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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 October 3, 2005

Bunch training tips
Winter training
Time trial positioning
HR and LT
Hunger flats
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 helps.

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 as well.

After adding these workouts to your weekly sked, you should see improvement on your group rides in 4-6 weeks. Have fun!

Winter training

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? Thanks.

Dave Walker

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.

Hunger flats

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 rear.

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.

Shirley Pulsipher

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 time.

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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