Fitness questions and answers for January 9, 2008

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. Due to the volume of questions we receive, we regret that we are unable to answer them all.

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.

Jon Heidemann ( is a USAC Elite Certified cycling coach with a BA in Health Sciences from the University of Wyoming. The 2001 Masters National Road Champion has competed at the Elite level nationally and internationally for over 14 years. As co-owner of Peak to Peak Training Systems, Jon has helped athletes of all ages earn over 84 podium medals at National & World Championship events during the past 8 years.

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. Clients range from recreational riders and riders with disabilities to World and National champions.

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 Whole Athlete™. He holds a Masters degree in exercise physiology, is a USA Cycling Level I (Elite) Coach and is certified by the NSCA (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist). Michael has more than 10 years competitive experience, primarily on the road, but also in cross and mountain biking. He is currently focused on coaching road cyclists from Jr. to elite levels, but also advises triathletes and Paralympians. Michael is a strong advocate of training with power and has over 5 years experience with the use and analysis of power meters. Michael also spent the 2007 season as the Team Coach for the Value Act Capital Women's Cycling Team.

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.

Chicken legs
Stuck in a hole
Threshold power improvements
Sore thighs
Sprinterval DVDs and indoor training
Chamois cream

Chicken legs

I am relatively new to cycling; only starting two months ago. Given that I have what are commonly known as 'chicken' legs and most elite cyclists seemed to have massive thighs and calves, should I hit the gym in winter and attempt to bulk up?

I am concerned that my skinny legs, while perhaps suited for endurance, will not be able to generate the power/speeds required. I am aware that weight training does not help endurance and there are other ways to improve power, but does a lack of base size matter?


Dave Palese replies:

Welcome to the wonderful world of cycling! I'm sure you will enjoy it.

The short answer to you your question, "should I hit the gym in winter and attempt to bulk up?", is "No!"

Now that being said, using the gym to improve overall leg strength can be a good idea, depending on the amount of time you have to train. If you time is limited, you can incorporate on-the-bike strength training to improve strength.

The point I want to make is that you should not include strength training in your program with the intention of changing your body type.

Who knows, just by improving your strength capabilities, and leaving your body type the same, you might become a well-balanced all-rounder - able to climb like a champ, and hold your own in a sprint. Don't pigeon hole yourself. It's just too early to know.

Stuck in a hole

I am male, 37 years old, and recently returned to training after a few years' hiatus. I have been steadily increasing my base training kilometres over the last four months. I figure it will take me about 12 months to get back into proper racing shape considering the time I've had off the bike.

Now I'm in a hole. I can't get my heart rate up; I'm feeling a bit flat and am struggling on rides that I recently was handling ok. Any help?


Scott Saifer replies:

Your situation is pretty normal among self-coached riders and riders coached by "stick to your plan" coaches. It is not the end of the world and it need not be a major setback. You need to do three things:

1) Take some recovery time
2) Figure out if you did anything in particular wrong to get to this place and correct it if needed, and
3) check with a doctor if 1) and 2) don't help.

Recovery time does not mean getting off the bike. It does mean keeping the intensity low (less than 70% of maximum heart rate if you use a heart rate monitor, so easy that you are turning the pedals but not really pushing on them if you don't), and doing a few less hours than you have been doing.

Not knowing anything about your training plan so far, I'd suggest that your recovery rides be about one half as long as your recent long rides. Keep doing recovery rides exclusively until you're heart rate responds normally again.

Next examine your eating (at least 200 Calories per hour of mostly carbohydrate while riding), time spent above 80% of maximum heart rate (should be close to zero during a period of increasing volume), sleeping, life stress, signs of illness and anything else that might impact your ability to recover. Examine your training increase. Was it a realistic 10% or so per week? If it's been more, back off and start a new more gradual ramp.

If you find no errors of recovery or training plan, and the recovery days don't bring you around in a week or so, check with the doctors just in case. You might have something worth treating.

Threshold power improvements

I started my base training this season with a 20-minute threshold test with a Powertap. I was reasonably surprised to see it had not dropped too much from the end of the season. November was 315 Watts compared to 340 Watts in September. After a three-week session of base training, my December threshold power was 330 Watts.

So my questions: Is this the sort of increase that would be expected after the first month of training? Can this rate of increase be maintained or is a plateau to be expected?


Dave Palese replies:

The progression you have seen is exactly what you want to see! You seem to have timed you rest and activity very well for this time in the year. You ended your season. Rested. And then you came back having not lost anything. The lower number in November was more than likely just not having the pipes open after a short layoff.

The recovery, or regeneration period in the season is where a lot of riders cut themselves off at the knees. Too long a rest period, and not enough activity/intensity to prevent significant detraining. But you seem to have done things right to this point. Keep up the good work!

Sore thighs

I am training about 250 kilometres per week, on both flat and undulating roads. After a hard session training, I am particularly sore on the top of my thighs above the knees. Is this a common ailment? Is there any advice that you give me that would alleviate some of this soreness?


Steve Owens replies:

It's possible that your saddle is slightly lower than it should be. If there are no other issues, try raising your saddle 3mm and leave it there for a week to ten days with training and see if you make any progress.

Where is your saddle in relation to the bottom bracket? You could also be a little too far forward.

Sprinterval DVDs and indoor training

I love spin classes at the gym but have not the time to do the classes at the moment so I was wondering if there are spin class DVDs? Even better would be a DVD of a spin class using the principals of Steve Bouchers' eight seconds flat out and 12 slow?

And what do you think the best home exercise bike is?


Dave Palese replies:

Of the DVDs that I have seen, the Spinerval DVDs that Troy Jacobson puts out seem to be the nicer of the ones on the market. They offer quite a variety and they seem to be easy to follow, and use. I will say that most of the workouts I have viewed have been a bit too much intensity per session for many riders. Just not enough rest between efforts. And thus the focus of the workout seems to be blurred. Take those comments with a grain of salt.

As far as indoor bike... your bike on a trainer is the best. It is the most specific. It's best to train on your equipment as much as possible. Invest in a nice fluid trainer (Elite Fluid Alu, or Primo Kut Kinetic, etc.). Trainer systems that are like CompuTrainer, self-resistance adjusting and all, have really come down into an affordable price range if you put a decent amount of time in through the winter. Elite, and Tacx both make PC interfaced trainers for about $900 that give lots of visual and training feedback.

If your bike on a trainer isn't an option, then I recommend the Lemond RevMaster with the Pilot computer. Nice amount of feedback for the money. CycleOps also has several models with various features, but I think that they are pretty pricey. But I don't have any personal experience with them.

Chamois cream

A couple of simple questions regarding chamois cream. Are they any more effective than using an antiseptic cream (such as Savlon)? Which brands do not contain almond oil? (I am a nut allergy sufferer so Assos chamois cream is unsuitable)


Scott Saifer replies:

I'm not familiar with Savlon in particular, but there is nothing magic about stuff that is labelled as chamois cream and sold in bike stores. If you use a product and you are comfortable after a few hours, it works.

Back to top