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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 July 2, 2003

Newbie roadie
Knee pain
Energy Expenditure
Recovery after racing
Cyclocross training

Newbie roadie

I am 5ft 9in, 140 lbs, Junior cyclist, born December '86.

After three years of fun but not greatly successful mountain bike racing, I have decided to focus onroad racing next year. I know we're only halfway through this year but I'm so excited! I am still going to ride and race mountain bikes, but I think I'm better suited as a road racer. I found the New Hampshire cycling club to list a bunch of great races - stage and one-days, TTs and hill climbs - in my area. Since I have never trained specifically on the road I would just like a few good road workouts. None of the races I am doing will be over 65 miles, but my focus is on the Longsjo and maybe the Tour of the Green Mountains. Both are four day with a TT, a mountain road race and a circuit race or crit. I would just like some basic ideas and believe me I wanna win, so I'm willing to do the work. And I love to climb!

Brandon Baker
Ashburnham (boonies), MA

Ric Stern replies:

The training for road racing will, in lots of respects, be very similar to that for mountain biking. You'll still need to do plenty of long rides, which should be slightly longer -- time wise -- than your longest races. You'll also need to focus on increasing your sustained power output, which can be trained by riding at just below the average HR you ride a TT at, or about 95 percent of your TT power (i.e., Zone 4). You'll also need to devote some time to intense, around 4-minute intervals (often done up hill) and some sprint training too.

Technique and skills shouldn't be forgotten -- learning to ride on wheels and in a paceline is critical to saving energy and decreasing the workload. It's also imperative to learn how to sprint, not just the physical effort, but also the when to come off a wheel and make a dash for the line, and whose wheel to follow in a sprint.

For stage races, after doing plenty of endurance training you'll also need to incorporate a few hard back-to-back days of around 2 - 3 hours, this will help condition you to the rigours of racing for four or so days. Also, for stage racing it's imperative that you maintain excellent nutrition -- keeping a high level of carbohydrate intake (about 8 - 10 g of carbohydrate per kg body mass per day). During the races, you should maintain energy levels by eating/drinking sufficient carbohydrates and fluids.

Your progression would also benefit from having a coach to guide you -- they can help you make decisions on training, nutrition, etc and tactics. This will help you avoid the many pitfalls, that can often cause riders to plateau. A local coach or one of the coaches on the list will be able to help you.

Knee pain

I have just completed an 100 mile charity cycle ride and as a result have pain in both the tendons that run between the knee and the hamstrings - by this I mean on the out side of the leg. The pain only became noticeable after about 75 miles. After I stopped for a rest just after this distance it became difficult to get going when I got back on the bike. After I completed 100 miles I could hardly walk and suffered for the rest of the day. The following day it was easier and as I write to you on the same day it is now almost unnoticeable. Can you please tell me what might have caused it and how I can remedy it?

I am 173 cm tall, weigh 65kg, train three times a week on a trainer and ride on the roads at weekends. In all I ride trainer and road for about 75 miles per week. I have Look PP396 pedals with red float cleats and I set the pedals on 3 degrees on the dial at the back of the pedal. I have set the cleats on my shoes so when I look down from a riding position my feet are straight forward. My cranks are 170 mm long. I am not a particularly good spinner so I would suggest my cadence is low. This is the fourth time in about 10 years that I have ridden this distance and I have never experienced this problem before. The other time were on different bikes using different pedal systems.

Ian Tovell

Brett Aitken replies:

It sounds to me like it's the tendon attached to the biceps femoris (hamstrings) that's causing the problem. The cause could be coming from a number of areas so I'll mention a few to have a look at.

1. Tightness in the hamstrings, calves or both.
2. Too high a seat height (you mentioned you had a different bike)
3. A change in pedals and cleat position.
4. A lack of miles in the legs which has put an extra strain on the connective tissue with the extra mileage and effort required for the charity ride.
5. All of the above.

Hope one of these helps you pinpoint the problem.

Dave Fleckenstein replies:

While I certainly think there is a possibility that this could be the insertion of the biceps femoris hamstrings, if the pain is truly on the outside of your leg, it could also be your iliotibial band (ITB). The ITB is a long, broad tendon that connects your tensor fascia lata and gluteus maximus to the tibia. It runs the entire distance of your upper leg and most commonly causes problems on the outside of the hip (at the bony knob known as the greater trochanter) or, as I think you are describing, by rubbing over the lateral condyle of the femur.

ITB friction syndrome (as I will hereby christen your problem) typically results from rapid increases in training, poor flexibility, and "grinding" gears. The pain typically occurs between 3:00 and 6:00 in the pedal stroke.

Your treatment:

1. Slightly lower (1-2 mm) your saddle - this is perhaps the only time knee pain is decreased by lowering a saddle.
2. Move your cleats closer in which will effectively widen your stance.
3. Ice massage and any over the counter anti-inflammatory medicine that your stomach tolerates.

If the pain is not resolving, I would strongly recommend visiting a sports-oriented physiotherapist (no bias here) who can give you more focused treatment.


I am a 21-year-old female about to finish my last year of college and I am getting into road cycling. I want to do stage racing eventually and hopefully ride professionally in the future. I used to run cross country and track in college and high school. Mostly 5km, 10km and the mile. my best 10km time is 41:00. I am willing to put a lot of time into riding. My focus for this summer is to try to build an endurance base for the coming year. Although I am unsure about how to build and what other types of workouts I should be doing. Thanks so much

Jennifer Bodine

Ric Stern replies:

Congratulations on your move into the best sport -- cycling! There's a variety of workouts you should be including in your training. For example, long endurance rides at a low intensity will accustom you to long hours in the saddle and can be a little longer than the races that you are intending to do -- in terms of hours on the bike not distance. You should do some slightly higher intensity endurance work at zone 2. Some higher intensity work can also be included (zone 4), and you should also practice some skill work such as riding in a group -- close to others, eating and drinking while riding, cornering, and soon.

Have a go at some races too, this will help you identify weaknesses that you might have or where your strengths are.

It would also be very useful to hook up with a coach, as they will be able to guide you at a faster rate than by yourself. They will be able to objectively identify your strengths and weaknesses, and get you training optimally.

Energy Expenditure

As a beginner to serious training, I'm having some trouble reconciling various sources of info on caloric expenditure while riding. I am a 42 year old male, 182 lbs., 5ft 10.5in tall. I use a heart rate monitor during my rides, and my MHR comes out to around 178 using the 220 - age formula (on actual rides, this seems to bear out).

I am having some trouble maintaining a lower heart rate while riding. According to my last ride data, I spent nearly all of my time above my aerobic threshold of 148 bpm. I assume this is too high, as my primary objective right now is to drop pounds and increase endurance. Any lower heart rate seems to be such a slow pace, it makes for a less-than-exciting ride.

According to your data in other postings, my BMR should be around 1722 (using weight in kilos * 10.2 + 880). Other sources based on Harris-Benedict equations shows my BMR to be 1820.

You indicate that an hour of cycling expends about 500 calories. Some sources I've read based on METS from the ACSM Compendium indicates that a male with my data expends 991 calories per hour riding 16-19 mph.

I want to work up a good training plan, but want to get my numbers right first. Which data would be more accurate to use for my situation?

Jon Judson

Ric Stern replies:

Congratulations on your move into serious training. You should find that your fitness starts to improve in leaps and bounds.

Your maximum HR may actually be somewhat different to the 220-age formula. There's a standard deviation of around 15 b/min for this equation. If you want to base your training HR zones on max HR, it might be better to actually do some formal testing, e.g., an incremental test to exhaustion.

The actual amount of energy that you expend, will be dependent on many factors, including the absolute intensity that you're riding at, environmental and topographical conditions, cadence and your efficiency.

To get an accurate picture of the amount of energy that you are expending (without going into a lab) you'll need to use a power meter (e.g., PowerTap) to collect the total amount of mechanical work done. This figure, which is in kJ, will be approximately equivalent to your actual energy expenditure in kcal. As 1 kcal is approximately 4.18 kJ and cyclists are about 20 - 25% efficient, a good estimate of energy expenditure is to just swap kJ for kcal.

It would be very difficult to calculate energy expenditure any other way.

Recovery after racing

I am a 44 year old and have been racing with a local club in South Australia (Southern Veterans) for almost 3 years. My history is more of running, but I have been bitten by the cycling bug for the past 5 years. Aside from gym sessions (mainly aerobic) and the odd run, I train on average 4 times per week on the bike (including twice on a windtrainer). I have a reasonable fitness level and a resting heart rate of about 40 bpm. I have progressed to be racing just before the "scratchees" in handicap events and A grade in the graded events (exponentionally more difficult than B grade!). Races are between 50 and 70 km in undulating to hilly terrain and my average heart rate over a race is about 160. I feel that I put in 100 percent, because after most races I am quite flat and seem to take a long time to recover. To use subjective terminology, I feel likes s--- for the rest of the day. After each race, the club provides a morning tea of mainly carbos such as cakes, etc.

After that rather long preamble, my question is as follows. What can I do to make my recovery more efficient? More fluids? More food? More of certain types of food? Recovery ride? Am I just getting old and should I accept that my recovery will be prolonged?

John Zoanetti

Ric Stern replies:

There's various things that you can do to improve recovery, these are both chronic (e.g., training) and acute (e.g., carbohydrate intake directly after a race).

By training to improve your fitness (i.e., power output), you'll be better able to handle the races that you do, thus they will cause you less fatigue and therefore, you will recover at a faster rate. There's (normally) no reason why anyone can't improve their fitness level.

During racing, you should aim to maintain a moderate fluid and carbohydrate intake, to delay fatigue. Research suggests that in most environmental conditions a 6 - 8% carbohydrate electrolyte solution (sports drink) is best. You should choose a drink that supplies the correct nutrients (e.g., carbohydrate at 6 - 8% and electrolytes) and one that you find palatable. If you don't find it pleasant you're unlikely to drink it during a race. A previous Q and A page dealt with actual fluid loss calculations.

After the race, a good cool down (e.g., low gear, easy spin) can help. Some riders find that a second cool down/recovery spin (~ 30-mins) in the evening can also aid recovery or make them feel better.

To help restore muscle and liver glycogen you should consume 1.0 - 1.5 g of high glycaemic carbohydrates per kg of body mass, i.e., a 70 kg rider would need 70 - 105 g, within ~ 30-mins of finishing your race. Sports drinks, energy bars, gels, etc., are very good for this. After an hour or so, you should consume more food (preferably proper food) with a high carbohydrate content.

Cyclocross training

I am a 28 year old cat 3 road racer who has raced four 'cross seasons. I have recently moved and didn't race road at all this season, I've barely have been riding for that matter. I am moving back to the east coast and I plan on racing cyclo-cross again this Fall. What is the best way to periodize for the cyclo-cross season? One hour races at LT are a little different than a four hour road race.

Josh Williams
Prescott, AZ

Ric Stern replies:

First of all you should get back into a regular routine of riding and training. Build up slowly, adding a few hours per week, taking the rides steady and don't be drawn into any hammerfests -- just yet! Aim to build up to a 3 - 4 hour ride on a regular basis (e.g., once a fortnight) once you can get through such a long ride with little or no ill effects.

Once you start getting more comfortable at riding on a regular basis, you can then starting upping the intensity on one of the shorter endurance rides, as a rough guide, this might be ~ 1:30 to 2:00 hours at zone 2 - 3 (see These should be fairly demanding sessions.

As your fitness starts to increase and you recover quicker, it would be useful to incorporate some TT type efforts at Zone 4, for 15 to 20 minutes. Completing two or three of these intervals after a warm up will really help you to boost your fitness.

On top of this you should also do some cross riding to train your skills and techniques. Within these sessions you could also try a few more intense intervals, as the cross season approaches.

The above training is all fairly non specific to cross racing, but with your decreased fitness, it's best to build your base and get you into a good all round shape.

A coach, local or from this list will be able to specifically help you and progress you at a faster rate.

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