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Two years shy of 50, and trying to re-build my base...

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Two years shy of 50, and trying to re-build my base...

Old 08-08-11, 09:07 AM
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Two years shy of 50, and trying to re-build my base...

I hesitated to intrude on this area of the forum, being a spry 47 and three-quarters years on the planet, but my work at re-building my strength after 20 years away from cycling makes me feel like this would be a good place to get advice.

When I first started out in my mid-20's, it was a natural progression of building my strength by pedaling in higher gears, then working on endurance after that (after my enthusiasm for the activity rose exponentially); I was up to 15 miles on the weekdays, and 35 - 40 on the weekends (I could ride the 40 miles in about 2 1/2 hours - not bad for half of the ride being it start/stop city traffic).

After about a year, I found that I had developed chondromalacia (rough underside of the kneecap) in my left leg, and struggled with on-and-off again attempts to get back into it for the next few years - since it didn't feel as "right" with the knee irritation, I fell out of love with it - that, and moving into a new house, having a kid, and working my tail off with 60-hour workweeks made it even more difficult.

With the kid off to college, and little reminders that I need to get back into better shape, I have re-booted the enthusiasm, but getting back into form has been a struggle... I am overcoming the knee issues by using lower gears, and strengthening my quadriceps with leg exercises. I know more about nutrition now than I did back then - it used to be all about carb loading - and am enjoying a low-fat, high protein diet, but with enough carbs to reload energy - but am finding it difficult to get past the 15-mile mark. (The 100+ degree temps aren't helping any, but it looks like that is going to break this week).

Am I being impatient? I didn't get back on the bike this season until mid-June, due to weather and busy schedule, so only have about two months of training so far this season. I just don't feel like I should be so winded after 12-15 miles, but perhaps am having issues with age-related muscle recovery.

I'm planning on purchasing a new bike within the next few weeks, and hoping that a new fit (and lighter bike) will help with efficiency and joint stress. My weight is not an issue - I'm one of those lucky bastards with a metabolism that uses what it takes in - I've been the same weight for the past 20+ years, with just a little re-apportioning of my previous cycling muscle gain into other areas (the pinchable-inch around the waist that I'm trying to eliminate).

Has anyone else here struggled with re-building cycling conditioning - endurance and strength - or have any advice about getting to a higher level? I would love to eventually ride in either a century or one of the charity marathons, but it is hard to see past the steep hill in front of me...
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Old 08-08-11, 09:38 AM
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Way back when I received some advice on hill climbing. The fellow said "Put it into your lowest gear, bite off a little bit at a time and don't pay too much attention to how long it's takeing.

I think that's good advice for improving fitness too. Until you develope the base that you need for harder training, just bite off a little bit each day and don't worry too much about how far or how fast you're going. Sometimes I think that the bike computer is your enemy because it causes you to turn every ride into a race with yourself.
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Old 08-08-11, 10:08 AM
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I started back into cycling at age 40. I was extremely unfit. But since I'd raced in my 20s I knew how to ride. I just had to readjust my expectations. I'd burnt out on cycling due to training too much and with too rigid a schedule, so when I came back I just rode for fun. Not even a bike computer. Since then I have gotten back into racing, but with a better attitude and slightly better results.

When you're older it takes longer to get into shape, and you have to pay better attention to your body and rest when you need it. And you can't stop riding.

High protein diet is probably not optimum for cycling but it should not keep you from going more than 15 miles. If your legs are tired then you just need to keep riding and gradually build up the conditioning. Try lower gears and higher rpms to save the legs.
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Old 08-08-11, 10:16 AM
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Muscle strength can come from the Gym, but endurance is just a matter of time
in the saddle ..

Go out and enjoy the back roads, for a few hours.
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Old 08-08-11, 10:36 AM
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I returned to cycling, after a significant gap, just before my fiftieth birthday. I found, to my surprise and chagrin, that I was unable to ride up quite modest hills. It was pathetic. However, I persisted and within a very few weeks those hills were manageable. After a few months I could attack them. After eighteen months I did my first century for almost twenty years, and that included about 9000 feet of climbing.

Take it easy. Build up your mileage about 10% per week. By the end of the year you'll be flying.
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Old 08-08-11, 10:45 AM
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If you want to ride further than fifteen miles just ease up a little.

At age 65 I can easily do 100 mile rides, grab some food, and even enjoy a little ride afterwards. I can also totally wring myself out by playing boy racer on a favorite little seven-mile loop.

You might enjoy some interval training. Starting at whatever turns out to be your "can do this all day" pace, turn up the power to about 100% until you really really don't want to continue at that pace and then ease off until you get a bit bored and go again. That's a totally unscientific version of intervals but does provide some fun and seems to encourage both speed and endurance.
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Old 08-08-11, 10:53 AM
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Ride lots.
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Old 08-08-11, 11:07 AM
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Good advice above.

Most people ride primarily on the weekend. Just weekend riding is not enough. The more days you can ride the better. If you can not ride daily, try to do some sort of aerobic exercise that uses your legs daily. Even a half hour per of brisk walking per day will have a noticeable impact (for most people).

The other thing is be patient. Getting into shape takes longer when you get older.
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Old 08-08-11, 11:20 AM
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Originally Posted by BluesDawg
Ride lots.
+1

That's it. Ride 5-6 days/week and the mileage will come.
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Old 08-08-11, 11:25 AM
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Originally Posted by PatW
Good advice above.

Most people ride primarily on the weekend. Just weekend riding is not enough. The more days you can ride the better. If you can not ride daily, try to do some sort of aerobic exercise that uses your legs daily. Even a half hour per of brisk walking per day will have a noticeable impact (for most people).

The other thing is be patient. Getting into shape takes longer when you get older.
I mostly agree - you can't make progress riding only on the weekend. But I have found that brisk walking doesn't amount to much as a substitute for cycling. Running, yes; walking, no.
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Old 08-08-11, 12:02 PM
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Originally Posted by travelerman
I hesitated to intrude on this area of the forum, being a spry 47 and three-quarters years on the planet, but my work at re-building my strength after 20 years away from cycling makes me feel like this would be a good place to get advice.

When I first started out in my mid-20's, it was a natural progression of building my strength by pedaling in higher gears, then working on endurance after that (after my enthusiasm for the activity rose exponentially); I was up to 15 miles on the weekdays, and 35 - 40 on the weekends
This is almost exactly what I did a few years ago, at 49. I hadn't been on a bicycle since I was 15, with many intervening years of various neglects and indulgences. Like you, weight wasn't a problem - except that I was perhaps 15 pounds underweight. Not that I particularly knew what I was doing, but it worked for me.

The only difference is that at first I just rode for 3 months, not particularly striving for distance or speed but just getting to where I needed however far it was. After about 3 months I realized that I actually enjoyed it, particularly the feeling of having improved after every ride.

At that point, 15 miles became my normal ride, every day. I was winded at first just doing it, and winded every time later because I'd strive do it a little faster each time, or at a higher cadence, or with extra hills. But just 15 miles for the workouts, fewer on my routes with one hill after another. It wasn't until I felt it wasn't a workout any more that I regularly added miles on to it. Of course, some longer trips to anywhere out on the road just for the fun of it but those shorter ones were the regular workout. Speeds that I literally fantasized about then are now routine (not fast enough to brag about, but more than I could keep up for 20 seconds then).

So I do think you're being impatient, and getting better conditioning than you realize or are letting on. I'm doing 50 mile workouts on weekends, not for distance per se but for endurance and strength. Distances are just a matter of riding them until you're used to it in my opinion, and not the main concern for rapid improvement starting out.

Originally Posted by travelerman
After about a year, I found that I had developed chondromalacia (rough underside of the kneecap) in my left leg, and struggled with on-and-off again
I know nothing about that, but I do know from painful experience that you have to back off and take a break as soon as pain develops that's more than sore muscles.
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Old 08-08-11, 03:37 PM
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You're right about building a base. Nothing else will happen until that foundation is well dug in. And while building that base you also will need to take days off here and there.
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Old 08-08-11, 03:55 PM
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Rest is your friend - that is when the muscles repair and rebuild. They won't do that if you are pushing them all the time, and too much of that may lead to "overtraining" - not just a word but an actual medical condition that can be serious. "Overtraining Syndrome
It is no secret among athletes that in order to improve performance you've got to work hard. However, hard training breaks you down and makes you weaker. It is rest that makes you stronger."

So, yes, push yourself, ride for distance, and - BE SURE TO RIDE FOR PLEASURE - but give your body a chance to build endurance and strength with rest days and easy ride days.

FWIW, I started as mostly a beginner in 1998 when I was 58yo, reading in the paper about a lady in her 50's who was training to do the "Ride the Rockies." If she could do it, so could I!! Three months later, there I was - on a mtn bike, no less - pedaling up Left Hand Canyon in Boulder with 2,000 other folks on my first Ride the Rockies - headed for 7 days of Colorado Mtn passes.

Actually, I did pretty good, considering I only had 1100 miles in the past 3 months. Still, on a mtn bike and all, it was VERY challenging. The next year, I rode a road bike!!

Good luck and, mostly, have fun.

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Old 08-08-11, 06:11 PM
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I restarted cycling in 2006 at age 57. I was in great physical shape but lousy cycling shape.

Rest is important for cyclists but more so for masters cyclists. To an extent, ones body uses the same system to recover as it uses to produce power. So initially, it is all bad. Efforts are hard and recovery difficult.

I am in my 5th year of cycling and I feel like my cycling is where I want it. I plan on improving but I am happy with my results. I am having a lot of fun cycling and I put it up there with my tennis, golf and skiing.

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Old 08-08-11, 07:16 PM
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It's good that you are starting your training now.

On your 50th birthday we are going to expect you to ride your age in miles and to eat your age in pies.
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Old 08-08-11, 07:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Retro Grouch
It's good that you are starting your training now.

On your 50th birthday we are going to expect you to ride your age in miles and to eat your age in pies.
I accept the miles challenge... however - and even though I love some pie - one slice at a time is all I'm going to promise :-)
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Old 08-08-11, 08:33 PM
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Well Sonny(I'm 55)ride alot is the best advice.I started riding seriously a year ago last May.I ride 20 miles a day to and from work most days and that is the basis of my regime.On my days off I generally ride 40-70 miles weather permitting though last week I did my first century and the week before I did my first group ride of 80 pretty tough miles.People said when I started that it takes 2 years to get into biking condition and I think that's right now as only now do I feel like I've advanced considerably and feel more like an athlete.I remember the thrill when i did my first 50 miles and now that is routine.I also lost 20 lbs.and my blood pressure has dropped from high to that of a teenager.It helps that I've developed a passion for biking as well as bikes(mechanics,collecting,building etc.)Wish I'sd started 30 years ago.

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Old 08-10-11, 01:54 PM
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Ride - Have Fun - Take a break when you're bored - Measure progress by how much you enjoy the ride - not by an arbitrary number.
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Old 08-10-11, 02:15 PM
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Originally Posted by trek330
wish i'sd started 30 years ago.
ditto!
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