Can TR help a little more by addressing the needs of "older" althletes

Hi … I posted this as a comment/question for debate or maybe the podcast on the Facebook “Ask a ….” site and several good people suggested it worthwhile maybe posting it here as there tends to be a better interaction regarding such posts here (not that the comments weren´t useful or interesting there). A couple of people did take exception to one comment, but I think since the original clearly wasn’t meant as any slight of offense intended I´m gonna let it stand as it was.

Hi …Hope you´ll indulge me the long post. As a long term TR user of at least 3-4 years I´d like to raise my one (hopefully constructive) criticism of TR. Thats is, as an older athlete, I´d like to hear a little bit more to help some of us older athletes.

The programme is, as Jonathon says, aimed “at making you a faster cyclist”. But what about those amongst us who are older athletes who are trying to “remain a faster (relatively!) cyclist”? I´ve found over the years as much as I´ve enjoyed the blogs and podcast, for the most part it´s aimed at those trying to “get faster” and not so much at how to “remain fast”. As my experience with the program has grown, I´ve come to realise that there´s a little gap in the information available for us older athletes, and that there´s often a little bit of flexibility required to get through blocs, especially for example in the 3rd week of build phases and so on.

To provide a little context, (hopefully without being egocentric!), my details are as follows. I´m 56, 180 and (when in good shape), about 80kg´s. Over the past few years testing has given me a FTP of something between 280 and 300, with a high last year of about 315. It´s quite normal for me to be able to do a ride of 4-5 hours of 120-140km with say 1500mtrs of climbing with a (NP)power of something around the 200 mark, so it´s fair to say (I think) that although I´ve lost some of the top end “sprint” I once had, I´ve become a fairly efficient diesel. My best outdoor ride of late was probably last years Tour of Flanders at 176km at just under 7 hours and an np of 223. (These are measurments with Garmin vectors, not Strava estimates) I’ve been riding about 30 years, and, as is fairly typical of many my age came to cycling through the MTB boom of the late 80´s and early 90´s, then progressed to road, racing (mostly club and metro crits), then as a young family came along drifting off to tt´s, being somewhat scared off by seeing someone carted off to hospital every weekend as a result of over zealous newbies sprinting for 15th place, figuring at least if I binned it doing tt´s i had no one else to blame other than myself. As an ex pat English Aussie now living in Germany I often do a very full Spring classics program having done all the Spring Sportives numerous times over.

In the summer I tend to enjoy the weather more and whilst trying to do a couple of indoor short intensity rides following a plan, I like to do longer rides of about 4 hours (I don´t usually bother getting out for under that), usually around the 70% intensity mark. My training in winter is mostly in the cellar where I have a Wattbike Pro which is practically a 2nd bike, and the gym. Unless it´s for “headspace”, riding indoors during the bad weather brings me more “bang for buck” and, with a young family, time. It´s not a question of being “hard” as I´ve done more than my share of 0`temp rides here, but I´ve seen friends go down on black ice and you´re frequently being so careful you don´t actually achieve very much in terms of fitness.

Of course, I fully realise that most of the tenants that Coach Chad and Co are recommending are just as relevant to us as older athletes as younger ones… patience, being honest with yourself, objective and so on. But what do they, or anyone else out there recommend or do to maintain a long and healthy athletic life? I hope to be able to someone ride Flanders or Roubaix with our youngest son Ziggy when he´s old enough (he´s currently 9), as he has begun riding and racing MTB´s in a local club. Could Chad or anyone else recommend any other things or dedicate some section of a future podcast to help pursue this? Amongst other things I´ve also found the following things to consider -

  1. Gym strength work is CRUCIAL. There´s no way you´ll retain power and muscle strength to maintain ftp without it. Gym twice a week is as much a priority as the TR program. (and who wants the bone density of a 65 year woman anyway?). This is not “gym bunny poseur” stuff but functional strength, particularly squats and so on. There´s no doubt in my mind that I sit better on the bike and can push out more power when doing consistent gym work. (A protein drink after gym or a long ride or intense ride is also a help).

  2. Stretching has always helped me as well, also heling to avoid injury.

  3. Recovery…the important one. Sleep, sleep, power naps… as Indurain once remarked when asked what was his favourite hobby, he replied succinctly - “sleep”!.

  4. This is the “interesting bit”. When it comes to the TR program, I´ve found it necessary to be flexible and intelligent about the programme, particularly in the hard3rd weeks of “build stages”. I´ve found that sometimes it´s usually quite possible to complete the programmes rides when fresh, but have sometimes struggled with consistancy in that last week. I´ve come to see a tactic to deal with this is to try whenever possible to maybe do a “-” version, to attain the intensity but perhaps justnot so long a duration. Importantly, I think as an older athlete, I´ve come to believe that winding down the intensity just a touch (in terms of time at that intensity, NOT the actual intensity itself), is a good tactic to help cope with that. Would it perhaps be better to pull the recovery week forward?

  5. I haven´t (and don´t ever intend to) try “fasted training”. A) I´m too old and not serious enough to try that sh*t and inflict the pain and psycological trauma from both a mental and physical safety aspect of family life!:grimacing: I simply don´t figure it worth it unless you´re at the absolute last 2-5% of your capabilities and lets be honest - how many of us out there are anywhere near that point in reality?

  6. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly. At this age, we are, regrettably and obviously “getting older”. Yes, I hate it too. But remember (and I´ll be the first to admit i haven´t always), your health is primary. Contrary to what some of my friends might believe, I have no intention of dying whilst on the road. So get a regular heart check. You never know what´s around the corner, and there´s nothing to be gained by being wilfully ignorant. Your family will (hopefully) thank you for it.

Interested to hear any constructive commentary, and would really appreciate some podcast chat on the subject.

Cheers, Lee.

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Not much to add here but maybe a thought. Should TR have a Masters focused podcast along with the others they are currently producing?

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Maybe not necessarily a master, but maintenance program for anyone.
Some people are perfectly fine where they are and do not wish to get necessarily faster, but they do want to keep the machine in shape.
Maybe the person is trying of the grind and just want to keep certain level to avoid gaining weight.

I think there are multiple cases where this would be useful

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Hi Lee,

Good post, the concept of adding in some masters level training has been bounced around quite a bit. You will see some posts where people have been making their own 2 week on/1 week recovery plans to help add in a bit of recovery. I also would like to see some more masters focused material.

Mike

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See the “Maintenance” section at the top of this page in the Specialty Phase plans:

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I would agree with this. Or even a “prep” program for more serious training.

I’ve been focused on weightloss for a few weeks and given the caloric deficit I need, running a traditional TR program would be killer. I’ve opted for a polarized approach stressing daily rides but not too intense.

I think a plan option around this would be extremely beneficial. That said, this is all beginner level stuff and kinda outside of the general statement of TR to “make you a faster cyclist”

Edit: Thanks Chad for the link. That said, I think it needs to be made more clear that “maintenance” is an option outside of the specialty phase

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That’s not quite what I was getting at as I´m certainly not tiring of the grind. I´m under no illusion that past a certain point it becomes harder to simply maintain a good level of fitness at a higher level. It´s not that I´m looking for shortcuts or maintenance but how to best and most intelligently get the most bang for buck in terms of balancing intensity, recovering and so on.

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Great post. We have similar history and age. Generally I have found:

  1. Being lean (shift in lifestyle)…
  2. Long rides and in general more volume…
  3. Reducing the number of intense days per week…

Have kept power metrics the same as 20 years ago. The thing that has changed is hard to describe but, it’s related to the reduction in max HR ceiling. While I can throttle the short power I can’t do it as long maybe as many times. Matches have dropped so-to-speak.

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  • I tend to agree. I think TR (and users) would benefit if they broke the Enthusiast Plans into their own page, even with the Base, Build and Specialty Phases.

  • These get overlooked frequently and I end up sharing the links to people who have never entered the Specialty section, assuming it didn’t apply to them. Thoughts, @Bryce?

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Well OP I’ve five on you, five more years and five more kilos :rofl:

Among the various threads about age and training I’m sure I’ve seen that TR are looking at adding options to Plan Builder so rest weeks are more frequent, i.e. 2:1 or even 1:1 should you wish. You can do it yourself by shifting the plan forward a week then copying in a rest week to the newly empty week (use the three dots menu to the right of each week in the Calendar). I’ll do this on an ad-hoc basis if I’ve had a hard week at work (I do a physical job).

I made a suggestion a while ago about having +1, -1, -2, etc. versions of the various plans so if you were struggling with the standard option you could ease off a bit but still have a valid progressive plan to follow. At the moment you can select the variants on a workout by workout basis.

That combined with being able to insert extra rest/recovery weeks should be enough to handle things. Ideally of course it would be part of the Plan Builder wizard but it’s doable now by hand, just a bit of faff.

I really need to do specific gym work, a bit awkward at the moment as gyms aren’t classed as essential businesses here in the UK. I’ve some dumbbells but no bar so slightly restricted in what I can do.

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Ok.
You are looking more of a plan that maybe address the reality that age will affect recovery and other things. But you still want to hit it hard, but not to the point of over training.
Did i get it right this time?

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We all know TR’s goal, make you a faster cyclist. In business there is a saying do one thing right and do it well. TR can’t cater to 900 different groups and price structures. I am not trying to be snarky. It is very difficult for a business to cater to everyone at some point the business loses focus and dies out. I will agree that TR could have a few more “plans”, ie masters.

There is a really good book called Faster After 50, by Joe Friel you should read. He goes into strength training, maintaining, etc.

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A Masters focused podcast is a great idea.

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I agree with the price structure, disagree with the groups.

You can have a plan builder that would address most of the groups.
People need different things, and i think TR have enough wo on its system to address the need of most people, including older people.

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Yeah pretty much. I certainly don´t have any problem doing the “hard” sessions (in fact I did a +1 Bluebell yesterday) and have just got home from a 110km flat-ish ride. So I don´t mind doing the work and in fact often enjoy the indoor sessions. But as I´ve gone on I´ve noticed a definite theme that there´s only so many of those top end sessions I can manage in a bloc. Contrary to what is sometimes said about the needs for interval sessions (which I agree are necessary) I´ve found this year having a little more time to string together some longer, less intense rides has, far from leaving me tired and worn out, given me a boost in fitness I think.

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Masters plans are long overdue.

I’m relative new to cycling, and agree with all the points. I feel best when training weeks are around 500-600 TSS (a little less during builds), however the TR Mid Volume plans don’t work because there are:

  • too many hard days
  • too many intervals

Because of that, I don’t get enough recovery. Switching to low volume means I have to come up with my own progressions - imagine paying a coach and they say “here are three hard days, go figure out the rest of the week yourself.” That might sound a little harsh, but its not far off the mark.

Honestly the plans look good if I was in my 20s or 30s, but I’m in my 50s and they are inappropriate. I’ve posted that on other threads, most recently in response to a questions from TR’s Bryce.

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Here is an existing thread, asking for more masters age info on the cast:

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Interesting. One tactic I do and have the chats helpful in the podcasts regarding the ramp test is to most definitely not be so obsessive in going all out to attain as high a number as possible… espresso, early night, absolutely burying myself etc. Yes, I know! …it´s ridiculous, but lets be honest we´ve all done it! :smile: So now, whilst I do work very hard, I´ve found a much more worthwhile tactic in the long run is to cut it just that tiny bit short, with the subsequent knowledge that the following workouts will be far more achievable and hopefully consistant, which is obviously a good thing both physically and mentally.

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True, except that Masters athletes are a significant portion of TR’s current subscriber base and a growing portion of the cycling training market. Every single current subscriber will end up being a Masters athlete at some point. We’re not talking 900 more groups, we’re talking about one giant hole in TR’s product line and one that is only growing with time.

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That is an alternate to the “I ramp test too high… so I adjust my final FTP down…” topics we see frequently here.

It’s all adjustments, that can and should be reviewed by each rider, each time they test (regardless of the test). It’s likely better to nail workouts with an FTP a touch low vs a touch high. But there are several threads on that topic as well.

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