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Cycling Through The Ages: Your 50s and beyond…

| Blog, Cycling Plus, Features | 18/04/2013 09:00am

In the last of our series on maximising your riding whatever your age we look at cycling into your 50s and beyond…

In your 50s you should be focusing on club riding and shorter sportives

Your climbing and finishing prowess might not be what it was, but distance (and persistence) could be your joker. Dr Simon Jobson, sports scientist at the University of Kent, says the body seems to compensate for some shortfalls relating to the ageing process. “Leg bloodflow in middle-aged athletes has been shown to be around 10-15 per cent lower than in younger athletes,” he says, “but new research shows this reduction might be compensated by an increased ability to extract oxygen at the muscle site. And while your heart can’t pump as fast, it can maintain stroke volume by increasing cardiac filling.” Translation: you’re getting the same oxygen delivery system you did before, but in a different way.

Older athletes may also have greater fatigue resistance, says Jobson. “Consistent and regular training does seem to provide fitness benefits which can continue well into the 50s, which can counter the inevitable decline in muscle mass with age,” he adds.

Your bones are still moving targets during this decade. Testosterone levels and bone density decrease 0.4-0.75 per cent annually from age 45. By age 80, men (and women) have lost 20 per cent of their bone mass. But cycling could be the perfect antidote.

“Osteoporosis isn’t exclusively about the quality of bone,” says says Carlton Cooke Carnegie Professor of Sport and Exercise at Leeds Metropolitan University, “it’s also about the quality of muscle surrounding the bone. If your muscles are built up you’re less likely to fall and break a bone, no matter what state it’s in. The fact of the matter is that you will have accidents if you ride regularly, and you’ll get back to cycling in half the time if you maintain muscle and bone strength.”

You might still have the mental strength to push on through, but you need the fuel to get there, and even a mild iron deficiency can have a negative impact on your stamina.

“It’s a vital mineral used in the transport of oxygen,” says Claire Lane, exercise physiologist at Bath University. “The longer you exercise, the higher the rate of red blood cell production and the greater the need for iron.” Don’t limit calorie intake while upping any training regime, as this will severely restrict iron intake.

Matt Rabin, nutritional advisor to Team Garmin-Sharp also advises any cyclists over 50 to take the antioxidant Coenzyme Q10, which he says may improve energy levels, improve flexibility and general vitality. “It’s much easier to stay healthy than it is to recover from injuries,” he says, “especially as you age.”

Nerve conduction and reflexes slow down as we age, and for older athletes this can translate to deteriorating balance and accidents, says Dr Mark Hamer, exercise physiologist at University College London

Pilates, the Alexander Technique and yoga can work wonders in training and maintaining the neural system, he says. “Work on your proprioception – your ability to know where your limbs are without looking – by standing on one foot with your eyes closed and doing slow single-leg squats and toe-touches.” Core work will help shore up the muscular corset responsible for keeping your back in position as you age.

“Whatever you do, don’t slow down your pedal cadence,” says Andy Wadsworth, director of My Life PT. “People in their 50s think riding in bigger gears will take the strain off their hearts, which is true, but you’ll be putting extra strain on the joints and ligaments and in turn your back, so keep cadence around 80-90rpm.”

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This entry was posted on Thursday, April 18th, 2013 at 9:00 am and is filed under Blog, Cycling Plus, Features. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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