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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 questions and answers for December 6, 2002

Making the best of limited training resources
Fuel for racing
Clarification: Fat burning


What are the best weight lifting movements to use and to do and what are the main muscles in your legs to really concentrate on for all aspects of road cycling?

Shaun Keenan

Dave Palese replies:

The most effective way to use your time when working legs in the gym is to not actually focus on any one muscle.

I suggest "multi-joint" exercises (movements where more than one joint is moving when executing the lift) like squats, leg press and bent-legged dead lifts. Movements like leg extensions, a single-joint movement (the knee joint), are not as cycling specific, and time spent doing these exercises will not yield as great a benefit as compared to time spent doing those that work our muscles as they are used when we ride our bikes.

There are a couple of exceptions to this rule. Leg curls, to work the hamstrings, and calve raises or presses to work the calves should be included in your strength training program to help create a balance between your cycling muscles.

Oh, and always remember, when you add strength training (weights) to your training you have to add a stretching program too.

I think a good leg exercise group is as follows, and in this order:

1.) Squat or leg press
2.) Leg Curls
3.) Calf Press or Raise
4.) Back Extensions
5.) Abdominals - It is very important to work the "core" muscles, abdominals and lower back.

Making the best of limited training resources

I am a Cat 4 track and road cyclist, Master 35+. I also am a soldier serving in a remote desert location in Kuwait. I managed to find a MTB in fairly good shape and have my road uniform, pedals, shoes etc.

My problem is that the only route to ride is approximately 3 miles inside the perimeter fence, half paved (but covered with blown sand) and the other half 2-6 inches of sand. Not having been a MTB person, I'm not sure how to approach training in this environment other than just riding around and putting effort into it.

We don't have a gym to speak of so winter weight training is out except for plyometrics but I don't know if that's a good substitute or what techniques I can/should use.

I suppose my basic question is, with my limited resources, what do you recommend so that I can regain at least some of my fitness if I ever get home in time to start the track season in April?

CPT Bill Whitman

Kim Morrow replies:

First of all, I want to thank you for serving our country in Kuwait. My husband had a military career in the U.S. Army, so I have a real appreciation for your sacrifice.

Now, let me try to answer your question. Although your resources may be limited, you should still be able to maintain a level of fitness. One of your first challenges might be in setting realistic goals for the upcoming season. If you expect to "peak" for races on the track in April, this might be difficult to do. If you want to use the spring track races as part of your build up period for some focused races 2-3 months down the road, then this might be a more realistic approach. Try to determine some goals for 2003 based upon your current situation.

For now, I'd suggest:

1) Focus on building a strong base for a good 10-12 weeks. Besides time on the mountain bike, maybe you could add running (as long as you can remain injury free) to your routine. Early on during base training, I believe that cross training is beneficial, both mentally and physically.

Don't worry about having too push hard through that sand right now.

2) Include body weight resistance training. For example, do bench step ups, rear lunges, dips, pushups and tons of core work. Of course, if you can find some free weights then add them to your routine.

3 )If you have experience with plyometrics, and can perform them safely, this would be a beneficial workout during the power phase of your training. For example, you might include 2-3 plyometric workouts per week. Each workout might involve two to three sets of 3 plyometric exercises which are specific to the cycling movement.

Fuel for racing

Please slap me and tell me to just do it. I am a 43 year old mountain bike/road racer (Sport/Expert MTB, Cat 4 road) who has always had three problems, well many many problems, but three major ones related to competition and training.

1) I always train, but not smart. I read Joe Friel's book, but my eyes just glaze over if I have to figure out periodization on my own. I just want to be told what training to do, but a personal coach is probably out of the picture. My goals are not to be Lance (see age), I just want to be competitive in my state. Is there a simpler plan for periodization or is there software that can help?

2) What to drink and eat during a race. I am usually competitive right up to where it counts and at some point my energy just leaves me. I can be well into a hilly road race doing very well without duress and then I will get dropped on the next hill. There have been times where I just look down in shock and think, "where did that come from, where did my energy/legs go, I am better than this!" This is usually in the last few miles of a road race or the last lap of a mountain bike race. In other words, when it counts. I tend to get the chills during the end part of race and my face is completely covered in grainy salt. For the record, on a scale of 1 - 10 for keeping myself consistently hydrated, I would say I am a 7. I use Accelerade during training/racing and Endurox R4 afterwards. I have also tried Thermotabs (buffered salt tablets). During events over an hour, I use Gu. I can easily drain a camelback in a 1 1/2 hour MTB race. So is my problem hydration/fuel or is related to 1 and 3?

3) Despite the above, I am actually very competitive (to a point) for my race categories. Unfortunately, not having that extra 15% has cost me a lot and the ability to move up. In criteriums and road races I will be with the lead group or break most of the time, but I have absolutely nothing left for any extra effort at the end, let alone a sprint. I am tired of watching podium finishes move out of my grasp. I won't say that my tactics are the best, but I don't feel I am doing any wasted efforts. I do work when I feel it will benefit me or a teammate. When I race in the over 40 category, I can actually keep up with some of the former cat. 2 and 3s so I think I have some talent.

Can you help me focus my training and figure out how to eat and drink for competition?

Frank - Pack Fodder in the Midwest

Eddie Monnier replies:

Frank, there's lots of questions there

Regarding software to help you implement periodization, Joe Friel offers an online system for implementing his programme. The Web site is You set your race priorities (see my article on Setting Race Priorities in the December issue of our free online training newsletter) and the site will generate an ATP for you. It's not as good as having a personalized program developed by one of the excellent coaches on the Cycling News Fitness Panel ;-), but it will help you tremendously if you want to self-coach.

If your face is covered in salt and you're feeling chilled following a hard training session or race, I suspect your not properly hydrated. The salt is a sign that you're losing lots of sodium which is incredibly important for hydration because the sodium helps transport water during rehydration. If your sodium levels are inadequate, you will not properly hydrate regardless of how much water you drink. If your sodium levels become too low, you face considerable health risk for hyponatremia (aka "water intoxication"). Tim Noakes is the leading researcher on the subject, so look for articles that interview him or draw heavily on his research.

You mentioned that you have tried salt tablets but you did not say how you took them. In your case, I would recommend taking 10-20g of sodium per day for 2-3 days before long events and then consuming 1g of sodium/hour during the event. You should try this in training first and may want to adopt the same procedure for long training rides.

As for what to eat, that's a very personal matter. You need to eat what works for you. But first you need to get your hydration under control.

Finally, with proper hydration addressed, you need to figure out how to be able to go with the winning moves. While it's impossible to draw any conclusions without a lot more information, it sounds to me like anaerobic endurance (AE) is your limiter. So you need to work on AE during your Build phases (i.e., after building a strong foundation during Base). Here are a couple of workouts that I like:

Sprintervals. After warm-up do 3 x 15-20 seconds all out (1-minute recovery) followed immediately by 5 minutes to heart rate 5b zone (lactate threshold heart rate to five beats above). Take 8 minutes of recovery and then repeat this 2 more times. You can do these on flat terrain or on a climb. High rpm.

Lactate reps. After warm-up do 2 sets of 4 x 40 seconds (20-second recoveries) with 5 minutes between sets. Do each at near-max effort. 100+ rpm.

Descending intervals. Warm-up well and then do 2-1.5-1-0.5 minutes in the heart rate/effort 5b-c zones. Each recovery is the same as the preceding interval. Do 3 sets of these total. Recover 3 minutes between sets. Flat or hill. High rpm.

These workouts and others are accessible via

Good luck on a more successful 2003!

Clarification: Fat burning

From Eddie Monnier

I would like to clarify my response to Tony's question about the ideal fat burning intensity which we published in the November 7 Fitness Q&A. I indicated that "the contribution of fat oxidation to energy needs falls off quickly above 80 percent [of max heart rate], becoming very minimal at about 90 percent." I should have written the "relative contribution of fat to energy needs falls off quickly above 80 percent [of max heart rate]..." because fat oxidation maxes out rather than falls off in absolute terms. Several readers contacted me about this -- thanks for paying attention and keeping us on the straight and narrow!

As I stated in my original response, the body will burn more calories when exercised at a higher intensity vs. a lower intensity at any given duration. The only way to lose weight is to burn more calories than are consumed. However, that doesn't mean that somebody whose main goal is to lose weight should go out and hammer as hard as s/he can on every ride. The behaviour needs to be sustainable and riding all-out is neither physically nor psychologically sustainable long term, even when riding only three times per week as Tony does. For most people, riding at 80% of max heart rate (true MHR, not 220-age) is hardly lolly-gagging. In fact for me, it's upper Zone-2 in the Friel system (82-88% of LTHR, heart rate at lactate threshold) which is the primary zone for aerobic training (critical during base) and sustainable because it doesn't require a lot of recovery.

I neglected "getting faster" -- Tony's second objective -- in my initial response. Tony could incorporate intervals at just below lactate threshold heart rate (LTHR) [if unknown, a decent proxy is to do a 30-min full effort TT and calculate average HR for last 20-mins]. Start out at 3x5-minutes and work up to 2 x 20 minutes. Realize that it takes several minutes for the HR to catch up, so it's important to pace oneself when doing LT intervals. It's best to err a few beats on the low side because the "cost" in terms of additional recovery necessary if doing these above LT is fairly significant. Incorporating these into 1 or 2 of the rides per work should break up the monotony, burn some additional calories, be sustainable, and make Tony faster.

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