Form & Fitness Q & A
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The Cyclingnews form & fitness panel
Carrie Cheadle, MA (www.carriecheadle.com)
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 (www.davepalese.com)
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 (www.trainright.com)
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 (www.velo-fit.com)
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
David Fleckenstein, MPT (www.physiopt.com)
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 (www.cyclefitcentre.com)
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
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 (www.wholeathlete.com)
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 (www.wenzelcoaching.com)
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 (www.wenzelcoaching.com)
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 (www.cyclecoach.com)
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 (www.cyclecoach.com)
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 (www.elitefitcoach.com)
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
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 November 20, 2002
Effective Winter Training
I am a cat 4 racer looking to be a cat 3 by the end of the 2003 season.
I am 6ft, 140 lbs.
I have a uneven amount of strength in my legs. My left leg is considerably
weaker than my right. I do single legged exercises as much as possible. What
specific weight training exercises should I do in the fall/winter months to
increase my power? How many times a week should I lift legs?
I have been doing base training about 9 hours a week. Should I mix any intensity
training in at all during the fall/winter months? If so what specific training
should I concentrate on?
Ric Stern replies:
Dana, There are two specific issues here as regards the weight training.
Firstly, it may well be of importance to have your legs tested by someone
such as a physiotherapist - to try to ascertain what the imbalance is, and
the magnitude of it.
As regards cycling, strength and power, assuming that you are some sort of
endurance rider very little strength is required for cycling. In fact many
cyclists are no stronger than age and sex matched healthy (non-cycling) individuals.
Strength has little or no bearing on cycling performance.
Most research using trained cyclists or triathletes shows no correlation
between muscular strength and cycling performance (e.g., Bentley et al., (1998).
Correlations between peak power output, muscular strength and cycle time
trial performance in triathletes. J Sports Med Phys Fitness Sep: 38(3):
201-7, and Bishop et al., (1999). The effects of strength training on endurance
performance and muscle characteristics. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1999 Jun;
31(6): 886-91). On the other hand, untrained cyclists may derive a benefit
from resistance training.
However, the less time you have available for training the more important
it is to do cycle training.
If you want to increase your cycling performance (power output) then follow
a periodised cycle training programme. A cycle coach can be invaluable (either
a local one or an internet one).
Depending on your goals, and what you hope to achieve then it maybe worth
incorporating some moderate to high intensity training into your schedule.
I am a 29 year old who has been racing for a number of years with mixed
results. I have decided that after many years of haphazard training, I would
train carefully throughout the fall and winter in preparation for a breakthrough
year of racing. With this in mind I have begun a preparatory phase consisting
of: a twice weekly weight training program, a day or two of running, a few days
on the trainer in targeted training and the weekend on the road pursuing longer
Every Wednesday for several weeks now, I have also been taking a one hour
yoga class (as well as stretching before and after each my other daily workouts).
My wife teases me since I am often one of only two men in the class, but I feel
great and relaxed after yoga. I have read that one problem with cycling is that
it shortens ligaments and muscle tissue increasing the likelihood of injury
and/or counterproductive training. How true is this? How helpful do you think
yoga might be for cycling related health and fitness? I can attest to its mental
benefits, but do you think it would be more effective to simply use that time
Dave Palese replies:
Michael, I don't know what goals you have set out for yourself looking to
next season, but it sounds like you are spending enough time on the bike.
Cyclists are classically some of the least flexible athletes around, so anything
you can do to increase your flexibility, especially in your hamstrings, will
benefit you in your riding.
Increased flexibility in the hamstrings holds many benefits for cycling including,
but not exclusive to, greater power transfer to the bike as well as often
allowing the rider to assume a more aerodynamic position. These two points
alone can contribute to faster speeds. I would continue with the yoga if you
can fit it in.
You commented that it has mental benefits too, and that is always good. If
you don't feel that the routine is not hitting your hamstrings enough, ask
your instructor about positions that might help.
One note about flexibility training: when I give my riders these types of
routines, it is usually the first thing to disappear from their diary returns
when the weather turns warmer. Try to avoid neglecting stretching/flexibility
when the season starts.
When you move into your more specific phases of training, you will be adding
higher load, more explosive workouts (sprints, hill repeats, high output intervals).
These types of efforts tend to kick-off the tightening up process, so make
time for stretching/flexibility training when your body needs it most. One
to two, 15 minute sessions per week is good. Be sure your muscles are warm
when you stretch. Stretching after a workout is usually more advisable.
Effective Winter Training
I am a 47 year old masters cyclist from Minnesota who competes in road races,
TTs, and crits throughout the spring, summer and early fall. During the season
I typically put in between 250 and 300 miles/week. I am fairly competent as
a cyclist with my major weakness being my sprint. This has resulted in my having
a large number of second place finishes after instigating breakaways in road
races and crits. This season, I tried time trialling for the first time and
found that it was something I thoroughly enjoyed and was quite good at.
Given the climate and reduced hours of daylight in Minnesota (it has already
snowed a number of times) I find it necessary to limit late fall, winter, and
early spring training to cross country skiing, weightlifting using a periodization
approach, and using a trainer. In recent years, I have been coaching a high
school cross country team so quality training hours of skiing have been reduced
forcing me to spend more time on the trainer to be in decent condition when
I first start racing in April. I have two basic questions regarding off-season
training: one has to do with equipment, the other with a program that will strengthen
my sprint and help me further develop as a time triallist.
I currently use a Cyclops fluid trainer but beyond using a heart rate monitor
to ensure I am actually training as opposed to putting in "garbage hours" I
have little way to monitor my progress over what can be as long a period as
5 months. I am currently looking at purchasing a more advanced trainer/training
system that will provide me with greater feedback in the hopes that this will
both allow me to train more intelligently and be more motivated to use the trainer
during the winter months. I have looked at a number of possibilities including
Computrainer, Powertap, and a Cardgirus trainer (advertised on the Cyclingnews
website). However, I am not sure what I should be looking for with respect to
feedback/software (e.g., cadence, watts, ability to conduct fitness tests etc.)
and have not had the opportunity to use more than the Powertap system. Any suggestions
you have with respect to what I should be looking for that would enhance the
effectiveness of my training or information as to the quality and reliability
of the above mentioned training systems would be greatly appreciated.
I would also appreciate any information regarding specific workouts on which
I should concentrate during the winter in order to improve my TTing and sprinting.
Apple Valley, Minnesota USA
Dave Palese replies:
Brian, In regards to your trainer set-up: I have always been big fan of the
Cateye Cyclosimulator. For the money, about $390 bucks, it gives you a lot.
The LCD display gives you a great amount of feedback including speed, average
speed, power output and more. Although the watts may not accurate to the real
world, they are very effective in comparing one session to the next. Used
in conjunction with your HRM and bike computer, it can be a great tool for
As far as workouts to improve your sprint and time trial, these are two completely
different types of efforts.
The effort of a time trial is a threshold-centric effort and is improved
by increasing your power output at or around your threshold. I prescribe different
types of efforts at different times of the year to work this ability.
This time of the training year, during the General Preparation period, you'll
want to start by doing basic Threshold intervals. These efforts are steady
state intervals that keep you at an intensity at or just below your threshold.
These intervals can be anywhere from 5-30 minutes. Increase your total amount
of threshold training by 5-10 minutes during a session from one week to the
next. As a general rule, the rest between intervals is usually equal to the
length of the previous interval.
Later, you'll want to move on to intervals that take you just above your
threshold for a short period and then relax you back down to a point just
As the weeks past you should see your output a given HR and perceived effort
An important note about the term "threshold". When I use the word threshold
above, I am referring to ones estimated anaerobic threshold that most of us
get from performing a Conconi test or similar protocol, and not one's actual
lactate threshold, which is determined through testing in a laboratory. In
the context of the intervals described above, the target training zone would
be Threshold, or Zone 4.
As for improving your sprint, this can be approached on two fronts: leg strength
and leg speed and pedal stroke efficiency at high cadences.
For the strength component, time the gym is can be an option, but that can
be a book in itself. On the bike, this time of year, try starting with a mix
of sprints in a big gear, 53x16-14, starting from a near standstill. Try as
hard as you can to get on top of the gear sprinting all out for 8-10 seconds.
Do the same but in a very small gear, 39x19-17, jumping hard out of the saddle,
getting up to a high cadence and then sitting down to reach maximum cadence.
Hold your leg speed for 8-10 seconds.
Rest between both sprint types above is 2-5 minutes or until you feel ready
to go again.
Start with 3-4 sprints per session.
You mentioned a lot of second place finishes after establishing the breaks.
You might want to take critical look at your strategies and tactics too. Riding
the smart race can often be the thing that puts you on the top step of the
Eddie Monnier replies:
Brian, Many racers would love to have your problem -- congrats on the many
podium finishes. As for moving you to the top of the podium, you need to assess
whether it's a lack of power or poor sprinting tactics that are denying you
the victories you seek.
Power = Force x Speed
To sprint faster, you either need to pedal a bigger gear (Force) at the same
cadence, pedal the same gear at a faster cadence (Speed Efficiency), or both.
So two things you can work on during the Base training period to help your
sprint are Force (i.e., strength) and Speed Efficiency. Force can be developed
by lifting in the gym (squats, lunges and one-legged leg presses) and/or big
gear work on the bike (50-60 rpm, focus on driving pedal down).
To improve your Speed Efficiency, work on your leg speed by doing spin-ups
(10 secs fast, 10 secs faster, 10 secs fastest rpm you can hold without bouncing)
and isolated leg drills (unclip one leg and, with the other, pedal 10 revolutions).
As you move into more intense training, you can incorporate sprints in group
Realize that you may never be a Cipollini, but it's still important to maximize
your ability. You can then start to experiment with tactics. Are you better
off with a long, drawn out sprint or a short, furious pop? Experiment on your
It sounds like you've already had success with TT'ing, so whatever you were
doing must have worked. Generally, you want to do intervals at lactate threshold
(a reasonable field test is to do a 30-minute full effort TT; your average
HR for the last 20-mins if you train by HR or, if you train by power, your
average power for the entire 30-minutes). You may want to start at 2 x 10
minutes and work up to 2 x 20 minutes. Don't start doing these until late
Regarding your question about training devices, the Cardgirus unit seems
nice based on the info I've seen. The only person of whom I am aware that
purchased one has been quite happy. Besides being considerably less expensive,
the PowerTap (full disclosure: I'm a happy PowerTap user) offers you the added
advantage of enabling you to train with power outdoors.
Now that winter is upon us, I've gotten back into the gym to try and maintain
fitness until next season. The exercise cycles that I use allegedly tell you
how many watts you are pushing, but the wattage doesn't vary with changes in
cadence, and body weight doesn't factor into the equation at all. It seems to
be a fixed number programmed into the machine based on predetermined "levels".
Should I use these numbers as a true indication of how many watts I'm able to
ride at? Or should I only rely on them as benchmarks to determine progress,
or base my workouts on over the course of the winter? Actually, what I really
want to know is, how can I compare my seemingly heroic efforts in the gym to
Lance's 400+ Watt average up Alpe d'Huez? Am I really that far behind, or are
the numbers I'm reading totally arbitrary?
Eddie Monnier replies:
Eric, a couple of things. First, absolute power output is independent of
weight, so the fact that you don't enter your weight does not affect the stationary
bike's ability to calculate your power output. [This is why when comparing
climbing ability, we normalize to watts/kilogram.]
Second, you are correct that if your cadence increases and force stays the
same, you should see a power increase (Power = Force x Cadence). However,
if you increase the cadence and don't see an increase in power, the bike is
decreasing the force (i.e., making the gear smaller). Some stationary bikes
have a button to prevent the decrease in gear size, so that if you pedal faster,
you'll realize a higher cadence. On the LifeCycle bikes, it is the "Race"
Lastly, you could call the bike manufacturer and ask them about the accuracy
of the wattage mechanism. Of course, it would be impacted by the maintenance
practices of the gym (e.g., periodic calibration if necessary). Regardless
of the accuracy of the bike you use, I can assure you that we're all "really
that far behind Lance." ;-)
Dave Palese replies:
Eric, Those numbers that you get on gym bikes are usually generalizations
as to your power output. I wouldn't look at them as any indication of your
actual power output on the road.
As far as using them as a way to track your training, it is hard to say.
I don't know all the particulars of the bike you are riding but I would think
that, in conjunction with your heart rate monitor (if you have one), you could
use the gym bike in some way to track and determine your workouts.
For instance, if you did a particular pre-programmed workout on the gym bike
(i.e., a hills workout that last 24 minutes. This is a workout common to the
Lifecycle brand of gym bike), you could record your average heart rate when
completing that session on a certain resistance level setting. As the weeks
pass, you should see your average heart rate drop. Doing this you could make
an educated decision as to when you should increase the resistance level to
keep the intensity in a beneficial range.
It all kinda depends on what you goals are, but this is one way you could
use gym bike "constructively". I will say if you are considering putting some
importance on your winter training, you might want to invest in a home trainer.
Your ability to perform workouts to address your specific cycling needs is
much easier to do and the sessions can be much more effective.
As far as comparing yourself to Lance, when you find out what planet he is
from, let me know. But seriously, you aren't that far behind. He is just that
Ever since I've started cycling I've discovered that I take very long to
recover from hard cycling efforts. Complete recovery for a 60 mile race usually
takes me about three days. I'm 17 years old, I weigh about 125lbs and train
approximately 200 miles a week. I've considered scaling down on the frequency
of my hard training rides with ample recovery inbetween. Would you advise this
to improve my recovery, then gradually increase the frequency of my hard rides.
Oudtshoorn, South Africa
Dave Palese replies:
Kevin, Your reported recovery time from a 60 mile road race is not out of
I'd be curious to know what you are using to judge if you are recovered.
If you mean that your resting heart rate has not dropped down to it's "rested"
level, this can take several days, especially during competition periods that
contain numerous hard training/racing sessions.
If you are using how your legs feel to judge your recovery status, and three
days after the race your legs are feeling a bit heavy, you might try active
recovery after the event. First try to take a longer cool down. Spin easy
for 20-40 minutes after your race ends. Include short, 2-3 minute blocks of
higher cadence spinning (90-100rpm). Be sure to start the dehydration process
as soon as you cross the line. Proper post race nutrition will also help get
the recovery process going.
Then for the next 1-2 days, spin easy for 40-60 minutes to loosen up and
promote blood flow to the muscles. When your legs feel pretty normal, you
can resume your training to bridge to your next event. During competition
periods, don't force it. If you aren't feeling the mojo, keep the workout
easy. No sense leaving your legs on the road in the middle week only to be
wishin' you had brought them to the race on Sunday.
You can also expect that if you follow thoughtful training programs in the
years to come, your recovery from hard events will improve with time.
Ric Stern replies:
Recovery from races can take several days depending on fitness. This is perfectly
normal, especially if the race has been very demanding. It may also be that
200 miles a week is too much for you at this time and you need to build up
to this slowly. I'd also ensure that you have at least 72 hours between hard
sessions to allow your glycogen (body's carbohydrate) stores to not get to
Furthermore, at the end of a race or hard/long training session you should
ensure that you consume about 1.5 g of carbohydrate per kilogram body mass,
which for you is about 85 - 90 grams of carbohydrate. This should be within
30 minutes of the finish. You should continue to eat plenty of carbohydrate
and drink fluids to rehydrate yourself, as this will aid recovery. More information
can be found here: http://www.cyclecoach.com/recovery.htm
As well as this you should really be looking at developing a periodised training
programme, so that you can have a gentle increase in training that won't suddenly
fatigue you. A coach will be able to help you.
25 years ago in America I recall a reference to chronic hand numbness in
bicyclists called "cyclosclerosis." I believe it referred to a compression or
pinching of a nerve, resulting in numbness. Two months ago a friend completed
a 500-mile ride in six days. He did not have significant saddle time prior to
the ride. As a result of this ride he has had continued numbness in right hand.
I've occasionally had hand numbness, but it always goes away in a day or two.
What is the cause of this condition? And what remedies would you suggest (other
than obviously seeing a doctor)? Thank you for your time and consideration.
Ft. Wayne, IN USA
Eddie Monnier replies:
Michael, If the numbness experienced by your friend is in the little and/or
ring finger, this is relatively common in cyclists. "Ulnar neuropathy" (or
sometimes "cyclists' palsy") as it is known, is usually caused by constant
pressure on the palm and/or heavy road vibration, which irritates the Ulnar
nerve. However, it can be caused by non-cycling factors as well (e.g., a benign
tumor). If your friend's condition has persisted, he should certainly see
Steps that can be taken to decrease the occurence include changing hand position
frequently (hoods, drops), wearing padded gloves, using padded bar tape, and
ensuring proper bike fit (especially checking the seat to bar distance).
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