1. From the Top: Lessons From the Tour de Wyoming
2. News & Reviews: The Helmet Hall of Fame
3. Question of the Week: Has a Helmet Ever Saved Your Bacon in a Crash?
4. Ask Coach Fred: How Should I Restart Training After a Crash?
5. Sponsors: Cycling Products from our Sponsors
6. Jim's Tech Talk: Tips for Time Trialing Setup
7. No Problem: Speedwork for Faster Long Rides
8. Quick Tips: Setting Seat Height & Nose Alignment
9. Cadence: Preventing Loss of Muscle with Aging
10. RBR eBookstore: The Best Cycling Bookstore on the Internet!
Magnificent desolation. That’s my best two-word description of Wyoming.
I had never been to the Cowboy State before, and I knew it would be beautiful, but I was not prepared for the ways it would present its stunning landscape. From pancake-flat plains to semi-arid slow-rolling hills to red rock canyons to the majestic peaks of the Tetons – almost all of it wide-open country – it was truly magnificent.
With views of up to 40 miles in all directions on some days, and the Wind River Mountains often framing one side of your vision, the 18th annual Tour de Wyoming (which features a different course each year) was dubbed “Circle the Winds Tour” for the general route around (and to a degree, over) the Wind River Mountain range.
The towns from start to finish were Riverton, Dubois, Jackson, Pinedale, Farson, Lander and back to Riverton. With elevations from 4,900 to over 9,500 feet (1,490 – 2,900m) when crossing the Continental Divide at Togwotee Pass, the ride was about 410 miles over six days, with a touch under 25,000 feet (7,600m) of climbing.
In addition to the indelible scenery and challenging terrain, it was the only ride I’ve ever done where the pre-ride briefing included a warning to beware of grizzly bears! Thankfully, no one on the ride reported running across one. However, there were moose, antelope and other various wildlife to be seen, in addition to a little history here and there.
Included in that were ruts from the Oregon Trail, and the Parting of the Ways, where the Mormon Trail and Oregon Trail branched off. Hailing from Independence, Missouri, the starting point of the Oregon, Sante Fe and California Trails, seeing the wagon ruts in the vastness of Wyoming was pretty cool.
I got there, along with 350 other riders from 32 states, Canada and Norway!, at the suggestion of RBR Premium Member Tom Dorigatti, who happens to be a Wyoming native. I was looking for a ride to celebrate turning 50 this year, and Tom suggested the TdW. Couple more rider facts: the oldest rider on the tour was 76 (three 76-year-olds, actually), and the youngest was 8.
In our poll of a couple weeks ago, 55% of RBR readers said you’ve done several multi-day bike tours, and another 13% said you’ve done a couple. Moreover, all but 7% of the rest of readers said you’d sure like to try one.
So, instead of writing a “travelogue” piece about the Tour de Wyoming, in the spirit of providing some tips that may be useful to both experienced and novice tour riders, I thought I’d share my Top 10 take-aways gleaned from this tour (not necessarily in order). I’ll start with the first 5 this week, and finish up with the rest next week.
You’ll probably note some overlap in the various tips, because many organically blend into others. And while some might seem obvious, you’ll read why I mentioned them, anyway. Hopefully, you’ll find something beneficial. And feel free to share your own touring tips on the Comments page, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/RoadBikeRider or Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/RBRoadBikeRider.
No matter where you’re riding – whether it’s on a tour like the Tour de Wyoming, where the cars are relatively few and far between, or on a cross-state tour with thousands of other riders – don’t lose sight of your basic safety responsibilities to yourself and your fellow riders.
Signal your turns. Point out or call out road debris, potholes or other obstacles. Don’t overlap wheels, and protect your own front wheel. Keep riders in your small groups abreast of traffic behind you (“car back!”). Wear or use a mirror if you’re comfortable doing so. Follow the rules set forth by the ride. And so on.
In short, just because it’s a fun-filled tour on which you may be chatting it up with fellow riders or enjoying the scenery much more than on a normal, everyday ride, DO NOT let your guard down. Terrible accidents, and even deaths, can happen on cycling vacations, just the same as on our everyday rides.
In fact, I’m saddened to report that one rider on the Wyoming tour was severely injured when hit by a truck pulling a camper. The accident happened on a long, straight road with not much traffic. By all accounts, it seemed to be the rider’s fault. Witnesses said she signaled a left turn across both lanes of the 2-lane highway to enter a rest stop. Somehow, she missed seeing the truck and pulled out right in front of it. Despite the horrific accident – I won’t list her many injuries – she will survive and is expected to walk again in several weeks.
Tours and big organized rides often include a range of cyclists of different riding abilities. No matter where you fit on the spectrum, riding courteously is part of your overall responsibilities on the ride.
For example, if you are a faster rider (or are in a faster group) who passes other riders on occasion, always give a hale and hearty “on your left” before you make your pass. And if you know you’re slower than some other riders, and are likely to be passed, ride as far to the right as you can to increase your safety, and that of any passers.
Courtesy extends, too, to your riding in small groups on tours and bigger rides. Grouping up and riding in pacelines once in a while allows you to conserve a bit of energy – which can be quite helpful on long, consecutive days in the saddle. But in addition to riding safely, it’s common courtesy to “share the work” by taking pulls on the front, as you’re able. Just do what you can; if you’re only up for a 30-second pull, that’s fine. And if you’re riding alone and sidle up behind another rider, let them know you’re there by asking if they don’t mind if you suck some wheel for a while.
Part of the enjoyment of rides like the Wyoming Tour is just the overall sensory experience of pedaling through some of the most breathtaking (in the good sense of the word!) scenery imaginable. Every day offered something different, but my highlight was the 88-mile Queen Stage, featuring a 10-mile climb up Togwotee Pass and over the Continental Divide, then a long descent into Grand Teton National Park, with the majestic Tetons getting ever closer as we cycled through the Park. Stunning.
After all, it’s a tour – not a race. So stop, take pictures, inhale deeply, and listen to the quietude you’ll probably never experience at home.
In fact, a couple of the remarkable sensory experiences in the Park were the beautiful fragrance and – when I stopped to take a photo – the ability to clearly hear every word of the conversation of other riders who were at least 250 meters in the distance. It was that quiet!
And, finally – here’s some overlap with the courtesy point – if you’re riding in a group with someone who wants to stop, for whatever reason, for heaven’s sake, stop with them. I was riding one day with a couple of other riders who, not once but twice, left me behind as I stopped to take photos.
Leading up to the Wyoming ride, in both the ride instructions and safety video prepared for the ride, I noticed an incessant drumbeat re: “riding right.” Meaning, ride to the right of the white line separating the roadway from the shoulder. I also read about the “rumbles” or “rumble strip” separating the shoulder from the road, which in some cases was said to run for miles on end, with no gap.
It only took a few miles on day one to realize how different riding in the vast open spaces of Wyoming was from my normal frame of reference, and why the ride director focused so much attention on hammering home the ride-right rule. Basically every two-lane road between towns in Wyoming is a highway, with cars driving at highway speeds. The roads, which – no exaggeration – can run for tens of miles in thin, arrow-straight ribbons into the vanishing point on the horizon, can also feature fairly clean shoulders up to five or six feet (almost 2m) wide.
And, because these roads can run for 70 or more miles through open, desolate country between towns, those rumble strips are cut into the roadside to signal to a wayward driver to snap out of it and get back in the lane. Going off the road literally in the middle of nowhere can end badly. But those rumbles can shake a bike like a 9.0 earthquake, so they’re best avoided.
The point is, understand the conditions specific to your ride, how they might affect your riding, and follow the ride rules as set forth by the tour or ride director. They’ve put much thought into rider safety in establishing the ground rules, and they surely know the local territory better than you do.
Before you go on a cycling trip, make a list, check it twice – and fully expect to forget at least one thing. I’m pretty good at packing for rides, but on this trip, I forgot my cycling computer.
I had plugged it in to recharge in an outlet near the floor in my home office. Out of sight, out of mind. (And I obviously did not check my list twice.) When I realized upon arrival in Wyoming that I did not have the Garmin, I knew exactly where I had left it! Gah!
But I also knew that I still had my iPhone app, with which I track every ride anyway. (I keep the phone in my pocket while riding.) I instantly decided – so what?! I don’t need the computer anyway. I’m just going to ride without knowing my speed, cadence, heart rate, elevation, grade, etc., during the ride. And I think I was better off for it!
In fact, I’d suggest you try riding a few times without your computer on board, and see how attenuated you become to your perceived exertion, your innate ability to track time and distance. And see how much more you focus on enjoying your surroundings – the sights, sounds, smells, flora and fauna – than when your attention is sucked away by the need to know how fast, how far, how high, etc. Try it. You make like it. I did.
Again, feel free to share your own touring tips on the Comments page, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/RoadBikeRider or Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/RBRoadBikeRider. I’ll continue with 6-10 next week.
--- John Marsh
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We received several comments and emails about Jim Langley’s column from a couple weeks ago titled, Why You Should Wear a Helmet. I thought you might enjoy reading a couple of the best of those.
The first is from Ken Schack, who wrote:
“John, I have a bike shed attached to the side of my house where I keep my bikes and cycling items. Most importantly, the shed is the home of the Helmet Hall of Fame (HHOF).
“A number of years ago a cycling buddy had a bad crash on a ride and was saved by his helmet. A few weeks later at my annual Tour de France party he gave it to me to hang in the bike shed. That was the beginning of the HHOF.
“I now have filled one entire wall with 36 helmets, all of which have hit the ground with the rider’s head inside of them. Each helmet has written on it the rider’s name, and the date and location of the accident.
“At first, people viewed the wall negatively but, in time, they came to realize that the wall is a positive statement on the effectiveness of helmets. I have no doubt that if they were not wearing helmets, some of those people would be brain-damaged and others would have died. I recently had to have a new wing constructed to hang more helmets on another wall.”
And Jennifer Gholson wrote:
“Several years ago I sent a photo of myself in a neck brace with crutches sitting beside a friend on his hospital bed. Both of us were alive because of our helmets.
“At the time, I said we had a name we gave those we saw riding without helmets – and that was ‘organ donors’. You then quoted me in the next issue. My friend in the photo and I both suffered traumatic brain injuries while wearing our helmets.
“Recently I was riding with his wife, and she had an accident at a railroad track going at a slow speed and suffered a very severe traumatic brain injury while wearing her helmet. She had to have a craniotomy and has a long road to recovery ahead of her.
“I am beginning to wonder why so many folks are suffering traumatic brain injuries when wearing helmets. Your article mentioned that helmets have progressed and are lighter and cooler and must meet various safety codes. Cool and light are important for a bicycle helmet, but I would like to see progression on the protective aspects as well. I would think someone, with new materials and technology now available, could design a helmet that exceeds minimum safety standards. I would be willing to pay more for it and would gladly wear it.”
I wrote back to Jennifer:
There actually is a new wave of helmets hitting the market (starting mostly with MTB helmets, but trickling into the road bike market as well) designed to help protect against concussions as well as simply help prevent skull fractures and such (which is what most bike helmets are designed to do).
Nothing in the "old school" helmet designs or safety codes ever was intended to do anything more than prevent a skull fracture, basically. The more that's learned about concussions and TBI, the more tech is being applied to those aspects of crash-related injuries, too.
You can read more about new helmet designs on the Helmets.org website at: http://www.helmets.org/helmet14.htm
Vote in today’s reader’s poll: Has a Helmet Ever Saved Your Bacon in a Crash?
By Coach John Hughes
I recently got the following comments from RBR reader Don Macrae in my inbox. What he asked, and my replies to his questions, may be of interest to anyone who worries about how much intensity is too much, what leads to overtraining, etc. Here’s what Don wrote:
“I'm 71. I've been getting slower over the past 8 months, despite riding just as much. Someone suggested that it could be overtraining. I thought it couldn't, since I averaged only a bit over 200 kilometers per week last year -- a decent amount for me, but serious cyclists do a multiple of that.
“Then I read your comment in the last RBR Newsletter that for senior riders, two intense rides per week could amount to overtraining. That inspired me to read your 'Cycling Past 50, 60 and Beyond: Training with Intensity' eArticle.
“The training plans in your ‘Training with Intensity' article specify a timed series of variously intense intervals followed by recovery. Most of my riding is in hilly country. Not big mountains, just hills. This makes timed intervals more difficult to stick to.
“Each of your structured workouts would result in a characteristic Strava zone distribution. If I modulate my effort on a hilly ride so that its zone distribution is similar to that for the structured ride, do you think it would have a similar effect? Even though the adjacent lengths of the various efforts would certainly be quite different?”
If you aren't getting better, you're doing too much
Here’s what I wrote back to Don:
Don, excellent questions! Declining performance is the best indication of overtraining. If you aren't getting better, you're doing too much. For seniors, two intense rides a week will almost always produce overtraining.
The total volume you can ride varies widely based on your athletic maturity. I have a friend, also 71, who likes to ride 1,200-km (750-mile) brevets in under 90 hours … and then do a 200-km as a recovery ride! I have a client in his early 60s for whom a 75-mile week is a big week.
You want to do the least amount of training you need to get improvement. The goal is more improvement, not more fatigue.
The workouts in the article Cycling Past 50, 60 and Beyond: Training with Intensity are described two ways. First, timed efforts with timed recovery. Second, after each type of workout, unstructured efforts that will give the same benefit.
Some riders like using a watch and a heart rate monitor or power meter. Some riders don’t like any data and want to ride by how they feel. Both work.
For example, you want to do the first Sweet Spot workout, which is described as 3-5 intervals of 4-6 minutes in the Sweet Spot, with 2-3 minutes’ recovery between each. The Sweet Spot is based on your lactate threshold, or functional threshold power. If you did 3 intervals of 4 minutes, that would be 12 minutes in the Sweet Spot. If you did 5 intervals of 6 minutes, that would be 30 minutes in the Sweet Spot.
If you prefer to do an unstructured workout, you could ride rolling hills, climbing in the Sweet Spot and recovering on the descents. If your climbing totaled 12 minutes (even if the climbs differed in duration) your ride would be similar to the easier option for the workout. If your climbing totaled 30 minutes, then your ride would be similar to the harder option. Or your climbing could be somewhere in between.
If you didn’t like any data, instead of using a heart rate monitor or power meter, you could climb hard enough that you could still say a few words but not even short sentences. Instead of using a watch, you could keep climbing and descending until a hill started feeling harder and you couldn’t keep up the pace—then go home.
Just remember not to overdo it. As I said before, if you aren't getting better, you're doing too much.
For more information on the best way to use intensity to your benefit, see my eArticle Cycling Past 50, 60 and Beyond: Training with Intensity.
Also note that I’m putting the finishing touches on my next article in the series, Peak Fitness in Your 50s, 60s and Beyond. We’ll tell you more about what to expect in that title next week, and we plan to make it available the week of August 14.
If the intensity of the just-completed Tour de France, and its lack of drama, have left you wanting, there’s a terrific new TdF documentary out that practically drips drama.
Called "Slaying the Badger," the ESPN film chronicles the ferocious rivalry between Greg LeMond and teammate and defending Tour champion Bernard Hinault (“the Badger”) as they dueled for the 1986 Tour title.
The young LeMond had supported Hinault the previous year, and as the film all but stated outright, LeMond fairly easily could have won that year’s Tour. Yet, he stuck to his agreement to support Hinault in his quest for a 5th title, in exchange for Hinault’s agreeing to support LeMond the following year.
Turns out, Hinault and the rat-like Director Sportif of the La Vie Claire team, Paul Köchli, along with team founder Bernard Tapie, had other plans in mind. Hinault attacked LeMond early in the race, with LeMond ordered to stay in the peloton. The attacks never stopped, and LeMond knew he had been utterly betrayed, and was in the fight of his life to win the Tour.
Great stuff, with enlightening interviews of all the main characters. What truly stood out to me, nearly 30 years down the road, was how truly despicable the behavior of Hinault and Köchli was, and how bad their continued “justifications” or “revisionist history” continues to make them look today.
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I'm a roadie who got tangled with a car. Fortunately, I didn't break anything. I'm anticipating a clean bill of health on my next visit to the doctor. How should I start training to make sure I don't lose the conditioning and strength that I gained before the crash? -- Bob S.
Glad to hear that you survived so well, Bob.
Your main concern now should be making sure you're fully recovered from all injuries. This is good advice for every rider who suffers a crash, no matter what causes it. I know it's tempting to rush back into training as soon as you get the doc's okay. But go easy for two reasons.
First, following the enforced down time, you need to build back to your previous mileage and effort levels gradually or you risk injury or overtraining. Doctors tend to be conservative in their exercise recommendations, but in this case you should obey them.
Second, you may have escaped serious injury, but sometimes even minor bumps and bruises can get worse if you start riding hard before they heal completely. This is especially true of knocks on the knee. A relatively mild injury could flare up several weeks down the road and sideline you again.
Try to look on the accident as a positive. Treat the down time from riding as a recovery period that allows you to consolidate the gains you made in previous training. Once you've healed, you should have even better reserves for productive workouts.
I've always been a big advocate of tumbling and body awareness drills so a rider knows how to fall when a crash is unavoidable. Those reactions have to be drilled in so they become reflexes. I discuss this further in my eBook, Fred Matheny's Complete Book of Road Bike Training.
Coach Fred Matheny has decades of experience as a competitive racer and cycling coach. He is the author of 13 RBR eBooks and eArticles.
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My friend Mark, who races mountain bikes but trains on a Giant Advanced carbon road bike with our group, asked me a question last week. He said he wanted to race in an upcoming time trial and wondered what he needed to do to his Giant to go fast.
I’m sharing with you what I told Mark because time trialing is fun. It’s the easiest and safest form of racing road bicycles since it’s just you against the clock. Time trials are typically held on flat or rolling out-and-back courses with minimal traffic. A common distance is 10 miles, or at an average 20mph speed, a 30-minute effort.
Tip: Time trials are fun races for seeing what you can do. Set a benchmark at your first one and then see if you can beat it over the season. It can be highly satisfying to watch your personal record improve. And you might find that you’re good at TT’ing and competitive in your age group. It’s mostly about fitness and focus. You don’t need to be a great bike handler or tactician as you do to race group events or even mountain bike races.
Time trials are often easy to find and inexpensive or even free to participate in. You don’t need a USA Cycling license in most cases and you can usually ride any bicycle. I’ve even done a few on my antiques. Most time trials require wearing a helmet and obeying course marshals, since they are usually at the start and turn-around making sure you’re safe.
Typically, each rider is given a start time, and you leave the starting line in order of times at 30- or 60-second intervals. When you catch another rider, you continue right past them because following them (“drafting”) is considered resting and against the rules.
Some bicycle shops hold weekly time trials, so asking around or checking their sites is one way to find them. You can also check regional racing schedules. For example, here in Northern California, we all refer to the NCNCA list.
The Santa Cruz club here also runs time trials throughout the spring and summer (the record is currently held by local pro Ben Jacques-Maynes - good luck beating him!). And, we have the cancer-fighting Beat the Clock time trial series not too far away.
USA Cycling has a national Events page where I found a few time trials listed. Another way to find them is to ask your riding buddies if they know of any.
Some time trials have different categories, including one for standard road bikes without aero equipment. That’s usually called the Merckx category. Choose that if you prefer not to modify your road bicycle or gear.
If you want to go as fast as possible and compare yourself to the competition racing time trials in preparation for important USA Cycling races, like state and national championships, you need to add some wind-cheaters to your set-up.
To get started, the most free speed for the money is available with 2 add-ons, an aero helmet and aero handlebars, which are also called clip-ons. Both are available at many price points, and even the most affordable models will make you significantly faster.
They do this by putting you in an aero tuck and ensuring that the wind flows past your body with minimal drag. Be sure to practice with the clip-on bars because they put your hands much closer together than you’re used to. Also, you have no braking from the aero bars (unless you add it). So, you need to pay more attention to the road conditions and be ready to move your hands to brake.
The fun part of time trialing with a few aero upgrades like this is going faster than you may have ever thought you could go. In fact you might like it so much that you add some tall-profile wing-like wheels to your sled. Or, go whole hog and buy a complete time trial bicycle (often called tri or triathlon bikes, too).
I’ll wrap up with 4 TT secrets your competition probably won’t tell you:
1. Warm up very well, with several hard efforts and breaking a good sweat.
2. Don’t start too hard (probably the biggest mistake after #1)
3. Learn to “turtle.” Just like it sounds, this is lowering and tucking your head in and out of the wind.
4. Ride the straightest and smoothest legal line on the course, but stay safe! Most time trial courses are open to traffic. Don’t forget that.
Good luck and have fun!
Jim Langley has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for 38 years. He's the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Check his "cycling aficionado" website at http://www.jimlangley.net, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim's streak of consecutive cycling days has reached 7,503.
This concept in a nutshell: To ride long distances faster, do short-distance speedwork in training.
Conventional wisdom says that if you include one endurance training ride each week, your time for long events such as centuries will come down.
Unfortunately, improving long-distance speed isn’t that easy. It requires going beyond the lactate threshold in training, and this is painful. It makes you breathe hard and perspire.
Research and experience shows us that training fast for short distances improves cruising speed for long distances. It helps you ride as much as 2 mph faster for several hours but without an increase in perceived exertion. And if you raise your average speed from 17 mph to 19 mph for 100 miles, you’ll cover the distance nearly 40 minutes faster.
There are other important advantages, too. Speedwork can be done in a much shorter amount of time than endurance slogs, glad tidings for time-challenged recreational riders. And fast workouts are fun. They don’t have to be head-down pain-fests if you know how to do them right.
A 20-year-old study from the University of California at Berkeley gives us a clue about how speedwork increases endurance performance. Researchers put 10 rats on a 4-week fast training program. The rats worked out just 5 minutes every day for 4 weeks. On the treadmill, they warmed up for 3 minutes, ran hard on a 15 percent grade for 50 seconds, recovered for 10 seconds, repeated the 50-second hard effort and cooled down for 10 seconds. (How’s that for a time-efficient workout?)
Results were impressive—the rats increased their VO2 max by 15 percent, and the maximum speed they attained in the 50-second repeats increased 25 percent.
At first researchers were puzzled when they found that although VO2 max and speed had risen so impressively, the concentrations of aerobic enzymes in muscles didn’t rise. How could rats use more oxygen when levels of oxygen-using enzymes stayed the same?
Apparently, the rats had enough enzymes before their sprint work but didn’t have the neuromuscular coordination to sustain fast running. The rapid repeats gave them the muscular and nervous system abilities to do so. For rats, as for humans, the faster their maximum speed, the greater their aerobic potential.
Now, you may smell a rat in this research. How do we know that rat running translates to human riding? The scientists know that muscles and cardiovascular systems in rats and in humans work nearly the same way. The rats’ VO2 max translated to about 70 ml/kg/min in people—approaching the level of elite human cyclists and runners.
Next week, I’ll talk about how a RAAM winner put this speedwork into practice.
You guys helped me out post-injury with some stretching and a foam roller question a few months ago that was answered within a few hours. The counsel, and a couple of downloads, helped me quite a bit. I'm back to my normal miles/week. I really enjoy the community you've built. Stay Safe." -- Premium Member Bart Krauss
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Today, we’ve got another Quick Tip from Premium Member Eric Oshlo. He writes:
Following up on Tom Dorigatti's tip in the 6/19 issue, my 2014 Specialized Roubaix bike provides a way to mark my seat post in a fashion that precisely sets height and seat nose alignment at the same time.
The seat tube contains a compression slot with a stress relief hole at the end of the slot. If your bike has a similar design, first set your seat height and alignment to your taste. Then using a paint pen mark the seat post through the stress relief hole on the seat tube. Next time you have to reinstall the seat post, simply align the circular mark in the hole and you are done. Here's a photo. Granted this works only for similar style seat tubes.
Editor’s note: Many bikes have a similar slot where the seat post enters the frame, often on the back side, but no matter. The same technique can be used in marking the spot at the end of the slot, dialing in both seat height and lateral alignment.
We’d like to hear from our readers with any Quick Tips you might have. To contact me, just hit the reply button on any email from us, or use the Contact Us form on the website: http://www.roadbikerider.com/contact.
By Gabe Mirkin, MD
If you don’t exercise vigorously, expect to lose muscle size and strength as you age.
Between 40 and 50 years of age, you lose about 8 percent of your muscle size. This loss increases to 15 percent per decade after age 75. The people who lose the most muscle usually are the least active, exercise the least and are the ones who die earliest.
Older people who lose muscles are four times more likely to be disabled, have difficulty walking and need walkers or other mechanical devices to help them walk (Am J Epidemiol, 1998; 147(8):755–763). The authors say “Exercise decreases body fat and obesity, increases muscle strength, improves balance, gait, and mobility, decreases likelihood of falling, improves psychological health, reduces arthritis pain, and heart attacks, osteoporosis, cancer, and diabetes.”
How Aging Causes Loss of Muscle
Muscles are made up of thousands of individual muscle fibers. Each muscle fiber is innervated by a single nerve. With aging, humans lose the nerves that innervate muscle fibers, and with each nerve loss, they lose the associated muscle fiber. For example, the vastus medialis muscle in the front of your thigh contains 800,000 muscle fibers when you are 20. At age 60, it will have only 250,000 fibers.
Exercise Reduces Loss of Muscle
Inactivity causes tremendous loss of muscle size and strength. If you inactivate a leg by putting it in a cast, you lose a large amount of muscle size in just four days. However, if you make the inactivated leg muscles contract by stimulating them with an electric current, some of the loss of muscle size is prevented (Nutrition, Acta Physiol (Oxf). March 2014; 210(3):628-41).
You can enlarge muscles by exercising against resistance as you age (The Journals of Gerontology, August, 2012), but not by eating more protein (Clin Interv Aging, July, 2012 ;7:225 – 234). Resistance exercise increases muscle size and strength in older people (Med. Sci. Sports Exerc, 2011; 43 (2): 249–58); however, with aging you need to work much harder to gain the amount of strength that a younger person would get with the same program (Med. Sci. Sports Exerc, 2011; 43 (2): 249–58).
Prolonged periods of stopping exercising due to bed rest, injured nerves, casting or even decreasing the force of gravity cause loss of muscle tissue, which causes insulin resistance, higher blood sugar levels, and a tendency toward becoming diabetic (Med Hypotheses, 2007;69(2):310-21). Gaining fat decreases your ability to respond to insulin and shortens your life.
Exercising as You Age Keeps More Fast-Twitch Fibers
Muscles are made up primarily of two types of fibers: fast-twitch fibers that govern strength and speed, and slow-twitch fibers that govern endurance. Inactivity causes a far greater loss of the fast-twitch muscle fibers that govern strength and speed (J Cell Mol Med, 2009 Sep;13(9B):3032-50), so exercise makes you stronger by causing your muscles to retain more fast-twitch fibers.
Benefits of Life-long Exercise
Life-long competitive athletes over 50 who train four to five times per week do not lose as many of the nerves that innervate muscles, and therefore retain more muscle size and strength with aging (The Physician and Sportsmedicine, October, 2011;39(3):172-8).
Other studies show that life-long competitive runners over 60 had almost the same number of muscle fibers as 25-year-olds. If you are not a life-long exerciser, there is still plenty of benefit from exercise; studies in animals show that elderly rats that had been sedentary throughout their adult lives formed new muscle fibers 13 weeks after they were put on an aggressive running program.
How to Grow Larger Muscles
The stimulus to enlarge a muscle is to exercise against resistance vigorously enough to damage your muscles. Muscles grow when they heal from injury. You can tell that you are causing muscle damage because of the burning you will feel in muscles when you are exercising and the delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) that you feel 8 to 24 hours after you finish exercising.
Then you take easier workouts until the soreness goes away, usually in 24 to 48 hours. If you take hard workouts when muscles are sore, you are likely to tear them and not be able to exercise again until your muscles heal.
Older People Should Lift Lighter Weights with More Repetitions
Older men gained more muscle strength by spending more time lifting weights, whereas younger men gained more muscle strength by lifting heavier weights. In younger men, doubling exercise volume by spending more time lifting weights produced limited added muscle enlargement. In older men, it resulted in much larger muscles and far more strength (The Journals of Gerontology, August 2012).
Join a Gym
First check with your doctor to make sure you do not have a condition that will be harmed by vigorous exercise. Then join a gym and ask for instructions on how to use the weight-training machines. As a general rule, on each machine, you will try to lift a weight 10 times in a row, rest a minute, and then do two more sets of 10. In the beginning, you should lift very light weights and go home without sore muscles. After a few weeks of lifting weights three times a week, not on consecutive days, you can gradually try to add more weight on your machines.
[Another excellent resource for cyclists is Coach Harvey Newton’s Strength Training for Cyclists System, which consists of a 132-page electronic Strength Training for Cyclists Manual, plus the 42-minute DVD Training Program and 28-page hard copy Quick Start Guide.]
Reprinted with permission from Dr. Gabe Mirkin’s Fitness and Health e-Zine. Gabe Mirkin, M.D., is a sports medicine doctor and fitness guru. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin has run more than 40 marathons and is now a serious tandem bike rider with his wife, Diana, often doing 30-60 miles in an outing. His website is http://drmirkin.com/.
Coach John Hughes' Cycling Past 60, Part 2: For Recreation builds on the foundation of information for 60+ riders in Cycling Past 60, Part 1: For Health and uses the concept of “Athletic Maturity” to design more rigorous programs for more athletically mature riders. Part 2 builds on Part 1 and assumes that you have read it and taken the test to determine your Athletic Maturity. latest is for both health-focused and recreational cyclists who ride with more intensity. This 23-page eArticle includes the six different health maintenance objectives for different components of your physiology, eight basic (and four advanced) training principles, types of rides, cross-training and recovery tips.
It includes six different structured workout programs, three each for Endurance and Performance cyclists, based on levels of athletic maturity.
Our other new titles include:
Dynamic Conditioning Monthly – Part 3: Power Development, by Coach Dan Kehlenbach. It’s the 3rd installment in Kehlenbach’s 5-month series, with each building on the previous installment. Part 3 focuses on power building, particularly functional power.
Coach Harvey Newton’s new 132-page Strength Training for Cyclists Manual, which can be purchased on its own or as part of the entire Strength Training for Cyclists System (eManual, DVD and 28-page hard copy Quick Start Guide). This is the strength training resource for cyclists.
Coach David Ertl’s eArticle Keeping Off The Pounds – a Strategy for Maintaining Body Weight in the Cycling Off-Season was written to complement his best-selling eBook, Pedal Off The Pounds. It contains both nutrition and workout tips for managing your off-season weight.
Coach John Hughes’ eArticle Cycling Past 60, Part 1: For Health describes how your whole body ages and gives you six different health maintenance objectives for different components of your physiology, including comprehensive fitness programs that address these objectives.
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