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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 12, 2007

Swimming for cyclists
Massage stick
Frame size advice
Outdoor VO2 max testing
Travel and illness
Cycling and motivation

Swimming for cyclists

Hi, thanks for your questions and answers page, I've used it many times now and it is a great resource. OK I have a new question. I usually do a bit of swimming in early winter as I cut back the amount of riding I do to weekends only, at least until the new year. This winter is slightly different. I've just had some pins removed from my femur and hip due to an accident three and a half years ago. As a result I'm going to be swimming for a good two or three months before I've been told it's safe to return to riding.

My question is this, what's the best use of my time in the pool? My normal winter swim sessions are basically swimming continuously for 30 minutes, sometimes at all out effort and other times catching my breath again, but still swimming. When I look at the 'proper' swimmers, they never seem to do more than a few lengths before having a rest. I'm mainly looking at an equivalent to base/endurance training and just simply not becoming too untrained, so when I get back on the bike I won't be as far behind as I would if I'd done nothing. The last twist is currently I can only swim front crawl, as the operation has left me unable to flex my knee more than 90°, so for the time being I can only manage a straight leg kick. I'm sure the full knee flexion will come back in time and with physio work.

I look forward to your reply,


Dario Fredrick replies:

Hi Matt,

I can relate to your situation as I have also spent time in the pool while taking a break from the bike and for similar reasons. To give you a quick background, early in my bike racing days I took three months off the bike to rehabilitate an injury. During that time I pursued swimming to a competitive level, and once I returned to bike racing later in the year, I found I was stronger than ever. I kept swimming as a form of cross training for many years thereafter, even during the competition phase of cycling seasons. Of course this is anecdotal, but I found that for myself the combination of training for distance swim events (e.g. 500, 1000 & 1650yds) with some short-duration high-intensity pacing sets to increase my 50, 100 & 200yd times provided a training stimulus that translated well to my cycling. I was never a sprinter in the pool, but including some speed work helped in pacing and building intensity in my distance swim events as well.

More specifically to how you can best use your time in the pool, I would recommend varying your swimming days with workouts where you focus on longer pacing sets and workouts with shorter, high-intensity sets. I would also break up your swimming time a bit so that you can focus more on technique and quality of the efforts, rather than swimming a continuous 30 min each time. Keep your rest between sets/efforts to a minimum (1-3 min) to maintain more of an endurance training benefit. No need to be concerned about your limited knee flexion in your kick, as freestyle/front crawl kicking should include only a small amount of flexion at the knee in its most efficient form anyways.

Here are samples of workout sets you can try. Always warm up well and cool down at the end your workouts:

1. Distance pacing: 3 x 400 yds, building speed on each effort by 400, 1-2 min recovery between each.

2. Altering speed: 5 x 150 yds: #1 easy, #2 last 50 fast, #3 2nd half fast, #4 150 fast, #5 easy, 1-2 min recovery between each.

3. Combination: 400 yds moderate effort, rest 30 sec, then 4 x 100 fast, rest 1 min btwn each; 300 moderate, rest 30 sec, then 3 x 100 fast, rest 1 min btwn; 200 moderate, then 2 x 100 fast.

Best of luck with your recovery!

Massage stick


My girlfriend received a massage stick as a gift. I have VERY tight muscles on the back of my legs (can't touch my toes). We have been using it on each others legs to aid recovery. Even when she is gentle it is a little painful on my tight muscles. The next day my legs feel like I have done a hard workout and I have weird sore spots. I'm curious to know if I'm getting any stretch benefits from this thing and if I should continue to use it or simply use regular stretching (which I hate to do...)?

P.S. It feels like a large orange is inside the back of my upper leg when the stick is rolled over it.

Thank you,
Jeff Blair

Dave Palese replies:

Hey Jeff,

I don't have any personal experience with the massage sticks, but I know the things you are talking about.

If it doesn't make you feel any better or worse yet, if it reduces the quality of your training sessions, I would stop using it. It is possible that there might be a more specific technique to using it that is yet to be discovered.

Try contacting the manufacturer either via email or on their website for tips. They may even have documents on their site.

Frame size advice

Hi, my name is Bryan Kroeker, and there has come up an opportunity to buy the bike of my dreams, a Cannondale Six13 with full campagnolo record carbon drivetrain, but the problem is it is in a 58cm frame instead of a 56cm frame. Now, the only appreciable difference in the frame sizes that might pose a problem for me is the top tube length. I am currently riding a 56cm Cannondale before a car hit me and destroyed my bike, and I was quite comfortable on the 56cm, but will a 58cm be too large? I'm 6 feet tall and my inseam is around 90cm so the seat tube length and standover height should not be a problem. However, my torso, as measured from a subtraction of the inseam from total height to the sternal notch, is 58cm, the length of my arms are around 65cm as measured from the articulating joint in my shoulder to the webbing between the thumb and first digit, and my shoulder width from the joints is 36cm. From this, would it be stupid to buy the 58cm bike, or should I pass up the opportunity for maybe a better fitted choice in a 56cm.

I really would appreciate a fast response because I need to keep in contact with the seller as to not miss out.

Thank you so much,

Scott Safier replies:

Hi Brian,

There are good and okay ways to deal with your question. Here's the okay way: Since the new bike would have a longer top tube, if you were happy with the overall cockpit length of the old bike, you'll be using a shorter stem on the new bike to get the same position. The longer-top tube, shorter-stem set up puts less weight on the front wheel and will affect the handling by making the bike less stable. Now, if the old bike handled fabulously, changing the handling is bad. If the old bike seemed a bit heavy in the front end and sluggish, making it less stable is good. If the old bike felt light and twitchy in the front end, making it less stable will be disastrous.

Here's the good way to answer the question: Cannondale's are as common as dirt. Go find a 58 cm Cannondale built on the same frame and give it a test ride. If you like the ride, buy the bike.

Outdoor VO2 max testing


Is there a determined protocol for testing Vo2max outdoors? Possibly using a 1 mile long slope? Can different variables like wind, heat influence the outcomes?

Thank you for any information.

Giampaolo Mora

Dave Palese replies:

Hey Giampaolo,

To truly test one's VO2Max, you need to do that testing in a lab with specific lab equipment. And, there isn't really, from a guiding your training point of view, much value in the VO2Max number.

If you are looking for a test protocol, and I am just assuming here, to determine training levels using either power or heart rate, you can do the following either indoors or out:

Warm-up well, 20-30 minutes, and include one 3-5 minute hard, race pace effort to open the legs.

Then after your have rested for about 10 minutes, do a 20 minute time trial. If you do this outside, be sure the terrain is flat to rolling, no major long/steep climbs or prolonged downhill sections. Give your best effort, with goal being to record your best time over the course. Pacing the initial portions of the test is crucial. Don't go out too hard! Record your average heart rate, and/or power.

Recover well with easy spinning and a sports recovery drink.

You can reliably use your average heart rate as a threshold heart rate and build you training levels from that number.

To build power training levels, take your average power and subtract 5%.

Hope this helps.

Travel and illness

A lot of highly trained athletes seem to catch illnesses from travelling. Is the problem related to overtraining fatigue depressing the immune system, the effects of jet lag, or the exposure to all the airborne viruses from the recirculated air on planes? Do you have any recommendations to reduce possibility of getting sick while travelling? It is terrible when a whole seasons training effort is lost when travelling to a major event.

Scott Safier replies:

Hi Stephen,

Do I have to choose just one of your suggested explanations? The truth is most likely a combination. Your top athletes should not be overtrained on their way to major events, but for a period of about eight hours after a tiring workout, the immune system is in a depressed mode making the athlete more susceptible to all those air born viruses. If the athlete flies or goes to a movie in those eight hours, they greatly increase their chances of getting sick. So, my suggestion is to avoid crowded spaces and sick people in the eight hours after a harder workout (high intensity or long endurance challenges). When you do fly, keep your nasal mucosa moist with a saline mist. Dry mucus membranes are more susceptible to allowing an infection to start. If you aren't afraid of the social stigma, wear a germ-filter mask when on a plane.

Cycling and motivation

After getting fed up with the sport, I decided to ride for myself. I trained hard and was able to improve a personally timed 5mi TT on a trainer.

Being that it is getting colder, more dark hours in the day, having spent much time on the trainer, and having done much running I am at a loss. I said to myself that I would just do TT's and work towards that or move over to triathlon...something to satisfy my competitive drive. My question to you is: what are some goals to establish for myself? I feel so stale, depressed, and unmotivated.

It may be my own fault that I am so let down by cycling; I admired and aspired to become one of the best riders around. Finding out that drugs are such a portion of the sport was disastrous; one of the main reasons why I became so in love with cycling was because, I thought, it was so pure and "healthy." The sport is nothing more than a WWF wrestling match. It's all about the profit...a business. OK that's my rant and I apologize about it being negative; I am just very let down.

Thanks for any help in advance,


Dave Palese replies:

I hear your frustrations. And as a racer of some 20+ years, and a lover of what I call the "romance" of the sport, a person pushing their physical and mental limits, I understand how one might decide to turn their back on the sport.

How do I keep myself going?

You have to understand that as far as performance enhancing drugs go, it is nothing new. A handful of athletes at the top of the sport of cycling, and really most professional sports where sizable sponsorship dollars are involved, have always tried to eek out that last little bit to shine above their competition. What you need to realize is that, although the media coverage makes it appear much larger, it really is a very small percentage of competitive cyclists using these drugs. I honestly believe that 99.99% (not an accurate percentage) of competitive cyclists racing today are clean. Consider the number of Cat 5,4,3 and 2 cyclists, versus the number of top-level pros in the states in Europe.

My point is this - unless you are racing at the highest levels of the sport, D-1 teams in the States or the equivalent in Europe, the outcomes of your races will likely not be tainted by the use of these substances.

So that said, and you have to take for what my opinion for what it is worth to you, you need to find your own motivations in the sport. I work with athletes building goals sets year after year. Although my input might weigh heavier in the area of training goals, the performance goals are all them. They each have to decide what is important to them. And everyone is very different. Some want the upgrade. Some what to finish that hard weekend group ride with the group. Win that sprint against their buddies. For some, they need to put together certain good performances to secure a contract for the following year.

Dream a little. Be realistic. But shoot for the moon. One way I like to present the task of short term goal setting is to ask the client "Hey, if you were sitting in your easy chair at the end of next season, what would have to have happened throughout the year for you to be sitting there happy and very content with how things went?" Pick 3 things. And don't forget about long term goals. These are things that you want to happen in the next 3 years or so. Often, thinking about long term goals can help you determine short term goals, since hitting the short term goals is integral to achieving the long term ones.

I hope this helps.

Good Luck.

Steve Owens replies:

Hello S,

Having a balance is the key, and your body knows that. You're just not listening to your body. While it's important to define goals for yourself, first ask yourself why it is that you do what you do. It's obvious that inherently you care for the sport and you have a deep desire to compete and to perform at your best. Before you get into goals though, you need to look at all the stressors in your life and balance them.

This time of year it's stressful for most to get on the trainer or rollers and pound out the mileage. Believe me; you're not alone in that! For most people this time of year, it's colder and darker. That doesn't sound very fun now, does it? Especially if you're training without very specific goals or goals that are much too distant in the future. Bad weather, darker hours, and training inside...they can all lead to emotional stress or even depression. It's important to recognize that emotion is a stress that can have physical effects on your body.

The Central Nervous System (CNS) acts like the hub of your body's wheel, with the spokes of the CNS as various facets of your life. It can be emotionally draining to train after hours or inside, just as it can be emotionally draining to have problems at work or with a family member, friend or spouse. Each spoke requires delicate attention. What stressors can be reduced? Which cannot? I tell athletes I coach straight up that if they lived in a bubble, they'd have to train more, but they don't train that much per se because of other stressors - like having to train inside and when it's dark out. You just can't be a robot (as much as you might want to be). There has to be some give and take in order to keep your CNS 'happy' and motivation plays a huge role in that.

An associate of mine, Rick Crawford, developed a method to track these stressors called "Stress Score". In a notebook or in your mind, track the following on a scale from 1-10 (10 being most stressful):
Total your numbers, and every few weeks try to zero out your stress score by treating yourself to a relaxing massage, reduced training load, etc...

This will help you to recognize where your stressors are and help you to devise a plan that will help the physical training and recovery. From there, you can start looking at goals...look at specific events, power goals with a power meter (5 second, 30 second, 5 minute, 20 minute power goals). You can test yourself weekly, monthly, annually. Find your motivation first and balance things.

The sport of cycling is turning around. You're not the only person that has been let down. I do what I do every day to help people be the best they can be without cheating. I opened a wind tunnel with one of those specific purposes - to help people use technology, not pharmacology, to better themselves. Root for the underdog. Root for the person who trains the smartest, the athlete who balances their life and uses technology and hard work to prevail. You can win races this way - big races. So it's possible.

I'm just scratching the surface with this, but I hope it helps you out "S". Find your balance, and then you're going to find your motivation. Make your CNS really happy.


Carrie Cheadle replies:


You are not alone in feeling disappointment that some people choose to use drugs to try and enhance their performance. I want to emphasize some people because most athletes choose NOT to do drugs. We don't hear about those athletes because I doubt the media finds that "athletes not doing drugs" is very newsworthy. Ever since the beginning of sport, people have been trying to devise ways of getting an edge on their competitors. Some people chose to gain an edge through different methods of training, new technology in equipment, refining their techniques, mental training - and others try to gain an edge in more unethical ways. This is not something that is unique to cycling.

"I feel so stale, depressed, and unmotivated." These are words that I have heard uttered from many athletes. The fact that you have already had three people respond to your post, tells you what an important topic this is. Everyone goes through dips in motivation. However, words like "stale" and "depressed" are moving you further along the continuum into potential burnout. Steve is right, life stress plays a big role in motivation and burnout. That is definitely one of the 1st things to consider. If you do have a lot of life stress, you have to be very proactive with recovery (follow Rick's method) to get your CNS back on track. In addition - here are some other things I usually address with athletes when they come to me with signs of low motivation or burnout:

1. Do what you love - You will be more motivated to train if you are doing something that love to do; you need to figure out for yourself what that is. AND... what that is might change over time. It could be that TT was your passion and now it's shifting to triathlon. Either way, you need to figure out what drives you. Think about times when you get that feeling of excitement in your gut, something that you are so passionate about you feel like you might burst right out of your skin - notice what image comes to you and start there.

2. Jump start your motivation - Sometimes we need a little external inspiration to get us moving forward. Find a new workout partner. Try a new cross-training activity. Read an inspiring book or watch an inspirational movie. (I just watched Miracle with a team I'm working with- that is a great movie!) Talk to other people about how they got through times when they weren't motivated to train. Believe me, you are NOT alone!

3. Goals - Follow Dave's advice on setting goals. Goals help bring quality into your training. Without goals we are just going through the motions, which isn't very motivating. You need a road map to get to your destination. Long-term goals provide you the vision for what you want to accomplish and short-term goals help you get specific with what you need to stay on track and reach your destination... it's important to have both.

4. Keep the focus on you - The truth is, for many people, cycling is a pure and healthy sport. What other people choose to do is out of your control, but you still have control over what YOU choose to do and what the sport means to you. It's important to focus on your own goals, and your own progress. There is something beautiful and meaningful in working hard towards a goal to see what you can accomplish - regardless of what anyone else is doing around you.

Good Luck!


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