Non-cycling fitness standards to aim for (rage against the dying of the light)

I have set myself the goal of working hard to ensure that I rebuild myself carefully over the next year (ahead of a big midlife birthday) to get fit, rehab some injuries and build strength to balance out a previous focus on riding that was a little myopic.

So, what would be some good standards to aim for? A sub 25min Parkrun (5km), or half bodyweight bench press or something other? I’m not focusing on FTP or anything like that this year - so I need measures for off-the-bike tests I can do to motivate myself, challenge myself and demonstrate progress.

Whatcha got? When do you feel fittest?

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I feel much better as a “fit human” when I’m strength training two days a week. I’m no strength athlete, but I try to hit the minimum strength standards from Chad’s strength calculator.

As an older athlete at 54yo, having a sustainable strength workout plan is key for my overall health.

I see many people over 50 decline quickly because they neglect any sort of aerobic exercise or strength training. And yet there are athletes in their 70’s and 80’s who can still perform well for their age and are fit people.

I want to be part of the latter group. But it’s use it or lose it, so I always keep some strength training in my regimen.


I’m in my late 60’s and when it comes to the weight training stuff at the gym I mostly use the various machines. My goal is to max out the machines with 3 sets of 10 reps each. I only go 2 days a week and don’t set a time limit to achieve the goal. I just gradually increase the weight slightly over time and eventually get there.

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The topic is too broad to have a single answer. There is no ‘universal’ measure of fitness. You could look at age adjusted standards from the Mayo clinic, or the various branches of the military, (and even the State Department but they don’t account for where you are now.

You didn’t say how old you are or what your current base is, so nobody can (or should) offer a specific arbitrary goal. Some people are process oriented, while others are goal oriented. I’m guessing you are in the second group, based on your question.

Assuming you are healthy, but have not done any strength training, any goal should probably be based on improving your current base line. Any program you stick with is the best program.

Of huge benefit to me when I was a runner, and which has carried over to the bike, was doing the exercises in Running Rewired by Jay Dicharry. There is lots of focus on removing imbalances particularly in the deep stabilizing muscules. I saw a bike fitter one year ago and he commented on how symmetrical and flexibile I was and asked what sort of work I did to get that way - I mentioned the book. I admit haven’t done any of these exercises for two years now however the balance and symmetry have stuck with me for sure. That said you’ve sparked me to start doing them again.

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Squatting my (then 75kg) bodyweight for sets of 6 felt like a half-decent achievement for a not-naturally-strong 50+yo.

Obvs that’s nowt compared to to actually-strong people, but it felt to me like I’d achieved something worth achieving. Similar story for getting my deadlift sets past 100kg.


Since I have not seen it mentioned, Chad created a set of strength training benchmarks at a few levels related to disciplines:


I’m currently 68. I ruptured a disk about 10 years ago, so am very carefull with form and loading.
Currently 9 pullups, Deadlift 220lbs x 5 for 3 sets, Squat 150 x 5 for 3 sets. Bench Press 90 lbs 5 reps x 3 sets. Overhead press is a weakness, never got above 60 lbs for reps. I’m 5’9" 68 kg.


Arbitrary, but here you go assuming your midlife birthday is 40 or 50.

3 reps bench press of your weight.
4 minute plank.
10 pull ups, and not that kipping crap.
3 reps squat or deadlift of twice your weight.
holding your breath underwater for 1 minute.

I approve of your goal! Bicycling is only one part of our fitness regime.

Curious what decade of life is considered a “mid-life” birthday these days… :sweat_smile:

What about a “consistency goal?” Like making sure you exercise 5 days a week (or 6). Consistency can lead to some great gains!

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I’d been looking for similar ish benchmarks recently (essentially, when to stop progressing squat/DL/bench/etc and just declare good enough to maintain).

First time I’ve seen breath control coming up in one of these lists. Fairly certain I could do that without too much trouble though I haven’t tried in years. Underwater 50’s were miserable (and less than a minute, albeit much more active).

I just want to interject that a much better way of setting goals is to use something specific and controllable that leads towards a possible outcome.

For the above, you could set as a goal:

  • go for a run 3 times a week until parkrun race X on Y, with running time increasing every week by Z.

  • Or go to the gym 3 times a week, focusing on exercises X,Y,Z, until date D. Maintain protein intake >1.5g/kg on 5/7 days of the week until then. Also take a DEXA scan before and after.

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  1. Squat your body’s weight 10 times. Meaning, if you weigh 165lb, load a barbell with that weight and do it.
  2. 20 push-ups continuously and/or bench press your body’s weight once
  3. 10 pull-ups
  4. Run 5k in sub 18:30min (decent D3 level HS girls can do this)

If midlife is 40 then the above. If midlife is 50 then maybe do 5-10% less of the above (or keep it the same).

Not to pick on KW here, but this is a perfect example of the arbitrary markers I warned against. 18:30 5k is faster than the top score on the USMC fitness test for people 20-40 . That is hardly a realistic goal for most people 40+
OTOH, the USMC max pull up score for 41-45 is for 20 reps.


It might be useful to engage in what Peter Attia calls backcasting - ask yourself what you want to physically be able to do in the marginal decade of your life (70s, 80s, 90s) and work backwards from there to determine what you need to be able to do now to reach that goal

For example, VO2Max declines about 10% per decade. If you want to be able to briskly climb stairs when you’re 75, you should be able to run a 6 min/mile when you’re 35

Throw in some mobility/flexibility goals too.

Strength is very important and will pay big dividends but when you actually get down to the physical measures in studies that predict life expectancy for older folks they are mostly mobility or balance measures.

For example being able to do a full unweighted squat with your butt on your ankles and your feet flat on the floor is a better predictor of how many more years you have left than squatting x times your body weight is.

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The 18:30 5k time is by far the hardest thing here… In fact only 12 girls in D3 ran sub 18:30 at last year’s state meet. That is a fast time for most people and especially a master. Certainly possible for a fit 40 year old runner… but as mentioned, making arbitrary goals is tough as we age.


Call it a 19.5min 5k then. Being faster than a median HS girl XC runner is a good goal to have for a middle aged man. People don’t understand that cardiovascular health is crucial. Much more important than other strength metrics for health and longevity.
I don’t plan to be weaker than my daughter while she is in HS, at least in a strength to weight basis. I wouldn’t call that arbitrary but to each their own.

Some of the goals to smash for me, and I hope it can inspire you:


  • 100m 01:05
  • 400m 04:50
  • 1500m 25:00


  • 5k 16:30
  • 10k 35:00
  • 21.1k 1:15:00
  • 42.2k 2:30:00


  • 5min 420w
  • 60min 310w

Crikey ive not been able to do this for years. Buggered knees from too many earlier sports and operations…

Shoot me now… :laughing:

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