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Form & Fitness Q & A
Got a question about fitness, training, recovery from injury or a related subject?
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Fitness questions and answers for April 5, 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.
Cadence vs cadence
New saddle break-in
Sprinters are all-rounders
Cadence vs cadence
Daylight saving has come to a close for another year here in Australia which
means less daylight hours for cycling and a resulting increase in indoor cycling
sessions. My indoor machine is a Repco Bionic (with fan resistance) and my usual
indoor session comprises a 10 - 15 minute warm up and cool-down with 5x5 minute
intervals at a perceived 90 percent MHR (no HRM) interspersed with 5 minute
active rest sessions (approx 65 percent MHR).
I'm a recreational cyclist whose aim is to improve my performance so I can
hang with the faster guys in our weekly 50 - 80 km group ride over a course
that is part flat (coastal), part undulating and includes several 3 - 4km hills
(5 - 5.5 percent ave. gradient). Apart from the group ride each week I usually
do 1 indoor session (as above), 1 outdoor session (1 hr over an undulating course)
and if I can manage it a third session which could be either indoors or outdoors
depending on the season.
While this routine has improved my fitness and speed somewhat I struggle to
stay with the faster bunch (they're getting faster and fitter as well). At 47,
195 cm, 95kg and 17 percent body fat I'm one of the older, bigger and leaner
guys in the group. I think one of the problems with my training routine is that
my cadence to maintain 90 percent MHR on the exercise bike is only about 80
- 85 RPM while my road riding cadence is more like 90 - 110 RPM. Is this really
likely to be a significant factor? Do you think I would be better off removing
some of the fan blades so that the cadence of the indoor sessions is closer
to my road riding cadence?
Adelaide, Sth Australia
Brett Aitken replies:
The small cadence difference between the ergo training and road is going
to have very little bearing on your performance. The focus should be more
on the power output and the structure of your training program/routines and
how you could make better use of the other two sessions in the week.
It also looks like you have fallen into the trap of comparing yourself to
others when you should be focused on how you rate against yourself. Unfortunately
you can't control what others do, how much they train and whether they continue
to improve or not. Therefore making comparisons against them for your own
fitness isn't really effective. What is in your control though is whether
you are improving or not and you need to be able to accurately measure this.
Hill climb time trials, physiological testing, cadence improvements on the
ergo are some of the ways in which to do this.
Also be aware that every cyclist at some stage will reach a plateau in their
progressions which has a direct relationship with the type of training program
structure, intensity/recovery balance, time availability and genetic physiology.
For most people who are restricted by work they can only change the first
two. This obviously makes it hard if you can only put in 5 hours a week when
your friends can put in 10 hours.
Dario Fredrick replies:
In addition to Brett's sage advice, I would like to add that the difference
in your position between the Repco stationary bike and your road bike may
be significant. Muscular training adaptations are very specific to the position
in which they are trained, and may not transfer that well between the stationary
bike and your road bike. Unless the position of your pelvis in relation to
the bottom bracket (saddle height & setback), and the forward rotated angle
of the pelvis on both bikes is very similar, the full training benefits from
one will not transfer to the other. Crank length should ideally be the same
between both bikes as well.
Since the Repco Bionic is designed to have you sit fairly upright as it exercises
the arms also, it seems unlikely that your road bike fit is the same. Indoor
training to improve your outdoor riding would be best accomplished with your
outdoor bike on an indoor trainer that offers sufficient resistance to mimic
loads experienced on the road. Alternately, if you continue to use your current
stationary bike, do your best to match the position to your road bike.
I would like to start to train based on power. I have already read your article
about the power test, but I just have as a power-meter tool the new Tacx Trainer
which gives me actual power, max power and average power. Do you think that
with this data I can properly conduct a power test in order to define my 8 zones
Ric Stern replies:
I'm not overly familiar with the new Tacx trainer, so I'm not sure if the
data it generates is downloadable to a PC and whether you can manipulate the
data or not -- as you're looking for the highest average power over 60 seconds.
This often corresponds with the final 60 seconds, but sometimes power will
start to decrease prior to the rider stopping and you may need to backtrack
a little to get the highest 60 seconds.
If you can't download the Tacx to a PC or review the data, you may need to
make an estimate of the final 60 seconds or have an assistant do it. Additionally,
if you know the duration of the test, and the incremental rate, then you can
work out a ball park figure for the final, assuming you didn't deviate too
much from the prescribed power.
For example, the test started at 150 W and lasted 9 minutes. Incremental
rate was 25 W/min.
9 x 25 = 225 W
starting power plus duration = 150 + 225 = 375W
In the eighth minute you were at ~ 350 W and minute nine you were at ~ 375
W. Depending on the exact protocol used and how much you deviated your maximal
aerobic power (MAP) would've been somewhere between 350 and 375 W.
However, in practice it may not be too important to have an exact figure.
This is because the zones are quite big with overlap, and as training progresses
you'll be able to further refine exactly where you want to be within a zone.
I just want to know if having a road bike makes a big difference in your speed.
I currently have a great, fairly light, mountain bike and am riding very well
with it. I am wondering if I should buy a road bike, but only if it will make
a big difference in my speed and overall riding.
Scott Saifer replies:
Several years ago I worked with a charity organization that prepared beginning
and intermediate riders for 100-mile bike rides. Many of the participants
switched from mountain to road bikes at mid-season, so I can say with some
certainty that the difference in speed for the same effort between a MTB with
fat tires and an upright riding position on the one hand and a skinny-tire
road with a low riding position on the other hand is about 4 mph (6 kph) if
your speed before switching is in the low teens mph or a little under 20 kph.
The faster you ride before the switch, the bigger the difference the switch
will make. This difference is large enough that it is virtually impossible
to be competitive on a MTB in a road race. If you are competitive on a MTB
in a road race, that just means you should be riding against stronger riders.
You can partly overcome the disadvantage of the MTB by putting on very skinny
slick tires and riding in a crouched, stretched out position.
New Saddle Break-in
I am a 41 year-old recreational road rider, 6ft (183 cm), 170lb (77 kg), who
primarily trains for "challenge century" rides: 100+ miles (160 km) with 10,000+
feet (3300 m) of climbing. I recently purchased a new saddle because my old
one, while very comfortable for these long rides, had worn out in the nose area
and was starting to ruin my cycling shorts. The new saddle has more of a racing
profile - long narrow front, less generous back padding - than the old, and
both have a center cut-out for "soft tissue relief." I installed the new saddle
in the same position as the old one, and have been using it for about a week
now (8 hours total riding time).
My question is: how long should I endure the discomfort before (1) making a
position change (fore/aft, height, tilt), or (2) give up and try another saddle?
The discomfort is strictly at the contact points between my body and the back
part of the saddle, is not severe, and is temporarily relieved by standing up
for a several seconds. Although the pain has not significantly affected my training
so far, I would not want to use the new saddle on an all-day ride at this point.
[In case the panel want to know more specifics: the old saddle is a WTB Speed
V, and the new is a Selle Italia Max Flite Gel Flow.]
Blacksburg, VA, USA
Scott Saifer replies:
Unlike older all-leather saddles, modern saddles with a plastic shell and
leather cover have virtually no break in period. I'd suggest trying to adjust
the position immediately and if you do not find relief, get a different saddle.
Because different saddles have different shapes, you will sit on them differently,
meaning that setting an identical saddle height and set-back measured to the
saddle nose will not necessarily put you in the same position on two different
Cyclingnews tech guy John Stevenson adds:
I'm a believer in the idea that you should find a saddle you love and buy
several of them. If the WTB worked for you, then get another, or something
as similar as possible. The WTB saddles and Flites have quite different shapes,
and it would be surprising if you found both comfortable.
I'm a 41 year old fit and healthy intermediate road cyclist, 6 feet tall for
165 pounds. I have a resting heart rate of 44 and max out at 172. I've been
riding more or less for fun and fitness since my early 20's, but four years
ago, I got the racing bug really bad. I take part in about 7 to 8 "cyclosportives"
races (125km long timed group races that focus mainly on friendly competition)
every summer and do them mostly for the fun and camaraderie. As for training,
I've read many article, books and sought the advice from a variety of sources
(including cyclingnews...) to get a basic idea of how to train and what to eat.
I favour LSD, long slow distance, to start the season, then gradually incorporate
thougher and more demanding rides as I get fitter. I eat a well balanced diet
of lean meats, fresh fruits and veggies and an adequate amount of carbs.
After a long or hard training ride (or race), I always get a lot of mucus in
my lungs. I have to clear my throat every few minutes, sometimes for hours,
even the next day! I am lactose intolerant, but have taken all dairy products
out of my diet for years now. Why does this excess mucus occur after my rides?
Benoit Nave replies:
The mucus problem you are talking about is quiet common for endurance athletes.
The fact that you are lactose intolerant means that your intestine is kind
of fragile. You probably have also a slight intolerance to gluten that doesn't
cause a problem in your daily life except when you have respiratory infections
(throat, nose, lungs, ears) and also when you have your lungs working: when
exercising. This intolerance leads to a chronic gut (intestinal) inflammation
that allows gluten proteins to get through your intestinal cells. In case
you like to eat a lot of wheat products (bread, pasta, even home maid pastries
with wheat flour...) and other cereals that contain gluten (oat, barley, rye...),
your body might have difficulty metabolizing some of their proteins that are
not recognizable by our enzymes.
Mucus is one way to excrete it. From here it is obviously not possible to
be 100 percent sure of this diagnosis, but the best way for you to rule this
out, would be to strictly avoid all wheat products and all other cereals,
cookies, pastries etc. that contains wheat or any cereal with gluten in it,
for a couple of months.
Here is a list of cereal and carbohydrates that do not contain gluten: rice,
millet, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, corn, potatoes, all the legumes (lentils,
Alternatively if you go to www.2peak.com and in the menu > tools, then >
tools again and click on the option > nutrition questionnaire, you can download
a document you can use to log your diet for a few weeks and hand it to a nutritionist.
This way he would be able to help you a lot faster.
Give it a try and let us know!
Sprinters are all-rounders
As a former USCF category I racer, and current physiological consultant to
competitive cyclists, in response to your March 29 article titled "Limitations
on sprinting," I would like to echo the sentiments of some of your contributors,
that sprinting in road cycling is a relative term, and as such, makes it a very
trainable skill for most competitive cyclists. As Mr. Aitken pointed out, elite
road cyclists, regardless of perceived or stated specialty, are very homogenous
in physiological characteristics. All have a predominance of slow twitch muscle
fibers, high aerobic capacity and relatively high anaerobic/lactate thresholds.
The reason top sprinters like Petacchi, or Cipo can't get over climbs like the
Poggio with the front group is that they don't train that way. Similarly, the
reason many rouleurs aren't taking sprints is that they don't train that way.
The example Jeff cites in his initial question, that of Lance Armstrong finishing
fourth in a group of four is actually an apt example. If you look back over
Lance's career, before his battle with cancer, loss of numerous kilos, and focus
on results as a GC contender in the big one; he was actually considered a competent
sprinter, and was often tipped to win if races came down to a sprint from a
small group. Similarly, take Laurent Jalabert, who began his career as a "pure"
sprinter. After a horrendous crash soured his taste for the bunch gallop, he
became the dominant one day rider (a la Bettini), a world champion time trialist
and overall GC contender in the grand tours. So, the line between pure sprinter
and the rest of the peloton is often a gray one.
For most recreational racers, or even racers at the more elite level, a major
limiting factor to sprinting success is taste, or stomach, for the bunch sprint.
If one has the constitution to risk being pushed into a barrier, or touch wheels
and touch pavement, they can often be quite successful in field sprints. Whereas,
if one is not ready to throw caution to the wind and go elbow to elbow in the
fight for wheels in the last 500 m, one will never get results in a sprint.
This situation often results in a catch-22, as the most important factor in
sprinting, getting and maintaining position, cannot be learned without having
a taste or stomach for the bunch sprint, and many racers never get a taste for
sprinting until they are successful, which requires getting and maintaining
position. You can see the conundrum, one cannot get experience until one has
experience. Therefore, although I agree with Jeff's synopsis of fundamental
skills (e.g. leg speed, max power etc) that need to be developed in order to
become a better sprinter, I also assert that real world scenarios need to be
found whereby the fundamental skills can be used in a repetitive fashion to
develop the more important skills of position and timing. I think you will find
that most average cyclists can become competent sprinters against their contemporaries
without developing significantly more power or speed.
If one wishes to improve overall sprinting ability, practice races or group
mock criteriums can be used for this purpose. A simple practice race, with twenty
experienced participants and sprints every 5 or 10 laps on a criterium course
can be worth as much finishing experience as a month of weekend races. The lack
of pressure from prize money or upgrade points can give the individual the freedom
to try going early, or leaving it late, or even leading it out. Therefore, the
individual learns their strengths and weaknesses, and at the same time gains
invaluable experience which will instill an innate sense of timing and flow,
that is also critical to success at finishing. It should be noted that sprinting
against a training partner would do little to reinforce these skills.
These short mock races will also help the individual break the end of the race
into critical landmarks. As Ed Monnier pointed out, the sprint in a criterium
is really two sprints, one for the last turn, then one for the line. This can
be extended to the last kilometer, or last five kilometers of a race, and mock
races with repeated finishes consisting of several kilometers will help the
racer identify these critical points of the finish of a race through repetition.
The crucible of the sprint is the best teaching tool for sprinting and repetition
will instill that innate sense of timing necessary to be successful in the sprint,
regardless of one's strengths and/or weaknesses.
All of this being said, there will still be some racers who cannot sprint their
way out of a paper bag, no matter how much they train or practice. Fortunately
for them, they are likely the ones who are aerobic machines and can rip the
legs off of a breakaway, and for the most part don't need to sprint.
Stephen J. McGregor, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Exercise Science
Eastern Michigan University
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