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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, 2007

Driving to races and tired legs
Training with antibiotics
Time trial bike setup
Periodization versus 'always fit'
Training for a team time trial
Gastric distress after rides

Driving to races and tired legs

I am a 33 year old Cat 4 road racer who has a total of about 15 races in the past two years. Over the past two years I have driven varying distances to participate in these races and have noticed that if I drive to the race location a day before the event I always have fairly good results and my legs feel pretty good. But if I drive to the event the morning of the race (> 2 hours) my legs just do not respond. My energy level is fine but my legs just feel heavy.

I try to avoid staying overnight in a hotel due to the fact that my job keeps me out of town quite a bit and I have grown to despise staying in hotels. Do I have legitimate complaint or is it all in my head? Any suggestions you may have will be greatly appreciated.

Chett Hopkins

Scott Saifer replies:

You have a valid complaint. Most riders find that a long drive before a race interferes with race performance. Going the night before helps a lot. If you can't stand to go the night before, at least arrive long enough before your races to spin a little bit before you register and still save enough time for a real, full-hour warm up. Also, consider getting a teammate or teammates to share your hotels and dinners the nights before races. That can change a boring lonely hotel stay and dinner into a fun and memorable experience.

Training with antibiotics

I have been diagnosed with sinusitis and am now taking antibiotics. Can I continue to train indoors with sinusitis? Should I be training at all whilst taking antibiotics?


Kelby Bethards replies:

Yes you can train on an antibiotic and with sinusitis. Bear in mind, you have an infection and thus may wear out earlier and need to rest. Listen to your body, if you need rest, take it. IF you feel ok, go ahead and ride. I’d take it easy a few days though to ‘test the waters’ and see if you are feeling ok.

Time trial bike setup

I am a 47 year old male cyclist. I road race and time trial and have question on TT bike setup. On my road bike I feel strong and can always seem to find that bit extra to dig in or get away from other riders when required. I can also sprint quite well and again feel quite powerful on my road bike.

I have a Litespeed Blade TT bike and I am vastly underperforming on this bike. I can’t seem to develop any useful power and feel that most of the work is being done by my quads during a TT. The seat is not quite legal at 15mm in front of the bottom bracket (the bike runs 650 wheels) and it will require a tri seat post to move the seat back on this small frame.

I have read that being too low at the front and too far forward will rob me of power and not encourage the use of my hamstrings. Again on the road bike I get good use of both quads and hamstrings and know the feeling of full use from lots of big chainring hill climbing. This type of training really encourages full use of both muscle groups.

I need some practical advice on setup to get me in a position on the bike where I feel that I can push and perform in a TT. My fitness level is good having just won a local vet championship and I am on a CTS training program that is giving me good sound training and good results in my racing

Peter Maich

Steve Hogg replies:

It sounds very much like you are on the wrong frame for you. Given how radical your position is; seat nose 15 mm in front of the bottom bracket centre, you have almost certainly given aerodynamics to high a priority. Aerodynamics is a means to an end, not an end of itself.

What we all want to do is to perform well. Having an aerodynamic position is one of the means to achieve that. But if you focus too much on one aspect of bike position, I will guarantee you will lose more in other areas than you gain in the area of specific focus. Have a look at this post; it should help.

Periodization versus 'always fit'

So I've been thinkin'...(and maybe this is the problem). I am a 37 year-old cat 4 racer with no aspirations other than to race and do well, have fun and be fit. I often wonder, as I plan my preseason workout, whether I will truly benefit from a periodized plan. In short, is too much made of this method of training for the 'average' racing athlete?

At the skill/age level that I and other average racers perform, would we stand to gain more 'usable' fitness by engaging an 'always fit' plan? If my goals for the season are not specific, but rather, general (show up and race well, attack, chase, maybe place top ten at most races), does training to say, peak for regionals, mean that I loose more potential opportunities to do well at other times during the year? Given that so many factors play into a 50 mile race on a given day, and there that is no time trial or hill top finish the next day to influence the overall outcome, do we as day racers actually do ourselves a disservice by periodizing our training?

If I were to quantify this idea it would be, something like: I get 'always fit' to about 80-85% of total potential vs. peaking once or twice at 95-100% of my total potential, do I gain or loose potential to do well when factoring in all the other influences on a cat 4 race?


Scott Saifer replies:

You apparently are mixing the concepts of periodization and peaking. Periodized training means focusing on different aspects of fitness at different times, working on things that take the longest to develop the longest before the season and things that develop more quickly or just need tuning close to your season. With an appropriately designed periodized training plan, one can be fairly strong for much of a season to peak for a short period.

I'll grant you your percentages (80-85% always versus 95-100% at peak and lower otherwise) and ask you a simply question that will allow you to determine whether you need a sharp peak or a broader, season long peak: Can you get the race placings you want at 80%, or do you need 95% to place? If you are happy with what you can do at 80-85% you don't need to peak.

Here's another way to think about it. If you are still making progress in your fitness and competitive results, don't mess with peaking. Just set up a periodized plan to have you ready to race when the races are available. If you are not making progress and are not satisfied with your current placing, think about doing a cycle of extra training, tapering and peaking.

Training for a team time trial

I am interested in training for a 100km four-person team time trial road race event. Do you have any specific advice, strategy or links. I am not finding much out there other than the more riders and the longer the distance... the more horrific the experience! Help!

Worried in Iowa

Scott Saifer replies:

If you and your team mates are serious about the TTT, you should be working with a coach or at least a manager who has the interests of the team at heart. There are ego issues in organizing a team for a TTT that are best handled by an outsider.

Meanwhile, some keys to long time trials are: be efficient (tight drafting, smooth echelon in sidewinds and quick exchanges) and balance the work between the riders in such a way that they all contribute to the best of their ability. Stronger riders take longer pulls, not harder. Weaker riders sit in more or may simply draft the whole time. You have to practice with your teammates at close to race distance and race pace to know how each rider will hold up and how much work each should do. Be sure to practice rotating in front of your two weaker riders with one or two of them sitting out but maintaining a good drafting position. You may even change the relative pull lengths depending on hills or winds during the race and the special abilities of each rider.

In a four person-TT the pulls are not of zero-length with continuous rotation as they would be in a Tour de France TTT. When a rider drops off, there are two riders taking wind until the rider dropping off gets back in line. Pulls might thus be 5-20 seconds depending on relative strengths of the riders.

Most often TTT teams will be set up so the largest rider (who presumably needs the least help) drafts the smallest and all the others draft the next larger rider. The first and second riders in line ride their aerobars 100% of the time, while the two in the back may sit up a bit or not depending on the wind. Riders only eat and drink in the back positions.

The team has to work together to avoid gapping a member. If a strong rider pulls hard and drops the weaker rider, it's the weak rider's fault for not speaking up and the strong rider's fault for not checking. (This is where the dispassionate manager can be really helpful.

If an exchange occurs in a curve, the group stays to the inside while the rider dropping back goes to the outside. If a mild sidewind, the rider dropping back pulls off to the windy side. In a more serious sidewind, the leader always moves as far to the windy side as possible to allow room for her whole team to form the echelon.

This is a good primer of team time trialing. There's a lot more to know. If all these terms are meaningful to you, go practice with your team. If any of them need further explanation or you have additional questions, feel free to write again.

Gastric distress after rides

I am a 6'2", 165lb fit recreational rider who put in about 2-3 thousand miles last year. As with other people, the winter months are my "low season" in terms of mileage and bike time.

The reason for my note here is that I have noticed recently a tendency to have an entire afternoon of gastric distress after what is normally a standard ride for me - 40-50 miles, 4000 ft of climbing. Usually these rides will have a 20-30 minute climb, which I will ride at 80-90%, but otherwise intensity is steady state.

I have been drinking only water on these rides lately (2 bottles in 2.5hrs, used to drink Cytomax or Clif), and the upset stomach seems to occur whether I eat on the bike or not. I'm eating only oatmeal and maybe a bagel before the ride, and nothing heavy or crazy the night before. Is the fact that I'm less fit now than the summer having some impact on this? Is it a hydration issue? The problem doesn't seem to occur when I'm putting a lot of miles in...

Southern California, USA

Pam Hinton replies:

I think your suspicions that relative lack of fitness, not diet, is causing your gastric distress are probably correct. Here's a little physiology lesson to explain why I think you're correct.

Your cramps are likely caused by a cascade of events that is similar to those associated with exercise-induced muscle damage. During exercise, blood flow is diverted away from the gastrointestinal tract and digestive organs to the working muscles, heart, lungs, and brain. Inadequate oxygen and nutrient delivery to the gut for a prolonged period of time can damage the intestinal cells. Disruption of the cell membrane sets off a series of biochemical and immune reactions that cause gut cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, and gastrointestinal bleeding. Damaged cell membranes are 'leaky' and there is a net flux of calcium into the injured cells. The increase in intracellular calcium concentration activates phospholipase A2, the enzyme responsible for cleaving arachidonic acid (AA) from the membrane phospholipids. Free AA is metabolized by cyclo-oxygenase and lipoxygenase to prostaglandins, thromboxanes, and leukotrienes. Prostaglandins cause fluid and electrolytes to accumulate in the intestine, leading to diarrhea, cramps, and vomiting. Heartburn also can be attributed to prostaglandins because of decreased esophageal motility and relaxing of the sphincter between the stomach and esophagus. The smooth muscles of gastrointestinal tract contract in response to prostaglandins, causing cramps. Both prostaglandins and leukotrienes cause the blood vessels that feed the gut to become more permeable to fluids and to red blood cells. As a result there is less blood flow to the intestine and an increase risk of gastrointestinal bleeding. Leukotrienes attract immune cells to the damaged cells. In the process of engulfing and destroying the injured tissue, the immune cells generate unstable free radicals that cause additional damage to cell membranes.

Besides the obvious solution of not pushing so hard up the climbs until you're in better shape, here’s what I can offer as preventive measures. Oatmeal or bagels are great pre-ride choices, but allow your gastrointestinal system at least an hour to digest the food before hitting the base of the long climbs. Dehydration causes a reduction in blood volume that will exacerbate the reduced gastrointestinal blood flow during exercise. So, do your best to replace fluids during your ride. If you suffer from heartburn and nausea along with the post-cramps, drinking a Coke or other carbonated beverage may help. The gas that gives soda pop its fizz can form a barrier between the acid in the stomach and the esophagus. Give these things a try. Hopefully, one of them will do the trick

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