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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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 December 5, 2007

Short legs & cycling
Hematocrit level
Aerobic cross training and mitochondria

Short legs & cycling

Hi Steve,

Thanks for the advice, and it seems I am in the need for a little more.

I am now in the process of building up the ride distances in order to complete & enjoy the TdU Challenge Stage in January 2008. On the longer rides (100km or so), I have been developing a soreness in the perennial area just in front of the sit bones on my left side. To an extent that after Sunday's 112km ride, I noticed a blood blister that had protruded from the skin (this has been an area of previous sensitivity that has come and gone, but never like this). Shorter rides of 1 - 2 hours can sometimes have minor tenderness, but not always.

I changed my saddle some time ago from the Bontrager Race Lux (came with my LeMond Tourmalet 2006 model) to a Selle Italia Max Flite Gel Flow, and am very happy with it. I am also now using Time RXS pedals and Cannondale RP2000 shoes.

I do not think the current problem is related to the seat, as it was sort of there before (it appears that I have a blood vessel very close to the skin in that area, and hence the issue ?). I have not yet used any shims on my short leg, as I have not really had any issues to date.

I have previously had a bike fit based more on the KOPS methodology, with some compensation for the short leg. My left leg is shorter in the Femur by approx 6 - 9mm.

Is there someone in Adelaide that you can recommend that does a bike fit along the lines that you do to achieve the "functional symmetry" that you mention - getting to Sydney for a bike fit is not a short term solution at the moment (sadly).

Michael Bachmann

Steve Hogg replies:

G'day Michael,

So the left femur is 9mm shorter and you get perineal pressure on the left side. You are dropping one hip, probably the left and loading it more heavily in an attempt to make up for the inability of that leg to reach as far as the right leg can. But I can't discount the possibility that you may be dropping the right hip and if you are, that may be pulling the left side towards the centre line of the bike and be causing the issue that you mention.

I am not sure by what you mean by your saying that you are not having any issues and so haven't shimmed the shoe of the short leg. I'd say you are having issues.

The best advice I have sight unseen is to:

1. Establish whether it is right or left hip that you are dropping.

2. If it is the left hip, then a shim of 3 - 5 mm should make a noticeable difference.

3. If it is the right hip, get back to me.

Hematocrit level


My question is in regards to my Hematocrit level.

I am 42 years old, 5' 9" and 155lbs. I've been racing bicycles for the last 7 years in the Masters 30-40 division. I don't have any scouts from Slipstream following me around, but I would say I can hold my own in most races. Generally I finish in the top 10-15 riders in a criterium field of 75. Respectable…..but I want more.

Admittedly, my biggest weakness is leg strength. If I have to hammer into a headwind, I'll fold like a house of cards. My assets are leg speed and endurance. I get a yearly prostate cancer screening which includes a complete blood workup. (As well as another "procedure" I won't mention) Within the results of the blood test is my Hematocrit level. For the past three years my levels have been 46.2…46.6…46.5 from all that I have read on the subject (and it's quite a hot topic as of late) my +Hematocrit level may be my biggest asset. I had actually read where Greg LeMond suggested that the legal Hematocrit level for racers be lowered to 46. Now for my question(s); does this magic "Number" truly hold all the power they say it does? And, if so, how can I best exploit this natural "gift" I have? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Jim Siegele
Geneva, IL

Dario Fredrick replies:

Hi Jim,

While the limiter or "weakness" you mention in your racing is shared by many cyclists, the good news is that you can train and improve this area of performance. Technically, it's not strength you are lacking when you are stopped short by a headwind, but power relative to your aerodynamic drag. If you train to improve your short duration and flat-terrain power in a lower-drag position, you will go faster. Proper positioning on the bike, riding in the drops and keeping your head low will help reduce the resistance of a headwind. To increase your power, you can try a couple of different workouts. For short-duration power especially useful in criteriums and flat road races, I would recommend 20-30 sec seated accelerations. Start with 8-10, including sufficient recovery between each to maintain consistency. Also, you might try longer split efforts on flat terrain. Start with 3 or 4 x 9 min, where you split the 9 min intervals into three continuous 3 min efforts: 3 min ~90-93% of MSS + 3 min ~95-97% + 3 min ~90-93%, continuous for 9 min (MSS = Maximal Steady State, your 30min performance threshold HR). Again, full recovery between each 9 min interval.

Regarding your questions about hematocrit (Hct), yours is slightly above average for males (~45 +/- 5-7, depending on the source). Since we are talking about the percentage of blood volume that is red cells (which carry and transport oxygen), a higher than average Hct can be beneficial to cycling performance. However, Hct is only one physiological aspect of aerobic potential as VO2max is also a function of maximal cardiac output (dependent upon blood volume and stroke volume of the heart). Muscle fiber type predominance and adaptation (e.g. mitochondrial density) also play an role in determining one's performance potential.

Regardless of your hematocrit or fiber type predominance, the best way to maximize your potential is to train specifically for your sport, while addressing your limiters -- whether you have a high Hct or not. For you, that simply means raising your max-sustainable and short-duration power on flat terrain. That should help you develop a more complete game.

Aerobic cross training and mitochondria

I've been reading a great deal lately about increasing mitochondria through long aerobic cycling (2-3 hours). Primarily as an off season training endeavor. If I combine cycling and cross training for this length of time, will I realize the same benefit?



Dario Fredrick replies:

Hi Emil,

The simple answer to whether you will realize the same benefit is no, because muscle fiber recruitment and adaptation are very specific to the activity. Cross training can at best only partially mimic the fiber recruitment of endurance cycling. However, you can certainly gain some benefit from other types of cross training exercise if, as Scott mentioned, you recruit similar muscle as in cycling. Equally important to whether you realize benefits are the intensity and the type of cross training exercise. For example, weight training will not improve mitochondrial capacity whereas endurance training intensity should be at least 55% VO2max or ~70% MSS/threshold HR to produce the desired effect.

All the best for a great winter season of training!


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