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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. Due to the volume of questions we receive, we regret that we are unable to answer them all.

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 December 15, 2004

Cross-training interval overload?
Stationary trainer fitness
Omega 3 fats
In between bike sizes
Saddle angle and orthotic inserts
Sports drinks and dental health

Cross-training interval overload?

For a couple decades, I've always considered high-intensity interval workouts to be something a cyclist would do a couple times a week - maybe three if they were in better shape than I am.

But having recently broadened my athletic horizons I'm wondering how multi-sport athletes should be monitoring high-intensity overload.

Examples: Join the local masters swim club and you will find that intervals are all these folks do for just under an hour six or seven days a week. For speed skaters, ice time is harder to come by than pool time is for swimmers, so intense interval workouts are the preferred approach to maximizing the investment in structured training.

So (and I haven't even mentioned running!), say you want to give some kind of nod to the fact that cycling is your favourite sport: Now you are looking at high-heart-rate intervals almost every day.

Is this a bad thing, or does the principle of specificity allow distinctions between the maximal efforts of different sports?

Steve Bonisteel

Dave Palese replies:

My experience with some of the sports you mention is zero, but I'll give you my opinion and thoughts.

When your training plan enters a period that includes training at high intensity (super threshold efforts) it is important that you give you body enough time between these sessions so it can recovery, rebuild and be in the best shape possible to do it all again at your next high intensity workout.

There are differences between each of the sports you mention, the damage that is done during a high intensity session, and how the body is fatigued following those sessions.

The best thing any athlete can do to monitor overload, is listen to their body. Track your resting HR; pay attention to how your body feels overall, and so on.

The mistake many athletes make is doing workouts on a schedule, regardless of how they feel and how their body is reacting to the stress.

Stationary trainer fitness

I have recently switched to full on 8-5pm office hours. I live in Salt Lake City and day light here in the winter is non existent after 5pm. I am a 6-3 200lb male. I do a little racing and a lot of mtn biking both downhill and cross country. I just want to be doing the most effective fitness workouts possible. I have a Blackburn magnetic trainer. how does a brother stay fit riding this thing in his garage in the winter?

Daniel O'Connor
Utah, USA

Jon Heidemann replies:

Generally speaking, the key to riding that trainer in your garage (multiple times per week throughout the winter) for fitness is your ability to keep yourself entertained while looking at the backside of your garage door. While this answer seems a little humorous (at least to me as I write this), there is a distinct level of seriousness to it.

Even the most motivated of individuals will begin to hate riding indoors after some time. Regardless of the benefit your trainer rides get you, if you begin to get bored with them, it is likely you will start to skip them. As a coach that works with many "working" athletes in the Rocky Mountain Region of the US, this is a scenario I am familiar with. I suggest the following:

1. Recognize that over the same time periods, riding on the trainer type that you mentioned is generally more physically difficult than riding outside because of two major issues: there is nothing forcing you to stop and coasting is almost non-existent. Also, there is usually less visual stimulation involved with riding indoors. Having said all that, I suggest planning to spend a little less time on your trainer than you would for a similar ride outside. I usually use a 60~70% rule and I have seen similar coach's suggest the same thing.

2. Have a focused purpose to each training session inside. Interval workouts on trainers can help the time to pass quicker and fit nicely with a focused approached to training. For situations where riding inside is the normal weekly routine, I suggest a maximum of 2 focused workouts on the trainer per work week (I assume that most weekend days, you are able to get outside, so for this situation, we are talking 2 out of 2, 3 or 4 rides). For the rest of the indoor workouts I suggest having what I call a more chaotic approach (described next).

3. Boredom and motivation can be managed if you mix some type of auditory or visual (or both) stimulus into these sessions. A favorite mix of music or race video can help to drive differing intensity levels without having to look at a stop watch for timing purposes. I realize that timing has its definite usefulness and purpose to specific workouts, but sometimes it is more important to do what you can rather than choose to not do anything at all. Matching intensity changes to rhythm changes in music or situation changes in race videos are great ways to implement what I term as a chaotic approach to indoor training. You are essentially letting the stimuli dictate your riding intensity without you having to choose to do so yourself.

4. The specifics of your workouts should be based on your goals and needs as an athlete. Consulting with a coach will help you to better determine the specificity of your workouts. However, following the above guidelines will help you to stick to that plan.

Good luck with your training, riding, and racing.

[You might also have a read of the winter training features we ran last year, which start here - Ed]

Omega 3 fats

I've been told that there is some new research into omega-3 fats increasing athletic performance by adjusting cell metabolism. I did a search but can't find information other than this website.

So what's the good oil on omega-3? Or is it just another performance snake oil?

James Hall
Melbourne, Australia

Pam Hinton replies:

Omega-3 fatty acids are "good oil" when it comes to lowering cardiovascular disease risk, but may be snake oil with regard to athletic performance. The term "omega-3" (also referred to as n3) has to do with the chemical structure of the fatty acids. Because omega-3 fatty acids cannot be synthesized in the body, they are called "essential fatty acids." Dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids include fatty fish, walnuts, flaxseed, and canola oil. Eicosapentenoic acid (EPA) and docohexenoic acid (DHA) are the most common omega-3 fatty acids in the diet; purified EPA and DHA are also sold as dietary supplements. Regular consumption of omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease by lowering serum cholesterol and triglycerides and by reducing inflammation in the lining of the blood vessels.

Omega-3 fatty acids alter cell metabolism by activating genes that are needed for cellular transport and use of fat. Omega-3 fatty acids promote the cellular uptake of fat by increasing the activity of the enzyme (lipoprotein lipase) that releases fatty acids from triglycerides and by increasing the amount of fatty acid binding protein, which carries fatty acids across the cell membrane into the cells. Omega-3 fatty acids also facilitate production of energy from fat, by increasing transport of fatty acids into the mitochondria where they are burned to make ATP. Aerobic exercise training produces similar adaptations in fat metabolism and it appears that omega-3 fatty acids do not provide any additional benefits in fit individuals (or trained lab rats). There is no direct evidence that omega-3 fatty acids improve athletic performance in humans. In one study of highly trained soccer players, 10 weeks of omega-3 supplementation in the form of fish oil had no effect on maximal aerobic power, anaerobic power or running performance.

Regardless of whether or not omega-3 fatty acids improve performance, they are needed to optimize health and may reduce the risk of rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, cancer, as well as heart disease. According to the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine, adult males should consume 1.6 g per day and adult females 1.1 g per day. Four ounces of cold water fish such as salmon, swordfish, or bluefish contains about 1.5 g omega-3 fatty acids. One ounce of walnuts or flaxseeds (or one tablespoon of the oil) has about 2 grams of omega-3 fatty acids. If the claims of improved athletic performance from omega-3 fatty acids resonate with you, I'd say go for it-you probably couldn't find more beneficial snake oil this side of Katmandu.

In between bike sizes

A simple question relating to frame size. When choosing a frame, is it better to buy the smaller of the two bikes you can fit and use longer controls (stem, post) or get the largest size that fits without being too big? Case in point: I'm 6'1" with a 33" inseam, a relatively long torso, 189lbs and a cat 3 road racer. I prescribe to the "long as possible" on the bike concept of fit. I'm currently on a compact 58cm Klein that has a 58.5cm TT, and using a 120/-6 stem. I feel great on the bike in all riding conditions, but I'm upgrading to a Trek 5.9 frame and want to maintain the same overall feel on the bike. The 60cm Trek (that Trek measures center to top of the seat collar) has the top tube length I want, but obviously is much taller than my current ride. Is it smarter to go with the shorter and smaller 58cm Trek frame and use a longer stem (130) since it's what I'm "used" to? or do I go with the bike that technically fits me?

Mike Faello

Steve Hogg replies:

The basic picture is this: Klein on their non-compact frames measure the seat tube from centre of bottom bracket to a line running horizontally across the seat tube from the top of the top tube if the diagram on their website is accurate. On your compact Klein, I assume that your size 58 cm [effective] has a hypothetical level top tube seat tube length measured in the same fashion.

The Trek 5.9 in 60 cm is measured as you say, from centre of bottom bracket to top of seat collar. That means that the 60 cm Trek more or less equates with the 58 cm Klein in terms of seat tube length if both were measured in the same fashion.

The Trek in that size is 5 mm shorter in the top tube, 582 mm versus 587 mm but also has a seat tube angle 0.5 degrees more relaxed; 73 degrees versus 73. 5 degrees for the Klein. The practical effect of this is that if you want to maintain the same positional parameters on the Trek as you have on the Klein, then the seat will have to move forward that half a degree to counter the effect of the slightly slacker seat tube angle. Assuming you are using the same seat and seat post, you will have to move the seat forward in the clamp about 7mm [ based on guesstimate of typical seat height for this size frame]. This has the implication of shortening your effective top tube by approximately 5 - 6 mm when that seat movement is factored down to the top tube.

What all of this adds up to is that if you want to maintain the same positional parameters that you have on the 58 cm Klein when changing to the Trek 5.9 you will need to increase your stem length to 130mm.

I would not recommend that you choose the 58 cm Trek which is your second option, because not only will you lose 2 cm of head tube height, but if the seat tube angle and top tube length are factored in, then you would need a 140mm stem to maintain the same positional parameters.

The choice is clear, best of luck with it.

Mike Faello responded:

First and foremost, thank you for your reply! I can't tell you how impressed I am with Cycling news and the speed of your response! Regarding your comments, I have to go with a new post since the Trek uses a different size (27.2 vs. 31.6). I was using the FSA K-Force Lite post on the Klein which has a fairly extensive setback, and on the Trek will be using a XXX Lite post, which is a zero offset post. I know this has the effect of shortening my riding compartment by eliminating the setback, but hopefully will help with the more relaxed Trek seat angle. The bottom line is I feel comfortable in my decision on the size frame I ordered (which should be arriving today!). Thanks again for your help Steve! Any other comments you have would be appreciated.

Steve Hogg replies:

The simple solution is to stick with an FSA K -Force post in 27.2mm with the new bike. That way all you have to do is as described yesterday. The K - Force has potential for 22mm more rearward offset than a Campag or Shimano post and so effectively slackens the seat tube angle. With the zero offset post you plan to use, the positional change is going to be a LOT more than the half a degree difference in seat tube angles. I have assumed that you want to maintain the same body position based on what you said in your previous mail. If not, go for it; if so, stick with a 27.2 mm K - Force.

Saddle angle and orthotic inserts

I recently had orthotics put into my shoes to deal with supernated joints (problems with ankle function) and to balance out a leg length differential. Prior to this I kept my saddle dead level, using a spirit level when changing fore/aft. Now, when level it feels like I am falling forwards and so I have had to raise the nose up. Presumably this is all down to some change in balance / leg function related to the orthotics. I raised my saddle slightly (2-3mm) as the orthotics raise both heels by at least that to cover the sideways adjustments.

I'd appreciate any comments you have - having spent about a year getting my position perfect I no longer feel as comfortable on the bike.

Are there any other considerations I need to make?

Ian Jackson

Steve Hogg replies:

From what you have said, it sounds very like your orthoses were prescribed for walking/running shoes rather than specifically for cycling. Is this correct?

When as you say, a person has a difference in leg length [ and I assume we are talking a measurable rather than functional difference in length] the usual way this is treated with an orthotic is to fit a heel lift equivalent to a proportion of the difference in leg length to the shorter leg. The heel is the first point of contact in a walking stride so this approach makes sense. With cycling however, the point of contact with the pedal is the forefoot, so building up the heel of the orthotic in the shorter leg is of minimal help.

This same reasoning make your rationale for raising the seat a bit shaky unless there is an equivalent build up under the fore foot. Are the orthoses full length of partial length?

Raising the heel as your orthotics have done will change your pedal stroke somewhat. Typically you will drop the heel more under load in as you now have what amounts to a higher heel lift last in the shoe. With a higher heel lift the typical response from the rider is to drop the heel more coming off top dead centre under load so as to get behind and over the pedal axle at the earliest point in the power phase of the pedal stroke. With the build up in the heel of the shoe there is a higher starting point for the heel at the top of the stroke and so the heel needs to drop more than would be the case without that build up.How much you are likely to be doing this I can only guess at. If this is happening you are likely to have to lower the seat slightly rather than raise it a little as you have. This could explain your feeling of falling forward. Try dropping your seat 5 mm and see if your balanced feeling returns. The above assumes you respond typically to the changes in your shoes.

If you respond atypically and there are some that do, then it is possible that you are pedalling in a more toe down fashion under load. If this is the case, then not only does the seat need to go up somewhat, but also back. If you are pedalling in a more toe down fashion under load than pre orthoses, then the major vector on the pedals is to the rear which will tend to tip your weight forward [ just as they told us in high school physics, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction].This too, could also explain what you are feeling.

Go out and find a moderate hill and ride up it a few times in a gear that you need to force a bit but not so much that you sacrifice technique. Set your seat height so that you can do this and reach the bottom of the pedal stroke with a little to spare smoothly. Is your seat higher or lower than what you are used to?

If higher, it is likely that the second explanation is the most likely and the seat needs to move back a bit. Experiment with that till you feel balanced again. Stem height and possibly length may need to change as well.

If lower, then probably the first explanation is the case and that you should feel OK. If not, let me know.

My experience is that approximately 50% of the time that orthoses are prescribed for walking and running and solve problems in those pastimes, they either do no good or are part of the problem when used in cycling shoes. This is because orthoses are usually predicated around a predictable heel strike whereas the contact point in a cycling shoe is the forefoot which is not the same thing. Moreover, often a portion of the prescription is to work around issues like leg length discrepancies and/or lateral pelvic tilts. On a bike we should bear the majority of our weight under the ischia or sit bones and exert force with our legs which is not necessarily the same as bearing our weight and exerting force with our legs as we do walking or running.

The other 50% of the time?

They work a treat or need only minor modification.

Sports drinks and dental health

I am 41 year old female cyclist who rides around 250km a week. Just had my recent dental check up and I told my dentist I drank Gatorade during cycling. He quickly advised me that it wasn't a good thing to do as the drink is full of sugar and would effect the health of my teeth. He advised me to drink mineral water or just plain water. What I want to know is what is a "good for you' sports drink that doesn't have too much of an adverse effect on ones teeth due to sugar levels? (I drink Gatorade for the rehydration and energy benefits.)

Jodie Newell
Sydney Australia

Scott Saifer replies:

Given the significant amount of riding that you are doing, you should definitely be consuming some carbohydrate and electrolytes while you ride, as well as water. My dentist told me that the sort of bacteria that eat sucrose (the sugar in Gatorade) and attack your teeth work much faster than the sort that eat more complex carbohydrates and attack your teeth. If you are really worried about your teeth, you might consider eating whole grain bread or fruit with water instead of taking Gatorade. On the other hand, even the sucrose-eating bacteria don't work instantly. Ask you dentist if it would be okay to drink Gatorade and then brush as soon as you get home.

Pam Hinton adds:

In addition to the suggestion offered by Scott, you might chew sugarless gum after taking a swig of Gatorade. Chewing sugarless gum stimulates saliva flow, which helps neutralize acid produced by oral bacteria. It's the acid that dissolves the tooth enamel and causes cavities.

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