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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 November 7, 2002

Blood donation
Intensity for weight loss
Oxygen processing
Roman chair
Wind trainer climbing

Blood donation

What sorts of things should I know or do when it comes to riding/training after donating blood? I am a bit concerned because I have somewhat low blood pressure (100/62 at donation time). I don't donate during the main riding months, only in winter. I ride off-road and commute by mountain bike year-round. I don't race, but I do ride for fitness. I am a 35 year old male, 5ft-6, 154 lbs, lacto-vegetarian.

Thanks for anything you can offer on this.

Jason Moses
Edmonton, Canada

Ric Stern replies:

It's excellent that you donate blood, as most donation centres are always requiring more. Limiting donations to the winter is a good idea for those that race, as there will be a mild decrease in performance following donation.

Your blood volume will generally be replaced within a couple of days following donation, however, red blood cell mass will take a little longer: about 10-20 days. Accordingly, during that time you may feel a little below par. Therefore, maximal performance ability will almost certainly return after about two weeks.

I would not exercise for at least 24 hours following donation, and the next couple of days afterwards you may feel light-headed if you push too hard, so keep the intensity very low. If you do feel light-headed (etc) then terminate the exercise immediately. Gradually increase the intensity back to normal over a period of a week or so (for endurance/sub-maximal work).

Immediately following the donation you should endeavour to make sure you have nutritious food, especially foods high in iron, and vitamin C. As a vegetarian, you are limited to non-haeme iron, which is not as easily absorbed as the iron from meat etc. Vitamin C will help increase the absorption rate of the iron.

You should aim for fortified cereals, green leafy vegetables, legumes, rice, dried apricots, and so on. At the same time you should drink plenty - more than usual, and avoid, alcohol, and tea and coffee (and other caffeinated drinks). Avoiding these before donation (on the day) is also a good idea, and you should eat and drink very well prior to donating.

Intensity for weight loss

I am a recreational rider, male, 45, 82kg, 179cm tall, aiming to average three rides a week of roughly 40km apiece. Main aims are to try and lose weight (I have dropped from 89kg and aiming for 80kg or better) and to go faster.

My question relates to ideal heart rate for weight loss. I have read that 70-80 percent of MHR is the target for weight loss but am I correct in assuming that if you can sustain in the 80-90 percent range for the same amount of time then you must burn more calories?


Eddie Monnier replies:

Tony, you are correct in that you will burn more calories when exercising at a higher intensity vs. exercising at a lower intensity, providing it is for the same duration. However, when it comes to intensity, "more" is not better for weight loss. This is because at intensity levels above about 80 percent, the contribution of fat oxidation to energy needs falls of very quickly, becoming very minimal at about 90 percent. At greater intensities, you're burning muscle glycogen. The ideal "fat-burning" range is 65-80 percent according to a recent study by Achten et al. Note also, that if you ingest carbohydrates prior to or during your ride, you may impair the fat oxidation process. So for rides shorter than about two hours, skip the pre-ride energy bar, stick with water in your bottle, and keep your intensity in the ideal fat-burning zone of 65-80 percent.

Oxygen processing

I read and laughed at the question from the gentleman from Washington DC who says he is 6ft tall and weighs 178lb and has difficulty climbing. I am 49 years old, about 5ft 11in and weigh 194lb. Pretty muscular, my body fat is around 18-19 percent. I would love to weigh 178 lb - and am trying to work towards a 180 lb weight. It's a struggle, as due to work and other commitments I don't have the time to train as much as I would like. My question is as follows. I don't seem to have a heart rate problem as a limiting factor. On most climbs my heart rate is between 155-160, but I find I cannot process enough oxygen to get going any faster. What kind of training methodolgy can I use to increase the oxygen processing capability?

I also use a HAC 4 HRM which has a watts power measuring system. I have a 10.3 mile TT course I ride which has 1050 ft of climbing on it. I find my average power output for that ride is usually about 160 for a good day, so am a bit concerned when I read the article by Ric Stern, that an average power output for a 10 mile TT ride might be 300 or so?

I would assume power output would vary by age? What would be a "good output" for someone my age?

Martin Raffauf
San Mateo, California, USA

Ric Stern replies:

Your suggested weight loss of 14 lb (194 down to 180 lb) sounds like a good goal, it would reduce your body fat percentage from ~19 percent to ~12.5 percent. It's important to not lose weight too quickly and a loss of 1-2lb per week might be possible, if you carefully monitor your diet, and up your training a little.

The problem you are experiencing as regards going up hill, isn't as such a HR problem, but it's related to your power to mass ratio, and your 'aerobic' fitness. For all endurance cyclists, and indeed even one kilometre TT specialists, one of the main goals is to increase both your VO2 max, and lactate threshold, and the power that is related to these variables. VO2 max is the greatest amount of oxygen (O2) that can be processed by the body (and is often presented relative to body mass).

Therefore, what you need to do is to increase the amount of O2 that your body can process, which will concomitantly up your power output. Your 'base' fitness can be increased with endurance training (RST zones 1 and 2). Depending on the duration of hills you climb (e.g., short less than about 5 minutes, or long more than about 10 minutes), will depend on the specific sort of hill efforts you should aim for.

On either flat roads, long climbs, or the indoor trainer, you can increase your power by training at Zone 4, for 12+ minutess, which can be repeated two to three times, with an adequate recovery period (more than 5 minutess). Shorter efforts of around 2 to 5 minutes can be trained by riding at about 100 percent MAP (upper Zone 6 to 7). These can be fairly brutal, and as with all training you should make sure that you are fit and healthy to undertake such strenuous work.

The suggestion that I previously made about the 300 W for a 10 mile TT was purely to introduce some figures to help work out the example, as opposed to suggesting that anyone should be able to knock out 300W for 10 mile TT.

On the other hand, as I understand things the HAC-4 cyclocomputer doesn't actually measure power output; it estimates power by changes in barometric pressure. This will only give accurate(ish) results when velocity is low, and gradient is steep. It's highly likely that you are producing more than 160 W.

Power output will be dependent upon many factors, including but not limited to air temperature, velocity, drag, rolling resistances, body mass, and gradient, etc. It's difficult if not impossible to suggest what power you should produce for a given age. What you need to do is to increase your power output.

A coach should be able to help you plan out a periodised training plan and programme, so that such gains can be made within specific time frames.

If you want to track power accurately, and at the same time, have a rough ball-park indicator of the amount of energy expended then a power meter, such as Power Tap or SRM will be your best bet.

Roman chair

I'm a thirty-one-year-old category five racer. My past is basketball and I'm wondering if the same rule applies. My coach would have us put our backs flat against the wall and bend our knees as if we were sitting in an "invisible chair". The results were great, my concern is that they might be bad for my needs. Could you expand on this for me. I love to do the exercise but am I hurting myself?


Ric Stern replies:

This sounds like some sort of 'Roman Chair' type exercise that your old coach had you do. While this exercise may hurt your legs like hell (it does to me!), it has no relevance to cycling, and won't in any way improve your cycling ability.

What you need to do is cycle specific training, which is generally cycling! Concentrate on base volume training at this time of year in Zones 1 - 2, gradually building up the volume that you can manage. Intersperse it with recovery weeks, every 3-6 weeks.

Eddie Monnier replies:

If you enjoying doing your "invisible chair" exercises, then by all means do them. They seem to be good for strengthening your lower back. As for any benefit to your legs, there are better exercises you could do. These include squats, lunges, and one-legged presses. In each case, mimic the cycling position as closely as possible (e.g., when doing squats, only drop to 90-degree bend in knee).

Wind trainer climbing

I've read all the fitness programs recently on the website, in particular how to improve your fitness using the wind trainer (varying efforts, and rest periods etc). This is nothing new to me, but I don't think I have come across a program (for the wind trainer) to improve your climbing ability.

What climbing-orientated exercises can be done on the wind trainer? Is it just a matter of turning up the resistance and pedalling at 60 rpm or so?

I'm male, 27 years old, race on the road, 68-70 kg, 175 cm tall

Training Volume (Summer) = 450km+ per week

Training Volume (Winter) = 3 - 4 sessions on the Windtrainer, perhaps a session on the road if it ever stops raining here in Zurich!

Padeepa Manoj

Ric Stern replies:

Padeepa, climbing ability is directly related to power to mass ratio, which can be increased either by increasing your power output, decreasing your weight or a combination of the two. At 1.75m and ~69kg, there may not be much weight that you can realistically lose, or not enough to make significant differences. It's therefore, going to be a case of trying to up your power output.

Intervals on both the road and trainer will help. You can try to simulate the climbing effect by increasing the resistance and lowering your cadence and doing long intervals. There's no need to raise the front of your trainer up, as this won't do anything (except possibly make the trainer unstable)!

Out on the road your cadence will be determined by your velocity up hill, and the gearing that you have available. If you're riding at 60 revs/min up a long Swiss Alpine climb you may want to think of getting some lower gears, as this might make things more comfortable.

Riding up the passes will definitely help, as will riding on the road in general. While I wouldn't say go out on the road everyday in the rain, you should try to get out at least once a week, with other sessions completed on the trainer.

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