Cyclingnews TV   News  Tech   Features   Road   MTB   BMX   Cyclo-cross   Track    Photos    Fitness    Letters   Search   Forum  

Recently on

Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

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 January 29, 2003

Developing the sprint
Training and Recovery for a 69 year old
Am I drinking too much?
Losing weight without losing strength
Calories consumed in exercise
Am I overtraining?

Developing the sprint

I am a 33 year old, 12 year veteran cyclist who rides Cat. 4. I weigh 168lb during the season and would like to develop my sprinting and the long (two miles at most) "sprint" that would allow me to increase my chances of winning a race. What sort of off season weight work is best and riding in the winter and spring months. My wife and I are having a baby in May, so I need to lay a lot of ground work so I a ready for the local weekly race series that runs May-August.

Marshall Michmerhuizen
Holland, Michigan USA

Ric Stern replies:

I believe that specific on the bike training will be far more beneficial to your sprinting and all-round riding ability than any weight work. What I would consider is adding in some sprints during some of your moderate duration endurance sessions.

For increasing the amount of force that you can develop, find a clear bit of road that is safe to sprint on, and bring yourself to a standstill (or near standstill), having selected a fairly low gear (e.g., 42 x 19/18/17). Remain seated and stamp down on the pedals, accelerating as hard as possible for 10 seconds. Do not get out of the saddle during the effort. Recover for at least 15 to 20 minutes and repeat throughout the session. It will be impossible to do this type of effort on an indoor trainer (at least any that I've used, that are commercially available).

To improve cadence and leg speed, either from a flying start (e.g., coming off a small bridge at ~ 40 km/hr) and using a moderate gear (e.g., 53 x 16) get out of the saddle and rev up to maximum leg speed for 5 seconds, at which point return to the saddle and continue the sprint for a further 10 seconds. If there are no small bridges around, you can do this session indoors if you have rollers - where you can practice spinning out for 10 - 15 seconds. Again make sure the road is safe, and have a long recovery between efforts.

You can also try doing short 5 to 10 second sprints uphill at speed. Find a short descent to build speed, which leads straight to an uphill. Descend down, building speed, and then really attack the bottom of the climb all-out for 10 seconds. Recover, and repeat.

Furthermore, part of the ability to sprint is all about tactics and positioning. In a group ride, you can always try practicing the sprints for town signs etc (again safety is the paramount issue). Practice coming off wheels late and giving a final surge, or go early and dig in with a big long lasting effort.

With regards to the final 2 mile selection, what you need to do is increase your VO2 max and lactate threshold, such that the final 2 miles do not feel as painful. This will be achieved through, zone 2 endurance work, up to hard zone 5 - 6 efforts for up to several minutes.

Training and Recovery for a 69 year old

I'm a 69 year old male who has been riding, and earlier racing, from my teens. I rode 6200 miles in 2002 over undulating roads south east of Seattle. Over a typical 40 mile circuit my best time last year was 2h-5m. I will reach my max heart rate of 184 a couple of times during the ride, and the average will be about 140. In the summer I will ride about 200 miles per week. I go to the gym for weight training about three time per week in the winter, concentrating on leg work but also including some upper body work. 16 times so far this winter. I get out on the bike two or three times a week in the winter.

Q1: Is weight training supposed to have an immediate affect on riding fitness i.e. climbing, or are the benefits only seen after one is cycling fit in the summer after accumulating several thousand miles. I certainly don't feel any immediate benefit during my winter riding.

Q2: Do leg exercises such as step ups, lunges, squats, exercise the same muscles used during riding. If so please describe how these exercises affect riding fitness.

Q3: After a hard training ride of 40 or 50 miles, what would be the recommended recovery period for a man of my age?

Syd Merron
Covington, WA

Dave Palese replies:

First, I have to say that I hope when I am your age I'm still out there grindin' away. Good for you!

To answer your questions:

Q1: On weight training:
It all depends on you definition of "immediate". Using the numbers you have supplied, it seems you have only been in the gym now for 3 weeks. It is possible that you would not see any big gains to this point. Some riders do report seeing a temporary performance boost right after they start weight training. I have seen this last anywhere from 2 weeks to a month. The general rule for development is that what you do today, you can hope to see results from in 10-15 days.

Just be sure that whatever you do in the gym, that the program be one that complements your on-the-bike training. For a rider your age, I would prescribe a program based on the principle of circuit training. Circuit training involves a series of exercises, or stations, that work different muscle groups. The stations are completed one after the other lifting light weights, around 30% of your one rep maximum, for 25-40 repetitions at a moderate pace. You can vary the amount of rest and or activity between stations to increase or decrease the intensity. For my older clients, this form of training can help to manage muscle tone and strength, and has a low risk of injury. I usually have my clients do a leg focused circuit one day and an upper body circuit on another.

It's important that I mention that leg strength, the amount of force you can apply to the pedals, is only one part of the equation when it comes to improving your cycling abilities. Avoid looking at just one aspect for the answers. If you aren't seeing the gains you would like, it may take some investigating to find where holes may exist in you training plan.

Q2: On leg exercises:
The exercises you mention above are some of the better ones for cyclists, although I am not a big fan of lunges. If you choose to do lunges, start with little to no weight and use good form from the get go. When it comes to working legs to apply force in a pushing motion, there is nothing better than the squat. Again though use caution, and learn proper form. Error on the side of lifting a little less weight than too much. Your gym professionals are usually more than happy to assist you when you need some help. Use them. You pay for them to be there.

Q3: On recovery:
This can vary. Depending on your post ride recovery routine, and your level of development, it could be from 24 hours to a week. The best bits of advice I can give you are these:

1.) Be sure to drink plenty of water starting immediately after your ride. Also you should try and stay hydrated during the ride itself. If you end the ride in not so deep a hole, it won't take as long to dig yourself out. I tell my riders as a general rule, to start chipping away at two large size Evian bottles after their hard rides or races end.

2.) Start putting the calories back as soon as you stop riding. Within the first half hour after the ride try to get in 70-90 grams of carbohydrates, and 15-25 grams of protein. This will get the recovery process going.

3.) Depending on when your hard ride ends, a long cool down of 20-30 minutes of easy spinning is a good idea too.

4.) The following day, get out for 30-60 minutes of easy riding. And I mean easy!

By the end of the second day your legs may feel rested and ready to go. Or you may need another day or two of easy spinning before you are ready for another hard session.

Eddie Monnier replies:

I echo Dave's sentiments and hope that I'm half as fit as you are when I'm your age. Kudos to you!

Q1: On weight training:
While I personally advocate weight training so long as the individual has the constitution for it, this is one of the areas where many coaches have very different opinions. The affect of strength training on your riding partly depends on what type of lifting you're doing. In any case, I wouldn't expect the results to be "immediate." In fact, many people experience a deterioration in their cycling when lifting regularly. Generally, as time on the bike picks up, the weight room time decreases or is eliminated and then you realize the benefits. For athletes over 40, I generally have them continue to lift once per week even when their cycling picks to maintain the strength gains, not only in the legs but also in the "core."

Q2: On leg exercises:
A good rule of thumb for leg exercises is to concentrate on exercises that mimic movement on the bike. The most common are squats, leg press and lunges. I usually prescribe squats and lunges. For those who cannot do squats, I use the leg press. In any case, do not bend your knee further than 90 degrees. Although you're clearly very fit, you must be careful when lifting. You also mentioned that you do some upper body work, too. It's important to maintain your "core" strength (midsection and lower back). For upper body exercises I like to see athletes do movements that involve multiple muscle groups (e.g., military press, lat pull down). Bear in mind that we're trying to tone, not become the next Arnold. It really doesn't take a lot of time or that many exercises.

Q3: On recovery:
Recovery is a key variable to manage during any training program. You first need to make sure you take in carbohydrates so that you can restore your glycogen levels. While I normally advise staying away from high glycemic carbs, during and post-ride is the time when it's absolutely okay. You want to do this within the first 30-minutes if you can. There is mixed evidence in the scientific literature about the benefits of taking in protein (usually a 4:1 ratio of CHO:PRO) with carbohydrate but it seems the trend is leaning towards including protein. There are recovery drinks out there that you can buy. You can also make a homemade brew by mixing low fat milk and sugar, or making a smoothie with protein powder.

Besides refueling, you need rest. Younger athletes can often recover from a hard workout in 36-48 hours; however, as we get older, we generally need more time. Perhaps in your case it's every 48-72 hours.

Keep up the good work and we hope to have another question from you when you're 75 and still going strong!

Am I drinking too much?

I have a tricky and slightly embarrassing problem I hope you might be able to help with. I am a 40 year old English road racer. I am 5ft 4in tall and weigh about 120lb in the racing season (circa 9 percent body fat). Last year I rode the Etape du Tour and I plan to do more of these cyclo sportives in '03. However, I had one irritating problem. It was a hot morning and I wanted to keep properly hydrated. I started off hydrated and was drinking say a 500ml bottle every 45 minutes for the duration of the ride - around 6 bottles (3 litres) in total. The first two bottles contained an energy drink, after which I drank plain water. The problem was that I had to keep stopping to pee - probably 4 or 5 times in five and a half hours, which seemed to be way more than anyone else and it cost me a fair bit in time lost directly and indirectly in terms of breaking my rhythm and concentration. Was I drinking too much? Do I just have a small bladder? Or is there something I can do to avoid keep having to make toilet stops?

Ian Simpson

Eddie Monnier replies:

You may have been overhydrating. You may be surprised to hear that overhydrating can be quite dangerous because it can lead to hyponatremia (aka water intoxication), a condition when sodium levels become dangerously low. It's actually much more dangerous than mild dehydration.

Beside temperature and humidity impacts, individuals' sweat rates differ so there is no blanket recommendation for fluid intake that will fit everyone. Dr. Timothy Noakes is the leading researcher on hyponatremia and his work shows that the blanket guidelines (e.g., drink 1L every hour) are far in excess of what individuals require. His advice is to consume ad libitum (i.e., as long as you're thirsty) no more than 400 - 800 ml of fluid per hour with faster or heavier athletes leaning toward the high end and lighter or slower athletes leaning toward the lower end. Since you're no doubt training for these events, I suggest on your training rides you take in about 400 - 600 ml of fluid per hour as your thirst dictates.

Losing weight without losing strength

In Dave Palese's reply to Luke, he explains how to break down your daily individual caloric needs. I was wondering if there is a chart that has the amount of calories expended per hour for other sports as well? I live in Minnesota and frequently cross train by running, XC skiing, playing hockey and lifting weights. It would be nice to know how many calories each of these activities burns per hour so I figure out what I need to be taking in daily to have a slight deficit.

Steve Bobusch

Kim Morrow replies:

Check out this calorie expenditure chart for various sports/activities:

Enjoy your winter in Minnesota!

Calories consumed in exercise

I see that Dave Palese comments in reply to a question on weight loss that 500kcal are consumed in an hour's endurance exercise. My Polar pulse monitor counts calories and tells me that I regularly consume about twice this number of calories on a non racing ride. the Polar figure is consistent with an article I read in a cycling magazine article a few years ago.

This seems too big a difference to pass over; do you have any explanation?

Frank Cordingley

Ric Stern replies:

I hope Dave doesn't mind me stepping in here, but I'd be delighted to answer your query. I assume that the figure that Dave used of 500 Kcal, was just an arbitrary estimate of what the average person might require. However, the actual energy expenditure is actually a function of the amount of power that you are producing.

Power output can only be measured with a power meter (e.g. PowerTap) as energy = power output x time. Power is measured in watts (W) and time in seconds, which gives an answer in joules (kj). 1kj = 4.19 kcal, such that 500 kcal would be 119 kj. however, anybody is about 20 - 25% efficient, which means that you expend 4 - 5 times the energy, i.e., ~ 500 kj, thus on a power meter the expended energy in kj is the same (approximately) as your kcal expenditure.

This means that you can say that if you expended 500 kj over one hour then you were riding at ~ 139 W. Therefore, to expend 1000 kj over one hour you'd be riding at ~ 278 W, which is very high (especially for a non-race situation); data from elite races shows power output to be closer to ~ 200 W for an average-sized cyclist (e.g., < 75 kg).

Therefore, I'd estimate that your Polar is over estimating your energy expenditure, which isn't surprising, as it isn't actually measuring power output.

Am I overtraining?

I am wondering if I am over training. I am a 39 year old, 175lb male and in good shape. Last year I finished most races, both triathlons and cycling races (citizen rider) in the top 20 percent. I am not sure if I will compete in any triathlons this summer so I have not been running. I live in Ohio, so I am stuck inside in the winter. I do all my riding between 4am & 6am on the weekdays and around 7am on weekends. At this time of the year my typical week goes like this:

Sunday: 30 minutes easy, ave. heart rate 100
Monday: upper-body and legs weight workout about 45 minutes. Bike 30 minutes medium effort, ave. heart rate 125
Tuesday: Spinervals Time Trial video 60 minutes hard effort, ave. heart rate 160-170
Wednesday: upper-body and legs weight workout about 45 minutes. Bike 30 minutes medium effort, ave. heart rate 125
Thursday: Spinervals Cyclorbx video 40 minutes hard effort, ave. heart rate 160-170
Friday: upper-body and legs weight workout about 45 minutes. Bike 30 minutes easy effort, ave. heart rate 110
Saturday: Spinervals Have Mercy video 120 minutes hard effort, ave. heart rate 160-170

I haven't actually checked my resting heart rate. I plan on doing that starting tomorrow. This workout schedule is pretty much what I did last year.

I warm-up on the bike each day for 5-10 minutes before beginning the videos or lifting.

I have set a goal of riding a bike everyday this year for a minimum of 30 minutes.

Any advice you can give would be greatly appreciated

Shane Brown

Dave Palese replies:

That's a tough question to answer. If the question is, "Are you doing too much intensity for the middle of January?" that all depends on your goals and where in the calendar your first target event for the year is. If you are looking for good form for weekend races starting in, say, May, then doing the amount of intensity you are doing now (I am familiar with the Spinerval tapes) may be over-doing it. And I'll qualify that last statement by pointing out that it isn't so much the amount of intensity as far as I am concerned, as much as what training you are not doing because all of your bike time is taken up with intensity. I don't see anywhere in your schedule, a day dedicated to endurance/aerobic training. It is very important that a good base of aerobic fitness be in place before you start doing higher intensity workouts.

For starters, I suggest, for the next eight weeks, replacing the two hour tape workout on Saturday with an easy ride of two hours at about 70% of your max heart rate for weeks 1-3. Then take a rest week. In weeks 5-7, start doing some Tempo level intensity, 78-82% of your max heart rate, during that ride. Start by adding 30-40 minutes and build to 60-70 minutes. Low cadence, 70-80 rpm. Do the Tempo as continuous riding. Take a rest week in week 8.

Do the same on Thursdays. Weeks 1-3, 60 minutes total, with 20 minutes Tempo riding as described above. Take a rest week in week 4. Weeks 5-7, still do just 60 minutes total but start adding Tempo. Start with 30 minutes in week 5, then 40 in weeks 6 and 7. You get the idea.

After 8 weeks of this, you will hopefully have increased your aerobic output such that any anaerobic efforts you might do will be of higher quality. It sounds like you have "time to train" issues. If that's the case, you may want to look into a coach to help you make the most of the time you have.

Other Cyclingnews Form & Fitness articles