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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 23, 2003

Recovering from over-training
Protein requirements
Big Upper body
Intervals on a home trainer
Joe Friel & other coaches

Recovering from over-training

I am a 40 year old female cyclist who has been road racing for 1.5 seasons, with a 3 year background in triathlon. My resting (not overtrained) HR is 42, my max is 193bpm. My AT HR is 170 and LT power is 190.

In the middle of the season, I could complete 3 x 20 min @ or near AT/LT. By the end of the season I could not complete even one. I train 5 days a week, with Mon and Fri off, or active recovery by spinning on rollers.

I ended the season this year absolutely wiped. Exhausted beyond anything I've ever experienced before (that includes 2 kids!). All medical tests come back normal, so it's not a medical thing. I sleep close to 10 hours a day right now and still feel tired. I took one entire week off completely from riding, with 2 days of VERY easy swimming to keep things loose. Then, for a week and a half, I rode one day, easy, and then rested for 2 days. Now I am riding every other day, very easy (HR in the aerobic zone, power in the light endurance/recovery zone for anywhere from 1 to 2.5 hours), but even though I can feel some progress towards regaining strength, I am still way more tired than I should be following these rides.

I know that stress contributed a great deal to my becoming overtrained (and I am working to alleviate that stress), as well as not allowing enough recovery time after/between hard races.

I follow a fairly regimented diet: lots of fresh fruit and veggies, some supplements, lean protein, etc. Low fat, complex carbs, not a lot of refined foods, but with an ocassional treat thrown in for fun!

I stretch every evening to relax, and practice deep breathing exercises as well. When I wake up in the morning, my leg muscles are kind of twitching and buzzing. Is that normal? What causes that? And am I doing it right to recover from my overtraining bout?

Should I be spending any time at all in the other zones? One article I read said to keep the intensity but drop the volume, another said that one should keep the HR low, both said for 5 weeks... what's the real scoop?

And lastly, once recovered, how do I regain the fitness lost without going back over the edge?

Kim Morrow replies:

Sorry to hear that you are feeling so fatigued. You mentioned the term "overtraining", and this may very well be your current condition. However, you may actually be "overreaching". While this may be a matter of semantics, these are also different states which should be approached a bit differently. If you have seen a decrease in your performance (ie. you used to be able to do 3 x 20:00 LT efforts, and now you can only do 1 x 20:00 effort) then this is certainly a warning sign. If there is a consistent decrease in your training/racing performance, then this issue needs to be addressed.

You asked a key question regarding how long your recovery time should be, and you mentioned that you had read several articles that suggested a 5 week recovery period. Well, this is one of the areas where the distinction between overtraining and overreaching is highlighted. (Although, this is not so easily definable, since trained athletes move along a continuum which includes undertraining, ideal training, overreaching, or overtraining.) But, if the accumulation of training stresses, and real life stresses, have you in a state of "overreaching", then several days or several weeks of proper rest/recovery will usually get you back to your normal performance capabilities. However, if you are in a state of "overtraining", then this could take several weeks to several months.

Each one of us is unique. The training plan that may put you in a fatigued state may work perfectly for another athlete. That is why it is important to have individual training programs, and if you are able, to have your own personal coach. A coach can add the objective eyes and ears that a motivated endurance athlete needs. Most of us are passionate and diligent in our training. And, I rarely have to challenge one of my coached athletes to work harder. Usually, I end up encouraging them to REST more, and to remind them that rest is an important part of the training process.

Since you mentioned that you have already visited your physician, I would encourage you to continue to focus on the areas of your life that you can control which will affect your recovery. Focus on good nutrition, rest, limiting other life stresses as much as is possible, and reducing both the volume and intensity in your training. How long will this take until you get the spring back in your step and/or the "snap" back in your legs? Unfortunately, that is not a question I can answer, as again, you are unique, and your body will recover at a different pace than another athlete.

But here are a few suggestions:

1) Be patient. This may take a bit longer than you want it to, especially if you are overtrained.
2) REST, REST and more REST. (Active recovery rides in zone 1 are fine.)
3) Keep a training diary of your recovery progress which includes the monitoring of your sleep, fatigue levels, stress, resting HR, etc.
4) Consider conducting a simple field test every few weeks in order to assess your recovery progress. The key is to note when your training is back to "normal" performance levels.
5) Schedule a follow-up appointment with your physician in a month or so.
6) Remember that this is the off-season, so it is a good time to take a break. I know this is tough, but try to ENJOY a break from serious training!
7) Consider making an assessment of this year's training program, to determine what you might do differently next year, and to record what you have learned.

Hang in there. I hope you feel better soon.

Protein requirements

I am a 23 year-old male Cat 3 road racer in the UK. I'm slightly worried that I am not getting enough protein in my diet. Though I'm not actually experiencing any symptoms that could suggest I may be protein deficient, I am conscious that a lack of protein could affect my performance or general health. My training load isn't huge (between 5 and 12 hours a week).

While I am by no means a vegetarian I'm not too bothered about eating meat; I'm happy on a mostly vegetarian diet with some fish. On a typical day I would eat the following:

Breakfast: glass of orange juice, bowl of porridge (with semi milk), cup of coffee

Lunch: Bulgur wheat salad or sometimes jacket potato with beans, yoghurt, cereal bar, apple

Dinner: potato, rice or pasta dish with vegetables and sometimes fish (tuna, prawns, sardines, salmon etc), fruit with yoghurt for dessert

Snacks would be fruit or toast. I avoid foods high in saturated fat but I'm aware I should probably eat more omega-3 and unsaturated fats.

I'm conscious of eating high GI foods, though this often doesn't work out well as I eat quite a lot of pasta or rice. I have an interest in nutrition and would appreciate some pointers to books on the subject (general nutrition books; I have sports nutrition information in other books).

Mark Drayton

Ric Stern replies:

It's unlikely that you're protein deficient. Protein requirements, either for the general population or for active people are quite low. The protein requirements even for the heaviest workloads are still comparatively small, especially in comparison to carbohydrate requirements.

Very heavy workloads that require 'large' amounts of protein are typified by extreme endurance events such as the Tour de France, Giro, Vuelta. The upper limit for protein intake is ~ 2.0 g/kg body mass per day during such events, although some recent reports do suggest that riders might consume up to 3 g/kg body mass per day.

However, during moderate volume training such as 5 to 12 hrs/week, protein requirements will be very modest, in the range of 0.8 to 1.5 g/kg body mass per day. For an 'average' sized rider of say 72 kg, that would work out at 58 to 108 g of protein per day.

As a committed ovo-lacto vegetarian myself (i.e., no animal products except dairy and eggs) i have no problem greatly exceeding the protein requirement. In fact most people would be hard pushed to meet and exceed the requirements for protein. Exceptions for this are likely to be people on a very restrictive 'fad' diet to loose weight, possibly vegans if they don't plan their food, and people who eat very little.

On the other hand for most club cyclists (i.e., 5 to 12 hrs/week), carbohydrate requirements would be ~ 5 to 8 g/kg body mass per day, i.e., 360 to 576 g CHO per day for a 72 kg cyclist.

Big upper body

I am a cat 3 wanting to upgrade to a 2. I had a great year this year but am still not climbing as well as I would like to upgrade. I use the Joe F. training system. I ride about 600 hr a year.I am 33 years of age and 175 lb. My body fat is low 4 or 5%. I'm a old gym rat and I still have a big upperbody for a bike racer. What can I do to change this? Would a low carb diet work well this winter? My diet now is I eat everything I see. Lots of sugar and carbs.

Des Moines, Iowa

Jim Lehman replies:

Without seeing you in person it is somewhat difficult to know what the full situation is. It sounds like you are a very fit and lean person, which is a good problem to have. The added upper body weight is most likely left over from your days in the gym. Unless you are still following an upper body weight training program, some of that upper body mass should begin to come off as you continue to train on the bike. Depending on your body type, you may find that you will always retain some of that upper body mass but it should begin to diminish over time.

A low carbohydrate diet is probably not the answer to your problems, especially considering your training load and racing aspirations. You need to focus on a well balanced diet and one that is appropriate for your level of training. It is most likely a question of how many calories your are eating rather than the fact that you have too many carbohydrates in your diet. Pay a visit to your local dietician and he/she can put together a nutrition strategy for you. In the meantime, keep riding your bike and avoid heavy upper body lifting.

Intervals on a home trainer

I am a 19 year old road rider, 65kg, 178cm with at the moment limited training time, my focus is to be in form for the end of the (now beginning) summer season for crits and road races in and around Sydney. My question essentially is can I carry out effective training by using a home trainer for building endurance (can this be done effectively) and spend my limited outdoor sessions focusing on speed and power?

Richard Tyler
Sydney, Australia

Dave Palese replies:

I would suggest using the trainer to develop speed and power. And use your outdoor time to work on the endurance aspect of your fitness.

Doing so will allow you to structure your power/speed sessions and also have a great deal of control over the sessions. It can be difficult to do power/speed sessions on the road, since terrain, traffic and weather can vary during intervals. It also will help to keep the length of your trainer time to a minimum.

When you go outside you can work on endurance and some longer, middle intensity intervals (7 minutes or so, to an hour).

Joe Friel & other coaches

I'm a 58-year-old who has been racing for six years, split between veterans and Surrey League/British Cycling events for 3rd Cats. I'm also a coach. During the winter in addition to the fortnightly on-the-road events, I'd like to do a couple of indoor sessions where riders sit down and listen to someone.

Does Joe Friel come to the UK? If so how could I contact him and what would he (potentially) charge? Does any other coach come to mind?

John Leitch

Eddie Monnier replies:

Joe regularly does speaking engagements (as do most coaches) and does occasionally travel overseas to do them. Organizing an event like this can be a great way to raise money for your club or team as well as bolster your knowledge. For Joe's latest schedule and to contact him, see

As for coaches who may be a bit more local to you, there are some excellent coaches in the Association of British Cycling Coaches. Two well known and very well respected coaches that come to mind are fellow panelist Richard Stern ( and Peter Keen (coached Chris Boardman, ran the British cycling program for some time).

Other Cyclingnews Form & Fitness articles