Anti-Aging: 8 Exercise Mistakes Older Riders Make



You’re a cyclist in your 50s and older. Your goals are to be a good cyclist, healthy and fit for many years to come. To reach your goals, knowing what not to do is as important as knowing what to do.


1. Ignoring the training paradigm 

Training stress (physiological overload) + rest = success (improvement). As you adapt to your riding or other workload you’ll plateau unless you increase the workload. And if you don’t allow sufficient recovery you won’t improve.  See #6 below.


2. Mindset

Riders often believe they should ride a certain number of miles a week, set a goal of riding at least 30 minutes every day of the week, etc. Physiologically riding a lot of miles won’t hurt you as I explain in this column Anti-Aging Can You Ride too Much? However, riding X miles a week or Y days every week may have unintended consequences. You get fitter by stressing your body to do more than it’s accustomed to doing and then allowing it to recover. Riding stress is only one of many kinds of stress in your life. The various stresses may compound to create physical and/or psychological problems as I explain in this column Anti-Aging Too Much Stress Can Shorten Your Life. The unexpected happens in life! And you need to be flexible to accommodate these events.


3. Doing too much

My new clients come with preconceptions about training. Most of them think they should train more than they need to in order to improve. Beyond a certain volume doing more riding doesn’t make you better, although it isn’t harmful as explained above. How much exercise is too much is very individual. Basically if you’ve stopped improving then doing more won’t make you any better. However, you enjoy riding and it’s fine to ride more – just don’t expect improvement.


4. Riding the same way all the time

The first part of the training paradigm is physiological overload. If you faithfully ride 50 miles every week you’ll be proficient at riding 50 miles but won’t improve. If you always ride at 14 mph you’ll be comfortable cruising at 14 mph but you won’t get any faster. To improve your endurance you need to ride more than 50 miles some weeks (but not every week). To get faster you need to ride faster some of the time. Not most of the time — 10 to 20% of your riding time is sufficient. More fast riding won’t make you faster and may result in overtraining. I wrote this column Six Kinds of Intensity Training and explain how to decide which kind(s) of intensity are right for you. 


5. Neglecting non-cycling activities

As you age your body deteriorates in various ways unless you take corrective action in all of these areas:

  • Muscle strength
  • Flexibility
  • Balance
  • Strong bones

#2 and #3 above often don’t leave you enough time also to work out in these important areas. My eBook Anti-Aging 12 Ways You Can Slow the Aging Process includes programs to improve your endurance, enhance your power and speed, develop your muscle strength, increase your flexibility, improve your balance and strengthen your bones. 


6. Insufficient recovery

Your body only rebuilds and gets stronger during recovery, not while you’re exercising. I wrote this column on Anti-Aging The Importance of Recovery in Your 50s, 60s and Beyond. In the column I give you nine recovery tips.


7. Fads

You read about the benefits High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and it doesn’t take much time. Your buddy recommends a phenomenal spinning class. You find an 8-week plan to cycling fitness. We’re each an experiment of one. Rather than immediately adopting a program – even one I recommend – think about whether the program is optimal for the unique you. Then try it out and see if it helps. And if it doesn’t help or worsens your performance then stop! Some discomfort is part of getting fitter but if you hate a specific activity then it’s not the right one for you.


8. Nutrition before, during and after

When you exercise you burn a combination of fat — we all have enough — and glucose. Your body stores glucose as glycogen, which comes from carbs. We have limited stores of glycogen and can run out of fuel (glucose) during a multi-hour ride. Before you exercise eat a snack of about 100 calories of carbohydrates. If you’re exercising more than an hour the American College of Sports Medicine recommends consuming 100 to 200 calories of carbs per hour depending on your body size and how hard you’re exercising. After exercising eat another snack of at least 100 calories of carbs. If you’ve gone for a multi-hour ride eat more after the ride.

The bottom line is to listen to your unique body.


This article is by the highly regarded Coach John Hughes, who has written extensively about bicycle training including nutrition, conditioning, slowing the aging process and otherwise keeping fit. Among his personal accomplishments in endurance racing, John set the course records for the Furnace Creek 508 in 1989 and Boston-Montreal-Boston in 1992. He has been a USA Cycling certified coach since ’96, and has lectured on endurance at numerous events. John has coached CRW members and has earned high praise for increasing their fitness in preparing for ultra-endurance cycling events and facilitating recovery after major surgery. 


More Information


My column Improving Your Athletic Maturity describes five ways that you can improve your athletic maturity starting this fall.

My eBook Anti-Aging: 12 Ways You Can Slow the Aging Process incorporates the latest research and most of it is new material not published in my previous eArticles on cycling past 50, 60 and beyond. It includes columns by John Lee Ellis, Elizabeth Wicks, Jim Langley, Fred Matheny, Gabe Mirkin and seven other older riders.

This article appeared in Road Bike Rider Anti-Aging: 8 Exercise Mistakes Older Riders Make - Road Bike Rider Cycling Site