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Age Is No Barrier: Training Elizabeth

By Coach John Hughes

Road bike rider logoWhat do you do when you are 69 years old and hold the women’s age 65-to-69 record of 169 miles in the Calvin’s Challenge 12-hour race? Set a goal of at least 180 miles in this year’s race on May 4!

My good friend and client Elizabeth Wicks has been an endurance cyclist for 20 years and likes to challenge herself. She lives in the central Massachussetts area just north of Worcester and has regularly ridden 200, 300, 400 and 600 km brevets (125, 188, 250 and 375 miles). In 2003 she completed the 1,200 km (750-mile) Paris-Brest-Paris.

Elizabeth got a new right hip in Oct 2010. She was diligent in her physical therapy and rode 3,000 miles in 2010, 3,800 in 2011 and 3,700 miles last year. Her goals include 5,000 miles this year and then 7,000 miles and seven events next year when she turns 70! Elizabeth works full-time with about a 20-minute commute by car. She gets up at 5 a.m. several days a week to train before work.

Elizabeth keeps a simple training log for each day, which includes:

  • time riding
  • miles ridden if outdoors
  • time strength training
  • time doing core exercises
  • time stretching

We started her preparation for Calvin’s by reviewing her training log from November 2012 until now. Having all this data is very beneficial — we can look at what she’s done so far this year and how it can be improved.

Since November 2012 she:

  • stayed active, averaging 5.5 hours a week of exercise
  • rode outdoors every week but two for a total of 57 hours, 33 minutes, and 793 miles of base training
  • did a long ride of at least two hours every weekend except two, building up to her first century on February 23.
  • rode a total of 30 hours, 27 minutes on the trainer
  • rode several days a week in a class that emphasized intensity in November and December. “I was really excited because I thought I’d get in good shape and meet new people. But by the end of December I was really having trouble doing what I was able to do in the beginning. I realized I was killing myself and totally worn out. So, I did what you taught me — if it isn’t working, stop.”
  • changed her workouts in January “to your overall prescription of one really, really hard workout (those intervals I love) with lots of recovery riding….I am having more fun riding.”
  • did the general strength, core strength and stretching routines I had taught her “but nowhere near as regularly as I should. But I have seen progress in flexibility and strength.”

Overall, Elizabeth has done an excellent job of building her aerobic endurance base, the key to a successful season and to her goal of 180 miles at Calvin’s. She has included plenty of active recovery, which is essential for older athletes.

We all do the activities we enjoy and tend to neglect the ones that aren’t as much fun. Elizabeth and I have discussed this, and her weekly program now includes:

  • one long ride
  • one trainer intensity workout
  • one trainer workout of drills for technique
  • two walks, a weight-bearing activity to maintain strong bones and also as active recovery
  • two general strength sessions to maintain muscle mass and as another weight-bearing activity
  • three core strength sessions
  • four stretching sessions
  • one day completely off

Next week Elizabeth will be at the PAC Tour Desert Camp, six days of riding in Arizona covering 500 miles with 18,400 feet of climbing. This week she is tapering so that she is fully rested for the big week. In future articles I’ll describe her training plan for camp and, in particular, her recovery techniques so that she has as much fun as possible and gets fitter in the process.

John Hughes earned coaching certifications from USA Cycling and the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He enjoys coaching riders with a variety of goals and fitness backgrounds. He writes for roadbikerider.com

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