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DaveLeeNC 12-14-15 07:57 PM

Old Age and Fear of Detraining
I'm now 66 and after a solid six months of consistent 175 to 250 miles per week of riding/training, I am in very good shape. This is more riding than I have ever done in my limited cycling life and probably equivalent to my best years when I was a runner (in my 30's/40's) when I was running 2500 miles/year. I now find myself in 'mortal fear' of losing that training over the winter where a 30 to 50% decrease in mileage is natural (but not inevitable).

What is the experience of other folks "as old as I am" WRT coming back after a typical "winter training downturn".



Hermes1 12-14-15 08:02 PM

I am fortunate to live in Phoenix where year round riding is possible. However for many years I lived on the east coast and midwest, so I can understand where you are coming from. I found a cycle trainer to keep the training going over the winter.

Shp4man 12-14-15 09:26 PM

I'm not really a super high mileage rider, more of a hobbyist/bike restorer, but I do ride, and have found that fitness level will stay fairly even after up to 3 or 4 months off. Don't sweat it.:thumb: Us old farts do slow down a bit over time, but se la vie.

nobodyhere 12-14-15 09:27 PM

1 Attachment(s)
Some wet weather riding kit? Looks a lot better than what we have around here. BTW, I am upper 70's (years old). Anyway, Best of luck!!

Marvelousmarkie 12-14-15 09:27 PM

Is winter really that bad in NC?

In the Midwest, a lot of people use indoor training rather than trying to ride outdoors. Concentrate on quality time rather than quantity so you don't get bored and burned out on the trainer. A good work out might be two intervals of 15-20 minutes at threshold, or 4-5 x 5 minutes at a super threshold level. Mix it up.

Also, there are training DVDs you can get if you need more guidance.

There is no reason to lose much fitness.

10 Wheels 12-14-15 09:31 PM

Join a local fitness center...Should be free with silver sneakers coverage.


Learn to dress with Layers of bike clothes according to the outside Temps.

TriDanny47 12-14-15 09:40 PM

It's not "inevitable" as you already said. Do what it takes to stay out there and continue to ride as before. If that means a different bike, equipment, clothes etc - so be it. NC is probably less harsh in the winter overall than much of the Midwest, Rockies, Canada, and certainly Alaska - and there is an entire winter cycling culture in those places. If we can do it here in the Great White Frozen North (ok, it was 64 here yesterday, 59 today but that is freaky weird weather) you can in relatively mild NC.

TCR Rider 12-14-15 09:50 PM

+1 on the trainer. I'm 63 and also a former runner and live in the North East. When riding outside is not a possibility I transfer the workout I would have been doing on the roads to the trainer. Truth be told some workouts are actually more effective on the trainer where you can control the intensity without having to deal with wind and traffic lights. If you can deal with riding the road to nowhere holding on to your hard won fitness is doable.
Personally I can spend up to three hours on the trainer if I have to but I really try to suck it up and do the longer workouts outdoors.

Dave Cutter 12-14-15 09:55 PM

Originally Posted by DaveLeeNC (Post 18389884)
I'm now 66 and.......... I am in very good shape. ........... I now find myself in 'mortal fear' of losing that training over the winter.... What is the experience of other folks "as old as I am"

I am about the same age. I used to be a runner (decades ago). Been cycling since 2010. I ride a solid 2000 miles a year. I know one of these years... I won't be able to make my mileage goal. And eventually I won't be able to ride... or breathe.

Meanwhile I act like it doesn't matter. I watch cycling movies in winter. I workout with weights. I ride a bike on a trainer some. And... Monday is senior day at a local movie theater. Come spring... I'll enjoy the process of starting over. And with a bit of luck... I'll ride my 2000 miles.

P.S. I bought new winter cycling gloves at the LBS today. And Amazon is delivering ski goggles.

Bendopolo 12-14-15 10:52 PM

I find that I am just as fast but it just feels harder for a few weeks. Now that I am an old grey haired guy I sometimes have to take a hot shower before I ride just to loosen up some. Especially after a period if inactivity. According to my GPS my numbers are always similar. It just feels easier with a good warm up. Don't worry just go with your gut...

canklecat 12-14-15 11:29 PM

Texas winters are usually pretty mild. Occasionally rainy and chilly, and we might get one or two ice storms by March. 20 miles a day two or three days a week would be a lot for me. I'll probably do closer to 5-10 miles a few days a week. I might do short errands of a mile or so 5-6 days a week. So my fitness level will be about the same over winter. My main limitation is asthma, and bouts with bronchitis most winters, so I'll need to be reasonably careful.

tsl 12-15-15 02:46 AM

The three most obvious answers are to rid yourself of the fallacy that cycling is only a fair-weather activity, buy a trainer, or join a health club.

But none of those address the question of coming back after a winter downturn. (And I'm hoping you mean downturn rather than cessation.)

In the three-seasons I turn in similar mileage as you. Winter here in the Great Lakes takes a certain determination, but I've found that around 50 miles a week keeps me in reasonable enough shape that come spring, I can ramp things up again in six to eight weeks without much difficulty.

I don't have the temperament for trainers, but many in my club do. One thing I've found is that while they may have more endurance than me in March, I can out climb everyone in the club, hold a better line (read: not wobble and swerve all over the place), and generally have an easier time of it.

Trainers may have their place, but I wouldn't confuse it with actual cycling. I'm firmly in the "rid yourself of the fallacy" camp. Do what you need to do to ride outdoors, taper down, maintain a baseline fitness though the winter, then ramp up again.

For the record, I had been tapering down this last month, but with the El Nino kicking in this month, I ramped right back up these past two weeks, turning in mileage reminiscent of June. It was pretty effortless. A reminder that winter done right, March can be the same.

chasm54 12-15-15 03:36 AM

Personally I hate the trainer, but clearly riding indoors is an option.

However, losing 30%-50% of your riding time need not be a disaster as long as you realise that the strategy for maintaining fitness for us old folks is different from that which applied when we were younger. As we age we lose VO2 max very quickly as we detrain, and a high VO2 max correlates very strongly with maintaining performance (and with longevity, as it happens). So as an older athlete with limited time you should sacrifice volume but keep the intensity in order to keep the upward pressure on your VO2 max.

Say you can now average only 100 miles per week, or maybe 5-6 hours on the bike. I'd suggest using two of those hours for intervals - maybe a 2x20 Z4 threshold session and on a separate occasion some z5 sprint intervals or over-unders or whatever - there's a great workout recipe sticky in the 33 racers forum. Allow plenty of time for recovery, you need to do these fresh. Then one longish ride of maybe three hours at endurance pace and you should maintain a lot of the gains you've made this year.

Strength traing is also more important as we get older, and the winter is a good time for that, so a couple of weights sessions per week on days when you're off the bike isn't a bad idea.

Do this and you'll find that you don't lose all that much and can easily make up the deficit as you ramp up the volume again in the spring.

revchuck 12-15-15 05:41 AM

@DaveLeeNC - I strongly recommend this book. Basically, the author recommends what @chasm54 says above and provides references for his recommendations.

BlazingPedals 12-15-15 06:32 AM

Hmmph. For me, every spring is like starting cycling all over again. I refuse to ride on icy roads in the dark. Takes me two months in the spring to get worked back into shape. NC would still get dark early at this time of year; but my layoff would only be half as long and less total, as I'd at least get some weekend rides in. Probably a bit less ice, too.

qcpmsame 12-15-15 06:58 AM

If you can manage doing the trainer, and aren't interested in investing in some good winter kit, that will help you maintain a pretty good level of fitness. They can be excruciatingly boring to use, though. I went ahead and got some winter gear when I returned to cycling a few years back, it was well worth the time and slight cost. I just ride much the same amount as the warmer seasons, now, and its pretty enjoyable out in colder weather, to me. If people like TSL can hang in, with his weather on the Great Lakes, and Nobodyhere, can do things in the Rockies during their winters, its possible for anyone so inclined to get out, if you have the initiative and drive. (Some will say its a lack of brain cells, on my part, oh well, I can deal with that, I am a Marine and its expected, I guess.)

Also, don't let your nutrition go to hell during the cold months, that can play a big part in how much fitness you lose. The holidays can be a tempting time, use moderation in all things, or pay the price. As said, best of luck on your riding, and on maintaining that hard earned fitness level, ain't it great to be worrying about such.....


pdlamb 12-15-15 09:07 AM

Down south in Pinehurst, I think you could ride 50 weeks a year -- with a week off for ice and a week off for hurricanes. The difficulty may be work taking up too much daylight.

If you're retired, wander down to your LBS and get (if you don't already have) a pair of tights, base layer (aka wool/poly t-shirt), long jerseys, wool socks, long-finger winter gloves, ear warmers, outer shell (waterproof with vents), and maybe a buff. You should be able to ride down to 35-40 F.

You might, though, want to take a couple months "off" in which you just do easy 1-2 hour rides. You can still keep your mileage up, but those long "slow" rides help build your base and still allow your body to recover from the strenuous summer. Go looking for roads you haven't ridden much, enjoy the rides, relax a bit. Come March, you can start cranking things up again.

Spoonrobot 12-15-15 09:22 AM

What are you training for?

rm -rf 12-15-15 09:47 AM

Your "50%" reduction off 175 to 250 miles a week is still 80 to 125 miles a week. Sounds great to me. (Even 80 miles x 50 weeks is 4000 miles a year.)

I only get 5 to 10 outdoor rides a month in Dec, Jan, and Feb in SW Ohio. (And some occasional trainer hours.) I think that fitness comes back quite fast if I've been riding regularly the previous year.

Biker395 12-15-15 09:48 AM

XC skiing is your friend.

wphamilton 12-15-15 09:58 AM

I can't do as much during the winter either. I'm thinking cross-training in a gym to stay active.

jppe 12-15-15 10:04 AM

I can appreciate what you're thinking and agree that your fitness will probably fall off but that is not all bad, as long as you don't let it drop too much. If you are able to continue to ride on selectively decent days you'll bounce back faster this spring. If you lay off for a couple months it will take much longer to get back to where you are. I've had to not ride during the winter due to illness and it took forever to get the conditioning back. It is so much easier to keep it (or not let it drop too much) than to start over.

I'm just west of you and ride year round. I'm still working so I have to do my weekday riding in a commercial park that is well lighted where I can ride in the dark, or do the trainer and I just don't do the trainer unless all other options are exhausted. We can still get in some good miles a couple a nights a week doing 1.5 or 3 mile loops in the Park. Weekends are reserved for longer rides where I'll do 60-70 miles per ride at a slower pace. I'm still making a pretty good effort as I have on more clothes, it's colder and I'm less aero. But it's my favorite time of the year to ride. The air is crisp and it seems like there are less vehicles on the road. I use that time to explore areas I might not normally ride around. I've found gloves that keep my fingers warm, booties that keep my toes warm and I finally know how to layer for the different temperatures......after years of experimenting.

We're doing 100 milers every Saturday in December to just build base miles for next year, keep weight down over the holidays etc. I've found that if I can do those it really helps the fitness for the next riding season.

We are fortunate that we have decent enough weather in NC where we can generally ride year round if we select the right days. I don't know if you're still working but if not you shouldn't have a problem finding a few days per week to get out. I've started in temps as low as 16 degrees. Generally we will have highs in the 40's and low 50's and that's not too bad for riding.

Bandera 12-15-15 10:31 AM

Winter is not a recent invention.
Old School cyclists developed a Seasonal program to make the most out of the annual progression a century ago.

Traditionally winter is the time to get Base Miles in, often riding fixed gear.
Not only is this an efficient way to get quality miles in to maintain endurance/fitness, work on a smooth supple pedaling style with grunt on demand it builds character.
The weather is often "rideable" with mudguards and appropriate kit on a "winter" bike while the light bike gets it's annual overhaul and the less committed stay home.

In Northern climes clubs would split to continue with a new racing season XC skiing or speed skating. Two sports for two seasons, both intense and technical.


Carbonfiberboy 12-15-15 10:45 AM

Rollers! With resistance! Sportscrafters are nice. I ride my rollers for an hour, either endurance or intervals, doesn't matter, then hit the weights at the gym for an hour or so twice a week. Non-weight days I either ride the rollers for another 1-1.5 hours or go outside, depending on weather. Rain OK, ice not OK. I take 1-2 days off each week.

robert schlatte 12-15-15 11:18 AM

Didn't you run outdoors in the winter??? Same thing. Just get outside and ride your bike. You might find you enjoy the challenge of having to deal with the harsher elements. If you lose a little fitness over the winter, so what?

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