Fitness questions and answers for May 29, 2006

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.

Cyclingnews also has the full directory of all Form & Fitness questions and answers to our expert panel in a separate archive.

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.

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.They include World and National champions at one end of the performance spectrum to amputees and people with disabilities at the other end.

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 Richard Stern Training. He holds a Masters degree in exercise physiology and is USA Cycling Expert Coach. Michael has been a competitive cyclist for over 10 years and has experience coaching road and off-road cyclists, triathletes and Paralympians.

Kim Morrow ( has competed as a Professional Cyclist and Triathlete, is a certified USA Cycling Elite Coach, a 4-time U.S. Masters National Road Race Champion, and a Fitness Professional.

Her coaching group, eliteFITcoach, is based out of the Southeastern United States, although they coach athletes across North America. Kim also owns, a resource for cyclists, multisport athletes & endurance coaches around the globe, specializing in helping cycling and multisport athletes find a coach.

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.

Road to track positional changes Allergy question Electrolyte absorption in a race Blood pressure meds Foot size Bike fitness Lower back pain Carbon-soled shoes LT training Negative splits Uneven leg development Uphill riding position Labial swelling from cycling Riding while pregnant Long distance touring

Road to track positional changes


After deciding to have a go at the track last summer and making a somewhat successful transition. I only competed at club level but due to my local road ability was immediately placed into A grade. Although I only had seven nights of track racing for my track season (the second half of the season) and was competing against the seasoned trackies with a full season under the belts I still managed to begin getting results in both scratch races and handicaps.

As a result the track bug has hit and now I am beginning to take on both road and track. My question is this. Is there a difference between your position on a track bike over your position on a track bike? If so, what are the normal differences?

My position on my road bike has been setup up by me on how it feels. I have no pain and everything feels right. My position on the track bike was also setup by feel, once again no pain and feels right. But there is a distinct difference in saddle heights, with my track bike saddle nearly and inch higher. Any advice that you can provide to point me in the right direction is appreciated.

Luke Butler

Steve Hogg replies


Allergy question

Hi. I sent this to Steve Hogg, and he suggested sending it to Kelby Bethards instead. Here is my question: I have significant allergies in the spring and fall here in the Eastern US. These allergies also cause asthma-like symptoms when I race or train hard. Also, I have a significantly deviated septum (my wife says she always knew I was deviated). The doctor has recommended allegra, flonase, something called Maxair, which is an asthma inhaler, and perhaps surgery on the septum. My concern is with using these drugs and then engaging in intense exercise. I am not sure if these substances are on the cycling banned list. In any event, do you have any thoughts on allergies and cycling, and whether these drugs are harmful?

Mark Featherman

Kelby Bethards replies


Mark then responded:


Thank you so much for the quick reply. I appreciate all your efforts for cycling-obsessed nuts like myself. A few questions/comments; additionally, I went to an allergy doc last week, which is where I got all the scripts.

1. The allergy doc said I have fairly significant allergies, and recommended allergy shots for the next year, followed by shots every three weeks for another couple of years. Does this work?
2. The asthma issue. This only occurs during a few peak times a year, and only when racing or doing a racing training ride. Is the singulair something I could use on an as-needed basis, or do you need to take it all the time? The reason I like flonase over allegra is that I can take it more as needed; with allegra I end up taking it all the time because I am not sure when to stop.
3. Is the deviated septum worth correcting?
4. Ok, as I understand it, your thoughts are that an effective treatment might be allegra/claritin, singulair, maxair as needed, flonase as needed?

I understand the inherent difficulties of you giving anything appearing to be medical advise without a consult, so I certainly understand the limitations of the email.

Mark Featherman

Kelby Bethards replies


Electrolyte absorption in a race

With summer pending the subject of electrolyte replacement seems ripe to revisit. My question has to do with the biology and response times to electrolyte replacement fluids. I am interested in an explanation for the both the effect and the sensation of consuming an electrolyte replacement drink in the final miles of a very hot road race following catastrophic cramping in both of legs. Two gulps of electrolytes seemed to revitalize my legs in about thirty seconds. Is this real or in my head?

I am a Master's B rider, 45, in my second year of racing. The cramps occurred in the final 5 miles of Washington's Master's Omnium State Championships in a combined field of A's and B's. The previous day there had been a TT and Crit. The race involved two loops over a 2000 foot climb with the temperature approaching 90 degrees.

I had not done a good job of pre-race fuelling. (I was distracted in the morning putting on a Mother's day breakfast and forget to make my lunch, and the race started at 12:40.) I packed two bottles of replacement drink and a packet of gu.

I found myself in a break with three Master As in the first lap riding at a pace that I found comfortable. On the second lap I started feeling an energy deficit though I was still well within my aerobic range. I ate the one goo I had; that helped a little. But by the time we got to the feed zone halfway up the climb the prospect of a bonk was becoming undeniable and I began regretting my poor race prep. Unfortunately, the bottle I received at the feed zone proved to contain only water. I consumed that fairly quickly but knew right away it wasn't enough. The rest of the climb was a real struggle though it was never aerobically taxing.

With five miles of mostly flats and headwinds to go the As in my group started attacking; all I had to do was ride wheels to win my category for the stage and a GC win. At first this was no problem, but in responding to the third or fourth attack catastrophe occurred. Every muscle in both legs, from hip to ankle, seized up. Every time I tried to move they seized up again. Eventually I got the legs going, gingerly, actually catching up with my group, but they attacked again. My attempt to match them resulted in more cramping. (Nice guys, eh, considering they weren't even my category.) With just three miles left even finishing the race was questionable. Some straight leg stretches pulled the muscles out of their contortions and I got rolling again albeit at a meagre pace.

Horrors! A pack of riders caught up with me including two Master Bs, one of them the guy closest to me on GC. A nice guy in the pack gave me his last two gulps of electrolyte replacement drink - literally about one and a half inches worth. Within thirty seconds I felt the liquid enter my stomach, followed by a tingling and some relaxation in my abdomen, and then flowing down through my legs. Just in time as the attacking began.

Wonders! My legs worked! I followed the attacks for the next two miles with no real problem. The race seemed in the bag again as the final kilometre is uphill, favouring me. With 200 metres to go my main rival attacked. Perhaps I'd used up those two gulps, but both legs catastrophically cramped again leaving me to coast, grimacing, over the finish line for second place in the stage. (I was fortunate to win the GC by one point).

Questions: Are the sensations and neuro-muscular effect of those two gulps all in my head or did the electrolytes actually get absorbed and utilized in those thirty seconds? Was the tingling sensation a signal of actual changes in my neuro-muscular status? Did my neuro-muscular system simply run out of the electrolytes in that last 200 metres?

Doug Mercer

Pam Hinton replies


Blood pressure meds

I have been taking Anolotol (sp) 50mg for high blood pressure for 1 month and am having some side effects related to my cycling performance. Fatigue and heavy legs are the main problems, some dizziness also. Are there other medications which would be better suited for an active person?

Chris Andrews

Kelby Bethards replies


Foot size

Good afternoon from Athens, Greece

Can you help me with my problem please? I am a 38-year-old male, race in my national road cycling championship and usually end up in one of the first five-ten places. With my team I ride more than 15000km during the year. I have a problem that no one knows except my wife and my parents; because of a very serious operation I had when I was five years old on my right ankle I wear one size smaller cycling shoe on my right foot. In which position should I have my cleats? I use Shimano, and till now I used the same size shoe but the right foot was not tight, so I decided to buy a second pair of shoes of the same kind but smaller size and use the right shoe. Thank you in advance.

Leonidas G
Athens, Greece

Steve Hogg replies


Bike fitness


I am a 39-year-old male, I race open time trials and master A grade races. My strongest disciplines are hilly courses and time trials. I ride 400 km a week and because I love doing time trials I mainly train for them e.g. 20 minute intervals at just below TT pace once a week with a easy day then the next day any thing from 1,2,5min intervals. My fastest 40km TT is around 57-58 mins. Other rides I do during the week are 2hrs plus endurance base rides - I always have one day off a week.

Now I was just wondering over the past eight months I have been training more than I have done in the past, and I thought that with the extra training that I have been doing that I would be stronger in road racing even if I haven't been training for particular road races. I still seem to be weak at the end of these road races as I was when I wasn't doing much training. I am much faster than the guys I race against in TTs. Is this just from the muscle group I have? Or...?

Paul Barizza

Dave Palese replies


Lower back pain

Hi, I am having trouble with my lower back when I get into an aero position to crank in the small chainring at max speed. It is only on one side that I have had the problem, and if I get off the bike and stretch my back, I can finish the ride in the medium chainring. It starts in my lower back and radiates to the outside and down my right thigh, and feels like a cramp. Once it starts I am in too much pain and have to gear down. I am a 35-year-old female cat 4 racer.

My bike is a little on the small side but since the injury is only on one side, I don't think it is a fit problem. Any suggestions?

Lara Chetkovich

Steve Hogg replies


Carbon-soled shoes


I've heard a few stories about Carbon Soul shoes causing tendon problems and that some of the pro cyclist have gone back to a plastic sole. Have you heard anything about this?

Rob Godson

Steve Hogg replies


LT training

I am a relative new-comer to competitive cycling - I started riding on fast club rides about three years ago, and this year I'm trying my hand for the first time at racing. I recently bought a Powertap, and decided to get some testing in order to use it properly. I had my power at LT measured at 217 watts (some other stats: I'm 37 years old, and weigh about 68 kilos with about 10-11% body fat). Since I don't have a lot of weight to lose, the greatest room for improving my power to weight ratio would seem to be raising power at lactate threshold. My question is:

What sorts of gains can one generally expect in this area? I know there are all kinds of parameters (age, ability, training) that impact this, but I'm just wondering, within a certain order of magnitude, what one could possibly expect to see. Like, can I assume that I'll never get even close to 300 watts at LT? Also, I'm sure that the biggest gains come early on, and then taper off as one approaches the limits of your body. If I saw a 20-30 watt increase at LT this year, could I expect a similar increase next year, or perhaps only something like a 10-20 watt increase? Thanks for your help!

Will Thompson

Dave Palese replies


Negative splits

Hi guys,

First off, your columns are amazing - insightful, diverse, just excellent to read.

My questions concerns negative splits for time trials. Negative splits really seems to be the way to go for maximizing your effort in a TT - I used to run negative splits all the time when I was a runner, but it was a lot easier on a track, where you could get regular splits. I'm having some trouble moving this onto the bike. I'm training generally to be able to do this skill, but with my eye solidly focused on an upcoming 40km TT. It will be a single loop, so I won't be able to get any sort of split information.

I'm male, 23, weigh 155 lbs, and have a lactate threshold heart rate of 176 on flats, with a maximum heart rate of 196-200.

How would I go about monitoring this on race day? I'll be using an HRM during the race, but probably not a power reading. If it is useful, I can borrow a power meter for training for the upcoming couple weeks until the race. How does one train for this ability?

Do you have any estimate for how conservative I should begin, and when to begin to ramp up my efforts? I realise that it's very dependent on how you feel, and I'm asking for advice based on very few parameters, but I would appreciate any advice you can give.


Joakim Vinberg

Dave Palese replies


Uneven leg development

I am a 34 year old CAT 4 cyclist. This is my first year racing and I have been training hard with 6000 miles in the past year. I have benefited from the service of a CTS trained cycling coach for the past 6 months and my racing season is not going as well as I had hoped. I don't have the acceleration or strength needed to keep up in a hilly Crit. But I am getting better!

Recently, I have taken to getting a massage after a hard effort and the masseuse noticed that my legs have developed noticeably uneven. My left calf is larger by 1" than the right; however, my right quad is larger by 2" than the left. My question is this: is there a problem with the type of training I am doing (namely very little weight training and tons of miles)? Or could this be indicative of a larger physiological issue (subconsciously compensating for a weak right knee, which I have, but not really noticed since I started riding in earnest). Or, is this just a natural adaptation?

John Deely

Steve Hogg replies


Uphill riding position


I've been following your articles on seat positioning and have been trying to apply what I have read to my optimal seat position. I have one question that I am unable to answer. All things being equal, I find that I can increase my overall speed by .5 to 1.5 mph when I take my hands off the bars and raise my upper body to an almost vertical position. This speed increase is most notable when going up hill from slight to steep incline. Obviously I don't practice this riding technique all the time, but if I can understand why power increases when I raise my upper body I may be able to use the knowledge to determine my optimal seat/body position. My seat angle is neutral i.e., set to 0 on a standard set back seat post, I am very flexible and my top handlebar is at approx 3.5" - 4" drop from the top of my seat. Thank you.

Robert Duran

Steve Hogg replies


Labial swelling from cycling

I am a female, 47 years old, frequent rider (about 4-5 days a week, about 30-40 miles a day). I've been riding about 2,500 miles a season the past 6 years. Starting four years ago I developed a severe swelling of the labial tissue on the left side of my vulva from riding. During the winter I lay off riding, except the occasional spin class, and the swelling diminishes substantially. The swelling returns immediately after my first ride of the season. Occasionally it will be painful shortly after a ride, but within a few hours the pain goes away but the swelling remains. The swelling is about four times larger than the other side.

I've been to a gynaecologist who had no recommendation to correct the situation. Can you tell me what causes the swelling and what I can do to alleviate or relieve it?

Daria Gal

Steve Hogg replies


Kelby Bethards replies:


Riding while pregnant

Hello coaches,

I am a 35 year old, competitive cyclist who has been racing road and off-road for almost 10 years. Now that I am weeks pregnant, I need to find some information about how much riding is safe during this time. Should I keep my heart rate low, or can I do some short crit races?


Scott Saifer replies


Long distance touring


In September I am going to cycle from St Malo, France, to Santander, Spain, over 12 days. Luggage is being carried by a van. I am not travelling alone and the group I am with (15 others) consists of cyclists of varying ability, with me at the lower end of the cycling ability range. I am aged 58 years, 6ft 1 in tall, weigh 208 lbs and I would describe my fitness level as about average-ish. I usually average about 11 mph on a run of say 60 miles.

Can you suggest a training routine for the next three months that will build up my endurance so that I do not get too far behind the group?

Peter Pendlebury

Dave Palese replies


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