Starting too late and with the wrong physical adaptations

Hi all,

Thank you TR folks for doing what you do, I enjoy the podcasts and the TR product even more.

I’m just over 40 and started cycling Fall of 2018. I realized yesterday that I’m more on the downhill of cycling fitness than uphill. To make matters worse, I spent most of my adult life competing in powerlifting. It was a thing to do but since I found cycling, I can say that I did not enjoy powerlifting nearly as much as I enjoy cycling.

I recently read that if human beings only engage in strength training, our hearts adapt to the efforts relatively quickly but it can take decades thereafter to transform the heart muscles to an endurance specialization. On top of that, a cycling coach told me that it will take 5-7 years to adapt my muscles from powerlifting to cycling.

Can coach Chad comment on this? I’m not going to stop cycling but I also want to temper my expectations, are the above details accurate?

If you’re new to cycling and even more so structured training then I would say you can only get fitter from here. I’m assuming you’re pretty heavy coming from a power lifting background, so if that’s the case as you knock back the weights your watts per kg is going to increase which means you’ll be faster :smiley:

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That is plenty of time to get seriously fast.
Yes there are adaptations that take years but they also require a lot of time to train, some on restricted hours will never see those adaptations and they are just the icing of the cake many times.

Follow any structured training for multiple seasons and enjoy your cycling and you will see amazing early gains.

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5-7 years may be a bit conservative.

But, tbh it can reasonably take about 5 years to get ‘really’ good/competitive at cycling. Not because you did or didn’t do power-lifting. It just takes a really long time to adapt to endurance sports.

I’m about 3-4 years into my journey. I love cycling its so much fun. I have gone and done multiple 200 mile races this last summer, I’ve done crits, road races and cyclocross. So you can still expect to be able to do big/hard events in under 5 years.

I’m still a cat 4 road cyclist and hope that this year I can finally get my fitness up to be really competitive. Of course I’m still refining my technique, but I’ve finally started to understand the advanced skills required to race. But you’re talking about fitness here.

I think that this coach you spoke to was telling you what it would take to be a competitive category road racer. You can still get a lot done in the mean time. You are not going to wait 5 years to start racing, because you need to race to learn the skills to get better at racing.

You should consider picking up Joe Friels ‘Cyclist training bible’. He discusses a lot of things that you might have questions about in his comprehensive book.

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you should pose your question to the podcast. i haven’t done that in a long time, but there used to be live interaction. I don’t know if that’s still the case.

The first thing you need to describe is what are your expectations. Start there, and work within your constraints.

If you’re not pro, nothing really matters (and you’re not a pro cyclist). You can only improve, and at a rate that is both a mix of hard work and genetics.

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Thanks. Yes, I’m about 93kg down from 104 when I started cycling. My Withings scale shows 26% body fat so I do have room to go.

Thanks. It’s a matter of time too, at 40+ I’m noticing it takes me much longer to recover than before. My friend who is in his early 30’s is able to spend more time in the saddle with less recovery, makes me feel super old :sob:

I’m hoping Coach Chad will do a deep dive into the muscular differences between powerlifters and endurance atheletes.

@Nate_Pearson @chad

It doesn’t hurt to ask. Tagging Nate and Chad.

I’m 49yo. There are plenty here that are older. I suck though, so that’s that. But it is what it is, and that’s all I can do. I’ll never be able to hang with Cat 1 racers. I also don’t race, and try to remember that my primary motivation is fat loss and cardio fitness…preparing my body for the older years. I too lifted weights and spent over 7 years reducing muscle mass, as I don’t need that level of stress on an older frame, nor do I need the diet to maintain more muscle. Yes, I’m looking to give myself a longer life without all sorts of pain and strain and joint issues, if I can.

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:+1: That will make the hills a lot easier.

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Hmmm… my n=1 experience says otherwise. I did CrossFit for over 10 years and competed locally in Olympic lifting. At my strongest I weighed 89 kg (196). Following that I took about 3 years off recovering from adrenal fatigue, leaky gut and a divorce. Probably overtraining since there was no such thing as periodization and recovery weeks in CrossFit.

After I turned 40 in 2017 I needed a hobby as I was kinda just bored. Also, every attempt to get back into CrossFit would leave me injured. So some buddies said I should get a MTB. So spring of 2017 I got a MTB and immediately fell in love with the sport. A month later I raced as a beginner at a local XC race. The next day I clipped a tree, went OTB and separated my shoulder :face_with_symbols_over_mouth:.

Recovering from a grade 3 AC separation just enhanced my desire to race and I learned all I could while resting. I started training and once recovered finished 4 more races and taking 4th place overall for the Championship Point Series.

Winter of 2017 I bought a Kickr Snap and trained all winter to move up to Sport/Cat 2 the following year. I knew nothing about training and just followed some online plan and Zwift-ed. My FTP started at 189.

I raced Sport/Cat 2 XC all of 2018 mostly as a mid pack guy. I finished 5th overall in my race series. I also completed my first MTB 100. In July 2018 I learned about TrainerRoad and took my first ramp test (193 2.2w/kg). As luck would have it, on my last XC race of the season I separated my other shoulder :face_with_symbols_over_mouth::face_with_symbols_over_mouth:. As I recovered from that I began Traditional Base MV 1, 2, and 3. I followed TR plans throughout the winter of 2018 and into race season 2019. This year I won my first 4 races in Sport/Cat 2 and took 2nd in my fifth race wrapping up the overall series win :grinning:. I finished the season moving up to Expert/Cat 1 where I took a 6th and 7th place in the last two races. I finished the season with a 300 watt FTP for 3.89 w/kg.

So in 3 races seasons, through 2 separated shoulders, covering about 2.5 years, I went from not even owning a bike and an FTP of 189; to winning the Cat 2 XC Championship Point Series, moving up to Expert/Cat 1 with a 300w FTP. All in my 40s while not even owning a bike since college.

So maybe it does take 5+ years to adapt your muscles to your full potential as an endurance athlete. However, you can have great fitness and performance along the way!


This year at my XC races I was either the fastest or among the top guys for Sport/Cat 2 to include all age groups. The 40 year olds are among the fastest age groupers in all the XC categories outside of Elite/Pro. So maybe you are on the downhill of cycling fitness if you would have been cycling for 20 years and you were to compare you best season to your current. However, as just starting out you will see fitness gains year over year for many to come.

Another way to view this is that you were able to train and compete in powerlifting. Now you’ve found a new you like even more so you’ll be able to transfer the discipline and work ethic from what is a hard sport to another hard sport. Only now you will have more fun. Sounds like you are all set.

You have plenty of time to get faster and have a blast doing it.

I’d say, for you, genetics made up much of it. I’d venture a guess and say your experience is not the norm.

Very much true. The hardest part is to not compare too seriously, when you’re not “gifted.” Just keep trying. Keeping the chin up when guys like @MI-XC roar into Cat 1 in 2 years, but realize there’s a larger group of guys in Cat 3 and Cat 2 MTB (or Cat 4 road) that plug away for years and can’t make the cut. I’m one of those.

Hey mate

One of Australia’s best Masters rider is a ex body builder. Started big. Strong. After a couple of seasons last the weight and bulk muscle. But has the strength.

You can convert your strength to on the bike. It’s not too late at all.