just another gosling
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Everett, WA
Bikes: CoMo Speedster 2003, Trek 5200, CAAD 9, Fred 2004
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OTOH, while it is true, as Greg says, that "As you age your muscle mass naturally declines," it may not be true that this has to happen to the extent that is seen in the general population. I have an over 70 very fast buddy who spent a couple of weeks riding at up to 18,500'. He returned and immediately took 45 minutes off his age group record for a local mountain climb. Although this has nothing to do with muscle mass, it offers some hope. It used to be thought that the body's ability to produce nitric oxide also declined with age. However, it turned out that what was observed was that older people simply backed off enough to reduce production. Athletes who maintained activity levels also maintained nitric oxide levels as they aged.
I think it is harder to put on muscle mass as we age, possibly because of the decline in testosterone levels. However, I think it is possible to stimulate older muscles productively by strength training, perhaps particularly older muscles since we do tend to become less active as we age. Worth a try. Of course Greg is right about intervals - they are by far the most productive line of attack. However, if you are already doing them to the extent allowed by recovery, there's not much to gain there.
Friel has a good strength training program in his Cyclist's Training Bible, which I have used with good results. It's a long term program, best started about October to produce results the following spring. Greg is also correct about the high cadences used by today's pros. However I have seen some very, very strong older TTers who perform best at cadences in the 60's. Also, the female winner of this year's solo RAM ran a 57-11 top gear and some men run 60-11. I have another over-50 friend who rides a 90" fixie in the mountains. My impression is that it depends on the athlete, their goals, and how they train.
If you want to get started right now, try lifting in a circuit with one set of 30 of, in order:
one-legged calf raises
which is the start of Friel's program in my implementation. Work up to enough weight that the last rep is difficult. One circuit to start, then possibly two or three, conditioning and will permitting. Remember that the one imperative is not to get injured, so smooth lifts with good form and lots of reps for a while. Friel's book is worth the money, IMO.
Also IMO strength training is slower to produce results than intervals by an order of magnitude. Normally the progression is strength training first, then intervals.