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Making Gains after 50?

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Fifty Plus (50+) Share the victories, challenges, successes and special concerns of bicyclists 50 and older. Especially useful for those entering or reentering bicycling.

Making Gains after 50?

Old 08-04-23, 05:04 AM
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A 50 year old who has never cycled and just started riding is going to make noticeable gains pretty fast and will continue to make those gains for a while...A 50 year old who has already been cycling for the last 20 years and has a lot of hard miles on them is going to have a very hard time making any meaningful gains. The longer you train the more your body adapts to the exercise stimulus and the more difficult it becomes to make progress. Eventually all gains stop and all you can do is just maintain what you have gained over the years.
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Old 08-04-23, 06:14 AM
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Not sure if this will motivate OP but will share a hockey locker room story recently, I play with 18-35 year olds. After my second game with them....

31 Yo: How old are you?

26 yo: He's old AF

Me: 65 and feel old AF

31 yo: Nobody would know, you are crushing it. I hope to be able to lace my skates at 65

26 yo: You had ******g wings on those skates tonight

In terms of anaerobic power, carbonfibreboy's thread on HMB and whey powder really helped me. My sprinting power was dropping every year. With those two supplements and doing sprints once per week, my peak power went from about 950 watts to almost 1150-1200 watts (from memory) and 5 second power from 880 watts to 1060 watts. From CCFboy's other post somewhere, I learned from the links that senior athletes actually need more protein and I upped my protein level and that helped.

None of us are going to be 18 years old again, but improvement is certainly possible. (unless you are like a world champion and maxed your genetics out already)
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Old 08-04-23, 07:00 AM
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Gains relative to what? My best (poor to mediocre) racing season in my 20s? No. My previous season of struggling around the suburbs with a bunch of knuckleheads at age 65? Sure. All it takes is another hour/wk, a training tweak, a new set of tires...
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Old 08-04-23, 08:50 AM
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my hopes of gains relative to 65-75 yr old women have been dashed by e bikes
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Old 08-04-23, 09:31 AM
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Presumably OP at 55 yo is interested in improving his cycling compared to his state today. He mentions more distance or more speed. There are riders his age who improved enough to complete RAAM, TCR, TABR ultra endurance events. Speed can be improved with better positioning on the bike, better aerodynamics, and/or better fitness. If OP was a Cat 1 racer in his 20's, he would not be asking such a question and probably would not be on this forum.

If he has the money and likes structure, get a coach. Otherwise, read, learn, and consistently train day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year. (do not take long breaks from training). It takes years and years to make large improvements and they can be sufficient to overcome the inevitable decline of aging.....like you go up 2 but age cuts 1 off of that but your fitness overall increases. I suspect from reading that age really slams us in the face at around 62-67 year
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Old 08-04-23, 09:34 AM
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Originally Posted by DirePenguin
So, I’m turning 55 this month and I’m wondering if there are other guys (or, ladies) my age that are still improving their cycling; whether that means getting faster or riding farther, etc.

I generally ride hard and push myself on almost every ride and I’m still (occasionally) setting new PRs or seeing higher average speeds for familiar routes. I ride 4-6 times a week and I do strength training 3 times a week.


Any ideas how much longer do I have to keep improving?
As long as you want to.

Great question. I am out of your generation by a couple of decades - age 74. I started training for racing in 2007 and I have raced competitively road and track consistently over the years - 16 years years of hard training and racing plus gym work. I use third party professional coaches.

It took ten years to win back to back state championships in the 500 meter time trial at the track. I competed at nationals and always a bridesmaid but never a bride. This year I am training for a new 2k pursuit best performance on the track that dates back to 2011. I am progressing on plan to achieve that goal.

Recently, I hired a professional nutritionist who specializes in performance and have been on his plan. I thought my diet was solid. I was training like a pro and eating like a spectator. At some point in time, one realizes that training protocols, no matter how well thought out and professional, only generate the opportunity to get stronger. Recovery and nutrition provides the repair / adaptation to improve performance.

So far, the diet has been transformational. My recovery is significantly better and my workouts - speed and power are up.

IMO, diet is too "religious/political" to have a meaningful discussion. Cyclist believe that their app or diet or whatever is perfect and it may be and anything else is an overkill or challenges their basic beliefs or violates some small study journal article. Many cyclists train so that they can eat what they want. I wanted a dramatic change prescribed from a doc with a track record of success to shake things up. I got it. YMMV.
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Old 08-04-23, 09:55 AM
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I'm not a good one to make a guess because I didn't start to ride seriously until I was 50, so I went 0-60 in about 2 years. OTOH, I and others of my acquaintance noticed definite drop-off at around 63 and another at 70. So whatever gains you're going to make will probably have to happen before those ages. It sounds like you're already doing wonderfully well. The only definite thing that would help is, duh, more hours per week, that is, if your ability to recover is up to that. GhostRider62's results are a good thing to look at, but he's an exceptional athlete to start with, so a grain of salt there. As we age, recovery is everything. You could also experiment with polarized training to help getting in more hours.
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Old 08-04-23, 10:30 AM
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55 in December. Restarted cycling after a 23 year hiatus in 2014 to dump popping statins everyday. Got into ok shape by 2016 but t-bone a buck and needed surgery for a grade 5 AC joint separation. Been chasing that fitness since. Had a few set backs in between and now rebuilding. I need to get rid of 20# again and regain ~20w on my FTP. I hope to get there by 60. I notice recently that I'm hitting a wall with 15 hours a week, indoor endurance rides (~0.65 IF). I'm switching back to add more intensity and ~10 hr/wk before moving the weekly hour back up. I'm shooting for completing 3 double century next year and completing a century a month the year after. My targets are now to finish and feel good as opposed to hanging on at the Saturday hammerfest club rides.
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Old 08-04-23, 10:41 AM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy
As we age, recovery is everything. You could also experiment with polarized training to help getting in more hours.
Several folks in this thread had made reference to a post of yours about protein and HMB, I tried searching for it but couldnít find it. Can you point me to it, or summarize it here?

Iíve been interested in increasing my protein intake, but most of the options I looked at come with substantial calories and in addition to improving my cycling, Iím also trying to drop about 10lbs to get down into the 150ís to get a better watts/kg.
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Old 08-04-23, 10:53 AM
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Originally Posted by DirePenguin
Several folks in this thread had made reference to a post of yours about protein and HMB, I tried searching for it but couldnít find it. Can you point me to it, or summarize it here?

Iíve been interested in increasing my protein intake, but most of the options I looked at come with substantial calories and in addition to improving my cycling, Iím also trying to drop about 10lbs to get down into the 150ís to get a better watts/kg.
Each gram of protein has 4 calories (you won't ever escape that), plus whatever else is along for the ride. Want to lose weight? Eat less. For me, it was a matter of portion reduction. I kept eating the things I eat, I just ate less of them. I went from 225 to 185 with that plan.
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Old 08-04-23, 11:36 AM
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There was a similar thread years ago on another forum frequented by world class exercise physiologists. We can often read that aerobic capacity declines 1% per year after the age of 35. But there are studies out there showing the decline is much, much smaller for those who train hard (volume and intensity) like a younger person.

I hope my memory is not wrong but Andrew Coggan gave his VO2 max decline by year over 3 decades. Since he was a Cat 1 racer, I found it very interesting how little his decline was. Something like 0.22% per year. There was a Harvard professor who also tracked his decline over many decades and it was similar to Dr. Coggan (much less than 1%.......0.4% IIRC but the declines from 40-65 were much lower than from 65-90 yo). So, those might be considered the bounds. We are going to lose 0.25-0.5% per year if we work hard. It can take a decade of work to reach one's genetic potential and therefore unless one is literally a world class athlete, we can improve compared to where we are today.

I have a permanent image of a man about 85 years old riding what looked like a $20K TT bike all kitted out in a TdF team skinsuit. He was doing about 18 mph on a MUP down in Florida. Approaching from behind, I am embarrassed to say what I thought. Then as I passed to say hello, I say how old he was and the huggest smile on his face. He was enjoying himself so much. Maybe he was pretending he was in the TdF prologue. If we all can still be riding like that fellow at 85 with the huge smile, we will have won.
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Old 08-04-23, 03:40 PM
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Originally Posted by DirePenguin
Several folks in this thread had made reference to a post of yours about protein and HMB, I tried searching for it but couldn’t find it. Can you point me to it, or summarize it here?

I’ve been interested in increasing my protein intake, but most of the options I looked at come with substantial calories and in addition to improving my cycling, I’m also trying to drop about 10lbs to get down into the 150’s to get a better watts/kg.
The protein thread was about what I was doing along that line, i.e. chocolate flavored whey protein, In the thread being referenced, I was having a problem with leg soreness and found that substantially increasing my whey protein intake helped a lot I have various health issues and have been getting blood tests from time to time. After raising my protein levels for a while, my BUN (blood urea nitrogen, a measure of kidney function) tested a little high, so I cut back a bit, and now it's in the normal range. I've settled on supplementing 15g morning and evening, 30g at bed time, and 15g before and after every workout. That's a decrease from 30g morning, evening, and bedtime and 30g before and after workouts. The smaller amount seems OK.

The HMB (hydroxymethylbutyrate) thread is here: Discovered HMB about 10 days ago
I make up a bottle with 30g whey, 2g HMB, and 15g sugar and drink half before and after a workout. I'll make a bottle with 15g whey and have that with breakfast, another with 15g whey, 5g creatine, and 1g HMB for dinner, and another with 30g whey for bedtime. I've shared the idea of HMB with friends and so far, everyone's been amazed. I haven't had a problem with BPH.

I use a natural sugar, either Succant or demorara, mostly because it tastes better. I used to use a much more substantial bottle for after a ride, but I've found that I recover just fine with fewer calories.

BTW, the oldest rider on this year's RAMROD was 85. I was volunteering at the finish line this year and saw him come in, with about a 12 hour ET. Many riders came in after him. The coolest thing I noticed this year is that a lot of women came in early in the pack.
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Old 08-05-23, 04:42 AM
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Originally Posted by t2p
my hopes of gains relative to 65-75 yr old women have been dashed by e bikes
they ride by you too fast to get their digits?
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Old 08-05-23, 05:41 AM
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Like all performance athletics the human body is limited to the genetics it was born with. You can train your body to a degree but the max limits are genetic.
Aging is another factor that is again likely genetics...some age better than others.
I'm 68, or nearly so, and still train to achieve the best performance I can considering my genetic disposition and life style. I still race and can keep up with most, except the fastest/strongest, in my area events, regardless of age, so I am very satisfied.

I too love Zwift and my winter riding is much more enjoyable with it...Northern NY winters are long lol...I've many friends and do ride for a club on Zwift making it so much fun. I too ride the Zone 2 Train all winter but also participate in TTT's, ITT's, some races, etc. I also love challenging myself on Alpe du Zwift and have managed a pleasing 56 minutes last time I rode it. Hoping to lower that this winter is a goal.

I'm also thrilled to be as healthy as I am at my age and hope it continues for a long time but when my level of performance starts dropping, whether age related or I just get tired of the training regimen I'll accept it and continue to ride my bike for the pure pleasure it gives me.

You can make gains...training, diet, etc. are some of the keys...but the limits are genetic as well and in general they can't be overcome.
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Old 08-05-23, 09:16 AM
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Originally Posted by Eric F
Each gram of protein has 4 calories (you won't ever escape that), plus whatever else is along for the ride. Want to lose weight? Eat less. For me, it was a matter of portion reduction. I kept eating the things I eat, I just ate less of them. I went from 225 to 185 with that plan.
Iíve been using LoseIt for years, originally to go from 190lbs to 160lbs, and Iíve been hovering in the 160ís for years. I weigh myself regularly and if my weight gets up into the high 160ís, I ďget seriousĒ about the calories and really cut back on snacking. 😁
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Old 08-06-23, 05:02 AM
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Originally Posted by Kai Winters

I also love challenging myself on Alpe du Zwift and have managed a pleasing 56 minutes last time I rode it. Hoping to lower that this winter is a goal.
Thatís a strong effort, well done! I really like the new ďclimb portalĒ feature on Zwift, adding in a bunch of other iconic climbs for variety.
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Old 08-06-23, 05:17 AM
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Jughed mentioned recovery time. IME it's critical to improving fitness and I take longer to recover than the training programs expect. I now modify the program. Started cycling at 61 in November '21.
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Old 08-06-23, 06:08 AM
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Originally Posted by BTinNYC
Jughed mentioned recovery time. IME it's critical to improving fitness and I take longer to recover than the training programs expect. I now modify the program. Started cycling at 61 in November '21.
I've noticed that on my Garmin doohicky, it recommends longer recovery times these days. I tend to go by how I feel rather than what it tells me, but I also notice that if I go out and put forth any type of serious effort, like yesterday's group ride, I'm wiped out for the rest of the day. Didn't used to be like that. Maybe as my fitness improves, that will also improve.
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Old 08-06-23, 06:20 AM
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Originally Posted by BTinNYC
Jughed mentioned recovery time. IME it's critical to improving fitness and I take longer to recover than the training programs expect. I now modify the program. Started cycling at 61 in November '21.
I agree and even among pro cyclists their recovery rates can vary significantly. I listen to the Geraint Thomas podcast (GTCC) and he occasionally mentions this in passing. He also mentioned that he has reduced his training volume in recent years, due partly to age and partly to a new coach with fresh ideas.

Can I ask what training programs you are following? A lot of the Masters plans have more built-in recovery eg 2-1 vs 3-1 week training/recovery blocks. Increased recovery time for older athletes seems to be a common theme in modern training plans that Iíve seen.

Personally I now often take extra recovery days. especially when my target events are months away. It just means my plan doesnít always follow a regular weekly cycle. For example my training week might end up 8 or 9 days instead of 7 if I take an extra rest day or two. I find this approach much more productive than digging a hole with fatigue just to tick the training schedule boxes. We are not robots and our energy levels fluctuate with ďlifeĒ.
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Old 08-06-23, 06:34 AM
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I didn't really start cycling until I was 52, so the baseline was pretty low. I seemed to peak at 61, so what some posters have stated about the decline into the 60's is true for me. Now 65, I seem to go from one physical roadblock to the next. Currently a couple days from my 2nd carpal tunnel surgery (the first was 10 days ago). Before that was a multi-year back problem that I think I got past about a month before the hand problems started. Seems to be one thing after another. But I try to keep moving. Still have averaged over 3000 miles a year the last 4 years despite the challenges.
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Old 08-06-23, 10:21 PM
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Non-humble brag by a 68 YO. There is a local 2.5 mile climb, rated by Strava as a category 4. On October 15th 2020, I did the climb in 11:38., today I did it in 10.50. I have been chipping away for almost 3 years to get to today’s time. Yes you can improve with age + training + rest + good nutrition.
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Old 08-07-23, 06:17 AM
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Originally Posted by PeteHski
Can I ask what training programs you are following?
Pete, I started with 4 week freebie print-outs from Bicycling magazine, a beginner then an intermediate plan. They were great for getting started, just using a HRM and my 40 year old college bike. I got a bit more serious about riding and fitness, and used Strava freebies. The plan that I really liked was a 6 month Gran Fondo plan by Phil Mosely on TrainingPeaks. That 6 months really moved my fitness and strength. . The plan's 2 back-to-back days of > 4 hr Z2 rides were too much for me, I was unable to ride for the next 2-3 days. TrainingPeaks app made training and recovery time modifications very simple. The plan's 1 hr HIIT days were on-target, really hard but not impossible...very well tuned to my existing fitness.

Due to a tough family issue this year, I didn't ride much this summer but it's time to get back to training.
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Old 08-07-23, 09:01 AM
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Originally Posted by rsbob
Non-humble brag by a 68 YO. There is a local 2.5 mile climb, rated by Strava as a category 4. On October 15th 2020, I did the climb in 11:38., today I did it in 10.50. I have been chipping away for almost 3 years to get to todayís time. Yes you can improve with age + training + rest + good nutrition.
Congrats...perseverance is very powerful.

I see no problem discussing / reporting factual results and do not see it as bragging and others posting facts encourages me to contribute. How else can we communicate on the web using this medium? At my structured training group, our legs do the talking because everyone sees what is going on and hears the lap times being called. IMO, without facts that are relevant to a thread, the thread is at best superficial.

Trolling, hyperbole and exaggeration can be funny / fun but I find boring pretty quickly. YMMV.
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Old 08-08-23, 05:32 AM
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Originally Posted by BTinNYC
Pete, I started with 4 week freebie print-outs from Bicycling magazine, a beginner then an intermediate plan. They were great for getting started, just using a HRM and my 40 year old college bike. I got a bit more serious about riding and fitness, and used Strava freebies. The plan that I really liked was a 6 month Gran Fondo plan by Phil Mosely on TrainingPeaks. That 6 months really moved my fitness and strength. . The plan's 2 back-to-back days of > 4 hr Z2 rides were too much for me, I was unable to ride for the next 2-3 days. TrainingPeaks app made training and recovery time modifications very simple. The plan's 1 hr HIIT days were on-target, really hard but not impossible...very well tuned to my existing fitness.

Due to a tough family issue this year, I didn't ride much this summer but it's time to get back to training.
Thanks for the detail, that sounds good. There are loads of good plans to choose from on TrainingPeaks, but I found many of them were focused on preparation for specific events over a relatively short, fixed period of time. For example in 2019 I followed a 20 wk plan that was tailored toward a specific Alpine Fondo event. It was effective at the time, but not that useful as a more general annual training plan. So I started using Sufferfest (now Wahoo SYSTM) for a longer term plan (which can be tailored to your longer term goals) and a relatively new British App called PILLAR which builds an adaptive training plan around multiple target events and whatever regular group rides you may be doing. TrainerRoad looks good too for longer term tailored planning. I've never TR, but I do sometimes follow their podcast, which I find quite useful.

The point I was making is that the more tailored plans in Wahoo SYSTM, TrainerRoad, etc take account of the increased recovery time required by most older athletes for best results. Just backing up what you have intuitively discovered for yourself. Recovery is King!
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Old 08-13-23, 11:27 PM
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I started riding again at age 62 during the first year of the pandemic after being fairly sedentary for decades. My resting pulse rate has gone from a couple beats per minute above 'normal' to 10-12 BPM below since then. Pretty lame compared to my teenage years racing, but a solid improvement nevertheless, in my sixth decade.

Keeping track of your resting heart rate each morning is a simple and time-honored way to tell if you have recovered fully from your last effort. If you are above your normal range, take it easy that day. If you train hard, you have to rest hard, as they used to say.
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