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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 October 14, 2003

Dealing with post-crash fear
Effect of endurance training
Exercise-induced asthma
Keeping late season form
Time trialing and power output
Twice a day training
Training for touring
Coming back
Training toys

Dealing with post-crash fear

I am a 24 year-old Cat 3 female bike racer, cycling enthusiast and advocate. I love bicycling and bicycle racing. Unfortunately, a series of crashes and local incidents of road rage have resulted in me freaking out every time I try to ride. I was hurt pretty badly in college when I crashed (broken teeth and bones, sequelae). This year I crashed in four out of six races I entered. There have been some nasty incidents of road rage and related radio broadcasts by morons. This doesn't help.

My body has healed, but my brain hasn't as I just can't seem to control the panic response. Some days it is so bad that I have to get off my bike -- heart pounding, unable to breathe, visions of horrific bodily injury -- and sit by the side of the road until I calm down or I have to call someone to pick me up. I am terrified to do simple things on my bike that I once did with ease and enjoyment. Attending a race or a group ride seems a million miles away. I used to enjoy riding shoulder to shoulder and duking it out on the racing circuit. Do you have any suggestions to help me 're-wire' myself so I don't panic every time I am near a bicycle? Certainly this has happened to many people in varying degrees after a crash. I want to be in love with my bike again...

Liz Hansen
Durham, NC

Dave Palese replies:

Getting back on the horse after a bad incident, or a series of bad incidents is something every athlete has to deal with at some point in their career.

There are no sure-fire remedies, but here is the way I handle this situation with riders I work with.

First, give it time. Time and a thoughtful path to reenter the peloton is a key component to getting back in there. It appears that you haven't just hung the bike up and packed away the riding shoes, so that's good. In general, you have to make riding and racing fun again. Take the pressure off and get back to the basics of why you ride your bike in the first place. Do fun rides with friends and try not to think about racing or competition for a few weeks. Maybe find some low key group rides where there is some competition, like town line sprints or some paceline riding, but still very fun in general. You need to start feeling relaxed again on your bike. Feel like you have some control over your situation.

Take fifteen minutes a day, a few days a week and work on some positive imagery. There are a lot of texts out there that talk about this technique, but here is the gist. Find a quiet place where you can sit or lie down undisturbed for 15 minutes or so. Focus on imagining that tight corner or that wicked descent, a situation that would make you fearful if you had to negotiate it today. Imagine a tight field flying through this section of the course. You are in the thick of it. Every time the thought of things going badly enters your mind, open your eyes and stop the image. Start from the beginning and go through it again. Concentrate on making things go smoothly and without incident. It may take several attempts or even several sessions to make this happen. When performing this exercise, be as detailed as you can in your imagery. Sights as well as sounds, smells, feelings in your hands will make this more effective.

When you are feeling more confident, pick a few low key events to enter. Maybe road races as opposed to crits would be better to start. The best thing you can do going into an event is have a detailed plan for the race that will keep your mind off of crashing and all the things that can go wrong. Focus on the course and how you want to ride the race as opposed to just finishing without crashing. The general rule is that if you are worried about crashing, you have a better chance of doing so because you are nervous and tense. Relax as best you can and you'll be better for it. Getting back into the peloton after crashing is all about regaining your confidence. You can't control the way others ride their bikes, so focus on you and your bike handling and your group skills.

Hope some of this helps.

Effect of endurance training

Could you please explain to me the difference between a person who has base mileage of 700-800km per week (approximately four rides of 150km+) as opposed to somebody who does about 200-300km per week (approximately one ride exceeding 100km). Does it really make a big physiological difference to do so much training? Can a person be limited by the amount of base mileage he has? Also, does having a good aerobic base, increase the time you can ride at or above lactate threshold and does it increase your power at lactate threshold?

Kevin Kalis
South Africa

Dave Palese replies:

Training volume is dictated by a rider's target events and that rider's level of competition.

Can a person be limited by the amount of base mileage he has? Sure. If that rider has designs on competing in events where endurance will be limiter, but they haven't dedicated enough time to that training, they may find that they are not properly prepared come race day. Also, even riders whose target events are shorter, like criteriums and short circuit races, should be sure to address endurance and base aerobic fitness in their plan. Doing so will help to increase the quality of their higher output training and efforts later.

As far as increasing the time you can spend above threshold... Base endurance training helps to build the needed systems and efficiencies that help increase anaerobic endurance. So log those LSD (Long Steady Distance) rides. You'll be happy you did.

Exercise-induced asthma

I'm a 35-year-old male, 5ft 10in, 155lb. I'm an aggressive rider who rides 3-4 times a week, road and mountain. I'm discovering that when I take more than two to three days off consecutively and then jump back on the bike that I experience a shortness of breath for the first hour or so. If I ride consecutive days it isn't much of a problem; it only seems to be a problem after a couple days off or more.

If I'm riding alone I don't notice it as much, because I just find that comfortable pace until my lungs open up. But if I'm riding with people close to my level or even slightly below my level, they have an easier time putting the hurt into me. At times I literally pull off to the side and stop in order to let my breathing recover momentarily. It will slowly ease back into a comfortable rhythm and the rest of the ride can usually be salvaged but sometimes enough strain and damage has been done to impact the remainder of the ride. This is no fun! Do you have any insight?

Winston Churchill

Brett Aitken replies:

It's possible that the time off the bike is settling your body into a state of rest which then becomes a sudden shock to the system (causing your bronchial tubes to spasm) when you return to exercise. Being an exercise induced asthmatic myself I have similar problems at times but the severity of my asthma or shortness of breath is very much related to my fitness level (which is a result of weeks off the bike).

Probably the best solution is to treat your lungs and bronchial tubes as you would with your legs. You wouldn't go out and blow your legs to bits without doing a steady warm-up in the first 15 minutes. If you did your legs would feel like lead and you'd never get the maximum performance out of them. Well, the same goes for your lungs. They need to adjust to the change of effort as much as your legs before working to their most efficient level.

So next time you go out after a few days off, start off at a very low pace (about 50 percent of max heart rate) and gradually build this up over a good 15 to 20 minutes before you start riding at your standard pace.

Keeping late season form

I race in the Southeastern U.S. and am based out of Florida. Our mountain bike season here runs from February to December. Typically for AMBC and NCS events, we base our fitness to be really going well mid-summer. However, our State Championship is from August to December and a lot of us generally have a very hard time keeping it going that late in the year after such a long season. I am basically on a 700 hour year and race at the Semi-Pro level. My average week is 250 miles/15 hours or so (except recovery weeks). Because of the end of the year coming I have backed down the miles to 200 or so a week because of general fatigue and decreasing light. I'm a 24 year old male.

My question is regards to weights during racing. I know that I will lose some top end, but will the strength gains offset that? I was thinking low weight, high reps for minimal muscle fatigue, but wasn't sure. I have lifted during winter down time in the past with great result, but haven't tried it during a mid-season push. What do you think? My legs are just feeling a little 'toasted' and I was looking for a little more strength (without adding a ton of miles).

Andy Mills

Dave Palese replies:

I would suggest staying away from the weight room during the competition period. You would be better served spending your time doing training specific to your target events, or recovering.

Brett Aitken replies:

Strength gains from weight training come predominantly through high weights and low reps (4 to 6 reps) and not low weight and high reps (15+). Having said that, cycling isn't a sport that has much demand for weight training unless you specialize in short events such as the kilo or sprint on the track.

With cycling being quite a time-consuming sport as it is, you are much better off focusing all your efforts in gaining muscular strength and endurance on the bike by varying lengths of interval training with high power and low cadences (big gears). Not only is it more sport-specific as well but it still plays an important part in developing your cardiovascular system which you would have to make up for later if you were in the gym doing weights.

As with all strength training though it should start in the early part of the season and the remainder should involve a maintenance program. Since it's already past mid season for you then it wouldn't be wise to focus on building strength at this stage. You would be better to focus on cycling sessions which will build your lactate tolerance and VO2 max power which will give you much quicker gains and results.

Time trialing and power output

During a time trial or perhaps even a 180km Ironman bike ride, is it practical to ride by setting a target power output and sticking to it? If yes, how do you handle hills? If say you set a limit of 300 watts, which may be fine on the flat - when you get to a hill should you also maintain 300 watts or go higher. Or should you work out sustainable separate limits for on the flat and for hills.

Or is heart rate a better method for monitoring time trial efforts?

Eddie Monnier replies:

Wattage is ideal for pacing a TT effort, so long as you've set an appropriate target wattage level. The reason it's so helpful is because wattage provides instant and objective feedback about intensity, whereas heart rate lags effort somewhat and is affected by many factors unrelated to intensity (e.g., heat, humidity, diet, stress level, cardiac drift, etc.). Wattage is especially helpful in controlling the start of a TT effort since the natural tendency is for most people to go out far too hard.

Some people find that they can sustain slightly higher wattage levels on a climb vs. flat terrain, so it may be appropriate to target a certain power level on the flats and another on the hills. You can assess whether or not you fit into this category during training. Try doing your lactate threshold power intervals on flat terrain and on a sustained climb and see if you note any differences.

The descents are where it may be hardest to maintain a given wattage level. But since aerodynamic drag increases exponentially with increases in speed, it's harder to gain time advantages on a descent than on flat or uphill terrain, so tactically it usually better to conserve a bit on the descents and attack the other sections.

Twice a day training

I'm 38, male, a road cyclist. Currently, I train five days a week (three to four and a half hours on weekdays, four to eight hours on Saturday and Sunday, with endurance and interval programs) and I have decided to spend more time on training and plan to train twice a day. My question is, is it wise to split a two-hour ride into two in a day? Can I arrange one hour for intervals in the morning and take another one for endurance in the afternoon? Or are two one-hour sessions not effective compared with one single 90-minute to two-hour ride? Do I need to train just two weekdays on two-time training and make the other day or weekend a longer ride? What is the ideal combination? My rest HR is 48.

My second question is: how long does it take to lose your fitness if you are untrained and what is the minimal exercise to keep your fitness level maintained?

Alan Chang
Taipei, Taiwan

Dave Palese replies:

It is hard to give you solid answers to your questions without knowing more about you, but here are some general thoughts.

1.) Your total training volume sounds like plenty. Unless you are racing at an elite level, I would be careful how much more volume you add to your training week.

2.) Splitting your training as you describe can be beneficial. Doing an evening ride, at low intensity (Recovery-Endurance) can help some riders recover from a hard morning session and help prepare them for a training session the following day. My advice is try it and see if it works for you. I know that mentally, it can be just plain nice to take a short (60 minutes or so) easy ride after doing the hard stuff earlier in the day.

3.) With regards to how effective a split session is compared to one longer session. That all depends on what you are training for. For most of my riders here in the northeastern US, the weekend racing scene consists of criteriums and short circuit racing. So volume of training is not a huge priority. Most of my riders max-out at about three hours for their longest training sessions. Just keep your goals in mind when deciding on the length of your training sessions. If you warm up for 15-25 minutes, do your intensity, and then cool down for 20 minutes or so, that is usually enough. The length of your session will be determined by the total amount of intensity you have planned for that day.

4.) Every rider loses fitness at a different rate than another. But usually, you will start to see a loss of fitness after 10-14 days of complete inactivity.

Training for touring

I am a 27 year old guy wanting to get back into cycling. My teenage years were spent racing quite a lot - I was finishing in the top twenty places regularly by the age of 18 and continued road racing until the age of 22 when I stopped cycling altogether. I am reasonably fit for someone who hasn't actively started up a training program of any sort. I am buying a racing bike this weekend and want to be fit enough to tour through Europe by August next year. I plan to ride about 100km a day for about 3 weeks. What sort of training program should I be setting myself without overdoing it too quickly?

Michael Conway

Dave Palese replies:

Mike, welcome back to the sport!

Without knowing more about you, this is my advice.

First, study your trip map and try to get an idea of the terrain you will be riding on. 100ks on the flats training will be very different than 100k in the Alps on your trip. Try to gauge how long it will take you to cover 100ks on your trip. Maybe average the hardest day and the easiest. Error a bit on the longer side, and maybe you come up with a riding time of 4 hours. I don't know, I'm just using it as an example.

In the weeks leading up to your trip, you want to slowly increase the length of your training rides to that 4 hour mark. Your pace should be a comfortable one. This is going to be a vacation!

Start by riding for 90 minutes in the early sessions and increase your duration by about 10% a week. Doing so should allow your body to adapt and help to prevent overuse injuries. If your you winters aren't conducive to training outdoors, use an indoor circuit of aerobic exercise at your gym to get in your workouts.

Coming back

After getting back into racing shape in 2002 after becoming a father in 1998, my wife and I went and had another baby this past January. Needless to say, I did not race this year and rode no more than 5 miles a week most of the year. A fortunate turn of events has provided me with more time and I am looking forward to racing next year -- 2004.

I don't want to over-train or burn out, but I want the fall and winter months to be as constructive as possible to give me a good start next spring. I can train up to ten hours each week. I am a 41 year old and will be racing cat. 4 (I have been "on the bike" since 1982 and raced as a Cat. 3 in 1987-89).

Can you suggest a basic training program or philosophy for the next few months so that as I start increasing hours on the bike and intensity next Feb-March I am not already overtrained before the season starts. I am thinking that because I rode so little this past year that I can do more this fall. Is that a bad idea? Should I just look at 2003 as a total loss (besides the great baby boy named Mario!)

Greg Everett

Dave Palese replies:

I suggest you follow a periodized training plan starting this winter and into and thru next season. You'll want to start by setting goals to help you focus your energies. Goals need not be races or results based. What motivates one person is unique to that person. You just need to be honest about what motivates you.

You might think about getting involved with a coach so you can make the most of your time. Or, and I think Eddie will back me up on this, get a copy of Joe Friel's book, The Cyclist's Training Bible. If you take the time to really use the book the way it was intended, it should yield positive results.

In response to your assertion that since your training was limited in 2003 that you can "do more" this fall, don't ignore base training. A solid aerobic fitness foundation will help to increase the quality of your more specific training later.

Training toys

I am a 34 year old Cat 4 roadie in his first season of racing, 6ft 4in tall, 180lb. After making great strides this year and really reading a ton on training, I was thinking of making some purchases for the winter training season (going to be using the Joe Friel Cycling Bible as a guide). I currently use a CycleOps fluid trainer.

Power meter - Joe Friel recommends this as a worthwhile purchase, but it is certainly expensive ($799 for the PowerTap and $350 or so for the Polar Power Option). Is a power meter really worth the money, or, is perceived effort a fairly good approximation of effort? Additionally, is there a power meter you would recommend and why?

Computer trainer - specifically, the CompuTrainer. Again, it's the money. At $1,300 or so, a very steep investment (could be saving for a new bike). However, it appears that the quality of the indoor workout (I live in the Northeast) would be improved through the use of such a trainer. Would you go with the traditional trainer or make the investment in a computer trainer and which would you recommend and why?


Eddie Monnier replies:

As one of Joe Friel's coaches, I'm glad to hear you're progressing well with the program. I am a staunch advocate of power-based training and believe if you have the financial wherewithal to afford a good power meter, it is very worth doing so but only if you know what to do with it. I see many, many athletes who buy power meters and have no earthly idea what to do with the data. In my opinion, they would have been much better off spending that money on good coaching.

If you're the sort of person who is willing to buckle down and do the reading & research to use your new "training toy" effectively or are willing to get a coach knowledgeable in power-based training, then by all means I highly recommend it. It doesn't completely replace heart rate or perceived exertion, but it adds a very important third dimension to your training program. The three primary benefits are:

  • An ability to field test periodically to assess the efficacy of your training (eg, Have you improved your power at lactate threshold?)
  • Objective data to help identify & quantify relative strengths and weaknesses (eg, How many watts/kg can you sustain on a climb vs. where do you need to be in order to be competitive?)
  • Immediate and objective feedback useful for dosing intensity during interval training (eg, "Do X intervals of Y minutes at Z watts")

For my athletes that wish to purchase a power meter, I strongly encourage them to purchase a PowerTap, SRM or Ergomo as these are the only devices which I find to be consistently reliable. Each of these has its merits. If you cannot afford a new one, keep your eye out for a great deal on a used one.

I agree that a CompuTrainer or Velodyne can really improve the indoor training experience, but because they are limited to indoors only, I prefer my athletes to purchase a "portable" power meter first. I chose a Velodyne ( for my own use and to test athletes on because it has such a road-like feel, is a high quality ergometer, and is stable enough to sprint on.

Dave Palese replies:

A power meter is a very good investment. I would recommend it over the CompuTrainer, since it will give you feedback from the real world, i.e., your actual road training.

I recommend the Power Tap, (1) because it is a solid piece of equipment, and (2) because the price is right! The Power Tap, combined with your current trainer and a library of cycling videos should make logging the winter training a bit easier.

When using power, just remember not to ignore the other feedback you get from your body while training. I have been a big critic of riders putting too much emphasis on their heart rate numbers and ignoring the other messages that they are getting from their bodies. Learn to use all three intensity gauges (power, heart rate, and perceived effort) intelligently. Listen to your body and your training will be much more effective.

And remember, no gadget is a substitute for focused goals and a good work ethic.


Our training group of eight 50 year old guys is wondering if there is a way to calculate watts while doing a hill climb. I vaguely remember a formula in Cycle Sport by Jon Vaughters last year which required altitude climbed and time and distance ...


Brett Aitken replies:

I think this is a pretty good opportunity to promote a website I'm involved with which specializes in calculating your wattage on a hill climb. You can check it out at

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