Cyclingnews TV   News  Tech   Features   Road   MTB   BMX   Cyclo-cross   Track    Photos    Fitness    Letters   Search   Forum  

Recently on

Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

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 November 20, 2002

Weight training
Effective Winter Training
Stationary bikes
Hand numbness

Weight training

I am a cat 4 racer looking to be a cat 3 by the end of the 2003 season. I am 6ft, 140 lbs.

I have a uneven amount of strength in my legs. My left leg is considerably weaker than my right. I do single legged exercises as much as possible. What specific weight training exercises should I do in the fall/winter months to increase my power? How many times a week should I lift legs?

I have been doing base training about 9 hours a week. Should I mix any intensity training in at all during the fall/winter months? If so what specific training should I concentrate on?

Dana Matassa

Ric Stern replies:

Dana, There are two specific issues here as regards the weight training. Firstly, it may well be of importance to have your legs tested by someone such as a physiotherapist - to try to ascertain what the imbalance is, and the magnitude of it.

As regards cycling, strength and power, assuming that you are some sort of endurance rider very little strength is required for cycling. In fact many cyclists are no stronger than age and sex matched healthy (non-cycling) individuals. Strength has little or no bearing on cycling performance.

Most research using trained cyclists or triathletes shows no correlation between muscular strength and cycling performance (e.g., Bentley et al., (1998). Correlations between peak power output, muscular strength and cycle time trial performance in triathletes. J Sports Med Phys Fitness Sep: 38(3): 201-7, and Bishop et al., (1999). The effects of strength training on endurance performance and muscle characteristics. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1999 Jun; 31(6): 886-91). On the other hand, untrained cyclists may derive a benefit from resistance training.

However, the less time you have available for training the more important it is to do cycle training.

If you want to increase your cycling performance (power output) then follow a periodised cycle training programme. A cycle coach can be invaluable (either a local one or an internet one).

Depending on your goals, and what you hope to achieve then it maybe worth incorporating some moderate to high intensity training into your schedule.


I am a 29 year old who has been racing for a number of years with mixed results. I have decided that after many years of haphazard training, I would train carefully throughout the fall and winter in preparation for a breakthrough year of racing. With this in mind I have begun a preparatory phase consisting of: a twice weekly weight training program, a day or two of running, a few days on the trainer in targeted training and the weekend on the road pursuing longer base miles.

Every Wednesday for several weeks now, I have also been taking a one hour yoga class (as well as stretching before and after each my other daily workouts). My wife teases me since I am often one of only two men in the class, but I feel great and relaxed after yoga. I have read that one problem with cycling is that it shortens ligaments and muscle tissue increasing the likelihood of injury and/or counterproductive training. How true is this? How helpful do you think yoga might be for cycling related health and fitness? I can attest to its mental benefits, but do you think it would be more effective to simply use that time to ride?

Washington D.C.

Dave Palese replies:

Michael, I don't know what goals you have set out for yourself looking to next season, but it sounds like you are spending enough time on the bike.

Cyclists are classically some of the least flexible athletes around, so anything you can do to increase your flexibility, especially in your hamstrings, will benefit you in your riding.

Increased flexibility in the hamstrings holds many benefits for cycling including, but not exclusive to, greater power transfer to the bike as well as often allowing the rider to assume a more aerodynamic position. These two points alone can contribute to faster speeds. I would continue with the yoga if you can fit it in.

You commented that it has mental benefits too, and that is always good. If you don't feel that the routine is not hitting your hamstrings enough, ask your instructor about positions that might help.

One note about flexibility training: when I give my riders these types of routines, it is usually the first thing to disappear from their diary returns when the weather turns warmer. Try to avoid neglecting stretching/flexibility when the season starts.

When you move into your more specific phases of training, you will be adding higher load, more explosive workouts (sprints, hill repeats, high output intervals). These types of efforts tend to kick-off the tightening up process, so make time for stretching/flexibility training when your body needs it most. One to two, 15 minute sessions per week is good. Be sure your muscles are warm when you stretch. Stretching after a workout is usually more advisable.

Effective Winter Training

I am a 47 year old masters cyclist from Minnesota who competes in road races, TTs, and crits throughout the spring, summer and early fall. During the season I typically put in between 250 and 300 miles/week. I am fairly competent as a cyclist with my major weakness being my sprint. This has resulted in my having a large number of second place finishes after instigating breakaways in road races and crits. This season, I tried time trialling for the first time and found that it was something I thoroughly enjoyed and was quite good at.

Given the climate and reduced hours of daylight in Minnesota (it has already snowed a number of times) I find it necessary to limit late fall, winter, and early spring training to cross country skiing, weightlifting using a periodization approach, and using a trainer. In recent years, I have been coaching a high school cross country team so quality training hours of skiing have been reduced forcing me to spend more time on the trainer to be in decent condition when I first start racing in April. I have two basic questions regarding off-season training: one has to do with equipment, the other with a program that will strengthen my sprint and help me further develop as a time triallist.

I currently use a Cyclops fluid trainer but beyond using a heart rate monitor to ensure I am actually training as opposed to putting in "garbage hours" I have little way to monitor my progress over what can be as long a period as 5 months. I am currently looking at purchasing a more advanced trainer/training system that will provide me with greater feedback in the hopes that this will both allow me to train more intelligently and be more motivated to use the trainer during the winter months. I have looked at a number of possibilities including Computrainer, Powertap, and a Cardgirus trainer (advertised on the Cyclingnews website). However, I am not sure what I should be looking for with respect to feedback/software (e.g., cadence, watts, ability to conduct fitness tests etc.) and have not had the opportunity to use more than the Powertap system. Any suggestions you have with respect to what I should be looking for that would enhance the effectiveness of my training or information as to the quality and reliability of the above mentioned training systems would be greatly appreciated.

I would also appreciate any information regarding specific workouts on which I should concentrate during the winter in order to improve my TTing and sprinting.

Brian Abery
Apple Valley, Minnesota USA

Dave Palese replies:

Brian, In regards to your trainer set-up: I have always been big fan of the Cateye Cyclosimulator. For the money, about $390 bucks, it gives you a lot. The LCD display gives you a great amount of feedback including speed, average speed, power output and more. Although the watts may not accurate to the real world, they are very effective in comparing one session to the next. Used in conjunction with your HRM and bike computer, it can be a great tool for the money.

As far as workouts to improve your sprint and time trial, these are two completely different types of efforts.

The effort of a time trial is a threshold-centric effort and is improved by increasing your power output at or around your threshold. I prescribe different types of efforts at different times of the year to work this ability.

This time of the training year, during the General Preparation period, you'll want to start by doing basic Threshold intervals. These efforts are steady state intervals that keep you at an intensity at or just below your threshold. These intervals can be anywhere from 5-30 minutes. Increase your total amount of threshold training by 5-10 minutes during a session from one week to the next. As a general rule, the rest between intervals is usually equal to the length of the previous interval.

Later, you'll want to move on to intervals that take you just above your threshold for a short period and then relax you back down to a point just below.

As the weeks past you should see your output a given HR and perceived effort rise.

An important note about the term "threshold". When I use the word threshold above, I am referring to ones estimated anaerobic threshold that most of us get from performing a Conconi test or similar protocol, and not one's actual lactate threshold, which is determined through testing in a laboratory. In the context of the intervals described above, the target training zone would be Threshold, or Zone 4.

As for improving your sprint, this can be approached on two fronts: leg strength and leg speed and pedal stroke efficiency at high cadences.

For the strength component, time the gym is can be an option, but that can be a book in itself. On the bike, this time of year, try starting with a mix of sprints in a big gear, 53x16-14, starting from a near standstill. Try as hard as you can to get on top of the gear sprinting all out for 8-10 seconds. Do the same but in a very small gear, 39x19-17, jumping hard out of the saddle, getting up to a high cadence and then sitting down to reach maximum cadence. Hold your leg speed for 8-10 seconds.

Rest between both sprint types above is 2-5 minutes or until you feel ready to go again.

Start with 3-4 sprints per session.

You mentioned a lot of second place finishes after establishing the breaks. You might want to take critical look at your strategies and tactics too. Riding the smart race can often be the thing that puts you on the top step of the podium.

Eddie Monnier replies:

Brian, Many racers would love to have your problem -- congrats on the many podium finishes. As for moving you to the top of the podium, you need to assess whether it's a lack of power or poor sprinting tactics that are denying you the victories you seek.

Power = Force x Speed

To sprint faster, you either need to pedal a bigger gear (Force) at the same cadence, pedal the same gear at a faster cadence (Speed Efficiency), or both. So two things you can work on during the Base training period to help your sprint are Force (i.e., strength) and Speed Efficiency. Force can be developed by lifting in the gym (squats, lunges and one-legged leg presses) and/or big gear work on the bike (50-60 rpm, focus on driving pedal down).

To improve your Speed Efficiency, work on your leg speed by doing spin-ups (10 secs fast, 10 secs faster, 10 secs fastest rpm you can hold without bouncing) and isolated leg drills (unclip one leg and, with the other, pedal 10 revolutions). As you move into more intense training, you can incorporate sprints in group workouts.

Realize that you may never be a Cipollini, but it's still important to maximize your ability. You can then start to experiment with tactics. Are you better off with a long, drawn out sprint or a short, furious pop? Experiment on your training rides.

It sounds like you've already had success with TT'ing, so whatever you were doing must have worked. Generally, you want to do intervals at lactate threshold (a reasonable field test is to do a 30-minute full effort TT; your average HR for the last 20-mins if you train by HR or, if you train by power, your average power for the entire 30-minutes). You may want to start at 2 x 10 minutes and work up to 2 x 20 minutes. Don't start doing these until late Base.

Regarding your question about training devices, the Cardgirus unit seems nice based on the info I've seen. The only person of whom I am aware that purchased one has been quite happy. Besides being considerably less expensive, the PowerTap (full disclosure: I'm a happy PowerTap user) offers you the added advantage of enabling you to train with power outdoors.

Stationary bikes

Now that winter is upon us, I've gotten back into the gym to try and maintain fitness until next season. The exercise cycles that I use allegedly tell you how many watts you are pushing, but the wattage doesn't vary with changes in cadence, and body weight doesn't factor into the equation at all. It seems to be a fixed number programmed into the machine based on predetermined "levels". Should I use these numbers as a true indication of how many watts I'm able to ride at? Or should I only rely on them as benchmarks to determine progress, or base my workouts on over the course of the winter? Actually, what I really want to know is, how can I compare my seemingly heroic efforts in the gym to Lance's 400+ Watt average up Alpe d'Huez? Am I really that far behind, or are the numbers I'm reading totally arbitrary?

Eric Gribbell

Eddie Monnier replies:

Eric, a couple of things. First, absolute power output is independent of weight, so the fact that you don't enter your weight does not affect the stationary bike's ability to calculate your power output. [This is why when comparing climbing ability, we normalize to watts/kilogram.]

Second, you are correct that if your cadence increases and force stays the same, you should see a power increase (Power = Force x Cadence). However, if you increase the cadence and don't see an increase in power, the bike is decreasing the force (i.e., making the gear smaller). Some stationary bikes have a button to prevent the decrease in gear size, so that if you pedal faster, you'll realize a higher cadence. On the LifeCycle bikes, it is the "Race" button.

Lastly, you could call the bike manufacturer and ask them about the accuracy of the wattage mechanism. Of course, it would be impacted by the maintenance practices of the gym (e.g., periodic calibration if necessary). Regardless of the accuracy of the bike you use, I can assure you that we're all "really that far behind Lance." ;-)

Dave Palese replies:

Eric, Those numbers that you get on gym bikes are usually generalizations as to your power output. I wouldn't look at them as any indication of your actual power output on the road.

As far as using them as a way to track your training, it is hard to say. I don't know all the particulars of the bike you are riding but I would think that, in conjunction with your heart rate monitor (if you have one), you could use the gym bike in some way to track and determine your workouts.

For instance, if you did a particular pre-programmed workout on the gym bike (i.e., a hills workout that last 24 minutes. This is a workout common to the Lifecycle brand of gym bike), you could record your average heart rate when completing that session on a certain resistance level setting. As the weeks pass, you should see your average heart rate drop. Doing this you could make an educated decision as to when you should increase the resistance level to keep the intensity in a beneficial range.

It all kinda depends on what you goals are, but this is one way you could use gym bike "constructively". I will say if you are considering putting some importance on your winter training, you might want to invest in a home trainer. Your ability to perform workouts to address your specific cycling needs is much easier to do and the sessions can be much more effective.

As far as comparing yourself to Lance, when you find out what planet he is from, let me know. But seriously, you aren't that far behind. He is just that far ahead.


Ever since I've started cycling I've discovered that I take very long to recover from hard cycling efforts. Complete recovery for a 60 mile race usually takes me about three days. I'm 17 years old, I weigh about 125lbs and train approximately 200 miles a week. I've considered scaling down on the frequency of my hard training rides with ample recovery inbetween. Would you advise this to improve my recovery, then gradually increase the frequency of my hard rides.

Kevin Kalis
Oudtshoorn, South Africa

Dave Palese replies:

Kevin, Your reported recovery time from a 60 mile road race is not out of the ordinary.

I'd be curious to know what you are using to judge if you are recovered.

If you mean that your resting heart rate has not dropped down to it's "rested" level, this can take several days, especially during competition periods that contain numerous hard training/racing sessions.

If you are using how your legs feel to judge your recovery status, and three days after the race your legs are feeling a bit heavy, you might try active recovery after the event. First try to take a longer cool down. Spin easy for 20-40 minutes after your race ends. Include short, 2-3 minute blocks of higher cadence spinning (90-100rpm). Be sure to start the dehydration process as soon as you cross the line. Proper post race nutrition will also help get the recovery process going.

Then for the next 1-2 days, spin easy for 40-60 minutes to loosen up and promote blood flow to the muscles. When your legs feel pretty normal, you can resume your training to bridge to your next event. During competition periods, don't force it. If you aren't feeling the mojo, keep the workout easy. No sense leaving your legs on the road in the middle week only to be wishin' you had brought them to the race on Sunday.

You can also expect that if you follow thoughtful training programs in the years to come, your recovery from hard events will improve with time.

Ric Stern replies:

Recovery from races can take several days depending on fitness. This is perfectly normal, especially if the race has been very demanding. It may also be that 200 miles a week is too much for you at this time and you need to build up to this slowly. I'd also ensure that you have at least 72 hours between hard sessions to allow your glycogen (body's carbohydrate) stores to not get to run down.

Furthermore, at the end of a race or hard/long training session you should ensure that you consume about 1.5 g of carbohydrate per kilogram body mass, which for you is about 85 - 90 grams of carbohydrate. This should be within 30 minutes of the finish. You should continue to eat plenty of carbohydrate and drink fluids to rehydrate yourself, as this will aid recovery. More information can be found here:

As well as this you should really be looking at developing a periodised training programme, so that you can have a gentle increase in training that won't suddenly fatigue you. A coach will be able to help you.

Hand numbness

25 years ago in America I recall a reference to chronic hand numbness in bicyclists called "cyclosclerosis." I believe it referred to a compression or pinching of a nerve, resulting in numbness. Two months ago a friend completed a 500-mile ride in six days. He did not have significant saddle time prior to the ride. As a result of this ride he has had continued numbness in right hand. I've occasionally had hand numbness, but it always goes away in a day or two. What is the cause of this condition? And what remedies would you suggest (other than obviously seeing a doctor)? Thank you for your time and consideration.

Michael Brown
Ft. Wayne, IN USA

Eddie Monnier replies:

Michael, If the numbness experienced by your friend is in the little and/or ring finger, this is relatively common in cyclists. "Ulnar neuropathy" (or sometimes "cyclists' palsy") as it is known, is usually caused by constant pressure on the palm and/or heavy road vibration, which irritates the Ulnar nerve. However, it can be caused by non-cycling factors as well (e.g., a benign tumor). If your friend's condition has persisted, he should certainly see a doctor.

Steps that can be taken to decrease the occurence include changing hand position frequently (hoods, drops), wearing padded gloves, using padded bar tape, and ensuring proper bike fit (especially checking the seat to bar distance).

Other Cyclingnews Form & Fitness articles