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Midlife Cycling – boost your performance



midlife cycling with PerformancePro

Midlife cycling is more than a passing trend.  More and more of us are finding the time and drive to pursue our cycling ambitions into our forties, fifties and beyond. A whole industry has developed around midlife cycling, with equipment and advice at every turn.

PerformancePro is THE go to place for sound, professional advice on how to look after yourself and optimise your midlife cycling performance. We pride ourselves on both our own knowledge and expertise AND on the partnerships we forge with others.

Midlife Cycling with PerformancePro and Cyclefit

In this Midlife Cycling insight, we bring you the highlights of a sports science and cycling performance lecture programme, curated by our friends and partners at Cyclefit. The central theme of the lecture series was to recognise the first cohort to try and pursue performance into and beyond middle-age (in sufficient numbers to be statistically significant). To add to the debate, the team at Cyclefit invited a mix of high level speakers from diverse fields including cardiology, sports science and sports performance coaching.

PerformancePro director, Anthony Purcell, and our head of education, Alex Adams, were part of the team of experts invited to take part. Others included Dr Dave Hulse, Dr Nigel Stephens and Cyclefit co-founder Julian Wall, all of whom are also PerformancePro clients.

So read on, you’ll be in good company!

Midlife Cycling – Stronger, Faster, Older

PerformancePro’s Anthony and Alex were tasked with discussing how strength and conditioning changes over time and to recommend how best to train. To put theory into practice, we then created a series of short videos to help people get started with their own midlife cycling training.

For any cyclist, strength and conditioning is recommended to work on the areas that competitive cycling can neglect eg. flexibility, core-strength and upper-body conditioning.

As we hit middle age, strength and muscle loss starts to accelerate. So for midlife cycling and beyond, we need to focus on maintaining and enhancing strength of the remaining muscle condition. This helps preserve performance. Super low rep ranges are often better at achieving this. So one of the best ways to maintain watts, or even achieve extra watts, is to substitute bike sessions for focused gym/power sessions.

Let’s look at the sports science behind what’s needed for cycle performance. 

The power behind cycle performance

Cycling relies on power coming from both the hip and knee (even a little from the ankle). Each joint extends and flexes against the resistance provided by our pedals. This in turn is determined by the weight of ourselves and bike, plus whatever gearing ratio we’ve selected. The more force we can extend and flex with, the faster we go. Our goal therefore, is to enhance our ability to produce power.

If you are new to strength training, the following exercises are a great entry level to strengthening the hip muscles and core. Our core is essential in providing a stable base for us to push off and through, transferring more force to the bike and wasting less energy.

If you’ve been strength training for a while, these drills will make a great addition to your warm up or to be used as a circuit for endurance at the end of a strength session. Whatever your level, all cyclists benefit from incorporating these three movements in your cycle performance training.

Lateral band walks

Works on active glut contraction. Harder than it appears to do properly. Glut contraction is the holy grail in cycling. This is a perfect exercise for cyclists to wake up the biggest group of muscles in your body.

Banded hip bridge

Excellent for co-contraction of gluts and core – especially good for cyclists as it reinforces the perfect pedal stoke muscle firing pattern and power application

Anti rotation planks

Superb for both upper body and core strength. Be warned if you have a pre-existing back issue.

Cycle performance – the recovery

As cyclists, we tend to get tight and sore in the same places. It is largely and seated sport after all!

Our upper backs can get stiff and cause problems for our neck and shoulders. Our hip flexors and quads (front thigh muscles) get loads of work and often tighten up as a result. This can be problematic for our lower back and hamstrings which then have to pick up the slack, quite literally.

The muscles that control our knee alignment and help extend the hip – our glutes – can also become excessively short if we let them. This can add to our lower back troubles.

The good news is there are plenty of things we can do proactively to prevent this from happening or correct muscles that have already tightened up.

Try adding these three stretches to your recovery days or the end of a long ride:

Thoracic spine rotations

Cyclists tend to load tension into the thoracic area. All those thousands of miles locked into the machine with little twisting and mobilisation. Plus a slouched position (posterior pelvis rotation) will further load the spine further up

Hip flexor stretch

Cyclists have a tendency to exert shortening and tightening forces on the hip-flexors as a result of:

  • Poor cycling posture
  • Poor pedalling technique (too much pulling up on the pedals)
  • Sub-optimal bike-set up
  • Incorrect crank length
  • Poor foot control

This stretch will help re-lengthen the hip-flexor group of muscles. Make sure you also address underlying cause!

Hamstring stretch (Band Assisted)

The look on Anthony’s face in this one says it all! Short or tight hamstrings can drag the pelvis back out of neutral. This will inhibit glut and core muscle contraction. If you had to pick one exercise it might well be this one!

This video series does not replace the intensity of a one-to-one with PerformancePro but it is a great first step.

Your Cycle Performance Training

Are you inspired to take your own cycling performance up a gear? In addition to the 6 tips above, here’s how to make the most of both PerformancePro between now and the end of September 2019:

Sign up for PerformancePro Cycling Training and enjoy complementary Functional Training Power (FTP) Test and Power Profile as part of your programme. Simply mention Perfect Fit when you book your initial consultation.

Photo credit – PerformancePro’s Anthony Purcell and Alex Adams lecture as part of Cyclefit’s Midlife Cyclist Series. Courtesy of Cyclefit.

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