Form & Fitness Q & A
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Fitness questions and answers for April 17, 2007
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.
Early morning training
Off season training
Maximum heart rate and aging
Base training and gym work
Early morning training
Do you have any advice for someone who has to do his training very early in
the morning? By early I mean starting a training ride at 4:00am and ending at
6:00am three or four days per week. My weekend rides are standard daytime rides.
I am interested in any comments on early morning physiology and response to
training. I do get seven hours of sleep per night.
Madison, WI, USA
Dave Palese replies:
You are a stronger man than me! Kudos for making the commitment to getting
up so early to improve your performance.
Although they may exist, I have never seen any studies centered around the
physiological response to early morning training v. training later in the day
with regard to one being more or less effective. Maybe one of the other panelists
Your situation, for what ever reason mandates it, is pretty common. I have
many clients who have family (get the kids off to school, car pool with the
spouse and so on), and work schedules that make it necessary for them to train
early in the morning. The biggest obstacle that we have had to deal with is
that the body's metabolic systems take some time to get going in the morning.
This most often manifests itself as a heart rate that is slow to or unable to
rise to the needed beats per minute for efforts of higher intensity (i.e., Threshold,
VO2 Max, Anaerobic Capacity
). This can cause an effort to feel much harder
than normal. This hasn't always been the case but it has happened with my clients.
Here are several suggestions I would make:
1. Eat something. Put half an energy bar in your stomach on the way down the
basement. The process of digestion, and the sugars in the bar can help to jump
start your system.
2. Warm-up a little longer than usual for a trainer session. 5-10 extra minutes
of a warm-up at sub-threshold intensity can help get things going too. Do this
even at the expense of an interval later in the workout. Those minutes will
be well spent if the quality of your workout is of higher quality because of
3. Use output instead of depending on HR as your indicator of intensity. Remember-if
the output is Threshold, and it feels like Threshold, but your HR is low, go
with it. Ignore your HR and use the other two inputs (output and RPE) to guide
you through your session.
4. Have a plan. Save your long steady distance riding for the weekends. Design
your morning sessions to be short and sweet. Get on. Do your warm-up. Do your
workout. Cool down and get off. Over the long haul, this will help keep you
consistent and more motivated.
Off season training
How do you feel about using a Concept 2 rowing ergometer as an off season training
device for biking? I've always felt that getting off the bike for a while was
good for the psyche and that the mental attitude, really looking forward to
getting back on the bike, was a real advantage.
Dave Palese replies:
Riding the rowing machine will not improve your cycling. It will help you maintain
and maybe even develop cardiovascular fitness. There are also benefits on the
muscular level, especially those often ignored upper body groups. And the mental
benefits you cite shouldn't be overlooked.
But I wouldn't row to the exclusion of riding in the off-season. Actually,
for the competitive rider there is no "off-season". Just times of
the year when the balance shifts. Riding year round is very important to maintaining
the cycle of continuous improvement.
If you want to build on, improve upon, and be a better cyclist than you were
last season, it is important to have a cycling plan that runs through the winter
months as well. It can be greatly reduced in comparison to your summer program.
I nordic ski (skate and classic) 4-5 days a week in the winter here in Maine,
but I still ride the bike a few hours a week to stay on track.
Scott Saifer adds:
The answer to your question depends on your goal in cycling. If you are riding
for fitness, recreation or health, the answer to your question is that rowing
is a fine foul-weather alternative to cycling, or even just another sport in
which to gain fitness, recreation and health.
If your goals are competitive at a higher level, you can still use the rower
as a cross training mode so long as you are several months before your racing
season, but do keep pedaling once or twice per week to maintain your cycling
Maximum heart rate and aging
My situation is one that is, as far as I know, unique. In all the reading I've
done on heart rate training, I've never come across any documentation listing
situations like mine.
In 1991, at the age of 29, I took a VO2 Max test and had at the time a maximum
heart rate of 196bpm. At that time I owned a Polar Accurex (top of the line
then) HRM, and it recorded a maximum HR of the same; give or take 1bpm. I lost
the Accurex in 1993, and didn't have my HR checked while riding for 14 years.
In 2007 I bought a Vetta HR100 HRM. Having ridden the bike several times now
with it, I've reached a maximum HRM of 192 on more than one occasion! This number
seems odd to me, as would not my theoretical maximum HR, if 196 fifteen years
ago, now be about 181?
I am aware that the general math of your age minus 220 is not scientifically
accurate, but it strikes me as very odd that my maximum HR has only dipped four
total points in the last 16 years!
Is there something wrong with my Vetta HR100 that shows my heart rate incorrectly?
Or was my VO2 Max test (and Polar Accurex) incorrect back in 1991? Or has my
heart somehow aged four years in the last 16, or am I just some sort of mutant?!
Phil Anderson (no, not the famous Aussie)
Portland, Oregon, USA
Dave Palese replies:
You're a mutant.
I wouldn't sweat it. There are so many issues with max HR, its decline over
time, its relationship to age and so on.
If the numbers you see with your HRM are consistent, then use those numbers.
Accurate or not. If they are consistent enough that they can rely on them to
be the same under given workloads, then use them.
The short answer is max heart rate not declining over time in the same fashion
for everyone is not uncommon.
Have fun, ride fast! Good luck!
Scott Saifer adds:
Stress not oh yee of famous name. The formula 220-age and the idea that one
loses 1 bpm per year are both poor approximations to the reality of the average
human. If you behavior is not typical (exercising), your response is not typical.
Among my fit clientele, the average maximum heart rate is closer to 210 - 1/2(age),
meaning that in this sample at least, the loss is only 1/2 beat per year, or
seven for your 14 years. Your four beat loss is well within normal range.
I am a 37 year-old male triathlete that had continuous problems with my calf
muscles for one and a half years, I am 198 cm tall and my weight is 93 kilos.
I have always believed the problems derived from my running, and have this
winter got new insoles made for me at a sports clinic, and my running has been
going very well since, with no calf problems whatsoever during three months.
However, with spring arriving, I have increased my cycling volume and right
away my problems with the calf muscles comes back, which would indicate that
the problems comes from cycling, rather than from running. My problem is in
general painful and stiff calf muscles, especially on the upper, outside of
the muscles, which at its worst leads to regular muscle ruptures in the calf
muscles when running.
I ride a Trek Madone 5.9 with 62cm frame and use SpeedPlay X/2 pedals and Shimano
SH-R215B shoe. I have recently moved the cleats back as much as possible on
the shoe and increased my cadence from 82-83rpm to 87-88rpm to take some load
off the calf muscles, but with no improvements. Any suggestions on what do to
about this problem?
Steve Hogg replies:
The likely reason for your problem is that your Speedplay pedals do not allow
your cleats to be far enough back. Speedplays have approximately 5mm less rearward
adjustment than other popular three bolt systems. You may be tight in the calves
already but the further forward your cleats are, the more the calves will be
Speedplay make an alternative adaptor that can be ordered through any shop
that sells Speedplay pedals. The part number is 13330. Most shops don't know
that it exists so don't be put off if they don't know about it. The alternative
adaptor allows 13-14 mm more rearward cleat movement than is possible with the
standard adaptor plates.
The shoes that you have have quite a bit of lift in the toe and the heel. For
a minority of people, this can add to their susceptibility to Achilles tendon
or calf strains.
Move the cleats as far back as necessary to solve the problem. Don't forget
when you do this to lower your seat accordingly. Moving the cleats back will
cause more leg extension. If you run into any problems with any of this, please
let me know.
I'm a 32 year old male `5 6 and 140 pounds. I train 3-4 times a week with various
sets - including TT intervals, hill sprints and standing-start sprints as well
as distance rides (100km with hills) in local club events I race in scratch
or A grade. At the moment I ride a 07 Giant TCR C2 and use Shimano pedals
Late last year I began to get cramps in my calves and inflamed Achilles tendons
when racing or training hard, I lowered my seat to try and protect the calves/tendon
but this made no difference, I then moved my cleats back so the ball of my foot
is 6mm in front of the pedal axle. This seems to have solved the cramping/tendon
problem but I noticed pain in the front of my thighs so I've raised my seat
back to its original height.
The problem I now have is that when I ride I develop stiffness and pain down
the outside of my left calf and also from my hip down the outside of my (left)
thigh. Although both cleats are set the same it feels like my left foot ball
is closer to the pedal axle than the right and on the down-stroke it feels like
I have a thick piece of foam in my shoe and cannot develop full power (the right
leg feels perfect!)
Steve Hogg replies:
The picture you describe is a common one. You have one of the following:
1. Shorter left leg
2. Tendency to favour the right leg to the extent where you pay a price for
this on the left.
More likely, #2. is the problem. Though either will cause what you describe
currently. You should lower your seat and move it further back so that your
quads don't die.
If you go through the archives there is any amount of stuff about this. Once
you have looked, get back to me for any clarifications.
Base training and gym work
I am a 36yr old male entering my second year of riding and racing. I have just
begun my base training and gym work at the start of our season.
Gym sessions are Mon, Wed & Fri and I am intending to do base mileage in
zone 2 for the next 6-8 weeks Tues, Thurs and Sat with the occasional race or
harder efforts on Sundays.
From the reading I have been doing it is my impression that high cadence work
should be completed with the gym work to convert the gym strength to cycling
strength. My question is should the high cadence workouts be scheduled on the
gym days or mixed in with the endurance rides?
When planning recovery or easy days of riding is that to rest the muscles and
give them time to repair or is to rest the heart or both? If the recovery days
are for muscles it seems to me that it wouldn't be a problem to include the
high cadence work on the recovery days because the muscles will be working under
a light load even though heart rate will be high?
Dave Palese replies:
I won't talk too much about strength benefits and what not here, only to say
be careful to choose a program that is designed to get you the results you are
looking for. Not all strength training programs are created equal.
When I have my client in the gym during the General Preparation phases, I have
them follow-up all gym sessions with riding immediately after. And this riding
is done at a higher than normal cadence. I have found that it 'keeps them loose'.
Plus, the increased blood flow cleans things out and aids in recovery.
I suggest making rest days restful. The heart is a muscle, just like you quads.
When it is tired, it needs to rest so that it can perform efficiently next time
you ask it to. So I would error on keeping your rest days very easy.
I'm a newcomer to the sport of cycling and absolutely loving it. I've been
riding competitively for about nine months doing about 300km a week. I'm 18
years old and 185cm currently weighing about 79kg.
I was surprised to see myself at this weight when I weighed myself recently
considering I'm feeling pretty fit. Before I started road cycling I weighed
about 72kg. This seems perhaps a little odd considering that a most people tend
to lose weight while doing such an aerobic sport.
Is it possible to put down the weight gain on the building up of muscle? Perhaps
also growth (I haven't grown in height in the past nine months more than a cm
or two)? Seven kilos seems like a lot. Is there anything wrong?
Scott Saifer replies:
At your current height and weight you are pretty much ideally built to be a
flat land cyclist but are getting heavy if you want to be competitive in the
mountains. Seven kilos is a lot of weight to add in just nine months, but not
totally out of the normal range for an 18 year old. Did you add muscle or fat?
You should be able to answer that by pinching yourself on the belly and thighs.
Is there more fat than there used to be?
It's actually not that uncommon for cyclists to gain weight. All they have
to do is work up a big appetite with long and hard rides and then eat a bit
more Calories each day than they expended. The rate at which you have gained
weight corresponds roughly to eating one more thick slice of bread each day
than you actually needed.
I'm a 48 year old masters category racer. Last year I did my first somewhat
serious year of racing since I was in my mid twenties. I managed to usually
finish with the masters 40 pack, which I felt good about since in my state this
includes a large number of category 1 and 2 masters as well as a few ex-professional
This year it was my intention to start racing in March, and I thought that
by this time I would have had about 5 or 6 weekends of racing under my belt.
However, I've been plagued with a series of illness - gastroenteritis, then
labyrinthitis with vertigo, and now a respiratory infection with fever. I have
not done a single race this spring, and my training has been sporadic over the
past month and a half. When I've been able to ride, I've been able generate
good power according to my powertap (up from this time a year ago), but after
riding for a couple of days, I'll be sick again and off the bike for up to a
week. My wife thinks I'm not letting myself recover completely from an illness
before I jump back on the bike, and this has left me more vulnerable to the
She very well may be right about this, but the situation has me somewhat frustrated
about my racing season (nonexistent so far) and I'm not certain what I should
do when I get over this current bug. Should I just go ahead and do a race and
see what happens, or should I try to work into cycling gradually for a couple
of weeks (starting slowly with endurance rides, then intervals) before doing
any competitive riding?
Carrie Cheadle replies:
Well, the wife might be right (I know my husband loves to admit when I'm right
as well). As far as the physical aspect, I'll leave that up to the expert coaching
panel and your doc. However, mentally - it can be tough to readjust your expectations
for the season when you are dealing with any type of setback in your season
whether it be illness, injury, or some other life circumstance.
It's easy to spiral downward when you are focused on where you think you SHOULD
be compared to where you are. The first part is accepting where you are and
keeping your mind focused on what is in your control. What's done is done and
there is no amount of wishing it would be different that will change that.
The second is readjusting your goals. The quicker you can readjust your goals,
the quicker you will be to start moving forward again. You have to be okay with
having a transition back into racing. View this as an opportunity. This might
mean your peaking at the end of the season when everyone else is starting to
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