Fitness questions and answers for February 16, 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 fitness@cyclingnews.com. Please include as much information about yourself as possible, including your age, sex, and type of racing or riding.

Carrie Cheadle, MA (www.carriecheadle.com) 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 (www.davepalese.com) 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 (www.trainright.com) 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 (www.velo-fit.com) 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 (www.physiopt.com) 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 (www.cyclefitcentre.com) 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 (www.wholeathlete.com) 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 (www.wenzelcoaching.com) 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 (www.wenzelcoaching.com) 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 (www.coloradopremiertraining.com) 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 (www.cycle2max.com) 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 www.cycle2max.com website.

Richard Stern (www.cyclecoach.com) 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 (www.cyclecoach.com) 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 (www.cyclecoach.com) 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 (www.elitefitcoach.com) 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 MyEnduranceCoach.com, 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.

Haematocrit too high?
Mixing interval and endurance training
Breathing
Hypothyrodism

Haematocrit too high?

I recently had a checkup and blood tests and was told my hematocrit was 47.3%. I just turned 20 yrs. old and am a Cat. 2. I am doing a race at altitude this summer and was planning on spending some time at altitude beforehand and then getting there two weeks before the race. Coupled with much better conditioning (the test was done in Jan), could my hematocrit rise a few more points or should it stay below 50%? Should this be of concern or is it just something to chock up to genetics and not worry about?

J. Chatham

Steve Owens replies:

What's happening here is either you have a naturally high hematocrit level (% of red blood cells) and/or you were dehydrated at the time of your blood test. You see, hematocrit is measured as a percentage of your total blood volume. A large portion of your blood is plasma (which is made up mostly of water). If you are dehydrated, you'll most likely elicit a higher hematocrit or % of red blood cells. I used to coach an athlete (who is now retired) that competed in the top 10-20 in the world. He naturally has a very high hematocrit level and needs to be sure that before any drug tests, he was completely hydrated. This test can force an athlete out of competition because he is deemed "unfit to race".

In terms of health, if your hematocrit is upward of 50%, you do start to run the risk of some serious health problems. What I suggest is that you not be afraid of training at altitude for (I'm assuming) U23 Nationals and monitor your blood closely. It's possible too that if you hadn't been training, your blood plasma volume decreased and subsequently increased your hematocrit. I may be over-analyzing it a bit. In short though, I wouldn't loose sleep over it. If it's natural, you have a gift that many people wish for. You have the ability to transfer massive amounts of oxygen to your body. Monitor your blood regularly though and see where the altitude training takes you. Now get out there and transport some oxygen!

Eddie Monnier replies:

I would add two comments. First, experienced athletes will actually realize a reduction in hematocrit levels with significant training, not increase (ie., it is highest in the off-season when fully rested). This is because the increase in plasma volumes is proportionally greater than the increase in red cell volume (RCV). This is why among professional cyclists they track hematocrit throughout the season. If an athlete has a significantly higher hematocrit level in-season than off-season, it's a possible indicator that artificial means have been used to boost RCV.

Secondly, according to Hahn & Gore of The Australian Institute of Sport, their review of a number of existing studies failed to show clear evidence that RCV will increase with exposure to altitude. (The Effect of Altitude on Cycling Performance: A Challenge to Traditional Concepts, Sports Medicine, 2001; 31(7):533-57).

In summary, I don't think you have any reason to be concerned. So enjoy the fact that you have a reasonably high natural hematocrit level.

Andrew Grant replies:

Without being alarmist, I have treated a number of mercury poisoning cases from dental amalgams and eating tuna, salmon and sardines. One the body's compensations for mercury poisoning is a rise in haematocrit. I have seen one athlete with a level at 50%. One of the features of these athletes is great endurance but zero tolerance to any lactate training. They also usually have glandular fever that runs a chronic course due to immune suppression caused by the mercury. Classic glandular fever symptoms are erratic form, so the athlete goes like a train one day and cannot turn the pedals the next. After about four days the form comes back, they go like a train again and cannot turn the pedals the next day, and on the cycle goes...

This is coupled with the athlete complaining about being hot, but when the temperature is taken it is normal.

If you have any of these signs it needs to be investigated, if not you are one of the lucky ones who chose his parents well.

Mixing interval and endurance training

Can I ask a follow-up question to the one about mixing interval and endurance training? I'm in a similar situation to the question poser, I've been working on my base fitness. I'm a duathlete so I run and cycle. I'm trying to build my muscle endurance and speed endurance as these are my perceived weaknesses. My schedule is roughly at the moment (I'm using Joe Friel's 1-5c zones)

Saturday : long ride 3.5-4.5 hr steady ride with lots of hill but mostly zone 3-4 (some 20-30mins on the turbo to recovery)
Sunday : long run 90-150mins
Monday : Easy bike to/from work 1hr / easy 30-45mins run
Tuesday : Bike endurance (1 hour zone 3) or Intervals 4-6 mins x 4 zone 4 or long running intervals with friends
Wednesday : Easy bike to/from work 1hr / easy 30-45mins run
Thursday : Bike endurance (1 hour zone 3) or Intervals 4-6 mins x 4 zone 4 or long running intervals with friends
Friday : Easy bike to/from work 1hr / easy 30-45mins run aim to do a 1hr threshold run when fitter

I plan to do this for the next 6 weeks. Then start to do 4-5 zone workouts but when I look at your workouts 8 x 5mins LTP (I thought this was zone 5) with 1min or 3 x 15 mins at LTP. I know I can't do what? I could for zone 4 so I have I calculated my zone incorrectly or is LTP something different?

I'm looking to peak on 1 Jun this year over the distance 10k run / 40k bike /
5 k run.

Neil Bardsley

Eddie Monnier replies:

As I understand your question, it's "at what intensity should I be doing lactate threshold work (LTW)?" It is true that in the Friel HR zone system lactate threshold heart rate (LTHR) is around the bottom of 5A. I write "around" because LTHR is not a fixed, static number. It is subject to certain influences on a daily basis and may change over time with changes in fitness levels (the latter being why we advocate periodic testing). Additionally, there is variation in how long individuals can sustain lactate threshold level intensities, but most experienced athletes fall in the range of 30-60 minutes. Finally, much of the benefits of LTW training can be realized by training just below lactate threshold. To that end, I usually prescribe LTW as upper z4 to z5a under the Friel system.

I suspect you're doing your LTW at too high of an intensity, which is not uncommon in my experience, especially when training by heart rate rather than power. This is because it takes a while for HR to adequately reflect actual intensity. Typically what I see in HR-based LTW workouts is the athlete going way too hard on the initial few intervals and then actually not going hard enough on the later ones.

I highly recommend you obtain a reliable power meter (Ergomo, PowerTap or SRM) to assist in your training (see Articles section at www.velo-fit.com for various articles on power-based training). By training with power, you'll have instant feedback on your intensity. If you determine your lactate threshold power (LTP) is 290-310W, then you would do your LTW based on this intensity. I think you'll find that the first intervals seem relatively easy but the later ones will have you know you're working. I usually tell my athletes that an LTW session should feel like a 7.5-8 on a 10-point perceived exertion scale, with 1 being an easy spin and 10 being completely on the rivet. Note also that a power meter will be an invaluable tool in helping you with race pacing.

Breathing

I'm a 16 year old road cyclist. I am finding that during criteriums my legs feel fantastic but my lungs struggle to cope with the effort. This is quite frustrating because my entire body is awesome. How can I cure this during training?

Phil Byrne
Australia

Andrew Grant replies:

I would suggest from your description that you are magnesium deficient, which is very common due to our highly processed diets. Magnesium is required to relax muscle. In the lungs there are number of smooth muscle rings that control the volume of air flowing in and out of the lungs. If you are magnesium deficient these rings do not relax, (get bigger / increase their diameter) so they cut down the air flow.

Other symptoms of magnesium deficiency include not being able to achieve satiety from food. This means that you eat, become physically full, but will still keep picking or feeling hungry (just not satisfied).

There are methods to test what I have said.

Get a hair analysis done for mineral content and look at your magnesium level.

Go to your friendly GP and get him / her to perform peak flow test and see what the results are. Make sure that you address the magnesium deficiency before taking any other forms of medication.

Hypothyrodism

I hope you can shed some light on my situation. I have been cycling for the past 8 years and participate in amateur races, but last summer I could not drop my extra weight which I put on during the holidays. Come fall I started to put on more weight even before the Christmas holidays. Blood test reviled that I have Hypothyroidism. My doctor prescribed me hormones to replace the ones my thyroid is not supplying. My Question to you is...How will this affect my cycling and training?

Mark
Canada

Scott Saifer replies:

I have been on thyroid supplementation myself. Once you get your dose of thyroid hormone adjusted such that concentration of thyroid hormone in your blood is normal again, you should be able to ride and race as well as ever, and better than during the period when your thyroid began to fail but you had not yet had it corrected.

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