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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 April 29, 2003

Lactate threshold
Need for speed
Unconventional training
Making the best of training time
Getting started in racing
Sleep problems after hard training

Lactate threshold

I'd like to peel the onion one more layer on the subject of lactate threshhold HR (LTHR). Doing a 30 minute time trial on a trainer seemed like the best approach for me. My plan was to warm up, then go pretty hard for 10 minutes, and then see if I could keep that pace for the last 20. Several sources suggested taking the average of your last 20 minutes as your LTHR.

I have a Cardgirus trainer so I set up three, ten-minute intervals with no rest between them so I could use the built in features to see (afterward) my average cadence, heart rate and power for each 10 minute segment. My watts and heart rate for the each 10-min segment:

Watts  Heart rate
262    152
256    161
252    163

Cadence averaged 92, a little lower than my typical 95-105 I use in my interval workouts. Since my power dropped slightly, it looks like I was trying pretty hard (it seemed like it at the time). My heart rate hit a plateau and was still creeping up at the end so I'm wondering if I couldn't have gone harder (which I think might be possible).

How would you interpret this data in terms of LTHR? How could I do the test differently to get results more clearly indicative of LTHR? It sounds simple to do a "30 min time trial" but the devil's in the details.

I'm 45 years old.

Darrel Stickler
San Mateo, CA

Dave Palese replies:

It sounds like your testing protocol is pretty sound:

1 the conditions are controlled
2 the conditions are repeatable
3 and you can use the data gathered to help fine tune your training

If you would rate the effort for the final 20 minutes as an 9 or so out of ten, I'd say you gave it your all, and would average the average HRs from the last 2 segments, for an ESTIMATED LTHR of 162.

It is important to realize that any field test, like the one you used, will only yield an estimated LTHR. You aren't dealing with exact numbers. But for the purposes of training, the numbers you get from such a field test will work just fine when defining the heart rate ranges for your intensity zones.

It is important that you repeat this test periodically. Most test results are useless if the test is only dome once. I suggest repeating this test every 8-12 weeks to chart your progress.

Need for speed

I am 44 years of age this August, male, and raced last year and the year before with the vets. I raced as a 1st Cat many years ago and returned to the sport two years ago.

My question/problem is I cannot seem to get any speed into my legs, and really suffer, and get dropped after only a few miles, My weight is 11st 6lbs, and I have difficultly in trying to lose this. I used to be a very good climber, but now that is very hard. Can you please give me some advice as to which way to go, so that I can improve.

Brendan Kennedy

Dave Palese replies:

Welcome back to the sport! I think that you situation is very normal. I have worked with several clients who have taken time away from the sport. After getting back into racing they all say the same thing, "Man! This is much harder then I remember it!" And, they are right. Racing gets harder and harder every year. Speeds get faster. More people are getting smarter about their training. And so on.

Here are some of my suggestions:

I'm not totally clear as to how long you were away from the sport, but the idea would still be the same.

1) Don't dive whole hog back into hard, specific training. Spend at least eight weeks of training focusing on the aerobic system. Long steady miles is the idea here. You'll increase your aerobic output and muscular endurance. The riding should be done at an easy pace, at or below 70 pecent of your max working heart rate. Maintain a moderate cadence, 90-110 during your easy riding to promote suppleness in your legs.

2) As the weeks pass, add controlled intensity to your long rides. This intensity can be termed Tempo training and consists of riding at a moderately hard pace, a bit harder then your easy riding described above, but not an intensity you might associate with a time trial. Also, do your Tempo with a low cadence, 70-80 rpm, in a bigger gear to make the effort more muscular and training cycling specific strength.

After putting in eight or so weeks of this type of training, you'll have established a more solid aerobic base and should be ready add some harder, more specific training to your plan.

What form these more specific workouts take will be dependent on the type of racing you plan to do and what target events you might be looking at.

Take a look back over some of the more recent issues of this section for specific workouts you can do to improve some particular abilities (i.e., climbing, sprinting...). But in general, I would suggest starting by building a solid foundation of aerobic fitness in the coming weeks.

Unconventional training

I am almost 40 years old and have been training using Joe Friel's book for about two years with some success. The question I have is in regards using different rides as substitutes for his prescribed workouts. Specifically, I've been using a midweek hilly group ride (with guys that seem to be faster than I am) in lieu of intervals and a single speed MTB instead of strength and power workouts. Both of these types of training make me dig more than I think I would solo. I still do my threshold workouts alone and get plenty of endurance riding, but am I missing out on something by not doing the "structured" workouts such as intervals?

Ed Hamilton
Montgomery, Alabama

Brett Aitken replies:

It sounds like you're getting a good mixture of training sessions if you're maintaining your threshold sessions along with your group rides and MTB training each week. Usually what you train for is what you get and the group rides won't do you any harm as long as you've got a decent base behind you.

However specific sessions such as intervals do have their place in targeting a specific energy system to boost its development. It's important to have this kind of structured training in your programme because of its specificity, but also because it's usually measurable. By improving times, distance, power etc. in intervals over time you can be sure you are improving and progressing.

One common problem with group rides is that you are limited by what the group does and it can be hard to measure how you're improving. Just because you might be keeping up more easily doesn't mean you're getting fitter. It could be that the other riders are losing fitness or simply not riding as hard.

Therefore adding in an interval session once a week can be both beneficial and motivating to your long term cycling progress.

Making the best of training time

I am 29 and weigh in at 170lb I have been riding both road and MTB for 10 years but just the last two racing at a competitive "sport" mountain bike level. I have been married for 10 years and have two small children along with standard 40hr/week job. Having said that, I don't have the time to totally devote to heavy training although I really wish I could. I ride on an average four times a week, putting in about seven hours and between 20-50 miles each ride depending on whether it's a road or MTB ride.

I feel as though I am in pretty good shape but I have not been able to push a top ten finish as I know I probably should. And when racing I really haven't been able to get my mind set at a competitive level. Am I weak? I also seem to blow up the last few miles. With my busy family life, what would you suggest I do to get in the best possible shape and get my focus set when I am racing.

Chet Ekwall

Kim Morrow replies:

It is good to see that you have joined the competitive ranks of cycling by entering mountain bike races.

However, as you have found, this can bring up a whole different set of challenges that will not normally be encountered when simply riding recreationally. For example, you have to prepare yourself to ride near your lactate threshold throughout the event; race starts need to be practiced; technical skills need to be developed, especially at race pace, and then there is the mental ability to push yourself in a race, beyond what may be comfortable and beyond when you may feel like quitting. All of these abilities will take time to develop. But, the good news is that they can be developed and/or improved.

If you want to improve, I'd suggest a periodized approach to training, which focuses on developing the abilities described above. Have specific objectives for different times of the year, and for the three or four different workouts you are able to complete each week. If you need specific guidance, you might ask one of the coaches on this panel to help you further.

Since you mentioned being a "family man", you may want to sit down with your spouse and discuss how to best fit this training time in around your family life. I encourage the athletes I coach to do this. If we can keep our spouse on our team throughout the race season then it becomes a much more enjoyable season for us all! In addition, it is easier to focus on the task at hand-whether it is completing a lactate threshold workout or entering an actual race-when we know that our family members are supporting us.

I hope you enjoy your season.

Getting started in racing

I am a 40 year old cyclist from Western Australia and I'm just starting out in the sport of cycling.

I am 6ft 5in and currently weigh 91 kg after dropping from 112 kg prior to commencing my riding schedule last October. I have just ticked over 7000km (all on a mountain bike) and am extremely motivated to continue riding, just out of a sheer love for the sport. My goal is to ride some competition on the road this year (my wife thinks I'm crazy!)

I am faced with a few drawbacks however. One is that I live in a fairly isolated country town and so find it difficult to ride in company with other cyclists. Consequently I have no idea of how I am progressing in terms of an ability to be competitive at the veteran level. I am at the level of fitness where I can ride hard by myself for two to three hours at 95-100rpm (at the speed I travel, I can cover 60-80km in this time on my mountain bike. I do not own a road bike yet but will get one shortly). My resting pulse is 36-38 bpm and I was wondering whether you think that I have built up enough of an aerobic base to consider hard training for competition at veteran level? I am hoping that when I do take delivery of my new bike (custom made job!) I will make a fairly smooth transition and hopefully the thinner tyres will afford me much greater speed as well.

My current training is really restricted to rides as described above as I find it hard to sit on my current machine for much longer. I am currently riding 300km per week and do all my riding on sealed and gravel roads

My other question is this. I wish to compete in a 105km road race this August. It is a handicap event held over very undulating country and even though I imagine that I would be competing as a front marker, I would like to ride a competitive race and at least finish the course. Can you suggest some training techniques that will give me the strength/endurance I need to ride this race at the pace I would have to in order to be competitive (38 to 42 kph up hill and down dale). I will be in excellent company and would like at the very least not to look like a total mug!

Todd Brittain
Harvey WA

Brett Aitken replies:

I think it would be safe to say that you are probably more than ready to give some competition a go. There really is no right or wrong time to start. Quite simply if you don't have a go you'll never know what you're missing out on.

Considering you have already put in 7000 kilometres since October you should have developed a reasonable aerobic base to start including some specific intensity that will help you adapt to racing. Start by including, one or two days a week, some intervals of between 5 and 15 minutes at a pace that you think you wouldn't be able to maintain much longer than the duration of the effort.

Due to your isolation there is probably a real need for you to get the guidance of a coach for the benefit of longer term motivation, developing a good training plan and training analysis so you are not wasting any time when you have it to ride your bike. A heart rate monitor is also going to be extremely beneficial to you.

Finally it's great to see you wanting to have a go but don't think about it any longer. There is no better time to start than right now. Too often I've seen cyclists not progress to racing because they are too scared they are going to get blown away because they're not good enough. This is hardly ever the case and more often than not they underestimate their own ability.

Sleep problems after hard training

I have a recurring problem with sleep that appears to be directly linked to my training. Through many years of training I have learned that if I have a long, hard workout that I may have trouble sleeping that night. The general problem will be falling straight to sleep when my head hits the pillow, then awake about 2-3 hours later feeling restless. If I continue my training without allowing myself to receive adequate rest, I slip into a mode of being over-trained. I have the belief that if I could sleep through the night following intense workouts then I would not slip into a mode of being over-trained so easily. Any advice? Is this normal?

Mike McCullough

Brett Aitken replies:

This is a common problem with many athletes trying to balance intense/training racing with adequate rest and recovery. Basically your body goes into damage control and is working overtime to repair the muscle breakdown and reduce fatigue. You will probably find that your metabolism is going through the roof after a hard ride and you feel a sense of having a higher body temperature. You may even find that you wake up sweating sometimes when you feel restless.

This is totally normal but if it's troubling you then I would suggest keeping these hard workouts to the morning sessions which will give you longer to recover before hitting the pillow at night. Also look at good nutrition for supplementing the body with fuel that is going to promote muscle repair and glycogen replenishment. Make sure you adequately rehydrate as this will help deal with that feeling of restlessness and help prevent your body feeling like it is overcooked. Finally try some relaxation techniques or meditation just before going to bed to smooth the transition before going to sleep.

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