Form & Fitness Q & A
Got a question about fitness, training, recovery from injury or a related subject?
Drop us a line at email@example.com.
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.
Fitness questions and answers for January 3, 2006
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.
Weight loss and nutrition
Saddles for pelvic support
Leg-assisted blood flow
Permanent weight loss
Trainer vs. rollers
Weight-lifting and cycling
Blood tests and anaemia
Small leg length discrepancy
Load off the quads
Weight loss and nutrition
I am a 40 year old male 3rd category racer. I weigh 76-79 kilos and am 5'10
I took up cycling relatively recently in 1997 as a weight loss aid (I used
to weigh 100 kilos!). When I was 21 years old I weighed 66-69 kilos and did
a fair amount of weight training at the time.
My goal is to do well in local road races and time trials and I would really
like to get back to something approaching 70 kilos. My current (winter) training
consists of riding to work (25 miles round trip) two or three times per week
and a longer steady ride on a Sunday of 40 to 60 miles.
I have two nutritional problems:
1. After a long, hard ride on a Sunday I have absolutely no energy on the Monday
and only recover properly by about Wednesday. I drink a carb drink while riding,
stop for a cup of tea and cake on route, and make sure I eat a meal as soon
as I possibly can when I get in. I have a desk job, but I am so tired that I
can barely work on the Monday.
2. I am trying to reduce food intake at the moment to lose weight, but every
time I cut back on food I gradually get more and more tired and gradually get
a general feeling of depression. This gradual thing usually takes about 4-6
weeks to occur. During this time I normally lose about a pound per week. If
I eat to my appetite I put on weight, but don't seem to be able to just reduce
this a little to achieve the desired effect. I suspect the answer is that I
may be eating the wrong things, but I am generally sensible about food and think
about carbs etc.
Am I going to have to become some sort of non-caffeine, macrobiotic nut to
conquer this? - I already only drink alcohol about once a year!
Pam Hinton replies
First of all, congratulations on the considerable progress that you've made
toward your goal weight. I hope that I can give you some effective suggestions
to deal with the fatigue and depression. Regarding the overwhelming fatigue
that you experience on Monday, I am not sure that it is due to a "nutritional
problem." From the background information that you provided, I gather that
cycling is your first experience with regular endurance training. Have you
been doing the 40-60 mile rides since 1997? It may take years to develop the
aerobic capacity to exercise for 2-3 hours at a time.
Your nutritional strategies during and after these long rides are appropriate.
As long as you are eating primarily carbohydrates with a little protein post-ride
you should be optimizing glycogen repletion and protein synthesis.
Losing weight without suffering negative physical or emotional consequences
is a difficult thing to accomplish. You have to endure a little discomfort--the
feelings of deprivation and hunger--but you also must recognize that there
are times to listen to your body. If you are so fatigued that you cannot focus
at work or are experiencing changes in mood, it is time to re-evaluate your
diet. Your rate of weight loss (1 pound per week) is reasonable and suggests
that your energy restriction is not too severe. You describe your diet as
"sensible" and say that you "watch carbs, etc." I am not certain what you
mean, but if you are restricting your intake of carbohydrates, that may explain
your fatigue and depression. Simply put, ingestion of carbohydrate increases
serotonin production in the brain. Low levels of this neurotransmitter cause
depression and many anti-depressant medications work by increasing the amount
of serotonin in the brain. You should consume at least 130 g of carbohydrate
per day, preferably complex carbs in whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
Another nutrient that may be lacking in your diet is omega-3 fatty acids.
The typical American does not consume the recommended ~1g per day of these
fats, because they are primarily found in fatty fish. Other sources are walnuts,
flax seed and canola oil, as well as fortified food products. Recently, low
levels of omega-3 fatty acids have been identified as a cause of depression.
It will take several weeks for the omega-3 fatty acids to accumulate in the
cells of the nervous system, so don't expect instant results if you add these
fats to your diet.
Of course fatigue and depression also can be caused be lack of sleep and
other life stressors. So try to get enough rest and minimize sources of anxiety.
If none of these suggestions help, I suggest that you increase your energy
intake. Don't sacrifice your work performance, ability to train hard, and,
most importantly, your happiness and peace of mind to lose a few pounds. Take
Saddles for pelvic support
This letter refers to a December
Steve - thank you very much for your reply!
A couple of days ago I had a look at my favourite jeans, and they are completely
worn out just below the right pocket and on the inside of the right thigh (and
this is just from riding to campus). I've also noticed before that my right
thigh is somewhat larger than my left (roughly 1cm diameter), something that
I can feel when wearing the previously mentioned jeans.
On the saddle I can clearly feel that my pelvic is twisted, with my right sit
bone further forward on the saddle. I have had no problem what so ever with
my right knee (protected) and my right leg is always pedalling smoothly. My
left leg on the other hand always feels sloppy (like being too long) and my
left knee have been painful. (The varus on the left foot is 15 degrees compared
to 5 on the right.)
The strange thing is that it's only this season, after starting to use LeWedge,
that I actually had the feeling of a leg length discrepancy...I've been riding
rather successfully for nine years before noticing it!
At the beginning of this season I actually raised my handlebars on both my
road bike and MTB and now I ride them as high as they will go with the original
Ritchey WCS stem, and it feels good. When riding slowly I sit at the very back
of my saddle, but every time I go hard I creep forward.
My conclusion from your great advice:
1. I have a large difference in forefoot varus (left beeing greater) I have
a lateral pelvic tilt (to the right? sitbones like this / )and very possibly
a measureable leg lenth discrepancy ( right leg being shorter)
2. I'm going to find myself a (better) physio to help me determine a possible
LLD (possilby X-ray) - my guess is that it's in the order of 5mm. If this is
confirmed, should I then place a 2.5mm shim under my right shoe? Or perhaps
move my left cleat further back? AND rebuild the strength (size) of my left
I'm considering going back to Fizik's ARIONE saddle, which I consider a "Flat
width" saddle, for better pelvic support.
Steve Hogg replies
Try twisting the seat nose towards the right slightly. Point the centre of
the nose of the seat at the outer right hand edge of the handlebar clamp of
the stem. That is about as far as most people can cope with. If that works,
your right sit bone will move rearward and your left sitbone will move forwards
helping to square your pelvis up to some degree and making a positive difference
in evenness of pedal stroke.
If you can't cope with that much of a seat twist, lessen the twist to what
you can cope with.
I don't know. It depends on whether the hip drop on the right side is caused
by the shorter leg [if indeed it is shorter] or whether the hip drop is caused
by being significantly tighter in right side hip flexors and glutes etc. It
could be a combination of both.
It is possible in the short term that you may need to pack up the left leg
to relieve pain there though that will do nothing for long term symmetry.
The only 100% solution is to become as functionally symmetrical as possible
and at the same time, have that scan to determine if there is a measurable
leg length difference. Best of luck and let me know how you get on.
Leg-assisted blood flow
Dear cycling news,
Physiology courses teach that muscle contractions of limbs can assist circulation
and I wondered if there was any synergy with matching of blood flows if you
were able to cycle such that leg cadence was in sync with heart rate. Say 90rpm,
two legs, and with 180bpm heart rate. Has there been any work done on this?
Scott Saifer replies
This is an interesting question, but no, I don't think much if any work has
been done on it. Think about the challenge. Not only do you have to match
the cadence to half the heart rate as you have suggested, which would be tough
for people like me with a maximum heart rate in the low 170s, but you'd have
to time the pedal strokes to coincide with the right part of the cardiac cycle.
That is, if you contracted your leg muscles during systole (blood ejection
from the heart), you might impede blood flow while leg-muscle contraction
during diastole (filling) could enhance flow. The net effect would depend
on not just matching frequency but also timing. If you can think of a way
to do that, tell me and I'll have some of my clients try it.
I am an 18 year old road cyclist struggling to recover from overtraining. Last
season I was on a heavy training and racing programme - from 13-15hrs per week
- when I started to experience all the symptoms of overtraining and just generally
feeling awful, lots of infections, exhaustion, elevated heart rate, extreme
mood swings etc. I don't think it is another illness as I had a full blood test
to affirm that it wasn't anything else like glandular fever, so I put it down
Basically, I have taken nearly three months off the bike with only a few rides
in there of about 30 mins long. However I am still feeling pretty rubbish, and
although better than I was a couple of months ago, I still get tired, have a
fair few infections, and my heart rate is still very elevated both during exercise
and resting, as it is usually in the 60's now, whereas last season it was around
43 bpm. I was wondering whether it is normal for recovery to take more than
3 months and when it is suitable to return to training. A sports doctor said
it is hard to tell due to feelings related to loss of fitness, less endorphins
in the body etc. and said it might be best to start riding again slowly. However,
I am still unsure as like I said, I am still feeling quite ill fairly regularly
and need some advice as to how to get over it
Dave Palese replies
Your symptoms sound quite deep routed. I, speaking just as a regular person,
and not so much as a coach, would encourage you to continue looking into other
possible causes for your symptoms.
As far as riding goes, I would suggest easing your way back in to some exercise
with short, low intensity rides. An hour or less to start a Level 1 intensity
(less than 65% of Max HR). If you feel up to it, add some time, but not intensity.
Have fun and good luck!
Permanent weight loss
Thank you for such an informative resource.
A question about weight loss - I'm targeting a specific weight for some events
next spring. My goal is to lose 1/2 pound per week in order to hit a target
weight of 165. I'm exactly 6' tall and started at 176/177. It seems that whenever
I hit the range of 168 that I rebound back to 170/171. Hypothetically, if I
continue to run the calorie deficit and hit 165, and then return to my "normal"
caloric levels that I should be able to maintain this new weight. Am I "genetically
coded" for a certain weight? Thanks for the feedback.
Dave Palese replies
It has been my own personal experience and that of some that I have know,
that the body does have a certain weight that it will want to maintain unless
a concerted effort is made to keep the weight off. I personally am that way.
I will go right to 165 if I don't watch very carefully how I fuel my body
and that I keep my exercise level up.
I suggest controlling your caloric intake to get your weight where you want
it for your events, and then slowly increasing your intake to make sure you
have adequate fuel for adaptation and competition. You may need to find a
balance between adequate energy levels and maintaining your new found race
weight. Hope this helps - have fun and good luck!
I've recently started training for next summer's racing and I did a set of
tests on a turbo trainer with my coach to benchmark my fitness levels. One of
the tests had me warm-up, then move on to ride at 80% of my maximum heart-rate
for 10 minutes to see what kind of power I could maintain. It showed that I
could get to 80% and put out 275 watts and maintain it for about four minutes,
and then my power level gradually reduced to 220 watts by the end of the 10
My coach and I thought I should do many more kilometres at around 65% to 75%
of MHR before I move onto training at higher HR levels [above 75%]. In general,
we found that if I cannot maintain power at a certain HR level, I need to do
more training at the intensity level below the level I cannot hold before moving
onto training at the higher levels [i.e. build up more base before moving up
the pyramid]. Do you think that is generally applicable for most athletes? Or
should one train more at the level that one cannot hold? Thanks and Happy Holidays.
Dave Palese replies
I don't want to step on your coach's toes, and I think that you should discuss
this issue at length with him/her.
It is important that
1.) The coach is explaining their theories/methods clearly enough to the
athlete so that the athlete can make an educated determination as to whether
they have buy-in to those theories/methods.
2.) The athlete must evaluate the theories/methods on their own, and make
I say all this because if you ask five coaches the questions you pose, you
will get five answers, or at the very least, five variations of an answer,
none more right or less right than the other.
My suggestion to you is this. Ask yourself a few questions.
1.) If you have been with this coach for more than 1 competitive season,
have you seen the results you have been looking for, or that you set out in
your goal set at the start of your season(s)? If you have achieved your goal(s),
and you enjoy the other aspects of your working relationship, then you may
not need to put this question out to the masses. Have you trained during previous
training years using these same methods and seen results, or not seen results?
2.) Do you agree with your coach's methods? If you have just started with
this coach and are already questioning his/her methods you need to do one
of two things. The first I strongly suggest is for you to sit down and discuss
this with your coach. They need to know that you have questions and you need
to know on what basis they administer this method to you. Why do they do things
the way they do? The other option is simple, if you aren't bought into your
coaches methods you may want to consider another. As an athlete, if you can't
give 100% effort to your coached training plans, then your experience with
that coach will never be as good as it can be.
This is as you can see a sticky situation. Both for you, and for me. But
I really felt it a question worth answering. This issue is a common one that
is everywhere in the world of coach-athlete relationships. And it is uncomfortable
issue for both parties to deal with, but one that must be dealt with if every
one is to get the most out of what we do together.
Ric Stern replies
I'd suggest finding a coach who knows how to train/coach with power. As I
understand what you've written it appears that your coach has made a fundamental
error. Heart rate is a dependent variable - as opposed to power output which
is the independent variable. Heart rate can vary for many reasons, e.g., temperature,
altitude, cadence, anxiety, caffeine intake, hydration, etc., which would
invalidate such a test as you've been asked to do. Additionally, there is
a time 'lag' associated with HR and a change in effort (power output), such
that as you increase power it will take some indeterminate period of time
for your HR to 'catch' up with the effort you're producing. On the other hand
a more rapid response in HR may occur if you start to generate a very high
power output that you can't sustain (e.g., 275 W in your case). This would
then have the outcome that you see -- a rapidly declining power output over
a short period of time.
Testing should require you do some sort of 'maximal' effort over some duration
that is related to the events you take part in. For e.g., for endurance based
cyclists we use a maximal aerobic power test (MAP), which
can be seen here. Other tests could include a time trial over a set distance
- such as a 16-km or 40-km TT, or if you are a sprint based cyclist, testing
such as a Wingate Test of anaerobic power (i.e., a 30-second un-paced, all-out
effort) or a peak power test (all-out for five seconds).
Once your baseline levels have been determined, then follow up testing would
be done in the same manner at regular intervals to check your progression
and adjust your training accordingly. For some cyclists you may need to do
more than one type of test.
Additionally, if you are doing some sort of time trial based testing then
it is better to do the test over a fixed distance rather than a fixed time
duration. As cyclists, most (not all) cycling events take part over a specific
distance, and the time to cover that distance is reduced as fitness increases.
Likewise, with TT testing, as your fitness increases the time taken to complete
such tests (e.g., 16-km TT) would be reduced as your power output increases.
When subjects are asked to perform TTs over fixed durations (in e.g., laboratory
studies) there is a larger variation in the power output produced, when subjects
are asked to retest.
As regards your specific question on training methodology, you need to ask
what events are you training for, and the specific demands of such event(s)
and your limiters. Training at low intensity (e.g., about 65% HRmax) is unlikely
to be very specific for many cycling events, it's also unlikely to increase
your performance for specific events. You'd better off training to increase
specific physiological parameters such as VO2max/MAP and lactate threshold
(for endurance cyclists). In general, these would be completed at higher (than
65%) intensities (although some endurance will also be required). Additionally,
if you have a power meter, you'd be better using power output training zones
rather than HR zones.
For example, it maybe that you compete in TTs. Taking that as an example,
if you currently TT over 40-km at (e.g.) 210 W you'd perhaps benefit most
from doing one to four TT intervals of 15 to 30-mins duration at ~ 90 - 95%
(190 - 200 W) and gradually increasing the amount of power you can produce
on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.
In other words, I don't think you should train at a very low (easy) level,
and neither should you train at a level that is too hard and one that you
can't sustain. You need to train at a level that is adequate for you, your
goals/limiters, and the events that you are competing in. All the best for
the new year.
Trainer vs. rollers
I am a 51 year old male, average health, about 20 pounds overweight. I recently
started riding again after about a 20 year layoff. I rode about 2000 miles this
year outdoors and am looking to continue my trainers over the winter. Living
in Minnesota, I need to train indoors for about 5 months out of the year. I
was hoping you would address the differences between and benefits of each for
using rollers and trainers to ride indoors. Thanks.
Dave Palese replies
I think that there are a few responses to this question in the archives,
but here is a recap.
Rollers are great for handling and balance, but not very good for hard workout
sessions. This is a pretty general statement, but one that hold up to discussion.
If you your plan has you on the bike, riding steady for periods at a steady
pace, then rollers will fit the bill.
If you plan on doing various workouts consisting of hard intervals, sprints
and the like, I suggest a trainer. On the trainer you can think more about
the effort and less about staying upright. Hope this helps.
I'm thinking about planning my training for '06 and wondering what your preferences
are for planning and record keeping. I've tried the Joe Friel diary which is
good, but hard to keep up to date beyond about July. How do you rate software
diaries? After a 'cross season best not talked about (I sucked!) I'm doing mainly
base miles, cross country skiing and single speed MTB with a couple of gym sessions
a week. No real intensity - will probably start intervals in a few weeks.
All the best and thanks again for a great web-site.
New Hampshire, USA
Dave Palese replies
The key to keeping a good diary is to keep it simple.
Remember, the data you record need only be the useful info about your session.
Now, having said that, what is useful may differ from one athlete to the next.
Think about the info you want to track, and that would be useful for you to
refer to a few months from now - power at a certain HR during an interval
session, the number of sprints you did, how long your ITT test course took…whatever.
Once you have that set of data points, now ask yourself how is the easiest,
most convenient way for me to record these points, that I will do as consistently
For some it is electronic, but for some, it is a 3-ring binder or a small
note pad in the gear bag. Try different ones to see which fits you best. In
general, if you aren't going to need or really desire the ability to graph
out or have an electronic display for various data points, the electronic
diaries probably aren't worth the investment of time or money. Hope this helps.
I am a 26-year-old cat 3 rider. I train almost everyday, but mostly six days
per week, between 40-70 miles per day. In the evening about 5-6 hours after
the ride I also do some stretching and abdominal muscles workout; actually,
I have just recently started doing the stretching. I usually ride with a heart
monitor and one thing started to worry me. I have noticed that if I ride hard
for about one hour and than I stop, my heart rate stays pretty high, about 100
bpm for about 30-60 minutes after the ride. Is this normal?
My resting heart rate is about 50 bpm. I have heard that some riders can go
from maximum heart rate to resting heart rate in one minute or so. Is that true?
If it takes me so long to recover, what does this mean? I do not feel tired
when my heart rate is at 100, actually even when I ride 160 bpm it is ok. This
is at a speed of about 42km/h. I know that I am riding with a little beat of
extra weight so this would bring my heart rate up a little. Should I consult
a physician or is this normal to have an elevated heart rate for such a long
time after the ride. Maybe it means that I had a hard workout or maybe that
I am riding too much? Hope to hear your opinion.
Dave Palese replies
The HR response you are mentioning does not sound out of the norm for an
athlete at your level. Keep in mind that elite riders are the ideal not the
norm when it comes to physical condition, and response. To see if this could
be a symptom of a larger problem, look at some of the other indicators. How
is your overall performance on the bike? How is you sleep of late? Is your
weight up or down? Has your mood been consistent?
You can look more detailed such as HR at a given power level or average HR
during a repeated time trial. These things are more useful ways to evaluate
you current state, rather than comparing your HR numbers to super fit athletes.
Hope this helps.
Michael Smartt replies
In addition to Dave's comments, I would like to add that your heart rate,
and it's variability, is driven by many factors, including: exercise intensity;
environmental temperatures; altitude; illness; recent sleep patterns; mental
anxiety; state of hydration; and the body's thermal (heat) stress. When you
exercise at an intense level for extended periods of time, such as the hour
you mentioned, it is very likely that your body temperature is elevated. If
so, your heart rate is going to stay elevated for some time after training
due to your body's attempt to move heat from the muscles to the skin via blood
Also, keeping hydrated while training hard is a challenge and failing to
do so will result in an elevated heart rate for any given stressor mentioned
above. And since blood is composed primarily of water, any amount of dehydration
will reduce the total volume of blood in your circulation, causing your heart
to beat faster to circulate the same minute by minute volume of blood.
Weight-lifting and cycling
I have an elaboration for Ric Stern on the
question asked about weight-lifting on December 19 by Perry Fields. For
the most part, I understand, and find compelling, the arguments against weight
lifting for the endurance cyclist. However, you said the following, which makes
"There maybe some reasons to do weight training (e.g., inclement weather and
you can't stand the indoor trainer), a change in physique/body shape, or you
have a manual labour job that requires a high strength requirement..."
Could you elaborate on the "sudden change in physique/body shape" exception?
What sorts of sudden changes are we talking about, and why do these changes
affect the recommendation against weight-lifting?
Some context: I'm a 28-year-old cat 5, new to road racing. Over the last six
months, I've gone from being a somewhat stocky body type to a rather skinny
body type. I'm 5'8" (173cm); my old weight range was 152lbs-156lbs (69-71kg),
and my new range is 134lbs-138lbs (61kg-63kg). I wouldn't venture body fat estimates,
but it seems like it's pretty darned low now: for instance, I have visible subcutaneous
veins on my abdomen and upper thighs, which I've never seen before.
As one would expect, my cycling has improved immensely. It feels like I've
got three legs, especially uphill.
However, my upper body strength has suffered to the point where I feel less
functionally capable doing lightly strenuous stuff (e.g., carrying around heavy
items, working around the house, etc.). My wife also finds my somewhat skeletal
upper body less than appealing, and I feel my ability to recover from intense
training sessions has suffered over the last couple months. What's going on?
Am I pushing the body composition/diet angle too far? Might I be one of those
unusual cyclists who could benefit from adding some muscle bulk?
Ric Stern replies
Hope you had a good Christmas and got plenty of cycling done over the holiday
To clarify, I originally wrote to Perry: "...a change in physique/body shape..."
In other words I didn't mention a "sudden change". Nonetheless, what I actually
meant by that (poorly worded) phrase I originally used, was simply some people
may not want to look very slim/lean in the 'traditional' cycling manner and
may want to look more muscular (for purely aesthetic reasons) and that could
be a reason to do weight training (i.e., the opposite of what has occurred
Your ability to recover from training is related both to your absolute fitness
(i.e., the fitter you are the quicker you recover) and your nutrition - taking
in sufficient carbohydrate to help replete your body's carbohydrate stores
(e.g., muscle and liver glycogen). In general you should aim to take in 1
to 1.5 g per kg body mass of carbohydrate immediately post exercise to aid
In general, however, unless you have lots of (fat) mass to lose it's the
increasing the power output aspect of the power to mass equation that is most
helpful to improved performance. If you can sustain a higher workload and
get fitter at a greater mass then this may lead to more improved performance.
Blood tests and anaemia
About five months ago you helped me with a problem with suspected anaemia,
since then I've been on ferrous sulphate for 3 months at a very high dose of
3 tablets a day of the maximum you can take. I've now been off the tablets for
about a month (or more) and have since had another blood test. Currently I'm
experiencing some fatigue, especially in the mornings and evenings, and poor
concentration again. I'm also not training much due to heavy work commitments
at the moment but plan to start building up again ready for the new season to
start in March.
My blood tests came back as below:
- (SCL) - Normal
- WBCs - 5.8 10*9/L Range (3.8 -11.0)
- HB - 13.5 g/dL Range (13.0 -18.0)
- Platelet count 276 10*9 / L
- RBCs - 4.49 10*12 / L Range (4.5 - 6.5) (Low)
- Haematocrit 0.40 Range (0.4 - 0.54) (This was at 46% when tested by Andy Bloomer
whilst on tablets)
- MCV 89.3 fL
- MCH 30.1pg
- MCHC 33.7 g/L
- Differential White Cell count
- Neutrophil count - 3.43 10*9 / L
- Lymphocyte count 1.99 10*9 / L
- Monocyte count 0.28 10*9 / L
- Eosinophil count 0.06 10*9 / L
- Basophil count 0.01 10*9 / L (Low)
- Percentage neutrophils 59.4 %
- Percentage lymphocytes 34.5%
- Percentage monocytes 4.9%
- Percentage eosinophils 1.0%
- Percentage basophils 0.2%
Please can you tell me what this indicates? I think what concerns me here is
that whether or not this indicates anemia, my RBCs have certainly dropped since
being on iron supplement for 3 months, which I would have expected to have improved
matters. I have noticed that I find it hard to concentrate in meetings since
coming off the tablets although this didn't occur immediately but definitely
more rapidly than I would have expected.
You were a great help to me last time so I thank you in advance.
Pam Hinton replies
Your low Hb, RBC number, and Hct, along with the return of your symptoms,
suggest that you are anaemic. Because your red blood cells are of normal size
(MCV) and haemoglobin content (MCHC) and because your symptoms improved with
iron and returned when you stopped the supplements, I would guess that you
have iron deficiency anaemia. You would expect your Hb and RBC number to decrease
after detraining, but 13.5 g/dL is low even for a sedentary male. A ferritin
test would be useful to determine your iron stores. If your ferritin is low
(<20), then you need to keep taking iron until it returns to normal--this
may take up to six months. I suggest that you follow up with your physician
and continue to have your blood checked regularly.
Small leg length discrepancy
Hello Cyclingnews - happy and safe 2006 to all. Thanks for your help!
I have been battling slight right leg pain (muscles/tendons behind the knee)
for about four months now and more recently some mild/medium intensity lower
back pain so I went to the chiropractor who said everything was largely normal,
just a slight lower back inflammation but he also discovered a small but measured
~5-7mm leg length discrepancy, as revealed by X-rays. My right leg (the injured
one) is the shorter one by about 5-7mm. I am a male, a left hander, if it makes
any difference, about 66kg, 174cm, 46-year-old a fitness road rider. I tend
to pedal heels-down-style a little bit (I think!). The pain in my right leg
was eased by lowering the saddle by about 7mm from the initial height that caused
the pain in the first place but it still sometimes hurts a little bit under
load i.e. climbing or going flat out. The pain was only in my shorter right
My chiropractor said that 5-7mm leg length discrepancy is quite normal and
requires no special intervention (for walking) but he does not know anything
about road cycling.
Should I be concerned and if so what is recommended for small 5-7mm leg length
discrepancies for road cyclists? Should I simply put a second shoe in-sole into
my right cycling shoe, for example, to lift the foot while cycling? Should the
second/top in-sole be 1-size smaller than the bottom one? I.e. I have size-45
Shimano shoe so should I place a size-44 insole on top of the existing size
45 insole, for a better fit?
My Shimano Ultegra pedals/cleats are configured as per Steve Hogg's advice
with my centre of ball-of-foot about 10mm in front of the pedal axle (this helped,
thanks Steve!) Thank you in advance!
Steve Hogg replies
I take it that your Ultegra pedals are the current issue Look style SPD -SL's
and not SPD-R's? If so, they are relatively easy to fit shims underneath.
The question of course is how much?
There are various rules of thumb but what matters as much as the discrepancy
is what other influence it has had on the way you sit on the bike; i.e. what
compensatory measures you have evolved and how they affect the symmetry of
how you sit and use your legs. Depending on how you function on a bike you
may need anything from no intervention to possibly (but the odds are against
it) more than the measurable 7mm discrepancy. If I have to play the odds,
I would start with 5mm and add or subtract from that until both legs felt
much the same in use.
As you are in Oz, if you contact me directly, I will send you some shims to
Load off the quads
This letter refers to a December
Thank you so much for responding to my question about my quad muscles being
far more tired and sore compared to my hamstrings after a hard ride. And as
you guessed, I meant to say in my original email that the tip of my seat was
8 cm behind the BB (not 8 mm), which is as far as it will go in my Oval seatpost.
Although I was delayed by illness and bad weather, I was finally able to test
out the new cleat position you recommended. In adjusting my cleats, I ended
up moving them as far back as possible in my Sidi shoes to get the head of my
first metatarsal over the spindle. I found that when I climb, I drop my heel
quite a bit. My pedaling at the bottom of the stroke is still smooth and not
jerky (as you recently questioned someone else in Cyclingnews).
Anyway, after a good ride yesterday, my quads were not sore like they used
to be. The minimal soreness seemed to be about equal to that of my hamstrings.
I would never have guessed that moving the cleats back would make such a difference
in the upper leg.
My only remaining concern is that my speed was not as fast as normal. I am
usually within a few minutes + or - over a route that takes 2 hours and 30 minutes.
However, yesterday I was about 10 minutes slower. Although it might have been
the result of inactivity from the flu and then rainy weather, could it also
be that I need to build up my hamstrings after many years of a forward seat
and cleat position? Thank you again for your great advice.
Steve Hogg replies
Thanks for getting back to me. As you have found, cleat position has a profound
effect on which muscles are utilised to what degree further up the leg and
I am glad that you got a result.
Re the performance drop, it could be either of the reasons that you mention.
As well I would add the possibility that a slightly altered pedalling technique
caused by moving the cleats rearward will take a few weeks to get the hang
Normally after that type of change, I would recommend three weeks of regular
riding at relatively low intensity before testing yourself hard. That is conservative
advice but I find that if it is adhered to there is rarely a problem. If you
do that and are still not performing in 3 weeks or so I would be surprised.
Let me know either way.
Other Cyclingnews Form & Fitness articles