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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 12, 2003

VO2 Max and anaerobic threshold
Power to weight ratio
Increasing duration
Maximum heart rate

VO2 Max and anaerobic threshold

Just a couple days ago I took a VO2 Max test, for a demonstration, in an Exercise Physiology course. My score was 51ml/kg, and my AT was 80 percent of my max.

I have just been putting in regular base miles, but am interested in starting specific workout such as intervals, etc. Is interval training the best way to raise my VO2 Max and AT? What specifically should I be doing? What other workouts would be helpful?


Brett Aitken replies:

Without a doubt an interval program is going to give you the best return for improving your VO2 Max and AT. You will find the best sessions for improving VO2 will be intervals between four and six minutes with four to six repeats and a 1:1 ratio for recovery. The intensity should be enough to get your heart rate well above your AT in the last few minutes of each effort but may be difficult in the first couple.

For AT intervals you should work at your Threshold heart rate for between 10 to 20 minutes for anywhere between one and three repeat efforts. If you do this once a week and combine it with a twice a week VO2 Max session then you will be well on the way to dramatic improvements in your cycling performance.

Eddie Monnier replies:

Unless you are within your first two years of endurance training, VO2max generally does not respond materially to training. While protocol can have a material impact on test results, I suspect you have a decent level of fitness if your lactate threshold (assuming 4mmol/L, I prefer LT to anaerobic threshold) is 80 percent of VO2max as this is in the normal range of 80-90 percent for trained endurance athletes.

As Brett indicated, intervals will help you transform your base fitness into competition level fitness. Exactly what type of intervals you should do really depends on your events and your limiters relative to those events.

Generally speaking, however, increasing "lactate threshold power" (LTP) and "velocity at VO2max" (vVO2max) are two of the most important attributes you can train to be a well-rounded cyclist. Note that while VO2max is not very trainable in endurance trained athletes, velocity at VO2max is. In other words, you might not be able to increase your VO2max, but you can increase how fast you go at VO2max.

I share Brett's view on how to improve LTP (I generally prescribe two x 20 minute sessions with three to five minutes rest).

For vVo2max, work by researcher Veronique Billat has demonstrated good success with interval durations as short as 30 seconds using a 1:1 work/rest ratio. The work portion should be at an intensity equal to what you could hold in an all-out six minute effort. Repeat until you cannot hold that intensity any longer (should be 10-15 efforts). I like to start with these and then graduate to longer intervals (e.g., one, two and capping at three minutes) because I find that most athletes will get more "work time" starting with the shorter duration than starting with the longer ones.

Finally, I'm a big proponent of governing interval training using a power meter (e.g., Power Tap or SRM) which minimizes the guessing about intensity because it gives you objective and instant feedback. For example, for LTP you could periodically complete a 30 minute TT as a field proxy for LTP. Do your LTP intervals at that wattage level. For the vV02max intervals, you could use a six minute TT as a field proxy.

Power to weight ratio

I am male, 29 and ride about 200-250 miles per week (road bike). I am looking to do road racing in the 2003 season. My question is around power to weight ratio.

I understand that every individual will be different based upon numerous physiological factors, type of exercise/racing performed and terrain etc, however I would like to now if there is a general guideline around what a good to optimal power to weight ratio is for general road racing over varied terrain?

In addition to this I am circa 163 pounds and around 5ft 7in what would be a desirable power to weight ratio for me, in order to be competitive in category 2 - 4 racing?

Tully Cashman

Eddie Monnier replies:

Great to hear you've decided to give racing a try. It's a wonderful sport, combining the best of team and individual, old world tradition and new world technology.

Power to weight ratio is most important on sustained climbs of moderate or steeper grade. On other terrain, you are spending most of your energy overcoming aerodynamic drag. And note that power-to-weight ratio is in and of itself a nebulous term. Power-to-weight over what duration? Having said all that, good climbers can typically sustain 5-6W/kg for long climbs (20-60 minutes). And the top climbers in the Tour de France are achieving values of 6+W/kg on long climbs after riding 100+ miles day after day. Amazing, to say the least.

Since races with truly long climbs are a bit of a rarity in the US, you want to take a well rounded approach to your training or you'll find yourself off the back before you ever get to one of the climbs. A key attribute to work on is lactate threshold power (LTP). You can estimate this by completing a 30 minute flat TT in training. Your average power for this duration is a reasonably good proxy for LTP.

I'll go out one a limb here and suggest that given your stature, I would say that you need have an LTP of about 275W to be competitive in Category 2 or 3. LTP is one of the few things were "more" is always better because that means you're dipping into precious reserves less frequently and will have more left when it comes to crunch time in the race. A sample workout to improve your LTP might be two x 20 minutes at LTP with three to five minutes rest. This workout can be done once or twice per week.

Finally, smart tacticians make the most of what they have. It is possible to be competitive even when you're less fit or physically capable than your competitors by riding smartly in the pack and avoiding unnecessary work.

Brett Aitken replies:

Generally it is pretty hard to calculate a good power to weight ratio over a terrain that varies. It is also relative to the length of distance in a race, the environment (wind) etc. so it can be extremely hard to measure. If you're going to measure power to weight ratio then you're better off measuring it in a controlled environment such as in testing, an indoor trainer, an indoor track, on a hill climb or during a maximal time trial effort.

You may therefore be interested in checking out my website where you can compare yourself with others in regards to power to weight ratio on hill climbs for different competition levels.

Increasing duration

I am a recreational/commuter road rider, male, 27 years old, 5ft 9in at 68kg. I was riding 150km per week last year and have increased it to 300km per week. I want to know, assuming I can keep up the 300km/week, at what rate should I increase the distances I am riding to build up better endurance; 10 percent, 20 percent, 50 percent more each week? I hope to start competing by the end of this year. Also what is the best way to do this - increase the distance I ride to and from work every day and my weekend rides or just go for a lot longer rides on the weekend?

I also know other people who are starting out in cycling and would like to advise them on at what rate they should be able to increase distances without getting burnt out.

James Hall

Dave Palese replies:

How much a rider can increase his or her volume during a phase focused on endurance is a very personal issue. Every rider is different. Some can handle more then others.

As a starting point, during a three week build, I usually increase the length of a rider's longest ride by 15-30 minutes from week 1 to week 3.

Brett Aitken replies:

Generally I would suggest that most cyclists should restrict their increase in mileage to about 10 percent spread out over the entire week. Every fourth or fifth week aim to have one week where you back the mileage and intensity off about 15 percent to help avoid any overtraining symptoms and promote recovery then start your buildup again from that point.

Once you've reached a mileage that your happy with and balanced within your current lifestyle then start adding in more specific intensity to get even more out of your training sessions.

Maximum heart rate

I am 22 years old 6'2" and 162 pounds. I am very keen on fitness and the physiology surrounding it. I ride my road bike a lot and have performed a max heart rate test on myself: 204bpm. I have calculated all my zones endurance, aerobic capacity, threshold and increasing VO2 max, from my maximum heart rate. I also do a fair amount of running.

My question is: using the heart rate monitor on my bike, at say 170bpm, I do not feel particularly bad and could perform at this intensity for a long time. However I have never performed a max HR test while running and I have heard that it is significantly higher than cycling. If this is the case should I use my running max HR to work out my zones for cycling, because this would lead to much higher intensities while training?

Tom Banning

Eddie Monnier replies:

I do not like to use Max HR to determine training zones because a true Max HR doesn't generally respond to training, and if anything, it may decrease slightly after an untrained person has trained. Furthermore, a true Max HR is difficult to achieve.

Heart rate training zones are sport-specific so you will have different zones for the bike and for running. While there are numerous methods for determining your training zones, I prefer to base zones off lactate threshold HR (LTHR). I estimate LTHR with a 30 minute all-out effort on a fairly flat course (track is great for the run and a trainer can be used for the bike if there isn't a suitable course available) and then take the average HR for the last 20 minutes as a reasonably good proxy for LTHR. I base training zones off this number. I prefer this method because it's easily repeated (I tend to test athletes every four to six weeks) and can be done by the athlete without assistance.

Ric Stern replies:

Leaving aside any issues as to which is the best method for determining training zones (e.g., HR at 'threshold' or HRmax, to which the best answer is use a power meter), there *can* be a difference with different sport modalities. However, trained cyclists can reach 100 - 105 percent of running HR max. If you do a lot of run training then running HR max may be higher or the same as cycling HR max.

Therefore, you might need different zones for each sport.

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