Question: You’ve mentioned you’re fighting aging by riding hard at times, even during winter. I’m 59 and would like to know more about your program so I can stave off the Grim Reaper. — Melvin C.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: No training program will keep Mr. Reaper away if he has your number. But as long as you’re still mobile on something other than a pine box, make every minute of life count. And that goes double for your riding time.
I’m now in my 60s. My training this winter and spring will resemble what’s been successful for the last few years.
Between January and May, I’ll accumulate about 200 hours of riding and another 100 hours of hiking, snowshoeing and weight training. As usual, I’ll coach at a PAC Tour training camp in March in Arizona. I’ll ride about 500 miles that week at varied intensity.
But research shows that as riders age, we need more than mere mileage. So, I’ll focus on five key areas:
- Intensity. Endurance athletes who maintain or increase workout intensity tend to see their VO2 max decline at a lower rate than those who do more mileage but at a slower pace. So, I do snappy interval-type riding nearly all year. This can include hills, group rides, fighting headwinds — anything counts as long as heart rate is at or above 85% of max.
- Strength. Studies indicate that a significant decline in performance begins around age 60. This coincides with a relatively steep decline in muscle volume. So, I’m lifting weights 2-3 times per week. Sure, this takes time and energy from cycling. But it’s crucial to preserve the muscle mass that gets a rider down the road.
- Recovery. The older we get, the longer it takes to recover. I work on this issue with some hard resting. My favorite workout: lying on the couch, watching football.
- Nutrition. More fruit, more veggies, more whole grains and enough protein to help maintain muscle volume. I sometimes combine this with a recovery workout, snacking with healthful fare while on the couch.
- Emotional health. Along with cycling, I enjoy other important things in life: family, friends and western Colorado sunsets.
And I refuse to use my age as an excuse when I’m riding with youngsters — at least not until they drop me badly.
Come to think of it, some older riders can drop me, too. I’ll have to think of a good excuse for that.