Expectations After A 15-Year Layoff

Hey Everyone,

I have a question related to expectations for a 44-year-old who has been away from cycling (and all things athletic) for 10+ years.

A little background:

I stopped bicycle racing in early 2007 due to a nagging injury. As best I can recall, my FTP ranged from 335-350 or so (weight also ranged from 157-170). I had an SRM for years with reams of data and power files, but I was so frustrated by the injury, I got rid of it all!

Now at 44 years old, and after roughly 13 years away from the bike, I’ve started mountain biking. My previous injury doesn’t seem aggravated by the more upright position of modern mountain bikes. The full-suspension bike I have also helps.

Since August 2020, I’ve ridden about 1800 miles. This past week, I discovered TrainerRoad. Of course, the first thing I did was a ramp test. My current FTP is 250. My weight is currently 185.

I have two questions:

  1. Has anyone else returned to cycling after such a long layoff (10+ years)?
  2. Based on your experience, what should my expectations be with respect to regaining FTP watts?

Thanks in advance!

Ben

Hi Ben, I’ve been through that as well and I guess the answer is: it depends!

I stoped for 15 years and been inactive for almost 10 years (early careers, kids…), went over weight. My first year I did about 2000km starting in July, then 4000km, 10,000km and I just finished my 4th year. I still inprove, but I saw a big shift when I went back to 10,000km a year. Definitely the second year, I was still struggling in longer ride.

There was a few guys like me in the club and the view is that you need at leat a year to rebuild your fitness and comeback to previous level. It can take more time if you are slowly coming back like I did. This is also assuming you were inactive during that period.

So it depends the level of commitment you have. Regarding previous FTP, I guess age will come into play, and everybody is different. I guess that you would ultimately need to reach similar volume level that you did previously to match previous FTP.

Good luck, consistency and dedication!

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I did nearly the same 5-6 years ago.

I raced for 7 or 8 years in my 20s and early 30s and then hung it up after getting burnt out. For the rest of my 30s and 40s I rode on an off. A good year was 1500 miles. A bad year was a zero.

5 or 6 years ago I decided I wanted to seriously ride again. First it was lunch rides and mountain biking but it was a consistent 2000-2500 miles per week. A few years ago I decided I wanted to do group rides again and mix it up with the youngsters. It was a big jump to 6000 miles per year.

My biggest battle has been fatigue and recovery. I’d recommend as many base miles and long slow rides as you can do. Build up a deep, wide base of aerobic fitness. It took me about 8 or 9 months of riding around constantly tired or so exhausted that I was taking recovery weeks every other week to figure this out.

I don’t know what my FTP was when I was in my 20s because we didn’t have power meters but back then I was one of the top dogs in my local club. At 54 I’m never going to get back there. The top dogs are 20 or 30 years younger and I can’t catch up … ever. But I’ve found that I can still hold my own in a sprint with them. You are only 44 though so maybe you can get back a higher percentage of your younger self.

What I’ve found helps is asking what the goals are. First I wanted to get as fast as possible. That was kind of vague though. Then it was keep up or beat certain club mates on our Saturday group ride. Then it was do well in a certain fondo. I definitely decided that I would never race a crits again. Too risky for my tastes even though crits are what I was always good at.

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As you’re not new to cycling, with a degree of commitment, I can’t see why you wouldn’t be able to come close to your previous numbers. If you’re moving from the road to MTB, you might find that the steepest learning curve is bike handling and body positioning.

Purely anecdotal but, three of my road racing team mates are 50+. Yes, they all raced high level in their early years but I’ll be damned if age has made them any slower. They haven’t had 10+ years away from the bike but, I do think they show that age need not be the deciding factor.

Armed with current knowledge on nutrition and recovery, you could be flying in next to no time. Good luck :+1:

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Im pretty similar to you, stopped in 2006, started again in 2015, similar power numbers and weight back in the day…even had an SRM too. I was following pretty structured training back then and now, im 47 now. So basically Im now sitting at about 10% lower than what i used to be able to do for ftp, 5 min and 2 min power. Its amazingly consistent for all three. Recovery is definitely worse than before, vo2 efforts and above wear on me more than they use to.

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My experience with this has been surprisingly positive and I think a training history really benefits a return to the sport under some circumstances, as one might expect.

I started riding again when gyms closed this year due to COVID, like many. I had a ten year gap (age 23 -> 33) during which I did standard weight lifting and other non-aerobic sports to stay fit. No cycling but stayed active and maintained weight +10 lbs.

I was able to increase my training to my previous levels (700-1000 TSS) over 4 months and regained essentially 100% of my fitness (4.3 wt/kg) before plateauing, at 10% increase in stress per week with one recovery week at minus 30%. My limited experience with running/hiking/weight lifting shows me I am no savant of exercise recovery so I’m reasonably certain this would have wrecked me without a large training history.

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