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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 March 11, 2008

Back problems
Skiing and heart rate
Diet envy
Handling skills

Back problems

I've always had right hand lower back pain when racing, sometimes it's not too bad, other times I've had to curl up in a ball on the floor until the pain lessens after a hard race. People have told me that I ride with my right shoulder lower than the left. When I'm on the bike and look straight down at the frame, the top tube is over to the left of the downtube. I tried weight training over the winter, concentrating on core muscles, particularly those on the right hand side to try to correct the problem. When I'm on the bike I make a point of trying to hold myself upright and not off to one side.

However, I just did my first two races of the season, a one hour criterium and an 2 hour circuit race, and the back pain was still there, even though they're relatively short races, and I didn't ride them particularly hard. I'm a male 2nd category rider, age 36, 73kg, 184cm, and I typically ride 80-120k road races. I ride a frame with a 57cm top tube and 120mm stem. I did try a 110mm stem year before last, and this made the back pain worse, so I'm thinking of trying a 130mm stem.

Any advice that you can give would be much appreciated.


Steve Hogg replies:

If your top tube appears to the left of your downtube, then you are twisting your torso down on the right side. So why are you hanging to the right?

The likely culprits could be either a significantly tighter right side hip / lower back and / or a shorter right leg. Either or both of those could explain the right side low back pain. People are different. Most people experience back pain in the QL of the side opposite to the hip they drop but a significant minority are like you; i.e, the pain is on the side of the dropping hip. What is possible but less likely is that you have a twist to the right in your lumbar or thoracic spine.

The first order of business should be for you to have a global structural assessment by a knowledgeable structural health professional. This should include an x ray or MRI or similar to accurately determine whether there is a measurable difference in leg length.

Skiing and heart rate

I ski (alpine, aka downhill) 4 days a week combined with my regular workouts on the bike. For years I've noticed I'm blown after a big ski session. I wore my HRM yesterday for the heck of it and noticed by the time I get to the chair at the bottom my HR is at my LT. My runs are non-stop top to bottom which takes around 3 minutes haulin' ass, with a 7 minute high speed quad chair ride. Should this count as high intensity days in my journal? 3 X 7's?

Wrightwood, CA

Scott Saifer replies:

When pondering in the inclusion of high intensity training, there are really two different things you are looking at. One the one side is intense exercise as it generates fatigue. From that perspective your skiing is certainly high intensity. I don't need to know your heart rates to determine that though. Simply the fact that you are "blown" after a ski session tells me that you are working hard and getting tired.

The second consideration is intense training as preparation for intense racing. From that perspective skiing really doesn't count. The movements of skiing are not similar enough to the movements of cycling for that intense exercise to translate to an ability to pedal harder.

You haven't said if you are training to race at a highly competitive level. If you are, the skiing is counterproductive as it wears you out and detracts from your bike training with little if any benefit to your riding. If you are training for general fitness or to be able to hang with your buddies on weekend rides, enjoy the skiing.

Diet envy

I constantly look at riders profiles with weight / height information and am amazed by the figures. I would love to see a profile of some varying size riders and there actual diets to give a better idea of how they do it. I am 187 cm, so probably classed as way to big to cycle competitively but some of the weights I see for some my size leaves me jealous. I have tried all types of diets and a Dietician. I would be interested in portion sizes etc as an interest, as we all know they do a lot more kilometres than the average rider Can you help.


Scott Saifer replies:

I can't answer the question you posed, but I can provide some insight to help you be even more jealous. A strong pro rider doing an endurance ride for base development expends about 1000 calories per hour, and trains about 6 hours per day at the peak. That means they need to eat maybe 7000 calories per day to maintain their weight. (I may be off by 25% depending on the size of the rider, but you get the idea.) That means that they never have to skimp on portion sizes to loose weight or avoid gaining, except perhaps during a rest period or a low-volume start to training.

Handling skills

I am desirous of some situation-specific extreme handling skills-drills and guidance as to how some pros are able to avoid injury by righting their bikes or minimizing impacts. For example, how to pull out of a front/rear wheel slide; how to fall without breaking bones (falling to the left/right or over the bars).

I've done some casual tumbling (tuck and roll with no bike involved) and that has helped both in RR and XC but I'm sure there's more to safety than the tuck.


Scott Saifer replies:

There are indeed ways to do the things you ask, but I've not heard of anyone teaching them other than the roll. I've seen a judo champion jump off a bike in mid-crash, throw the bike back between his legs as he leapt over the bars and then land on his feet running. Don't practice this on your good bike. I crashed my share of times and mostly avoided injury by using a gymnastics move known as "Swedish Fall", where one lands in an elbows-bent, push-up position and kills face-towards-ground momentum by throwing one leg up. Again, I'm not sure you'd want to practice this one at speed. It's safe and fun to do from standing on the floor.

It is definitely possible on occasion to ride out a slide by pulling the bike upright under you. Overdo it and you end up high-siding when traction is re-established, though. The best way I know to learn to slide and recover is by riding a MTB on loose stuff. The big tires regain traction reasonably easily and there's (slightly) less road rash when you slide on sand or leaves.

Really though, the best crash survival tricks are crash avoidance tricks. Learn to know what is going on around and behind you, to be constantly aware of where you could go if the line ahead of you gets messy, to lean your bike to get away from rubbing wheels, and to be ready to bump shoulders to protect your bars.


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