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DougG 04-01-13 11:10 AM

Riding fitness
 
Every year at this time, after my first few rides of the season, I start moaning about how I've "lost it all" until my wife reminds me about how often I've said it. But at 66 and counting, it does get harder to get it back. I rode my hybrid on some soft trails Friday, then took the road bike out on Saturday for some much faster riding, but with hills and a headwind. My legs felt it for sure! So I started analyzing why this is so hard every spring even though I stay in good shape overall.

I'm more of a runner than a cyclist and have a runner's build, including skinny legs. Winter cuts my running down by maybe 1/3, but I stay in good enough condition to ramp back up quickly; 2-3 weeks of training and I'm ready to do a sub-2-hour half-marathon. Riding is another matter: put me on level ground and I have the endurance to go a long way, but add hills or a headwind and I quickly run out of steam. It's a matter of not having the strength -- not the aerobic capacity.

Another example is a friend who's 74 and was a far better athlete than I've ever been. Now I can outrun him for speed and distance, but put us on bikes and he can run away and hide. He has a more compact, stocky build, with real "biker's legs" compared to me.

Anyone else find it hard to get back in shape at this time of year? Ever notice the difference in cyclists physiques and how it affects their riding or training?

GeorgeBMac 04-01-13 07:18 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by DougG (Post 15455324)
Every year at this time, after my first few rides of the season, I start moaning about how I've "lost it all" until my wife reminds me about how often I've said it. But at 66 and counting, it does get harder to get it back. I rode my hybrid on some soft trails Friday, then took the road bike out on Saturday for some much faster riding, but with hills and a headwind. My legs felt it for sure! So I started analyzing why this is so hard every spring even though I stay in good shape overall.

I'm more of a runner than a cyclist and have a runner's build, including skinny legs. Winter cuts my running down by maybe 1/3, but I stay in good enough condition to ramp back up quickly; 2-3 weeks of training and I'm ready to do a sub-2-hour half-marathon. Riding is another matter: put me on level ground and I have the endurance to go a long way, but add hills or a headwind and I quickly run out of steam. It's a matter of not having the strength -- not the aerobic capacity.

Another example is a friend who's 74 and was a far better athlete than I've ever been. Now I can outrun him for speed and distance, but put us on bikes and he can run away and hide. He has a more compact, stocky build, with real "biker's legs" compared to me.

Anyone else find it hard to get back in shape at this time of year? Ever notice the difference in cyclists physiques and how it affects their riding or training?

Actually I'm in better shape now than I was last fall. But that's due to a lot of riding on heavy, loaded equipment...

For yourself: Perhaps you should be looking into some form of complementary training -- as in 'strength training'?

I have seen it advised that older adults should focus on 4 kinds of 'fitness': Balance, flexibility, aerobic / cardio, and strength. We need all of them. I realized that last week when I helped a friend to move. I was in better shape from the cardiovascular standpoint but I was weaker than I have been...

TromboneAl 04-01-13 07:27 PM

Last fall I had only been riding15-20 miles at a time when I did my ride my age (59) ride. It was really tough, and I was beat afterwards.

Lately, I've been building up gradually, and I did the same ride last week, and it was a piece of cake.

Moral: Build up gradually.

Also, I've drunk the HIIT koolaid, and I think that this stuff is relevant:

The Two Best Ways To Build Endurance As Fast As Possible (Without Destroying Your Body)


Mort Canard 04-01-13 08:01 PM

For me it's the combination of a few months with only rare bike rides and the fact that muscles don't work as efficiently at colder temperatures. Between 40 degrees and 60 degrees I can pick up as much as a couple of miles per hour in average speed on the same route.

Part of your stamina will return with warmer weather. The rest you will have to regain each year if you let it go every winter.

skilsaw 04-01-13 08:37 PM

I think there is an engineering solution to every problem.
Buy a new crank with smaller rings.
Buy a casette with larger rings.
You're old, and you can't take it with you, so buy a whole new bike with lower gear ratios.

Relax, grow old gracefully.
You don't want the people at your funeral to say, "Having a coronary while cycling is a terrible way to go."

Dudelsack 04-01-13 08:48 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by skilsaw (Post 15457855)
I think there is an engineering solution to every problem.
Buy a new crank with smaller rings.
Buy a casette with larger rings.
You're old, and you can't take it with you, so buy a whole new bike with lower gear ratios.

Relax, grow old gracefully.
You don't want the people at your funeral to say, "Having a coronary while cycling is a terrible way to go."

That's a rather gloomy perspective, isn't it? I can think of worse ways to go. Dying with your Sidis on and all that.

To the OP, yes. I'm a member of the Old Guys Who Get Fat in Winter.

I haven't studied the Strava data too closely but I doubt I'm tearing up the roads. Lately all my riding has either been solo our with my daughter, so it's not like I'm in a big hurry or anything.

sreten 04-01-13 09:08 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by DougG (Post 15455324)
It's a matter of not having the strength -- not the aerobic capacity.

Hi,

Probably a case of lack of motor coordination than outright strength.

I started riding again recently and initially found headwinds and minor
hills an utter embarressment. Mainly because how you can ride a bike
on the flat naturally, easily, with running legs, is not how you ride it fast.
Fast on the flat is the same technique with higher gearing as minor hills
and headwinds. I now don't notice either much, just a different gear.

IMO you need to practice "spinning" high pedal cadence, and "mashing"
pushing hard lower cadence on the pedals with different gears on the flat
and then let the two combine, and avoid simply doing what comes naturally,
which you probably do with your running and don't think about it at all.

Purposely varying what you do on the flat in various gears will help a lot.

rgds, sreten.

Zuzus pedals 04-02-13 12:32 AM

I did more all-out reps of 30 seconds on the trainer this winter, which I've always hated and avoided before, but it seems like that's paid off a little. On my first few outdoor rides of 2013 when I've timed stuff, I'm just as fast now on some of the easy to medium local climbs as I was last fall (haven't timed any of the harder ones yet). Actually got a PR on one Strava segment climb on March 30 without making a special effort to hammer it, and it was the first time I've done that climb since November. What kills me after spending a few months mostly indoors is headwinds - especially chilly headwinds. My cold weather clothing is very loose and catches a lot of air, which is part of the problem, but sustained effort into the wind also isn't something I've found a way to prepare for indoors. Maybe I just didn't go to the drops enough on the trainer and have to get used to the position again.

bruce19 04-02-13 03:49 AM

Here in New England we have a serious off season. So I'm off the bike and into the gym for 3-4 months. I try to do some sort of spinning 3-4 times a week and I lift at least 2-3 times a week. Since I too have what I call the football players' body of your friend I end up "bulking" up and a 10 weight gain is inevitable. The difference in my cycling at 195 lbs as contrasted with 185 lbs is immense and getting used to sitting on a saddle again is no easy matter. The bottom line is that Spring is a time for slow renewal and patience. People born with the cyclist body or those who are simply many years younger may not have these problems. But at age 67 I know who I am and where I am in life. Patience and perseverance is the mantra.

DougG 04-02-13 05:25 AM

A couple of years ago I did do some serious spinning classes and it definitely helped when the outdoors season came. But since then, even though I still attend the classes once a week or so, I haven't really worked very hard at it. I feel the same way about spinning as I do about treadmills: unbearably tedious.

I also agree about having better outings in warmer weather. It usually takes me a good 20 minutes in cool weather to get really "warmed up" to where the pace starts coming easily, which translates to about 2 miles running or 5 miles riding.

TromboneAl 04-02-13 07:50 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by skilsaw (Post 15457855)
Relax, grow old gracefully.
You don't want the people at your funeral to say, "Having a coronary while cycling is a terrible way to go."

Not that this thread warrants talking about funerals, but in my experience they will never say that. They will say "At least he died doing what he loved."

Steve Sawyer 04-02-13 08:38 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by DougG (Post 15458749)
A couple of years ago I did do some serious spinning classes and it definitely helped when the outdoors season came. But since then, even though I still attend the classes once a week or so, I haven't really worked very hard at it. I feel the same way about spinning as I do about treadmills: unbearably tedious.

I feel your pain (though I'm "only" 63), but I stuck with the weekly 6-am spinning and toning class all winter, and made it a point to really try to push myself on the spinning - really sprinting when the instructor said to sprint, and cranking up the resistance and mashing hard when we stand up on the pedals.

I hated every frickin' minute of it.

However, I too got out on my first two rides on Friday and Saturday, did 16 miles both days and could easily have done probably twice as much - discomfort from the cold wind and the runny nose was the worst part of it. In years past, those rides would have killed me. My legs would have felt like rubber, my butt would have been screaming at me, and I'm positive that the 16-miler on Friday would have done me in, and I'd have missed out on the nice day on Saturday. It was nice to actually enjoy the first full rides of the season!

I hesitate to attribute it entirely to the spinning, as I also have been taking a weekly TRX Suspension training class, but I really think the spinning kept me more "in form" for cycling over the long winter. I'm not where I was in September fer sure, but I've easily knocked off that first tough month of getting up to speed...

digibud 04-03-13 02:30 AM

spinning classes are the ticket for me. our roads are not clear enough to be safe for any distance but I have a 15mi route I am doing outdoors and as soon as it's clear I'm confident I can do 30mi with no problem to start out the season. I couldn't think of that if I hadn't been spinning.

Machka 04-03-13 03:14 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by DougG (Post 15455324)
Every year at this time, after my first few rides of the season, I start moaning about how I've "lost it all" until my wife reminds me about how often I've said it. But at 66 and counting, it does get harder to get it back. I rode my hybrid on some soft trails Friday, then took the road bike out on Saturday for some much faster riding, but with hills and a headwind. My legs felt it for sure! So I started analyzing why this is so hard every spring even though I stay in good shape overall.

Have you given any thought to cycling year round? During my first couple years of cycling (20+ years ago), I quit cycling for the winter and tried to keep active in other ways. When I got back on the bicycle again, it was like starting over.

Then I got a stationary bike and started riding it regularly ... and what a difference! I still lost some cycling fitness, but not nearly as much.

Then I started riding year round outside (as well as using a bicycle on a trainer in really nasty weather) ... and I stopped losing my cycling fitness in the winter. I also discovered that taking a good spinning class helped me work harder than I would on my bicycle on the trainer. 10 weeks of 2x per week spinning classes + riding outside as much as possible from mid-Jan to late March, and I was in shape to ride a 200K in early April.

So don't stop. And schedule a 200K in early April to motivate you.

GeorgeBMac 04-03-13 05:21 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Machka (Post 15463029)
Have you given any thought to cycling year round? During my first couple years of cycling (20+ years ago), I quit cycling for the winter and tried to keep active in other ways. When I got back on the bicycle again, it was like starting over.

Then I got a stationary bike and started riding it regularly ... and what a difference! I still lost some cycling fitness, but not nearly as much.

Then I started riding year round outside (as well as using a bicycle on a trainer in really nasty weather) ... and I stopped losing my cycling fitness in the winter. I also discovered that taking a good spinning class helped me work harder than I would on my bicycle on the trainer. 10 weeks of 2x per week spinning classes + riding outside as much as possible from mid-Jan to late March, and I was in shape to ride a 200K in early April.

So don't stop. And schedule a 200K in early April to motivate you.

Good advice -- but one that takes a lot of preparation (aka "money"): For me it meant a whole new bike that was setup for nasty weather and sloppy conditions (fenders, wide heavily treaded tires, rack & trunk) as well as a mostly new wardrobe (although some old ski stuff got redeployed)... But still, since I ride rails-to-trails and stay off of the roads, I was fortunate in having one nearby that is plowed by the locial township....

Machka 04-03-13 06:39 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by GeorgeBMac (Post 15463144)
Good advice -- but one that takes a lot of preparation (aka "money"): For me it meant a whole new bike that was setup for nasty weather and sloppy conditions (fenders, wide heavily treaded tires, rack & trunk) as well as a mostly new wardrobe (although some old ski stuff got redeployed)... But still, since I ride rails-to-trails and stay off of the roads, I was fortunate in having one nearby that is plowed by the locial township....

It didn't take a lot of money for me.

When I started riding outside, I used an inexpensive 10-year old bicycle I already had (no fenders, no wide heavily treaded tires, no rack and trunk ... after all, you're just doing a ride around the neighbourhood, not a cross-Siberia expedition). Then I went to the local thrift shops and department stores and picked up a few pair of tights (back in those days it was all stirrup pants, and those worked), and sweat tops or wool tops for < $5 each.

When you cycle in the winter, you don't have to have the latest and greatest ... all you need is a beater bike and a few odds and ends from your local Value Village, Salvation Army, or Goodwill.


About 5-ish years later I did pick up an inexpensive mtn bike ... it was new, but it certainly didn't cost a fortune.
And gradually over the years I began to acquire a few more cycling-specific items of clothing, although even so, I still wear non-cycling specific polypro and merino wool tops which I pick up as inexpensively as possible whenever I can find them.


Riding outside doesn't have to cost much at all, and neither does picking up an inexpensive fluid trainer from Nashbar or wherever so you can ride inside. Spinning classes aren't that expensive either.

Boudicca 04-03-13 07:12 AM

I thought about riding year-round, but I don't enjoy riding when the temperature is below freezing. And I loathe riding on the trainer.

So I go to spin classes two or three times a week in the winter, and I find I'm able to start pretty well when I start riding again. Note entry on riding my age twice in February (in Arizona, not in Toronto), which included one almost-metric-century.

Come spring, I usually abandon the gym completely, but this year I have decided to focus on weights a couple of times a week instead. It's time to move some of the weight around if I can't actually get rid of it.

tom cotter 04-03-13 09:08 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Machka (Post 15463029)
Have you given any thought to cycling year round? During my first couple years of cycling (20+ years ago), I quit cycling for the winter and tried to keep active in other ways. When I got back on the bicycle again, it was like starting over.

Then I got a stationary bike and started riding it regularly ... and what a difference! I still lost some cycling fitness, but not nearly as much.

Then I started riding year round outside (as well as using a bicycle on a trainer in really nasty weather) ... and I stopped losing my cycling fitness in the winter. I also discovered that taking a good spinning class helped me work harder than I would on my bicycle on the trainer. 10 weeks of 2x per week spinning classes + riding outside as much as possible from mid-Jan to late March, and I was in shape to ride a 200K in early April.

So don't stop. And schedule a 200K in early April to motivate you.

This is great advice!!!!

I too am a member of the fat man in winter group. Though well intentioned, I can never find the motivation to keep up the fitness level in that January through March time frame. Now, finally back on the bike and I'm paying for it.

marmot 04-03-13 10:59 AM

I've been sitting in the house for 11 days with my foot propped up on pillows. Anyone know how to restore/maintain fitness when you're laid up with a leg injury? I'm turning to mush here.
(I tore my left gastronemius (calf muscle) in a ski crash.)

DougG 04-03-13 11:40 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by marmot (Post 15464484)
I've been sitting in the house for 11 days with my foot propped up on pillows. Anyone know how to restore/maintain fitness when you're laid up with a leg injury? I'm turning to mush here.
(I tore my left gastronemius (calf muscle) in a ski crash.)

That's really tough! Your leg muscles are the largest in your body, and leg-related exercises are the best way to get and maintain aerobic fitness. But how about swimming? You could use a pull-buoy to hold up your legs without having to kick and do laps that way -- also a very good workout. Of course, it requires some sort of membership to a facility, but short-term deals are often available.

marmot 04-03-13 12:04 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by DougG (Post 15464721)
That's really tough! Your leg muscles are the largest in your body, and leg-related exercises are the best way to get and maintain aerobic fitness. But how about swimming? You could use a pull-buoy to hold up your legs without having to kick and do laps that way -- also a very good workout. Of course, it requires some sort of membership to a facility, but short-term deals are often available.

There's a thought. Thank you. The gym I go to doesn't have a pool, but there is a big municipal aquatic centre nearby, which I haven't entered since my kids were small. I'll check it out.

Machka 04-03-13 02:35 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by marmot (Post 15464484)
I've been sitting in the house for 11 days with my foot propped up on pillows. Anyone know how to restore/maintain fitness when you're laid up with a leg injury? I'm turning to mush here.
(I tore my left gastronemius (calf muscle) in a ski crash.)

Can you do core and upper body work ... weightlifting, crunches, etc.?

TiHabanero 04-03-13 04:04 PM

Timely subject. Last winter I did not do any exercise of any sort and struggled getting into riding condition in the spring. This winter I did only walking for an hour in the mornings 5 days a week and lifting light weights high reps 3 days a week.
Jumped on the bike this past weekend and it felt like I picked up where I left off in the fall. I feel great and didn't have to do any indoor rides or cold snowy winter rides.
The upper body strengthening seems to have made the difference.

marmot 04-03-13 09:21 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Machka (Post 15465830)
Can you do core and upper body work ... weightlifting, crunches, etc.?

Actually, walking with crutches is a bit of a workout for the arms, shoulders and midsection. I have some resistance bands and I'm using them while I sit. Cardio stuff may have to wait a while. Think I'll try the stationary bike tomorrow, on a very light setting. Anything that doesn't hurt is OK, I'm told.

Rick@OCRR 04-03-13 09:31 PM

I grew up in St. Louis so I got used to riding in cold weather, cold rain, snow, and silly cold temps. (once rode to work at neg. 6 Deg. F).

I did what Machka advised above, essentially, wore clothes to suit the weather. Not always "cycling clothes" though I did move to more specific cycling clothing as I got older.

Then, when I was 45 I moved to Southern California (1995) where they don't have winter weather as I knew it in Missouri. Or, well, they do if you want to go up into the mountains to seek it out (which I do sometimes, crazy as that must sound).

Anyway, maintaining fitness wise, do whatever it takes but get out there and ride. Yes, I know sometimes it's hard to find motivation on a miserable cold grey day that's accented with freezing drizzle, but once you get out there and conquer it, you will feel so much better, not only physically, but also in terms of self-fullfillment, i.e. You actually went out and got in some miles, even though the conditions were miserable.

Just remember, the weather is not as bad as it looks from inside your warm dry house. Once I'm up to temperature (takes about 10 minutes for me), no matter how bad it really is, I can convince myself "It's not that bad!"

Rick / OCRR


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