Coach's Column with Andy Applegate: Training Changes for the 40-Year-Old Mountain Biker
Question: "How should my training change now that I am an older
athlete and in my early 40s. Should I concentrate on doing less base miles and
more intensity in my workouts? Do I need more time for recovery?"
Answer: Excellent question, and while you need to keep in mind that there
is not a particular age where you "fall off a cliffĒ with your fitness, after
the age of somewhere between 35 and 40 years most athletes start to notice a
difference in their response to training and an increased need for recovery.
The exact training an older rider should undertake is primarily dependent on
goals, but letís talk about some general guidelines.
A few things
to keep in mind: First, after about the age of 40 we start to see a decline in
VO2max. You might also notice that the maximum HR you see during very intense
efforts is lower, and over the years you might notice that it is more difficult
to hold onto strength gains and muscle mass. These are all inevitable symptoms
of aging, and while these things happen very gradually over years, it can be
frustrating. The good news is that you can combat these declines with smart
training. To help counteract the decline in VO2max, add more short, intense
training sessions to your program. Efforts of 1 to 3 minutes with a 1:1 work to
recovery ratio work wonders to hone anaerobic fitness. Also, doing work that
will help elevate your lactate threshold will make you stronger at any age.
Longer efforts of 5 to 20 minutes at or just below lactate threshold will do
the trick here.
the amount of time you have available, you may want to add some off bike
strength work to your program. In general I donít believe strength training
should necessarily take the place of bike work, but if you have the time to add
some in it can really help stave off loss of strength and muscle mass.
Keep in mind that you donít need any fancy equipment or an expensive gym
membership to get an excellent strength workout. Functional, body weight
exercises can be very effective and even 30 minutes two to three times per week
might be enough to make a big difference.
recovery is one of the first things I noticed for myself after about the age of
40. I found that one easy day after a hard race weekend was no longer enough
recovery before getting back to hard workouts. Give your body what it needs and
build in a little extra recovery between hard sessions or races. Instead of 3
or 4 hard or long sessions per week, cut back by one and add an extra easy day.
This will not only allow for that needed recovery, but most likely will allow
the hard workouts to be higher quality sessions. Donít be afraid to experiment
a little with back to back hard workouts followed by 2 easy days. Some older
riders also benefit from more frequent recovery weeks. For example if you
normally do 3 hard weeks followed by a recovery week, consider doing 2 hard
weeks followed by a 5 day recovery block instead. There is no magic schedule
trick for everyone, try some different things and see what works best for you.
donít want to tell you to ride "lessĒ, rather, I think my advice would be to
really focus on quality intensity during some of your ride sessions while
monitoring and allowing more recovery if needed. These days we are seeing older
athletes produce some amazing performances. Listen to what your body is asking
for and incorporate some of the ideas above and you could be one of those
Andy Applegate is a Pro level coach with Carmichael
Training Systems. He has over 20 years of racing experience and has been
coaching cyclists full time since 2001. His passion is endurance mountain bike
racing. We would like to welcome Andy to our amazing group of elite coaches.
You can find out more about Andy and his training programs at www.trainright.com