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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 September 24, 2003

In or out of the saddle?
Help with nutrition
Tyre pressures


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.

Adrienne Owens

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 plants).

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 very disturbed.

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.

Richard Lewis
Lansdale, PA

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 shifting).

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 as well?

Rob Berry

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: 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.

Tyre pressures

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?

Ben Ross

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 tyres.

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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