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Form & Fitness Q & A
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Fitness questions and answers for March 15, 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.
Upgrading Categories & weight training
Breakfast before or after
Base building vs hard group rides?
Leg length discrepancy
Upgrading Categories & weight training
I'm a 26 year old, self-coached, Cat IV with a strong chance of moving up to
Cat III by the end of the season. I'm starting to take a more annual view of
my training and am wondering what I can start to do now in hopes of making Cat
II by the end of next season.
With strength helping me get quicker, tactics are going to be equally important
for me to learn as I progress up the ranks. Should I be looking at acquiring
a coach now or wait until my season is over? Adding to my winter training through
weights? And what are the best ways to acquire the tactical knowledge to move
me up through the ranks?
Niskayuna, NY USA
Ric Stern replies:
It's good to hear that you're improving your fitness, with a view to moving
up the categories. A coach can further help you with both specific training
and practical coaching advice. Often a coach will be able to make the most
efficient use of your time, and myself or one of the other coaches in the
fitness Q&A at cyclingnews.com would be delighted to help you. Whenever you
take on a coach, will help you to improve, and the sooner you start coaching
the sooner the likelihood you'll start improving.
It's unlikely that strength training will increase your fitness in relation
to your cycling goals, which I assume are geared towards endurance cycling
performance. In fact weight/strength training may even be detrimental to endurance
performance, as the increase in body mass, will mean more weight has to be
carried uphill. Additionally, an increase in muscle cross sectional area will
mean a relative decrease in mitochondrial and capillary density, which is
Dario Fredrick replies:
Regarding when you might want to begin working with a coach, there are advantages
to starting now as well as at the end of the season. Working with a coach
right away will help you to address your goals of improving your tactical
knowledge and expenditure of energy during races. On the other hand, unless
you feel you need to change your training structure, it may be an easier transition
if it happens in the off season, after you give yourself a significant recovery
break and are mentally ready to make such a change.
Regarding strength/weight training in the winter, it depends on what your
strengths are. Do you have a tendency to easily put on muscle mass when you
apply resistance training (weights or similar)? Do you have a tendency to
push big gears, but have difficulty with endurance or speed? If so, strength
may already be your natural "strength," suggesting that a focus on other areas
of training, such as muscular endurance and speed may be more appropriate.
However, if you want to improve climbing strength or explosive speed, a weight
training program can help.
It appears that power-oriented (explosive) resistance training may improve
short duration efforts without compromising the gains from endurance training.
One well designed study with trained cyclists demonstrated that explosive-style
strength training improved average power for a 30 second maximum effort (Bastiaans,
et al., 2001).
Since climbing usually requires more strength (force) than riding the equivalent
power on flat terrain (power = force x cadence), strength training in combination
with endurance training may also help improve your climbing. While there is
not extensive research on these effects, many cyclists have experienced gains
in climbing performance from the addition of strength training to their endurance
program. Most studies examined the combined effects of strength and endurance
training vs. endurance training alone, but only a few have directly compared
them with trained cyclists. Researchers typically measure endurance performance
either by cycling time to exhaustion at a set percentage of one's VO2max,
or by average power for a 1 hour time trial.
For trained cyclists the combination of strength and endurance training seems
to have no added effect on improving either VO2max or 1 hr time trial performance
over the effects of endurance training alone (Bishop, et al., 1999). These
results may suggest that strength training does not raise VO2max or improve
power over a long time trial, but do they apply to climbing performance or
shorter, more intense efforts in races? Furthermore, you can improve your
maximum sustainable power without changing your VO2max.
Simply speaking, the benefits of strength training are variable and depend
on the individual and how you apply it to your training. Just keep in mind
the old adage: "Train your weaknesses, race your strengths."
Bastiaans, J. J., A. B. van Diemen, T. Veneberg, and A. E. Jeukendrup. The
effects of replacing a portion of endurance training by explosive strength
training on performance in trained cyclists. Eur J Appl Physiol. 86:79-84,
Bishop, D., D. G. Jenkins, L. T. Mackinnon, M. McEniery, and M. F. Carey.
The effects of strength training on endurance performance and muscle characteristics.
Med Sci Sports Exerc. 31:886-891, 1999.
Ric Stern adds:
I must disagree with Dario on the issue of weight training. The cited study
reports that explosive style strength training prevents a decrease
in 30-sec sprint power at 60-revs/min when compared to a training group
only practising endurance workouts (p. 83)
I'm currently authoring a review paper on the effects of strength/weight
training and endurance cycling performance!
Dario went on to say, "Since climbing usually requires more strength (force)
than riding the equivalent power on flat terrain (power = force x cadence),
strength training in combination with endurance training may also help improve
As I've pointed out time and time again, strength is simply defined as the
maximal force or tension developed by a muscle or group of muscles (see McArdle
Katch and Katch). Climbing may require more force, but to use force and strength
synonymously is incorrect.
Strength training has the potential to increase muscle cross sectional area
(hypertrophy) or to increase neuromuscular function. in the former hypertrophy
will increase the maximal amount of force you can apply, whereas the latter
has little or no effect of crossover, as adaptations occur at the specific
joint angle and velocity at which they're trained.
Hypertrophy, will almost certainly increase peak power output (i.e., 5-sec
sprint power) and of course is used extensively by track sprinters and kilo/500-m
riders who are limited by such issues. However, the hypertrophy will mean
an increase in mass, which has to be lugged uphill (which of course isn't
a problem/issue for track sprinters). On the other hand it's a distinct disadvantage
for the endurance rider who races under different topographical conditions.
Furthermore, an increase in hypertrophy will mean a (relative) decrease in
mitochondrial and capillary density.
Additionally, peak forces occur from a stationary start, and are much reduced
when pedaling at anywhere vaguely near a normal cadence. assuming that the
hill in question isn't e.g. <5-secs in duration it's limited by the power
that you can produce at VO2max/MAP and power at LT.
The forces encountered during climbing (assuming a standing start isn't involved)
are actually quite low, even by elite senior male riders. These forces can
be met by untrained (healthy) individuals who are age, gender, and mass matched.
It's the ability to keep the power coming that's the problem, and that's a
cardio-respiratory and metabolic issue.
Dario Fredrick replies:
I see the confusion of terminology. The literal meaning of "strength" was
not used appropriately. In layman's terms, force, resistance and strength
training are often used synonomously, and that was an error on my part. I
will substitute "resistance" for "strength" with regard to weight training
for cycling and high force/low cadence training on the bike.
In the Bastiaans, et al. (2001) study, they did show an increasing tendency
in 30sec power in the experimental group after 4 weeks of explosive strength
training (although it was not statistically significant), with mean power
increasing from 665.8W (±50.5) to 695.1W (±85.3) (p.82). Thereafter, from
4 to 9 weeks, 30sec power did not change. There was a significant group-by-training
interaction, which does not necessarily mean an improvement in the experimental
group, but looking at the numbers suggests a tendency toward improvement in
that group. Furthermore, the control group (no explosive strength training)
showed a significant decrease in 30sec power at 9wks [760.2W (±99.1)
to 715.2W (±66.3).
I agree that most areas of performance in cycling (climbing, sprinting, time
trialing) are best improved by training on the bike. While the scientific
literature does not show an improvement in the endurance performance of trained
cyclists with weight training, I have seen improvements in cyclists' climbing
power with a progression of weight training and resistance training on the
bike. This has been the case with both beginning-level cyclists and well-trained
cyclists who are early in their training cycle. Using power meters, I have
found that the force (torque) component of power increases since higher power
is produced at the same cadence. This is the point I was trying to establish
in my previous response but obviously misused the term "strength" training
instead of high force or resistance training on the bike.
Breakfast before or after
I have been reading up on some of your fitness Q&A and read back in November
27 that drinking milk can have a bad affect in muscle recovery due to the
lactose levels and Lactic acid build up in the legs, learning this has prompted
my to ask my question. I train most mornings on the bike 4-5 days a week and
an average of 60km's I never eat my breakfast before I train, instead I have
it after my ride, about an hour after to be precise. Could this be having a
negative affect on my recovery?
I stopped eating breakfast before rides as I would feel full and sometime ill
while riding, also time of day, I leave home most mornings at 5am.
Scott Saifer replies:
I was not involved in the panel last November, so I hope someone will bring
me up to speed on this question. Lactose is a disaccharide made up of glucose
and galactose. The metabolism of galactose starts with it's conversion to
glucose 1-phosphate, after which it follows the same metabolic pathway the
glucose 1-phosphate which is released during glycogenolysis. What does 12-carbon
lactose have to do with 3-carbon lactic acid?
Meanwhile, yes, training 60km without eating beforehand will have a substantial
negative effect on recovery in that such a ride will deplete glycogen stores
more than the same ride after breakfast when sugars and fats from breakfast
will be utilized, sparing glycogen. Since performance is impaired while glycogen
is depleted and it takes several days to restore deeply depleted glycogen
stores, such a pattern of not eating and riding will most likely impair performance.
Ric Stern replies:
I was a panelist then, but don't recall such a response, and in fact
checking the question and answer for that day reveals that Jim responded in
with a similar response to Scott. Jim, did however, report that a lot of people
are lactose intolerant and that mixing recovery drinks with water as opposed
to milk might mean faster absorption rates. As Scott and Jim report none of
this is to do with lactate produced when training.
Additionally, as Scott suggests, training on an empty stomach after an overnight
fast is likely detrimental to performance and recovery. If you are timed limited
prior to training a light then you should endeavour to consume something light
and high in carbohydrates which can be digested rapidly such as fluids and
energy gel or a carbohydrate-electrolyte sports drink. These will help to
restore and top up liver glycogen from the overnight fast, thus allowing you
to better maintain training intensity.
Base building vs hard group rides?
I am a 39 year old enthusiastic recreational cyclist. I usually do a few races
each year in both MTN biking and Triathlons (sprints). I love MTN biking but
it is a three hour round trip before I can even hit the trails. So last summer
I bought a road bike just to keep the miles up, around 100 a week. My average
heart rate is about 158 on our 21 mile group ride every Saturday. I did Chris
Carmichael's three mile fit test in just under nine minutes last fall, but I
have yet to do one this season.
I am very confused at this time on how to improve my fitness. I started (road)
riding with a local shop last summer later realizing I was losing fitness. This,
to say the least, was very frustrating. I have read about building a solid base/foundation
level but am curious how strict I have to be during this time. (I am trying
to follow Mark Allen's recommendation of 180-39 = 141-5 = for a max foundation
building heart rate of 136) Can I still do my hard Saturday ride with the local
shop during this phase of my training or should I stay away for a certain length
of time? If so, how long? My first race is not until May 19th. At what point
should I start putting in harder workouts? My main goal is a race on June 13th.
Any help you can give would be greatly appreciated.
Floundering wannabe from Virginia Beach, VA
Dave Palese replies:
In the context of following a training plan pointed towards a target event,
the real issue is establishing a good balance of low, middle and high intensity
during your "base" cycles. There isn't anything wrong or detrimental with
doing performing some high intensity efforts during these early periods.
What can make your training less effective is spending too much time training
at these higher intensities at the expense of training time in the lower ranges.
Training at lower intensities causes positive adaptations that will serve
you well later when you start doing focused training at higher intensities
in preparation for you target events. Also, spending 8-12 weeks putting in
a good base will help prevent injuries. Many riders rush into higher intensity
training without putting in a solid foundation, and suffer avoidable injuries.
So, if Saturday is one of your days of the week that accounts for a large
chunk of your training time, I would suggest avoiding the group ride for 4-6
weeks (maybe more) until you have had a chance to do some focused base training.
As far as when you should start doing your harder workouts, or shifting to
more event specific workouts, I would say 6-8 weeks out from your target is
good. Also leave enough time to taper down your hard training so you show
up on race day fit and well rested.
Leg length discrepancy
First I just want to thank you for all of your expert advice. I have a couple
quick questions. I am relatively new to the sport of cycling and am in the base
endurance building phase of my training program. On receiving my yearly physical
my Doctor happened to mention, out of the blue, that my left leg is 2 cm shorter
than my right. I do not notice anything when I am on the bike, but I am wondering,
since it is early in my training regiment, should I try and fix this?
Second, I have been experiencing some tenderness in my Achilles tendons and
it seems to happen as a result of dropping my heels when climbing. Should I
simple try and climb without trying to harness that extra power one gets when
dropping ones heels on climbs? I am 26 yrs. old, 5t 11in, and about 170lb.
Scott Saifer replies:
Yes, you should try to do something about the leg length discrepancy. The
question is what. There are two types of leg length discrepancy: anatomical
and functional. If you have an anatomical discrepancy, the lengths of the
bones are actually different. Depending on which bones are different, shims
under the cleat or cleat position might need to be adjusted.
If you have a functional leg length difference, you have your pelvis tilted
so that one side is higher than the other even though the leg bones are the
same length. This type of discrepancy can sometimes be corrected by chiropractic
or physical therapy, and is sometimes so stuck that bike and or cleat adjustments
are required. I'd hesitate to prescribe a particular fix without actually
seeing you, so I'd suggest that you visit a competent bike-aware physical
therapist or chiropractor in your neighborhood.
When you say that you are dropping your heels, do you mean at the top or
the bottom of the pedal stroke, or both?
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