Is Cycling Past 70 Different Than Cycling Past 50?

I ran across this excellent discussion of senior cycling on RoadBikeRider.com. They have graciously permitted me to reprint it. See permission at end.

RBR Editor’s Note: Coach John Hughes copied me on a recent email exchange he had with Marty Hoganson, an RBR reader with whom he had ridden on tours in years gone by. Marty wondered what, if any, differences there are in terms of recovery, motivation, etc., between 50-somethings and 70-somethings. Both agreed to let me share the exchange with RBR readers. It provides a wealth of solid, useful information.

Marty Asked:
These days I live and ride in Yuma, Arizona. I am involved in our local bike club called Foothills Bicycle Club, which is primarily made up of retired folks – late-50s to mid-80s. Many strong riders in their 60s and 70s, for their ages — or any age, for that matter.

Now that I am older also I have taken some interest in your articles on cycling and aging. I was wondering how cycling over 70 relates to your articles on cycling over 50? I’m pretty sure they don’t necessarily relate well. I am arriving in that 70+ age group this year, and have been feeling the difference in recovery time and healing from injuries for quite a few years.

The plus 70 year old blogger riding with his dog on Northerly Island in Chicago.

The plus 70 year old blogger riding with his dog on Northerly Island in Chicago.

What used to take three days to recover from, while riding a tour, may now take longer than the tour lasts. Maybe months longer. I ride year-round and still ride pretty strong, but I’m also experiencing a loss of interest in doing long days. I still like to do long tours, but with shorter days. I’m wondering if the lack of desire or drive might be a major contributing factor in the loss of performance, or if the loss of performance leads to the lack of desire to train harder? Also, if the shorter days might lead to the longer recovery times?

Sometimes I get the urge to do longer miles in an effort to overcome nagging sore spots. It used to work when I was younger, but now I doubt that it would be very effective. I usually just say to myself, Nah, just enjoy the ride. Is that part of aging too, or is just that I’ve been there, and don’t need to prove anything?

And Coach John Hughes Answered:

You ask a good question: Is cycling past 70 different than cycling past 50?  Yes and no.

At 70, or 60, or 50, a rider is experiencing the same physiological changes (unless there’s an underlying disease) — loss of aerobic fitness, muscle strength, flexibility, etc. At 70 you may be farther along the continuum than someone at 50, but your body isn’t fundamentally different than a 50-year-old’s.

Thus, the same principles apply for healthy aging at 70 as at 50, and the basic recommendations are the same regarding (almost) daily aerobic exercise and intensity, strength and flexibility training several times a week.

As we age the quantities and difficulties of the different types of exercises change: a century might be a good regular endurance ride for a 50-year-old, while a half-century might be more appropriate for a 70-year-old. A 50-year-old might be doing lunges with 10-lb. (4.5 kg) dumbbells, while a 70-year-old might be doing split squats.

We each age somewhat differently, both in terms of the normal aging processes and how well we’ve taken care of our bodies. Since you have years of athletic maturity, what’s appropriate for you might be too challenging for a 60-year-old who has just started cycling!

And as you note, a 70-year-old needs more recovery than a 50-year-old. However, you should be able to do a lot of injury-free riding for years and years with a proper balance between exercise and recovery, and by doing supplemental strength and flexibility exercises to prevent injury.

Motivation often shifts as we get older. Don McGrath has written a fascinating book, 50 Athletes Over 50, based on interviews. A key finding is that motivation often shifts from performance and competition to health, fitness and enjoyment. I don’t ride for performance anymore – to set personal bests – rather, I ride, hike, ski, snowshoe, lift weights, etc., to stay healthy and have fun with my wife and friends.

I’ve written the “Past 50” articles to provide a framework within which riders can design appropriate individual programs based on their years of experience, current physical condition and motivation, as well as chronological age.

I hope this helps. Enjoy the warm sunshine!

Published with permission from RBR Newsletter or RoadBikeRider.com. Copyright 2001 – 2013 RBR Publishing Co. Inc., an independently-owned resource for road cycling enthusiasts. All rights reserved. RBR Newsletter is a free weekly newsletter emailed to road cyclists around the world and posted each Thursday on the website. RoadBikeRider.com provides expert advice, tips and shared knowledge on all aspects of road riding. Its eBookstore features in-depth eBooks, eArticles and DVDs across the spectrum of cycling fitness, training, skills and tech.

Tony

9 Comments

Filed under aging, biking, blood pressure, cardio exercise, Exercise, general well-being, health, healthy living, heart, living longer, men's health, muscles, seniors, stretching, Weight

9 responses to “Is Cycling Past 70 Different Than Cycling Past 50?

  1. Lionel Joynson

    I am 76 years old this autumn, I am a caver still going underground each week for up to 3hrs, I have recently dug out and oiled my old bike and have started doing just 5miles a day, it is pretty hilly around where I live so half my ride is in low gear..

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Fred

    Genes, you forgot to mention genes ! Nagging arthritis, muscle loss, all of that slows you down as age increases, but keep on keeping on. Accept your not as fast or can go long distance . Do like me at 74, gear ridiculously low, just enjoy the ride.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Tony Bishop

    Turned 79 last month. Still ride some of the same 30 or 40 mile routes I did in my 40’s, only at a slower pace. When I was 60-65, I lived in Houston; son lives in Dallas. So every August, I’d ride up to Dallas, cruise at 20 MPH until after noon, then slow to maybe 14-15 in the heat. Now, cruising at 14 (flat terrain, neutral) is a push, and after a ride here in Tulsa (where I must cope with climbing ridges between the house and the goal) my average speed is almost always 10 and change. And after even as short as a 30 miler, a long nap. My average cadence used to be in the high 50’s or low 60’s, now in the 40’s (although I crank faster on climbs). Still love to get out on the road bikes, but don’t have the strength I had even 17, 18 years ago.

    Liked by 1 person

    • First of all congrats on making it to 79 and having a full life, body and mind! I will turn 79 in January. I understand what you are saying about slowing down. My body doesn’t feel it, but the speedometer says otherwise. Keep up the good work! Both your brain and body benefit from it.

      Like

  4. Reblogged this on One Regular Guy Writing about Food, Exercise and Living Past 100 and commented:

    I wanted to reblog this because I ran it six years ago and it seems unlikely that a lot of you are familiar with it. Also, there are some great ideas inside. Enjoy!

    Like

  5. I’m 74 and finding bike riding every other day to be great. I tend to ride from 10 to 40 miles on my rides. I strongly encourage everyone to participate whatever your age; start gradually if you haven’t ridden for a while. But keep going!

    Liked by 1 person

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