO drink and stay comfortably with the leading bunch (my start group anyway). After roughly one hour I start to tank up by chewing a third to half of a TVM energy bar. Now this is where the problem starts. Like clockwork, I 'bonk' within a period of five minutes after eating. My legs become dead weight and needless to say, can't stay with the bunch anymore. Sometimes I'm lucky and energy comes back closer to the end of the race, other times I'm 'keep going' mode the rest of the race. I am not diabetic, but I feel this is somehow related to blood sugar levels or such. I am seeing a dietician to sort out this problem but with no luck so far.

Any ideas, thoughts, suggestions will be appreciated.

Dawid Smit
South Africa

Brett Aitken replies:

It's difficult to make an assumption until you've cross checked all the possibilities here and tried another type of food in similar conditions.

However there could be a number of reasons why you are blowing up and without knowing the contents of the energy bar you've mentioned a possible reason might be the quantity, type and time which you ate food before the race. Is the energy bar in question causing blood to be concentrated in the stomach rather than the working muscles? Or did you have high glycaemic foods before the race which gave you a quick sugar high early in the race followed by a blood sugar low around the time of eating the energy bar?

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