By Coach John Hughes
RBR Reader Rob T. asks, “I was recently knocked off my bike by a driver going 55mph on a county road in Illinois that had no shoulder. Fortunately, no major damage to me or my bike or my two artificial hips, but I did fracture my greater trochanter bone in my left hip. I’ll be on crutches for the next two months and am allowed to put only 20-30 pounds of pressure on my left leg. I am concerned that I am going to lose all the conditioning I built up over the winter and early spring. I am wondering if you have any suggestions, or do I just suck it up and start at square one come mid-June? FWIW, I am 68 years old.”
Coach Hughes: Rob, I’m very sorry to hear about your accident — I’m glad you’re mostly okay! You have two artificial hips. Each you got one time you were less active than usual … and you came back.
I had hammer toe surgery in 2021, which consisted of straightening three toes and putting in pins to strengthen them. The surgeon insisted I mostly stay in bed for six weeks. She was concerned that any sort of activity might cause the pins to migrate out. I wrote this column about my experience:Anti-Aging: Regaining Fitness at Age 71 - Road Bike Rider Cycling Site
Residual fitness Your riding history is the biggest factor in how slowly you lose fitness and how rapidly you can recover the lost fitness. Specifically:
- Number of years you’ve been riding and engaging in other aerobic activities.
- How many miles you’ve been riding the past several years.
- Your typical long rides the past several years.
These relates to my concept of athletic maturity. This column explains how you can assess your athletic maturity and the following column explains how to improve your athletic maturity.
Six Success Factors
Success in athletics involves six factors, not just training. As we age we get a little slower. We can still ride very well – sometimes better than younger cyclists – if we pay attention to all six of the success factors. While you’re riding less use the opportunity to take a holistic look at how the success factors apply to your cycling.
1. Planning—self-assessment, goal setting and planning the season.
In The Cyclist’s Training Bible, Joe Friel wrote, “An athlete should do the least amount of properly timed, specific training that brings continual improvement.” In other words, just riding more miles doesn’t make you a better cyclist. Riding the right kinds of miles at the right times of the year is what counts. Use this time when you’re exercising less to think about your goals and priorities and then develop a plan to reach them. Create your plan so it starts today and addresses the all of the following success factors. The plan doesn’t have to be detailed – a very general plan is sufficient.
I wrote several columns about how to plan:
To aid your planning I suggest you get my 106-page eBook Anti-Aging: 12 Ways You Can Slow the Aging Process. It has chapter a moderate exercise to increase your aerobic and cardiovascular fitness and a chapter on high intensity exercise to achieve the same benefits. It has illustrated chapters on each of the other types of fitness recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine: strength, flexibility, balance and weight-bearing workouts.
2. Training—aerobic, strength and flexibility conditioning.
Cardiorespiratory fitness is lost a little more slowly than power and speed. Within about four to eight weeks of no training your body’s capacity to move blood to your muscles decreases. This happens in part because your blood volume decreases. The size of your heart muscle decreases and because it isn’t as strong it can’t pump as much blood per stroke. Because your heart can’t pump as much blood at submaximal intensities your heart rate is higher for a given workload. Here are some ways you can get cardio:
- Walking on crutches: After my hammer toe surgery I did laps on crutches up and down the hall of our condo complex. Why not outside? In the hallway I was never more than five minutes from the condo! Instead of doing one long walk, for example 30 minutes, you’ll get fitter if you do several shorter walks spaced throughout the day, for example three 15-minute walks.
- Running in the water: If you have access to a pool and the doctor says it’s okay you can walk or run in the water in the deep end, which uses your leg muscles a little more like riding.
- Swimming: Although it’s not similar to riding, swimming is also great cardio. Check with the doctor about whether kicking is okay. If kicking isn’t okay then start with a pull buoy and paddles so you’re just using your upper body.
When you can start riding I suggest you also swim because it’s more cardio without stressing your legs, especially your hip.
You can also work on three other important aspects of fitness:
3. Nutrition—nourishment daily nutrition and fuel during the ride and for recovery.
The quality of your nutrition has a great effect on your daily life and your longevity as well as on your riding. This is an opportunity to review your nutrition and make appropriate changes. I’ve written two related columns:
This 31-page eBook applies to every roadie from age 50 to 70 and beyond:
While you’re not riding it’s easy to put on some pounds. Although written about the holidays, this column applies to you:
4. Equipment—bike selection and fit, clothing, accessories and bike maintenance.
While you’re off the bike review all your equipment. Get your bike tuned up. Bike fit is dynamic. As you change your goals, or get a different bike, or get fitter, or lose flexibility, your correct bike fit changes. If you haven’t had a bike fit recently now’s the time to get one. You can get a bike fit sitting on your bike and gently spinning — check with your doctor it’s okay. Here’s my column on:
5. Mental skills—focusing and relaxation techniques and dealing with potential hard times during a ride.
Here’s where you and other older riders can develop a significant advantage over younger physiologically stronger riders! I wrote these columns:
Here’s a specific example of how my friend Eli used mental skills:
You learn mental skills just like you learn riding, through repeated practice of skills. I wrote this eBook as a guide to learning mental skills. The 17-page eBook has six progressive chapters, each with a specific skill to learn.
6. Technique – safety, riding efficiently, group riding and pacing during events.
There’s good news here. Once a skill is learned, it is never forgotten, especially if it is well learned. Even though it was the driver’s fault you were hit, review what happened and what you might have done differently. Here are two column including many contributions from RBR readers:
Anti-Aging: Riding Smarter as You Age part 2 - Road Bike Rider Cycling Site
My eBook Anti-Aging: 12 Ways You Can Slow the Aging Process has illustrated chapters on each of the types of fitness recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine: aerobic, high intensity, strength, flexibility, balance and weight-bearing workouts. Anti-Aging 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’s your comprehensive guide to continuing to ride well into your 80s and even your 90s.
The 106-page Anti-Aging: 12 Ways You Can Slow the Aging Process is $14.99.