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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 April 10, 2007

Anaerobic threshold training
Calculating threshold power
Calf pain on a new bike
Bike fit worth bothering with?
Time trial heart rate
Pro cyclists' training
Which racing category?
Lowering triglyceride levels
Wind trainer versus exercise bike

Anaerobic threshold training

My name is Jerome; I am a freshly minted bike rider/racer. I am a 27 year old male, racing Cat. 4, and the occasional Olympic distance triathlon. I started riding bikes last year, after I noticed that I was gaining weight, carrying 210 pounds on a 5' 10" frame, and I wanted to go down to a healthy weight. I am still slightly overweight at 180 pounds, but I'm definitely within sight of my goal for overall health and weight, which is a big motivator for me.

I started bike riding last year, and to introduce myself to it, I started following a routine out of a Chris Carmichael book. The training program I followed suggested mostly endurance riding, keeping the heart rate in the "Zone 2" range, which for me, corresponds to 142-152 bpm. There was a little bit of tempo work thrown in, but mostly just this endurance pace. On completion of the Carmichael program, I did notice a slight drop in my heart rate, and a little gain in speed after 12 weeks, but I must admit, I didn't make a huge transformation like I had hoped.

Last month, I went to Spain to escape the harsh and unseasonably cold Boston weather and do some spring training in the Pyrenees. I went with a friend of mine from Barcelona, who used to be an Espoir for Saunier Duval; that is to say, a far superior rider than I. I noticed that to keep up with him, my HR typically was in the aerobic threshold range, usually above 175. So I did this for several hours a day, for about a week, in high mountain passes where I'm not really accustomed to riding.

So after a week of absolute suffering, I returned home and found that I made more improvement in a week of suffering than 12 weeks of the Carmichael book program. My resting HR dropped about 6 beats, and my HR on the bike is at least 10 beats lower than usual. Not only that, but I lost 5 pounds in a week, where before I'd be happy to lose 1.

Finally, I have given enough background so I can ask my question: Do these events mean that my body responds best to long periods of high-intensity AT training? Pushing myself so hard seems unhealthy, but I can't argue with the results I'm getting.


Scott Saifer replies:

Your question is excellent, and also evidence for the need for coaching. You perceive that you did 12 weeks of the Carmichael plan for little result and then a week of very hard work with great results. The reality that you did 12 weeks of base training and then one week of high intensity.

Had you not done the 12 weeks of base, you would not have been able to survive and benefit from the high-intensity week. As it is, your experience is typical. When you lay a high intensity period on top of a good base, you see rapid gains. If you continue to do high-intensity weeks, you'll continue to get stronger for a few more weeks.

That's quite seductive. It makes a lot of riders think they've stumbled on the "right" plan. The problem is that if you continue that plan for more than a few more weeks, you'll plateau in your abilities. If you maintain the training after that, a few more weeks later your performance will start to fall again.

If you lose five pounds in one week once, you've probably lost mostly water which will eventually need to be replaced. You may have lost a coupe of pounds of fat or muscle. In any case, you can't continue to lose five pounds per week or even close to it and maintain strength. The upper limit of weight loss with maintenance of training performance varies from rider to rider, but is typically 0.5 to 1.5 pounds per week, closer to what you were doing before.

Calculating threshold power

First off, I think it is great that you provide this forum for sharing ideas and information. You have answered my questions in the past with grace and heroic aplomb.

One more question though, or topic of discussion: I'm looking for a way to calculate threshold power, as well as the training zones below threshold (recovery, extensive aerobic, intensive aerobic according to the cycle-smart scale, zones 1, 2, 3, etc according to other scales) based on the results of a twenty minute test indoor TT.

I recently completed, on a properly calibrated computrainer, a 20 minute test, followed a few minutes later by a 5 mile flat TT. My average power for both of those was 315 watts. A friend who is a coach but not my coach has told me that my threshold "training zone" will be around 280-300 watts. I want to figure out where my lower training zones lie, without having to bother him some more.

On your website it says to provide as much info as possible, so I'm a 24 year-old male, 5' 10'' 144 pound road rider in my first full season of road racing (half of a season last year) working on my cat 3 upgrade.

Seattle, USA

Dave Palese replies:

The power zones I would define for a client with your test results would be:

Recovery: <167
Endurance: 168-227
Tempo: 228-272
Threshold: 273-317
VO2 Max: 318-362
Anaerobic Capacity: 363+
Neuromuscular Power: n/a

Hope this helps. Have fun and good luck!

Calf pain on a new bike

I am a 43 year old male who has been riding for 5 years. Until recently I had a Giant OCR 1 and I was Cycle Fitted by Steve in 2004. Before this I had some pain in behind my right knee but afterwards the pain went away and has not come back. Very recently I had took possession of my new Merlin Extralight Custom Frame and put it all together based on advice from Steve and have been riding it for three weeks.

It's a revelation. I have decided to shorten the stem by 10mm as I had too much weight on my hands and now feel much more comfortable in the hands department. My new saddle is a Specialized Toupe. The Toupe is a little hard but no pressure is exerted on the soft tissues.

I was on my club ride on Saturday when I started to experience tightness at the top of my right calf which on a very quiet ride on Sunday developed into a sharp pain when pedaling and only a dull ache when not. I have not changed the cleat position, shoes or pedals which are Shimano SPD SL R540(?). My previous saddle was a Specialized Body Geometry Milano. This is super comfy with a lot of padding.

Having read some other articles in the forum my question is do you think should I drop my saddle height to account for the generous padding on the old saddle? Can you give me any other advice?

Kim Fitzwater

Steve Hogg replies:

I haven't seen you on the Merlin but from what you are saying, seat height is the likely issue. Your previous seat was heavily padded, you new seat has negligible padding. If you are running the same seat height as on the padded seat, you are likely 3-5 mm too high as the Toupe' has next to nothing to sink into. That is the likely explanation for the pain you currently have.

Bike fit worth bothering with?

Your column so frequently addresses bike fit issues, that I begin to suspect it is more important than the attention I've given it. At 57, I've been riding off and on for 35 years or so, 300-500 miles a week when I was in my 20's, and now perhaps 150 or so.

I've never paid too much attention to fit issues beyond general frame size, top tube/stem length, and perceived comfortable saddle height. I've never had any problems I could attribute to bike fit and have had various road, tandem and mountain bikes with differing frame sizes, geometries, pedals, saddles, stem lengths, crank lengths, etc. Change almost anything and my reaction is mainly - "that's interesting" and then I adapt to it.

An uncomfortable saddle, or excessive reach are about the only items that ever have troubled me, but not lead to any injury. My riding style is pretty much one speed - a steady moderately high effort but efficient tempo that won't necessarily put me first at the top of each hill, but usually finds me long gone off the front about halfway through most group rides, so my fitness level is decent for my age.

I'm 5'9" (hmm 175cm) and 157 pounds (lets see - 71kg) and enjoy lifting weights (once semi-competitively) so my back, abs, shoulder strength and conditioning would be better than most, and perhaps this has helped me avoid injury.

My question is really whether I'm missing something with the bike fit "obsession". Is someone going to be able to identify a problem with my setup, change it, and then I will miraculously perform better, or do I just count my blessings and shut up?


Steve Hogg replies:

After I finished laughing (for the right reasons), my initial response is to say "Be happy". There are people like you out there but there are plenty who aren't like you either. After having re-read your mail. My second and considered response is the same - be happy and count your blessings.

Time trial heart rate

I am a forty two year old male enjoying my second incarnation as a cyclist. I ride to stay fit, I enjoy going as fast as I can, and race infrequently. Most races I enter are just for personal best reasons. My training usually consists of time in saddle and going wherever way the wind blows.

I just stumbled upon a training program in Bicycling magazine written by Chris Carmichael. I have never really followed any programs like this but I decided to try this one out. Carmichael suggests two speeds, "endurance" and "tempo", to ride at and they both are a percentage of time trial heart rate. Endurance is equal to 60-88% of time trial heart rate and tempo is 88-90%.I have never time-trialed, nor do I really want to, so I do not know what my time trial rate is.

I figure my max heart rate is 184. 184 at the two percent ranges equal 110-162 for endurance and 162-166 for tempo.

My question is this: Is there a percentage of max heart rate that cyclists try to maintain when they time trial? I know I can sustain the endurance rate but I don't think I can sustain the 45-60 minutes at tempo that Carmichael is suggesting. What are your thoughts on this?

David Loehrs
Tucson, AZ, USA

Scott Saifer replies:

TT heart rate varies a lot from rider to rider and also with the length of the TT. Assuming we're talking about the common 40 km distance in which many riders struggle to beat an hour, TT heart rate can be anywhere from about 80% to 95% of maximum depending on rider fitness and genetic factors.

TT heart rate should be just near or a bit above ventilatory threshold heart rate, again depending of fitness and motivation. For your purpose, it is safe to assume your TT heart rate is right at ventilatory threshold. The particular threshold I'm talking about here is the heart rate above which you cannot chat, but below which you can. This should also be within a few beats of the heart rate at which you begin to feel a mild burn in your working muscles.

Pro cyclists' training

I am amazed at the fitness levels of professional cyclists. Can you send me a schedule of the kind of training that they do to get themselves into such great shape. What I am interested in is the kind of interval training that they do, the kind of distances they ride and at what speed. Any other training that they do that enables them to get into such superb shape?

I hope this is not asking too much but I really do want to understand what separates a professional from the enthusiastic club rider.


Scott Saifer replies:

I happen to know the exact program that Freddie Rodriguez used the year he made the jump from the US Pros to the Euro Pros because my business partner was his coach at the time. I think you'll be surprised.

First, all the off season riding he did was at 70-80% of maximum heart rate, easier if he was tired. He started out with rides of less than one hour in October and added 20 minutes per week until he was doing six hours every day. By the time he finished in February he was doing 25 mph average on flat and rolling courses for six hours, and he was bored and lonely.

His coach let him do exactly one sprint in training before the stage race that catapulted him onto the international stage. That sprint was for confidence, not for physiology. No intervals. No intensity.

Which racing category?

I am 47 years old. Although I have ridden a bike most of my life, I am new to road racing. I was an above average athlete in high school and college, but am an average racer. When I enter races, should I enter as cat 5 or over 40 master? I am a busy physician in real life, so my training time is limited. I'd appreciate any help.

Scott Saifer replies:

In most but probably not all districts the fitness and speed will be higher in the 40+ than in the Cat 5 group. Some of the 40+ riders still ride the 1/2/pro races and do well. When you start out racing, I recommend the easiest category for which you are eligible. If it turns out that you get on the podium routinely in that category, try the next harder available category.

Kelby Bethards adds:

I understand the limits of being a physician on training time. Currently I race the SR cat 3 and the 35+ races. I find this level plenty gratifying and challenging, given that I will have 72 hours at a time on call, then a day or so off.

I believe you are asking which race, SR cat 5 or SR 40+ is best for you. Do 'em both. I'd say, in a nut shell, the SR 5 will be more dangerous, but likely have more riders while the 40+ will have, usually a smaller, more experienced group.

Lowering triglyceride levels

I am a 30 year-old Cat 3 cyclist. 5'11" & 170 lb. I've been riding for 15 years. I recently had a lipid panel completed and my doctor said that my triglyceride levels are elevated to the point where he is concerned about it. My levels were 159 and anything above 143 is considered borderline. (Sorry don't have the units on that)

I have maintained my current weight ± 5lb for the last 10 years. My diet is healthy: I don't drink soda, minimal alcohol, minimal sweets, whole wheat pasta, oatmeal and legumes for my main sources of carbs. Based on the reading I have done, lowering triglycerides begins with lowering carbohydrate intake... but without carbs I can't ride! Am I eating the wrong type of carbs? Please advise!

Madison, Wisconsin, USA

Pam Hinton replies:

You certainly have cause to be surprised by your elevated triglycerides. Although it is well-known that high-carbohydrate diets increase fasting TGs, exercise counteracts the TG-elevating effect of carbs in most individuals. There is a dose-response relationship between serum TG levels and dietary carbohydrate intake. The adverse effect of carbs on TG is worse for simple compared with complex carbs and, of the sugars, fructose is the worst. The reason that low-fat and, therefore, high-carbohydrate diets are advocated as preventive or therapeutic for cardiovascular disease is that a low-fat diet also reduces LDL (bad cholesterol).

Serum TGs may be elevated by one or both of two possible mechanisms: increased production and release of TG by the liver and/or decreased removal of TG from the blood by tissues, especially by skeletal muscle. High-fat diets also increase TG. Consumption of large amounts of dietary fat causes increased production and release of TG into the blood by the liver.

TGs elevated by a high-fat diet are known to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. However, it is not known if TGs elevated as a result of a high-carb diet also increase the risk of CVD. This is most likely determined by the mechanism of the hypertriglyceridemia. Exercise also works through these two mechanisms to lower TG. Although the relative importance of each mechanism to the TG-lowering effect of exercise is unclear, it is known that exercise of long-duration and high-intensity impacts TG more than short bouts at low intensity.

Endurance athletes consuming high-carbohydrate diets typically have excellent lipid profiles: low TG and (LDL and high levels of HDL (good cholesterol). This is because the TG-lowering effect of exercise overrides any adverse changes in TG production or clearance resulting from the high-carb diet.

I am assuming that you were fasted when you had the blood test done and that your LDL and HDL were in the "desirable" range (i.e., LDL<100 mg/dL; HDL>40 mg/dL). If this is the case and you do not have other risk factors for cardiovascular disease (overweight, smoking, family history), then I would not be overly concerned by your recent test result.

It appears that you make an effort to consume complex, rather than simple, carbs. Fiber mitigates the effects of sugars on TG, so include plenty of fiber in your diet. Also, inadequate protein can negatively affect serum TG levels. It is unlikely, unless you are following a vegan diet, that your protein intake is inadequate, but it is a possibility.

Another possible explanation for your "borderline" TGs is genetics. Recent research has demonstrated that individuals with certain variants of proteins (apoE and apoA1) that are involved in TG and cholesterol transport in the blood have exaggerated TG responses to dietary carbohydrate.

Wind trainer versus exercise bike

I am looking to purchase either a wind trainer or exercise bike to keep up my cycling fitness in order to compete in Olympic distance triathlons.

I need to consider my options due to living out of Wagga Wagga where the roads don't allow safe riding in the winter months.

I am currently riding around 120km per week.

Can you:
1. Communicate which you think is the best and why? i.e. either wind trainer or exercise bike
2. Based on your response to 1, make a recommendation on the brand(s) to consider.

Price is not an issue if it is the right product.

Simon Sellars

Dave Palese replies:

If you want to improve your cycling performance there is no question, trainer.

As far which one... my suggestion is a Computrainer by RacerMate. If you will be logging many miles indoors, it is the one to get. I won't go into all the details here, you can view their site for all the specs. I have one in my basement and during the long Maine winters, although I Nordic ski, I still do 3-4 trainer sessions a week to stay bike fit and mechanically sound.

The Computrainer's software, 3D and Coaching Software, provides all the feedback to make your workouts, not only of very high quality, but also anything but boring. I have found the Coaching Software and .ERG file workouts to be very beneficial. The data from each ride can also be exported, and then viewed and tracked in a piece of software like CyclingPeaks. The Computrainer has all the benefits of having a power meter, except that it can't go on the road with you.

I have seen that Tacx makes a Computrainer-esque unit (also requires a PC), but I have not personal experience with it.

A few of my clients have had Computrainers and I send them workout files to perform, and then we can analyze the data together to track their improvement.

It is still the indoor training tool of choice (at least for me).

Have fun and good luck!

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