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How Can I Combat Poor Recovery?

Road bike rider logoQuestion:  I’m 57 and each year find it more difficult to recover. I used to do three or four hard workouts in a row, but now it takes me at least 48 hours to feel lively again. Stage races or week-long tours are tough. It’s not just my legs — my whole body seems to be affected because I lack energy for daily tasks for a frighteningly long time after I ride hard. I know I can’t turn back the clock, but are there any remedies for this depressing state of affairs? Sally J.

Coach Fred Matheny:  I can sympathize because I recently turned 66. I’m having the same sensations. The most telling sign you mentioned is systemic fatigue. It isn’t just the legs anymore.

But even though we’re racing in the Jurassic category, there are some remedies. They won’t make us young, but they’ll allow us to ride harder and longer more frequently.

Quality rest.  Get more sleep than you did when you were younger. Try to take a daily nap. Never stand when you can sit, and never sit when you can lie down. Do only one or two intense workouts each week. Take at least one and probably two rest days each week. Periodize your training so you work hard for three weeks, then do a week of much easier training. Include at least one month of reduced training into your yearly schedule.

Hydrate.  As we get older, our ability to recognize thirst decreases. Keep a bottle of water on your desk at work and nip at it frequently. Carry plenty of water or sports drinks on each ride. Hydrate fully afterwards.

Eat enough of the right foods.  Many cases of reduced recovery can be traced to under-nutrition. Eat sufficient carbohydrate to fuel your training, and allow enough extra for glycogen replenishment.

Lift weights.  As we age, we lose muscle volume. As a result, it takes more effort to produce a given amount of power, and the increased effort requires more recovery time. Resistance training helps older riders maintain muscle strength and volume.

During more than 30 years in cycling journalism, Fred Matheny has written hundreds of fitness & training articles for top bike magazines and websites. Many of his best eBooks and eArticles are on sale in the RBR eBookstore. As a rider, he has raced to medals in state and national championships, plus a senior world record in the Team Race Across America. As a coach, he has worked with hundreds of riders at PAC Tour Training Camps, Carpenter/Phinney Bike Camps, and Dirt Camp.


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