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Form & Fitness Q & A
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Fitness questions and answers for October 3, 2005
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.
Bunch training tips
Time trial positioning
HR and LT
Vitamin B injections
Bunch training tips
I am a 30 something female MTB racer who excels in longer (marathon length)
events. I train on my road bike in the winter and join in on the local road
club ride on the weekends. My problem is that I often get dropped when the group
surges and I cannot keep up. One might suggest that the riders in this group
are just too strong for me, but I am actually equal to or faster than many of
these riders on MTB rides (and not because of superior skills). I seem to ride
at a very steady and consistent pace that starts out a little slower but never
lets up. How can I train myself to be able to respond to the ever changing pace
of a group road ride? Thanks.
Kim Morrow replies
In addition to the great comments that Dave offered, I'd also suggest considering
an in-season weekly ride which includes 6-10 short jumps (small or big ring),
for approximately 5-7 seconds each. I normally include these in an easy ride
throughout the year because it keeps the "snap" in my legs (something that
does not come so naturally for me). This is not a real taxing workout, but
I have found this to be of great benefit as it helps me respond quicker to
the change of pace which is so common in most road cycling events. Hope this
Dave Palese replies
You hit the nail on the head in your question. It's the super-threshold efforts
that you need to work on. Road racing and hard group rides are not steady-state
affairs like the technical TT that is mountain biking. You'll want to sketch-out
a plan targeted at developing your anaerobic endurance and power. These efforts
are characterized as being shorter (about 6 minutes or less), and pretty much
as hard as you can go for the length of the effort.
Try adding a workout, one day a week, where you do 3-5 intervals of two minutes
each, and rest for three minutes between them. During the interval, keep you
cadence high (100+ rpm) and the intensity near your max. Your HR should rise
to near its max by the end of the second and subsequent intervals. Rest between
the intervals is very easy spinning. Push yourself during these and don't
let the intensity drop. I may take a few times to get a feel for gearing and
intensity. As time passes, shorten the rest between the intervals going as
low as two minutes.
You may also want to include several (8-10) jumps of 20-30 seconds on you
longer ride during the week. Jump hard in a big gear and then settle into
the saddle at a high speed. After warming up for 20-30 minutes, space these
jumps out with five minutes or so rest between them. Do them over varied terrain
After adding these workouts to your weekly sked, you should see improvement
on your group rides in 4-6 weeks. Have fun!
I usually bike during the winter. But since I moved, it will no longer be possible
for safety reasons. (In Canada, the snow and very low temperatures can render
the streets quite treacherous.) I plan to start training indoors at the first
snow fall, about mid-December and start again in April. I will workout on a
stationary bike (or a trainer, not sure which yet). However I want to supplement
that with stairs workout to help keep my biking legs. The motion of going up
the stairs seems very similar to that of biking. Would going up the stairs solicit
the same muscles as biking? Would do you recommended?
Marc G. Richard
Dave Palese replies
Stair machine workouts at the gym are a great mode to use when you can't
get outside and the trainer gets tired. The muscle recruitment isn't exactly
the same, as you might imagine, but it is still a multi-joint motion, so it'll
work well to supplement your fitness program. Have fun!
Time trial positioning
I have been very interested in your discussion on positioning and bike fit.
I am trying to avoid any knee problems since I had meniscus surgery on my right
knee a few years ago due to a non-cycling related injury. Currently, my fore-aft
seat position is set using the balance test described in your column and it
has resulted in a comfortable position on the bike and no problems.
My question is should the position be changed at all when you are using aero
bars for a time trial? I have seen lots of photos of triathletes and they look
to be much further forward on the bike than I am. What is your recommendation?
Steve Hogg replies
Have a look at this post.
Further to that, the only aero bar out there that I can guarantee will allow
you the position that you currently have is the Profile Carbon Stryke. Other
aero bars may or may not allow that; it can be a bit hit and miss. The Carbon
Strykes have a greater range of adjustment than anything else that I have
seen. In your case, post injury and not having problems at the moment, I would
be reluctant to advise anything other than maintaining your current position
with aero bars.
HR and LT
I just finished my first year of bike racing and had a great time. I have been
very sedentary for the last 12 years and friends talked me into buying a bike
to lose weight, and I did 25 pounds over the season. I am 36, male, 5'10", 155
lbs. I utilized Friels training manual and tried to follow a 400 hours a year
training plan. It worked well, I finished all races I entered, even top fifteen
in a regional championship. My question is where from here. My last two 40k
TT average heart rates were 182 and 181, and my max I saw on any race was 193
(5 mile hill climb). Most articles suggest that "pro" cyclists have a LT at
93-95% of their max HR.
Mine obviously is in that range but I am as new to cycling and working out
as you can get. What does this mean? For determine next years training plan
how do you improve the LTHR which seems to already be fairly high. Is the lactate
system as improved as it can be and all I can improve is strength?
Dave Palese replies
I think the question is really "Where not from here?" Are you content with
top 15 in your regional championship? Would you like to set a better time
in your 40k? I wouldn't spend any time thinking about what your limits might
be, but rather spend you time and energy defining them!
Train hard. Race hard. Compete hard. And keep raising your own bar. Let no
one tell you what your potential is.
I will say that a.) I would argue that your 40k TT heart rate is probably
lower than it could be with continued training. And b.) the 193 as a max is
also probably low as well judging by the scenario you presented of the long
climb. A "max" HR is more accurately estimated by performing series short,
maximum efforts in quick succession, with little rest between. And you should
see a doctor before performing such a protocol, just to be sure it is safe
to do so.
Hope some of this helps. Have fun and good luck!
Ric Stern replies
Congratulations on your weight loss and bicycling success, you must be very
pleased. Keep up the great work.
There's various issues to consider in your question,
- Is your HR max 193 b/min?
- LT isn't measured in HR
- LT isn't about 90%
- LT versus strength
- Increased fitness in subsequent years
It's difficult to assess whether your actual HR max is 193 b/min. Some people
can reach their true HR max in competition and others can't. For e.g., I can't
recall ever reaching my HR max in a race, and have only reached my (known)
max in a graded exercise test to exhaustion (a MAP test). Other riders may
reach a higher HR in races as compared to testing. To get a handle on your
HR max, you may need to explore some sort of incremental test to exhaustion
and/or some severe efforts while training. Of course, prior to making such
extreme efforts you'd need to ascertain that you are healthy and okay to do
so, and should check with your doctor first. It could be that your HR max
is 193 b/min, or it could be higher, you're unlikely to know for certain until
you do some sort of testing.
Lactate threshold has several definitions within the scientific literature,
the two most usual ones are the work rate that elicits a 1 mmol/L increase
in blood lactate over exercise baseline levels - giving a lactate of 2.X mmol/L.
The other common definition is the work rate that elicits a fixed blood lactate
of 2.5 mmol/L. In both cases this work rate would be a power output of about
10 - 15% below the maximum you could sustain for a 1-hr TT. In other words
HR is nothing to do with LT, and "LTHR" is a 'horrible' misnomer. The work
rate at LT, in a well trained cyclist, could be sustained for several hours,
and consequently is well below 90%. It may be that you can TT for ~1-hr at
about 90% of HR max. Additionally, if you want to know your LT then you need
to have blood drawn. Without having your blood sampled for lactate you can't
measure your LT.
As suggested in this article and
the peer reviewed literature, strength has little to no effect on endurance
cycling performance (e.g., events that last longer than ~90-secs). Getting
stronger, may even be detrimental to your endurance cycling performance.
Even though you can TT at an estimated 90+ % of your HR max, this is of little
importance. It is the work rate that you are riding at that is important,
which is measured in power output (Watts - W). For e.g., you could be time
trialling for an hour at an average power of 250 W at present, which elicits
a HR of ~90+%. As your fitness increases your power will go up as you are
able to extract and utilise more of the oxygen that you breathe in from the
air. In brief, your capillary network within your exercising muscles and your
mitochondria increase allowing more oxygen to be extracted into your muscles
and you to get fitter (note: other adaptations occur as your fitness increases).
After several months of targeted training your TTpower may have risen from
250 to 270 W. Your HR at TT effort will have stayed the same or only altered
slightly. (Note: power figures used are just for illustrative purposes).
To increase your fitness - at time trialling - you need to work on increasing
your LT (that's the power output that elicits the the lactate), your sustainable
TTpower, and the rate limiting mechanism in aerobic exercise: VO2max (which
is the maximal volume of oxygen that can be extracted and used by the body).
To have your VO2max measured, you'd most likely need to go to an exercise
physiology laboratory, however, an excellent proxy (and in many ways a much
better marker) is MAP - see this post.
These physiological points can be best trained and increased by riding at
zones 3 - 5 in the above linked schema. There is a table showing the adaptations
that occur in those zones. Durations of effort would vary across the zones
from about 60 - 120 minutes in zone 3, to up to an hour in zone 4, to short
(3 - 5 minute) intervals in zone 5 with varying numbers of repeats. Hope this
helps to explain some of the science behind your question, and if you would
like any further help please don't hesitate to contact us.
I am a 50 year old male who has been riding fairly religiously for about 18
months now. I am 6' 2" and overweight. I started at 270lbs something but have
dropped to around 240lbs. I have changed my eating style pretty much towards
Weight Watchers; my last vice probably is that I will drink 3 to 4 cans of diet
soda a day sometimes more.
I used a formula that came with a Nike exercise watch to initially set my max
heart rate at 175. I ride with the monitor and watch it closely. We tried to
ride (usually my wife and I on a tandem) or a couple of friends of mine and
myself 3 to 4 times a week; usually 15 to 30 miles in the mornings and try to
do 40 to 60 on the weekend. My problem is this I really have a hard time keeping
my heart rate down where it should be all though I am not sure where optimal
should be. I have noticed that I could immediately tell when my heart hit 160
back in the beginning by an erratic beat. Now I occasionally hit 170 or 175
standing going up a hill and don't realise it other than I can't breathe.
I have been to a doctor and had a check up and he said that I am as healthy
as a horse but I did not do a stress test - he said he didn't see the need unless
I just wanted one. Bottom line is I have 40 mile legs and have only been over
this distance a couple of times with success. I have tried to eat pasta on the
night before and oatmeal and bananas in the morning and have tried eating a
Clif Bar or banana once an hour or so and have tried to drink at least a litre
of water an hour usually with some sports drink added. With no real change.
I did manage to do 45 miles this weekend but went by myself which allowed me
to be less aggressive. The same ride about two weeks ago I couldn't finish and
spent the rest of the day cramping to the point I was afraid to get up of my
I live in the mountains of AZ where we ride at 5000' to 7000', and it's really
hilly; I manage to average about 15 mph and did the 45 miles in almost exactly
three hours, but I feel very slow compared to others. What is the best way to
handle my heart rate and where should I be with it and are there some guide
lines as far as eating and drinking while riding. Thanks for any information
you have to share.
Pam Hinton replies
First off, congratulations on being faithful to your new exercise routine
and dietary changes. You have made considerable progress towards achieving
a healthy weight.
Pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone on group rides is the rule, not
the exception. When we ride with other people, racers or not, our competitive
nature kicks in and we go harder than we would if we were training alone.
That explains why true recovery rides have to be done solo. It also is the
likely explanation for your elevated heart rate. Simply put, you are working
harder than you would if you were riding the tandem with your wife or if you
were out on a solo ride. It is perfectly normal.
A rapid heart rate is not the same phenomenon as bonking. Your heart rate
may increase when you're bonking, but an elevated pulse doesn't mean that
your blood sugar is low. When your blood sugar drops, you become light-headed,
have trouble concentrating, and experience muscular weakness and trembling.
Your elevated heart rate probably has more to do with overall fitness than
with nutrition. Eating a banana or energy bar every hour, along with a liter
of water, should keep you from bonking.
As you continue with your training, your cardiovascular fitness will continue
to improve. Additional weight loss, will reduce the work required to climb
hills. Both of these changes, will allow you to perform the same amount of
work at a lower heart rate and you will find it easier to keep up with the
rest of the group.
Pushing yourself on the group rides will be most effective if you allow yourself
adequate recovery between hard rides. So, limit yourself to a couple of group
rides per week.
Vitamin B injections
Hi, I've got a quick question about vit B injections. I've heard of riders
having an injection of vit B before a major race to get an extra 'boost'. I
was wandering if this is legal and what the effects, if any, are. If it is legal
and it has been shown to improve performance, how long prior to an event should
you have it done and would your local GP do it? I hope I'm not being naive and
this is in fact banned.
Pam Hinton replies
The use of vitamin injections to enhance performance is controversial, largely
because of the doping scandals involving world class athletes. The most cynical
view I have heard is that injecting vitamins provides athletes a plausible
excuse for having used syringes lying around. There are others whose opinion
is that the athletes are merely doing everything in their power to maximize
their training and to protect themselves against illness, injury, and overtraining.
Vitamin injections are available only by prescription (at least in the United
States), so the physicians who write these are either uninformed or irresponsible,
and are partly to blame for the mess these athletes may find themselves in.
Here's the bottom line on routine injections of legally prescribed medications-some
people need them to simply live a normal life, but normal athletes, even world
class, simply don't.
You asked specifically about the potential benefits and side effects of B
vitamin-injections. It is true that the B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin,
B6, and B12) are needed for biochemical reactions that are needed for energy
metabolism, protein synthesis and production of red blood cells. These vitamins
are added to the food supply in cereals and breads.
Anytime you read, "enriched flour" on a "Nutrition Facts" label, the B vitamins
have been added. So, only under rare circumstances would an athlete be lacking
B vitamins. Supramaximal doses have no additional benefit. Because these vitamins
are water soluble, they cannot be stored in the body and any excess is excreted
in the urine. The exception is vitamin B12 which is stored in the liver. There
are some athletes who may benefit from vitamin injections, but for reasons
that have nothing to do with being an athlete. Individuals who cannot absorb
vitamin B12 because they have a genetic defect, or because their intestine
is severely damaged, or because part of their stomach or intestine has been
surgically removed, need vitamin B12 injections. People who follow a strict
vegan diet (no meat, dairy, or eggs) may require supplemental B12, but there
is no reason to take it by injection.
Athletes often believe that their vitamin and mineral needs are significantly
higher than the average non-athlete and that if they consume only the RDA
they will not get the amounts they need. What athletes do not realise is that
RDAs are set above the mean requirement for the general population, so that
there is a "safety factor" built into them. For example, take the RDA for
iron for women 19-50 years of age, 18 mg per day, and compare it to the mean
requirement, 8 mg per day. You can see just how large the margin of error
is. Yes, athletes may require more of some nutrients than non-athletes, but
the increment is small relative to the safety factor. My point is that athletes
will meet their nutrient needs if they consume the RDAs, which can easily
be met by eating a well-balanced diet.
Even if the needs of athletes were so high that they could not be met by
diet, oral supplements would be preferable to injections. Some would argue
that because absorption of oral vitamin supplements is incomplete, they are
ineffective or a waste of money. What they do not realise is that absorption
is highly regulated. In general, the more the body needs, the more is absorbed
from the intestine. This is one way the body has of preventing toxicity. When
you take vitamins by injection you bypass this safety mechanism. And, just
because a vitamin is injected into your body, doesn't mean that your body
will use it. In fact, if your intake of the vitamin is already adequate, the
excess will either be stored or excreted-just as it would if you took it orally.
Vitamin excesses can be just as dangerous as vitamin deficiencies. The potential
for toxicity is greater for fat-soluble vitamins compared to water-soluble
vitamins because the excess is stored and can accumulate to toxic levels over
For example, consuming just 3-4 times the RDA for vitamin A over time can
result in toxicity symptoms: loss of appetite, hair loss, bone and muscle
pain. Excess vitamin D causes calcification of the organs, high blood pressure,
and kidney dysfunction. Large doses of water-soluble vitamins can also be
harmful. For example, vitamin C normally acts as an antioxidant, preventing
damage to the cell membrane by reacting with harmful molecules. However, at
high levels, vitamin C can act as a pro-oxidant, reacting with iron or copper
to generate compounds that can cause cell damage. Megadoses of vitamin B6
can cause degeneration of nerves, resulting in unsteady gait, numbness in
the extremities and impaired tendon reflexes.
Of course, athletes should eat a balanced diet of whole grains, lean meat
and dairy products, fresh fruits and vegetables. But, if they want some insurance
against suboptimal intakes, their best bet is to take an over-the-counter
multivitamin-the pills are cheaper, there are no painful injections, and there'll
be no need to explain the used syringes in the trash bags.
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