Cyclingnews Fitness Q&A - May 13, 2011

Time to eat during a training ride.

Time to eat during a training ride. (Image credit: Andrzej Jozwik)

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.

Avoiding cross-training interfering with recovery

Dear Cyclingnews Fitness Panel,

What are your thoughts on swimming during a day off from riding versus on an easy day (i.e. a day on which one does a recovery ride)? Is swimming on the day off likely to interfere with any recovery processes from the past few days' riding? If one rides four days each week, plus a short recovery ride and two days off, on which days would you recommend incorporating cross training such as swimming, running, racquetball, etc., so as to maximize gains without overly affecting recovery?

Thanks for your advice.


Ari Baquet

Scott Saifer says:

Hi Ari,

The answer to your question depends on the intensity of your swimming. If you are taking a relaxing, 20-30 minutes to move your body easily through the water, you can do it on a riding day or a resting day with no concern that one is better than the other. If you are training by swimming, doing either higher intensity or higher volume of swimming, they your swimming is not really a recovery activity and you should not count a swim day as a recovery day. On the other hand, two days off plus an easy ride day is so much recovery that it still doesn't much matter on which day you swim. If you swim hard on a Day Off it's not really a Day Off, but you still have one day off and one easy day per week, which should be enough

Balancing on and off bike training

Fitness Gurus,

-Around 2 hours spent on legs/ upper body

-1 hour running (2 x 30 minute sessions, average 6 mph, max grad 2% on treadmill)

-1 hour core work (oblique, back ext (roman chair ?), neck shrug, ball crunch, ball roll out, back ext on ball, plank, cable core press and capt chair leg lift)

I plan on riding in four days per week and taking Friday as a rest day and then doing at least 100 miles on the weekend or more. However given time constraints now that I am riding in, i.e. my lunch is shorter so I can leave earlier, would it make sense to forego abbreviated gym sessions because of the mileage I’ll be putting on?

Chris Wright

James Hibbard says:

Hello Chris,

Your fundamental question can be rephrased as "What is the threshold of on-bike training beyond which additional strength training would not be beneficial?" It sounds as if you have some time management issues involved, but I will focus on the physiological aspects of your question.

From a physiological perspective, as the season progresses, it is beneficial for one’s training to become increasingly specific. The degree of specificity is informed by one’s cycling goals and even by their discipline (e.g. a track sprinter will often continue to include upper body movements whereas a road racer will not). This means that during the spring and summer months I would recommend eliminating running and focus your limited time and energy on recovering from what sounds like ten to twelve hours of weekly on-bike training in addition to the strength training that you are doing.

This leaves the question of what strength training movements to continue with. I am afraid that this will depend somewhat upon your natural abilities and deficits. If you tend to be mesomorphic but lack aerobic fitness it might be best to simply focus on maintaining core strength so that you can spend all of your time and energy riding. However, if peak power is a consistent problem, the strength training that you undertake might need to be far more rigorous.

With that basic caveat, I would recommend moving to more of a maintenance phase in the gym (3-4 sets of 7-9 reps at around 60% of your single repetition maximum). In terms of exercises, I would have you focus on core movements (including the Roman chair), the lower body movements that you have been doing (excluding the adductor and abductor as these movements map onto the bike poorly) and (once again remember this is during the summer when you are riding more) I would also recommend focusing on only one or two multi-muscle upper body movements. Good choices include dips, lat pull-downs, or seated rows.

What is important is that your in-season gym sessions should be far shorter in duration than what you described above- probably only an hour including warm-up, cool-down and stretching.

Keeping hyrdrated under race conditions

Hi team,

Last year I did the Duva International Sportive in Majorca and suffered quite badly from dehydration although I thought that I was taking enough fluids on board! I am doing the sportive again later this month, the distances are 95km and 135km the following day with plenty of climbing on Day 2. What would you recommend that I should be drinking/eating to keep myself hydrated and my energy levels normal?


Pamela Hinton says:

Hi Simon,

Ideally, you want to consume enough fluid to replace what is lost in sweat and urine in order to prevent dehydration. This requires that you drink early and often. You need to drink early in the ride, because dehydration slows gastric emptying, which then exacerbates the dehydration. You need to drink often in order to keep up with the losses. Fluid needs will vary with individual sweat rates, degree of heat acclimatization, and environmental conditions, but the general recommendation is that athletes consume 8-12 ounces every 15–20 minutes during exercise. Those of us who live in climates where are there are significant seasonal changes in temperature have to acclimatize to the heat every summer. During the first week of warmer weather, you will sweat more on a given ride than you would when the temperature is mild. As you acclimate, the sweat rate increases so your body cools more readily. The composition of your sweat also changes. As you spend more time in warm temperatures, the amount of sodium in sweat decreases. As a result, we are not as susceptible to dehydration and heat exhaustion after 10-14 days in the heat.

The composition of the beverage that you consume while riding also will affect the rate of fluid absorption. Drinks that are 6-8% carbohydrate will be absorbed most rapidly, while allowing adequate carbohydrate to be consumed in a reasonable volume, i.e., 1 liter of a 6% carbohydrate solution consumed in one hour would provide 60 g of carbohydrate per hour. Beverages containing glucose, sucrose, and glucose polymers are preferable to those containing exclusively fructose or those with a fructose concentration greater than 2-3%. The downside of fructose is that the absorption rate is slower and the fructose that lingers in the intestine may cause gastrointestinal distress. When riding for extended periods of time, especially in hot and humid conditions, it is important to drink a beverage that includes some sodium (0.5-0.7 g sodium per liter). The sodium increases voluntary fluid intake and reduced the risk of hyponatremia. Likewise, consumption of salty foods with plenty of water after the first day will help you rehydrate more quickly.

Riding after a knee-replacement


Steve Hogg says:

G'day Ivan,

I've seen plenty of riders post knee replacement and none had a problem with the proviso that they had a good range of flexion at the knee. 105 degrees isn't bad and should be enough, though I say that sight unseen. If you can find some one who provides a quality bike fitting service, it would be worth your while getting checked out before you commence any heavy training. It is likely that post op, the way that you function on the bike is somewhat different to pre op. That may mean changes are necessary and it may not.

Best of luck with your return to cycling.



Altitude and age

G'day Guys,

I'm taking a months cycling holiday in the states and plan on doing Mt. Evans as a social ride, I'm an active but a bit overweight 60 year old, 6' 1" and 96Kilo , a typical executive with not enough time but knows how to hurt in club races , tri's, marathons etc. and an ex Alpine climber, am riding 250-300kms weekly, I will be riding it to complete and enjoy rather than timing myself.

My dilemma is I've ridden Euro alps with at 8-9500', puffed a fair bit but had no ill affects, but going to 14000' with little acclimatisation ( 3 days in Boulder ) will obviously have it's challenges at age, so what are they and what can I do in training before departure, I live no where near where altitude is available.

As a younger alpinist I was a freak that never needed to acclimatise, where as mates as fit as me would suffer, so the other question is, does ones natural ability to cope with altitude carry with you through life, there are many examples of "Ancient Alpinists" coming back to crack 7-8000 metre climbs, because they can "afford" to do it now !!

I can absolutely declare that coping with altitude is not hereditary as I have a son who is a pro rider who suffers seriously at altitude unless a lengthy period of acclimatisation is undertaken .
I'm well aware of the danger signs and would turn around and bomb it down, well thats what i've told the missus (Kiwi can do )



Scott Saifer says:

Hi Steve,

I'd like to say that because you coped well with altitude years ago, you'll do fine this time. You probably will, but I can't say so with certainty. The very same mountaineers can do climbs to the same altitude, getting nary a whiff of altitude sickness several times, and then suddenly serious problems another time, without even throwing in an age factor. So, no once can really say if your ability to handle altitude as a youth will transfer to your current age.

It would be great to do some science on this question, but there aren't a lot of old guys who had no problem in mountains when they were young and still going to altitude when they are older sitting around calling out "study me" to passing physiologists.

If you are really concerned, you could get access to an altitude tent and see what happens when you set it to 14,000 feet. If you aren't happy with the results, borrow it for a few weeks before your trip to acclimatize.

Time Crunched Base Building

Hey guys,

There has been much discussion about 'time effectively training' for cyclists whose real life gets in the way of high volume training, especially since Chris Carmichael published "The Time Crunched Cyclist." The book mentions the misunderstood disconnect between amateur athletes training for relatively infrequent and short events versus the pros training for Grand Tours and 250 kilometer classics. While Carmichael lays out training programs that focus on high intensity and low volume, these programs only last 8-11 weeks. There is only a brief mention of maintaining volume at the same low level but keeping intensity at zones 2-3 in the 41-44 weeks of the year that an athlete is not following one of these plans.

The more traditional view is that the base period for amateur cyclists should be made up of the highest volume of the year and low intensity. This is unrealistic when most amateurs with full-time jobs and other obligations have to deal with limited time, limited daylight, other sources of stress, and weather not suited to outdoor riding.

Base building for endurance athletes with limited time is widely misunderstood and what little understanding there is seems to be in flux. How should a cyclist with a limited time to train approach base building? Should they try to follow a traditional periodization approach (start at low intensity and build to higher intensities as their intended peak nears), but keep their low weekly training hours constant throughout the year? Should the base and build periods be made primarily of tempo and low zone 4 intervals, and the long rides added in the Spring and Summer once the weather and available daylight improve?

Although I am not new to endurance sports, I am new to bike racing and in my mid-20s so I feel that there are still benefits to spending at least a portion of my off season at low training intensities. I don’t have as many miles in my legs as some older athletes who have had success with the Time Crunched Training Plans. This approach also allows me to enjoy cross country skiing without structure and spend as little time as possible on the trainer during winter.

I know that there is a silent majority who are tired of incorrectly trying to apply professional training concepts during base and build periods to their busy lives. Please help us out!

Matt McLaughlin

Scott Saifer says:

Hi Matt,

For people who will train year round in cycling or in a mix of mostly aerobic activities, a periodized training plan with base before intensity works best, even if the volume is restricted. Riders who go hard without first accumulating easy miles on the bike get more injuries, have poorer recovery and suffer earlier burn-out than those who put in some hours of endurance riding for a month or more before pushing harder. If your hours are going to be very limited year round, like 10 hours per week or less, make use of most if not all of them year round. You might take an annual rest period where you train five hours per week or less, but the rest of the year, use your available time.

Now, if your time is going to be extremely restricted, you're going to find it challenging to compete with riders who have more time to train, at least those that have more time to train and use that time wisely. One possibility since you've mentioned that you can train more in the better weather and longer days of the summer would be to plan your racing season to hit later in the summer, after you've had a month or two of longer rides to build your fitness.

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.

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