Training for Senior Cyclists
Healthy Cyclist Past 50
How to live a healthier, happier, longer life.
by Coach John Hughes
John Hughes is the author of Anti-Aging: 12 Ways to You Can Slow the Aging Process and of the book Distance Cycling. He has written 40 articles on training, nutrition, psychology and medical issues for RoadBikeRider.com. More about Coach Hughes.
© John Hughes, All Rights Reserved
Somewhere around age 50 we realize that our bodies have limits. We cant ride as fast, climb as powerfully and sprint as hard as we used to. We cant lift as much weight as before. We start to develop aches and pains like stiff muscles and sore joints. Time to retire to the rocking chair? No! With proper exercise and recovery you can offset many of the effects of aging.
What happens as we age? The normal aging process includes:
- Decreased cardiac output as a result of lower maximum heart rate and decreased stroke volume, i.e., how much blood the heart pumps per beat.
- Decreased pulmonary function, i.e., the volume of air inspired per breath.
- Loss of aerobic endurance.
- Atrophy of muscles, particularly of the fast twitch muscles.
- Decreased muscle tone.
- Loss of muscle power as a result of atrophy of the fast twitch muscles.
- Slower metabolism as a result of decreased muscle mass.
- Increased body weight as a result of slower metabolism and decreased activity.
- Loss of bone density.
- Decreased production of the enzymes that are used to produce fuel for the muscles.
- Slower transmission of impulses through the nervous system to the muscles.
- Overall decline in the functional capacity to do physical work.
Fortunately, with regular exercise almost all of these changes can be counteracted with the exception of lower maximum heart rate and slower transmission of nervous impulses.
In addition to aging normally, we may also age pathologically. Fortunately, the risk of these pathological conditions can be reduced significantly through regular exercise:
- Heart disease.
- Type II diabetes, also known as adult onset diabetes.
- Excess body weight, which contributes to the above.
- Osteoporosis, lower bone mineral density.
- Alzheimers, the most common form of dementia.
- Mood disorders such as depression.
For healthy aging the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends:
- Aerobic activity: Accumulating a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week in bouts of at least 10 minutes each. This is just 2-1/2 hours a week, which the ACSM recommends spreading over most days. Studies show that this much aerobic activity spread out over the week can cut your risk of heart attack, stroke and Type II diabetes by as much as half! More exercise up to 300 minutes per week will bring additional benefits. Moderate exercise means working hard enough that you cant whistle but can still talk in short sentences. Heres more information on gauging exercise intensity.
- Weight-bearing activity: Engaging in aerobic weight-bearing activity. Bones, like muscles, respond to an overload by getting stronger. Stair climbing and descending, jogging, running and hiking with a pack are excellent. Dancing, tennis, badminton, basketball and soccer are high-impact and also require balance and coordination, which is great. If you cant do one of the others, then brisk continuous walking helps. Cycling, even riding hard, puts less load on the bones that walking. Walking with a dog that stops frequently isnt adequate, nor is walking with part of your weight on a stroller or grocery cart.
- Resistance training: Exercising to strengthen your muscles twice a week. You can follow this simple home strength training program without going to the gym.
- Flexibility exercises: Stretching for at least 10 minutes twice a week. Here is a sample stretching program.
- Balance practice: For individuals at risk of falling, exercises to challenge and improve balance.
An effective program for healthy aging includes:
- Variety: Including all of the above categories of exercise.
- Moderation: Exercising within your personal limits. You can exercise so that you are breathing deeply, but never should be out of breath.
- Consistency: Ongoing physical health depends on exercising year-round.
- Progression: As your body adapts you need to challenge it a bit more to keep improving. You can safely increase the amount of time exercising aerobically by 10 percent per week. Similarly, you can increase the number of resistance training repetitions week by week.
- Recovery: As we age we dont recover as quickly so alternate harder and easier days and take at least one day a week off from exercising other than stretching. Use these recovery tips.
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.
Cycling Past 50: A 4-article bundle of 98 pages for older cyclists for $15.96 ($4.00 savings) 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. 20 pages for $4.99 from RoadBikeRider.com.
- 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. 26 pages for $4.99 from RoadBikeRider.com.
- Healthy Nutrition Past 50: What an older cyclist should eat and drink to support both a healthy lifestyle and continuing performance. 20 pages for $4.99 from
- Performance Cycling Past 50: How older cyclists can train to achieve more specific cycling goals given the physiological changes of aging. Includes 9 week and 12 week programs. 17 pages for $4.99 from RoadBikeRider.com .
Cycling Past 60: A 2-article bundle of 47 pages for senior cyclists for just $8.98, a 10% discount from RoadBikeRider.com. The bundle includes:
- Cycling Past 60, Part 1: For Health: If a senior exercises correctly, you can slow the effects of aging; if you exercise incorrectly, you can speed up aging. Includes three well-balanced exercise programs for senior cyclists. 24 pages for $4.99 from RoadBikeRider.com.
- Cycling Past 60, Part 2: For Recreation: Builds on the information in Part 1 and uses the concept of Athletic Maturity to design six more rigorous programs for more athletically mature seniors. Pages for $4.99 from RoadBikeRider.com
Cycling Past 50, 60 and Beyond. A 3-article bundle of 100 pages for seniors for just $13.50, a 20% discount from RoadBikeRider.com. The bundle includes:
- Fit for Life: The article shows how you can exercise in different ways to be fitter for life as a senior and have fun. It provides a variety of exercise options available to you to strengthen your body's functions that keep you alive and help to keep you fit for life, including the aerobic, skeletal, muscular, neural, core and balance systems. 40 pages for $14.99 from RoadBikeRider.com
- Peak Fitness:
The article contains four specific programs for seniors to improve fitness in one or more of the following ways: Improved Endurance, More Power, Faster Speed and / or Higher Aerobic Capacity (VO2 max.) 41 pages for $4.99 from RoadBikeRider.com
- Training with Intensity: The article describes five progressively harder levels of training for seniors and gives 3 to 5 examples each of structured and unstructured workouts for each level of training, a total of almost 40 workouts. 27 pages for $4.99 from RoadBikeRider.com
Coach Hughes other articles from RoadBikeRider.com