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  1. #1
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    Getting back in shape after long layoff

    Hi, folks. I'm coming off 12 years of essentially no exercise. I used to be a masters racer but I stopped riding for personal reasons. Now my kids have persuaded me to start riding again and it's interesting to have a "family" activity again with grown kids. However, I'd like to understand some of the possible problems and methods associated with starting up at a relatively advanced age. I've been riding since the beginning of the month and last weekend just barely made a leisurely 30-miler, although it was with my kids so it was a lot of fun nonetheless. I'd like to get back into some degree of physical condition but I don't want to race again, even if I could. Would some of you older riders care to share some of your wisdom with me? I would appreciate any pointers. Thank you.

    -soma5

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    Happy Rider
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    There is currently a thread dealing w/those issues
    How to get in shape to ride?
    Welcome to the forum
    Bike to live, live to eat!!

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    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    I took up riding after a 10 year layoff from any sports- and Cycling was not one of them. First ride out was 28 milles and I enjoyed it. One of my friends suggested I go out with him to try some hills and all I can suggest to you is don't do hills till you have some fitness behind you- and a bike that has the gearing for them.

    In the mean time get the butt adjusted by riding and enjoy.
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    Streetfire HopedaleHills's Avatar
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    Welcome. Sounds like you were probably pushing a bit doing a 30-miler your first month back. Conventional wisdom seems to indicate an increase in ride length of 10% per week. That said, even for us older guys, there is no secret so I'll say what everyone is going to, 'just ride'. As an ex-racer I'm sure you already knew this.
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  5. #5
    Senior Member late's Avatar
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    Welcome back,
    how many hours a week do you want to put in?
    I suggest going to a gym once a week for a few weeks to get your body used to moving.
    Do exercises with very light weight, use the exercycle. Don't forget rowing crunches and other core exercises. The back can be a problem for us old farts.

    You remember base miles? They're still there. Bicycling did "the best training plan ...period" Feb 1994 pg 69. Call and ask for a reprint if you want a good basic
    periodised schedule.

    Heart rate monitors have dropped in price. Get one that beeps when you go out of zone.

    Fit will be more important when you start going on long rides. Don't be surprised when you start asking about good saddles and shorts, or at how much they cost now!

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    Thanks for the welcome and thanks for the information. That thread someone pointed out has some good information. It is unfortunately impossible for me to go anywhere near where I live and avoid hills. I can however avoid the longest and steepest of them. I've been riding 3-4 times per week, weather permitting, and many of those rides are about 30 minutes long. One thing I have going for me is that I still weigh around 130 pounds for 5'7" although my legs are smaller than they used to be! I was especially hoping to read about training methods that have caused people injury, if you're willing to share that. The idea of going to a gym is a good one.

    -soma5

  7. #7
    Ride Daddy Ride Jet Travis's Avatar
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    Hills + Low Gears + the occasional stop to smell the roses = A good ride
    "Light it up, Popo." --Levi Leipheimer

  8. #8
    Elite Rider Hermes's Avatar
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    I find training is the same at age 58 as 28. Obtain a heart rate monitor and build zone 2 endurance first for about 1000 to 1500 miles - work on smooth pedal technique and try to stay out of zone 3. Tempo rides now will just make you tired with little added benefit. After the base is established, start building aerobic power using 12 to 15 minute LT intervals - this will increase LT and may increase VO2 max (some people need intervals above LT to increase VO2 max). After a few weeks of LT intervals and more zone 2 work, you can start pressing more pace on the hills if you want and add some zone 3 work and group rides. If you do not want to do LT intervals, then after you build the base, just ride, but go easy on the steeper hills for a while until your knees, back and neck catch up to the muscles. As a former masters racer, the neurological pathways and much of the infrastructure exists in your makeup. You only need to refresh this (simplistic analogy). However, focus on stamina and recovery with less focus on building so that you do not build the muscles and cardiovascular system faster than the ligaments and tendons can support. The other focus is core strength and flexibility. After a 12 year layoff, this area is probably really weak and needs to be improved to reduce the chance of injury and allow you to produce more power. Welcome back.
    "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Einstein

  9. #9
    Senior Member late's Avatar
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    your knees need time to adjust. You prob have a roadie, slap a 11-34 rear cassette and Mtn bike rear der on. You can take it off next year, but you really should baby those knees for a while.

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    Quote Originally Posted by late View Post
    your knees need time to adjust. You prob have a roadie, slap a 11-34 rear cassette and Mtn bike rear der on. You can take it off next year, but you really should baby those knees for a while.
    If I recall correctly, Dura Ace shifters had a different amount of cable pull from any other Shimano product, and likely from any other generation of Dura Ace. I think I already have the largest cogs I can use, and I can/will avoid the steepest and longest hills for the time being. The advice from Hermes about not getting stronger than my ligaments is good - I now remember that when I started getting coaching I was not allowed to do certain types of training for about six months, even when I thought I'd like to do those things. The result back then was phenomenal progress in just over a year's time. The reasoning was the same - allow the connective tissue time to get stronger before they had to withstand the pull of far stronger muscles. I had forgotten this. Thanks for reminding me. This is great information.

    -soma5

  11. #11
    Yen
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    Quote Originally Posted by soma5 View Post
    The reasoning was the same - allow the connective tissue time to get stronger before they had to withstand the pull of far stronger muscles. I had forgotten this. Thanks for reminding me. This is great information.

    -soma5
    Fascinating! Thanks for sharing this. I always like to know "why" and "how" in everything I do that I enjoy.
    Specialized Roubaix Expert
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    All I can add is patience. Welcome to BF50+.

  13. #13
    Senior Member late's Avatar
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    Harris Cyclery makes cassettes that have a 30t bailout gear and they should work with your derailleur. Ask to be sure.

    http://sheldonbrown.com/harris/k7.html

  14. #14
    Grumpy Old Bugga europa's Avatar
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    I too live in a hilly area - I can tell when I'm home because the only flat bit is in my driveway.

    Buy yourself a bike rack for the car. I bought one that mounts to the tow bar, but which lifts off - lots of them out there. Mine is locked in place with two pins, not the screw bolts you see on a lot of racks and so takes about ten seconds to get off rather than a minute or two.
    Anyway, the beauty of the rack is that you can go anywhere you like to ride, without the drama of the hills. Sometimes I ride from home so it's all up hill and down dale. If I'm riding down to the city, most of the ride is flat but I've got a monster climb to get home. I'll often drive down to the flats, park the car and ride from there. When I take my daughter to school, I take the bike on the car, then go for a ride before heading home.

    Bike rack - best investment you can make after the bike itself. Mine gets used so much that it now lives in the boot (you lot call it a 'trunk').

    Richard
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    Let's do a Century jppe's Avatar
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    At this point in your "comeback", it is very critical that you enjoy your time back on the bike. Make sure you continue to allow time for time for just cruising and exploring. There's a lot of terrific stuff to see from the saddle out there. Improved fitness will come over time.

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    Take your training slowly. You will avoid injury and enjoy the return to fittness much more, no matter the exercise routine you choose. Experience speaks. 14 year layoff. First year back on the bike was highlighted by an MRI on the knee which cost me $1500 out of pocket.

    Fitness gains from cycling are slower than other "sports".

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    Quote Originally Posted by europa
    Bike rack - best investment you can make after the bike itself. Mine gets used so much that it now lives in the boot (you lot call it a 'trunk').
    I actually have one but it needs adapters to fit my current vehicle. I am thinking about tracking some down. Thanks.

    Quote Originally Posted by jppe
    At this point in your "comeback", it is very critical that you enjoy your time back on the bike. Make sure you continue to allow time for time for just cruising and exploring. There's a lot of terrific stuff to see from the saddle out there. Improved fitness will come over time.
    Quote Originally Posted by Louis
    All I can add is patience. Welcome to BF50+.
    Yes, I am thinking it will take me a year to be able to ride at a reasonably good level (not at anywhere close to a racing level), if I take it slowly and don't hurt myself. The gains I've made so far are encouraging. I am getting my bike handling skills back. I'm riding in and out of the saddle smoothly and my cadence is good and smooth. But I don't want to have an MRI and have to be off the bike like oilman! I am prepared to treat this as a whole new journey and not compete with my past self. That would likely be fruitless and frustrating. However, I'd very much like to be able to do a 50-miler at a reasonable pace and if there are 15 extra miles tacked on at the end on the spur of the moment, then OK. Sigh. The very best part of riding now is doing it with my kids. If only they weren't so energetic!

    Finally, to Yen, you are welcome to whatever information and knowledge I can provide. Much of it is hiding somewhere below layers of other things and it takes someone else to prod it out of hiding, like Hermes did. It is simply amazing what one can forget over time. However, I did at one time know quite a bit and little by little it's getting uncovered, like an archaeological dig.

    I keep reminding myself that it's only been a month and I'm trying to keep it fun and avoid nasty injuries, and you are all helping me do that.

    Thanks. And please keep it coming!

    -soma5

  18. #18
    Senior Member DnvrFox's Avatar
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    Welcome

    1. What is your "advanced age" - I missed that somewhere.

    2. It is likely that you will need to find new pleasures in bicycling, if your former pleasure was racing. Many racers leave bicycling when they can no longer compete successfully, because that was their reason for bicycling.

    Not that you can't or won't compete. It is just that many of us enjoy the opportunity of riding for different reasons - such as "smelling the roses" or commuting or other reasons.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by DnvrFox View Post
    Welcome

    1. What is your "advanced age" - I missed that somewhere.

    2. It is likely that you will need to find new pleasures in bicycling, if your former pleasure was racing. Many racers leave bicycling when they can no longer compete successfully, because that was their reason for bicycling.

    Not that you can't or won't compete. It is just that many of us enjoy the opportunity of riding for different reasons - such as "smelling the roses" or commuting or other reasons.
    OK, this is going to be a little long.

    1. Not so advanced, just relatively so compared to my riding partners. I'm 56.

    2. I have no wish to compete this time around and no desire to try to relive my past. However, even "smelling the roses" takes a higher degree of fitness than I currently possess unless I plan to do all of my smelling within a few miles of home. I'd like to see some countryside, do a little very-lightly-loaded touring, but be able to cover some mileage.

    You are right about many racers, that's a perceptive comment. You'll have to take my word for it that my reasons for stopping were different. However, by the time I could even think about riding again, my fitness had been gone for years and I didn't start up again because I didn't think I could be competitive.

    I don't have the time or the will to train to that level again, but I do enjoy riding with my current riding buddies - my children - quite a bit. Enough time has passed so that I think I can enjoy cycling again on different terms. My son is an avid cyclist and my daughter is just starting to become one. They have lots of energy and are quite fit. One of my goals is to stop holding them back, although they've been kind enough to stay with me so far. We did a group ride last weekend and I was "outed" by an old riding friend who somehow recognized me after 12 years. He had never stopped riding and had started racing shortly after I stopped. He invited us along on the ride he was doing with a teammate of his but I had to admit that I was not anywhere close to ready. I'd like to occasionally be able to do something like that but my main interest right now is more social than athletic. The "vehicle" for that social contact is cycling so I need to ride better...

    Whew.

    -soma5

  20. #20
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    A couple of comments I haven't seen yet in this thread, based on my own experience getting back into cycling after 20+ years away (and I was never a racer).

    If you haven't already, get a medical checkup, including treadmill test. This will clear you for action as well as give a baseline for future testing. (I started riding without testing, but after a particularly arduous and hilly ride, friends convinced me to get tested ASAP.)

    As Hermes pointed out, you still have neuro pathways and/or muscle memory that can be rekindled. But watch out for the mental part: I found it extremely frustrating mentally to fall far short of what I used to be capable of doing. Focus on training based on your current conditioning, let go of any expectations based on the past, and especially just enjoy yourself at whatever level you're at now. Retraining and reconditioning is a slow process (at least it was for me) so when I finally relaxed and decided to train based on my current condition, not my past achievements, it was a breakthrough. Sounds like you may realize that already, just wanted to add my 2.

  21. #21
    Senior Member DnvrFox's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by soma5 View Post
    OK, this is going to be a little long.

    1. Not so advanced, just relatively so compared to my riding partners. I'm 56.

    2. I have no wish to compete this time around and no desire to try to relive my past. However, even "smelling the roses" takes a higher degree of fitness than I currently possess unless I plan to do all of my smelling within a few miles of home. I'd like to see some countryside, do a little very-lightly-loaded touring, but be able to cover some mileage.

    You are right about many racers, that's a perceptive comment. You'll have to take my word for it that my reasons for stopping were different. However, by the time I could even think about riding again, my fitness had been gone for years and I didn't start up again because I didn't think I could be competitive.

    Whew.

    -soma5
    Thanks for your comprehensive comments.

    Sounds like you are on the right track.

    I didn't enter (not reenter, but enter) the world of bicycling until I was 58, 10 years ago. So, you are way ahead of me!

    Take it gently and easily, build up slowly. The fact you can already ride 30 miles is just great.

    I do a lot of weight lifting, and have for years. Your comments abut ligaments and connective tissue having to toughen up applies equally well in cycling and weight lifting. I lift heavy weights that I would never suggest a newbie to weight lifting try. They would be in extreme discomfort, if they could even lift the weight. I now have a hard time even generating some DOMS, even after a heavy workout at max weights. My body is prepared after years of practice. Same principle, as you know, with bicycling training.

    Good luck.
    Last edited by DnvrFox; 08-01-07 at 06:32 AM.

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