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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 email@example.com. Please include as much information about yourself as possible, including your age, sex, and type of racing or riding.
Fitness questions and answers for November 22, 2003
I'm a moderately fit 32 yr old male using cycling for weight loss & fitness improvements. I've been using the questionable 220-age to give an idea of max HR but find even a moderate (easily maintained pace) ride to be pushing 170+. My understanding is that fat burning is more effective in the lower regions of HR, but I become bored/ dissatisfied quickly when just rolling along maintaining 130-150bpm.
My question is, will staying in the upper zone 160+ still produce substantial results while increasing fitness levels. At this point I ride for health and enjoyment & maintain a healthy diet.. My knowledge of fitness/health/diet considerations is limited & I hope you can provide some direction..
Ric Stern replies:
Cycling is a great exercise for weight loss and increasing fitness, so keep
it up. The '220 - age' formula to give HRmax fits a general population but the
can be 'off' for a specific individual. If memory serves me correctly, the standard
deviation is +/- 15 b/min.
However, where the fuel comes from (i.e., fat or carbohydrate) isn't very important. To lose weight (fat) all you need to do is create a negative energy balance, i.e., you expend more energy than you consume. Negative energy balance can occur from
1) exercising more (than you currently are) -- either by greater volume, intensity
or a mixture of the two
Each 454 g (1 lb) of stored fat contains 3500 kcal. Thus to lose weight at a rate of ~0.5 kg (1 lb) per week, you would need to create a negative energy balance of 500 kcal/day. This could be from cutting out ~ 250 kcal of food and an extra 250 kcal of energy expended with more/intense cycling.
During cycling, you will expend more energy by cycling harder. However, by cycling harder you will cycle less (i.e., the effort that you can maintain for an 'all-out' sprint will leave you completely exhausted after about 30-secs, whereas by cycling very easy you might be able to ride continuously for many hours). To maximise weight loss (energy expenditure) you should cycle as hard as you can maintain for as long as you intend to ride without it affecting your subsequent training sessions.
Therefore, at your current training level it *appears* that you are exercising at a 'correct' training intensity (assuming that you can still ride the next day without undue fatigue and thus, riding at a much lower intensity).
Keep up the good work!
I'm a master's age beginning racer with an extensive background in weight training left over from my days as a rock climber. As a climber I realize the importance of strength to weight ratio when it comes to weight bearing sports like climbing, running and cycling so I've been leery of weight training for cycling. As it is my upper body is too big for cycling and I need to loose muscle mass. But I'm still in a quandary as to whether I should employ weight training to increase my leg strength and power. I need to increase my power at and above LT. I've read with great interest the debate on whether weight training is advantageous for cycling but am still unsure as to who to believe. It's confusing to hear Joe Friel and Chris Carmichael stress the importance of weight training, and hear how the entire Postal team employs it during the off season and to hear Ric Stern and other coaches say it's counterproductive or unnecessary.
Ric Stern replies:
In untrained and low fitness subjects, weight training will help cycling performance. weight training will also help *track* sprinters (e.g., 200m match sprinters, 500/1000-m TT, Olympic Sprint, etc). In trained (endurance) cyclists weight training will not have a beneficial effect and may well have a negative effect.
Time trial power, endurance training, VO2 max power etc will not be increased in (trained) riders with weights. In fact, the forces required at these efforts are actually very low, and can be met and exceeded by age, gender and mass matched healthy individuals. For example, a good amateur (average sized) racing cyclist might be able to TT at 250 to 300 W at ~ 90 revs/min. Assuming a crank length of 170mm, then the average force over one pedal rev, is equal to 156 to 187 Newtons (15.9 to 19 kg). It's therefore, highly unlikely that anyone would not be able to generate these forces. Of course maintaining these forces for a long period of time is the difficulty and this is trained on the bike at the power you'll be racing at, not with efforts/power that far exceed what you intend to do (else 200m match sprinters would be able to beat TdF racers at endurance racing).
I am a 19 year old road biker at Berkeley and I am really interested in getting into the field of sports training. I was wondering what background the panel members have, what did you study? I am having trouble chosing a major because I don't know what is most appriate for getting into sports training and medicine. I was also wondering what the benefit of having shaved legs in biking.
Ric Stern replies:
I'm not sure of everyone's qualifications, but I studied for a degree in Sports Science, have a Level 3 coaching qualification, and am undertaking a PhD in Exercise Physiology (directly related to cycling performance).
Other closely related subjects at degree level are Exercise Physiology, Sport and Exercise Science, Exercise Science, Coaching Science, Sports Medicine, etc. A careers advisor should be able to help you discover, which areas you want to work in.
Hairy legs look silly?
I am a 38 year old male cyclist. My max HR is 188, resting 42. I have been racing XC mountain bikes for the last 9 years. I monitor my average HR at every race, starting and stopping the monitor on the start/finish line to get an accurate recording. Without fail my average racing HR always ranges from 169 to 171 BPM which equates to 90 - 91 percent MHR.
My question is: What does this average HR represent? I have never had a formal test conducted so am unaware of my Lactate Threshold etc. During hill repeats I generally can hold around 175 BPM.
Ric Stern replies:
Quite simply this figure represents your average HR during a MTB race. It would possibly also represent your average HR during another type of race of a similar duration too.
Lactate threshold, is likely to be a considerably lower figure than this, as LT is defined generally as a workload that elicits a 1 mmol/L increase in exercise baseline levels or a fixed value of 2.5 mmol/L. This is a workload that can be sustained for up to several hours (plus) in trained cyclists.
The workload associated with LT is likely to be ~ 15 to 20 percent less than that, that can be sustained a 1-hr time trial.
I am a 28 year cyclist who is looking to begin time trialing next year (up to 50 miles), however in an attempt to get a solid base of endurance prior to beginning speed work next year I am struggling to build any endurance due to lack of time caused by work, family commitments and Scottish weather conditions .
Making the most the time available to myself I have started to cycle to work 3 - 4 times per week, which is 15 miles each way with 2-3 hrs riding on a Sunday.
I have recently purchased a mid-range Elite turbo trainer to help with my endurance but I'm lacking in knowledge for endurance programmes. Can your panel of experts give me some advice on the best way forward to build endurance.
Ric Stern replies:
It seems like you already have the endurance necessary to race 50 miles, as you're already training at longer distances. However, some base TT work can be done over the winter to maintain any summer time gains you had.
I frequently suggest moderate tempo session on the trainer, ~ 1-hr at zone 3, and/or 1 to 3 x 20-mins @ zone 4. These can be performed indoors in bad weather or outdoors (on the road, track) for a more specific session. Higher intensity sessions (e.g., zone 5 and 6) can also be performed over the winter.
One of the coaches on the panel here (including myself) will be able to help you out with your programme.
I recently got into road cycling and would like to train this winter for races next year. A male friend, who is a Cat 4 racer, stresses the importance of low weight and body fat for racing, but I am wondering how low I should go? He comes up with some crazy figures, like 6-8 percent. Is that healthy for a female? I am a 30-year old female, 5 ft. 3 inches, weight is 105 lbs. I don't know what my current body fat percent is, but I would estimate it at 20 percent. I'm sure I need to decrease my body fat, but how? I ride/spin 6 days a week for about 55 minutes each day during the weekday and at least 2 hours on a weekend.
Jim Lehman replies:
Body composition and body image are always an issue in sports and cycling is no exception. In fact, cyclists are prone to eating disorders in a effort to attain that ideal body weight, composition and image. The first step is for you to have your body composition tested before you start thinking about changing it. The standard for body composition testing is hydrostatic weighing and you can usually have this test performed at a local university or hospital. If you cannot find a location that can perform this analysis, skin fold measurements are a good alternative. Be sure that you go to a place with experienced technicians so you can get consistent measurements, thus allowing you to compare one test to the next. As far as norms for your age group, here is a list of the percentiles for females age 30-39 (this information is adapted from American College of Sports Medicine 2000).
Percentile percent Body Fat 90 15.5 80 18.0 70 20.0 60 21.6 50 23.1 40 24.9 30 27.0 20 29.3 10 32.8
Once you have a baseline and a realistic view of your body composition, then you can work on changing if change is needed. Be sure to work within healthy norms and don't let your training or health suffer in an effort to minimize body fat.