Work on your weaknesses
2022 was a tough year for my 68-year-old buddy Carl. His mother passed away, he was grieving and he was situationally depressed. At the same time he was working with attorneys on her estate including selling her house. We usually road and mountain biked together at least once a week in the summer and cross-country skied in the winter. Carl didn’t get much exercise from March on.
In the mountains of Colorado mud season is in between the cycling and skiing seasons. Only a few roads are paved. When the fall rains start most roads and all the trails get muddy. During this off-season we do different activities to prepare for skiing. We practice balance, especially dynamic balance shifting our weight from one foot to the other.
We do laps of brisk stair climbing, one the easiest and best exercises for cardiovascular health and leg strength. One experiment used 24 young adults who exercised not more than one hour a week. Each participants’ initial peak oxygen uptake and peak power were tested on a cycling ergometer. Twelve participants then climbed a 3-flight staircase 3 times per day, 3 days a week for a total of 54 workouts over 6 weeks. The other 12 participants just continue their normal activities.
At the end of the 6 weeks all 24 subjects were retested. The scientists concluded, “The stair climbing exercise snacking protocol tested in this study resulted in a 5% increase in cardiorespiratory fitness and 12% increase in cycling peak power output in healthy, sedentary adults, which was significantly higher when compared with a nontraining control group.” (Do stair climbing exercise “snacks” improve cardiorespiratory fitness?) Because the study used a small group of pretty inactive young adults, the results may not be directly applicable to active older roadies; however, the results suggest the value of intermittent high intensity exercise.
Carl and I climbed stairs because the short hard bursts are similar to skiing up short hills. And it was easy to do several two-minute bursts several times a day. You can read more about exercise snacks in this column on Anti-Aging: New Research on Intensity, Fitness and Longevity.
I also did squats. Squats are a great lower body exercise. Done correctly they strengthen the legs and core, improve balance and improve bone density. An overview article from the Strength and Conditioning Journal states, “The squat movement pattern is arguably one of the most primal and critical fundamental movements necessary to improve sport performance, to reduce injury risk and to support lifelong physical activity.” If you want to try squats this article has detailed instructions and photos showing correct form.
I started squatting with about 40 lbs: a back pack of canned goods and a bag of canned goods in each hand. And increased the weight week by week. Until I pulled my left gluteal and hamstring muscles.
Carl and I started skiing at Thanksgiving. He loves cross-country skiing – one of the reasons he lives at 10,000 ft. He’s game and skied expert courses with me.
But he described his legs as “clay man” because they wouldn’t move very well as he skied. Over the summer he’d lost strength and power from inactivity. He’d lost flexibility so it’s difficult for him to rotate his hips to snow plow to control his speed going downhill. Snow plowing is forming a V with skis with the point of the V aimed down a hill and the inner edges of the skis rotated into the snow. Because he can’t snow plow very well, he falls. Last week he skied off the trail and fell in deep snow with his body lower than his skis. It took about 15 minutes to get him out of the hole. He had to use his poles to help stand, which was challenging because he’d lost arm strength.
Carl’s wiser than I am. He curtailed his skiing to make time for other activities:
- Physical therapy. Instead of trying to regain general strength on his own, he’s going to a physical therapist twice a week, who works him through skiing specific exercises and he’s following her program at home.
- Pilates. To work on his core strength and balance he goes to Pilates twice a week.
- Massage. And to loosen his clay muscles he gets a massage twice a week.
Skiing is a hell of a lot more fun than doing dryland exercise. We’re having above average snowfall this winter and conditions are great. Despite my pulled muscles I kept skiing. My pulled muscles didn’t hurt when I was skiing but were noticeably tight and painful the rest of the day. I went to Carl’s PT for one session. She gave me corrective exercises and told me to stop skiing and take care of my leg so it’d heal faster. No way. I kept skiing. And when I got home after a fun day on the snow, I was too tired to do my PT. Now 3 months after pulling my muscle it’s barely noticeable.
Hopefully you’re been cycling all summer and haven’t lost much aerobic fitness. And haven’t been stubborn like me. However, fitness has many components, not just good aerobics. Think for a few minutes about your specific weaknesses and how to improve this winter.
- Anti-Aging: 4 Reasons Why Year-Round Strength Training is Good for You
- Anti-Aging: How to Do Strength Training Correctly
- 5 Simple Strength Exercises to Keep Cyclists Injury-Free
- Anti-Aging: Why Practicing Balance Is Important
- On the Bike Stability Drills
- Anti-Aging: Core Strength in 1 Hour a Week
- Anti-Aging: Flexibility in 30 Minutes a Week
- Anti-Aging: 9 Weight-Bearing Activities for Strong Bones
My two-article Cycling Past 60 bundle includes sections on off-season exercise:
- In part 1 For Health I discuss the physiological changes of aging, training principles for older roadies and give you comprehensive fitness programs that address these changes:
- Aerobic exercise
- Resistance training
- Weight-bearing exercise
I combine these into three balanced, full-body exercise programs for different seasons:
- Base training
- Main season
In part 2 For Recreation I cover training fundamentals and add four new training principles. I explain how to gauge intensity and describe 10 different types of rides of different intensities. I provide three balanced, full-body exercise programs for the off-season, base training and the main season.
My four-article Cycling Past 50 Bundle includes:
- Off-Season Conditioning Past 50 – how to best work on your off-season conditioning given the physiological changes of aging.
- Healthy Cycling Past 50 – what happens as you age and how to incorporate cycling and other exercise activities into your daily life to stay healthy and active for many years.
- Healthy Nutrition Past 50 – what to eat and drink to support both a healthy lifestyle and continuing performance.
- Performance Cycling Past 50 – how to train to achieve more specific cycling goals given the physiological changes of aging.
The Cycling Past 50 Bundle totaling 93 pages is just $15.96.
My eBook Anti-Aging: 12 Ways You Can Slow the Aging Process describes in detail different strength training programs depending on your goal(s): 1) increase endurance, 2) address atrophy and increase power, 3) improve for hard riding, 4) build stronger bones. I include 30 illustrated exercises for lower, upper and core, which require very little special equipment. I explain how to combine resistance exercise with endurance and intensity training, which varies by season. I provide flexibility, balance and weight-bearing exercise programs. My 108-page eBook Anti-Aging: 12 Ways You Can Slow the Aging Process is $14.99.
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 over 40 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training and nutrition, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach John Hughes. Click to read John’s full bio.