While I wish to improve in my riding skills and ability, I'm not sure how much effort I want to put into that improvement. If I train to ride, I fear that the enjoyment of riding will leave as I will become a slave to a training schedule.
I find that I hope to improve simply by riding. Thus, I likely give up making major improvements but retain the enjoyment of riding without having to accomplish certain goals. Or at least that's the theory. I generally aim for about 150 miles a week and find that I tend to ride anywhere from 100 - 250 or so, depending on life events and weather. At this point, I'm probably riding about 4000 miles/year.
I'd post a poll, but have no idea how to do so. But I wonder how many of you 50+ers actually have a training regimen vs how many just get out and ride for the pure fun of it and take whatever fitness improvements come along as a by-product?
With that in mind, here's a pertinent article from the latest RoadBikeRider issue:
Will More Miles Make Me Better?
Q: Most of the strong guys on our weekend rides are also the ones who do the most miles. Some of them even ride an hour or more after the regular ride. They do about 5,000 to 8,000 miles (8,000-12,800 km) a year while I ride 3,000 (4,800 km). Would more mileage help me improve? -- Barney K.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: If I had $1 for every question similar to this I've received over the years, Deb and I could eat free at our hometown Camp Robber restaurant tonight.
But it's a key question in cycling and worth answering every few months. We read about pros riding 20,000 miles (32,300 km) a year and assume that if we had the time to emulate them, we'd be much faster and more powerful. However, there is a limit to how much improvement we can gain from sheer mileage.
At some point, probably between 150 and 200 miles (240-322 km) per week, just riding more isn't enough. You need to add substantial doses of intensity too. Once you reach 8-10 hours per week of riding, improvement slows dramatically or even reverses unless intervals, climbing or other stressful efforts are included in the mix.
This depends on your goals in cycling, of course. If you want to win the Race Across America, some pretty substantial mileage is essential. But to hang with local hotshots for 40 or 50 miles (64-80 km) or set a century PR, some well-chosen intensity will more than make up for fewer miles.
And you know what's also crucial if you've been reading my coaching advice for long: Rest. You can't go really hard without resting really hard.
Many recreational cyclists tend to do all their riding in the same intensity range, somewhere between "cruising" and "pretty hard."
Far better is to do a few rides that are "really hard" and keep the rest of them "guilt-producingly easy" for recovery. Then when you want to put down the hammer, you'll have done the hard work necessary to make it happen.
So concentrate on the quality of your miles (and recovery) rather than sheer volume. I bet you'll see marked improvement.