Fitness questions and answers for November 1, 2004

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.

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.

Improving weaknesses
Winter track training
Choosing a coach
Core strength
Alcohol and fitness
More bike fit
Phosphoric acid and nutrient removal
Kidney issues
Flat feet redux
Knee problem redux

Improving weaknesses

I'm a 29 year old Cat 3 cyclist who has been road racing for about 3 years. Although I have seen tremendous improvement in these 3 years in general fitness, I still have a lot to accomplish on the racing circuit. This year, I participated in about 25 races, both crits and road races in that featured rolling terrain and moderate to steep climbs. I finished all races entered in the top 20 with the exception of 2 that I crashed in and 2 where I just missed the top 20. I had quite a few 10th-15th places and a few top 10s but nothing ever better than a 5th. This showed growth from 2003 where I DNF'd quite a bit.

In the beginning of the season I felt that my lack of results was due to a lack of experience and positioning because I felt that I held better fitness than the rest of the field. However, as the season progressed, the racing seemed to get much tougher and I was having some difficulty getting at the front in certain races.

If you were an announcer in a booth and were to sum up my racing for 2004 it would be "A strong all arounder who looks comfortable the entire race, riding where he feels comfortable, getting into non-winning breaks, but not able to seal the deal at the last kilo."

After looking back on my races, I feel that I should focus on two things.

1. Be able to key in on winning breakaway moves and be able to stick with them. Focus on training muscular endurance and TT power.

2. Focus on the closing 2 to 5 minute power that is needed at the end of the race. (I've got a pretty decent sprint when I'm rested, but after racing for an hour or longer, I've burned some of those matches.)

What, specifically should I be doing when I start building up these systems in my build phase of my training regimen in order to increase my chances of doing better in 2005? I have plenty of time, a power meter, and a passion to get better.

Calvin Washington

Ric Stern replies:

Firstly congratulations on the huge improvements you've made from being a DNF to a contender. That's no small feat within one season, and you should feel happy that you've done well, so far.

Winter track training

I've got access to a Tuesday night training session on an indoor velodrome this winter and wouldn't mind incorporating this into my winter program with turbo, weights etc. Not having done this type of work out before I'm not sure how to fit this into my regime. Should I leave it till after base/weights or crack on now and use it all winter?

Andy Walne

Ric Stern replies:

In part this may depend on many factors such as your current fitness level, how intense the sessions are going to be (are they likely to turn into races?), your goals for next season, and may also depend on your track craft (e.g., you maybe able to ride a wheel very well, and thus you may be taking it quite easy).

Choosing a coach

I'm a 47 year old female cat.3 road racer. I do well on climbs and can hold my own in sprints.

In 2002 I used a coach that had a large variety of training regimens. I had a very good season under her and secured many top three results and better! In 2003 I used a different coach since the first coach I used left coaching. I found the work-outs to be good but not much variety and kind of dull. I still had a very good season but felt something was lacking in my training. My question is, how do you interview a coach? How do you know what type of work-outs they will give you? Can you tell them what you want or are they there to tell you what you want!

Also, can I just use the print-outs from my previous coaching and not get a coach at all? My goals really are about the same, to race, do well and have fun.


Scott Saifer replies:

If all you are getting from your coach is the training plan, you can just reuse the old training plan, but I would suggest getting a different coach. A good coach does much more than provide training plans. He or she should be talking with you regularly to help you understand when deviating from the plan will be more valuable than following it, helping you to decide when to take time off for illness and when to return to training, helping you see a larger picture so that working together you can identify weaknesses that you would not otherwise have noticed or identified correctly, talking to you about equipment choices, tactics and the dozens (hundreds?) of other things that can make the difference between a bad race and a good one, or a good one and a great one and reviewing your training and racing with you so that you can tweak your program to make the best use of your time.


I'm an avid cyclist, 41, in good shape, eat a healthy, well balanced diet and train regularly. I participate in a few local races every season but I always finish in the middle of the pack. I'd simply like to know if there is any truth to the performance enhancements that certain "legal" natural supplements claim to give, like creatine, spirulina, co-enzyme Q10.... Do they really work or am I simply throwing away my money?

Vincent Desmarais

Pam Hinton replies:

It's only human nature to seek an advantage over your competitors and to take the path of least resistance in doing so. Hence, the $19.4 billion per year supplement industry.

Core strength

Could you recommend a good book on core strengthening techniques. Also do you think this is a good addition to cycling training. Is pilates the same thing? It seems like a good alternative to the weight room, what do you think?

Andrew Australia

Steve Hogg replies:

No doubt there are other good books out there about this subject, but one that I recommend is ' Pilates For Dummies' by Ellie Herman. It is available in most larger bookshops and is well laid out. Everything is explained in a simple and methodical way.

Alcohol and fitness

What effect does alcohol have on a cyclist's fitness? You always hear that a glass of wine at the dinner table is good for the heart, but will a few drinks occasionally harm you fitness? What about getting home and having a beer at dinner?


Pam Hinton replies:

The effect of alcohol on a cyclist's fitness is pretty much the same as how a Highway Patrol trooper looks at it in conjunction with operating a motor vehicle-it depends on how much alcohol is consumed and when. Having a beer when you get home is not going to adversely affect your fitness. That's the short answer to your question. Now just like that trooper I mentioned, we'll go over just the facts.

More bike fit

I've read with great interest Steve Hogg's ideas on dynamic fitting of bike to rider, including cleat position, seat fore-aft and seat height adjustments. I've been fiddling with these three following Steve's rule-of-thumbs and think I am getting close to an optimal position. However, I am still getting neck pain on longer rides and during and after long descents (when I've got hands in the drops), so was wondering if there are any rules-of-thumb for setting handle bar height and stem length. I already have the bars as heigh as I can get them, but obviously you can't adjust stem length without buying a new stem. To avoid having a box full of progressively shorter stems to try out are there any suggestions for estimating what might be an optimal stem length (or saddle to handle bar distance).

Jeremy Austin
Melbourne, VIC, Australia

Steve Hogg replies:

Can you beg or borrow a Look Ergostem? They are an adjustable stem with articulating joints that has massive adjustment potential. With one of those, the bar height and length can be played with until you feel you have reached an ideal position.

Phosphoric acid and nutrient removal

I am a 46 year old cyclist, riding to keep fit and the occasional audax. I read in a magazine (which I have now lost) that the phosphoric acid found in carbonated drinks like Pepsi, Coke etc can remove nutrients from the body. The article didn't go into a any detail and I wondered whether this was true. Do you know what nutrients are lost, and how much phosphoric acid does it take. How much damage would an ordinary can of one of these drinks do ? I am trying to give up these drinks so any info would be helpful.

Euan Bull

Pam Hinton replies:

The main source of phosphoric acid in our diets is soda. Because of the association between soda consumption and increased risk of bone fractures, the constituents of soda (caffeine, phosphoric acid, citric acid and fructose) have been scrutinized for their potential to cause calcium loss from bone. Anyone who has ever soaked a bone in vinegar would agree that phosphoric acid probably causes a loss of calcium and a weakening of the bones. However, what we observe in the test tube is not always what happens in the body, which has the ability to maintain constant internal conditions, including acidity of the blood. A recent study compared the effects of caffeine, phosphoric acid, and citric acid (consumed in soda) on calcium excretion in the urine. Subjects consumed 20 ounces of either: caffeinated cola (Coke, containing caffeine and phosphoric acid); non-caffeinated cola (Coke-Free, phosphoric acid only); caffeinated non-cola (Mt. Dew, caffeine and citric acid); or non-caffeinated, non-cola (Sprite, citric acid only). Neither phosphoric acid nor citric acid increased calcium loss. Consumption of the caffeinated sodas caused an increase in calcium excretion, but the effect was small (6-14mg) compared to the recommended daily calcium intake (1000 mg).

Kidney issues

I am a 37 year old recreational rider. I have been riding for four years. Early this year I stepped up my training to prepare for and complete the Markleville Death Ride 130 miles, 16,000 feet of climbing. About a month before the ride I had a physical and urinalysis done for a life insurance application. I was denied insurance because I had too much protein in my urine. I went to several doctors to determine what was going on and had several more UA's done. In September a nephrologist diagnosed me with "a textbook case of acute tubular necrosis" (ATN). He says that my kidneys were damaged but will (most likely) recover over time. In October the amount of protein in my urine has not decreased and the doc says that is OK since it is not increasing. He has told me to continue my life/ riding as though nothing is wrong and we will monitor my progress over the next few months.

My question is two-fold: The doctor told me that the ATN was most likely caused by a severe dehydration event(s). I have been involved in outdoor sports for my entire life and know how to stay hydrated and don't think that I was dehydrated at any point this year. Other than basics of drinking plenty of water and the occasional sports drink and eating food before, after and while riding to stay hydrated, is there anything I can or should be doing? For example would any of the many sports recovery / electrolyte drinks on the market help me to stay better hydrated than just diligent water consumption? And secondly, is this diagnosis common among cyclists and if so how long have other riders taken to get there urine back in to normal ranges.

Spencer Rubin
Coloma, CA USA

Pam Hinton replies:

Acute tubular necrosis (ATN), translated, means "sudden death of kidney cells." ATN is characterized by a sudden decline in kidney function, which can progress to kidney failure and death. Specifically, the kidney loses its ability to excrete waste products, so urea and ammonia accumulate in the blood. The ability to regulate electrolytes, sodium, acid and water is also severely compromised. ATN is common among hospitalized patients and patients in intensive care units, resulting from an infectious, toxic, or ischemic injury to the kidney. In endurance athletes, ATN most likely results from a pathological condition, exertional rhabdomyolysis. Rhabdomyolysis is characterized by severe muscle damage, followed by release of the contents of the muscle cells into the blood stream. Myoglobin, the oxygen-binding protein in muscle, is one of the cellular degradation products released into the blood. When myoglobin reaches the kidneys it contributes to the onset of ATN: it obstructs blood flow in the kidney; it is metabolized into compounds that are toxic to the kidney; and it contributes to formation of precipitates in the kidney which block blood flow. Dehydration also contributes to the development of rhabdomyolysis. Loss of body water results in decreased blood volume and decreased organ blood flow, which deprives the kidney of nutrients and oxygen.

Flat feet redux

Thanks for the great advice, I've been looking at my position in regards to your suggestions and am going to move my cleats back and see how that works. My leg length discrepancy is measurable. I was x-rayed and measured by a physical therapist, I don't remember the exact measurement but my right femur is shorter than my left on. Not a whole lot, but measurable. Do you have any recommendations on compensating for this in positioning? I've been looking into the LeWedge system, which claims to be able to help with this type of issue. Thanks again for your help.

Andy Weir

Steve Hogg replies:

There are rules of thumb for accommodating femur length discrepancies with a packer under the cleat. Like all rules of thumb, they often have limited relevance in any particular case. Equally, leg length discrepancies can often cause other changes in a functional sense that mean any packer used may need to be more, or often significantly less, than the measurable discrepancy.

Knee problem redux

Further to my email from 6th October, I have seen my physio & a local osteopath, who have both tracked the problem back to the femoral nerve. It seems the pain is coming from the L1, L2 & L3 region of my lumbar region which is referring the pain through to my knee.

My physio did some work on my back which helped a little, but I had a huge improvement from my first visit to the osteopath, things have improved on the bike, but I feel there is still a lot of work to do before I'll feel 100% fit again. My osteopath said my L1, L2 & L3 vertebrae were very stiff (along with my left SI joint) he is also doing soft tissue work on both my back and quad of the affected leg (left) to help. The question still beckons though... what is the cause? Is it just my physiology, or to do with bike set up? The problem (this season) first struck on a 4-hour road ride, so it was the duration that set it off (approx 10 weeks ago) and it has not fully settled down.

The other thing that niggles at my mind is the pain that I get in my left knee, it is on the inside, right on the side/top edge & when it is sore, to touch it is very tender. The osteopath reckons that it fits for a nerve referral pain? The treatment he is doing suggests that it is, but I can't help but wonder if it is merely relieving the symptom, and that the cause is something different. I'm not sure, it's a really difficult one to track. I feel sure that my alignment is good & that I don't appear to have any external rotation during the pedal stoke. I am getting checked out again by my podiatrist next week for this just to be sure. I agree that the pain is not coming from the knee itself though.

I will let you know how I get on, in the meantime Steve, I would welcome any other suggestions you may have? (I have not yet checked for hip drop as you suggested, thought it best to get this checked out with my podiatrist?)

Grant Anderson
Alexandra, New Zealand

Steve Hogg replies:

It is hard to answer with any certainty about whether your problem is caused by the bike or was pre-existing and was exacerbated by the bike. The greater likelihood is that you already had the problem but it had not bitten you yet. When we have a functional problem our bodies will accommodate the problem by functioning in a different and less efficient way. Sooner or later we have to pay a price for that. In your case for instance; if your left sacro - iliac joint is restricted as you say, then the ilium and hip on that side will tend to function as a unit instead on independently.

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