Fitness questions and answers for January 28, 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.

Welcome back to Cyclingnews' fitness forum for 2004. We're pleased to welcome several new contributors to this department, so a big hello please to Kendra Wenzel and Scott Saifer of Wenzel Coaching, Andrew Grant of Sports Strategies and Steve Owens of Colorado Premier Training.

We hope you find their advice interesting and informative.

Bike fit
Junior training
Spinning
Transition period
Peaking twice
Vasectomy recovery
Training zone determination
Etape du Tour
Intervals
Heart rate

Bike fit

I am an enthusiastic recreational cyclist interested in being occasionally competitive and even more interested in tooling around at high speeds recreationally (group rides) when time permits.

My question pertains to bicycle fit. I am delving into the custom bike market and being measured with regards to many parameters to create a properly fitted frame. The result of these measurements is a suggestion for a change from my current position (largely based on tarot cards and lunar cycles, i.e. not scientific). I am wondering are there time tested (lab tested) theories upon which proper seat height, fore/aft saddle position, and crank length are based (especially considering power, heart rate, oxygen consumption). Secondly, are there saddle height, saddle fore/aft position, and crank length measurements from pro riders (maybe a pro rider measurements database?) that might suggest a proper fit (for instance a 6 ft 0 inches, skinny (140 lbs), 89.6 cm inseam, with a relatively short femur length in proportion to my leg length, and normal length arms).

I am currently testing out the frame manufacturer's suggestions, but I imagine it will take a long time before anything new feels anything but just different.

Thanks for any suggestions.

Rick Norton

Beppo Hilfiker replies:

If you go to www.2PEAK.com and click on the menu > tools and from there into > tools again and choose the option > riding position, you will be able to download an excel spreadsheet that has been created by Robert Kühnen. [Or download it directly here - though we'd strongly urge you to explore Beppo's excellent site too - Ed]

Robert is the engineer that created and creates all the tests that TOUR Magazine (Europe's biggest and most respected road magazine) uses to test equipment and to answer questions such as yours. In this case he analyzed all the data available and then defined an empirical approach to optimize a rider's position, also taking into account a statistical analysis of pro riders positions. Pros tend to ride with a longer seating length and a bigger drop, but such a stretched-out position is not for everyone so the spreadsheet lets you choose a more or less aggressive riding position (measure "N").

Try it and let us know what you think.

Junior training

I am a fourteen year old junior racer. I have been riding thirteen to fourteen hours a week lately, but have been warned about over training. Do you think this is too much, and if not, could I train less and be just as fast? What would be the best amount for me to train and still get as fast as possible?

Chris Parrett

Dave Palese replies:

The training hours you mention could be a bit over doing it for a rider your age.

I would look at your target events and let them dictate your volume of training. If you are doing common junior events, I think that you'll see that the races are pretty short, only lasting 45 minutes to an hour and a half (generally speaking). Training sessions of high volume, three hours and more aren't really needed. You can then afford to spend a higher percentage of your weekly training time training more event specific abilities like speed, threshold and anaerobic power.

Have fun and good luck!

Spinning

I recently took a job in a company that offers a gym in the same building. For the past few months, I've been spending my lunch hour (three or four times a week) doing spinning classes in an effort to complement my weekend road training during the winter and my daily roundtrip commute of 25 miles which I'm trying to do through the winter as long as the snow isn't falling. The classes vary of course with the instructors, and most of the participants are definitely not the cycling type so I tend to tweak it to my own preferences.

Happily, since beginning these classes and commuting (I moved in April), I've lost about 10 pounds and I'm hoping to keep it off through the winter. However, I'm wondering if anyone has any experience with riders that have consistently done spinning classes (with Schwinn bikes) to complement their training and what advantages, disadvantages as well as pitfalls there might be.

Garner Woodall
Washington, DC

Dave Palese replies:

When I lived in the Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, USA, I did a couple of winter training seasons on spinning bikes. The sessions were led by a great masters racer, Jeff Rutter.

The mechanics of spinning are a great complement to your training and can yield great benefits come spring. The effects of the fly wheel are similar to riding a fixed gear and the benefits for leg speed are great.

Where I think most spinning classes come up short is that they are not really intended for most training cyclists. The intensity and volume of intensity per session tends to be too high during the early part of the training year and then not high enough later in the winter when a racing cyclist would be ramping up to prepare for the races just around the corner. And in general, adequate recovery between efforts is glossed over.

What you have realize about spinning classes is that they are designed for the same crowd who does step aerobics. The instructors have to make sure that the folks doing the class leave feeling like they got a good workout. And in the spinning world harder is better.

The sessions I did were run by a racing cyclist and his classes were filled with only other racing cyclists, so Rutter was able to design the sessions around what the group needed at the time.

Transition period

I am now in the transitional period in my off-season training and with my indoor riding I am doing weight training three times a week. When I ride indoors I am riding strictly in my areobic zone (zone 2) for 40 minutes and warming and cooling down for 20, some days I through in a mixture of speed work as well. Should my bulk of riding be in zone 2 or should I just ride in zone 1 until the preperation period begins?

Shawn Bedard
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Dave Palese replies:

I don't see anything wrong with spending time in your zone 2. You'll even burn a few extra calories, too!

If you can, right now, try to mix the trainer work with some cross training, without regard to heart rate zones. It's a long winter. The less time you have to spend on the trainer now, the fresher you'll be about it come the Specialization periods later.

Get out and snowshoe, or Nordic ski. Even go to your local gym and mix up a few cardio activities to make up a 60 minute or so session. Do a 30 minute step aerobics class, then 15 minutes of stair stepper, and then 15 minutes of treadmill. Whatever. It really doesn't matter.

Just have fun and break things up for now. You'll be needing to spend plenty of time on the trainer soon enough.

Have fun and good luck!

Peaking twice

I am a junior cyclist, 17 years old. My goal event for this season is to compete and hopefully earn a top ten in the Longsjo Classic in Fitchburg, Mass. My question is about peaking, tansition and peaking twice. I have all winter and spring to prep for the Longsjo because it is the first week and June.

That is good, but there is another stage race (Green Mountain Stage Race) almost exactly 2 months after the Longsjo. That is a sufficient amount of time between races, but there is also a Cancer Ride (Pan- Mass Challenge) that I want to do exactly in between the two races (my mother and aunt have both had cancer, and my aunt has since passed, so its a really important thing to me.

I know I can finish the ride even without specific long distance training and it is just for fun and training, but is it possible to build back up for GMSR? Or am I just trying to fit too much into my summer season? The Longsjo is first priorty, GMSR 2nd.

Thank you very much for your time and effort

Brandon Baker

Kim Morrow replies:

It sounds like you have some exciting goals for this season. I've done the Longsjo Classic in Fitchburg, MA and have found it to be quite a challenging race. Since you are focusing on two stage races as your key events for the season, I would encourage you to build an exceptionally strong base, and to carefully control your intensity early season, so that you don't peak too early.

After you complete the Longsjo Classic stage race in June, you might consider a one week transition period followed by 2 x 16/5 day cycles. (Each 21 day cycle would include a 16 day period with key workout sessions to be completed, followed by a 5 day active recovery period.) This will leave you approximately 12 days to recover/peak for your second stage race. Ideally, it would be better for have a bit more of a gap between those 2 races, but this is one approach which might work given your time frame.

And finally, that Pan-Mass Challenge Cancer Ride sounds like an important event to do for you, probably as important as your other 2 stage race goals. I hope you enjoy the ride.

Have a great season.

Vasectomy recovery

I am 37 years old, 6ft, 190lb. A father of two, I am an enthusiastic amateur and have a full schedule of century rides for the spring and summer. I have a vasectomy scheduled for this week and am concerned about my recovery time. I have talked to several friends who have had the procedure done but none of whom are riders. I wonder if you know how long I should expect to be off of the bike given the sensitive body/ saddle interface. I am anxious to get back on my training schedule. Any info. would be welcome.

Spencer Rubin

Andrew Grant replies:

Vasectomy will have you off the bike for one week. Plan to put your feet up for four days and do NOTHING, during this time walk and move around as little as possible. You will know if you are over doing it you will get that kicked in the groin feeling!!!

The procedure is done by two small incisions into the scrotum. These are stitched and heal very quickly. It usually takes one week for the bruising and swelling to disappear.

One benefit of a vasectomy is that after the operation everything sits front and centre on the bike, which is very comfortable.

Training zone determination

I use the Joe Friel Lactate Threshold system for determining heart rate training zones.

Given that throughout the season tests can be performed as part of both training and racing situations to determine/indicate/guess a Lactate Threshold Heart Rate and there is usually variation in the results. What do you guys reckon about setting training zones? Should they be continually updated based on the most recent calculation/guesstimate or should they be determined only once yearly or should they be set to the highest or lowest figures?

All comments welcome.

Josef Stoltz

Scott Saifer replies:

I'd suggest using the one maximum heart rate that you've seen in the past year as your max, but using the most recently identified LT day by day or however often you identify a new LT, though if you are healthy and well trained but not overtraining, your LT should not change by more than few beats.

Eddie Monnier replies:

There are a number of ways establish lactate threshold heart rate (LTHR) based training zones (both in the lab and on the road). When using field tests to establish zones, Joe and I advocate training-based efforts rather than race-based efforts.

LTHR is not a static number, it actually changes a bit day to day and may change materially with changes in fitness. So we recommend periodic testing (lab or road, just be consistent in your approach) with expected changes in fitness. For example, I typically have athletes test 3-4 times per season (e.g., at the start of training, mid-Base, end-Base and mid- or late-Build).

Note that LTHR doesn't necessarily increase with changes in fitness. Some athletes, myself included, actually experience a slight decline in LTHR with fitness improvements (but an increase in lactate threshold power, which is one of the many advantages of owning a power meter). Additionally, with enough experience with an athlete, we sometimes test less frequently because we "know" how their LTHR tends to change with different training phases (and then may emphasize other tests).

Also, it's important to look for trends in the tests rather than reading too much into any one test. The athlete's perceived exertion, known training benchmarks and race performances act as additional corroborating evidence for field tests.

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: http://www.letapedutour.com/2004/us/index.htm

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

Scott Saifer replies:

I'd suggest riding a minimum of four days per week, five or six is better. Do 10 miles more each weekend on a single ride until you are regularly doing 120-130 miles of flats before leaving for your big ride. Do as much other riding as you can on the other days. 90-120 minutes on three other days is a good minimum to shoot for.

A day that long you'll do best with real food, as opposed to bars and gels. I'd suggest sandwiches (wonderful opportunity in France) early in the ride, and pastries near the end.

If you get fit enough, hills are just like flats that you ride more slowly and in lower gears, so be sure to take low enough gears (a triple if you are not cat-3 racing fit when you go). At home, do a couple of rides a week at 70-80 rpm since you'll probably be riding those cadences on the hills. Some coaches suggest riding the trainer with the front wheel boosted to simulate the climbing position. I'm not sure how effective this is, but it can't hurt.

Finally, a day that long will be ridden as an endurance ride, not at high intensity, so do the largest majority of your training at a completely aerobic, endurance pace (heart rate below 80% of maximum if you are using a monitor.) This should feel slow at first, but you will gain speed as your body becomes more efficient and your ability to exercise aerobically improves.

Intervals

I am 43 and race men's masters expert MTB cross-country.

My AT is typically about 172ish beats per minute during race season. My max heart rate is about 188 bpm.

How much time would you suggest for interval training a week and at what intensity? Also, what do you suggest for the longest intervals? I have heard many say keep them under about 8 minutes.

With most races being about 1.5 to 1.75 hours in length, what do you think my longest endurance ride in a week should be during race season.

I am curious as you hear so many different things. I have been following Joe Friel's methods and have followed some of Ned Overend's methods. With my work and family schedule I typically average 6-8 hours on the bike a week.

Thanks for your comments

Gary Dearing

Scott Saifer replies:

How much time to devote to intervals depends on how much you are racing, how you are recovering, how well you developed your base before starting intervals and whether you are still building or tapering. This is really the sort of question that should be discussed at length with a personal coach, but since you've asked, I'll provide some thoughts.

First, in a week with a race on the coming weekend, there should be no extended efforts near or above threshold, unless you are just racing for training and don't care about performance in that event.

Second, except for occasional short stretches leading to peak periods, there should be no more than two days per week with extended efforts near or above AT. More risks overtraining. More for weeks or months on end almost guarantees overtraining.

There are many ways to structure interval sessions. As a rule of thumb, the upper limit of length for an AT interval could be set at twice the length of your typical long ride. If you get four-hour rides several times per week, work up to eight minute intervals near AT. If you ride a pro schedule with lots of six hour rides, AT intervals could be as long as 12 minutes. The best thing to do is to start with shorter intervals, say 3-4 minutes, see how you tolerate them, and then make them gradually longer if you are handling the shorter ones well. Don't plan to complete a particular number of intervals. Instead, continue doing intervals until you are markedly fatigued, and then cool down whether you've done one interval or a dozen. If you managed more than five intervals of a given length in one session, you are probably ready to make them longer in the next session

The idea that the length of the weekly long ride should be figured from the length of the races is not that helpful. If your goal is to develop the endurance to finish your events, then figure that you can safely ride about 30-50% farther than you train. Most of us want to win or at least place well and not just finish, so I'd recommend making the ride as long as you have time for and as your body will tolerate week after week. If that hypothetical pro who does all the six hour rides comes to your event, he's not going to lose because he trained too far. In fact, he'll probably do quite well because those long rides develop aerobic power and fitness as well as endurance.

One way to judge how long your rides should be is to look at what successful riders in your category are doing. One of my clients won the NORBA NCS series master's title in a group a bit older than yours this year after doing a lot of five hour rides through the winter and spring, and on any non-racing weekends through the racing season.

Good luck with your training and your events.

Heart rate

I'm 52, 6ft, 225lb and love to ride. Mostly mountain bikes with a group and do just fine. Wore a heart monitor for the first time and found myself at 179 bpm at the top of a 20 minute climb. Felt great and have done this for years. How do you know what your MAX is or when to say enough. Last ride was quite a bit longer uphill so I left the monitor at home. I have a quick recovery and approx. 57 bpm at rest. I play racquetball, volleyball etc. Should I worry about the 179?

Volybal1

Scott Saifer replies:

To find your max you ride up a long hill, preferably in a competitive situation to keep you motivated and you just go harder and harder until you can't anymore. When you feel like you can't go another stroke, you sprint. When you can't sprint anymore, sprint harder. You know you've actually found your max when your heart rate begins to decline even though you are still trying to go harder and harder.

This test is NOT RECOMMENDED FOR SEDENTARY INDIVIDUALS or people with personal or family history of heart disease, or diabetes, or... It should be safe for people who have been riding as hard as they can recently already. If you wonder, ask your doctor before testing.

While it is true that the population average maximum heart rate is sort of close to 220-age (210 - half of age is a better approximation), individuals often have maxima that are 10-15 beats above or below the average for their age, and this is nothing to worry about. I have had at least one client over 55 years with a maximum heart rate in the mid-190s.

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