Fitness questions and answers for February 10, 2004

Got a question about fitness, training, recovery from injury or a related subject? Drop us a line at...

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.

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.

Steve Owens ( is a USA Cycling certified coach, exercise physiologist and owner of Colorado Premier Training. Steve has worked with both the United States Olympic Committee and Guatemalan Olympic Committee as an Exercise Physiologist. He holds a B.S. in Exercise & Sports Science and currently works with multiple national champions, professionals and World Cup level cyclists.

Through his highly customized online training format, Steve and his handpicked team of coaches at Colorado Premier Training work with cyclists and multisport athletes around the world.

Brett Aitken ( is a Sydney Olympic gold medalist. Born in Adelaide, Australia in 1971, Brett got into cycling through the cult sport of cycle speedway before crossing over into road and track racing. Since winning Olympic gold in the Madison with Scott McGrory, Brett has been working on his coaching business and his website.

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.

Michael Smartt ( is an Associate Coach with Richard Stern Training. He holds a Masters degree in exercise physiology and is USA Cycling Expert Coach. Michael has been a competitive cyclist for over 10 years and has experience coaching road and off-road cyclists, triathletes and Paralympians.

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.

Climbing, strength & anemia
Etape du Tour
Fibula fracture - recovery time?
Heart rate training
Improving the "jump"
Low heart rate
Mixing interval and endurance training


How should a rider prepare for an event that is hosted in a town where the main street is 7,000 feet? The town says its elevation goes from 6,500-10,000 feet. Where we live the elevation is 300-500 feet. How long would we need to be at the venue to acclimate? How much better would this be than the alternative of showing up as close to the race date as possible?

Mark Paggioli

Scott Saifer replies:

What you do about this question depends on how serious you are. Assuming you don't have the money for an altitude tent but that you are a serious bike racer with freedom to travel, I'd suggest going somewhere that you can sleep at over 6000 feet elevation for about three weeks, return home for one week, and then return to the venue one week in advance of the event. This would make a huge difference in your ability to race at altitude. Remember that it is spending time breathing at altitude and not training at altitude that is important.

The next best solution is to get whatever altitude exposure you can over the months before the event and then go to the venue about a week early. Even a few weekends scattered over the two or three months before the event will make a difference. It turns out that erythropoetin, the hormone that increases with exposure to altitude and which makes you produce more red blood cells, reaches a high peak level in your blood in the first short while after arrival at altitude, and returns to a level above normal but quite a bit lower than the peak within a few days. This suggests that several exposures to altitude of a few days each might be as effective or more effective than single longer exposures. As far as I know this idea has not been studied scientifically, or at least I haven't seen the results published. (If you decide to give this a try, I'd love to hear about your results.) After that the best is to go a week early.

If you can't go at least five days early, arrive at the last possible time. One of my clients who is extremely sensitive to his own body and has done a fair amount of altitude racing reports that if the race finish is more than 18 hours after his arrival at altitude he notes a decrease in performance. If you go to altitude a few days before the race, you will feel better (less out of breath) on race day, but you will ride slower in events over a few minutes in length. This is because one of the first things your body does to adjust to altitude is to dehydrate itself. This makes the blood thicker so it can more effectively deliver oxygen at low exercise intensities, but it also decreases your endurance as you are partially dehydrated before you begin to ride. You can not correct this by drinking more water. That will simply make you pee more. Good luck.

Climbing, strength & anemia

I started regular cycling last fall (but I did it occasionally before) and want to climb Mt Ventoux next summer with a bunch of friends. I'm 24yrs old, 1,87 tall, weighing around 82-83Kg and always did a lot of sports (running, surfing, windsurfing) before I got into cycling.

I curiously read most of the "strength and cycling" articles and found the viewpoint of Ric Stern quite plausible. But everytime I climbed so far (up to about 1000mtrs.) it wasn't the heart or lung which made my cry, but the legs. I really felt that with more strengh, I could climb more easily. I should add, that I did weight training during the last 4 years, but not too intense. Is this an aspect forgotten in the articles so far, or am I totally fooled by my body?

Another thing: I recently found out that I'm on the edge to anemia, my hematocrit is 41%. It seems to lie a bit in the family. Is there any way to change this to a somewhat more normal value WITHOUT taking any drugs?

Florian Siedenburg

Andrew Grant replies:

Hematocrit is the number of red blood cells in the blood expressed as a percentage. Normal hematocrit for a male is between 39 and 52 percent. Your hematocrit is 41% is within the normal range. The only legal method of increasing your hematocrit is to train at altitude or sleep in a nitrogen tent.

With regard to your comment "I recently found out that I'm on the edge to anaemia", I am presuming that you are referring to your iron levels, as a vitamin B12 deficiency can cause a form of anaemia as well.

The results of an iron study will give you the serum iron level and the ferritin level. The serum iron level is the circulating iron in the blood and ferritin is the storage form of iron. Increasing your serum iron level above the minimum of the normal range will not improve your performance. If it is at the minimum of the normal range then your iron is not a problem.

Iron deficiency is cause by three different factors.

1. Insufficient iron containing foods in the diet (very common): Increase the amount of red meat in the diet. Drink a vitamin C drink with meat meals to aid absorption.

2. Poor absorption: The body requires good hydrochorlic acid secretion in the stomach and bile secretion from the liver to absorb iron. Both of these functions can be stimulated by bitter tasting foods. Add bitter salad and a good quality olive oil to the diet to the diet or get a liver tonic from your health food shop containing Dandelion root (Taraxacum officinale). You will know if this is working because your stool will change to a light mustard colour.

3. Residual infections: If you have an unresolved chronic infection the body will attempt to starve out the infection. This usually applies to bacterial infections, but I have seen similar with chronic viral infections.

Iron deficiency is easy to treat if it is done properly. A return to a healthy iron status can be achieved in six weeks.

Etape du Tour

I have signed up to ride the Etape du Tour, the longest leg of the Tour this year in France. It's 238km with an approx. 1500 meter climb. Here's the weblink:

I am a pretty amateur cyclist. Competed on a few Olympic triathlons around the 2:30 range and a few mountain bike races, Xterras etc. The longest I've ever ridden in 130km.

I'm just getting back on the bike after traveling over the holiday period.

I have a few general questions:

1. Training suggestions?
2. Eating suggestions for the event?
3. I live in a really flat area with no hills. Any way to train for them on the flats, stationary bike?

Any advice would be much appreciated!

Andrew McKeon

Beppo Hilfiker replies:

Congratulations, you set your mind on a great challenge!

General training guides are hard to give without knowing your time budget, meaning how much time you can/want to devote to your training. With an average of 7-10 hrs training per week you should be able to build the necessary form to enjoy the event. Quality is more important than quantity. Best would be, to not just evenly spread the volume but to establish blocks.

General considerations: the stage is quite long and hilly - a challenging profile. There is only one main climb. That means that you will spend plenty of time drafting, at least until the beginning of the climb to Puy Mary, and that means that you need to get into the "red zone" sometimes to stay with your group. This race profile requires a complete rider!

The distance is a mental hurdle but nothing you couldn't manage. You need to establish a good base endurance to ride all day long. Speed is a bigger hurdle! After establishing base endurance you need to develop some aerobic power to stay with your group in the small climbs and false flat sections.

For best results you need periodization. Focus your training on low intensity endurance rides in the base period, approx. until the beginning of April. Best would be to schedule a training camp in late March to put in some prolonged volume. This base endurance training is the foundation for what follows. You don't need to do extreme length rides in this period. Training often and regularly is more important than doing few extra long rides. Increase the volume slightly and plan time for recovery every three weeks. You could see such a periodization by registering at and entering l'etape as your main race, the 21 day free trial version will create a periodization that you will find on the "Year" view.

Beginning in May start the build period. With some interval work you will rise your threshold power. You live in a flat area? No problem. I suggest to do force training at or slightly below aerobic power level in the flats: riding big gears (53/12,11) in an upright position will do it - I'm told the "Dutch Mountains" compensate the missing grade by the headwinds, use them. This simulates hills and in the end, what counts is plain power output - not the grade.

If your stationary bike has high inertia mass you can also do force training on the trainer. Go for a low cadence in the force intervals: 40-70 RPM. Slightly increase the length of the these intervals. Best would be to plan a short vacation in a hilly or mountainous area by the end of May to get some practice in real climbing - keep general speeds low there, but do some intervals at race speed in the ascents (3-4 days, ride 3,4,5,6 hrs per day - highest intensity on day 1). Generally try to do endurance training in blocks.

By the middle of June you start the final preparation. Plan to stick to your training plan in this period and to be not too busy jobwise. Training is getting more important now with the D-Day in sight. Do an endurance block first with one ride (almost) as long as the competition as climax - that's not necessary but gives self-confidence. (Marathon runners/triathletes never practice race volume in training!) This is followed by an intensity period where you work on your power again. Make sure that you do only very easy training in the last ten day before your peak so that you start recovered and with full batteries!

As far as race nutrition and hydration is concerned, you can find a pretty detailed outline that would be too long to post here by clicking on the link:

Good luck! And let us know how it works.

Fibula fracture - recovery time?

I'm a 38 year old Vet-Expert/Master cyclist living in Victoria, British Columbia. After having a respectable 2003 season as a Vet on the roads and mtb I recently fractured my fibula while doing some off-season training (slipped/fell on some ice while running on local trails). The hospital x-ray showed a clear spiral fracture about 3-4cm long at the top of the bone, just below my knee. Some swelling is visible but it's generally just a dull, aching pain - I can only put weight on it for short periods of time.

The doctor opted to not cast the leg and said to rely on my "pain tolerance" as a guide as to what type of activities I try to do and how soon I attempt them, although he did say do very little for the next 3 weeks. This seems like good advice but I'm also a bit concerned that I might push too hard too soon. How long does it usually take for a fibula injury like this to heal? Would riding rollers/stationary bike be reasonable to attempt in 2-3 weeks, with light resistance if there's no pain? Do you recommend swimming or other activities for cyclists with similar leg injuries?

Thanks in advance for any advice and keep up the great work on this site!

Steve Bachop
Victoria BC, Canada

Dave Fleckenstein replies:

While it is always a most unfortunate thing to have a fracture, you have chosen the right bone to fracture. The fibula is essentially a non-weight bearing bone and can tolerate a fair amount of motion without adverse effects. Without going to Tyler-like thresholds, your physician is exactly appropriate in stating that you can do what you want within reasonable pain limits. I think that allowing 2-3 weeks for the initial inflammation to calm and some bone callous formation to occur is a great idea (trying to push at that time will only set you back) and then I feel that you could be fairly aggressive with rollers or the turbo trainer. I would recommend waiting 6 weeks until initiating strength training. Swimming is fine, and water jogging with a vest (not touching the bottom) is an additional excellent workout, and almost as exciting as riding rollers staring at a white wall....

There is, additionally, one very specific concern that I have long-term regarding your fracture. The fibula has unusual articulations at both the knee and ankle and can become easily displaced with the type of fracture that you are describing and can cause a myriad of unusual knee, ankle, and foot symptoms. I would highly recommend seeing a skilled manually trained physical therapist or sports medicine chiropractor to have the superior and inferior fibular joints evaluated. I have frequently performed joint mobilizations on these joints with excellent results, but only after I have confirmation from the physician that the fracture is completely healed.

If you need a recommendation for a PT to see in Victoria, please let me know. I also know that if you are like me, you will be back running on the ice in no time, and I have seen that has shoes and special running crampons for those true addicts who will not be denied!

Heart rate training

I'm a 14 year old male, I race road and some track.

I recently bought a heart rate monitor(Polar A3) and am wondering how hard I should train. Should I train in between the 2 preset limits (high-175, low-134) all the time or just train between the limits some days. If I train below the low limit (134) will it be any benefit?

Lee Hall

Scott Saifer replies:

There is value to training at all heart rates at some point, including below the low limit. The majority of your training time should be between 60 and 80% of your own personal maximum heart rate, which may or may not be close to the preset zone. Harder riding is appropriate a couple of days per week in the month or two before the racing season. Once racing starts, I'd suggest doing very little time above 80% of maximum except in the races.

At age 14 you should mostly be focused on getting as much time as you can on the bike consistent with keeping your grades up and having a good time, and not worried too much about structured training. That should start around 16 years old. if you really want to start sooner with structured training (planned rides, heart rate zones and periodization) I'd suggest getting a book on training, of which there are several good ones available, though I happen to particularly like the one I helped write (Bike Racing 101 by Kendra and Rene Wenzel, available at You also might want to find a coach who has some experience working with younger riders and a history of taking them to the elite level over several years rather than getting them medals one year and burning them out the next.

Improving the "jump"

Just wondering if Brett or anyone else, could tell me the best way to improve my jump for the 200m sprint? I've just started track cycling and have as much top end speed as the top racers in my age group, in my state but just don't have the "jump" and loose ground from the beginning. Any specific weight training or track training suggestions?

J.A. Masefield

Brett Aitken replies:

Please forgive the long delay. It's been a hectic last month for me. Sprinting and fast acceleration is a difficult physiological attribute to aquire for someone who doesn't have it naturally ie.( a high percentage of fast twitch muscle fibres). You can improve your ability though by focussing on efforts with high power in short bursts. You can do this in weight training but it can be a little dangerous for the inexperienced that try to do accelerated squats for example.

I'd suggest getting a good book on plyometrics (vertical jumps, box jumps etc.) to add to your cycling program which should also include regular sessions of standing starts, hill sprints, motorpace sprints etc. and anything that is specific to do with high power, speed and acceleration. After a few weeks of the plyometrics you should see a good adaptation that will show in your results.

Low heart rate

I have recently been wearing a heart rate monitor every now and then, and have noticed that I can't get my heart rate very high. The highest I can get it is around 170, and 160 is all I can sustain. Does this mean I have a low max heart rate, or is my heart just much stronger than my legs? When I get to that heart rate my legs heart but I am not breathing too hard. If it helps, I am 14 and my resting heart rate is 36-38.

Christian Parrett

Andrew Grant replies:

How long have you been training for?

From your information you may either have a naturally low heart rate or you may be badly overtrained.

There are two distinct patterns with heart rate for overtrained athletes.

In the first pattern, the resting heart rate is high 5 to 10 beats above normal. This accompanied by a raised heart rate for a measured power output during racing and training, and a drop in performance. (There are a heap of other symptoms with this stage).

The second pattern is more serious and difficult to diagnose. The resting heart rate appears normal or low (as in your case), but the heart rate fails to rise easily under training load. As soon as the load is removed the heart rate drops like a stone. The problem with this form of overtraining is that mimics the heart rate pattern of a very fit athlete, with the exception of the heart rate dropping very quickly. How is your racing form?

An easy way to determine if you are in this form of overtrained state is to stand up. Do you get head spins every time you stand up? The head spins are caused by the nervous system not adjusting the blood pressure quickly.

If you think that you are overtrained email us back for more information.

Mixing interval and endurance training

For the last 10 weeks I've been doing some serious mileage, about 20 hours a week. Now I want to incorporate some Lactate Threshold Intervals and Vo2 Max intervals into my training. Could you suggest the best length and repetitions for these specific intervals. Also, will it have any adverse effect if I continue to do rides of 5+ hours at low intensity. I'd actually like to increase my weekly riding to about 25 hours and still do speed work in between. Here is a brief look at what a typical build week would look like:

Sunday: 5h below 70% with Vo2Max Intervals
Monday: 3h-4h below 70%
Tuesday: 3h-4h below 70% with LTH intervals
Wednesday: 5h-6h below 70%
Thursday: Rest Day
Friday: 3h below 70% with LTH Intervals
Saturday: 2h Recovery Ride or Rest Day

I'd really appreciate your views and comments.

Kevin Kalis

Eddie Monnier replies:

I would have to know a lot more about you (e.g., at what level you compete, the types of events you typically race, how long you've been training, your capacity for training, etc.), to give more specific answers to your questions, so I'll provide some general comments.

There are four factors to control in any training plan: frequency, duration, intensity and recovery (frequency and duration can be collectively referred to as volume). Additionally, once endurance is established, for many athletes it can be maintained with an occasional long ride (e.g, once every seven or ten days). Typically, volume comes down as intensity goes up. This allows you to really focus on intensity and recovery during Build periods. That's not to say there aren't times when it's appropriate to overreach by keeping both relatively high, but it needs to be followed by adequate recovery or can ultimately lead to overtraining (actually quite difficult to do, but it happens).

Regularly doing 20+ hours as you have been doing is quite a bit of volume. It may be that it's suitable for you, but it is a considerable amount and more than many Category I/II riders, for example, would be logging. As for increasing your hours by 25 percent and adding intensity, I would advise against this. For example, for a typical rider with 20 hours as an appropriate peak volume, I would expect volume to drop to 12-16 hours per week during Build. This is just an example to show you relative volumes.

To address your question about what length and number of repetitions are "best" for improving lactate threshold and VO2max, that's not an easy question to answer because there is no clear cut answer. There are a variety of different intervals formats that could be . For example, you could do 8 x 5-mins at LTP (lactate threshold power) with 1-min recovery. You could also do 3 x 15-mins at LTP with 3-mins recovery or just about anything in between.

For VO2max intervals, I like to refer to these as wVO2max (wattage at VO2max) intervals because we're trying to improve the wattage we can generate at VO2max more so than actually increasing VO2max. In any event, these can also take a number of formats. I've had good results using 1-min at wVO2max (estimated by the average power sustained in an all-out 6-min effort) with 1-min recovery until you cannot sustain the target wattage for two consecutive intervals (usually 10-15 efforts). You could also do 5-7 x 3-mins at wVO2max with 2-3-mins recovery. I've also seen these prescribed in durations as long as 5-mins with 5-min recoveries, but it would require lowering the intensity below what I've recommended here (i.e., probably to a wattage that you could sustain for 10-12 mins).

Hopefully, I've given you some things to think about. Good luck with your 2004 season.

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