CYCLING FOR THE OVER 50s pt. 2 / HOW TO TRAIN TO GET STRONGER

ON THE BIKE

As a cyclist, you already own one of the best pieces of equipment out there for getting fit.

The bike provides a low-impact tool that gets you out in the fresh air to work on your cardiovascular system and strengthen muscle and, if you want, to test yourself in competition.

Regular, steady-paced training rides are good, in Zone 2, which is 60-75% of your FTP. If you can get out four times a week for anything from 45 minutes to 2 hours and ride at this percentage, you’ll increase the rate of fat burning and your stamina levels will increase. For the older rider, having a good, deep base is fundamental to moving on to higher end work.

Do this for 6-8 weeks, then look to mix up your training and start to do intervals once or twice mid-week. Short, hard rides mid-week, longer Z2 rides on the weekend. The increased demand on these two days on your body will lead to gains in VO2 max and you lactate threshold levels.

Intervals are pretty simple – after a decent 20-30 minute warm-up, find a flat piece of road with little traffic, and sprint near to 100% for 30-60 seconds. Then pedal softly for one minute, then do it again. Do this 5 times, increasing up to 10 or 15 as you become fitter.

This routine is ideal if you are short on time. As you get fitter, seek out more advanced training plans. Remember, training for hours and hours is great if you don’t have a job! But sometimes we have to adapt.

Oscar Freire won three World Championships with a bad back and just 15 hours training a week.

Train smart. When it’s an easy day, go easy. When it’s a hard day, go as hard as you can.

Maximise your time. Listen to your body. That is a critical factor.

If you don’t want to train on a given day, don’t. Then, when you do feel good, go out and crank it up. As we get older, we have to become more intuitive with our bodies. For those wanting to be faster and stronger, I can’t stress enough the importance of training at close to your threshold when you’re body will allow.

For this, find a 10 to 20 kilometre loop where you can simulate a time trial, or, even better, compete in time trials on a regular basis. This allows you to build stamina, speed and raw, base power, and will make you fitter all round.

One more thing – we are so obsessed with technology, with power meters and heart rate monitors, that we forget to trust our guts. Sure, these devices can be useful but, ultimately they are guides, and not as good as the one under your skin.

Turn the numbers off once or twice a week and rediscover the joy of riding for riding’s sake. It can make a world of difference.

Get intuitive.

I have encountered several older coaching clients who will say ‘Well, I’m not as good as I once was’… but are you sure?! And even if it’s true, if you are training and thinking that then you’re rarely, or never, going to push yourself to your limits.

Just say ‘f%ck it’ every once in a while.

You might surprise yourself. I know I did!

IN THE GYM

The benefits of a gym workout for the over-50s are many-fold.

Strength work firms up muscles and strengthens ligaments and joints, and, if you include stretching, increases flexibility and limits injury. You will soon start feeling (and seeing) those benefits if you can stick to a routine, and that is, in my opinion, the best motivator.

Increased muscle mass means your metabolism works harder, thus burning fat quicker. Also, these exercises, for men, help increase testosterone levels, something that decreases in men past 40. You don’t need to spend 2 hours in the gym – a short, smart 20 minute workout will give you all you need. Train smart, not long.

I spend about 40 minutes in the gym, 4 times a week, and get in a whole body workout. Read more abut my gym program here. To do this, I use light weights, do high reps, and have no more than 30 seconds between sets. I’m not looking to build big muscle. What I want is to have a covering of muscle on my upper body similar to that on my legs that cycling 10-14 hrs a week brings.

Whole body fit – check out the great Gino Bartali!

Younger cyclists largely ignore their upper bodies. As we get older however, we need to take care of the whole body, to prevent back strains, shoulder pain, etc.

Sort your core out too. Side planks are great for back stabilisation, as are full planks. It’s not about getting a 6-pack, it’s about preventing injury.

The same is true of stretching. When 25, who cares about that? At 50, you really should.

If you have pre-existing injuries, as I do (bad back history and osteoarthritis in both knees, read more here), avoid heavy weights for sure, and certain exercises – deadlifts for example.

Stick with light stuff, build up ligament and tendon strength and do high reps. You will still be building muscle that can support the weak areas, but not overloading them to the point where you are risking further injury.

If you are interested in training plans for the bike and the gym, please email me at lee@crankpunk.com.

Part 3 coming soon!

Author: Lee Rodgers

Cycling coach, race organiser, former professional cyclist and the original CrankPunk.

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