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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 March 20, 2007

Intervals for time trialing
Signs of overtraining
Losing speed each week
Training frequency
Sex and cycling
Back pain from spondylolythesis
Bib shorts fitting
Selle SMP saddle

Intervals for time trialing

Hello, I'm a 43 year-old amateur, I've been riding again steady now for three years and decided this year to really give it my all. Last October I started training on a strict schedule. I have limited time to train and the weather here in the north-eastern USA is horrid so I've been stuck all most entirely on the trainer. It is good in that without a power meter I can more easily compare workouts and using a gear chart I can figure my speeds.

My max heart rate (HR) is 185 and my best guess at lactate threshold (LT) is 158. Anything over that and I will creep into the 170s over a period of time and blow up. My goal this year is to ride a sub 1 hour 40kTT or roughly 25mph. Currently Mondays and Fridays I can ride my 53-15 at 85 rpm or roughly 24mph on 5 minutes on, 5 minutes off intervals for a total time of 25 minutes.

During these intervals my HR is peaking around 168 with an average of 162 although honestly I'm just trying to complete the workouts as long as my HR stays below 172.

On Wednesday I ride the 53x17 or 16 for 10-15 minutes on and 5 off at greater than 90rpm cadence. My problem is I'm stuck now around that level. Trying to get onto the 14 gear has been hell although I can manage a few intervals at that level but there are days when I can't complete even the 15.

My current work schedule and the weather/time etc lets me ride one hour, three days (Mon, Wed, Fri) per week with a longer club ride of 2-3 hours on Saturday. On the positive side I've been much more competitive in my club rides and my cadence for the 53-17 and 16 is rising giving me more there but still I'm stuck around the 24 mph level. Do you have any suggestions for changing my workout to help me break through to that 14 gear?

Mike Burke

Dave Palese replies:

With the info you have provided, it seems to me that your training plan/methodology is a little one dimensional.

Although 'Threshold' power or output is a good predictor of time trial performance, it isn't the whole story. Putting aside technique and technical issues like position, strategy and achieving optimum cadence, and just looking at the physical engine, I don't know how many time trials you have done, but none that I have seen have ever been totally flat!

If you look at power data from a time trial performance, it is anything but steady. Even normalizing the data, in a tool like CyclingPeaks, still shows the effort as being a series of peaks (threshold to super-threshold) on flats and up hills, and valleys (zero to minimal output) on the down hills.

That being said, your training should be as varied.

As a simple suggestion, I would substitute one of your sessions mentioned with a workout that included some (4-5 to start) super-threshold intervals. These intervals should be 1.5-2.0 minutes in length to start and should be over-speed with relation to your target average speed. Exactly what speed? I can't really say. You might just start with that elusive 25mph barrier. 4-5 intervals 2 minutes each at a steady 25mph . Overdo the rest between the intervals to start, say 4 minutes for a 2 minute interval. When you can do 25mph consistently, increase the gearing or cadence to raise the workload.

I would also suggest reducing the intensity of your longer interval session by a few beats per minute, while lengthening the intervals in that session. So maybe instead of riding right up to 158bpm for 5 minutes, ride at 153-155, and take the interval length from 5 minutes up to 10-12 minutes. These numbers may not be exactly right, but you get the idea. All aerobic training needs to be volume based, not output based. Try to do more time, not higher output. Increases in output will come as your body's efficiency increases.

Lastly, don't neglect being thoughtful about your performance on race day. Strategies and tactics are not just for mass start events. Remember, you want to be going as faster or fast at the end of your ITT than you were at the start. So look at the course. Make note of where you can go harder, and where you can rest. Estimate the time for each super-threshold effort on the course. Doing so will help you design your training sessions leading up to the event. And show-up rested. Don't train hard right up to the day. Give yourself 7-10 days to recover from hard training.

Signs of overtraining

Is a consistently low heart rate (HR) relative to rate of perceived exertion (RPE) necessarily indicative of overtraining?

Very often in the 2nd and 3rd weeks of a three-week training phase (I reduce volume and intensity at least 40% every 4th week), my HR in relation to my RPE when fresh drops by 7-10bpm.

I would immediately interpret this as a sign of overtraining, but I don't seem to have many if any of the other indicators - my desire to train is still high, not particularly irritable, concentration ok, etc.

If I'm showing just this one sign of overtraining, does it mean I am overtrained?


Scott Saifer replies:

It sounds like you are talking about "overreaching" rather than overtraining. The difference is that overtraining is a serious condition that takes weeks or months to repair, while overreaching is mild fatigue that is a normal part of training and can be overcome in just a few days.

Losing speed each week

Hello! My name is Jacob I have been cycling now for not quite 2 years. I am 21 years old, 128 lbs and 5 foot 6. I have a question about training/over training. Last year the longest ride I was willing to attempt was around 50 miles - I only rode on or two of these the whole year mainly going into November.

I was riding my average loop we call big tree (27miles) at 18.6 to 19.1 mph I took a month off in December and then started training again, but now I am having a terrible time getting any speed back. I started riding my same old loops but within about two or three weeks I started to ride 40 to 50 twice a week with my same 27 mile big tree in there.

The thing is now I seem to be getting slower each week, I started out doing the rides at 18mph or so but now I can barely hold 17mph for my average. I have not increased the amount of rides I go on just the mileage and I do take rest days to make sure I recover. Am I over training or what other reasons could be causing me to get slower? Is there anything I can do to gain some speed back?

Jacob Meuth

Scott Saifer replies:

The textbook definition of over-training is you increase training and performance gets worse. Ergo, you are overtrained. The question is why. Doing 50 mile rides twice per week really should not be a problem for a healthy 21-year old and two months should be plenty of time to respond to the extra volume. With no more details to go on, I'd guess that you are training too intensely or that you are not getting adequate recovery even though you think you are.

If you are not already training with a heart rate monitor, get one and keep your heart rate strictly below 80% of your own personal measured maximum for the next four weeks or so. By the end of the four weeks your speed will be back and possibly improved. If you are already controlling effort to this level or lower, send more details of your training so I can make a better suggestions.

Training frequency

My coach currently has me on a six week on, one week off training plan. Is this a sensible duration, all things considered? I understand that much has to be taken into account, i.e. intensity, frequency, etc, but my training plan is that of a typical road racer, racing once sometimes twice at the weekend, and training three times during the week.

My coach has assured me that the plan is sound, but I would like a 2nd opinion.


Scott Saifer replies:

A plan with six weeks on one week off in racing season is not unreasonable. In fact if it is executed intelligently, it could well work out better than a plan with more frequent scheduled rest weeks. It is however a risky plan in that it relies on the self-awareness and intelligence of the rider.

Six weeks is plenty long enough to get overtrained if you are not paying attention and continue to train or race hard when your body is ready for rest. If you are good about taking easy days when you are less than peppy, you may thrive on such a plan. A plan with every 3rd or 4th week off would be safer in the sense that you'd be less likely to become overtrained even if you did not pay attention to your fatigue, but you could still overtrain and you could well end up missing potential training unnecessarily.

Sex and cycling

My question is to ask if there is a correlation between sex and cycling performance. (My personal experience in this area is mixed) Basically does performance on the bike diminish with sex and does increased sexual activity cause an increased loss in cycling ability.

Finally, is there a recovery period required to restore full cycling performance (post sex).


Steve Hogg replies:

For an unscientific answer I quote well known (to Australians) Rugby League coaching legend Jack Gibson. In reply to a similar query to yours he answered "It's not sex before a game that is detrimental to performance, but rather staying out all night looking for it."

Back pain from spondylolythesis

I am a four-to-five time a week mountain bike rider, 41 years old and have had three bad bouts with my back. I got an MRI scan and they diagnosed me with stage one spondylolythesis. I actually passed out from the pain. I work very hard on core exercises, and keep my upper body strong too, but still I have trouble.

I used to consistently ride up to 25 miles on my mountain bike rides and also used to live for the steep climbs. Now my max so far is 15 miles, and my back is usually quite sore after. Also now if I encounter a real steep hill I have to walk my bike, otherwise I will pay after the ride. I am looking for help on how to improve my situation, and still continue riding and do long rides.

I am training for a race called The Sea Otter Classic which is in one month's time. The distance is 19 miles and 6000 ft of climbing. That used to be no problem. Now I am concerned about making it through.

I did a training ride today for about 13 miles and it was hard on me. Cardiovascular wise I was fine, however I had to stop twice to stretch. Also by the time I finished my back was quite sore. I used to do almost all my mountain biking in my second ring. Now with my back I have to stay in my first ring for any seriously climbing or I will not make it through.

My question is I am determined to make this race a success. I know I will not break any speed records, but I would like to make it through without being in too much pain, or having to stop. Any help or advice on this would be greatly appreciated.


Steve Hogg replies:

A non medical view for you. First things first. Solving your back pain problems should be of higher priority than training to complete a particular race. When we place ourselves under time pressure like this, we start looking for silver bullets and magical cures and there aren't any; just hard work and application.

Core strength training is fine but I see a lot of people who exhibit extraordinary core strength in a static situation or in one plane of movement and lose it entirely when they get on a bike. Find a functional exercise trainer or book or resource. 'Functional Exercise' is all about developing core strength by challenging your core in a variety of planes of movement. Exactly like riding a bike does. Have a look at this link for some info but before trying any of those exercises, get some informed advice about what level of things you should start at.

Doing this sort of stuff with a bit of guidance, I have also seen more than a few people with spondylolythesis who managed their condition to the point where it placed little limitation on their athletic life. Another must for you is to have a stable bike position with plenty of foot over the pedal and that causes little or no tendency to lumbar flexion. Mild lumbar extension is preferable.

Bib shorts fitting

I have recently purchased a new pair of Assos Millie bib shorts in the X-large (6'0"-6'2") size and while they fit rather well lengthwise, around the waist, legs, and saddle area they are loose.

I am worried that they are to big and I won't get the full benefit of the money I have just spent. I am 6'1"+ but with a waist of like 30". Do you have any suggestions of a bib short brand that fits tall, skinny folks better or is it just a spend-and-see kind of thing?

Timothy J. Dahlem

Scott Saifer replies:

I don't have any specific brands to recommend, but do want to point out that you are right to look for shorts that hug your legs fairly firmly, especially if you are riding on bumpier pavement. The research results say that a short or tight that keeps your leg muscle a little compressed will delay fatigue. If worse comes to worst, you can take shorts that you've already bought to a tailor for re-shaping.

Selle SMP saddle

I noticed where you had written a note about the Stratos saddle. I have one that I have yet to put on my bike, because I want to tell myself that the Arione that I have will work. I am beginning to wonder though. I get some numbness down low when the races and rides get long, and I am putting in a hard effort. This past weekend, it was not as bad, but it was there none the less. The team got the Ariones, and I rode one last season for a while, it was old and broken in, the new one of course is not. I am beginning to look at the SMP more and more.

What are your thoughts on the saddle and set up that you have seen so far?

Bruce Humphries

Steve Hogg replies:

Great seat - long, long rails so there is plenty of fore and aft adjustment potential. I started selling them a few months back on the basis of "buy and ride for a fortnight, bring it back for a refund" because it is the only way to genuinely find out whether a new product is good. No one has returned one for a refund, though one gent brought the Evolution model back (minimal padding) and exchanged it for a model with more padding.

Set them up so that they are dead level between the high point at the back and the high point at the front. From there, you may find that you need to raise or lower the nose a fraction but most people seem best served when it is level. The shape allows the rider to sit further back relative to the length of the seat, so it needs to be a little further forward for many to place the butt in the same relationship to the bottom bracket.

Once aboard, sit so that the rear of your glutes is supported by the rise at the rear and the only other contact is on the pelvic bones. Some riders feel a little bone sore after one or two rides but that then disappears if the 20 or so that I have sold to date are anything to go by.

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