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  1. #1
    Senior Member bruised's Avatar
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    Riding versus Training

    I'm just over a year into riding a bike after many years as a couch potato. Progress has been good, I think - lost a load of weight, bought two new bikes, both of which I really like, got plenty of miles and smiles under my belt with some fond memories of long rides around the State (WI), some short bikepacking trips and a handful of Century rides.

    But…..I'm feeling like my fitness has hit a plateau. I'm sure it's a normal consequence of 'adaptation'. When I started out last year everything was difficult, everything was a strenuous workout. Now I can spend far more time in the saddle and feel far less drained afterwards.

    But I don't feel that my overall fitness is continuing to advance. At least not at any noticeable pace.

    So I've thought about it and what I've come up with is this - there's a big difference between riding and training. I've been focused on the former and have given little thought over the months to the latter.

    I guess it's the same in any sport, if you want to get better, fitter, you have to stop playing and start training. Or at least to introduce training into your routine at some level.

    So I picked up a copy of 'The Cyclist's Training Bible', by Joe Friel.

    I'm keen to try some Tabata training and I've downloaded a timer app for my iPhone which I plan to try out tomorrow.

    I've been thinking about this transition for a while but I haven't been certain that I wanted to apply myself and make the extra effort. Now I'm thinking that it's the only way to advance.

    So I'm wondering - have any of you over 50's been through this thought process? Sacrificing some of your recreational riding time and introducing more intense training methods, to try to boost your fitness? I'm not talking about tackling the occasional hill, I'm thinking of something more structured.

    I don't want to race or do anything competitive, but I'd like to increase my riding distances and pace. My goal is to do 100mile rides at around the 17-18mph range on my gravel bike. The closest I've come is around 16mph and finished without much left in the can.

    Thoughts…ideas….tips….feedback….suggestions....all would be appreciated!

    Cheers!
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  2. #2
    Senior Member intransit1217's Avatar
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    Do a dry run on the interval app.Just let it go and familiarize yourself with it's operation while not on the bike. I found myself off pattern because I thought I had set it for what I wanted but I hadn't.

    Be ready to take the next day off. If you do it right, you'll feel it. Also, there's no shame in resting a smidge during an interval. Just keep it brief until the marked recovery time then spin easy to clear the lactic acid.

    Warning. Intervals suck. BUT. The dividends are huge and almost immediate. Have a happy tabata !
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  3. #3
    Senior Member Mobile 155's Avatar
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    In my experience if you train you have to train for a purpose. It also helps to train with others. That way you have something to measure against. Joe Friel has some excellent tips and training plans and they will work. But training gets old real fast if that is all you are doing and it isn't to get ready for that next century, double, metric, tour or first race. Like I was told years ago, if I want to climb better I need to climb more. If I want to ride faster I need to ride with people that are faster. If I want to ride farther then I need to ride farther. All of those things I can train for and Joe's book will be a great help for you. Just realize riding can can be mind clearing as well.
    Life is like riding a bicycle - in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving. ~Albert Einstein.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mobile 155 View Post
    In my experience if you train you have to train for a purpose. It also helps to train with others. That way you have something to measure against. Joe Friel has some excellent tips and training plans and they will work. But training gets old real fast if that is all you are doing and it isn't to get ready for that next century, double, metric, tour or first race. Like I was told years ago, if I want to climb better I need to climb more. If I want to ride faster I need to ride with people that are faster. If I want to ride farther then I need to ride farther. All of those things I can train for and Joe's book will be a great help for you. Just realize riding can can be mind clearing as well.
    Agreed! And in that spirit, i've been doing a number of different races! I just started riding last Fall and decided this spring to start doing actual races... i have zero chance of being competitive in these races BUT by signing up for (and paying for) these races I have something to look forward to and find they keep me motivated, which in turns help me stick with actually training vs recreational... my fitness level has improved beyond anything i could have hoped for!

  5. #5
    Senior Member bruised's Avatar
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    Good point about the 'training for a purpose'. That's exactly why it's taken me so long to decide on doing this. All I have to go at is getting my average speeds up on longer rides and working towards a Rando distance. So basically competing against myself. Ultimately that might prove to be too thin of an incentive.

    I've NEVER been at all athletic. Active in the past? Sure. Some running, some gym work but nothing in 15 years.

    We'll see if I can find ways to stay motivated or not. But racing is out, I really don't find that appealing, yet I have a lot of respect for those that do.
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  6. #6
    Senior Member bruised's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by intransit1217 View Post
    Do a dry run on the interval app.Just let it go and familiarize yourself with it's operation while not on the bike. I found myself off pattern because I thought I had set it for what I wanted but I hadn't.

    Be ready to take the next day off. If you do it right, you'll feel it. Also, there's no shame in resting a smidge during an interval. Just keep it brief until the marked recovery time then spin easy to clear the lactic acid.

    Warning. Intervals suck. BUT. The dividends are huge and almost immediate. Have a happy tabata !
    Thanks for the tip! And yes, intervals do suck! I haven't got the program going yet but I've tried the concept a couple times here and there (just by counting down the seconds) and I didn't particularly enjoy it!

    We'll see...
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    Quote Originally Posted by bruised View Post
    Good point about the 'training for a purpose'. That's exactly why it's taken me so long to decide on doing this. All I have to go at is getting my average speeds up on longer rides and working towards a Rando distance. So basically competing against myself. Ultimately that might prove to be too thin of an incentive.

    I've NEVER been at all athletic. Active in the past? Sure. Some running, some gym work but nothing in 15 years.

    We'll see if I can find ways to stay motivated or not. But racing is out, I really don't find that appealing, yet I have a lot of respect for those that do.
    Well... don't think of it as racing... think of it as a "timed tour"... that what it really is for me! I end up riding these races pretty much solo... the important thing is i complete and i get a time... which plays along with the old saying 'You can't improve what you can't measure" So now i already have target goals for next year!

  8. #8
    Senior Member BlazingPedals's Avatar
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    Some of my favorite rides are when my lungs and legs are having a contest over which can burn more, and my tongue is dragging on the pavement. The hard rides are the ones where I have to watch everyone else ride off the front.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Training is when you load your bike on mass transit to go someplace to ride. I just ride.
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  10. #10
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    Agree with the point about "training for a purpose." Over time, training becomes a bit like work as you "have to do it" and push on. Late last year, following the completion of the "Hotter n' Hell Hundred," when there was nothing on the ride calendar, I re-discovered how enjoyable just riding was, recreational riding, rather than training. The training rides can also be fun, and the events certainly are, but it was a change of perception to just ride at whatever speed I felt like, and go as far or little as I felt like rather than following my training plan.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Marley View Post
    Agree with the point about "training for a purpose." Over time, training becomes a bit like work as you "have to do it" and push on. Late last year, following the completion of the "Hotter n' Hell Hundred," when there was nothing on the ride calendar, I re-discovered how enjoyable just riding was, recreational riding, rather than training. The training rides can also be fun, and the events certainly are, but it was a change of perception to just ride at whatever speed I felt like, and go as far or little as I felt like rather than following my training plan.
    Had that very discussion with my cousin who is a Cat 1 racer this last weekend... I'm doing a lot of informal training and doing the Cat 5 races... but I have to make sure I keep it fun and it doesn't become work because the last thing I can afford is to get burned out and revert back to my old lazy ways!

  12. #12
    Senior Member bruised's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by scrming View Post
    Had that very discussion with my cousin who is a Cat 1 racer this last weekend... I'm doing a lot of informal training and doing the Cat 5 races... but I have to make sure I keep it fun and it doesn't become work because the last thing I can afford is to get burned out and revert back to my old lazy ways!
    scrming - you and I have 'chatted' in the past, I believe we've arrived to where we're at via a similar route and for similar reasons (weight loss / life goals etc). Your comment here: "last thing I can afford is to get burned out and revert back to my old lazy ways!" is my driving force. I think I'm a little lazy when it comes to physical exercise and I do have to force myself to get up and get out, even now.
    I think that improving my fitness will put more places within reach, and that opens up new doors and maintains the incentive to keep going. For example, I'd like to do the 'Dirty Kanza' event at some point in the future, not as a competitive event but with at least a good chance of finishing.

    A few weeks ago I rode the Bear 100 event. It was 100 miles on gravel / dirt / sand / tarmac and it bloody near killed me. I made it around (and didn't finish last) but it was a pretty undignified ending - so I'd like to do it next year and do it better/faster.

    They're basically baby steps and who knows where it might lead. But the point is I need to keep trying to take longer steps, and I think training and improving fitness will help. If it gets in the way of the enjoyment then hopefully I'll be able to stop and revert back to recreational riding, without stopping and reverting back to doing nothing - which like you is my biggest fear.

    Hope that makes some sense...
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    Quote Originally Posted by bruised View Post
    scrming - you and I have 'chatted' in the past, I believe we've arrived to where we're at via a similar route and for similar reasons (weight loss / life goals etc). Your comment here: "last thing I can afford is to get burned out and revert back to my old lazy ways!" is my driving force. I think I'm a little lazy when it comes to physical exercise and I do have to force myself to get up and get out, even now.
    I think that improving my fitness will put more places within reach, and that opens up new doors and maintains the incentive to keep going. For example, I'd like to do the 'Dirty Kanza' event at some point in the future, not as a competitive event but with at least a good chance of finishing.

    A few weeks ago I rode the Bear 100 event. It was 100 miles on gravel / dirt / sand / tarmac and it bloody near killed me. I made it around (and didn't finish last) but it was a pretty undignified ending - so I'd like to do it next year and do it better/faster.

    They're basically baby steps and who knows where it might lead. But the point is I need to keep trying to take longer steps, and I think training and improving fitness will help. If it gets in the way of the enjoyment then hopefully I'll be able to stop and revert back to recreational riding, without stopping and reverting back to doing nothing - which like you is my biggest fear.

    Hope that makes some sense...
    It absolutely makes perfect sense!!!

    Yes, I could very easily back slide to my old Couchlandrian ways!

    And you are so correct when you say your improved fitness will open new doors and give you more motivation... it certainly has for me! When I first thought about doing some races, I though ok, I'll just do this short gravel road races... but then I got more fit, I successfully completed a couple of races... next thing I know I'm signing up for more races! And my only goal is to complete! The only race I didn't complete so far was actually my first race! I was 4 miles in, in the middle of climb and my chain broke in two places! So I kind of don't count that one... LOL! But yes, find that I'm much more motivated with having races on the calendar!

    And wow! That Bear 100 sounds like one crazy ride! Where do i sign up! And a big congrats on finishing!!! I don't have any centuries on my schedule until the end of July... funny enough it called the Black Bear 100... but luckily for me it's all paved! (but does have a few nice HILLS!). I actually did it 5 years ago (last time i tried to get in shape!) and i have the certificate with the time on it... should be interesting to see this years time.

    I actually never enjoyed off road riding before... i don't think i was ever in good enough shape... but now that my fitness level is better, i actually like it! So it gives me another type of riding I can do to keep things fresh!

  14. #14
    Senior Member bruised's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by scrming View Post
    It absolutely makes perfect sense!!!

    ....And wow! That Bear 100 sounds like one crazy ride! Where do i sign up! And a big congrats on finishing!!! I don't have any centuries on my schedule until the end of July... funny enough it called the Black Bear 100... but luckily for me it's all paved! (but does have a few nice HILLS!). I actually did it 5 years ago (last time i tried to get in shape!) and i have the certificate with the time on it... should be interesting to see this years time.

    I actually never enjoyed off road riding before... i don't think i was ever in good enough shape... but now that my fitness level is better, i actually like it! So it gives me another type of riding I can do to keep things fresh!
    Yeah that Bear 100 was a killer ride, almost 10 hours in the saddle. There's The Hibernator 100 coming up on Oct 3rd this year, it's pretty much the same course, around the Laona area in Northern Wisc. Not far off the MI border as it happens There's a review of The Bear 100 on my little blog here

    I'll probably only do one other organized Century ride this year, maybe two. I actually quite enjoy riding alone, no muss no fuss just me, the bike and a box of cookies lol. So I create my own routes and challenges mostly.
    I bought a gravel bike that I use when there's mostly road and light trail involved, but the most fun I have is taking the fat bike into the woods around here and blasting over the roots/rocky trails...I can't think of anything I've bought in the last 3 decades with more bang for the buck than a fat bike!

    It just started raining hard so the madness will have to wait until tomorrow...
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  15. #15
    Senior Member TCR Rider's Avatar
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    If I just go out and ride aimlessly all the time I get bored pretty quickly. I came to cycling from a running background, in fact I used to be a running coach. I approach cycling the same way I did running. I do intervals twice a week and a long ride on the weekend. The other days are smell the roses days. I do most of my riding solo but sometimes I hook up with a couple of guys who really make me work to just about hold on - those are my favorite rides.
    I don't race but I do like to test myself.

  16. #16
    Senior Member locolobo13's Avatar
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    I suppose it depends on your goals. I can be quite happy just riding around, exploring the area, stopping often and having fun. Especially if I ride different areas from time to time. You can achieve moderate fitness and health without really trying.

    OTOH if your goal to get in really good shape fitness and health or to ride better then training is good. I've skimmed Friel's book on cycling past 50 and the time crunched book as well. My problem is I'm too cheap. Not going to buy a power meter nor heart rate or cadence monitor.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bruised View Post
    So I picked up a copy of 'The Cyclist's Training Bible', by Joe Friel.

    I'm keen to try some Tabata training and I've downloaded a timer app for my iPhone which I plan to try out tomorrow.
    If you're on the fence as to whether you'll enjoy training, I would forget about Tabatas. There are many other types of intervals which will improve your fitness that will be more suitable for your goals. You sound like you just want to be able to do longer rides and ride a little faster.

    My suggestion would be to look up sweet spot training (SST) and incorporate those intervals into your riding. They are ridden at an intensity level a little below threshold and can be performed every day if you want without beating you up mentally. They are longer intervals in the 20+ min range.

    Tabatas are fine if you have no time for training and want the most efficient training but they will quickly suck the joy out of riding and you'll end up giving them up.

  18. #18
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    IMO, ones goal(s) regarding a certain endeavor determines the course of action needed to achieve said goal(s). i.e.-being able to average 18mph for a 100 mile ride requires far less energy expenditure compared to wanting an average of 22mph for the same 100 miles.

    I have never performed a specific formulated training routine whether it be for swimming, biking or marathon+/- events because all I ever wanted as an outcome was to complete not compete. I have no desire or inflict the required discomfort, both mentally and physically, needed to consider being on a podium. I am one who prefers to enjoy the experience of becoming prepared for an event with just some occasional pain, "pushing myself", to continue to improve. With that having been memorialize in this interesting thread, my 13:31:48 for a Ironman event at the age of 63 was much better that the anticipated 15 hours I expected.

  19. #19
    Senior Member bruised's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by OldTryGuy View Post
    IMO, ones goal(s) regarding a certain endeavor determines the course of action needed to achieve said goal(s). i.e.-being able to average 18mph for a 100 mile ride requires far less energy expenditure compared to wanting an average of 22mph for the same 100 miles.

    I have never performed a specific formulated training routine whether it be for swimming, biking or marathon+/- events because all I ever wanted as an outcome was to complete not compete. I have no desire or inflict the required discomfort, both mentally and physically, needed to consider being on a podium. I am one who prefers to enjoy the experience of becoming prepared for an event with just some occasional pain, "pushing myself", to continue to improve. With that having been memorialize in this interesting thread, my 13:31:48 for a Ironman event at the age of 63 was much better that the anticipated 15 hours I expected.
    I'm in a similar frame of mind with the 'complete versus compete' attitude. One of the reasons for wanting to increase my speed over 100 miles is that I'm tired of getting back from organized Century rides to find that the free chicken dinner has flown the coup along with most of the other cyclists! Considering the cost of the two local events I have access to is upwards of $50 each, I'd like to get to enjoy the food and festivities at the end of the ride and to get some value from my hard-earned. So I'd like ultimately to take around 6 hrs to complete an easy 100, which would average roughly to my target 18mph with rest stops. Last year the Peninsula Century took me 7.25 hrs. There was food left but it was picked-over! This year I'm hesitant to sign up for the event unless I can feel somewhat confident of achieving my goals...

    Food is the motivator and driving force behind everything I do!!
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  20. #20
    Senior Member bruised's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gregf83 View Post
    If you're on the fence as to whether you'll enjoy training, I would forget about Tabatas. There are many other types of intervals which will improve your fitness that will be more suitable for your goals. You sound like you just want to be able to do longer rides and ride a little faster.

    My suggestion would be to look up sweet spot training (SST) and incorporate those intervals into your riding. They are ridden at an intensity level a little below threshold and can be performed every day if you want without beating you up mentally. They are longer intervals in the 20+ min range.

    Tabatas are fine if you have no time for training and want the most efficient training but they will quickly suck the joy out of riding and you'll end up giving them up.
    Thanks for the input. You're probably correct about doing something other than the Tabatas. I'll look into the SST some more, it may be more suited to what I'm trying to accomplish. Thanks.
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    "Overall fitness" and diminishing returns. Bike riding may not be the only thing to do. Better yet would be some kind of cross training. Distance runners find bike riding easy in the aerobic sense.

    The rider who logs in more than 5,000 miles a year is going to be better than the guy who does 3,000. But look at all the time spent and the diminishing returns.

    Does it boil down to personal satisfaction? How many times does one have to achieve personal satisfaction? What happens when the 50 year old reaches 80?

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    Does it boil down to personal satisfaction? How many times does one have to achieve personal satisfaction? What happens when the 50 year old reaches 80?
    Oh I don't know I get personal satisfaction almost every time I ride my bike. Maybe not a personal best but nonetheless satisfaction. As long as I'm still physically able I expect to still achieve personal satisfaction riding my bike.

  23. #23
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    Riding is my goal. If I am riding, I have achieved my goal. I don't need or want anything beyond that.
    The more you ride your bike, the less your ass will hurt.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TCR Rider View Post
    Oh I don't know I get personal satisfaction almost every time I ride my bike. Maybe not a personal best but nonetheless satisfaction. As long as I'm still physically able I expect to still achieve personal satisfaction riding my bike.
    +1 I have a mileage and effort goal for pretty much every solo ride, even if it's a commute, and all of them have stretch options. Most of those rides involve a nonscientific version of intervals--lung searing climbs, all out mile sections, staying in the drops and holding cadence into a stiff headwind. For me, it's what keeps it interesting.

    I don't keep track of course records or the like, in fact my speedometer has been missing a battery for more than two months and it may well stay that way. Keeping track, keeping score is what racing is for. Feelings of strength, power and freedom, on the other hand, don't need to be benchmarked against anyone else's accomplishment, and being able to capture those feelings does not have to be age dependent.

    Bruised: my advice is go for it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BluesDawg View Post
    Riding is my goal. If I am riding, I have achieved my goal. I don't need or want anything beyond that.
    This!

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