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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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include as much information about yourself as possible, including your age, sex, and type of racing or riding.
I'm a 33 year old whose last race was 12 years ago. Since then I've run competitively (15:50 5km, 2:41 Marathon). Next year I want to race bikes again. I'm 6ft 1in and 140 pounds and naturally have lousy acceleration but decent endurance and climbing. I've ridden one or twice a week over the last few years. I probably have time to train about 10 hours a week. How should I adjust a normal training schedule to fit my background?
Georg Ladig replies:
Welcome back to the best sport in the world! Due to your aerobic fitness from running it shouldn't be a big problem for you to catch up soon. You need to build your specific power, depending on the type of race you are looking for.
A criterium wouldn't be the best choice in the beginning. The best races for your ability are rather long events, where you can rely on your good endurance. The shorter the race, the higher the anaerobic capacities and the demand for power. You might compensate for your lack of force in the beginning with higher RPMs to develop the power (power = force x speed) - but this depends on your ability to spin fast and comfortably.
If you go for longer road races or road marathons then your goal should be to improve muscular endurance - this is the key to competitive cycling anyway. That means you need to integrate interval work around your threshold in your base endurance work. Start with a short session - 2 x 2 minutes for instance - and prolong length and repetitions over time. Do some of the interval work at low RPMs to improve force (50-60 RPM).
I would start with power intervals right from the beginning - so you have more time to develop the necessary strength before the first races start. But be aware of the periodization! Work on the power during intense weeks and respect recovery times and normal base endurance work, where you convert your running endurance to bike endurance. During the base endurance work include speed drills - spin 10 RPMs faster then you would do naturally - keep the high cadence for an extended period of time. Speed drills are best done when you are fully recovered.
During the base endurance work you can also integrate very short and hard intervals (e.g. 3-10 x 6 seconds) at maximum power without compromising the endurance work because these very short intervals don't build lactate - but improve the bike specific force you are looking for. Do these intervals during the first hour of your endurance ride.
Good luck for the upcoming year!
I'm a 34 year old male roadie (Cat 4). I raced back in the early 1990s (Cat 3), took time off to get married and have a family, and am now getting back in to racing in 2004. I'm 5ft 11in and weigh 160 pounds. I've been training intensely all year and am in as good, if not better, shape now than when I was 20-something. When I was born I had a heart murmur. It went away with age. Subsequent tests have shown that my murmur is no longer (I was tested before I started racing back in the early 1990s and I was tested before back surgery in 2002). I do not drink or smoke, my blood pressure is very good. My resting heart rate is in the low to mid 30s.
When racing in my 20s the highest heart rate I saw was 202. Yesterday, while climbing and simulating attacks, etc., my heart rate reached 213 for a second, then went back down to 203. I was really pushing the pace, however I didn't feel bad at all, I felt like I was just pushing the pace. I use a cheap, wireless heart rate monitor and there were telephone/power lines on the road I was riding on, but I've never seen my monitor go wacko so I'm inclined to trust its readings.
Do you think 213 is accurate? Are wireless heart rate monitors affected by power lines intermittently? Should I be concerned with a max HR of 213 or do you think 203 was the accurate reading? Should I test it again on a different hill? Should I see my doctor? At my age I expected my max to be in the 190s. This took me by surprise and I'm a little concerned.
Dave Palese replies:
It's tough to say whether the 213 number is too high or not. It is possible that there may have been some interference with the monitor. The best thing to do is observe your heart rate over time and look to see if numbers in that 213 range show up again. If not, then it was a fluke.
You will also want to observe your HR under controlled circumstance, i.e., testing on an ergometer or the like, to track your fitness and set and adjust your training zones.
But before you start any training program, you should visit your doctor and get a complete physical. Not because of having seen this weird number, but just because it is a good idea to do so at the start of every training year.
During intense periods of training, I like to speed up my recuperation everyday with a recovery drink in powdered form. The products suggest mixing it with water, however I prefer the taste of milk.
My riding buddy claims that mixing the recovery drink with milk defeats its purpose, that the lactose in the milk only added to the lactic acid build-up in my legs.
Is this true?
Jim Lehman replies:
There are some issues with using milk as part of your recovery drink, but it is not because it contributes to the lactic acid build up in your legs. Lactose is a sugar or form of carbohydrate that is composed of glucose and galactose and it occurs only in milk. On the other hand, lactic acid is a product of glucose metabolism via glycolytic metabolism or what is conventionally known as anaerobic metabolism. Although the two words have similar roots, they are quite different in their purposes and their effects on exercise and recovery.
The primary goal of a recovery drink is to replace the glycogen stores that have been utilized/depleted during exercise. Your goal should be to ingest a carbohydrate drink that contains between 6-8 percent carbohydrate solution, which is optimal for absorption. Sucrose, maltodrextrins and glucose have similar absorption rates and there is some evidence that a small amount of fructose may help absorption rates and carbohydrate metabolism. Lactose does not absorb as quickly and many people have difficulty digesting lactose, which will further impede the recovery process. In addition, mixing your recovery drink with milk will also increase the carbohydrate concentration, which will decrease the absorption rate. Try mixing the same drink with water and see if it changes your response.
So your riding buddy was partially right, just not for the correct reasons.
Good luck with your training.
Eddie Monnier replies:
I'll add a few comments to those provided by Jim.
First, it's likely that by the time you're enjoying a recovery drink, most if not all of the lactic acid has been cleared from your muscles by the circulatory system so you don't need to worry about "adding to the build-up." The lactic acid formed in the muscle is a by-product of anaerobic energy production (anaerobic glycolysis).
Second, as Jim pointed out, lactose, is a carbohydrate in milk and occurs in the milk of all mammals. It is broken down in the intestine by the enzyme lactase to form the simple sugars glucose and galactose. Lactic acid is formed when lactose is broken down. You should also note that lactic acid is present in a number of foods including yogurt and cheese, is used to produce certain acid-fermented foods (eg, sauerkraut), and is even used in winemaking. In other words, even if you did have build up in your legs, you wouldn't be adding to it by eating food that has or is broken down to lactic acid.
Finally, milk is a low glycemic index food. You can make a homebrew recovery drink by adding a few tablespoons of sugar or honey to increase the glycemic level to aid in restoring glycogen levels. So, whether you continue to mix with your recovery supplement or make your own recovery homebrew, feel free to continue to enjoy your milk knowing that it's not hindering your recovery.
I have a motorbike and I'm willing to take out the odd rider on the road for some solid speed training when we get closer to the season. However I have never towed riders along before, and there is a big onus on the rider to basically keep their eyes open and not to ride into the back of me!
Is it up to me to simply keep the speed at say 45kph and assume he can manage to hold on? Is it up to me to check my mirrors every 10 seconds and ensure that I haven't left him behind? I'd like to hear from motorbikers who regularly take guys out on the road -- any general tips?
And what about the training regime? I hear about a lot of pros going out and riding 2-3 hours and then meeting up with "the wife" or whoever has the motorbike, and then they ride at 50kph for 1.5 hours... I presume that's the general idea? Any feedback from coaches, pros or experienced riders would be very helpful.
FYI - I ride the road bike almost every day but I very seldom race nowadays.
Brett Aitken replies:
The most important thing for a motorpace driver to do is to aim to keep the pace as constant as possible. With the power of a motor under you it's easy to surge ahead or even worse slow down with a rider hard up on your back wheel. You will also need to be aware of the rider's movements behind you via your mirrors or by listening to their signals to go faster or slower. On hilly terrain it can be hard to judge what speed a rider can handle, therefore the speed should predominantly be dictated by the rider behind giving you these signals.
Other than that it's really up to the rider to be aware of all other situations that may occur which could be potentially dangerous. As in a bike race a cyclist needs to be conscious of the wheel in front of them but they also need to be looking ahead to where they are going so they can brake when needed. I'd therefore suggest the rider looks at the back of the seat instead of the back of the wheel for judging the distance to sit behind. This will give the rider a much greater scope of the coming obstacles (eg. traffic lights, potholes) so that they can be prepared for any sudden braking.