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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 February 13, 2005

Rest weeks
Orthotics and hip pain
Lower back pain
Ride intensity
Saddle types
Mont Ventoux preparation
Second hand smoke

Rest weeks


I am a 43-year-old female, riding for five years, racing for three. I'm a solid mid to back of the pack age-grouper. (ah, my triathlete roots show...)

I am currently self-coached, and use a Power Tap to aid my training (I've worked with coaches in the past, but still experienced the same type of problem - not feeling completely recovered after a rest period). I've got the work portion of my workout schedule down, but I have trouble with my rest weeks. What should I do? I feel I lose my edge if I cut back the intensity drastically, and I'm afraid of gaining weight if I lose the volume. But I never feel fully recovered after a rest week. A typical rest week right now might look like this:

Monday: Easy 20 min spin on rollers,
Tuesday: 3 or 4 hill sprints (cut back from about 8), about 1 hour ride time,
Wednesday: One 20 minute AT interval, or just below AT (rather than 2 or 3), 1-1.5 hour ride time
Thursday: Endurance, 2-3 hours (cut back from 3-4hrs).
Friday: Easy 20 min spin on rollers,
Weekends are always intense group rides, at least 60 miles on Sat, and either mountain biking or a road ride of about 45 miles on Sunday.

I also try to get a massage about once every 2-3 weeks, when funds allow.

I average about 6.5-7 hours sleep, but do best with 8 hours. (I've got two kids...)

I feel I know WHEN I need a rest week, but getting that rest seems to elude me. Any suggestions as to how I should revamp my rest week training? I don't know if a week is too short, maybe I need more days rest? Or maybe I'm not resting sufficiently enough to recover, and if I did some things differently, I might only need 3 or 4 days of recovery - can you help?


Scott Saifer replies


Your problem is simple. Your rest weeks aren't rest weeks. A 20-minute AT interval is as hard as a race. Doing 3-4 sprints is hard work, even if it is less than your usual. A truly restful rest week had nothing harder than 70% of maximum heart rate.

Nothing harder than a CP-10 hours. Nothing harder than easy spinning. Yes, you will lose your edge. A rest week is not the best way to prepare for a race. At the end of a rest week, most of my clients report that they race badly, but the following week, they race better than ever. If you never have a true rest week in race season and you ride competitive intensity every weekend, you will race tired.

This is different from the training season. In the training but not racing season, it is possible to take recovery DAYS as needed, so that one never needs a full rest week.

Orthotics and hip pain

I have gone through knee and hip pain over the past few years. Finally this last year, I purchased some cycling orthotics. They feel great but after about half an hour riding my right hip starts to ache. I broke my right leg over 20 years ago and have been told that the right leg is slightly longer than the left. Could it be I need to shim up the left leg? I have been wearing down the right side of all my saddles so something seems to not be right. I am using Look pedals with the floating cleat set at 9 degrees.

Stuart Laing

Steve Hogg replies


A few questions for you:

1. The knee and hip pain you were experiencing. Was this on both sides?
Where was the seat of the discomfort in both knee and hip?
2. The hip pain you are now experiencing on the right side. Where is the painful area, front, back or outside of hip?
3. What you say about the wear pattern on the seat implies that you are hanging to the right on the seat. Put your bike on a trainer, strip to the waist and with an observer behind and above you, can you confirm this or otherwise?
4. When you say that your right leg is longer than the left, are you talking measurably or functionally longer?
If measurably longer, has this been confirmed with a CT scan or similar or was it an educated guess?
5. Overall, do you feel better for the wearing of these cycling orthoses or not?
If you get back to me with the answers to the above, I will attempt to advise further.

Lower back pain

I am a 20-year-old rider on an U23 squad. I am experiencing unbelievable frustration. I cannot figure out why my back always hurts!!! I have been racing competitively for about 3 years now. I do not know what it is like to ride without lower back pain. My lower back ONLY hurts when I am on the bike. Over the course of the past 3 years I have tried many things. I tried core exercises, but that did not help at all. I have been to several chiropractors. The one chiropractor just cracks my spine and sets me off. This has actually helped to hold off the pain and make my rides a little more comfortable when I first started getting adjustments, but then the pain has come back even though I get adjusted regularly.

Another chiropractor looked at my x-rays and pointed out a pelvic tilt. The x-rays showed my pelvis is tilted to the right side. So I started yoga to re-align it, and have been doing that everyday now for two months. The yoga seems to help a little, and it almost seems that the pain is starting to happen a little later on in my rides than in the past. The pain generally starts after an hour of riding, but will start hurting within minutes if I do a climb early in the ride and then stay with me until the ride is over. Sometimes it will just start to hurt right off the bat even when riding only dead flat roads. I always have the feeling that I am fighting my bike trying to get comfortable.

My right leg always seems to be sloppy and I always have the involuntary tendency to want to swing my right leg out while I am pedaling because it just doesn't feel right. NOTE: Under my LEFT inner thigh up towards my crotch (around where that area contacts the saddle) seems to be tight and will start to hurt as I start pedaling, but will go away after I get out of the saddle a couple times. The pressure on the saddle on the muscle combined with pedaling makes it very tight and tender until it is warmed up. Example: I cannot just hop on my trainer and start pedaling for an hour. I have to do about 10 minutes pedaling, alternating sitting and standing up and getting off to stretch the area until it goes away, then I can start my workout.

Continuing with doctors; I then went to an orthopaedic doctor who also looked at my x-rays, and did not think much of the pelvic tilt (but he, doesn't know anything about cycling). The ortho told me to get a bone scan to see if I have spondylolysthesis, because there could be a 10% chance it is being missed on my x-rays. My father had spondylolythesis then he was around my age...hmm. SO I do not know what to do now. I feel as though I have pushed all the buttons. As far at bike positioning goes, I have lost count of how many different times it was checked, changed and re-checked. I currently put 2.5 mm of shims under my right cleat. That is all I have done as far at trying to compensate some obvious imbalances I have. At first I thought all of this info would help me get to the bottom of this. Now I am buried under too much information and I don't know what to do. Please, help me!!!

Tim Gresh

Steve Hogg replies


Your cycling life doesn't sound like a lot of fun. If you can answer a few questions, I will attempt to advise.
1. The low back pain - is this localised to a particular area or is it general low back pain?
2. Does it seem to start on one side or be more severe on one side?
If so, which side?
3. Set your bike up on a trainer, make sure that it is level between axle centres and ride under reasonable load stripped to the waist. You will need an observer standing behind and above you. Do you drop one side of your pelvis on the pedal downstroke?
From what you have said, it is likely that you are hanging to the right.
3a. Do you rotate one side of your pelvis forward on the pedal downstroke? If so, which side?
4. With your observer viewing you from the side and you riding with hands in the drops, does your back look like a more or less single curve or does most of the forward bending happen in one area?
If the latter, where is the majority of the bend?
5. Again as viewed from the side, do you lock one elbow more than the other? If so, which side?
6. Does your upper back run down and forward to your neck when riding in the drops?
7. When you say that you have an "involuntary tendency to want to swing my right leg out while I am pedalling"; what do you mean by that?
Does it mean to move your knee outwards, or something else?
8. What bike brand, model and size do you ride, what seat do you use and what shoe brand, size and pedal system do you use?
If you can get back to me with that info, I will attempt to advise further.

Ride intensity


I have a question, is it true or false: It is recommended that you spend at least 2 months of every exercise or training season riding at 80% of maximum heart rate or below? Please help me with this answer!

Talia Jenkins

Scott Saifer replies


Your recommendation is consistent with the training plans I prescribe for my clients. We usually have a month of very light training after the race season, and then two months of riding below 80% of max. This sort of riding used to be called "long slow distance", but I don't like that name for it. By the time one has done two months of decent volume at this intensity, it is no longer slow. To name one extreme example, Freddie Rodriguez told me he was averaging 25 mph on rolling, six hour rides after several months of sub-80% riding. No wonder he can get to the end of long road races and still have a sprint. While most riders obviously are not that fast, average speeds for multi-hour rides in this zone are typically about as fast as one can do by riding "harder" and then coming home tired and slowing down later in the ride.

Saddle types


I read a while back that Steve Hogg described 4 types of saddles. Flat profile from the back, round profile from the back, flat longitudinally and dipped longitudinally. Can you provide examples of a flat vs. round from the back?

With very few exceptions, don't all saddles have some dip longitudinally? (I think the San Marco Rolls is flat - but can't find any other examples.) Now that I've adopted Steve Hogg's fit recommendations, I sit differently on the bike and I seem to 'sink' into an Arione, which shifts weight from my sit bones onto soft tissue- not ideal!

Pat Cusack

Steve Hogg replies


Regarding flat vs. round back seats; the San Marco Era is an example of a narrow round back seat and a Selle Italia Flite Genuine Gel is an example of a wider round back seat.

Regarding the dip - most saddles do and the rest tend to develop a dip with use. The degree of dip when new varies a lot as well.
If you are sitting on soft tissue, something is wrong. This is not a practice I would ever advocate. Can you give me more info please?

Mont Ventoux preparation


I'm 27 years old, 5'6, 140 lbs and i've been cycling for 4 months now, mostly on rollers. From 3th to 10th of june i'm gonna try to climb the Mont-Ventoux with a couple of friends. I've never cycled much before but did other sport like fitness and basketball.

Each week I train four times - three rides of 45 minutes (heart rate 60-70% of max) and one 30 minute ride (70-80 % of max). I'm trying to get to three 90 km and one 60 km rides a week. Normally it will be April before I reach this kind of volume.

Is this enough to reach my goal or do you have other training suggestions?

Kenny Robinson


Scott Saifer replies


Whether this is enough training to reach your goal depends entirely on what you mean by "with" a couple of friends and how fit they are. If you have low enough gears to spin a comfortable cadence over 80 and stay in the 70-80% heart rate zone on Mt Ventoux, then you will be able to get up the mountain, assuming the weather cooperates and you don't get blown off or snowed off. If you want to actually ride the same speed as your buddies, then keeping up with them depends on how fast they ride. The programme you have described is very low volume, and not enough to make you able to keep up with better trained riders.

Second hand smoke

I was wondering how much lung damage and decrease in physical ability I could have if I'm exposed to second hand smoke and live in it non-stop. My downstairs neighbours smoke and whenever I walk into my house, it smells like a bar room. Also, I've been getting upper respiratory sicknesses more frequently than before they moved in a year ago and wake up with a sore throat every morning. I've been really worried about this and was just wondering how far off I am from what I could be. Thanks.

Emil Marinov

Kelby Bethards replies


Your concerns are warranted. I don't have any studies right on hand, but being exposed to second hand smoke does have ill effects on your health. The increase in upper respiratory illnesses can be attributed and possibly the sore throats, to the exposure. Being exposed to second hand smoke also predisposes people to reactive lung diseases (asthma), sinus infections and so on. Just because the smoke is second hand, doesn't make it any less harmful. I have seen many patients that have emphysema from living with smokers and had never smoked at all.

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