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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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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 September 24, 2003
In or out of the saddle?
Help with nutrition
I am wondering if you could give me some tips on hydration techniques for
triathlon. I have volunteered at these events and am interested in competing
but hear good hydration techniques are essential.
Benoit Nave replies:
The laws of proper hydration are the same for all endurance sports. There
2 distinct phases to take into account: before the race and during the race,
the so called "pre-hydration" phase and a "hydration" phase.
1. Pre-hydration. It is important to know that in the hours after
each strenuous workout (long and/or intensive training), when you have tapped
deep into your body's reserves, your digestive system transforms sugars (starchy
and other leguminous plants are always the best sources) into glycogen. BUT
not only, what is mostly overlooked, is that each gram of stored glycogen
allows the simultaneous storage of 2.7 gram of water. Now, if you happen to
carry out your most severe training on Wednesday or Thursday before the race
Sunday, and wait until the pasta party on Friday or even Saturday to load
your glycogen storage you would transform only one small part of your sugar
intake into glycogen and won't store much water into your muscle cells at
all! As a result, you would not be able to take advantage of your body's full
energetic and hydrous storages.
The optimal pre-hydration is thus done by taking care of reloading your glycogen
reserves very early after the effort. The first step is a recovery drink containing
fructose and simple sugars, then by the ingestion (after 90-120 minutes; this
time is needed for your digestive system to recover and have sufficient blood
volume to work) of a carbohydrate-dominant meal (starchy foods and/or leguminous
2. Hydration. Again, let's first understand the constraints of fluid
assimilation: when exercising at high levels (as in competition), blood availability
for the digestive system is scarce, meaning assimilation is a lot more delicate
then when the body is at rest. Also, you might have heard of the principle
of osmotic pressure. The stomach lets a liquid pass through its wall more
quickly if the concentration of minerals in the liquid is lower than that
of the blood.
A drink intended to be absorbed during the effort must thus be hypo-concentrated
compared to the blood concentrations. We also know that a sufficient contribution
in carbohydrates is essential to maintain the level of performance. Note that
a rising concentration in carbohydrates involves a deceleration of gastric
draining as a consequence. In plain English, the more a drink (or a gel or
bar) is concentrated, the longer it will take to be absorbed.
In case of competitions in cold environment (as it is the case for cross-country
skiing), where the requirement for water hardly exceeds half a liter per hour,
you can concentrate drinks to approximately 120 grams of carbohydrates per
liter; in warmer conditions the concentration should not exceed half of that,
or 60g per liter.
What also matters, is to know that you should either drink a hypo-concentrated
energy drink during the effort or eat gel and drink plain water with it. A
liquid food taken in small, regular mouthfuls will not cause digestive troubles
unlike solids which, for efforts above 80 percent of VO2max see their assimilation
I know this is a complex issue. Understanding the above principles are key.
After that your experience coupled with "listening" carefully to your body
will help you become an expert and efficient "race-fuel-metabolist" over a
short period of time.
In or out of the saddle?
When climbing hills, I usually stay in the saddle. Recently I started to
get up and out of the saddle, and even after even just 30 seconds, my heart
rate sky-rockets and I burn up quick. I can usually go up the same hills in
the saddle, and not suffer anywhere near the same. So what muscle group in my
legs is weak? Is this my problem? Is there any good indoor/exercise that could
assist in making that part of my riding stronger?
I am a 44 year old amateur rider, who clocks about 3,000 miles a year. I
am 5'10", and weigh about 180 pounds.
Eddie Monnier replies:
It's common to observe higher heart (and ventilation) rates when climbing
out of the saddle vs. seated climbing. In one study (Millet et al; Med Sci
Sports Exerc, Oct 2002), the subjects averaged 6% higher heart rates on a
moderate grade (~5%) at the same power level while standing vs. seated riding.
What's a bit unusual from you case is that often perceived exertion is the
same or LOWER at the same power for standing vs. seated climbing. In any case,
most cyclists can also generate more power when standing than when seated,
though it does come at a higher physiological cost. This tradeoff is why many
good climbers alternate between seated and standing positions, often using
the latter to help drive through steeper sections of a climb.
As to "burn[ing] up", you may be experiencing the fact that certain muscles
are more active or active longer when standing. Since you generally climb
while seated, these muscles may be underdeveloped for standing climbing. So
the best way for you to improve your ability to climb out of the saddle is
to practice climbing out of the saddle. Practice "attacking" shorter hills
out of the saddle. And consider alternating between a seated and standing
position on a regular basis (say, every 90-seconds stand up for 30-secs) during
your long climb workouts. Get into the habit of shifting down a cog or two
as you move to the standing position (e.g., if climbing in a 39x17 seated,
shift to 39x15 as you move to the standing position), unless the pitch is
increasing (e.g., a switchback), in which case maintain the same gearing.
This alternating seated and standing climbing workout can be done outside
on the road or simulated indoors on a trainer.
Georg Ladig replies:
All in all, what you describe makes a lot of sense. It is not smart to ride
out of the saddle for longer periods because your effectiveness on the pedals
decreases quite a bit and this is why you won't see many pros ride out of
the saddle during peak efforts for long.
There are four exceptions to the rule: accelerations, boredom, relieving
some muscle groups (by straining others) and change of gradient (instead of
It sounds like you're pursuing # 3.
When pedaling out of the saddle your body's static effort increases (your
full body weight needs to be carried while balancing). This effort increases
the smaller the gearing becomes, which is why we tend to use bigger gears,
this by consequence will require more force. (Lance Armstrong rides out of
the saddle with stretched arms to reduce the static effort).
When standing, the upper body moves forward (the angle between your upper
body and your legs increases), your hip and leg position changes and you can
use your hamstrings in a better (different) way. May be this is where you
have a deficiency or perhaps you are just not used to do it.
So you just need to train it and you will see that your efficiency will increase
quite some as you learn how to transform your energy more into forward motion
rather then wasting it in inappropriate static gestures (like pulling on the
handlebar, moving side-to side, etc.). Of course exercising on the bike while
climbing in real world conditions will lead to the fastest adaptation.
Help with nutrition
I'm currently trying to modify the types of food I eat to healthier, lower
GI foods, eg wholewheat bread instead of white, foods with no added sugar, cutting
out sugar in coffee, lean meat, not eating chips etc. What I'm finding though
is at the moment when I go out for a ride I'm running out of energy fairly quickly,
making the ride a bit of a struggle at times. Any suggestions?
Also, if I'm preparing for an event, should I carbo load, and what form
should it take, ie high GI, low GI etc? What nutrition should I take with me
Benoit Nave replies:
Nutrition is definitely a key point on your way to improved health and therefore
better performance. Nonetheless, it is a little more complex than getting
only the right quality and quantity of food. For us to be able to respond
to you precisely you would need to fill in a questionnaire that would help
us to know better how your body is working, i.e. body type, medical statistics
(allergies, digestive concerns, family disease history...etc.), we need to
know how much and when you train or work.
You'll find such a questionnaire at: www.2PEAK.com then go to menu > tools
and then again to the option > tools where you will find it. You are welcome
to fill it out and send it back to me.
Nutritional issues are very individual and what could be a good advice for
someone could be totally wrong for somebody else.
I read your response to the gentleman, Mark A., on September 24 asking about
tire pressures (he said he uses 140psi). You recommend 110-120 as the ideal
range and state that rolling resistance does not decrease significantly with
pressures higher than this. I am a large rider at 6'1", 200lbs. and routinely
run 150psi in my Vredestein tires which are rated for 145psi. I run this much
air because I have believed that my extra weight would "flatten out" the tire
more than a lighter weight rider would and I would as a result need to compensate
with higher pressures to achieve a similar "roundness" to the tire. Please let
me know if my assumptions were incorrect. Also please advise me about tires
with lower pressure ratings - do they roll as well at their rated 120 as my
Vredesteins do at their rated 145?
Cyclingnews tech editor John Stevenson replies:
Ben, it makes sense for heavier riders to run higher pressures. Rolling resistance
decreases with pressure and increases with the load on the tyre, so to balance
those factors a larger rider such as yourself should increase the pressure,
and as an added bonus you'll reduce your chance of 'pinch flats' caused by
hitting sharp edges such as potholes. You might also consider using fatter
There's enough variation in rolling resistance between tyres that it's impossible
to say if Brand X at 120 psi will roll as well as your Vredesteins at 145psi.
It will depend on the exact make and model of tyre in question.
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