Fitness questions and answers for May 13, 2008

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.

Training for year round racing
High heart rate
Strength training for cyclo-cross
Thoracic Spine extension
Positioning question

Follow up
Spinal cord injury & available bikes
Junior mileage
15 years away from the bike

Training for year round racing

I am 26 years old and I started cycling about 6 months ago. A month a ago I started racing criteriums. I guess you could call it my new Saturday sport. I have the goal of moving up a couple of grades by the end of the year, from D to B, and maybe next year thinking about longer races.

At the moment it is winter time, I am a full time uni student so my training timetable is as follows:

Monday: 1-2hr ride w/ group or solo including 4-6 hill sprints or 20min, 15min, 15min intervals
Tuesday: rest day due to work commitments
Wednesday: 1hr trainer
Thursday: 1hr trainer
Friday: Off
Saturday: race (30kms) or every 2nd Saturday 2-4hr ride
Sunday: 2-4hr ride w/ a few friends

Considering I am wishing to improve and race at least every fortnight is this basic outline okay. I know I seem to be cramming everything over 3 days but with winter, work and university its the best I can do. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.


Dave Palese replies:

This is one of those questions with no good answer.

High heart rate

I'm a 16 year old road cyclist who trains 10 hours a week. Earlier in the year I had my tonsils out, and took a few weeks to recover. When I did start to get back in form, I was able to reach really big max heart rates. Several times I went over 210bpm, and once hit up to 216bpm.

Is this unhealthy? Or do I just have a naturally fast heart? Since then I haven't hit so high a heart rate as my fitness improves, despite being much faster and now racing in a much harder grade. Do you get a higher heart rate after just coming back to form and when you aren't quite at your peak or is this unusual?

Scott Saifer replies:

A maximum heart rate of 216 is not too unusual in a rider your age, and yes, riders typically see slightly higher heart rates for a few days after returning from a break, and yes, riders typically lose 6-10 beats off their maximum heart rates as they go from recreationally active to highly trained.

Strength training for cyclo-cross

I am a 32 year old male, 6' 1", 180 lbs. and I have been racing for a little more than three years. I came from playing soccer in college, and still played at a high level up until three years ago where I switched to cycling. I train on the road, but I race mountain bikes and cyclo-cross (with my highest goal being results during cross season). Last fall was my first cross season and I absolutely loved it! I have the time to train for, and be highly competitive in an hour race while still balancing work, and a family life.

I learned last year that power is essential in cross! I have a good grasp for on the bike strength training, but I'm struggling on where in my training week to fit in the gym/free weight leg strength training.

I'm currently doing interval training/hard group rides on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays with recovery rides following those days and taking Monday as a complete rest day from the bike. My mountain bike season is more for fun and good hard training while not being focused on results, just the benefit for cross season. Based on Periodization schedules that I've read, I'm assuming that now is when I should be doing my strength training, and then moving into a maintenance phase around September. Where would you recommend I put in free weight training during my weekly schedule to have the most benefit, while complementing my on the bike strength training?


Dave Palese replies:

These types of questions have no concise answer. But here are a few of my thoughts:

Thoracic Spine extension

I just finished reading Steve Hogg's article, "The anatomy of bike position", and a light came on. For a very long time, I have been noticing the position of pro riders and how they differ from my own, and one feature in particular is the horizontal, flat back and sharp bend in the lower back. George Hincapie's position is a prime example; it looks like he has an extra joint in his lower back.

In trying to ride in this position, I notice improved breathing from the opening up and elongation of the chest, but I am unable to comfortably sustain this position for an extended period. I don't have any pain; it is just that it feels somewhat forced, and unnatural. I was wondering if Steve could recommend any exercises or stretches, in addition to a core strengthening regimen, that would help me to improve my ability to flatten out my mid-back and help this position to feel more natural.

Steve Hogg replies:

I am glad that you got something out of it but I am not the person to best answer your question. I stretch a lot because it keeps a lot of old injuries quiet but don't consider myself as having the expertise to advise others. Years of trial and error have taught me what I need but I hesitate to advise others specifically. I draw your attention to two posts by Dave Fleckenstein that sum up the issue eloquently. The first is in regard to which frame to choose? While the second is regarding stretching confusion.

Positioning question

Hi - I really enjoy your column. After suffering from Achilles tendon problems for years, I have moved my cleats back as far as possible with my Specialized shoes. I don't have any problems with them anymore. It would seem intuitive that by moving cleats back, even though I have lowered saddle, that I am still increasing the "reach" to the pedal unless I move the saddle forward a bit.

My question has to do with fore/aft saddle positioning. What are the relative pluses and minuses of having a saddle forward vs. kicked back? Assume that I increase or decrease saddle height an appropriate amount with any forward/backward adjustments. Will I work different muscle groups more in different positions? Is either position easier on lower back and hips? It appears that most triathaletes have pushed their saddle quite far forward vs. Euro road pros positions on their TT bikes. It also appears someone like Fabian Cancellara has his seat pretty far forward, especially compared to riders like Contador or LeMond.

Erik Sass

Steve Hogg replies:

Read the following two posts of Dave Fleckenstein's regarding which frame to choose? and stretching confusion. This article on bike position will help as well.

Follow up

Steve, Pete Moore here from Chicago. I just wanted to follow up with you regarding my progress and get some suggestions from you. After I had the scanogram done, my podiatrist and I have come up with a magic number of 6mm for me in a heel lift with a 4 degree varus correction in all of my street and athletic shoes. The actual discrepancy is 10mm. This has worked out great for me. There was some pain in my back as my spine adjusted but after some adjustments from my chiropractor and a few massages I am good to go. I duplicated the 6mm shim in my left cycling shoe plus two varus wedges and my pedal stroke is great. I had to reduce my reach and get a firmer, wider saddle and I chose the San Marco magma as it is fairly wide, flat and has zero flex with the magnesium base.

One of the symptoms I described to you was that my right hip wanted to slide forward and down on the downstroke and I had more weight on my right sit bone. I followed up with my chiro and he was quite embarrassed but what he never saw was how my spine curved while sitting but straight standing up with the 6mm heel lift. He has since diagnosed me with a left hemi-pelvis on top of the 10mm LLD. So I am great standing, walking, squatting, running etc. But my spine is out of whack when sitting.

This would explain why my right sit bone takes all the weight and wants to come off the right side of the saddle. The shims helped a ton for the left leg especially out of the saddle.

He told me that I best get something made like a pad I can roll up and take with for movies, meetings, restaurants etc. placing it under my left sit bone and to try and sit in firmer chairs.

Reading some previous posts from you I see a few suggestions. Building up the left side of my saddle, modifying a seat post etc. Do you know of anyone who makes a seatpost that tilts left and right as well as up and down I can use? Or what do you suggest? I firmly believe this is the last piece to the puzzle as I am now pain free in my everyday life. Bursitis disappeared and back pain did as well. But after 40 miles on the bike my right side lower back is screaming because my spine is pointing to the left coming of the saddle compressing the right side.

Make sense?

Thanks again Steve and I literally would have been lost without your advice because no bike shop around here has anyone who goes to the last detail of biomechanics.


Steve Hogg replies:

It would be a good idea to confirm that small left hemi pelvis with an x ray or similar. I need a few clarifications please.

Spinal cord injury & available bikes

I am looking to purchase a road bike (or hybrid) but suffer from Von Hippel Lindau disease (basically a slew of tumours in the spinal cord & brain). Unfortunately I only have some dexterity & feeling in my right hand / arm so I require all braking & shifting to reside on my right handle bar - my current bike has gear shifts on both handle bars (very noisy & tough to ride - lol).

Are there road bikes that can be modified to accommodate someone like me - I can't foresee using a recumbent as I hate my recumbent exercise cycle.

I am male; 48 years old with very limited road experience (borrowed a friend's bike & loved it despite the numbness in my arms & torso). Not looking to race but would like something that goes around town & on the country roads around here.

Paul Murin

Scott Saifer replies:

If your goal is really just to have a regular bike but be able to control both shifters and both brakes from the right hand, your problem is not that hard to solve. Use whatever you like for the rear shifter and add a bar-end shifter to control the front derailleur. Then a get a brake splitter (they're usually used on tandems) to let you operate the two brakes from one handle.

Junior mileage

As a male U17 junior B-grade racer, I get varying advice about how much riding I can do a week. Some say 200 km, while another U19 rider told me he did about 400km a week when he was my age. I fully understand the reasons behind the suggestion to limit my mileage, but I don't really know how much is enough. Until now, I have been doing about 220 - 300km a week without encountering any problems.

I am average height for my age; approx 175cm tall, and weighing in at about 63 kg. I'm more of a climber or time-trialist than a sprinter. So far, I have been doing commuting on a MTB to school 4/5 days a week (100-150km) and doing weekend rides or races of 70-120km. Once every week, I do sprint training for about an hour and/or an early hammer-session with my local club. I don't know if it matters, but my mtb has 175mm cranks, while my two road bikes have 172.5mm crank sets with the appropriate junior gearing (46/15). Is it possible that this variation between my bikes could have an effect on my performance and/or the effectiveness of my training during the week? Also, is it a good idea to stretch after a ride?

How much should I really ride?

Kristian Juel

Dave Palese replies:

Well, first I'll reinforce that you have entered into an awesome sport for the body and the mind. Cycling is truly a lifelong sport.

15 years away from the bike

I am a 50 year old master's cyclist. Currently cat 4. I returned to racing in 2007 after 15 years away. I started racing when I was around 27 years old and stopped at 35. I stopped racing when I was accepted to graduate school and also wanted to spend more time with my children and watch them compete in their various sports. During the time I was away from racing I stayed active with cycling, running, skiing, hiking and weight lifting. I did not compete in cycling during that time away ....only in some 5k running races. I did not do any intense training for cycling but I would ride for enjoyment and fitness. I did do some interval training for running races but it was not consistent.

I weigh the same as I did when I left racing. I am 5'8" 146 and am in excellent health. In 2007 I put in about 5,000 miles outdoor training miles and logged about 700 indoor. I followed a standard annual training program and competed in about 6 races last year. Needless to say my first year back was a struggle. I was not able to keep up with the better riders and was finishing in the bottom half of the field (3rd quartile) early in the season. I had some better results as the season progressed and started beating some guys that I could not keep up with when I started but nothing like the past. When I left racing at 35 years old I was riding well, scored enough points move from a cat 3 to a 2 in the masters events. I was placing in the prize money for most of the local races I entered.

I have kept up my training over the winter and this year and I am riding stronger, with more training miles but continue to struggle to keep up with the guys that never stopped racing. (Example last year in the 45-45 age group in my first race I was dropped on the first big climb. This year I was able to stay with the lead group for a full lap before falling off the pace.) I expect I will get better as the year progresses.

I want to become competitive again and am willing to work hard to get there. My question: is it possible to gain back the form I had before with a solid training program at my age or was staying away from competition and intense training for that length of time put me at a permanent disadvantage that I can't overcome. I don't ever remember getting dropped on a climb before however it has happened to me now and I don't like it much.


Dave Palese replies:

Welcome back!

Thank you for reading 5 articles in the past 30 days*

Join now for unlimited access

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

*Read any 5 articles for free in each 30-day period, this automatically resets

After your trial you will be billed £4.99 $7.99 €5.99 per month, cancel anytime. Or sign up for one year for just £49 $79 €59

Join now for unlimited access

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