Getting gold doesn't have to mean getting slow! Here's how to optimise training for older athletes!
3. Aerobic Declines
Unfortunately, as we age our bodies lose the ability to use oxygen as effectively as when we were living in a share house with four other people and living on two-minute noodles. For the layperson, VO2 max, or maximal oxygen uptake can decline by as much as 10% per decade after the age of 30, but with training that number can lessened to a 5% loss/decade . This is, in part because of the reduction in maximal heart rate and stroke volume of the heart as we age.
Thankfully, cycling is a largely aerobic sport and by getting out on the bike you are already ahead of the bell curve of aerobic decline. However by incorporating short, hard efforts like VO2 based training or HIIT as well as endurance rides you are really giving yourself the best shot at maintaining that vital aerobic capacity that is so integral to mountain biking success!
4. Fitting it all in
Here it is, the elephant in the room of training masters athletes: time (or lack of it). Though they may be through the other end of that tough career-building stage, and through the pitfalls and perils of the baby stage of parenting, most masters athletes still have a whole host of responsibilities to work around. I like to call this ‘life’.
Fear not! There are many ways to make a busy calendar compatible with training aspirations!
-Embrace the commute. If you are within a reasonable distance there’s no better way to optimise your fitness by involving a commute to and from work. Rather than just trundle along, a short commute is a great time to introduce some sprints, short and hard efforts or even just a time-trial one way, with the return journey (or vice versa) a recovery ride.
-Get in the shed and embrace the trainer. The training gains from a short HIIT or VO2-based session can be enormous from a session as short as 40 minutes! While it does take a whole lot of motivation to train inside, it’s never been a better time to embrace trainer life, with the advent of trainer apps including Zwift and TrainerRoad.
-Emphasise quality over quantity. Many masters riders will avoid the ‘hard’ work of high intensity work, instead focusing on endurance. But this ‘hard’ training is central to slowing the physical decline of age, plus is an efficient way to get good bang-for-buck for the time-strapped athlete
-Give and take. Your loved ones are much more likely to be supportive of your mountain biking passion if you can work it into every day life, and this may mean forfeiting the two 4 hour sessions you had planned with your mates on the weekend for a single long ride and potentially a short stint in the shed, or family ride on the trails. As much as scheduling training time is important, remember that emphasis on recovery and balance is key for the masters athlete, and as a plus will buy some brownie points when needed.
If you are a masters rider, there is no denying that there are some physical declines that occur with each lap around the sun. However, by looking at the key physiological changes and mitigating by implementing strength training, increasing the emphasis on recovery protocols, an emphasis on aerobic fitness and work-life balance, there is no reason why you can't continue to ride and race at a cracking pace throughout the decades.