There appears to be a recurring theme developing on this blog at the moment – whingeing about lack of form and lack of progress. The wet winter certainly hasn’t helped. I’ve never been one for cycling in the rain. I don’t mind it starting to rain once I’ve set out but I always hate leaving home when it’s actually raining already. Looking through the diary, this has meant a fair amount of turbo work and a couple of shortish rides during the week. I’m still managing over 4 hours a week on the bike, but for whatever reason I don’t seem to be making progress and every ride is a bit of a struggle.
I recognised this a while back and decided I needed to change things a bit. I could feel my achilles starting to hurt again while running and I seemed to be getting more aches and pains than usual. I have put this down to the ageing process so I looked into this a little. For athletes over 50 the main issues appear to be:
- increasing muscles loss
- decreasing bone density
- susceptibility to injury
- susceptibility to weight gain
- susceptibility to train for endurance rather than intensity
All of these I recognise in myself. I have never been a gym rat, but it seems that the best way to combat the challenge that ageing presents is to do some gym work and to increase the intensity, not duration, of workouts. It’s well established by science that even really old athletes can stimulate bone growth and muscle growth if they do the right exercises so it’s really important to take your body out of the comfort zone of long steady-state bike rides and long slow runs. The problem for me is that to increase the intensity of my running, in particular is to surely provoke injury. So, for the last 4 weeks I have introduced a weekly gym session to my training. It looks like this:
- 30 mins plyometrics*. For want of a better phrase, this means bouncing, hopping from foot to foot and so on. The increased impact and rebound builds strength, stimulates bone growth and stabilises all those injury prone joints such as knees and ankles. In 4 weeks I have noticed a huge improvement in my ankle.
- 30 mins core strength. Lots of planks, crunches, back raises etc. This has resolved the lower back pain that has been bothering me at night (here’s my plank routine)
- 30 mins weights. I’m doing a pretty simple traditional set including chest press, lat pull down, thigh squats and extensions. My right shoulder niggle from driving has gone and my knees feel hugely stronger as a result.
After 4 weeks of doing this routine I feel stronger and much healthier than before: no aching knees going up and down stairs and so on, but it hasn’t really translated yet into performance on the bike. So the next step is to introduce intensity to running and cycling through reps and hill efforts. Lovely.
The excellent Joe Friel has written a very good summary of the impact of ageing on an athlete.
*A search of Youtube will find no end of different videos showing plyometric routines, however the combination of speed, impact and rebound means that these are tough workouts where the potential of injury is high. I would recommend talking to a coach about introducing such routines before implementing them. In my case I spoke to Richard Mason who tailored a routine for me and took me through it prior to me incorporating it into my training.