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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 March 4, 2003

Recovery from illness & training while on antibiotics
PowerTap vs Polar
Illness and training
Shin splints?
Cross Training
Training help

Recovery from illness & training while on antibiotics

Like many of your other "senior" readers (I'm 38), I balance bike racing with work and family life. As a devoted professional, an attentive husband and a doting father of two girls under three years old, I have many demands on my time and energy and things occasionally get out of whack to the point that I find myself laid out with one minor illness or another.

This year it's a mild cold in the heart of training season that has hung on for a few weeks and now manifested itself as an ugly sinus infection. I've finally given up on other options and started taking antibiotics today.

I would like to be in shape to race by early April, and I'm wondering how best to structure my training as I begin to feel better. I have managed to stay on the bike for an average of five to eight hours a week through the last two months. I'm a Cat. 4 in my third year of racing. Given the constraints on my training and racing time, I will be riding mostly crits, and I've considered the track for the next few years while our girls are young and time is tight.

Three questions, really:

1. How to build mileage back up after illness?
2. How to maximize limited training time for effectiveness in my Category?
3. Are there any limitations on training to consider while taking antibiotics? (My doc says no, but I don't think he understands the reality of a three-hour group ride.)

Dave Dederer
Medina, Washington, USA

Ric Stern replies:

Sorry to hear you're ill. The general rule of thumb is that with below the neck symptoms you shouldn't train or exercise (e.g., productive chest cough, abnormal muscle or joint aches, increased temperature, etc). Above the neck it maybe okay to do some light training (i.e., gentle riding around and not group hammer fests!). It may be that you've trained to hard while you have your cold, which has exacerbated it, therefore causing the sinus infection.

With that in mind I'd suggest vastly reducing both the intensity and the volume that you're currently doing during training, and replace it with light, gentle, moderately short sessions. If three hour group rides are normal for you, then maybe an upper limit of 90 minutes of light, low intensity riding at recovery to long endurance pace will be best. During the ride (or prior to it) if you feel bad, reduce the intensity further and return home (or before the ride, just don't bother riding). You should continue taking it easy for around seven to fourteen days post illness to avoid a relapse.

After that time, you can start to slowly build up both your volume and intensity to pre illness levels over a period of weeks.

As regards how to maximise your time: the less hours you have to train, the harder (higher intensity) you will need to train. On the shortest sessions (presumably mid-week) it'll probably be most time efficient to train indoors on a trainer as you will tend to coast very little (especially compared to outdoors). A longer ride (2+ hours) at the weekend will also be very beneficial.

A coach will be able to help you draw up or prescribe training sessions to fully maximise your time. Everyone on the panel will be able to help you!

PowerTap vs Polar

I am thinking of purchasing a power measuring system either Polar 720i or a PowerTap [cannot afford an SRM]. Which device is the better or are there trade offs as I would suspect? Maybe you could list which does what best. Ease of operation, set up, provides best info, most problems, accuracy, best software, product support, anything else.

Glenn Bastian

Eddie Monnier replies:

As a strong proponent of training with power, I encourage my athletes to buy either the Power Tap or SRM, both of which are very accurate and reliable. To be fair, I have not used the Polar S720i with optional wattage accessory myself. However, I am a regular contributor to the Topica Wattage message forum ( and am familiar with quite a few people who have or had the Polar unit. With that caveat, here are my thoughts on the Polar vs. the PowerTap.

Note that Jeff Jones of reviewed the PowerTap last fall.

Ease of installation: PowerTap

The PowerTap is very easy to install. A few people I know have had problems initially but this was usually due to a faulty wiring harness or mounting the receiver too close to the hub.

The Polar is more difficult to install and can be especially troublesome on bikes with curved chain stays. Note also that the quality of the installation significantly affects the wattage readings of the Polar unit because it determines wattage based off the frequency of chain vibration (vs. the PowerTap which uses strain gauges in the hub). If the sensor is not aligned properly with the chain, it will affect the accuracy of the wattage readings.

Accuracy: PowerTap

As reported by the manufacturers, the PowerTap is accurate to within 1.5% whereas the Polar is accurate to within 10%. During tests done with the devices mounted simultaneously to the same bike, the averages for a given ride were very close. But you know what they say about averages... (e.g., you might drown if you wade into a pool with an average depth of four feet). However, at any one time the Polar could be quite different. As mentioned previously, the quality of the installation can have a big impact. Also, quite a few users have reported significant accuracy issues when using the Polar unit during stationary trainer sessions which seems to upset the normal chain vibration frequency readings.

Ease of on-bike operation: Presumably a tie

Once installed, the PowerTap is very straight forward. The CPU provides current and average wattage, current and max speed, time, distance, current and average cadence (which are inferred rather than measured directly, but the pending Pro model will have an actual cadence sensor), current and average heart rate and kilojoules. It also has interval mode which allows you to record up to 9 discrete intervals. One negative is you cannot store multiple rides in the CPU. You need to download every day. The CPU battery needs to be changed rather frequently in the PowerTap because download issues can arise with weak batteries. I recommend changing the battery every month.

I'm not familiar with all of the Polar's features but I understand it offers HR, time in HR zones, distance, speed, cadence, wattage, kilojoules, altitude, timer and distance-based interval functions. It allows storing multiple files.

Analytical software: Both have plenty of room for improvement

My biggest gripe about the PowerTap software (Link) is it falls way short of the mark for analyzing multiple rides. It's also very cumbersome to re-examine prior rides which can only be located by date. It would be nice to see a description or, better yet, to categorize rides so that historical comparisons can be done easily. For daily use, however, it is very easy to use and provides the basic info you need including a power histogram which is very useful.

I cannot comment too much on the Polar software because they recently released a new version which I haven't seen many comments on yet (nor have I reviewed myself). One issue of the prior version is it did not provide a power-based histogram, which is a major shortcoming but this may have been resolved.

Polar and PowerTap (as are SRM) files are uploadable to, Joe Friel's online training log and coaching tool. This allows you to instantly upload and store your training session information. You can readily see your average power for various time durations during different periods of training vs. your personal best and target goals.

Product reliability: Improving but still room for improvement...

Before Graber acquired PowerTap from Tune, the older hubs often experienced problems if ridden in the rain. Graber significantly improved the seal and I, like many others, have ridden hours in the rain without any problem whatsoever. The only issue I personally have had with the PowerTap is the wiring harnesses tend to go bad. Graber has replaced these without question but it's an issue that needs to be resolved.

The Polar hasn't been around as long so there's less data on its long-term reliability. Most of the issues of which I am aware pertain to initial set up and accuracy.


Another factor to consider is whether or not you want to use the device on multiple bikes. For the Polar, this would require buying extra wattage accessories (expensive) because installation is too complicated to switch between bikes regularly. For the PowerTap, it would require buying an extra harness (about $50).

Conversely, if you want to race with the power device, the Polar allows you to use any wheel combinations. Obviously, with the PowerTap, you have to use that hub (though there are race quality PowerTap wheels available such as Bontrager's wheel set with integrated PowerTap hub).

Product support: Both excellent

Both Graber (who own PowerTap) and Polar are excellent companies that stand behind their products.

Good luck and welcome to training with power.

Illness and training

For almost 3 months I suffered from the illness due to infection of virus and I realized this must be the syndrome of over training .

I 'd like to know more about training or eating when I get a flu or cold as I'm worried about losing fitness after 3 days without doing exercise.

Alan Chang
Taipei, Taiwan

Brett Aitken replies:

Prevention of illness and injuries are probably the single most important thing an athlete can do to continually improve their level of performance.

However when you do get struck down with an illness I would not recommend doing any exercise at all during the initial stages. If you are feeling lethargic, have a chest cold, have aching or stiff limbs, find it hard to breathe etc. then this is a sure sign your body needs a rest. When you have reached the latter stages where all you feel is a bit of a head cold and some phlegm coming up then you should be OK to start very light training (50-60% of max HR).

You should also try and take note of the things you did in the lead up to getting sick. What was the volume and intensity of your training? Did you increase it too fast? This is when a simple training diary can become invaluable to your future cycling performance. Being able to track the history of your training is extremely important.

Last of all, don't worry too much about losing fitness in three days, it takes much longer than this to start losing fitness and before you do anything you should always get the advice of a doctor first.

Shin splints?

I'm a newbie to road racing, having just purchased a road bike a couple of months ago, and am making the transition from commuting.

I'm 41, and my level of fitness is increasing day by day. My local bike shop owner brought me out with his group on a bunch ride 'in the hills', and it hurt!

I enjoyed it immensely, but the increase in exertion has given me some pain in my shins. I notice this particularly when I get off the bike, and flex my ankles.

The pain seems to run from the front of my ankle through to just below the kneecap, on the outside muscle.

What am I doing wrong? Is it cleats, or saddle position?

Any advice is greatly appreciated, as I have every intention of beating these guys up the hills next time.

Donna Meehan

Brett Aitken replies:

The pain you are getting at the front of the shins (most likely the tibialis anterior muscle) is simply an adaptation your body will have to go through when making the transition to hard group rides in the hills.

As long as your bike set up is the same as before, what is probably happening is that in the hills you are most likely riding slower cadences. This in turn will make you change your pedal action and drop your heels more, therefore flexing the ankles and contracting the tibialis anterior much more than when you were commuting.

Over time your muscles will adapt to this but for now I would suggest a steadier transition where you gradually increase the amount of hill climbing you do over a few weeks.

Cross Training

I have been cycling for about 10 years now and I am a cat 3. I do mostly crit races and cyclo-cross. I have just moved to Montana from Kansas City. I have been training systematically for years and the last few years have put in about 400 hours per year. This year I have started my base training a little later than normal because of the weather here. What percentage of the early base weeks (the first four or so) can be taken up by cross training, i.e. skate skiing?

Rick Finley

Eddie Monnier replies:

I'm sure the riding will be great when the weather breaks. Although I cannot give an exact percentage of hours that can be spent cross-training, I will share some guidelines that I use with clients in wintry climates:

* I don't prescribe more than 3 consecutive days of trainer time and use x-training (outdoors as much as possible) to provide breaks from the trainer while also working on cardiovascular fitness

* I keep trainer sessions relatively short -- generally 2 hours or less and often 90-minutes or less

* Strength and pedal drills can be done on the trainer in a relative short period of time; this helps keep it interesting

* Outdoor x-training such as skate skiing is excellent cardiovascular work for endurance sessions. Later in base, specificity becomes more important which means more time on the bike

While there are the rare few out there who can spend countless hours on the trainer, it can often lead to early season burnout. I would rather see an athlete get a good 3-hour skate skiing session in for cardiovascular endurance during early base so that in later base -- if weather still has us indoors -- they are more likely to endure an occasional long session inside when specificity is more important.

Ric Stern replies:

If you're behind in your bike training, and bike performance is your primary goal (i.e., racing) then just concentrate on bike training. This is what will improve your bike performance. If the weather is bad, that's what the trainer is for!

Of course, any training will be good for you (versus no training at all), but the best gains will come from riding your bike,


I have just purchased a kayak, I'd like to know if this would complement my riding fitness, if I spent a few hours a week in it. I hate to cut into my riding time, but it may not be that bad. I'm a 46 yr old road rider, during the warm weather, I ride 10-12 hours a week. I do a few races a year, (8-12). I'm a cat 4 rider. I thought the kayak would be fun, good for my abs, and break up the monotony. Any thoughts?

Glen F. Fraser

Eddie Monnier replies:

Cross-training provides the greatest benefit during early Base when the focus is on developing cardiovascular fitness. As you move later into the training program, then specificity (training on the bike to succeed on the bike) becomes increasingly important. Kayaking has the added benefit of providing some core conditioning as well, which can be important year-round.

As for kayaking beyond early base, you need to keep your own personal sense of balance in mind. Some live for the bike without really requiring much of a mental or physical break from it. Others feel like they are giving up too much to ride 5-6 days per week. Figure out the right mix for yourself, make sure you adjust your goals accordingly, and enjoy it.

Happy riding and paddling!

Training help

I'm a 30 year old male who lives in Panama where there is no one to train with, no coaches, no trainers. I need help please, some kind of training schedule plan or something?

John Burr Aguirre

Kim Morrow replies:

I'd suggest that you consider finding your own personal coach to help design a training program just for you. There are some great coaches to choose from on this coaching panel.

Also, check out, where you will find information on over 400 licensed USA Cycling Coaches. Many coaches are available to coach athletes around the world, due to web-based coaching software and e-mail communication. This might be an option for you since you do not have coaches in Panama.

Ric Stern replies:

Without knowing what type of cyclist you are (e.g., track, road, MTB), and what sort of fitness level you have (e.g., cat 1, recreational) it's somewhat difficult to prescribe any training.

A personal coach with someone who operates via the web/email maybe your best option as you have no one locally available. The coaches on this panel could all help you.

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