“Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride.” President John F. Kennedy.
We’re each an experiment of one, i.e., your training should reflect your personal goals, riding history, current fitness, weekly and monthly schedules, etc. – not a cookie cutter program you’ve read somewhere. Part 1 covers the effects of aging, current research, how to train and how to recover both from workouts and from injury or illness.
“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” — Mark Twain
Two personal columns about how I am dealing with aging.
The physiological effects of aging
“Life is like riding a bicycle, to keep your balance you must keep moving.” — Albert Einstein
When I wrote this column in 2018 I was primarily writing for age 50+ roadies; however, the aging process applies to everyone as we age. I describe the physiological changes with the normal aging process, which you can slow down. I also discuss pathological types of aging such as heart disease, diabetes, strokes, weight management and other unhealthy changes and how to ward them off.
These exercise recommendations help you slow down and in some cases reverse the changes described in the above column. The recommendations come from the American College of Sports Medicine. The US Department of Health and Human Services and the World Health Organization make similar recommendations, which have been adopted by many countries.
This column give you my personal examples of how to deal with aging including four key pillars:
“I don’t ride a bike to add days to my life. I ride a bike to add life to my days.” – Unknown
This column reports on research on the relationship between premature deaths and inadequate physical activity. I also describe research on walking 10,000 steps a day. Even if you don’t walk that much two key findings apply to you:
- You may not need as much exercise for good health and
- There are diminishing marginal returns to increasing how much you exercise.
I also report on a Danish study on the relationship between the amount of exercise and mortality. This study suggests continuing to increase the volume of exercise also reduces your risk of premature mortality until you reach a threshold beyond which continuing to increase your exercise volume may increase your risk of premature mortality.
A meta-study looked at the results of nine separate studies totaling 50,000 people. The meta-study concluded the sweet spot for exercise is 35 minutes a day of moderate aerobic activity most days of the week, i.e., the recommendation of the American College of Sports Medicine.
“Ride as much or as little, as long or as short as you feel. But ride” — Eddy Merckx, retired Belgian pro racer who won a record eleven Grand Tours (five Tours de France, five Giros d’Italia, and a Vuelta a España) and many other races.
Riders 50 years and older are the fastest growing segment of the cycling community. Here are several reasons why among others:
- Long-time exercisers such as former runners, triathletes and others are switching to cycling because it’s easier on aging muscles and joints.
- Around 50 the physical signs of aging become more apparent. Wrinkles start to appear, activities of daily living become a little harder and one has less energy.
- People are realizing the importance of exercise for good health and the importance of starting now.
- A cycling friend encourages someone to start riding.
Perceptions, preconceptions and myths about aging and exercise abound. Good news! Most of them aren’t true!
I respond to RBR reader Karen’s training questions.
I explain how I coached 69-year-old Ben and 53-year-old Bob.
RBR Reader Keith has been riding for about five years and has plateaued. I offer suggestions on how to change his training so he will continue to improve.
Anti-Aging: Can You Exercise Too Much?I report on several studies that suggest that years of high volume exercise, especially high intensity exercise may (or may not) have a negative effect on health but that moderate volume at moderate intensity improves health. One of the studies gathered data on 90,000 individuals and found there’s no upper limit to how much exercise is healthy. This group enjoyed the greatest risk reductions, with both men and women showing about equal benefits.
“Embrace your sweat. It is your essence and your emancipation.” — Kristin Armstrong, retired American cyclist, three time Olympic gold medalist.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, “Interval-based exercise is a powerful tool for improving exercise performance and health.” This column reports on Norwegian research over five years on 1,500 70-year-olds. The study concluded the people who did high intensity workouts twice a week were a modest 2% less like to have died than the people followed the standard activity guidelines to do aerobic activity for half an hour most days.
Intervals are structured, e.g., in the Norwegian study high intensity was repeat four times [4 minutes at 90% of max heart rate and 4 minutes easy.] Fartlek is random, e.g., hammer during every commercial break while watching football. Both work.
The column explains six different benefits of training with intensity as we age.
Grant Petersen shares a different perspective: “Whatever benefits accrue from riding your bike won’t stop accruing just because you’re having fun. In fact, the more fun you have on it, the more you’ll ride it.” — Petersen is a bicycle designer, author, and the founder and owner of Rivendell Bicycle Works.
If you have a choice between an extra 20 minutes of riding or spending that time recovering, use it for recovery. — Brent Bookwalter, retired pro who nine individual national titles in mountain bike, road and cyclo-cross.
Learning from mistakes
Boy have I made a lot of them! These are the source of much of my expertise.
The best rides are the ones where you bite off much more than you can chew, and live through it” – Doug Bradbury, founded Manitou mountain bikes, Mountain Bike Hall of Famer
Losing and regaining fitness
“Use it or lose it.” is one of the fundamental training principles. However, sometimes you have to cut back or even stop how much you’re exercising because of surgery, a protracted illness, major family issues, pesky work demands, etc. All is not lost. These three columns address these situations:
I respond to 70-year-old RBR reader Andy’s questions. I describe the differential ways you lose different kinds of fitness and how to respond.
Maximum improvement and performance in cycling is the result of five different success factors in addition to training. I explain different ways Andy can work on all the success factors to improve.
RBR reader Janet was off her bike for only a month during the winter and was surprised how much fitness she lost. How much fitness you lose and how fast you lose it depends on how long you’ve been riding and how fit you are — your athletic maturity. I explain how to gauge your athletic maturity and describe six principles to improve your athletic maturity.
“Life is like a 10-speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use.” — Charles M. Schultz, creator of the Peanuts comic strip
My eBook Anti-Aging: 12 Ways You Can Slow the Aging Process incorporates the latest research and most of it is new material not published in my previous eBooks on cycling past 50, 60 and beyond.
The book explains how to get the most benefit from your endurance rides. It has sample training plans to increase your annual riding miles and to build up to rides of 25-, 50-, 100- and 200-miles. The book explains why intensity training is important, the pros and cons of gauging intensity using rate of perceived exertion, heart rate and power. It includes how to do intensity exercise and different intensity workouts. It integrates endurance and intensity training into an annual plan for optimal results.
Anti-Aging describes the importance of strength training and includes 28 exercises for lower body, upper body and core strength illustrated with photos. It includes an annual plan to integrate strength training with endurance and intensity training. It also has 14 stretches illustrated with photos.
Anti-Aging includes an annual plan to put together all six of the aspects of aging well: cardiorespiratory exercise, intensity training, strength workouts, weight-bearing exercise, stretching and balance. The book concludes with a chapter on motivation.
The 106-page Anti-Aging: 12 Ways You Can Slow the Aging Process your comprehensive guide to continuing to ride well into your 80s and even your 90s. The 106-page eBook is $15.95.
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.