At age 66 I’ve been a roadie for almost two-thirds of my life. When I had my annual physical last year I told my doctor his job was to keep me riding for (at least) another 20 years.
When I started riding in my 20s, each summer friends and I would load our panniers with camping gear and take off for a week or two of touring in the Sierra Nevada mountains in California. Each spring we rode centuries and the annual Davis Double Century to get in shape for touring. We rode for fun!
From Competition-Focused to Fit- and Fun-Focused
In my 30s I found that I excelled at long-distance riding and I became very competitive. I set two still-standing ultra-cycling records across two states. I set course records at two qualifiers for the Race Across AMerica. I did solo RAAM and have ridden seven 1,200K brevets.
As I got older, though, I started exercising more for fun and fitness and less to prove anything. As I write this, my wife and I are in Crested Butte, Colorado, for a week’s vacation. On Saturday, I cross-country skied my first 21K race.
My goals for the 21K were:
1. Finish the race.
2. Finish with a smile on my face.
3. Finish excited about three more days of cross-country skiing on vacation.
4. Finish under four hours.
I achieved the first three of my goals and just missed on the fourth. I finished in 4:00:53.98. Dang, if I just hadn’t done that one face plant I would have broken four hours! But was I disappointed? Heck, no. Although the temperature was only in the teens, the sun was out, scenery was magnificent and I was soaking it all in as I traversed the course.
While road cycling remains my primary sport, I’ve incorporated a number of other sports and activities into my overall recreation and fitness regime. For aerobic exercise and to keep our bones strong my wife and I hike with packs in the summer and on snowshoes in the winter. We XC ski together a lot – she was first in her age group in a 6K two weeks ago and the first overall on vintage wooden skis!
I mountain bike to build power, improve my balance and work on my bike-handling skills. To keep my muscles from atrophying, I do strength training with simple equipment at home. And because I’m a roadie, I ride my road bike year-round for cycling-specific exercise.
Different physiological systems inevitably start to worsen with age. That’s why at age 66 I have no hope of catching the 50-somethings. However, by enjoying recreation, in many ways I’m fitter than I’ve been for years and I have more FUN getting this fit than I’ve had in years.
I exercise for recreation. If it’s not fun, I don’t do it.
You, Too, Can be Fitter Overall and Have More Fun!
Almost half of the RBR readers ride for health and fitness, commuting and casual recreation rather than trying to meet specific performance goals. Further, as we get older our goals shift. Don McGrath interviewed 50 people for his book 50 Athletes Over 50.
“Their most important goal typically changes from performance to wanting to be active for a long time. … They want to have good health, enjoy their sport and have fun with their athletic friends! They also work at being injury-free, since as we get older, recovery from injuries is slower.”
All but two of my clients are over 50; most are in their 60s, and one is in her 70s! Each has a specific performance goal – that’s why they hired me to coach them. I have a compact with each client that my job is to help him or her reach that goal while having fun and staying fit overall!
Intensity training, particularly structured intervals based on power, produces the most fitness and best performance. But at our age, who wants to do that? Each week I devise different, fun activities to build fitness while having fun. A husband and wife play “catch and release.” One of them takes off down the road; the other waits a few minutes and then chases. It’s almost as good as training with a power meter, and it’s a heck of a lot more fun!
I use my concept of Athletic Maturity coaching older riders. It’s a way of gauging how well one is managing the normal aging process. The more mature the person is as an athlete (anyone who exercises regularly), the fitter the rider is overall, and the more he or she has slowed the inevitable decline that comes with aging. Athletic maturity includes:
1. Years of riding and other aerobic exercise.
2. Annual riding volume.
3. Longest annual ride.
4. Upper body strength.
5. Lower body strength.
6. Core strength.
7. Body weight.
I evaluate each client and, depending on the client’s specific needs, I give different activities to improve the rider’s s athletic maturity.
My eArticle Cycling Past 50, 60 and Beyond: Fit for Life describes Athletic Maturity in detail and includes a quiz so that you can assess your own Athletic Maturity and learn how you, too, can stay fitter and have more fun by exercising in different ways than just riding your road bike.
The article lays out the numerous alternatives to road cycling that can help you work your key physiological systems to slow the aging curve. It includes a section on circuit strength training, with focused exercises to work your legs, chest, upper back, core, shoulders, and more. And it includes additional information on weight-bearing activities, flexibility and balance, as well as guidance on choosing your activities and fitting it all into your life.
This article is about playing physically for intrinsic reasons – to enjoy the feeling of being fit and having fun while doing it! You’ll discover that, like me, you can have a heck of a lot of fun and that adding a variety of non-road activities to your physical play can actually make you a fitter roadie who has more fun on the bike, too.
Cycling Past 50, 60 and Beyond: Fit for Life is packed with 34+ pages of detailed information and is available for only $4.99 for instant download for non-Premium readers. After their 15% discount (on all our ePubs and gear we sell, along with other perks) Premium Members pay only $4.24 for the eArticle.
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.