Recently on Cyclingnews.com
Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift
Form & Fitness Q & A
Got a question about fitness, training, recovery from injury or a related subject?
Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 September 21, 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.
Can milk for breakfast hurt performance?
Getting the most out of base training
Can milk for breakfast hurt performance?
I have recently heard stories about professional riders having water on their
breakfast cereal instead of milk due to the latter's lactose content, and the
belief that it causes lactic acid. Does the lactose found in milk cause lactic
acid to build up in the muscles during intense exercise more rapidly (and to
higher levels) than if no milk had been taken, or is this just another myth?
Scott Saifer replies:
I don't know what the pro's have on their breakfast cereal, but the idea
that lactose somehow causes lactic acid is a myth. Besides, if there were
a way to boost lactic acid without boosting the other chemicals that cause
fatigue, pain and muscle failure, you'd want to do it. Lactic acid is the
fuel of aerobic metabolism, and aerobic metabolism is good, last I checked.
Ric Stern adds:
There is a difference between lactate and lactic acid. The former is a dissociated
salt with hydrogen ions. Dario Frederick wrote this
article about it in 2004.
Scott Saifer adds:
Ric's right that the chemical species consumed in aerobic metabolism is lactate.
If one was to somehow slightly increase lactic acid concentration in the blood,
moments later it would be floating around as lactate ions and hydrogen ions,
and lactate ions are the fuel. The point here, however, is that neither lactate
nor lactic acid is affected by lactose consumption, nor, for that matter,
is aerobic performance.
I took a look at David Fleckenstein's
PDF on stretching and saw that the recommended time for the hamstring stretch
was 6 minutes for each leg. I then read an article on stretching the next day
that said it does no good (and possibly some harm) to hold a stretch more than
30 seconds. I've read that you should stretch no more than every other day and
I've read that you should stretch twice a day.
I do not understand why there seems to be so many different opinions on this
subject. How hard can it be to take a mixed population and put them on different
stretching programs and measure the results? Why so much contradiction and confusion
over a seemingly simple activity?
Dave Fleckenstein replies:
This is an outstanding question and is a frequent source of conversation
and argument. I could send you a very large body of research on effects of
stretching on various tissues - a lot of it contradictory. I completed a thesis
in graduate school regarding effects of different stretching techniques on
various tissues. If you would like to see the bibliography I would be happy
to send it to you.
The main question here is what is the most effective way to lengthen collagen,
the primary building block of connective tissue? I like to think of collagen
as an unusual type of spring. With stretching we are trying to lengthen, or
deform the spring. While force is the most effective way to deform a regular
spring (how hard we pull it apart), time is the most effective way to deform
the spring of collagen. Healthy, mobile tissue generally looks like nicely
combed hair under the microscope - all the fibres are aligned in parallel,
allowing the 'spring' of collagen to be mobile in certain directions and resistant
in others. Restricted tissue tends to look like fibres of a furnace filter
- randomly aligned (which is actually the cross-linking of collagen tissue)
and generally resistant to any motion.
My overall thoughts regarding stretching are as follows, based on research
and my clinical experience:
1) Low load, long duration (LLPD) stretches are the most effective ways to
permanently lengthen tissues - in simple terms, time is a more effective way
to lengthen tissues than force.
An interesting observation is that there are certain tissues that we want
to stretch and certain ones that we don't. The same way that time is an effective
way to lengthen the hamstrings, prolonged slumping (either sitting in a chair
or sitting on a bike) can also lengthen the collagen fibres of the disc and
supportive ligaments of the spine. This results in a loss of integrity of
the disc and premature breakdown. If you notice in the stretch sheet, the
spine is always in a neutral alignment in my pictures to protect it.
2) 30 second stretches, contract/relax stretches, AIS stretching, etc., does
not permanently lengthen tissue, but can result in transient improvements
My clinic is full of patients who have performed this type of stretching
for years, notice a short term benefit, but no cumulative improvement. Why?
Because I don't think collagen is affected with these stretches, the nervous
system is. The nervous system plays an important role in regulating how tissue
moves. These types of stretches affect mechanisms that regulate the tone of
muscle tissue - how much contraction is going through tissue at one time.
These can be effective ways to reduce spasm or provide short term increases
A couple of stretches that I listed in the PDF are 30 second stretches because
these are structures that are also highly intertwined with specific nerves
and most people aggravate themselves with LLPD stretches of these structures
if left to themselves. Clinically, I can progress these individuals to LLPD
stretches under guidance with excellent results.
3) There is an optimum amount of flexibility. If there is not some resistance
present in the connective tissues, we don't transmit forces well - it is dispersed
within the tissue. Indeed, some professional athletes that I have seen demonstrate
marked tightness, but they are able to prevent those forces from transmitting
to structures that are not designed to disperse stress. I think that these
are the athletes who picked their parents well and have a physical gift. I
certainly have patients that are too flexible as well, but it is generally
not their hamstrings, hip musculature, and hip flexors that are too mobile.
It is usually the musculature and structures surrounding the spine, and this
is not good.
4) Flexibility is not something that should just occur when we are "warmed
up," it should be present permanently. This enables us to move correctly
throughout our day, through all motions. My general rule is that I want local
spine stability (to protect and maintain optimum alignment of these highly
reactive structures) and lumbopelvic musculature flexibility, so that our
pelvis can move correctly and provide a well-aligned base for the spine. I
will be writing more this fall [or this spring in the southern hemisphere
- ed.] on stability issues.
So, what seems simple is not so simple, after all. In many of the studies
that found negative results of stretching, tissues that should not have been
stretched were lengthened, creating problems. I often see athletes selecting
very poor stretching techniques, such as bending forward to touch their toes
thinking that they are stretching their hamstrings when they are actually
placing huge forces and stretch on the disc and ligaments of the spine.
The PDF is a very generic start to a very complex issue. Ideally, we would
all have a very individualized system of stretching and stability based on
our specific needs, but the stretches given are ones that I feel 'do no harm'
and lengthen the most commonly shortened structures that I feel promote pathology.
Many thanks for a great question and I look forward to discussing this more!
I'm a 44 year-old male, 5'6", 200lbs, and I've been riding road bikes
for over 10 years. With a group of six riders, I'm averaging about 17 to 22
miles per hour for 40 miles or so. When I ride on my own, I usually ride up
to Chantry Flats where I live, a climb of over three miles into the mountains.
I started pushing hard (i.e.) riding faster and longer, and I try to do this
climb at least once a week. For the last couple of weeks I've become very weak.
I'm tired, I'm waking up with a mild headache and it's hard to breathe. I want
to ride but my body tells me no.
I went for a ride to the Rose bowl last Sunday morning. I climbed a few hills,
then went home and became ill. It became hard to breathe. I felt better when
I breathed into a bag - the warm air helped me. I'm eating the right food during
the ride, such as carb blocks, etc., and I'm staying hydrated.
I don't know what's wrong with me. What's happened to my energy? I want to
Scott Saifer replies:
Difficulty breathing when you are not exercising is an issue you should take
to a medical professional, not to a cycling coach. The deal is that a coach,
unless he or she is also an MD or OD, is not qualified to make this diagnosis.
Getting the most out of base training
I have a question about base rides which, in my world, consist of riding slowly
in zones 1 and 2. If training is about 'overload' and steady progression with
regards to intensity or hours spent on the bike, what is the point of, say,
a two-hour base ride in the middle of the week (which I've been prescribed)
when I do a four or five-hour ride in the same intensity during the weekends?
My body should already be capable of handling five hours of slow riding, so
how could a shorter ride make me better?
Dave Palese replies:
'Base' training is often misunderstood. There is a lot of tradition in cycling
training, one of which is the thinking that LSD (Long Steady Distance) riding
is how base training is done. And it's true, to a point.
I have over the seasons moved away from prescribing rides that consist solely
of low intensity riding. I'm all about getting the most bang for your buck
with regards to time invested. Most of the athletes I work with are trying
to fit cycling into an already busy life, so it's important that for every
hour they commit to training, they get the biggest return. The long rides
that I have my riders do during the General Preparation period consist of
riding mostly in the ENDURANCE zone (either using heart rate or power), and
including up to 50% of their total ride time riding in the TEMPO range. Using
this guideline has yielded some of the best aerobic performance gains I have
You are on the right track when you say "training is about 'overload'...".
Training should overload your system. I got to thinking, from my own experience
and after reviewing client follow-up test results, that there must be a way
to get more out of the General Preparation period. So, I started prescribing
sessions like I describe above. You need to stress the system with more than
just volume to boost its performance.
Since you say that you have been prescribed a certain training type, I gather
you are working with a coach. I would discuss this issue with him or her.
The best place to start is for a client and a coach to discuss the training
program so that the rider gets the most out of the program.
Hope some of this helps. Have fun!
Other Cyclingnews Form & Fitness articles