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Form & Fitness Q & A
Got a question about fitness, training, recovery from injury or a related subject?
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age, sex, and type of racing or riding.
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 July 2, 2003
Recovery after racing
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!
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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?
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?
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
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.
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.
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 www.cyclingnews.com/fitness/?id=powerstern).
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
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
A coach, local or from this list will be able to specifically help you and
progress you at a faster rate.
Other Cyclingnews Form & Fitness articles