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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 January 3, 2006

Weight loss and nutrition
Saddles for pelvic support
Leg-assisted blood flow
Permanent weight loss
Training question
Trainer vs. rollers
Training planning
Recovery time
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 tall.

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 care.

Saddles for pelvic support

This letter refers to a December 19 posting

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 thigh.

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.

2.5mm shim?

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?

Brian McKeon

Scott Saifer replies

Hi Brian,

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 to overtraining.

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.

Jeff Ishmael

Southern California

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!

Training question


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 minute session.

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.

Sai Yeung

London, UK

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 that determination.

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.

Mike Kivley

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.

Training planning


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.

Rich Brown

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 as possible?

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.

Recovery time


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.

Lukasz Piskozub

Chicago, IL

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 circulation.

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 me curious:

"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?

Keith Adams

Ric Stern replies

Hi Keith,

Hope you had a good Christmas and got plenty of cycling done over the holiday period.

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 with yourself).

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 recovery.

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.

Andrew Hill

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 leg.

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!

Yuri Budilov


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 play with.

Load off the quads

This letter refers to a December 12 posting


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.

Don Whitehead

Sunnyvale, California

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 of.

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.


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