Skip to main content

Cyclingnews Fitness Q&A - February 16, 2012

The peloton rolls along during the Tour of Oman's opening stage.

The peloton rolls along during the Tour of Oman's opening stage. (Image credit: ASO)

Topics: Ice baths, Heart rate variation, Seat post slippage, Salt intake

Got a question for the fitness panel? Send it to Try and include as much relevant information as you can think of. Remember, the more details you can provide the better the panel can tailor their response to your question.

Emails may be edited for length or clarity, but we try to publish both questions and answers in their entirety.

To find advice that relates to you more easily:

Using ice baths as part of recovery, a good idea?

Heart rate variations as an older cyclist

Seat post slippage resulting in hip and knee pain?

Salt intake for riding in warmer climates

Using ice baths as part of recovery, a good idea?

I am training for an upcoming century ride and yesterday I cranked (pardon the pun) out over 70 miles. The previous weekend I did a 50 mile ride and afterwards struggled with sore legs and in the following hours got extremely light-headed each time I got up.

Yesterday, I decided to try something that I have read about that some pro teams (Garmin, to name one) do after races. I filled our bath tub about half full of cold water and knelt in it for about 15 minutes. When done, took a shower. Yesterday watching the Super Bowl, I was tired but never got light headed or had sore legs and felt the same this morning. So I think the soaking my legs in the cold water really helped.

What I did also after the ride was to eat a small sandwich thinking that it would help alleviate the potential light-headed drama.

My question is, how long should I soak my legs and is there another way to accomplish this without wasting a large amount of water.


Mark Young

Scott Saifer says:

Hi Mark,

The fancy name for cooling your muscles as you are doing with the cold bath is "cryotherapy" (from "cryo" meaning cold, not what you do when you first lower your body into ice water). There are several methods and reasons for cryotherapy and there is some accumulating evidence for some and against others, so when your buddies tell you that they read that ice-baths "don't work" be sure to ask them specifically what they don't work for.

This is an evolving field with no one best protocol determined yet, but here's what we think we know: Cryotherapy doesn't help with routine "recovery" or mid-event. Cooling muscles makes them weak until they warm up again, so you wouldn't to cool working muscles between closely spaced events. Cooling does help when over-heating is an issue, so cooling other parts of the body as a way to reduce overall body temperature on hot days can support performance. Cryotherapy generally doesn't help with next-day performance unless the prior day's workout was soreness generating, but does reduce next day soreness.

Back to your question: to be effective against soreness, your cooling period needs to be long enough for the cooling to reach the interiors of the muscles that would otherwise become sore. That means that if you are a big guy with massive muscles, you'll need to cool for longer than a small, spindly guy with string-bean muscles.

Having said that, 5-15 minutes is probably long enough for any given muscle. One way to achieve the same end without wasting water is to give you an ice-cube massage. Rub your calves and thighs post-ride with an ice-cube at a time, replacing them as they melt. Keep the pressure moderate, enough to make a depression in the skin, but not hard enough to hurt. I've had good results with 2 large ice-cubes per calf and 4 per quad plus hamstring.

Heart rate variations as an older cyclist

As a cyclist of many years I keep fit spinning but there appears to be a slight problem with my heart rate.

Best regards,

Mike M

Scott Saifer says:

Hi Mike,

Ignore the charts. They are based on population averages and don't take into account people with large, slow-beating hearts or with smaller, fast-beating hearts. There is nothing wrong with a heart rate that rises easily and can be maintained during harder exercise, so long as the heart rate is consistent with the exercise intensity and comes down in a minute or two after you back off exercise intensity.

That is, if you are doing a pace that usually gives you one heart rate and you are suddenly seeing a much higher heart rate, that's a problem. If you exercise and then when you back off your heart rate doesn't drop in a few minutes, then that may well be a problem.

If the maximum heart rate you can hit drops by more than a few beats per year, that's a problem too, but a heart rate that is higher or lower than someone else's for a given effort is not anything to worry about.

Seat post slippage resulting in hip and knee pain?

G’day guys,

When I purchased and picked up my Cervelo S5 last September I also got an excellent bike fitting done that was very comprehensive.

This was my second fit; the first had been done years previous on my old bike, the shop when transitioning to their new system had lost my previous fit data, so this was all new and done using the Specialized BG Fit system.

About two weeks ago, I started to have this pain in the back of my right knee whenever I’d do gluteal extensions (cuff around ankle attached to weights, leg bent and moving leg back). It was this exercise and not the leg curls I was doing that seemed to cause this sensation, although I will admit that towards the end of the last few reps of the leg curls there was some pain, whereas with the glutes it was there from the start, but only the right knee.

I’d also noticed at least on one or two trainer sessions that my hips started to hurt a bit after awhile – that alone should have been the proverbial red flag. Why, because last spring on my old bike, I’d been riding with a seat post that had slipped a few millimeters and experienced the same sensation in my hips.

When I noticed it and raised the saddle back up (tape marked the proper height fyi) the pain subsided. So the other day I was able to free the S5 from its winter trainer prison and go for a 50 mile ride. It felt like my legs were almost slapping my chest, well not quite, but that feeling. I didn’t have any hip pain, but it got me wondering about my saddle height, etc. I rang up the shop and got the measurement for the seat mast/ saddle height and lo and behold it had slipped something like 3 or 4 cm! I readjusted it and noticed a big improvement on the trainer this past weekend.

Chris Wright,

New Hampshire

Steve Hogg says:

G'day Christopher,

Here's a non medical answer from someone who has his own permanent knee issues. Firstly, I don't know how long it will take to pick up where you left off in the gym. In an effort to offer advice, it would help if you knew the exact nature of the injury. "Pain behind the knee" is a general description so I can only offer general advice.

Secondly, be very, very conservative in restarting your gluteal extensions and hamstring curls. Knees are mainly composed of fibrous tissue; ligaments and tendons. These tissues receive very little blood flow and can be quite hard to injure in many circumstances. But the limited blood flow also means that once injured, they can take a long time to recover from.

I would suggest taking the week off as you suggest and then starting your gym routine at half the load you were using. Add load in weekly increments of 10% until you reach the loads you were using pre injury. If you experience pain at any stage of this progression, stop the exercises and see a physiotherapist or sports doc and find out what is going on.

Additionally, use a correction pen to place a mark on your seat post as it emerges from the frame to ensure that if the post slips again, you have a visual indication.

Salt intake for riding in warmer climates


I'm 53 and typically ride about 10 - 12 hours per week in a hot climate (Thailand). During my rides I usually consume about 1 bottle of 750ml of fluid comprising a 325ml can of Sponsor mixed with water. The can of Sponsor says it contains 0.07% sodium and 0.02% potassium (plus sugar, etc). Am I consuming enough salt?



Scott Saifer says:

Hi Eddie,

The saltiness of sweat and the requirement for salt vary tremendously from athlete to athlete so I can't say if the diluted Sponsor is giving you adequate salt to replace what you seat away during the ride, but it is doubtful. The concentration of sodium in sweat is typically around 0.9grams per liter, or 0.09%. Your Sponsor drink is a little less concentrated than that when consumed full strength, and roughly half that the way you are diluting it. So, assuming you are just replacing the fluids lost during sweating, it is very likely than you are seating away more salt than you are consuming in that drink.

This doesn't mean you necessarily need to consume more salt than riding however. You need to keep the concentration of salt in your body in a narrow range to maintain normal function, but the range does have enough width that if you are eating enough salt over the course of a day, it doesn't matter so much how it is distributed unless you are doing very long rides. That is, if you get enough salt in your off-bike food to replace what you lose on the bike each day, you don't need to worry about replacing salt while you are riding.

The exception to the above rule is if you are riding long enough in hot enough weather to become salt depleted, you'll need more salt during rides. You'd know if you were becoming salt depleted because you'd have symptoms of low blood pressure, the most obvious of which is lightheadedness on standing up after rides. If you do find yourself getting light-headed on standing after rides, take more salt on your rides, either in the form of saltier drink, or adding some salty food to the mix.

The Cyclingnews Form & Fitness panel

Scott Saifer ( is head coach, CEO of Wenzel and has been coaching cyclists professionally for 18 years. He combines a master's degree in Exercise Physiology with experience in 20 years of touring and racing and over 300 road, track and MTB races to deliver training plans and advice that are both rigorously scientific and compatible with the real world of bike racing.

Scott has helped clients to turn pro as well as to win medals at US Masters National and World Championship events. He has worked with hundreds of beginning riders and racers and particularly enjoys working with the special or challenging rider. Scott is co-author of Bike Racing 101 with Kendra Wenzel and his monthly column appears in ROAD Magazine.

Steve Hogg has owned and operated Pedal Pushers since 1986, 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. He can be reached at:

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.

Pam 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 associate professor of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology at the University of Missouri-Columbia where she studies the effects of energy balance on bone health. She has published on the effects of cycling and multi-day stage racing on bone density and turnover.

Pam was an All-American in track while at the UW. She started cycling competitively in 2003 and is a five-time Missouri State Road Champion, racing for Dogfish Racing Team.

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.

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.

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1