Written by: Heidi
Specialized and Red Bull athlete Rebecca Rusch won her third Leadville 100
mountain bike race this summer, the 42 year old made a name for herself as an
adventure racer, most notably taking first at the Raid Gauloises Adventure
Racing World Championships in 2003.
sponsorship was dwindling so Rebecca searched for other events that would take
advantage of her ultra endurance abilities. 24 hour mountain bike races
were booming, so she set her targets there and despite the fact that mountain
biking was her worst event, Rebecca won her first 24 hour solo event in 2007
beating both the women's and men's fields. This launched her new cycling
Soon she was a
three-time 24 Hour Solo Mountain Bike World Champion and racking up titles at
Leadville’s annual 100-mile race. To dominate in her 40s, Rusch has continued
to change who she is as an athlete. While a master professional athlete, she is
racing as strong as the young guns and she is faster and better than ever taking
a smarter and more high tech approach to her training regime.
I caught up
with her after her recent trip to L.A. to find out more about her Red Bull
high-tech brain training and collected some tips on training in your 40s
Learn to rest
and monitor your recovery effectively
We all know how
to work hard, but smart recovery is essential if you want to get 100% of the
benefit out of your training efforts. This applies to all athletes, but
becomes even more important as we age and the bounce back recovery process
takes a little longer.
I use a simple
system called Restwise to measure sleep, hydration, training efforts,
resting heart rate, and subjective measures, such as mood, to get a complete
picture of how my body is responding to training stress and life stress. My
coach and I can tweak my training accordingly, even before classic signs
of overtraining show up. It's very common for all of us to want to push
harder and think that more work equals more training benefit. With Reswise
I can have scientific feedback that tells me it's time to take a rest day.
The beauty of this program is it can alert you to life stress, lack of
sleep, poor hydration or impending illness so you can make the changes before
these stresses hit you too hard.
Make sure you
are getting the proper nutrients
I thought I was
eating pretty well until I got a full blood test that revealed giant holes in
my nutritional profile. It was great feedback that allowed me to tackle
these deficiencies head on. Despite a healthy diet, I was significantly
lacking in amino acids and some key minerals because I was not absorbing my
food. I addressed the issues by supplementing with probiotics, vitamins
and minerals. I also made a conscious effort to eliminate many packaged
foods, which are often nutrient dead foods. I also eliminated most gluten from
my diet and choose organic meats. As an athlete, I expect performance
out of my body. To feel and perform my best, I need a combination of
supplements and healthy food to keep up with demands. Get a blood test to
see where your deficiencies are and then be sure to fuel the machine with the
best fuel possible.
techniques are scientifically proven to work. "Whether you think you
can or think you can't, you're right." I spend time rehearsing
finish lines in my head with arms raised and no one in sight. This sort
of practice is important for confidence boosting. Also, just like
our legs, the brain is a muscle that can be trained to perform better. With
age, the brain also gets lazy if it's not used. Cognitive areas such as
memory, reaction time, coordination, can all be trained. I have just
started doing some really fascinating "performance brain training"
with the Red Bull Performance Division in partnership with Neurotopia.
This is cutting edge work that Red Bull has been using on race car
drivers, skiers, cyclists and other athletes. The training starts with a
baseline test to check your level in 9 areas such as focus endurance, stress
recovery, and reaction speed. From this baseline test, they design an
interactive video game for you to play. You are not touching any
controls, so the interactive part is in your head. As you attempt to fly
a spaceship through a course, the ship will move faster or slowing depending on
how your brain is firing. The goal is to find that sweet spot where you
are focused, but relaxed. The practice sessions will train me to more
easily access that state of relaxed control when I'm out in the middle of an
intense race situation. For athletes who do not have access to this type
of brain training, you can still achieve results with visualization techniques,
meditation and coordination challenges in your sport. For visualization,
try imagining that a competitor is near you while you are training to feel and
practice that heightened sense of awareness that comes with racing.
Instead of tuning out to music, tune IN by focusing on respiratory rate,
cadence, and body sensations. Learn to relax, but pay attention.
For "active" meditation, practice staying calm during
technically challenging rides or workouts. Experiment with trying better
instead of trying harder. Sometimes a slightly slower pace or state of
mind will be faster than thrashing about. For coordination, set up tricky
drills for yourself with cones, balancing on obstacles, jumping over and around
things. take up some sort of new sport to challenge your body and brain.
This sort of mental trickery will get new nerves firing instead of doing the
same old workout that your brain is used to.
for Overall Health, Injury Prevention and Fun
It's pretty easy
to fall into a fitness rut and just grab the running shoes and go through the
motions day after day. While it's great to keep active, doing the same
thing all the time isn't doing you any favors. Your body gets used to the
stress and you end up overworking specific areas. This can lead to
weakness in other areas and injury. I'm a cyclist now, but I attribute my
longevity in professional sports to the fact that I am a "jill of all
trades." I ski, run, climb, swim, practice yoga, etc. All of
these things keep my body balanced, so that come cycling season, I am ready to
hit the bike again. Not only is cross training fun because you are
learning something new and moving in a different way, it also keeps you strong,
fit and will address body weaknesses or imbalances you might have. Sign
up for a martial arts class, learn to surf, ride a bike. It will feel
like play and your body and mind will thank you for it.
Help of Professionals
There are experts
in this world for a reason. Just as you go to a physician for medical
help or a mechanic to tune up your car, you should enlist the help of a coach
to help you with your training. Coaches are not just for pro athletes.
Coaches are for intelligent athletes at any level who want to train
efficiently and effectively to be their best. I have been a professional
athlete for over 15 years. I floundered along on my own for 10 years.
In the past five years of working with a coach, I have seen huge gains in
my performance, power and abilities. I am faster and better as an over 40
athlete than I have ever been. I attribute this continued improvement to
training smarter with a coach. At this point, I could not live without
the personal guidance, honest feedback, motivation and roadmap that a coach
provides. There is nothing better than a well thought out plan to achieve
your goals. Carmichael Training Systems has a whole menu of
options to work with a coach at any level.
Experience is a
huge benefit. Age and experience are often more powerful tools than a
young set of legs and lungs. Use experience to your advantage over the
young pups and be confident in your abilities. Focused training, good
preparation, rest, strategy, patience and the ability to shrug off challenges
are all positive traits I have noticed in more experienced athletes.