Note that I titled this “Activities” not “Working Out” or “Training.” The latter two sound more purposeful and may imply something you must do. For 60-year-olds fall is the time to kick back and enjoy other activities in addition to training for cycling.
Here in Colorado changing from daylight savings to standard time means it’s time to put the snow tires on the car, start chopping wood, dig out my thermal tights and wool jersey, and put on wider bike tires with good tread. It’s also time to change my activities. How should your activities change this fall?
Physiological Changes In Your 60s
As you mature into your 60s several physiological and training changes take place. Unfortunately, you lose fitness at an increasing rate than in your 50s. Because of this consistency is very important. However as you mature you also need more recovery. You need to balance consistency and recovery.
Two weeks ago I described the training principles as you mature. One of the principles relates to the need for recovery. Experienced riders in their:
- 20s and 30s usually can handle three or four hard training days a week with three or four easier days including two recovery days.
- 50s usually can handle two or three hard training days a week with four or five easier days including two recovery days.
- 60s and beyond usually can handle one or two hard training days a week with five or six easier days including two recovery days.
“Hard” means more challenging, e.g., more miles, or faster rides or intensity workouts. In addition to needing more recovery days, as you get older you also need more recovery weeks.
The Cycling Year In Your 60s
I usually divide a client’s cycling year into the following phases:
- Base January / February – April / May): Increase endurance while maintaining non-riding fitness.
1 to 2 week break
- Build (May – June) Increase power and speed while maintaining endurance and non-riding fitness.
1 to 2 week break
- Main or peak season (June / July – September): Maintain endurance and power to enjoy riding or peak for a specific event. Allow non-riding fitness to decrease.
1 to 4 week break
- Off-season (November – December / January): Increase non-riding fitness and allow riding fitness to decrease.
1 to 2 week break
For my clients I program a break after each phase so the client is fully recovered both physically and psychologically before the next phase. During the break the person rides only a few hours a week. After the main season the client takes a somewhat longer break to recover fully from the main season. The older the client, the more weeks the client takes mostly off the bike. The more experienced the client, the shorter the break because mature riders recovers faster.
What To Do In Off-Season This Fall
Your body isn’t a harmonious whole, but is composed of different parts, each of which ages somewhat separately: the cardiopulmonary system, the muscles and the skeletal system. And, as you age into your 60s and beyond, flexibility and balance also are increasingly at risk of deterioration. Cycling only stresses and keeps relatively young the cardiopulmonary system. If all you do is ride, you lose muscle mass, bone density, flexibility and balance.
Fall is the time to increase your non-cycling activities to keep all of your body as strong and healthy as possible.
Reduce Volume and Intensity
During November cut back your riding by 25 – 50% of what you were riding in the summer. Reduce both the total weekly miles and the duration of your long rides. As you cut back the priority is to keep doing some endurance riding while eliminating any sort of intensity — both structured workouts and hard club rides. All of your riding should be at a conversational pace. You can substitute other activities for your recovery riding.
Some riders try to log a lot of miles in the fall to boost their annual miles; however, the time would be better spent doing other activities for all-round fitness.
Also cut back your total time exercising. For example, if you were active 10 hours a week in the summer drop back to five to seven hours in the fall.
Substitute Other Fun Activities
What else do you enjoy doing that you didn’t have time to do in the summer? Walking the dog after dinner with your spouse? Hiking with your family? Swimming with the kids? Playing tennis or pickleball with friends? Taking yoga or Pilates classes? Now is the time spend more time having fun with your non-cycling family and friends. For more ideas see my column on Cross Training.
Start To Use Your Trainer
When you’re riding your muscles are activated in a specific movement pattern that isn’t replicated in other aerobic activities. Other aerobic activities are great cardio; however, you should also get on the darn trainer a couple of times a week for at least half an hour of pedaling. In a future column I’ll discuss how to get the most out of your time on the trainer.
Because you are reducing how much and how hard you exercise, if you don’t also cut back on your calories you’ll gain weight. Further, every decade your basal metabolism decreases by about 2%. If you weighed 150 lbs when you turned 50 and don’t increase your exercise and/or decrease what you eat then by age 60 you’ll weigh 153 lbs and are on you way to 156 lbs at age 70 and so on.
You are constantly renewing your bones by making new bone content as old bone content disappears. By age 60 you’ve lost about 10% of the bone content you had in your 40s. Osteoporosis is a progressive condition of lower bone mineral density resulting in thinner and more brittle bones. You are more vulnerable to fractures, particularly of the wrist, hip and spine as a result of falls.
Cycling, even sprinting, isn’t weight-bearing — it doesn’t put as much load on your bones as walking. One study of male master racers in their 50s who had raced for at least 10 years but done little or no weight-bearing exercise found that they may be at high risk for developing osteoporosis.
Many fun family activities are weight-bearing such as hiking, active games and social dancing. Strength training exercises are also excellent.
Preparatory Strength Training
In last week’s newsletter Fred Matheny explained why Weight Training is Vital for Any Age. Now is the time to do light resistance training so that you prepare your muscles and ligaments for harder resistance training later in the off-season. Using your own body weight to provide the resistance is better than using machines because body weight exercises strengthen the auxiliary muscles and ligaments as well as the primary muscles. For example wall squats are better than the leg press. Most people’s strength isn’t identical in muscles in both sides of the body. This is why split squats and step-ups are better than wall squats. Split squats and step-ups also improve your balance, which helps to prevent falls. Falls are the most frequent cause of visits to the emergency room for people 65 and older and if you are starting to develop osteoporosis a fall may result in a broken hip or pelvis and a long recuperation.
I have programs for all muscle groups on my website, which include both starting exercises and more advanced exercises. All the exercises can be done at home without weights.
My two-article bundle Cycling Past 60 includes:
Part 1: For Health gives you six different health maintenance objectives for different components of your physiology, including comprehensive fitness programs that address these objectives. It shows you how to measure your “Athletic Maturity” to assess your relative fitness in terms of all aspects of good health. This eArticle includes three balanced, full-body exercise programs for different cyclists of different athletic maturities. 24 pages
Part 2: For Recreation uses the concept of “Athletic Maturity” to design programs for riders of different athletic maturity. It includes six different structured workout programs, three each for Endurance and Performance cyclists, based on levels of athletic maturity. 23 pages
The Cycling Past 60 bundle is only $8.98 ($7.64 for premium members with their coupon code).
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.