Cyclingnews Fitness Q&A - October 26, 2011

Russell Hampton (Sigma Sport) gets a leg rub before the start

Russell Hampton (Sigma Sport) gets a leg rub before the start (Image credit: Rob Lampard)

Topics: Lack of sleep, Balancing work and riding commitments, A follow up by a concerned reader on unequal leg power from October 5

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Lack of sleep

Balancing work and riding commitments

A follow up by a concerned reader on unequal leg power from October 5

Lack of sleep


My question is a general one that I, and probably others, have problems with when having a full-time job, family, etc. What do you recommend on those intense workout days when you are lacking adequate sleep? I can feel that my body needed an extra 1-2 hrs of sleep, and doing intervals, sprints, or even a training race is the last thing I want to do. Do you recommend taking the day off the bike altogether, do a recovery ride, or shorten the workout by a certain amount?

I'm doing all that can to improve my sleep, but when trying to stick to a training plan, it can be very frustrating when you aren't well rested.



Scott Saifer says:

Hi Mark,

I encourage all my clients to follow this rule: If you are well rested and feeling good, train long or hard as the program suggests. If you are feeling less than great, do a Recovery Ride of the full length of the suggested ride for the day. If you are really tired, replace the training with a nap. For my clients that regularly have trouble getting enough sleep for good recovery, we have the rule that they must sleep to train.

The training plan might say something like "Sprints (10) if you got 8 hours sleep last night, else Short Recovery Ride" or "Endurance Spin: 4 hours if you got 8 hours sleep last night, else Short Recovery Ride" and so on. When the body is ready for rest, rest will do more to make it stronger than any number of intervals, sprints, training races or long rides. Only replace a ride with a Day Off if you are rather tired or sick. Otherwise, an easy ride is better than no ride and better than a hard ride when tired.

Balancing work and riding commitments


I used to do a lot of racing, however I've just started a new job as a waiter which means I work either 12 hour shifts or do split shifts e.g 1130am-1500pm and then 1700pm - 1200am, and I'm struggling to stay race fit. Do you have any tips which I could do to try and keep at my level?

Many thanks.


Scott Saifer says:

Hi Tom,

I've had a few waiter-clients. Waiting tables and bike racing is a tough combination. Being on your feet 12-hours a day is really not conducive to recovering from whatever training you manage to squeak in. Here's the general advice though.

On work days do an hour or two at most of easy spinning. Don't ride hard in the 8 hours before working. Standing, you won't recover from it well enough to get a training benefit, and going to work shortly after a hard ride increases your chance of getting sick. On non-work days, sleep in and then go as long as you have time and energy for. Only go long or hard when you'll have a good opportunity to recover before your next work day.

A follow up by a concerned reader on unequal leg power from October 5

Ben Lewis replied:

Hi Steve,

I’m a tutor for second year medical students in Muscular Skeletal Systems and just wanted to rationalize the following comment:

From October 5.

“To my knowledge, there is no nerve exiting C7 or nearby that goes to the legs. The innervation of the legs stems from much further down in the spine.”

You comment is correct, L1 through L5 and the sacrum. However, just remember that spinal cord lesions at C7 can still cause quadriplegia.

Kind regards,

Steve Hogg says:

G'day Ben,

The questioner was concerned about differing power outputs from each leg (left weaker) which he felt may be stemming from a previous C7 injury that had affected his left arm. Is it your experience that an injury of the type he describes can cause the symptoms he describes; weaker left leg?

It may be so, as I don't know. I see a lot of people with similar power imbalances that have had no injuries to the neck and the cases I've seen, other factors or poor bike position play a part. I thought it unlikely that his root cause was his injury, but if I'm wrong on that and it is possible, I'm happy to be corrected.

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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