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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 fitness@cyclingnews.com. 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 (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 any geography.

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 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 (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 MyEnduranceCoach.com, 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 27, 2003

Recommended weight
Numbness in hands
Virtual hills
Climbing
Decreased sleep
Hunger at lower intensities
Time trial training
Winter training

Recommended weight

I am 17 years old and race and train consistently. Basically all season I have felt like I have been really weak and have a general lack of power on flats and short rolling hills. Yet, I can out-climb or stay with basically ever racer I train or race with. I am beginning to think that the reason I feel like I have no power is because of my weight which I monitor and control very religiously through diet and riding. I am 5' 11" and weigh around 138 pounds. I also generally feel tired all the time on and off the bike. My question is, do you think that in me gaining a little weight I will be able to keep up better on the flats? If so, how much do you think I should weigh. Thank you for your time and insight.

Luke

Eddie Monnier replies:

If you're tired "all the time," the first thing you need to do is to take a serious look at your training and recovery methods. It could be that your diet is fine but you're simply riding too hard, too often. However, one of the key elements of recovery is diet. If you're under-eating, you will be shortchanging your ability to recover and therefore limiting your potential. I suggest you review your caloric intake and then estimate your expenditure (quite easy if you have a power meter because kilojoules generated is a reasonable proxy for calories expended and to this you would add non-bike caloric expenditure) to see whether or not they're in alignment.

Numbness in hands

My wife and I recently rode in a charity event that was 150 miles in two days. In our infinite brilliance we road mountain bikes (we won't do that ever again) and are now experiencing numbness in our hands. We did ride with gloves and worked to reposition our hands often, but it seemed to prolong the inevitable. I know that when riding you put pressure on specific nerves in the hand that leads to the numbness, my question is twofold…Is there a way to prevent this? And once numb is there a way to regain the feeling in your hands?

Todd Durfee

Kim Morrow replies:

I'm sorry to hear about the problems that you and your wife are having with your hands. Hand numbness can come from a variety of sources. The key is to find the cause of YOUR particular situation. I had to deal with this issue not too long ago, and met with 2 different health care professionals to determine the root cause of my hand numbness. Thankfully, we determined what was causing this problem, and much of the numbness is gone. Now, however, I must take preventative measures (which in my case involves stretching and strengthening exercises) in order to hopefully prevent this from becoming a chronic problem.

A few of the areas which your health care professional might check are:

1) The cervical area(neck),
2) The brachial plexus nerves (nerve bundle near the shoulder area),
3) The 3 main nerves that lead to the hand: median, radial, and ulnar nerves.

Median nerve problems -also known as carpal tunnel syndrome-can manifest numbness from the thumb to half of the ring finger. Ulnar nerve problems can manifest numbness from the little finger to half of the ring finger. This is not an uncommon complaint for cyclists.

The 150 mile mountain bike ride that you and your wife completed may have just been too much, for too long, in that hand position. The best thing to do is to let your health care professional check you out if this problem continues. They may determine that there is another cause besides the ones I have outlined above. I hope this issue gets resolved for you soon. I know it can be frustrating.

Virtual hills

I need to train for a road ride in the Alps next summer.

I am 44 and living in a flat country with long cold winters. I have the usual pressures of work, family etc and so most of my winter activity is training in the gym. Typically this involves five sessions a week consisting of one hour spent on a stationary bike and (don't tell Mr. Stern) some weights (trunk and legs, alternating between them each session). In the summer I get out on the road as often as I can for longer rides and keep up training in the gym.

Is it possible to use the gym facilities effectively to improve my climbing ability? If so please could you suggest how? Would it be better to use a turbo trainer and my own bike rather than the (Technogym) stationary bike in the gym?

Nat Chard
Denmark

Ric "No weights" Stern replies:

Whether the gym/weights will help you will really depend on your fitness level - if you race or are of that ability then it's doubtful that the weights and any cross training will specifically help your cycling. On the other hand if you aren't of that ability then it might well help.

If you can't do any "proper" cycling, during the winter then any exercise will help you and keep your fitness levels up. On the other hand even in cold and wet weather you can always use an indoor turbo trainer and your bike and do some long sessions on it. In awful weather that's lasted a while I've regularly done up to 3 hours at a time on the trainer.

For longer sessions, I put in some 'virtual' hills (really just to break the monotony) -- these include increasing the resistance of the trainer and/or putting in (e.g.) 52 x 13 and giving it a bit of effort as if you were cycling up hill (for, for example, 30 seconds to 10 minutes). Recover for ~30-60 seconds at low effort as if coasting downhill or get straight back to your endurance pace and include the hills say, every 10 to 15 minutes.

Also, some of the newer turbo trainers can be connected to your PC, which will display the image of where you are virtually riding, and alter the resistance for you as you go 'uphill'.

Depending on exactly how hard your winters are, good quality winter cycling kit may well help.

Climbing

I am a 31 yr old male who currently races Cat 3 (was a Cat 2 when I had time to train.) My one glaring weakness is climbing and where I live most hills are not even 1km long, or if they are they are steep for about 200 meters and then taper off to not much more than false flat. When I have extended time to train there are a few hills that I can get to without driving, which here would take more time to get anywhere anyways at rush hour. I will either do the 90 sec hill repeats (side question is it 5 minutes between each effort or is it a set of 3 back to back, rest 5 minutes and then back on?) or I may just try to attack every hill that I can. My training is somewhat limited in that even though I can ride twice a day I may not be able to do more than 2hrs at one time except for the weekends, (usually about 40-60mins in the am going to work.) Keeping in mind that for the most part most of the hills are not long enough to do much on them what can I do to improve my climbing ability.

Jason Ward

Ric Stern replies:

Riding uphill requires more power than riding on flat at the same speed. As increased fitness means increasing power output, it's necessary to increase the power output that you can sustain. Initially, this will make little difference whether you do the training on flat roads, uphill or on an indoor trainer.

As racing uphill usually requires a moderate to high intensity (depending on the duration) it'd be a good idea to increase your fitness at TT power and VO2 max power.

The TT power are best trained with longish intervals of one to four x 15 to 30 mins, once or twice per week. The VO2 max type intervals can be trained with short efforts of 4-minutes at a fairly high level. A full description of these can be seen here: http://www.cyclingnews.com/fitness/trainingstern.shtml

Other sessions that are good are hard endurance sessions of 2+ hours and some tempo zone 3 work.

Decreased sleep

I recently competed in a two day stage race (approx 100km both days). Prior to the event I reduced my training volume by 15 percent in the first week and 10 percent in the second prior to the event, the reduction was time based not distance based. Additionally I also increased my carbohydrate intake two days prior to the event as I typically do before a 100km+ event. Unfortunately the night before the event I was only able to get in 6 hours sleep (due to having to travel to the event), while I did not feel tired the next day, I did feel down on total power and felt as though I was unable to hold maximum efforts for as long as usual. I typically average 8 hours a night during training periods. That night I managed to get in 11 hours sleep and felt far stronger than the day before, even after the prior days' racing. My question is how much impact does sleep levels have on your ability to perform during an event? Also what do you recommend as a warm up routine for events of 100km+?

Gerard

Ric Stern replies:

Occasionally missing a couple of hours sleep shouldn't affect you at all. As long as you normally get plenty of sleep, the occasional missed few hours won't affect you.

For races of 100km plus, warming up doesn't need to be overly complicated or specialised. Typically, I'd aim for ~ 20 to 30 mins at a low level with a few race pace efforts of ~ 30-secs duration. Maybe ride round the circuit (if possible) to get an idea of it, and ensure you've had plenty of carbohydrates and fluids in the hours (and days) leading up to the event.

Hunger at lower intensities

A question about eating. When I do hard group rides or races, I do not get hungry for a long time, and usually I can sip on a sports drink or Coke at a slow point and be fine for hours. But when I do lower intensity rides (for me that's at about 155bpm) I get super hungry after the first hour and want to eat everything in sight. My guess is that I am tapping into my two hours or so worth of glycogen in the former, but tapping into my somewhat limited fat stores in the latter. What are your thoughts? Any suggestions, explanations, or confirmations are appreciated.

Carlondo Brown
North Carolina

Ric Stern replies:

In even the leanest males (e.g., TdF riders) they still have plenty of fat stores, so this isn't a worry. On the other hand your glycogen stores are far more limited, which is why you need to take on carbohydrate during rides.

It's likely that the reason in your more intense group rides, the reason you don't feel hungry is twofold -- one - it might require high levels of concentration to stay with the others and therefore, you're not thinking about food/hunger. Two, at higher intensities blood will be shunted towards the active muscles to and it can be quite uncomfortable to eat (or even drink) at higher intensities.

During either training session I'd suggest taking on board a 6 - 8 percent carbohydrate - electrolyte solution to maintain fluid and energy levels.

Time trial training

How do you train specifically for, say, a 40km time trial? are there specific training programs for them? If so where can I get hold of one?

Clive Randall
South Africa

Ric Stern replies:

Time trial ability is directly related to the power that you can produce for about one hour. It's also related to how aerodynamic you are.

To increase the power that you can produce for a TT, you need to do some training at this level on a weekly basis. The volume and intensity will be related to how fit you are and the time that you have available along with the other types of training that you do (and also what your other goals are).

One of the best sessions for increasing your TT power is to ride at just below TT effort (e.g., 5 b/min below TT HR, or 90 - 95 percent of TT power) for one to four efforts of 15 to 30-mins, repeated once or twice per week.

Specifics, will be quite individual. With that in mind, i'd avoid getting a generic programme from a book etc, and find a coach who can help you with an overall programme. The coaches here will be able to help.

Winter training

I have been road racing for 7 years having taken up cycling at the age of 39. Although I don't think I have much ability I have had a few top 10 ten finishes and can compete well in Vets races. I'm determined to do better next year and one improvement I can make is to train properly this winter . I've realized that I actually don't train at all in the winter, I just go out for rides.

I'm thinking of following Pete Read's Annual Manual but one thing that worries me about this is that during Nov/Dec/Jan he advocates absolutely no intensity whatsoever - no sprints, no going hard up hills etc. Now everything I've read about Vets cycling stresses the importance of keeping up Level 3/4 efforts all year even if it's just 30 minutes a week. What do you think ? Is it right to keep doing the short/hard efforts all year or should I follow what Pete Read's manual says?

Reade Harfield
Crawley, UK

Ric Stern replies:

Whilst I have no idea whatsoever about the content of the book that you mention, I'd avoid getting a generic programme from a book. As you've alluded they are not individualised to a persons needs, and are thus maybe not suitable for everyone.

Often, during the winter months I do have riders doing hard efforts - but this will often depend on time available, fitness levels, what your goals are etc.

A coach will be able to help you with coaching specific to your needs.

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