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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 November 22, 2004

Energy replenishment for the Etape
Ruptured Achilles tendon
Bi-carb soda
Cat 5 Racer
Decrease my muscle mass?
Giving blood?
Hip flexor pain
Fitting of a recumbent
Winter drinking
Winter weight training redux
Time pedals
Long term use of prednisone

Energy replenishment for the Etape

I am entered to do the 2005 l'Etape du Tour. I know this will take me about 9 hours and that at an aerobic work rate I will consume c800-900 kcal per hour. This means I will burn between 7000-9000 kcal during the ride. I expect to replenish this with a combination of carb drinks and solid food stuffs. I will also be carbo loading before the event. My question is this, given that I will be carbo loading before, should I aim to replenish all the energy burnt during the event of just a percentage, as some will come from body stores, if so what percent should I aim to replace during the event?

Simon Cook

Pam Hinton replies:

The trick to surviving an endurance event like the Etape is to keep yourself fueled up as you ride so that you never burn all of your reserves and have to run on empty. You are following all of the recommended practices: carbo-loading before the event will top off your glycogen stores before you start the event; consuming carbohydrates during the event will prevent your tank from running all the way down to empty; and consuming a variety of beverages and solid foods will keep things palatable.

During exercise, skeletal muscle has five primary energy sources: glucose stored as glycogen in the muscle; blood glucose; muscle lactate which can be converted into glucose in the liver and sent back to the muscles for energy; fatty acids circulating in blood, and fat stored as triglycerides in muscle. We are primarily concerned with blood glucose and muscle glycogen because when these fuel sources are depleted, fatigue hits hard and performance drops markedly. The glucose in blood (about 20 g) and in skeletal muscle (350 g) will last for approximately 90 minutes of moderate intensity exercise (60-70 percent of VO2max). It is possible to delay or prevent the onset of fatigue, i.e., the point at which you crash out, by consuming carbohydrate at regular intervals throughout the entire ride. The recommended intake is 30-60 grams of carbohydrate per hour. Drinking 16-32 ounces of a commercial fluid replacement beverage that contains 4-8 percent carbohydrates every hour, would meet this guideline. Following this guideline will maintain blood glucose levels, but will not replenish energy at the rate you are burning it. As you point out, you will be expending about 800 kcal per hour, but 30-60 grams of carbohydrate only provides 120-240 kcal per hour. As long as you maintain blood glucose levels, creating an energy deficit during the event should not be problematic.

Your plan to consume some of the carbohydrate in the form of solid food is a good one. You will be sick of carbohydrate-containing sports beverages after drinking them for nine hours straight. There’s nothing wrong with eating “real food” during an event like the Etape. “Energy” gels and bars are fine, but they, too, can become revolting after a while. So, check out the ingredients labels on your favorite snack foods and you’ll begin to see that you can get carbohydrates from a plethora of sources.

Ruptured Achilles tendon

I am a 33 year old male USCF cyclist. My mileage typically is between 250-300 miles/week and usually consists of hard group rides and occasional racing. I recently ruptured my left Achilles tendon while attempting to push a car up a slight incline. I can no longer recommend such an activity. I have had my ruptured tendon repaired surgically and am waiting for the day when I can return to the bike. I am also an orthopaedic researcher and I have long been interested in studies which have shown diminished bone mineral density in competitive cyclists. I am of the belief that cycling does not induce sufficient stimulus to initiate bone remodeling as I believe has been clearly shown in the literature. I have to wonder whether the same thing could occur with regard to tendon strength/remodeling. I have two questions. First, I would be interested to know if there have been cases of cyclists who rupture their Achilles tendon and return to competition at a high level. From what I’ve read I am guessing that this is likely the case but I thought there might be some notable examples. My main concern is with increased pedal force during sprinting and hill climbing(very steep long hills and short steep hills in the big ring). Not that I would try any of this for a good while. Can you provide me with any cycling specific recommendations for returning to my previous fitness level. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Anthony Alexander

Steve Hogg replies:

I have seen a few people coming back from the same injury as yours but only one elite rider. He is Nick Gates and currently rides for Lotto/Domo. 6 1/2 years ago he ruptured an Achilles tendon and it was my job to position him so as to allow him to ride a 2 week stage race 6 weeks after he got out of plaster!

See my previous posts Cleat Positioning 1 & 2 and Ball of Foot. It is crucial that you position your cleat so as to limit ankle movement to that which can be well controlled. If you use a cycling shoe with a lot of heel lift in the last or pedal with a pronounced heel dropping technique, then it worth experimenting with an extra mm or two more rearward cleat position than is mentioned in those posts. If you get the cleats too far back, ankle movement will be limited too much and there will be no ' flow' at the bottom of the pedal stroke which will become jerky. That possibility won't help your tendon recover either.

If your current cleat position is ' ball of the foot over the pedal axle', then be very, very careful as this will only place more stress on the Achilles tendon than necessary or is sensible.

If positioning your cleats as directed in those posts requires you to move them a lot further back than you have them now, then you will possible need to drop your seat height by 3 or 4mm to compensate for the extra extension of the leg. One thing that can happen with a repaired tendon rupture, is a loss of range of movement either short or long term. If this is the case, a small build up under the cleat [ try 3mm as a starter] doesn't go astray either.

NG got through his stage race OK and other people I have positioned post tendon rupture have been fine too, but a sensible attitude and not pushing too hard or spinning too fast to soon is indispensable.

Dave Fleckenstein replies:

I would not worry in the least about any long term implications from your injury. While I have had the opportunity to work with a number of recreational cyclists that suffered this injury with no ill effects, I think that it is more worth looking at athletes from other sports that return from this injury. If a professional football or basketball player can return from this injury and tolerate aggressive jumping and cutting, there is no reason that a cyclist should have to do anything to alter their training or alignment on the bike.

In the long run, I would rather see you with a normal pedal and cleat setup to maximize your power and efficiency on the bike. The one exception to this is in the immediate post injury phase (up to three months) when it may be advantageous to take some stress off of the tendon, in which case I find Steve's recommendations excellent. Although I have not seen a formal study, I cannot imagine cycling placing nearly as much stress on the tendon as a ballistic full weight bearing activity such as walking up or down steps (when I need an activity to gain motion without placing large forces on a tendon or joint, cycling is often the tool of choice). Thus, with a successful rehab, you should have normal tensile strength and mobility of the tendon that should support stresses much greater than what cycling would provide.

With regards to the actual remodeling of tissue (search research from Savio Woo) we find that submaximal stresses are adequate to remodel tissue. My typical rehab consists of an initial slow progression of flexibility and resistance training, manual mobilization of the tissue, proprioceptive retraining of the leg, and use of ice and ice massage post-workout. I have a current patient who, at 4 months post injury, has returned to single and double leg hopping, jogging, and normal weight lifting with no difficulty (and he is 60+ years old!).

Bi-carb soda

I was told by a cyclist/scientist recently that including small quantities of Bi-carb soda into a pre-race/training meal can delay the onset of lactic acid build up. I guess the theory is that it will slightly increase the pH of the blood (making it basic) and when you start to push that lactic acid onset is slower, essentially allowing you to push harder giving you a greater threshold. I guess it makes sense scientifically but could it really be that good for you?

Jesse Thomas

Richard Stern replies:

Your colleague was in part correct. However, that's not the full story. Large quantities of sodium bicarbonate taken prior to intense, maximal exercise will help the efflux of H+ ions (which are associated with lactic acid) thus acting as a buffer during intense, short-term, all-out exercise (think maximal efforts of less than ~ 10-minutes duration).

The amount required for such an effect is 0.3 g per kg body mass, i.e., 21 g of bicarb for a 70 kg person. However, one of the side effects of bicarb is that around 50 percent of people will suffer severe GI distress, and this might only make you fast at getting to the toilet in double quick time...!

I'm not sure that there's any evidence that bicarb loading is useful during long endurance events though.


I've lost 35 pounds but can't lose the fat around my stomach or love handles. I have gotten smaller but the fat is still there. I'm age 55 and have 2 degenerative discs in my lower back, so forget situps. What to do, if anything?

Jerry Bradley

Scott Saifer replies:

Congratulations on your large weight loss. That's quite an accomplishment. There are two distinct ways in which body fat is stored. Some fat is stored within muscles and is used as fuel for the muscles in which it is stored. Think of this as the marbling in a steak. The other kind of fat is deposited not particularly in association with any muscle and will only be mobilized for energy in large quantities when you have at least partially depleted the intramuscular fat in the muscles you use for exercise. Belly fat is in this category and cannot be worked off by working belly muscles. To lose belly fat, do aerobic exercise and continue your weight loss diet. It will slowly come off. It might take several years to really disappear.

Cat 5 Racer

In the next coming year I would like to try my hand at road racing, starting out in Cat 5. I'm 31 next February, male, 85kg, and 1.8m tall living in Singapore.

During the last year I have done mainly recreational cycling for fitness. I have lost around 25 kg in the last 8 months.

What I would like to know is how best I can monitor my current performance on my dual spring mountain bike to give me an indication on whether it is worth investing in a road bike for the coming year.

What sort of level of fitness/average speed etc need I be able to attain on a mountain bike in order to have a reasonable chance of success in the road scene?

Dave Palese replies:

If your intention is to race road, then you should make the investment in the road bike.

There really is no way to compare the two and make any sort assessment to predict road race performance.

Take the plunge! You can get into many good road bikes for around $700 USD.

Cyclingnews tech editor John Stevenson adds:

I seem to have been responsible, in whole or part, for several of my mountain biking friends acquiring road bikes recently. None have regretted it. Even if you don't choose to race, a road bike is a tool for doing fitness-orientated riding in ways that are hard on a mountain bike - sustained, steady rides for example. It's also good to get some variety into your riding, and riding a road bike means you're not wearing out your proper bike!

Decrease my muscle mass?

I'm 25 years old and I have been riding for 6 years. I'm 170cm and weigh 59-61kg. I do intervals two times a week, one long ride (4-5 hours) a week and one or two "racing for fun rides" (1 or 2 hours with my friends) a week.

My problem is that I carry too much muscle mass. My upper body has about 2 kg of unnecessary muscle mass. I have only 4 percent in body fat so decreasing body fat would not result in the weight reduction I am aiming for.

How do I get rid of this "surplus"? Do I cut down on my protein intake or shall I stop refilling high GI carbs after training? I am a bit worried that I will become over-trained, broken down or chronically fatigued if I start doing this.

Johan Telander

Pam Hinton replies:

Why do you think that your 2 kg of extra upper body muscle mass is a liability and not an asset? I know a couple of Cat 1 racers whose goal this winter is to gain upper body strength, so they can improve their sprint.

Muscles atrophy (shrink) rapidly when they are not used, as anyone who has ever been immobilized in a cast can tell you. So, if you are doing any upper body strength training, cut back. Do more repetitions with less weight to stimulate muscular endurance, rather than muscle growth. Trying to selectively lose muscle from your upper body, by dietary restriction may or may not give you the result you want. You should aim for losing 0.25-0.5 kg of body weight per week and you can do this by cutting back on your energy intake by 250-500 kcal per day. You need to be judicious about when and how you cut back, though. You certainly don’t want to limit your carbohydrate intake during or after a hard training ride. That will leave you feeling chronically fatigued because your glycogen stores will never be repleted. You will be trying to run on empty. Likewise, severely restricting your total energy and/or carbohydrate intake would be detrimental because your body will have to use the amino acids from your muscle protein to make glucose. This would cause a generalized loss of muscle mass—not just your upper body.

To put your problem in perspective, I just wrote a guy who can’t add an ounce of muscle mass, no matter how hard he tries. This guy has a real problem, an autoimmune disease that would destroy his heart if untreated. The lifelong treatment, which keeps his symptoms under control, causes continual degradation of skeletal muscle. So, here’s my advice to all of us who have our health, including myself—enjoy it.

Richard Stern replies:

As I have pointed out before, doing weight training does not improve endurance, except in untrained or low-fitness subjects. Doing more reps with less weights increases neuromuscular adaptations -- these are highly specific to the joint angle and velocity at which they're trained, and do not transfer to different modalities.

Furthermore, I don't understand why improving upper body strength would improve road sprinting. The forces required to hold yourself on the bike while sprinting are low, and the forces generated by sprinting are not necessarily that high.

If you wanted to increase your sprinting power then this would be done two ways: on the bike sprint training, and through lifting very heavy weights which will increase muscle cross sectional area, leading to greater force generating properties of the muscles by increasing the contractile proteins. However, this would have the disadvantage of decreasing the relative mitochondrial and capillary density of the muscle, leading to a decrease in convective O2 delivery. Additionally, the cyclist would have a greater mass, and thus have more to lug up hill without a corresponding increase in aerobic power, which is needed for climbing.

In reply to the original poster - if he wished to lose such mass (and I have no idea whether this is a good idea or not, as we don't know enough about the poster) then not doing any upper body exercises, combined with a small energy deficit (as Pam suggests) would be the best way of losing the unwanted and unused muscle mass.

Giving blood?

I am a 27 year old male, beginning to train seriously for road cycling. I'm following the principles laid down in The Training Bible, and I've begun Base training in preparation for local Cat V racing next year. How should I alter my training plan in the various training phases (Base, Build) after donating blood? Are there any health benefits to giving blood?

Chris Wiles
Falls Church, VA, USA

Pam Hinton replies:

Sure there are health benefits to donating blood — for the people who need your blood via transfusion. Accident victims, cancer patients, and people with blood disorders, such as sickle cell anemia, all require blood transfusions. Five million Americans receive blood transfusions every year and many of them would have a hard time living without your gift. That’s why they call it a gift of life, and you are to be commended for this unselfish act. But as an athlete, there are some issues to be mindful of with respect to blood donation.

I suspect that you’ve heard donating blood stimulates production of red blood cells. This is true, but you only replace the number of cells that were lost. There is no net increase in red blood cells, i.e., hematocrit. After donating blood, the kidneys detect a decrease in oxygen carrying capacity of the blood and increase production of erythropoietin (EPO). This hormone acts on the bone marrow to stimulate production of new red blood cells. It takes several weeks to replenish your red blood cell supply, so you may fatigue more rapidly during hard training rides after donating blood.

If you are going to donate blood regularly there are several precautions to take so that it doesn’t negatively affect your training. Be sure to allow 8 weeks between donations, so that your red blood cell count is back to normal before you donate again. Production of red blood cells depends on many vitamins and minerals, besides iron: zinc, copper, vitamins B6, B12, C, and folate. Be sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables to supply the vitamins. Meat is an excellent source of iron, zinc, and protein, so, unless you’re a vegetarian, eat 2-3 servings (2 ounces is a serving) per day.

So, Chris, revel in the warm glow of this altruistic act, but be sure to take care of yourself while you’re at it.

Hip flexor pain

A question regarding a right side Hip Flexor problem. I am a 27 year old mountain biker who does a lot of training and racing on the road. I find at very high intensity in cross country races I have severe pain in my right hip flexor, to the extent in some races it is hard to peddle by the end. I have dropped my seat height a little and have found some relief but still have problems. I have also noticed I am rotated towards my left hip on the saddle. I think it might be a leg length discrepancy problem? It's very frustrating because the power is still there but I just can't use it.

Scott Wines

Steve Hogg replies:

There are 5 hip flexors on each side, where is the location of the a pain?

When you rotate towards the left side as you say, it just puts the other side under more pressure as leg of the non rotated side has to reach further to the pedals for any given seat height. The best solution would be to consult a good chiropractor, physiotherapist, osteopath or similar for a complete structural assessment. A good health professional should be able to determine the root cause of your problem and advise accordingly.

I can't stress enough that the better and more symmetrically you function off the bike, the better you will perform on the bike with less likelihood of injury. In the meantime, twist the nose of your seat off centre to the left. At the moment, sitting as you have described, your left hip is further forward. By twisting the seat nose to the left, you will square up your hips to a greater or lesser degree and the right leg won't have to reach as far to the pedals. This will reduce the symptoms somewhat, but the 100 per cent solution is an off the bike one as I have outlined. If after twisting the seat nose to the left, you feel obviously twisted, then you have gone too far. When you feel straighter and more fluid on the bike you have the degree of twist about right.

Fitting of a recumbent

I've trained and raced MTB and road bikes for 10 years now on totally amateur basis and thought I'd check out recumbents for several reasons. I'm a 52 year old male putting in a little over 4000 miles a year, which is about all the time I can muster. I thought the 'bent might, among other things, help me keep up with the "pups" I ride with on occasion when we hit the flats or rollers here in East Tennessee - they're all 25 to 45 years old.... I've read your numerous essays on fitting the road bike to the body, which I've greatly appreciated along with everyone else that reads this forum - but I've never noticed you straying over into fitment of a 'bent to a person's physique. Do you have any references to point me to, or outright advice for pedal position/distance, seat position to avoid knee issues or other? My specific bike is the Lightning-P38, which seems to have good ergonomics for climbing as well as the other stuff. There seems to be very little info around in other forums focused on 'bents in this particular area of concern.

Darryl Muck

Steve Hogg replies:

I have fitted a few people to recumbents but not enough to consider myself an authority on recumbent positioning.

I think recumbent positioning is somewhat less critical than road, track or MTB positioning simply because the pelvis and lower back are inherently more stable, as they have a back rest to brace against.

On a conventional bike, the only opposing force to that applied to the pedal is gravity. If you sit too far back on a conventional bike you would tend to push yourself off the back of the seat. If you sit too far forward the shoulder complex has to enlisted to resist pedaling forces. On a recumbent the back rest provides a stable platform to resist pedaling forces without metabolic cost, and so on flat to undulating terrain, bigger gears can be pushed than on a conventional bike for the same perceived effort.

Nothing is for free though, and on hills most recumbents carry a weight penalty as well as not having gravity to assist the pedal stroke which is out rather than down.

I would set seat to pedal reach [ I don't dare call it seat height] by the same method I have described on this forum for conventional bikes. I have always tried to position recumbent riders so that they were a similar distance below the bottom bracket on a recumbent as they would have been behind the bottom bracket on a conventional bike. This seemed logical to me the first time I positioned a recumbent rider, but I have to say that I have not verified this across a large pool of riders. I have probably positioned a couple of dozen recumbents give or take a few, so I can't claim a lot of practical experience.

Some observations that I have made are that knee problems seem less of an issue on a recumbent than for the same rider on a conventional bike. Most knee problems on a bike are because the knee, a joint that only wants to work in one plane, is located between the hip a joint that can work in a variety of planes and the ankle which can also work in a variety of planes. If the function of the foot/ankle is the root cause of a knee problem, then a recumbent rider will have similar potential for knee problems as a conventional bike rider. If the hip/lower back is the root cause of a knee problem, the problems for the recumbent rider seem, in my limited experience, to be less severe because the pelvis and lower back are supported far better than on a conventional bike. This in turn means that asymmetries of pelvic or lower back function are minimised to varying degrees.

That is probably the best info I can give, I wish I had more experience to try and pass on. The big positive with recumbents is that I am convinced that a stable pelvis achieved at the lowest metabolic cost is the key to an effective bike position. On a recumbent, the pelvis is inherently more stable than can ever be the case on a conventional bike.

Winter weight training redux

Weight training for cyclists seems to be a debated subject. I was wondering what the theories for and against were. I am two months into my squat program, and would say it does provide some help in my mountain biking (mainly when riding uphill on rough rocks and rooty trails) but was mainly hoping for more power on my road bike racing sprints.

Richard Stern replies:

In trained cyclists there's no evidence that weight training increases endurance cycling performance (events > ~ 90-secs, please see this article for further details). In untrained and low fitness groups, weights (and indeed any exercise) will increase endurance cycling performance.

Weights don't increase lactate threshold, VO2max/MAP or TT power in trained cyclists, nor would it enable you to sustain these powers for a longer period of time.

On the other hand, weight training will help to increase peak (sprint) power (and is why track sprinters need to be very large). Conversely, for endurance racing cyclists (e.g., RR, MTB, track endurance) sprint power can be increased with sprint training on the bike.

Weight training increases strength in one of three ways
1) increases in muscle cross sectional area
2) neuromuscular adaptations
3) a combination of 1 and 2

With 2) the adaptations that occur are specific to the joint angle and velocity at which they're trained and do not transfer to different angles and velocities (and hence different exercise modalities). With 1) some of the adaptations that occur will transfer to different modalities and would help increase sprint power. However, these adaptations will involve an increase in size of contractile proteins and thus a decrease in aerobic machinery (e.g., muscle mitochondria and capillary density decreases) which will decrease your aerobic ability (and slow you down). Additionally, the increase in mass will be detrimental for when e.g., going uphill as you'll have more weight to lug uphill with either no increase in aerobic power for climbing or a decrease.

On the bike low cadence workouts (if performed at the same power as you would normally ride at) are unlikely to increase cycling performance, as these a) do not increase strength as the forces involved are too low, and b) the adaptations occur at the specific velocity at which they're trained (e.g., if you do these workouts at e.g., 50 revs/min it'll only benefit you riding at ~ 50 revs/min, which may or may not ever occur when you're racing).

Winter drinking

Do you have any suggestions on what/how to drink during winter rides? We are not into the coldest part of winter yet, and already my water bottles are getting too cold to drink from towards the latter part of my rides, even with having mixed the drink with warm water before riding. I currently use a regular powdered sports drink. I have not ridden in winter before, so any suggestions would be appreciated.


Pam Hinton replies:

Yes, winter riding is a challenge, and staying hydrated takes some extra effort. Trying to swallow icy cold fluids is difficult, and when the coldest parts of winter hit, your bottles can freeze and then you can’t drink at all.

It is more challenging to drink during cold weather and mostly because you may not feel the need, or you just may not feel like it. Your hands get numb from the cold and can barely pull the bottle out of the cage; you don’t feel thirsty; you are already chilled and not only is the thought of swallowing anything cold not appealing, it can be downright appalling. But even though the only fluid pouring off your body is snot, it is still important to stay hydrated in the cold. In the winter when the temperature drops, the relative humidity of the air is lower. Breathing cold, dry air causes you to lose more fluid from your lungs than inhaling warmer and wetter air. Staying hydrated may also reduced your chances of developing an upper respiratory or sinus infection. The lining of the sinuses and lungs is designed to prevent infections. In addition to acting as a physical barrier to potential infectious invaders, the sinuses and air passages of the lungs produce mucus that traps bacteria, viruses, fungi and other irritants. Dehydration causes drying of the mucus membranes, which makes them much more permeable to disease-causing organisms.

There are a few things you can do to keep everything flowing as it should. Certainly starting with warm liquids will help, but probably won’t do the trick if you’re going to be out more than an hour with the temperature below freezing. There are a variety of insulated bottles and “hydration systems” available, but do your research because some are better insulated than others. The Zefal Isotherm (it comes in plastic and aluminum alloy), the stainless steel Nissan-Thermos, Sigg Thermal, and Alladin Sport Bottle 4-in-1 are all good options. Camelbak makes several insulated hydration systems, specifically designed for winter sports, which are worn beneath your outer layers of clothing.

Another bit of winter riding wisdom—plan your routes judiciously. Choose a distance and terrain that you can manage without having to stop to refuel or rest. Nothing is more unpleasant than getting back on the bike and having the north wind cut through to your sweaty base layer. Also, try to head out into the wind and ride home with a tailwind. Pack some extra clothes. A non-breathable windbreaker (rain jackets work), some rubber gloves (like for washing dishes) and a stocking hat all pack easily and could be a lifesaver if you should have mechanical difficulties and have to do some standing around fixing a flat or waiting for help to arrive.

Riding during the winter requires an extra measure of self-discipline, and maybe even a good bit of philosophy. It will go a long way towards helping you maintain cardiovascular fitness so that when the intensity of the rides picks up in early spring, you won’t be riding yourself back into shape. Some of my training buddies like to refer to winter training as cold forging. When springtime arrives, these guys see it as their duty to inflict pain and suffering on those who have avoided it all winter. This would be where the philosophy comes in handy.

Time pedals

I am a 54 yr old veteran roadie who rides between 150-200km per week, training and racing. The time has come for me to upgrade from my older style Time pedals to the newer Time Impact S.

My question is, will I need to change my seat height when I fit these new pedals? My shoes are drilled to take the Time cleats so I will not need to use the adaptor so I think that I will probably need to lower my seat but by how much?

Tony McDonell

Steve Hogg replies:

Typically when changing from the old style Time Equipe pedals to the Time Impact pedals you would need to drop the seat 3 - 5 mm. Given that you are not using the black clip in adaptors on the base of the Impact cleat, 4 - 5 mm should be right.

Long term use of prednisone

I wish to reply to the gentleman who wrote concerning the long term use of prednisone. After many years of headaches, night fevers, muscle and joint aches, chest pain, erythema nodosum (welts all over my body), I too was diagnosed with sarcoidosis. Fortunately for me, I had no evidence of lung scarring nor of atrial fibrillation (though I did have one scary episode while on a run). I too was told that the only treatment was long term prednisone therapy - and to tell the truth, when I was in the middle of a flare-up I was happy for it! Aware of some of the drawbacks of prednisone use, I chose not to go that route and used it sparingly only when symptoms manifested (mind you I was taking maybe 1500 mg ibuprofen a day to help ease the symptoms). I continued to train on the bike though it was difficult to ride through the aches and pains and fevers.

I feel fortunate that I have a doctor who took a special interest in my case. When my conditions first surfaced, I was initially diagnosed with lyme disease. I completed the antibiotic therapy successfully, so that when the symptoms returned, a new diagnosis was needed. That's when we started thinking sarcoidosis. The prednisone worked on the symptoms, so that was that. Recently, new information has been emerging about links between sarcoidosis and lyme disease (some research suggests that sarcoidosis may even be a particular strain of the Borrelia bug - see this link). In fact lyme has been linked to a whole host of other conditions: see this link. My doctor continued to follow the emerging research with interest.

Recently in several studies a new treatment has emerged for lyme. At first it seemed a little far-fetched to me (the treatment is uncaria tomentosa, a herbal extract) but once I got an assurance that it would not harm me I gave it a try. After the first week I experienced all the old sarcoid symptoms. My doctor assured me that this was quite normal and gave me a mild prednisone prescription for 5 days but cautioned me not to stop the treatment. After three days the prednisone had cleared the symptoms and I stopped taking it but continued on the uncaria tomentosa. That was in March - I have not had a flare up since - by far the longest healthy period of the last ten years. I am literally in the best shape of my life and at 39, that's saying a lot!

I'm not saying that this will be some magical cure for you. From what you have said, your symptoms seem more severe than mine. Please check out the literature, though, and do some searches of your own. The more I read about Lyme and Sarcoidosis the more I felt that they must be related - their symptoms are almost identical. I hope this can be of some help to you. Please fell free to email me about this.

Eddie Bethel
Nassau, Bahamas

We also heard from Dr Jamie S. M. Pringle, Senior Lecturer in Exercise Physiology, University of Brighton, UK, who pointed out:

I feel it is important to also clearly state in competitive athletes DHEA use is actually prohibited - it will cause a positive test and the rider would be banned from competition whether they have a prescription or not. All testosterone preparations are prohibited in or out of competition. Prednisolone preparations are banned in competition but permitted out of competition so long as the athlete has a prescription.


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