These principles should guide an older riders training:
Train Consistently: As noted above, in older adults, the components of fitness decline during periods of inactivity. So, you cant afford much down time. You need to be active throughout the year.
Rest Frequently: According to Friel the most important pieces of the training puzzle for the serious past-50 rider are rest and recovery. (Friel p. 133) Getting adequate rest may be a problem for many cyclists. The body only produces the human growth hormone (HGH) necessary for muscle repair and growth during sleep. As you age, the production of HGH diminishes. Riders training seriously should sleep at least eight hours every night, and perhaps add a cat nap if nighttime sleep is insufficient.
Recover Fully: Allowing adequate time between challenging rides is also important. Unless there is a specific training purpose (e.g., simulating a tour), allow 48 to 72 hours of recovery between challenging rides. At most do three hard rides a week: an endurance ride (you can talk easily), a tempo ride (you can still talk but cant whistle), and an intensity ride (how intense depends on your goals). The other four days are active recovery or rest.
Either every other week or every fourth week should be an easier recovery week with less volume than the preceding week. Also included complete one-week breaks.
Workout Moderately: Ride enough to improve, but not more. The objective of training is maximum improvement, not maximum fatigue.
Exercise Frequently: Studies show that if you already have high aerobic fitness, riding four days a week is sufficient to maintain that fitness; however, if you are trying to improve, riding five to six days a week yields the fastest improvement. (Friel, p 34-35)
Work on Your Limiters: Older athletes are generally very busy; you dont have time to waste in training. You need to spend your limited time working on your specific weaknesses.
Ride Intensely: According to Friel, the single most important variable is how hard you ride. The greatest improvements in aerobic capacity come from riding intensely. (Friel, p. 35-36)
- How to train by varying the intensity Intensity
Eat Moderately: As you age your metabolism slows down so you use fewer calories just in the activities of daily living. People who remain sedentary put on fat as they age. Even active individuals tend to put on body fat.
Practice Skills: As you age and physiological changes take place, you need to ride smarter. For example, eat 2 - 300 calories every hour so you don't bonk and drink just enough to satisfy your thirst. As you fatigue, you revert to habits. During your training rides build the habits that you will need during events.
Manage Stress: Overtraining is the result of the total stresses that a cyclist is subject to: family needs, work pressures and career expectations are often high. Training seriously is just the final component that may produce overload and breakdown.
Dont Just Ride: As noted above, with age and inactivity, you lose muscle mass and flexibility. Include in your program weight-bearing activities, general strength and core exercises and stretching.
Taper Effectively: Adequate rest is important during training and becomes critical prior to the event, so that the athlete arrives at the start fresh and ready to ride. Friel notes that, once a rider has achieved the desired level of fitness, decreases in weekly mileage and/or number of rides per week wont lead to a loss of performance. But a decrease in intensity will lead to decline in performance. (Friel pp. 79-80)
Originally printed in UltraCycling
Anti-Aging 12 Ways to You Can Slow the Aging Process. 106 pages for $14.99 from RoadBikeRider.com
Examples of Senior Cyclists
Elizabeth Wicks broke the womens age 65 to 69 record at Calvins 12-Hour Challenge in 2013 and the W70-74 record in 2014. I coached Wicks. Here is her 2013 training program.
Peter Lekisch was the first 60-year-old rider to finish the solo Race Across AMerica in 2001 in 12 days 20 hours 50 minutes. I had the pleasure of coaching Peter. Here is his training program.
More Information for Seniors
Cycling Past 50. A 4-article bundle of 98 pages for older cyclists for just $15.96, a 20% discount from RoadBikeRider.com. The bundle includes:
- Healthy Cycling Past 50. What happens as you age and how to incorporate cycling and other exercise activities into your daily life to stay healthy and active for many years. Includes three balanced exercise programs for older cyclists.
- Off-Season Conditioning Past 50. How to best work on your off-season conditioning given the physiological changes of growing older. Includes two 12-week programs for older cyclists.
- Healthy Nutrition Past 50. What an older cyclist should eat and drink to support both a healthy lifestyle and continuing performance.
- Performance Cycling Past 50. How older cyclists can train to achieve more specific cycling goals given the physiological changes of aging.