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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 August 23, 2003

Looking to winter
Maximum heart rate
Sick over sports drinks
Weight Gain
Body fat percentage
Eating time

Looking to winter

I'm a 23 year old male cyclist from Hampshire, UK and I've just started road racing. My aim is to upgrade to 3rd cat before the end of the year or early next year. My current limiter is power output (I have trouble putting in a hard turn on the flat to catch a break).

I know it's (just about) still summer, but I'm already thinking of my winter training and how to make the most of it. My aims over the winter are to try to improve my small-gear spinning (I don't push too big a gear already, but I'd prefer to spin better) and build on my base fitness for 3rd cat races (around 100km long in my part of the world). I also hope to race cyclo-cross, though more for training and fun instead of placings.

I intend to lift weights at the gym where I work twice a week.

Am I looking to do too much? Are high-intensity workouts a good idea during winter, where most people advocate getting the aerobic miles in?

As a rough plan, I was thinking of:

Monday: Recovery ride, 1hr HR zone 1
Tuesday: Weights
Wednesday: 2 hour ride, HR zone 2
Thursday: Day off
Friday: Weights
Saturday: 2 hour ride HR zone 2
Sunday: Cyclocross race, 1hr high intensity

I'd be grateful for any help!

Mark Drayton

Richard Stern replies:

As long as you can pedal at a normal cadence on the flat (e.g., 85 - 100 revs/min) then I really wouldn't concentrate on this aspect of your training, unless you were using it as some sort of way to break the monotony of another type of training.

Training at levels that stimulate your aerobic capacity will help increase your fitness and power output. Long sessions at zone 2 (e.g., 1 - 4 hrs depending on fitness), and shorter moderate length sessions at zone 3 (30 - 90 mins depending on fitness) will help without adding too much fatigue.

More intense sessions at just below TT power (15 to 30mins) to VO2 max (4 to 8 mins) will help increase LT, TT power and VO2 max.

Weight training won't help your cycling, as (endurance) cycling performance isn't limited by strength (except perhaps for some who may have a functional disability). See

There's no reason at all why for the majority of the winter you can't do some intensity work, such as described above. I'd also include (if time allows) a longer session as well to help with your endurance (e.g., 3+ hrs) at the expense of (e.g.) the cross race.

Contact one of the coaches for specific help.

Maximum heart rate

I am 42. I try and ride 2000-3000 km per Canadian season with a preference for hill climbs. I do not have a very sophisticated training program. I just go out and ride when I have time. I recently completed the Mt-Washington hill climb (average grade 12 percent with some parts at 16 percent and 22 percent over 12.3km). I have recently started using a heart monitor. My heart rate was between 185 and 192 for the duration of the Mt Washington race (100 minutes in my case). I felt fine the whole time (not tired) and probably could have pushed myself harder.

The rule of thumb for the maximum heart rate is 220 minus age. Is it a problem to go above that maximum if you are in excellent physical condition? Should I be concerned about my heart rate being above that rule of thumb or more about the way I feel when climbing those very steep hills?

Eric Geoffrion
Montreal, Canada

Eddie Monnier replies:

The short answer is, not it's not a problem and you needn't worry about it.

The 220 minus age is a general rule of thumb guideline for predicting max HR. It's a reasonable estimate of max for large samples of the general population but can be materially off in either direction for any single individual.

Furthermore, it is not meant to be a "don't train above this level" guideline, rather some coaches use max HR to establish training zones (personally, I prefer to set training zones using lactate threshold as the anchor, search our prior "issues" for mine and other of my fellow panelists views). But for those that do base them off max, they usually have a field test to estimate it rather than use the 220-age approach.

Now, how about getting structured with your training to see what you can make of your potential?

Sick over sports drinks

I'm a 30 year old recreational rider and sometimes racer (cat.5). I stand about 6 feet and weigh around 175 lbs. I would like to drink some type of sports drink on long rides that contain electrolytes and carbs. My problem is they frequently cause stomach cramps and I end with me on the side of the road vomiting all my fluid out. I've been told that it is probably the fructose in some of the drinks. I know there must be other riders that experience this same problem but there are none I know personally. Is there any type of drink that my stomach might be able to handle? I will mention that this only happens when I'm riding with intense effort. I have been drinking plain H2O but prefer to switch to something with electrolytes and carbs to help sustain me over long hard rides.

Mark Connolly
North Carolina

Richard Stern replies:

It's imperative that the drink is mixed in the right concentration, which is usually around 4 - 8 percent. If the drink is too strong it can make you sick. Fructose can also cause GI distress. It's also important not to drink when exercising at very intense levels as it might well make you vomit. Wait until the pace slackens a little before drinking.

There are many sports drinks on the market, with many of them containing little or no fructose. It's important to choose a drink that you like the taste of and that stays down. You should also try it out in training rather than racing. Try various brands and hopefully you'll find one that is good for you. I've found that G-Push drinks are good, as are the range from Science in Sport, and Lucozade. Personally, I find a blander taste is better when training or racing.

Weight Gain

Recently I have experienced some unexpected weight gain. Over the past 3 weeks or so, I have gained about 5 pounds. I can tell when I am experiencing normal weight fluctuations, and this isn't that. Normally this would not concern me, except that I have made no changes to my diet or training schedule/volume. I am very strict about my diet and have made no changes in the last several months. If anything, I have been eating slightly less than normal.

I train on very flat roads 19-21 hours weekly. I had a very successful spring and early summer of racing. Then, in June, I competed in 11 road races in 22 days. Since then I have felt quite tired and have not been riding as well as I feel I should be. I have taken some time off (easy weeks, long weekends off), but I still don't feel much pep in my legs. My races since June have been very poor as well. This large number of races in a short time is the only thing different this summer than previous seasons.

I am a 26 year old, 5ft 11in male, and my normal racing weight is 160 pounds. I concerns me that the same diet and exercise could result in weight gain. I know that I am probably over-training (I'm very good at over-training:)), but I have trouble believing that could cause weight gain.

Colin Carey Ferguson
Illinois, USA

Eddie Monnier replies:

You open by indicating that you haven't changed your training schedule/volume but then you go on to say that because you've been tired, you have taken some time off ("easy weeks, long weekends off") which is directly contrary (though likely a good idea!). Assuming your weight was reasonably stable before, your weight gain could be due simply to the volume reduction if you did not have an offsetting decrease in caloric intake. I certainly hope that's the case.

However, weight fluctuation is one of many factors that *may* accompany overtraining. Overtraining is not easily diagnosed as there's no clear set of symptoms other than a marked, persistent deterioration in performance which is sometimes accompanied by other factors such as weight fluctuation, change in normally observed HR levels, change in sleep patterns, change in mood (eg, short of temper, apathy, etc.), mismatch in actual intensity vs. perception (low intensity, high perceived effort), etc.

Still, in my opinion, most people use "overtraining" (bad) far too loosely and often they mean "overreached" (good) which can be accommodated through a short period of reduced intensity. The good news is overtraining is actually quite difficult to do. The bad news is once one is truly overtrained, it can take a very, very long time to recover (weeks to several months). If you are indeed overtrained, you need complete rest. Once you feel better, you need to resume training very cautiously. If you miss more than 30-days, you should return to Base period-type training and slowly rebuild fitness being careful to provide plenty of rest and recovery time.

Some medical conditions may mimic some of the signs of overtraining, such as anemia, Lyme disease, mononucleosis, cardiomyopathies, and others. I suggest you consult with your physician to make sure that none of these are present.

Body fat percentage

I wonder what my current body fat percentage is and what is "safe" to aim for. Is measuring skinfold thickness with a caliper a reliable method? What about "body-fat measuring scales", are they any good? I have also heard of complete body scans but it seems overly expensive.

I would like to get a good idea of my ideal weight, if I'm overestimating my body fat I could set the aim for a unreasonably low weight. I'm male, 177 cm tall, slightly built, 68 kg and this is my second season riding approximately 200 hours a year with a few races, my guess is that 65 kg for me would be around 10 percent.

Bengt Larsson

Richard Stern replies:

If the skinfold measures are completed by someone trained in their use and they use a good quality metal caliper, such as the Harpenden range then it can be quite accurate. Hydrostatic weighing or DEXA measurements are the "Gold Standard" in body fat measurement, but these will be expensive and can generally only be completed in a lab or clinical setting.

It's impossible to estimate your body fat % from your size and height, as lean body mass will differ between people. Two people of the same height and mass can have vastly different body fat %.

A sport scientist/exercise physiologist should be able to make the measurements for you and help you decide a safe body fat percentage to aim (if at all).

Eating time

I have been told that eating within 3 hours of bedtime is not good for ones fitness. Is this correct, and if so, why?

Mikkel Laursen

Richard Stern replies:

I'm not sure where this myth originated or why. Assuming that you interested in weight maintenance or loss, all that actually matters is that you have a negative energy balance (i.e., you expend more energy than you take in). On the other hand if you're involved in lots of heavy training (large volume and/or intensity), then it's very likely that eating at this time is good to try to maintain muscle and liver glycogen stores.

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