One of the most obvious changes as we age is we need more and better recovery. In this column I write about recovery in general and specifically the importance of the periodic week of the bike.
Winter’s here and many riders are spending time on the trainer. I’m researching a column on high intensity intervals (HIT), which aren’t for everyone. I’ve written a more general column on Cross-Train for Fun and Fitness this Winter.
Yesterday morning I did HIT on the trainer. HIT is an efficient but painful way to maintain fitness. Before dinner I lifted upper body weights. The HIT and strength training were my best workouts in several weeks! Why?
Here in the Colorado Rockies it’s too cold to ride and not enough snow to ski so my wife and I spent Thanksgiving week in the warmer Santa Fe and Taos, NM. I left my bike and resistance bands in the garage. We visited our favorite museums and enjoyed New Mexican cuisine. Other than walking around town I did no aerobic exercise. I didn’t practice tai chi, stretch or do core. I took the week off.
To stay fit for life I pay attention to four important factors. I wrote a column on each:
For the week in New Mexico I ignored the first two. Before going to New Mexico I’d already written workouts for my clients and an RBR column so I left my computer in the office. I didn’t read e-mail. I gave myself plenty of time for recovery and enjoyment and recovery.
At the end of my HIT session yesterday morning, I cooled down until my pulse was normal. I stretched and used a foam roller to massage my legs. I ate a high carb lunch and drank a glass of skim milk and a glass of water. I felt more or less revived for a strength session before dinner. The intensity ride was more important than the strength exercises so I rode first. If I hadn’t recovered enough the HIT I would have skip the strength workout.
When I was in my 30s I rode HIT on Tuesday and did a tempo ride on Wednesday. Now in my 70s after the HIT yesterday I’m sitting by the fire writing this column. Taking a day off after a hard workout is a vital part of recovery for older riders. Consistency is important but not at the expense of recovery.
Even if you practice good recovery techniques and take rest days each week you may become physically and mentally worn down, which could lead to overtraining. Declining performance and lack of enthusiasm are the two key indicators of overtraining. Imagine you’ve fallen into a well and keep trying to climb out and sliding back down. This is overtraining — it may take weeks to recover. Giving yourself the gift of a periodic week of doing (almost) no exercise is one of the best ways to avoid overtraining.
I wrote a column on 12 Tips to Avoid Overtraining.
Before Santa Fe I was dreading the HIT — they hurt and I couldn’t push as hard. My strength training had declined. I’d already planned to make Thanksgiving week a recovery week and only do light exercise. The week before I realized I was heading toward the well of overtraining so I decided to do no exercise during the week without feeling guilty about slacking off.
Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, a new granddaughter and your wedding anniversary are all important family times. Use these as guilt-free times to enjoy family time instead of training.
After the week in Santa Fe I don’t exactly look forward to the intervals; however, I’m willing to do them and am performing better.
Winter intervals don’t have to hurt. HIT works for some people and not for others. Peter Sagan has a killer sprint. In the winter he does reps of three kinds of intervals. None of them are high intensity. His workouts include:
- Long intervals at a brisk conversational pace.
- Hill climbs at a similar pace.
- Short, harder intervals just above a conversational pace.
Intensity training is like prescription medicine. If you take the wrong medicine you won’t get better and you might get worse. If you take the right medicine but in the wrong amounts you won’t get better. To decide which kind(s) of intensity training is optimal for you, read my column on 6 Kinds of Intensity Training: Which One is Best for You?
I’m also performing better during my strength workouts. Yesterday I did upper body. Tomorrow after a recovery day I’ll do legs.
I wrote a column on Strength Training for Older Riders, which has four exercises with variations to personalize the exercises. The four can be done at home with no special equipment.
I’ll soon write a column on High Intensity Training, the advantages, types of HIT and some potential downsides.
My eArticle Optimal Recovery for Improved Performance explains why enough recovery is critical to improvement. I describe how you can improve the quality of your recovery in the following ways:
- Replenish nutrients.
- Relieve muscle tightness.
- Remove waste products.
- Reduce localized pain and acute inflammation.
- Relieve delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
I describe ten different techniques including what you should eat and drink after a ride, five different ways to stretch, how to give yourself a massage, how to ice correctly and whether compression garments and whirlpools really help. It’s illustrated with 14 photos. The 14-page Optimal Recovery for Improved Performance is just $4.99.
My eArticle Intensity Training: Using Perceived Exertion, a Heart Rate Monitor or Power to Maximize Training Effectiveness describes the human power train: how your fuel is stored and burned, how power is then generated and how to improve your pedaling economy (analogous to improving miles per gallon.) The eArticle explains intensity training made simple including the pros and cons of various ways to gauge intensities. It includes a dozen different types of intensity workouts and over 50 sample workouts depending on your goals. The 41-page eArticle Intensity Training: Using Perceived Exertion, a Heart Rate Monitor or Power to Maximize Training Effectiveness is $4.99.
My eArticle Cycling Past 50, 60 and Beyond: Training with Intensity describes more specifically why and how anyone 50 and older can incorporate intensity training. The 27-page Cycling Past 50, 60 and Beyond: Training with Intensity is $4.99.
The three-article bundle Cycling Past 50, 60 and Beyond includes:
- Cycling Past 50, 60 and Beyond: Peak Fitness – 41 pages
- Cycling Past 50, 60 and Beyond: Training with Intensity – 27-pages
- Cycling Past 50, 60 and Beyond: Fit for Life – 40 pages
The bundle is $13.50 – 10% off list price for each 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.