Ned Overend at age 35 won the first UCI World MTB Championship in 1990 in Durango, CO and won again in 1991. In 2015 at the age of 60 he won the first US Fatbike championship! On training he said, “I do exactly what I have always done; it just takes me longer.” A four-week training block now takes him six to eight weeks because he needs more recovery. (Joe Friel, Fast After 50. 2015 VeloPress, Boulder, CO.)
The key takeaway is that Overend needs more days of recovery! Needing more recovery is one of the inevitable consequences of aging. However, like most of the other effects of aging you have some control over this. The fitter you are the faster you recover.
Several studies show that about 25% of recreational cyclists suffer traumatic injuries from various types of accidents and that an astonishing 85 – 88% suffer an overuse injury! (Victor Lun “Epidemiology of Cycling Injuries” in Cycling Science, Steven S. Cheung, PhD and Mikel Zabala, PhD, editors. 2017 Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL.)
This is consistent with the coaching experience of my colleague Neal Henderson, the former director of Sports Science at Colorado’s Boulder Center for Sports Medicine and USA Cycling’s Coach of the Year. He says that 75% of the athletes he sees over-train (too much and/or too hard), 10% under-train and 15% get it right — usually pros that are paid to race. He is talking about people who think that if three hard days, weeks and months are good then four hard days, weeks and months are better. Getting it right means less training, but doing the right training.
How Can You Prevent an Overuse Injury?
“Proper bicycle fitting is the most common recommendation for prevention of overuse injuries of the upper and lower extremities, neck and low back. …. Other aspects of injury prevention include a well-though-out training program that provides gradual and progressive increases in training volume and intensity with appropriate periods for recovery and cross-training. A complementary lower-body and core-strengthening program should be incorporated into a bicyclist’s overall training program. (Epidemiology of Cycling Injuries.) It’s spring and daylight saving time starts this weekend. We’re all excited to ride more. Don’t overdo it. Remember that training volume should increase gradually and progressively and that as you train more you also need more recovery!
How Much Recovery Do You Need?
Experienced riders in their 20s and 30s can often handle three or four hard training days a week with three or four easier days including two very easy recovery days. Experienced riders in their 50s usually can handle two or three hard training days a week with four or five easier days including two very easy recovery days. Experienced riders in their 60s and beyond usually can handle one or two hard training days with five or six easier days including two very easy recovery days. “Hard” means more challenging, e.g., more miles, or faster rides or higher intensity workouts. Hard also means changing the type of exercise, e.g., incorporating resistance training or cross-training. You want to be fully recovered before the next hard day.
Experienced riders benefit from active recovery activities; however, relatively new riders recover better with days off the bike.
My 16-page eArticle Optimal Recovery for Improved Performance describes 10 different recovery techniques and is illustrated with 14 photos including how to give yourself a massage and how to ice correctly.
In addition to risking an overuse injury if you ask your body to do too much you could be developing the Overtraining Syndrome.
Anti-Aging: 12 Ways You Can Slow the Aging Process is your comprehensive guide to aging well. The 106-page eBook is available for $14.99
Anti-Aging includes an annual plan to put together all six of the aspects of aging well: cardiovascular exercise, intensity training, strength workouts, weight-bearing exercise, stretching and balance. The book concludes with a chapter on motivation.
The book describes the physiological changes that take place as you age, how to assess your current fitness and the training principles that apply to older roadies.
Coach Hughes incorporates the latest research and most of it is new material not published in his previous eArticles on cycling past 50, 60 and beyond.
Anti-Aging: 12 Ways You Can Slow the Aging Process gives you the tools you need to slow the inevitable decline in your health and fitness.
Anti-Aging describes the physiological changes that take place as you age, how to assess your current fitness and the training principles that apply to older roadies.
Are You Training Too Much?
How do you know if you’re training too much or too hard? There’s a progression from training overload to overreaching to overtraining.
- Training overload is what you want because you can recover in a day or two and get as a result get fitter.
- Overreaching is an accumulation of training and/or non-training stress resulting in a short-term fall in performance, which may take from several days to several weeks to recover. Overreaching is risky. A fatigue week is overreaching: you work out really hard without recovery days and do much more than you are accustomed to doing in a week. For example, a training camp or a week-long tour. You can recover from overreaching with about two weeks ofvery easy riding and other recovery activities and get fitter as a result. But if you don’t build those very easy weeks into your training you may slip into overtraining.
- Overtraining is an accumulation of training and/or non-training stress that results in a long-term decrement in performance, which may take from several weeks to several months to recover.
Note that overreaching and overtraining are the result of an accumulation of training stress, i.e., multiple hard workouts. They are also the result of non-training stresses such as family and work issues, financial concerns, or illness as well as positive factors that also cause stress such as moving to a new home, getting married, having a child or getting a new job.
Signs of Overtraining
How do you know if you’re on the verge of or have developed the overtraining syndrome? The key indicator is declining performance. Everybody has an off day. But if you’re not riding as fast or climbing as well, for example, for successive days watch out! The other key indicator is your mood. We all have a day here and there when we blow off a workout. But if you think, “I really don’t want to train!” for several days, have trouble sleeping, or are moody, watch out! Too often a roadie responds to either of these key indicators by forcing him or herself to get out there and ride — exactly the wrong response! If performance drops significantly and/or you aren’t excited about riding, take a few days off before you fall into overtraining.
You may have heard that these are indicators of overtraining: a change in morning heart rate, or a change in body weight, or a change in how fast your heart rate drops after a hard effort. However, research shows that there is little correlation between any of these and overtraining.
Pay attention to your mood instead of your resting heart rate or morning weight. If you don’t feel like working out, maybe you shouldn’t. If you aren’t motivated, get on the bike, ride for half an hour and see if your legs feel better and your mood improves. If not, go home and take a nap.
Bottom line: It is much easier to avoid overtraining than to recover. When in doubt about how much or how hard to exercise listen to your body and do less.
My new eBook Anti-Aging: 12 Ways You Can Slow the Aging Process will be published in a few weeks. It describes in detail how best to balance by the week, month and year your training and other stresses with sufficient recovery.
I’m a Coloradoan and have been a big fan of “Deadly Nedly” Overend from Durango, Co since the 90s. My first mountain bike was the Specialized M2 that he raced back then Here are his 10 fitness tips for older riders. Pay particular attention to #5. “Recover harder than you train.”
Coach John Hughes earned coaching certifications from USA Cycling and the National Strength and Conditioning Association. John’s cycling career includes course records in the Boston-Montreal-Boston 1200-km randonnée and the Furnace Creek 508, a Race Across AMerica (RAAM) qualifier. He has ridden solo RAAM twice and is a 5-time finisher of the 1200-km Paris-Brest-Paris. He has written nearly 30 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training and nutrition, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach John Hughes. Click to read John's full bio.