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Form & Fitness Q & A
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Cyclingnews also has the full directory of all Form & Fitness questions and answers to our expert panel in a separate archive.
Fitness questions and answers for April 17, 2005
The Cyclingnews form & fitness panel
Carrie Cheadle, MA (www.carriecheadle.com)
is a Sports Psychology consultant who has dedicated her career to helping
athletes of all ages and abilities perform to their potential. Carrie
specialises in working with cyclists, in disciplines ranging from track
racing to mountain biking. She holds a bachelors degree in Psychology
from Sonoma State University as well as a masters degree in Sport Psychology
from John F. Kennedy University.
Dave Palese (www.davepalese.com)
is a USA Cycling licensed coach and masters' class road racer with 16
years' race experience. He coaches racers and riders of all abilities
from his home in southern Maine, USA, where he lives with his wife Sheryl,
daughter Molly, and two cats, Miranda and Mu-Mu.
Kelby Bethards, MD received a Bachelor of
Science in Electrical Engineering from Iowa State University (1994) before
obtaining an M.D. from the University of Iowa College of Medicine in 2000.
Has been a racing cyclist 'on and off' for 20 years, and when time allows,
he races Cat 3 and 35+. He is a team physician for two local Ft Collins,
CO, teams, and currently works Family Practice in multiple settings: rural,
urgent care, inpatient and the like.
Fiona Lockhart (www.trainright.com)
is a USA Cycling Expert Coach, and holds certifications from USA Weightlifting
(Sports Performance Coach), the National Strength and Conditioning Association
(Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach), and the National Academy
for Sports Nutrition (Primary Sports Nutritionist). She is the Sports
Science Editor for Carmichael Training Systems, and has been working in
the strength and conditioning and endurance sports fields for over 10
years; she's also a competitive mountain biker.
Eddie Monnier (www.velo-fit.com)
is a USA Cycling certified Elite Coach and a Category II racer. He holds
undergraduate degrees in anthropology (with departmental honors) and philosophy
from Emory University and an MBA from The Wharton School of Business.
Eddie is a proponent of training with power. He coaches cyclists (track,
road and mountain bike) of all abilities and with wide ranging goals (with
and without power meters). He uses internet tools to coach riders from
David Fleckenstein, MPT (www.physiopt.com)
is a physical therapist practicing in Boise, ID. His clients have included
World and U.S. champions, Olympic athletes and numerous professional athletes.
He received his B.S. in Biology/Genetics from Penn State and his Master's
degree in Physical Therapy from Emory University. He specializes in manual
medicine treatment and specific retraining of spine and joint stabilization
musculature. He is a former Cat I road racer and Expert mountain biker.
Since 1986 Steve Hogg (www.cyclefitcentre.com)
has owned and operated Pedal Pushers, a cycle shop specialising in rider
positioning and custom bicycles. In that time he has positioned riders
from all cycling disciplines and of all levels of ability with every concievable
cycling problem.They include World and National champions at one end of
the performance spectrum to amputees and people with disabilities at the
Current riders that Steve has positioned include Davitamon-Lotto's Nick
Gates, Discovery's Hayden Roulston, National Road Series champion, Jessica
Ridder and National and State Time Trial champion, Peter Milostic.
Pamela Hinton has a bachelor's degree in Molecular
Biology and a doctoral degree in Nutritional Sciences, both from the University
of Wisconsin-Madison. She did postdoctoral training at Cornell University
and is now an assistant professor of Nutritional Sciences at the University
of Missouri-Columbia where she studies the effects of iron deficiency
on adaptations to endurance training and the consequences of exercise-associated
changes in menstrual function on bone health.
Pam was an All-American in track while at the UW. She started cycling
competitively in 2003 and is the defending Missouri State Road Champion.
Pam writes a nutrition column for Giana Roberge's Team Speed Queen Newsletter.
Dario Fredrick (www.wholeathlete.com)
is an exercise physiologist and head coach for Whole Athlete™. He is a
former category 1 & semi-pro MTB racer. Dario holds a masters degree in
exercise science and a bachelors in sport psychology.
Scott Saifer (www.wenzelcoaching.com)
has a Masters Degree in exercise physiology and sports psychology and
has personally coached over 300 athletes of all levels in his 10 years
of coaching with Wenzel Coaching.
Kendra Wenzel (www.wenzelcoaching.com)
is a head coach with Wenzel Coaching with 17 years of racing and coaching
experience and is coauthor of the book Bike Racing 101.
Richard Stern (www.cyclecoach.com)
is Head Coach of Richard Stern Training, a Level 3 Coach with the Association
of British Cycling Coaches, a Sports Scientist, and a writer. He has been
professionally coaching cyclists and triathletes since 1998 at all levels
from professional to recreational. He is a leading expert in coaching
with power output and all power meters. Richard has been a competitive
cyclist for 20 years
Andy Bloomer (www.cyclecoach.com)
is an Associate Coach and sport scientist with Richard Stern Training.
He is a member of the Association of British Cycling Coaches (ABCC) and
a member of the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES).
In his role as Exercise Physiologist at Staffordshire University Sports
Performance Centre, he has conducted physiological testing and offered
training and coaching advice to athletes from all sports for the past
4 years. Andy has been a competitive cyclist for many years.
Kim Morrow (www.elitefitcoach.com)
has competed as a Professional Cyclist and Triathlete, is a certified
USA Cycling Elite Coach, a 4-time U.S. Masters National Road Race Champion,
and a Fitness Professional.
Her coaching group, eliteFITcoach, is based out of the Southeastern United
States, although they coach athletes across North America. Kim also owns
a resource for cyclists, multisport athletes & endurance coaches around
the globe, specializing in helping cycling and multisport athletes find
Advice presented in Cyclingnews' fitness pages is provided for educational
purposes only and is not intended to be specific advice for individual
athletes. If you follow the educational information found on Cyclingnews,
you do so at your own risk. You should consult with your physician before
beginning any exercise program.
Fixed wheel training
Heart rate in different sports
I have a quick question about workout energy expenditure. When my Powertap
tells me I have put 2000kJ onto the road during a workout, what does this correspond
to in terms of energy expenditure by the body. I have heard multiplying figures
of 4-5 for the conversion is this in the ballpark and does this figure vary
much for different riders and different workouts (e.g. long endurance vs. interval
Scott Saifer replies
The multiply by 4-5 rule is good. The human body when cycling is somewhere
around 18-25% efficient. I'm not familiar with the very latest research, so
the exact limits are vague. Yes, the efficiency does vary from rider to rider.
It generally increases with training and it does vary from workout to workout,
as well as varying with diet, body position and temperature, among other factors.
Some of the energy you expend during exercise goes into cooling your body,
holding your body on the bike, digesting your food and so on, so efficiency
changes as different amounts of energy are expended on these items.
The reason I'm dumping this info on you is to help justify my next statement:
The only way to really know what multiplying factor you should use during
a given few minutes of riding would be to do a gas-exchange measurement, that
is, to measure how much oxygen you are taking in and how much carbon dioxide
you are putting out, which in turn lets you estimate how much fat and carbohydrate
you are metabolizing. And of course the efficiency in a lab with a mask on
and limited breeze is different than on the road. For road riding, we're not
going to get any more precise that the 4-5 you already have.
I am getting back into road biking after 15 years. My question is whether a
12-27 cassette will make much of a difference compared to a 12-25 for climbing.
I am desperately trying to avoid a compact crankset. I am climbing ok on a double
up until 10% then I struggle to keep above 8 mph. Any advice would be appreciated.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Scott Saifer replies
Neither the compact nor the 12-27 will make you much faster up the hills.
They will let you maintain a higher cadence on the steepest hills, and that
will allow you to climb longer with less fatigue so that your average speed
for long hills or average speed on a long ride could increase.
It turns out the minimum fatigue is associated with cadences in the range
of 103-108 rpm, which will probably be impossible on 10% grades for you unless
you choose MTB gears, at least until you've regained some cycling fitness.
Fortunately you don't have to get over 103 to get some of the benefit of higher
cadences. Much of the benefit is available if you can pedal over 85 or 90
rpm, so choose the gears that will allow you to do that on the hills that
you will ride routinely, or as close to that as you can get with the equipment
you are willing to use.
Fixed wheel training
Last summer I purchased a fixed wheel bike to use as my commuter bike with
the expectation that I would gain some added training benefits during the winter.
I also figured that fewer moving parts equalled less to clean up. My commute
is a bit hilly and I have been riding at noon, weather permitting, to get in
additional training miles. I have a couple of questions regarding the 'benefits'
of fixed wheel commuting.
I have been riding the fixed wheel all winter (about 5,000km) gradually increasing
my ability to ride down hill at speed. When I am on a long steep down hill I
try to relax and put pressure on the reverse side of the stroke to try to slow
down (thereby saving a considerable amount of money on brake pads). On a long
steep hill I am putting considerable pressure on the pedals to slow down and
then pedalling like there is no tomorrow trying to stay smooth and not bounce
in the seat.
I have two questions:
1. When I am spinning like a madman going down a hill, does this do me any
good? I know I am exhausted at the bottom of a hill, particularly if I have
exceeded a speed of 60 kph, but will this do anything to improve my pedal stroke
when I get back onto my road bike?
2. When weight training (back in my body building days - ha) sometimes you
do reverses to stimulate your muscles. When putting back pressure on the pedals,
am I getting any benefit or is the fact that I am putting back pressure at the
back end of the stroke make the effort meaningless? I am inclined to the latter
but wonder about the muscle groups that are actually mobilised for the effort.
Dave Palese replies
There are differing opinions as the benefits of riding a fixed gear. I for
one am glad you are riding one.
The benefits of riding a fixie are best realized during the General Preparation
period of the training year. In-season, you time is much better spent doing
specific training on your road bike, racing, or recovering.
To answer your questions:
1.) The high cadence spinning, that is controlled, will yield neuromuscular
benefits to improve the efficiency of your pedal stroke. Riding a fixie, and
this is just my experience and is very anecdotal, improves your ability to
spin lighter gears, more efficiently, for longer. When you can do this in,
say a crit, you will be able to save your legs for the key points in the race
when pushing a larger gear with more force is required.
2.) I would use your brakes to control your speed on downhills keeping you
just at a speed you can maintain smoothly. Back pedalling doesn't really have
any benefits. The key to fixed gearing on downhills is "staying ahead" of
the pedals. Pedal just faster than the natural cadence for your gearing and
Again, once in season, I would avoid a lot of fixed gear riding. During the
early General Prep period of the training year, one to three longish (1:30-3
hour) fixed gear rides a week can be very beneficial. Work on strength on
the up hills, staying seated and applying high force to the pedals at a low
cadence. Then work on that leg speed on the downhills. Light muscular endurance
work can occur on the flats.
With regard to gearing, I like 42x18 and 16 as two good options. Hope some
of this helps - have fun and good luck!
Heart rate in different sports
As both heart rate max and VO2-max are sport specific, should one adjust the
exercise zones based on heart rate according to the sport you are doing? Is
the level of exertion higher if one maintains the same HR in a sport where HR-max
If the level of exertion is different at the same HR in different sports, doesn't
this mean that in the base training period one should train a large part of
the training in the sport where the level of exertion is the lowest for a given
HR? At least if one believes that VO2max is the most important factor for improving
Scott Saifer replies
To answer the first part of your question, yes, if you are training in different
sports and are training by heart rate, you should develop heart rate zones
specific to each sport. As an extreme example, an appropriate endurance training
zone for cross country skiing might be above the maximum heart rate for swimming,
at least for some athletes.
I have to admit I don't really understand the logic of the second part of
your question. Did someone tell you that minimizing the feeling of effort
is a goal during base training? The correct answer is that you should do the
majority of your base training in the sport in which you want to improve your
performance. If you want to be a bike racer, ride your bike a lot during base.
If you want to be a runner, run. If you want to be a triathlete, do a balance
of running, biking and swimming.
If base training is done appropriately it's not really easy, though it is
aerobic. A few years ago I ran into Freddie Rodriguez when he was base training,
averaging 25 mph (40 kph) for many hours at a time. While this was not near
the limit of the speed he could hit for a short while, he did have to push
very hard on the pedals and he felt that he was working hard, but within the
range of effort that he could sustain.
Other Cyclingnews Form & Fitness articles (including the archive of Fitness Q & A)