I had lunch on Friday with my friend John, who turns 80 next year. He said he’d recently realized that he hadn’t touched his toes in a few years so he’d bent over and tried to touch his toes. He couldn’t. Now his back hurts when he gets out of bed in the morning. He flexed his arm, pointed to his biceps and said, “In a few years you won’t be able to see that.” Then with his arm he made a downward sloping line and said, “It’s inevitable.”
As I discussed in last week’s column, Squaring the Geriatric Curve, rapid, steady decline of your physical self is not inevitable — you have a great degree of control over the rate of your overall health and fitness decline.
Although my friend John is chronologically more mature than I am (I only turn 68 next year), I am more athletically mature.
What do I mean by that?
Health Maintenance Objectives
According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the benefits of regular exercise include “improved cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance, flexibility and balance. These are important factors in functional ability. In addition, participation in regular exercise can also positively affect pain control, self-confidence and sleep patterns.” Moreover, appropriate regular exercise will help maintain healthy weight and strong bones. Note that the different benefits come from different types of activities, i.e., not just cycling.
Cycling Athletic Maturity Quiz
In Part 1 of the 2-part eArticle: Cycling Past 60 I introduced the concept of “Athletic Maturity” as a way of gauging how well you measure up to the health maintenance objectives of the ACSM. Because physiological decline starts when you’re about 50 years old the concept of athletic maturity applies to anyone age 50 and older.
The more mature you are as an athlete the more you’ve taken care of your body, and the slower your decline as you age.
Evaluate your Athletic Maturity using the following factors. Give yourself 1, 2 or 3 points on each factor (see the Scoring Chart below):
1. Years riding. How long you have been riding? If you ran or did a similar aerobic exercise such as XC skiing before you started riding, then your general aerobic fitness carries over to cycling; however, as a roadie you need to develop specific muscle-firing patterns as well as cycling skills. Give yourself a half-year for each year of aerobic exercise immediately before you started riding. Example: you ran for six years and then took up cycling two years ago. You have (6 years x 0.5) + 2 = the equivalent of 5 years of riding experience. But if you ran for six years after college, took a long break and then started riding when you turned 50, you only have two years of riding experience.
2. Annual riding. To assess general aerobic fitness, how many miles (kilometers) do you ride per year? If you also run, XC ski, etc., calculate the number of hours you do this activity in a year and give yourself half-credit based on your speed on the bike. For example, you rode 3,250 miles @ 15 mph. You also ran 63 hours. 63 x 15 mph / 2 = 473 equivalent miles for a total of 3,723 miles.
3. Longest annual ride. To also assess aerobic fitness, what is your longest one-day ride of the year in miles (kilometers) with a speed of at least 12.5 mph (20 km/h)?
4. Number of push-ups. To assess upper body strength. For men, how many standard push-ups can you do with only your feet and hands resting on floor? For women, how many modified push-ups can you do with your knees and hands resting on the floor.
5. Weight for 20 step-ups. To assess lower body strength. Hold a weight in each hand (using dumbbells or grocery sacks or a backpack filled with canned food). One step-up is stepping up onto an approximately 8” (20 cm) step with your right foot and lifting your left foot up to the step, stepping back down with both feet, stepping up with left foot and lifting right foot to the step and stepping back down with both feet. While doing 20 complete step-ups, how much weight can you hold?
6. Plank time. To assess core strength, how long can you hold the plank? The plank is resting only on your feet and on your forearms (elbows under shoulders) with your body parallel to the floor.
7. Body mass index (BMI). BMI is the ratio of your height to your weight to estimate body fat. Since athletically active people may have relatively more muscle and less fat, the standard BMI may overstate the unhealthiness of a given body weight for fairly muscular people. Calculate your BMI.
- If you scored three points on #4 Number of Push-ups and #5 Weight for 20 Step-ups then compare your BMI to this scale, which allows for 10% higher mass due to added muscle.
Adjusted BMI for Athletes
|Normal weight||20.5 – 27.5|
|Over weight||27.5 to 33.5|
- If you did NOT score three points on both #4 (Number of Push-ups) and #5 (Weight for 20 Step-ups) then use the regular BMI table.
8. Sit and reach. To assess flexibility sit on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you with straight knees. Bending forward at the waist, how close to (beyond) your toes can you reach?
9. Balance. To assess your balance, how long can you stand on one leg with your other foot lifted slightly off the floor?
Calculate your athletic maturity using the following table. For each activity give yourself 1, 2 or 3 points in the right-hand column.
Athletic Maturity Scoring Chart
|1 point||2 points||3 points||Your points|
|1. Years of riding||1-2 years||3-5 years||6 or more years|
|2. Annual riding||< 3,000 miles (5,000 km)||3 – 5,000 miles (5-8,000 km)||>5,000 miles (8,000 km)|
|3. Longest annual ride||<50 miles (80 km)||50 – 100 miles (80-160 km)||>100 miles (>160 km)|
|4. Number of push-ups||<10||10-20||>20|
|5. Weight for 20 step-ups||Body weight||Body weight + 10%||Body weight + 20%|
|6. Plank||<30 seconds||30 – 60 seconds||> 60 seconds|
|7. Body mass index||Obese||Overweight||Normal|
|8. Sit and reach||-1”||-1” to +1”||> +1”|
|9. One-leg balance||<30 seconds||30 – 60 seconds||>60 seconds|
After Thanksgiving I’ll report on how Jim Langley, John Marsh, Coach Fred Matheny, Sheri Rosenbaum and I score and you can compare yourself to us. We represent a good range, with a couple of 50-somethings (Sheri and John), a couple of 60-somethings (Jim and me), and a 70-something (Fred).
Enjoy the turkey and go out for the annual Thanksgiving ride that I assign to clients: leave all of your electronics at home (or don’t turn them on). Just think about all that you have to be thankful for!
- Coach Hughes’ Cycling Past 50, 60 and Beyond Bundle, which includes 3 eArticles in the series: Fit for Life, Peak Fitness and Training with Intensity.
- And his Cycling Past 50 Bundle, which includes 4 eArticles: Healthy Cycling, Off-Season Conditioning, Healthy Nutrition, and Performance Cycling.
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.