Endurance Cycling and Strength Training Over 40 years old.

Michelle demonstrates a Hamstring Exercise using a Fit Ball


I've been a cyclist for the better part of 30 years. Road and mountain, long and short. I love it and will always try to ride for as long as I live. But... I  have also been doing strength training in a gym setting for about 35 years. I love it, too and always have, even when it wasn't fashionable or considered something that cyclists should do.

Strength training of some sort has improved my life by giving me more strength,  preventing injury, keeping me mentally focused, and giving me the extra energy to do all of the activities- skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, and yes, cycling.  A life long regimen of strength training improved my 20 year racing career and helped make it possible to race at such a high level of competition(pro field) into my 40s.  Lifting weights and using weight machines has, especially, helped me keep lean and fit as I head  into my 50s.  There's not a good reason to skip strength training as part of your weekly activities after you have been cleared by your health care professional.

It’s not enough to do aerobic activities without adding in several weekly sessions of strength training, (science and research proves this). You need to specifically work muscle to build muscle. Although, it is important to have cardiovascular activities in our lives, strength training and resistance exercises are likely more important. 

Through some sort of resistance training or training in a weight room, we (men and women) can increase strength per pound of body mass and lean muscle mass. This is called strength-to-weight ratio. The decline in muscle gets worse as we age because we lose the very hormones that help us develop muscle and for women, it's worse. We have to keep working out muscles in order not to lose our muscles. Get into a gym or figure out a way to do resistance workouts at home. Once a week IS NOT ENOUGH! You need to follow a plan 3-4 x per week. You also need to increase your load/resistance systematically each week. Remember: Stress + recovery = adaptation. Once your body gets used to a certain workout, change it. Change the pattern.

First hand learning experiences teach us a lot. Three years ago I was riding my bike when the driver of a large truck hit me. At first I thought it wasn’t “that bad” of an accident. What I didn’t realize was that I had very severe PTSD and something the doctors call poly trauma injuries; injuries from head to toe.  My multiple injuries were not going to heal without multiple surgeries, nor without having been very fit and strong to start with. You see, I had a good amount of muscle on my body from continuous resistance training and not just riding my bike.  It wasn’t just my leg muscles that were fit from riding and hiking and skiing. I used resistance workouts to make my back, arms, shoulders, and deep abdominal muscles strong. I did twisting exercises, lifting, reaching, and more. Through my resistance training I wanted to make sure if I had a fall doing the things I do in my every day aerobic activities,  I would have balance, fitness, and strength to prevent injury. These resistance and strengthening workouts are likely what saved me from life threatening injuries during the accident. It was the discipline of my life-long lifting and sports that gave me the strength and stamina to persevere the aftermath of the trauma and months of healing and rehab. My muscles had memory. They knew how to rebuild. This is why resistance training is a lifelong endeavor.
Cross Training on the Mountain BIke
Use it or lose it:
 Facing multiple surgeries and recoveries in a short amount of time meant a lot of down time from any activities. I knew I would loose a lot of muscle, tendon, and ligament strength, and I would need to know how to rebuild all of what I was going to lose.  Thankfully, it is a big part of what I do in my regular life and I didn’t have to start learning new exercises- I already new how to build strength.

Three years later, I’m convinced, as are my doctors, that I was able to come back, repeatedly,
from so many surgeries because of the muscular fitness and muscle strength I had prior to the accident. Every time I had a surgery, I lost massive amounts of muscle within two-three weeks.   

Quickly loosing muscle mass is a sad fact of getting older not just from a long term lay off.  We lose muscle at a very rapid rate when we don’t continuously use it. The older we get the more we lose muscle and the harder it is to put back on. Starting out with a certain amount of muscle and having muscle memory with help you keep it that much longer.

If you can't go to a gym,  use therapy bands and dumb bells to work out at home.There are many exercises you can do at home.

You may not go through what I went through but we all take falls. We’re active and we need to stay this way, especially making sure we keep our muscles strong.

I'll get another post out about what types of things we can all do both in and out of the gym. Stay tuned and keep up the good work!