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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.

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 answers for October 29, 2002

Weight watcher
Organising amateur team riders
Winter weight training
Shoe set-up

Weight watcher

I got really depressed reading how Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano, who is about 6 feet tall, made a massive increase in his performance by dropping from 183 pounds to 160 pounds.

I'm 6 feet tall, and about 178 pounds. While this might be "normal" weight for someone of my height and build, it is still too heavy for climbing, and I invariably get dropped on hills.

Is there any specific advice for a winter program designed to help riders drop weight during the off-season? Of course I know to reduce calorie intake, but what other advice might you have?

G. Garner Woodall
Washington, DC

Richard Stern replies:

Firstly, it's important to understand that most likely, it will be unrealistic to have the same body mass as that of a full-time professional athlete, such as Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano. Typically, pro cyclists will have many more available hours to train at their disposal, compared to people who work 9 to 5 (etc.).

The next point to bear in mind is that people will have different body compositions (percentage of body fat, and muscle etc.). Accordingly, you could be very muscular, and have low body fat, which results in you weighing 81 kg. Another athlete with your height and weight could have smaller amounts of muscle, and greater amount of fat, resulting in a greater body fat composition. Therefore, you need to assess the actual amount of body fat that you have, and from that you can make guidelines for fat loss.

There are several ways of establishing body composition, including, skinfold measurements, bio-electrical impedance analysis (BIA), and hydrostatic weighing - which is generally regarded as the "gold standard". It's important that the person who measures these variables is trained in kinanthropometry, and follows standardised procedures. For instance, with skinfold measurements, the actual result (sum of all the skinfold measurement sites) can be highly dependent upon the skill of the person measuring.

With BIA measurement there is little skill required by the operator (sensors are placed on your feet and a small electrical current is passed through you). Many gymnasiums offer this test for a small fee.

Once your body fat percentage has been established you can then ascertain the amount of lean tissue that you have, and then ascertain a desirable body fat percentage. For instance, it might be that you have a body fat percentage of 18 percent with a mass of 81 kg. Accordingly, this would mean that you have a lean body mass of about 66.5 kg. A sensible loss might suggest that you bring your body fat percentage down to 14 percent. This would suggest a body mass of ~77 kg, or a drop in mass of about 4 kg or 9 lbs. (These numbers are purely an example and are not indicative of any weight loss suggestions, which should be established with your coach, a sport dietician/nutritionist, sport scientist etc.)

Once you have determined your weight loss needs, the remaining part of your goal should be to establish a time frame in which to achieve it. Aiming for a weight loss of about 0.5-1.0 kg per week is a maximum sensible guideline.

The next step in your weight loss is to record in a food diary (for three to five days), the exact quantities and types of food you are eating. When you review the diary you may see some patterns in your eating habits, and also spot 'bad' foods.

If you are constantly frying foods; this should be one aspect of your diet that you should change straight away - try grilling or boiling instead.

Now, try to examine the percentage of each macronutrient - carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Each gram of carbohydrate and protein is equal to 4 kcal, whilst 1g of fat is equal to 9 kcal. As an aside alcohol is 7 kcal.

Dietary recommendations state that the majority of our food should come from carbohydrates (about 60+ percent), as these are best for our health and are the major fuel for our muscles when exercising. Accordingly, it is important to cut down on the amounts of fats that we eat (and alcohol), by switching to a low-fat diet. However, that doesn't mean we should eat sweets/candies etc., as these are often referred to as 'empty' calories, i.e., no nutrients other than mainly sugar.

It's therefore, important to eat high carbohydrate, high fibre foods, and low to moderate glycaemic foods such as wholegrain cereals, wholemeal bread, pasta, rice, vegetables, legumes, fruit, and low calorie drinks.

Snacks should be based around low calorie, filling choices such as fruit, dried fruit, vegetables, etc.

Depending on your training volume (time), consuming about 5-8 g of carbohydrate per kg body mass per day should help fuel your training activities (e.g., 405-648 g of carbohydrate per day for an 81 kg rider).

As regards training, it's important to maintain a good level of aerobic training - this is also excellent in terms of building your 'base' over the winter months. The majority of your training should be putting in some 'quality' endurance sessions.

Depending on your training status, riding four to six days per week will help to maintain or lower your weight. During the winter / off-season months you shouldn't give up training - as this will almost certainly mean an increase in weight!

Whilst, decreasing body mass will help to increase your power to mass ratio - which determines your climbing performance, it's also important to increase the power that you can put out when climbing (and on the flat too!).

If you are being dropped on climbs, then your power output is not high enough, and you need to increase your power to mass ratio. If you have a Power Tap hub, or SRM cranks you'll be able to record your climbing power. You can then work on increasing this figure, with periodised training, and regular climbing rides.

Depending on the types of hills that your locale has to offer will influence the type of hill intervals required to increase climbing ability. For short hills (around 1 - 5 minutes), you'll typically need to increase your VO2 max, and the power associated with it (what I term MAP, see my article on power zone training) or for longer climbs your 'threshold' type power (around Zone 4 - 5, in the same article).

Two of the sessions that I recommend are:

Short hills (around 1 - 5 minutes) at about 90 - 105 percent of MAP, completing two to ten intervals, with 10 - 20 minutes recovery between each interval.

Longer hills, start at about 90 percent of your best hill climb power, and then on a weekly or bi-weekly basis increase the power by small amounts (for example, about 5 W).

Eddie Monnier replies:

We'd all like to ride as swiftly as Galdeano! Power-to-weight is the key for climbing success, which means you can either lower your weight, increase your power, or some combination thereof.

First, realize that most pro cyclists maintain a body fat much lower than what non-pro's can or should achieve. Your body mass index [height in meters/(weight in kilos squared)] is 24.2, which is in the upper end of the normal range (18.5 to 24.9 being normal). Still, if you want to drop a few pounds, the only way to do so is to burn more calories than you take in.

With respect to dietary approach, I'm an advocate of the principles outlined in The Paleo Diet by Dr. Loren Cordain. This approach advocates we eat like our hunter/gatherer ancestors; namely: lean proteins, vegetables and fruit. He recommends avoiding starches and grains, highly processed foods, hydrogenated oils, saturated fats and dairy products. It's easier than it sounds. See his book for the details and the scientific support.

Note, however, that the Paleo approach needs some modification to accommodate an endurance athlete's needs during intense training and competition. After very hard and/or very long workouts you need to restore muscle glycogen in order to promote recovery. The recommended way to do this is to consume high glycaemic carbohydrates (e.g., recovery drinks like Endurox, pasta, rice, potatoes, oatmeal, etc.) along with some protein within thirty minutes and for up to two hours. Thereafter, you return to Paleo eating.

Fat comprises a larger percentage of your fuel when you train at lower intensities and less at higher intensities. According to one recent study (Achten et al, '02), fat metabolism is within 10 percent of peak when training at 55-72 percent of V02 max or 68-79 percent of HR max. So losing those pounds during Base and before you reach high intensty training is the right move.

Besides shedding a few pounds, you'll want to focus on increasing your power, too. And you'll be well on your way to improved climbing. Good luck!

Organising amateur team riders

I am an experienced CAT 4/5 team captain and am having a hard time co-ordinating group efforts during races. We often have 6-10 strong riders in the peloton at every race, yet only occasionally reach the podium. With these numbers I feel like we should be able to control the race, but I do not know where to start.

The guys love to attack, do not think about blocking, and consider "practice" to be a 60-100+ mile steady tempo ride. No one seems interested in paceline work, lead-out practice, or other organized teamwork. I admit that cycling tactics are not obvious, but even a simple lead-out can create more wins for the team.

Are there any good "workouts" that would promote team efforts and generate some desire to work together while maintaining a relaxed, unscheduled atmosphere? What do the pros do (other than use radios) to create a focused "team"?

David Harrison

Dave Palese replies:

You are not alone. Just know that. Co-ordinating team tactics at the lower categories (cat 5-3), and even the higher categories is difficult at best.

The pros can often have an easier time of it since most riders realize that they are getting paid to do what the boss says. But even then it is sometimes hard to get riders to think about the team in all situations.

The first thing you need to do is talk to the group as a group/team and find out if everyone is interested in riding for the good of the group during weekend races. If you can't get the group to buy-in to working together, you'll always be fighting an uphill battle. Do your best to sell them on the benefits and how much fun it can be.

After that meeting, you may find that you have a core team of five riders willing to make the commitment. This is group you want to focus your energies on. I would rather have five strong, committed guys in a race working well together than ten guys not. Numbers aren't everything, as you have already proved to yourself.

Then get that small group starting to think about each other.

The first step that I usually take is to try and get each rider to start thinking about the others during group rides and training races. It can be hard to get a rider to stop thinking about their own situation. For riders on the lower-end of the fitness scale, this can be really hard to do.

A good drill is to have the riders pair up at the beginning of a moderate-hard group ride. Wherever one rider goes during the ride, the other has to go too. So if one wants to bridge to a break, then they need to find the other and then both need to bridge. A good tip to start them with is ride near the other in the group. This may sound very simple, but you would be surprised how much trouble some riders can have with it. Flats count too. So if one gets a flat, the other stops.

This can graduate to paired lead outs for sprints on group rides and such.

Talk to the riders after each ride and get their feedback and thoughts. Make comments on how the pairs performed. Switch the pairs from weekend to weekend.

Workouts you can do as a group can vary. You can do paceline, you can do sprint workouts together in small groups of three or four riders, each rider taking a turn leading out. If you'd like more details on the workout sessions, let me know.

I think you'll find it easier to work with a smaller group of riders who are on the same page. But the first and most important step is to talk to your riders and get those who are interested to start thinking like a team.

Weights for winter

Hi I'm a 46 year old male road and MTB racer who doesn't race too much these days but still get out riding four or five times weekly. I was looking for a good winter weight program.


Eddie Monnier replies:

You can definitely supplement your riding with a weight routine. For those over 40, I recommend they lift throughout the year. Strength is built during the early season "base" period and then is maintained by lifting once per week post-Base. A complete program is beyond the scope of this response, but I suggest you check out one of the books/articles on the subject. As a member of Joe Friel's coaching staff, I recommend his book The Mountain Biker's Training Bible which includes a chapter on strength training.

Strength training for cycling should focus on leg exercises that "mimic" cycling movements. Exercises like the squat, single legged leg press, step-up and seated calf raise are ideal. In cycling, maximum force is exerted when the angle of the knee is roughly 90-100 degrees; that is, when the crank is in the forward position and parallel to the ground. So do not bend the knee below 90-degrees in these exercises.

You also want to strengthen your back and abdomen. The seated row, crunch and lat pull-down are good for strengthening your "core."

As a proponent of periodized training, I schedule 4-5 different phases of strength training for each athlete: anatomical adaptation, maximum strength, power, muscular endurance and maintenance. The number of sets, repetitions, and weight are specific to the objective of each phase and precede the corresponding work on the bike.

Shoe set-up

How do you set yourself up, when fitting new red Look cleats to your new bike shoes? I know the pedal axle must be under the ball of the foot, but where do you go from there?

Brett Hill

Dave Palese replies:

The key to good cleat set-up is to make sure the cleat is actually positioned with the axle under the ball of your foot. This is a tough thing to do by feel or even from outside the shoe. So I have my riders do it by the numbers.

Take a piece of paper and put it on the floor with one of the short (8.5 inch) sides against the wall. Now, with bare feet, stand with your feet together and heels placed against the wall on the paper. While you stand up straight, have a friend mark the location of the center of the ball of each foot on the sheet of paper. These positions may be and often are different. Average them out.

Now, take those measurements and transfer them to your shoes. You can either measure from the inside of the heel cup up the sole and make your mark, or like I like to do it, estimate the thickness of the back of your shoe, usually and 1/8 of an inch. Take another piece of paper. Measure from one of the short side up the sheet and make your mark, but add an 1/8 of an inch. Place the paper on the floor against the wall, just as you did when you measured for the ball of your foot. Now put the shoe on the paper with the heel against the wall. Make a mark on the sole of the shoe that lines up with the mark on the paper. Do the same for the other shoe.

Now, mount the cleats to the shoe but don't tighten them too tight. The red LOOK cleats have a raise mark on the sides of the cleat that represents the spindle position. Line that mark up with the mark you made on the shoe. The cleats are now positions roughly for fore-aft position.

The other adjustment is for the rotation (toe-in and toe-out). The great thing about the red cleats is that this adjustment is less important than when using a fixed cleat (black). I like to adjust the rotation so that when jumping hard, I won't clip out if my heel should flare out. You will rarely unclip accidentally to the inside. The rule for rotation is to find a position that allows you to have your foot in it's natural position, and have some play to either side. That's the whole point of rotational cleats. You may have to ride the bike a bit on the trainer or rollers, tightening and loosening the cleat until you get this rotational position right.

Positioning the fore and aft position of your cleats in this way will get you in generally the right place. You may still have to move the cleats slightly up or back to get it exactly right. But you'll be close with this technique.

If your new cleat position is very different than you had been riding it, this may affect the rest of your positioning on the bike (saddle height, saddle fore-and-aft, and so on). But proper cleat position is the starting point for good bike set-up.

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