For the last 20+ years every March, I’ve coached at PAC Tour Training Camps in southern Arizona. We ride 60-125 miles per day for a week. If I train with consecutive longer rides on weekends beforehand, I feel pretty good at camp—but when I get home it catches up to me and I need a couple of weeks of easier riding and rest to bounce back.
It didn’t used to be that way. When I started riding in my late 20s, I could push hard every day for several weeks. I was full of youth, strength and enthusiasm. But over the years my recovery time has lengthened inexorably.
Slowed recovery is an unavoidable part of the aging process. As we age, muscle repair takes longer. Efforts that we easily recovered from overnight when we were in our 20s take days. It’s possible to train in ways that postpone slowed recovery for a short time—like on a tour or at a camp—but eventually you have to pay the piper.
Well, we can’t turn back the clock. But all isn’t lost. In addition to sensible training, let’s look at 4 simple factors that can help us recover faster despite advancing years.
- Rest. Get more sleep than you did when you were younger. Never stand when you can sit and never sit when you can lie down. Do only 1 or 2 intense workouts each week. Take at least 1 and probably 2 rest days each week. Periodize your training so you work hard for 2 or 3 weeks then do a week of easier training. Build at least a month of reduced training (casual riding) into your yearly schedule.
- Hydration. As we get older, we lose our ability to recognize thirst. So don’t wait till you feel like drinking. Keep a bottle of water on your desk at work and nip at it frequently. Carry plenty of water or sports drinks on each ride. Hydrate fully afterward.
- Nourishment. Some cases of slowed recovery are caused by under-nutrition. Eat enough carbohydrate to fuel your training and other daily activities. Never try to diet during the season. You might lose weight, but you’ll also lose energy and enthusiasm.
- Weight training. As we age, we lose muscle volume. As a result, it takes more effort to produce a given amount of power—and the increased effort requires more recovery time. Weight training can help you keep the muscle volume you have.