Last week Premium Member Art Vincent wrote us an unsolicited review of a couple of recent RBR eArticles he purchased: “Mr. Hughes hits a home run with his new articles, Past 60 and Spring Training. Both are spot on, sensible, and leave room for flexibility. His clear, conversational tone makes both easy, understandable reads. Helpful hints are well-mingled with his step-by-step approach. The best two purchases I've made from Road Bike Rider. A big thumbs up.”
Art then asked Coach Hughes, “How many miles do you ride per week? A man with your background and history….well, it would be interesting to know what you do at your age.”
Coach Hughes’ response to Art is both interesting and insightful. He used it as the basis of today’s guest column.
by Coach John Hughes
I don’t know how many miles I ride, Art. I only have a speedometer on one of my many bikes. I ride by my watch and, like many roadies, by perceived exertion. In my riding and coaching I use time rather than speed and miles because how far I go depends on the ride. If I do a climbing ride I don’t go nearly as far as if I do a valley ride. If I ride in a group and draft I go faster and farther than if I ride alone. If it’s windy I don’t go as fast, and in the winter I also don’t go as fast.
Effective training means varying the intensity and kinds of activities—which is more fun, too—not just riding specific distances. I illustrate this in two recent eArticles you mentioned:
Joe Friel is one of my mentors. In Spring Training: 10 Weeks to Summer Fitness, I cite a quote from his book The Cyclist’s Training Bible, “An athlete should do the least amount of properly timed, specific training that brings about continual improvement.” (emphasis added). Let me explain those concepts in more detail as they relate to you and me.
Least amount. I’m not concerned with doing as much as I can. I exercise so that I’m having fun and accomplish my training purposes. This way, I stay injury-free. Several weeks ago RBR surveyed readers about how many hours (not miles) you trained over the winter. In Spring Training I give four different 10-week plans depending on how much you rode in the winter. Pick the plan with the appropriate volume for you. Riding more than is in your plan won’t make you fitter—it just risks injury.
Properly timed. Spring is the time to build endurance, not to train to go fast. The vast majority of my spring riding is at an easy, conversational pace. The different plans in Spring Training have different volumes of endurance riding and tempo riding. Tempo riding is a little faster than endurance riding—you can talk but you can’t whistle. The latest research shows that tempo riding is very effective at building aerobic endurance.
Specific training. Different types of riding yield different benefits. How many miles I cover in a ride varies significantly depending on the purpose of the workout. Although I don’t track my mileage, I do pay attention to the intensity of each ride. Each week I do one long tempo ride, often up a local canyon, one hard intensity ride and one social endurance ride with my cycling buddy. On the social rides we have two rules: 1) no passing anyone, and 2) every ride includes a coffee or lunch stop. Besides these three rides I do several very easy active recovery rides or walk with my wife. Each of the four plans in Spring Training has different workouts at different intensities for maximum improvement.
Continual improvement. I pay attention to how I’m riding. If I can ride farther or climb a steeper canyon, then I’m doing well. Improvement depends on sufficient recovery. So that I recover well, I alternate bigger weeks with more or harder riding with easier weeks with less volume or intensity. Spring Training emphasizes the importance of recovery and the four plans alternate bigger and easier weeks.
I turn 65 in April, and researching and writing the eArticles on Cycling Past 50 and Cycling Past 60has been very exciting for me as a coach, as well as personally. One important insight is that for many senior athletes the motivation shifts from exercising competitively to exercising for fitness and fun. That’s me!
My goals are to have fun and to average two hours a day of different activities, not to accumulate miles. One of the key points of both the Past 50 and Past 60 articles is the importance of different types of activities to stay healthy and fit. Each week I try to work on the following:
Aerobic endurance. Last winter I cross-country skied 41 days and rode at least one day a week (on the trainer, when necessary). I’m riding every day in April for various amounts of time at various intensities and posting my rides on the RBR Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/RoadBikeRider.
Aerobic capacity. As we age, we lose VO2 max unless we keep exercising hard. Each week I do just one very hard workout. Last month my wife and I skied Lactic Grande, the most advanced trail where we ski, which featured 1,000 feet of climbing. We were breathing hard! On the bike I often do Fartlek, randomly varying the intensity, for example hammering hills. Or I may do intervals on the trainer when the weather is bad.
Weight-bearing. As we age we lose bone density unless we do weight-bearing exercise to stress our bones. Cycling doesn’t count—even a sprint puts less stress on your bones than walking! I XC ski, snowshoe, hike or walk several days a week.
Strength training. We also lose muscle mass unless we work on it. Several days a week I do simple exercises including core strengthening at home or hit the gym.
Flexibility. As we get older we get stiffer. I try to stretch for a few minutes most days, often with my morning coffee.
Balance. Balance often deteriorates with age, increasing the risk of falls and of breaking bones. I practice Tai Chi, which also helps my balance for skiing.
For all the clients I coach, both seniors (including myself) and younger, how many miles they ride is far less important than doing the right kinds of rides, meeting their goals and having fun!
Coach Hughes’ new 27-page eArticle Spring Training: 10 Weeks to Summer Fitness is available for only $4.99 and, as always, $4.24 for our Premium Members, a 15% discount. His 98-page, 4-part eArticle series Cycling Past 50 is only $15.96 ($13.57 for Premium Members). His 47-page, 2-part eArticle series Cycling Past 60 is only $8.98 ($7.64 for Premium members.