Many of you commented on my recent column A 73-year-old asks “Is it all down from here?” Ed Pavelka, the RBR cofounder with Fred Matheny wrote, “I agree 100% with everyone who says consistency is the key.” Walter asked a great follow-up question, “It would be greatly appreciated if you might write a few more articles that would help the 50+ year olds stay motivated to not only ride, but to improve.”
What are your reasons for exercise?
When you think about exercising think about what it does for you personally.
- Is a significant part of your identity being a cyclist? Why or why not? (When your friends think of you, do they think, “Joe’s a cyclist”?) The more you integrate being a cyclist into your identity, the better!
- How does exercise make you feel? What do you like about it?
- What’s at the heart/root of why you exercise?
We exercise for many reasons:
- Overall good health to enjoy life and do things with your family
- Longevity to enjoy your grandkids
- Personal fitness
- Achieve personal goals
- Group activities
- Your doctor told you that you should
- Your significant other wants you to
- Losing weight so you look better
- Other goals
Which of these are your goals?
Family first. One of my clients reported he didn’t do many of the workouts last week because he was with his new grandson. Right on!
For many people a structure is very helpful for motivation. Different types of structures work for different people.
Set goals. Now that you know why you exercise, setting reasonable achievable goals is the next step.
Improvement: Suppose typically Joe rides three or four days a week totaling 50 to 75 miles a week. He has been doing a long ride of 20 to 30 miles and two or three rides of 15 miles.
- Start small. Whatever your baseline of exercise has been set a goal(s) that are just a little bigger. Joe’s goal could be to build up to 60 to 90 miles a week. Or a long ride of 40 miles.
- Progress to larger. After Joe’s met his goal(s) consistently for several weeks he could increase it to 75 to 100 miles a week. Or build up to a half-century.
- Ramping. Fitness is built progressively. If Joe tries immediately to jump from 60 miles a week to 75 miles a week or to jump from a long ride of 30 miles to a long ride of 40 miles he may get injured or burned out. Three rules of thumb:
- Increase weekly long ride by 5-10% per week
- Increase weekly volume by 5-15% per week
- Increase monthly volume by 10-25% per month
Here’s a column I wrote on setting goals as you get older.
Consistency: Jim Langley has ridden 9,726 days consecutive days so far!
Instead of trying to increase his mileage, Joe could set a goal of riding four days every week. Or 200 days this year, which is about the same as four days a week, but more flexible.
My primary goal is 10 hours of exercise every week, which includes cycling and also hiking, stretching, tai chi, working around my three acres, chopping firewood, shoveling snow, etc.
Make a schedule. Creating a plan is a great way to motivate yourself.
- Follow your body’s rhythms. Observe when you have the most energy. For me it’s definitely in the morning. If I don’t exercise by mid-day, the probability I’ll do something decreases significantly.
- Daily. I try to practice Tai Chi daily and my weekly hours include it. I know I’m more likely to practice if I do so when I get up. I’m typing this before lunch and still haven’t practiced my Tai Chi…. I’d better close my computer and practice before lunch.
- Weekly. I’m back after my Tai Chi and a burrito. Each Sunday night talk with your significant other, plan out your week and put it on your calendar.
- Monthly and annually. Some people like monthly and annual goals. For example, Elizabeth Wicks turned 75 in 2019 and rode 7,500 miles. Here’s her story.
- Flexibility. Wicks’ original goal was 75 rides of 75 miles; however, she was injured and had to change goals.
- Cut yourself some slack. Life happens. Some weeks something may occur that keeps you from your plans. You didn’t fail and you don’t have to start over.
Accountability. As a coach providing a weekly schedule is about 40% of what I do for a client and another 40% is accountability — did the client follow the plan? Only 20% or so is more substantive. Here are some ways to provide accountability.
- Share your goals and plan. Tell your significant other or a buddy your general goals are and your plan for the week. Then tell him or her what you actually did.
- Social media. Similarly post a weekly or monthly goal and then with each activity report your progress toward the goal. I make some of my posts more interesting by coming up with a theme for a ride and then illustrate the post with pictures that illustrate the theme.
- Use Strava, etc.
- Keep a log. Make yourself accountable by entering on your calendar what the plan is for the week. Then enter what you actually did and compare this to your goal. If you’re interested, total up the stats at the end of the month and year to date.
A log doesn’t have to be fancy. Here’s Wicks’ log into September 2019.
Group Activities. For many of us the social aspect is what makes riding lots of fun. Here are some suggestions:
- Buddy rides. My buddy and I go for a ride every week unless it’s snowing.
- Club rides. Most clubs offer planned weekly rides and some are training series. You could commit to participating in all the Saturday rides.
- Organize rides. If club rides don’t work for you, you could organize your own with your friends. Whoever can make it shows up at the local coffee shop at 9 on Wednesdays and you all decide where to ride.
- Zwift. You can do individual rides around the world and chat with your friends and with other riders who are on their bikes at the same time. You can participate in organized rides. You don’t need a smart trainer to use Zwift.
- On-line programs. You can participate in various on-line challenges. For example, Ted King is offering DYI Gravel, which you can do by riding your road bike on any gravel road. I ride gravel because there’s less traffic. Look on-line for other programs.
- Wander. If your usual routes are getting boring then go for a ride exploring new roads around the neighborhood. I’m going to check out Elkdale tomorrow.
- Have a purpose for a ride. If it’s hard to force yourself to ride then have a specific purpose for the ride. Your purpose could be a ride that helps you meet your goal(s) or to learn a new skill or to work on a specific purpose.
- Learn skills. As variety learn 10 essential bike handling skills.
- Work on your weaknesses. Now is a good time to analyze your riding and determine where you can improve the most. Here’s a column on 10 different areas to consider.
My eBook Anti-Aging: 12 Ways You Can Slow the Aging Process includes interviews with Elizabeth Wicks, Gabe Mirkin, Jim Langley, Andy Pruitt and eight other male and female roadies ages 55 to 83. They describe their exercise programs in terms of the American College of Sports Medicine’s recommendations. They talk about changing exercise goals over time. They emphasize the value of intrinsically enjoying an activity rather than doing it because it’s good for you. They describe many ways to adapt positively to the aging process. The final chapters are on Motivation and on Sticking With It. 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 eArticles on cycling past 50, 60 and beyond. It’s your comprehensive guide to continuing to ride well into your 80s and even your 90s. The 106-page eBook Anti-Aging: 12 Ways You Can Slow the Aging Process is available for $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 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.