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 March 4, 2003
Recovery from illness & training while on antibiotics
PowerTap vs Polar
Illness and training
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
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
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.
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 (www.topica.com) 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.
Note that Jeff Jones of cyclingnews.com 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.
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
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 www.trainingbible.com,
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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!
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 http://www.bicyclecoach.com, 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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