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Cyclingnews Fitness Q&A - March 17, 2011

The Radioshack riders take on the local traffic on a training ride

The Radioshack riders take on the local traffic on a training ride (Image credit: Gregg Bleakney)

Got a question for the fitness panel? Send it to Emails may be edited for length or clarity, but we try to publish both questions and answers in their entirety.

Road safety


I have been riding and racing for 15 years and just love the sport. Last year my wife and I had our first child and since then I have been a little anxious about safety and riding on the road.

For the last 15 years the issue of safety and road riding has not bothered me too greatly. In fact, I have passionately defended my decision to road ride many times to people who say it is too dangerous. Being a dad has changed my thinking and I don't want my son growing up without his dad. I love the sport but I love my son more.

Any advice or strategies would be greatly appreciated as I don't want to 'retire' but feel as though I am heading that way.


Steve Hogg says:


Great question and one that I'm sure that others will weigh in with other advice, too. I live in a city of 4.5 million which has a large cycling population but is in no way a bike-friendly city in terms of traffic volumes or the layout of the road network. What has kept me (and I'm sure plenty of others) alive is a few simple rules.

1. Don't worry about being hit from behind because there is nothing you can really do about it other than be visible and predictable
2. Ride like you're invisible. If you were really invisible you would never assume a driver who should give way to you had seen you. I see the aftermath of plenty of bike/car collisions. Even when the car is in the wrong, in most cases the rider has played a part, even if it was just lack of awareness about what was going on around them. More often it is "but I had the right of way" which is poor consolation after they've bounced off or been hit by a ton and a half of metal.
3. Light up like a Christmas tree at night. I use a flashing tail light, two flashing handlebar plug lights, reflective anklets and a powerful front light.

Best of luck.

Carrie Cheadle says:

Hi Daniel,

It's totally normal to be concerned with your safety after having your first child. It's also normal to feel this way when you have friends, teammates, or even hear about cyclists in the media who have either been seriously injured or killed while riding their bikes.

If you do continue to ride you can lessen the risk of being injured on your bike by increasing your bike handling skills and like Steve says, by being a "defensive cyclist" (just like a defensive driver).

In addition, if while riding all you can think about are the dangers involved, you will elicit your stress-response and make it more likely to get injured on the bike. If you experience anxiety while you are riding, you increase your muscle tension which compromises coordination and balance. You also affect your reaction time and peripheral vision... all things that are necessary for keeping you safe while riding.

Still, there are certain things in life that are out of your control and these things can happen both on and off the bike. It's a personal choice whether or not to continue to ride. Only you know how much cycling means to you and what value it has in your life, and only you can decide if it is worth the risk.

Returning to cycling after illness

I used to ride regularly up until about 20 years ago; I have a ileostomy (bag) because of crohns disease and four years ago I had a quadruple bypass, but again now the bug has bitten me again and I would like to train for a charity ride/sportive.

I have consulted my GP, who apart from laughing and saying I was mad, said go carefully and take it easy, maybe try swimming as well.

So with this in mind I was wondering if you could give me any advice as to how to go about it, or any articles/books I could follow, what period of time to reallistically look at. I have a claud butler hybrid which I would be using.

Mike Norman

Kelby Bethards says:


First of all, revisit this with your GP. If he/she is not ok with you exercising, then I believe you should seek a new GP. If your GP has a specific reason for you not exercising, try to find out that reason before proceeding.

If I were your practitioner, I would begin with an exercise treadmill stress test. I would want to see that your heart will tolerate the program of exercise. That being said, your GP may not do treadmills or exercise tests, so you may need to see your cardiologist for this test.

IF ALL is cleared, health-wise, then proceed as your GP mentioned, slowly. You've been through a lot, and can't expect to do a lot to start. Some of the other panelists will help with a slow progressive program, but make sure your heart can handle it. You will likely need to make sure absorption of fluids and calories is adequate also.

I realize this was brief, but some health checks need to be done before you proceed.

Walking as recovery

My question is about using brisk walking as active recovery from cycling.

I am a road cyclist and ride pretty much every day as I commute to and from work and also use the weekends for different types of riding. I also have always enjoyed walking as good exercise and some time ago decided to implement this into my cycling recovery.

Probably like most enthusiastic cyclists, I have a hard time just going out for a leisurely 'spin' on the bike as a recovery ride; I may start with this intention but cycling on my own, it turns into a tempo type ride more often than not. So, I decided that brisk walking is good recovery as it doesn't raise the HR too much, or put a lot of stress on the legs, but does promote lactic removal and recovery.

I was wondering your thoughts on this? Often I will walk after a long or hard ride and always like to do a long walk one day at weekends. Would you consider that walking can be included as part of training in terms of time logged? I usually do, as I know any active recovery should be included.

Kind regards,
Jason Miller

Scott Saifer says:


I do generally consider walking as a possible recovery activity, depending on the intensity and length, though. You can certainly make yourself tired by walking long or pushing hard on a walk. Therefore the real question is whether your walks as you are doing them now are working for you.

It sounds like you find your walks enjoyable and relaxing, which are certainly important for a recovery activity as forcing yourself through a low-intensity but unpleasant workout does little for the mental aspect of recovery, but do they help you recover sooner? Pay real attention to how you feel when you follow a hard day with a brisk walk vs. how you feel when you follow your hard day with sitting around doing nothing physical. Then you'll have your answer. If you feel better using your walk as you've been doing it, keep doing it. If not, consider making the walk shorter or easier.

As for logging the time, that depends on what you are doing with the log. If you are going to say, "Okay, I did 15 hours on the bike and four hours walking so that's 19 hours total", and then figure that means you should be able to bump up to 20 hours total the next week, all on the bike, you'd be on the wrong track. If it's just a number that you write down... sure, why not?

It's important to get a lot of hours of training of course, but you should never be doing a ride or walk "to get your hours" unless you are also feeling good and getting quality training.

Maximum heart rate

Hi gurus,

My background is as a competitive swimmer where I was state captain in my day; but that was so long ago... Twenty years on and I'm now a licensed cyclist, competing in my local open state events.

My maximal heart rate is 176 bpm with a resting HR of 58 bpm. I seem to return to baseline relatively quickly and attribute this to my years of swimming training. This aside, I want to go faster on the bike but I wonder if my low HR is holding me back. So, my question is related to strength training. Do I need to push up my HR max (for example, by doing intervals or something similar), or do I just need strength/weights training?

Kind regards,

Scott Saifer says:


So long as your maximum heart rate is not dropping from month to month, a low maximum heart rate is not an impediment to performance. I don't recall who it was, but one of the winners of the Tour de France in the last couple of decades was reported to have a maximum heart rate of 176. I remember that because that was also my maximum heart rate when I was racing (a maximum heart rate that drops by more than 15 beats over a years time suggests heart disease and is a good excuse to chat with your doctor).

What matters is not the numerical value of your maximum heart rate but how fast you are going at various percentages of that max compared to the people you are competing with, and that if you are training by heart rate, you use percentages of your own, individual maximum and lactate threshold heart rates, rather than the results of a formula based on age or a general recommended zone for all riders.

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 three-time Missouri State Road Champion.

James Hibbard progressed from the junior to the professional ranks as a rider and has over 15 years of competitive cycling experience. He is a former Collegiate All-American track cyclist, trained as a resident athlete at the United States Olympic Training Center, earned international medals as part of the U.S. National Team, and was a member of the powerhouse Shaklee and HealthNet Professional road cycling teams.

He has earned 13 National Track Championship medals, as well as numerous junior, U-23 and elite California State championships on both the road and track. Since retiring from full-time racing in 2005, James has focused on his development as a coach.

David Fleckenstein, MPT, OCS ( is a physical therapist practicing in Eagle, ID and the president of Physiotherapy, PA, an outpatient orthopedic clinic focusing in orthopedics, spine, and sportsmedicine care.

His clients have included World and US champions, Olympic athletes and numerous professional athletes. He received his Masters degree in Physical Therapy from Emory University and is currently completing his doctorate at Regis University.

He is a board certified orthopedic specialist focusing in manual medicine and specific retraining of spine and joint stabilisation musculature. He is a former Cat I road racer and Expert mountain biker.

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.