This column is about the optimal riding weeks plural because we’re each an experiment of one. The optimal riding week for you may not be the optimal week for your buddy. And the optimal weeks depend on the times of the year.
Most of my new clients are riding too many miles and as a result aren’t improving as much as they could. When I have a new client I:
- Decrease the miles of riding
- Increase recovery time
- Vary more the intensities of rides
The optimal training weeks also depend on your athletic maturity. I develop and use the concept of athletic maturity in my two eBooks Cycling Past 60 parts 1 and 2. Athletic maturity is a way of gauging all types of fitness compared to the recommendations of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM): cardiovascular, endurance, upper and lower body strength, core strength, body weight, flexibility and balance. These questions assess your cycling athletic maturity.
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.
- 1 – 2 years of riding = 1 point.
- 3 – 5 years = 2 points
- 6 or more years = 3 points
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.
- < 3,000 miles (5,000 km) per year = 1 point.
- 3 – 35,000 miles (5 – 8,000 km) per year = 2 points.
- 6 or more years = 3 points
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)?
- < 50 miles (80 km) = 1 point.
- 50 to 100 miles (80 – 160 km) = 2 points
- > 100 miles (>160 km) = 3 points
This isn’t a scientific assessment but a rough indicator of your cycling maturity. In the section below on sample weeks I suggest how these might apply.
These columns have more information.
- American College of Sports Medicine recommendations
- How athletically mature are you?
- Improving your athletic maturity
Geriatric Curves and the ACSM’s Cardio Recommendations
The geriatric curve is a way of expressing the quality of how you choose to age:
- Unhealthy lifestyle People who don’t lead a healthy lifestyle don’t live as long and don’t meet ACSM recommendations. Aging happens rapidly.
- Normal lifestyle People who lead a healthy and active lifestyle age normally. Year-round they meet or exceed the ACSM’s basic recommendation of at least 2:30 hours of cardio spread over most days of the week. Fitness declines normally.
- Fit lifestyle People who lead a healthy lifestyle focused on fitness. Much of the year they exceed the ACSM’s higher recommendation of 5:00 hours of cardio spread over most days of the week. Fitness declines more slowly.
- Vigorous lifestyle People who lead a healthy lifestyle to maximize all aspects of fitness. All of the year they exceed the recommendation of 5:00 hours of cardio spread over most days of the week. Fitness declines very slowly.
The more you exercise healthily the flatter the slope of your aging. I’ve written a column about Squaring the geriatric curve.
Sample Training Weeks
Based on your athletic maturity if you scored:
- 8 or 9 points you can handle a week like the vigorous week.
- 5 to 7 points you can handle a week like the fit week.
- 3 or 4 points you can handle a week like the normal week.
Remember we are each an experiment of one. This is a point in time. As you ride more you’ll improve your athletic maturity and can handle more in a week.
Here are some sample training weeks related to athletic maturity and the different rates of aging.
Sample Hours in Average Week
Workouts: R = Recovery E = Endurance T = Tempo
|Future Aging||M||T||W||Th||F||Sa||Su||Total Hours|
|Normal||0:30 R||1:00 E||0:30 R||0:30 T||1:30 E||4:00|
|Fit||0:45 R||1:30 E||0:30 R||0:45 T||3:30 E||7:00|
|Vigorous||1:00 R||1:30 T||1:00 R||1:00 T||0:30 R||5:00 E||10:00|
The sample weeks above incorporate the training principle of overload and recovery. Each week has two or thee recovery rides and one or two days off the bike. The Saturday long ride is not more than half the total weekly riding.
These weeks could also correspond to different seasons. In the summer your cardio could resemble the Vigorous week, in the spring and fall the Fit week, and in the winter the Normal week. Note that all year you are exceeding the ACSM’s basic recommendation of 2:30 hours of cardio a week. In the spring through fall you are exceeding the ACSM’s higher recommendation of 5:00 hours per week.
You’ll get more health benefits and greater improvement in endurance if you spread your cardio over four or five days rather than packing most of it into a long weekend ride.
More and Less Effective Weeks
Workouts: R = Recovery E = Endurance T = Tempo
|More Effective||0:45 R||1:30 E||0:30 R||0:45 T||Off||3:30 E||Off||7:00|
|Less Effective||Off||1:30 E||Off||0:45 T||Off||4:45 E||Off||7:00|
Anti-Aging columns I’ve written
Three sequential columns:
These columns will also be helpful
- 8 exercise mistakes older riders make
- More exercise mistakes older riders make
- Benefits of training with intensity for older riders
- Older riders can exercise too much
- 9 recovery tips for older riders
Cycling Past 60 parts 1 and 2 bundle:
- Cycling Past 60 pt. 1 for Health Reviews the physiological changes with aging, explains in detail how to determine your athletic maturity and appropriate workout levels, describes the different kinds of activities to meet the ACSM’s recommendations and includes sample training weeks.
- Cycling Past 60 pt. 2 for RecreationBuilds on part 1 to describe the importance of intensity including how to gauge intensity, more advance types of training, the importance of recovery and includes different sample training weeks for different times of the year.
The 47-page bundle Cycling Past 60 parts 1 and 2 is $8.98.
My eBook Anti-aging 12 ways you can slow the aging process has chapters on:
- Physiology of aging
- Assessing your strengths and weakness
- Endurance riding including sample weeks and months for riders of different levels
- Intensity training – not for everyone!
- Strength training including an illustrated program using things you have around the house.
- Stretching including an illustrated program
- Weight bearing and balance exercise
The 106-page eBook Anti-aging 12 ways you can slow the aging process is $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.