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Fitness questions and answers for May 27, 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 on a heavier bike
Training without a power meter
Eating late
Correct seat height & saddle position
Sole thickness & saddle height

Wedges & Specialized shoes

Training on a heavier bike

I just thought I would respond to Scott Saifer's response to the gentleman who inquired about training on a heavier bike. The gentleman had asked if training on a heavier bike was a viable training technique, to which Scott responded that it would be "silly" to do so. My question to Scott is why is it not a viable training method? Maybe a better question to ask would be, why do the pro's switch to a lighter weight bike when racing, especially during the mountain stages?

Personally I don't want to train on a heavier bike since part of the joy of cycling is riding a nice light bike, but I have to disagree with Scott if he is implying that there would be no positive training result(not just psychological) from riding a heavier bike and then switching to a lighter bike for races. I would even argue that the SAID principle would justify the added resistance training on a heavier bike would provide.

Jason Charlebois

Scott Saifer replies:

The training effect will be determined by the cadence and pressure on the pedals. Ride the light bike a bit faster or the heavy bike a bit slower and you get the same effect.

Dave Fleckenstein replies:

We've had a number of responses to Scott's reply along these same lines. The truth is that bike weight has very little to do with the work that we do on the bike (expressed in watts) and more to do with the speed. If I am riding at 350W, I can train at that level on a light bike and go faster, or train on a heavy bike and go slower, either way it is the same wattage. Bike weight does not necessarily increase resistance, the gearing and force that we apply to the pedal does.

Training without a power meter

As a competitive club cyclist with a full time career and family responsibilities, I am often seeking training tools/plans which provide maximum gain with minimal time investment. At the recommendation of professional cycling coaches worldwide, I have used a powermeter for most of my training and racing in the past three years. Yet, I question whether I have gained value for money from this investment in this time.

While the powermeter has allowed me to put figures to my training zones, and let me compare myself to the pros, for someone with time limitations I don't feel it has offered anymore than a standard heartrate monitor and/or a cycling computer. I knew what my weaknesses were before I used it and I know what they are now. In the time that it takes to download my data, analyse, graph and plan future workouts, obsess over which numbers have or haven't improved, compare heart rate with cadence etc I could have done another set of intervals or spent time with my family.

As an experiment, I did a number of rides with the powermeter covered and compared the interval data to that from previous un-blinded rides - the values for power were within 3-4% of each other. Maybe I am lucky in that I have a good awareness of my body, and maybe this has only developed from using the powermeter in the first place. However, I am winning no more races now than I was in my pre powermeter days. And to some degree, the enjoyment of simply riding at speed with the wind in my hair had been lost to the desire to hold my threshold for x number of minutes, then rest, then 70% of....

For this reason I wonder if these devices are best left to those who aren't burdened by family/life commitments off the bike, and those with coaches who are able to obsess at length over wattages, heart rates and cadences. Some of the greatest trained without a powermeter - Indurain, Pantani, and interestingly recently, a number of modern day pros such as Cunago have publicly reported shying away from the numbers obsession. I would be interested to hear from the coaches on the panel as to whether those not at the front of the pack should adopt a simple approach to the bike - just ride it and enjoy.

James Hastings

Scott Saifer replies:

You are 100% correct. It is possible to train very well with a power meter or without. Ultimately fitness changes depend on how hard you push on the pedals for how long and at what cadences, not whether you can quantify it or not. The real power of a powermeter or a heart rate monitor is in teaching an individual athlete to be precisely aware of his effort and condition, and obviously some people have figured that out with no devices assisting them. The power meter can also help identify training errors that some people already know not to make: low power on a given day can lead to identification of nutrition, sleeping, stress or other problems for instance. Those problems can also be identified by chatting with a coach. The meters do make the coach's job a lot easier and increase the chances of a rider making some good progress, but simply strapping one on and downloading the files won't make one any faster.

Eating late

Ok, bottom line it for me. I've heard a thousand reasons why I shouldn't eat 4 hours prior to bed. A thousand reasons why I can eat close to bedtime, but no carbohydrates. No carbohydrates after 4pm. Blah, blah...

I can't take it. I've tried both, can't really tell the difference except I'm really hungry after a 13 hours fast. I'm a tri and mtb racing dude sitting at 6'1" 165lbs most of the time but would like to be a bit closer to the 160 mark. Bottom line it for me and I'll end the madness.


Scott Saifer replies:

Bottom line: meal timing makes very little difference to long term weight control beyond the simple rule of eating small meals often enough to avoid getting really hungry. If not eating or restricting carbohydrates in the evening makes you very hungry by morning, it is more likely to result in you gaining than losing weight.

Correct seat height & saddle position

Dear Steve, my name is Dermot and I'm 30 years old, I have raced road for years and also do a lot of cross country biking. I have checked my frame size and it is correct for me. I am 5'10" in height with an inseam of 83; I have been adjusting my riding position over the last few weeks trying to find my perfect position. I felt my saddle was too low and that it needed to be brought forward a bit so that my knee was in alignment with my pedal axle, on my last spin I noticed that my thigh muscles tired easily and that my bike felt sluggish, could you please give me some tips on getting that perfect position and on why I get thigh pain when I'm climbing, maybe I'm just unfit or maybe I'm doing something wrong. I would really appreciate you help and guidance as different website give different answers to my problem.


Steve Hogg replies:

You don't give a lot to go on. As you move your seat forward, your quadriceps will be more heavily enlisted. As you move it back the hamstrings work harder. Ideally you want to be sitting where the muscle groups at front and rear of thigh don't feel like either is being overloaded. From what you have said, it sounds like you may have moved your seat too far forward. Forget knee aligning with pedal axle; it isn't really relevant.

Sole thickness & saddle height

I'm a huge fan of this column and look forward to reading it each Tuesday. I'll try to make my question as brief as possible.

I recently changed from Sidi's with the millennium/nylon sole to the 5.5's with the carbon composite sole. According to Sidi, the composite sole is 1.1mm thinner than the nylon sole. It seems that with different thickness chamois and thick/thin socks etc, I should not be worrying about the 1.1mm difference, but I am slightly concerned.

Is there just reason to try and lower my saddle by exactly 1.1mm or should I leave it alone and just ride? Is this a significant amount that the body can feel or is it strictly a mental problem?

Zach Hillerson

Steve Hogg replies:

I wouldn't worry about 1mm initially. If 1mm makes a noticeable difference, then you are on the 'edge' already. Saying this I am assuming that your cleats are in the same place on the new shoes as they were on the old shoes.

Wedges & Specialized shoes

I'm a 30 year road rider who puts in plenty of training (3-5000 miles a year) and does the odd race to keep my eye in.

About 18 months ago I was fitted with custom insoles and varus / LeMond wedges. These have helped me produce a bit more power and more comfort. I was fitted with 1 wedge under my left foot and 2 under my right.

My shoes are now ready for a change. I was about to buy the same ones until, out of interest, I tried on the new Specialized Body Geometry shoes. These feel much more comfortable than my existing shoes and have a full carbon sole.

These come with 1.5mm of tilt built into the sole. Are they practical for me and would it be wise to add just 1 shim to my right foot, meaning I would 0.5mm "over wedged" on each side?

Chris Isherwood
Lancashire, England

Steve Hogg replies:

I suspect that there are few riders who are sensitive enough to notice the lack or increase of 0.5 mm of wedging. Try with wedge for a week and without for a week and make a judgement based on how you feel.

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