That is what the big 70 looks like on the eye chart when my nearsighted eyes look at it.
I know guys in their 50’s who are still making gains and can absolutely kick my ass (I am 49). They do well in crit or gravel races in the upper midwest region of the US. To be honest they both were serious enoug to get coaches. But at least it is possible to still make gains at that point, at least for some people. I am dealing with a rather severe drop-off in power this year myself.
hey sebrios -
i find myself right in the middle of this dilemma currently - I turn 47 this year. Good news is i think you can look forward to continued gains for some time…even if time seems to accelerate as you go.
i played football in college, switched to marathoning, then to ironman, and finally to bike racing at age 32 after I could no longer stay healthy during run training.
however, i didn’t start training with power until i was 36. i saw strong steady progress until i turned 41 at which point i had a hip replacement and went to back to zero.
my post-hip replacement years provided extra incentive to get back stronger and i did. maintaining my peak FTP and improving on 5-min and 1-min over the following years. my training volumes generally range in the 7-10 hours per week year round with peaks in the summer and lows in the holidays.
i’d say that i could beat myself to a pulp on the bike without any consequences until i turned 45 two seasons ago. i noticed that i just didn’t have the high-end power when riding in groups in the heart of the season, just felt like my legs were constantly fatigued. i was at the front but just could not sustain being on the front. my 4DP profile bounced around a little but nothing dramatic.
like everyone, this past season was spent on my own and i didn’t have the benefit of sustained, high intensity group rides / training. i still put the hours in but there’s no comparison to being in a group competing to be the king of sufferlandia.
so i might be a little premature here but i was surprised that my new years weekend test this year was about 15% down from last year at this time.
i hope to get some of that back this winter and spring with a focus on FTP but need to get my mind around the fact that new highs may be in the rearview mirror.
appreciate hearing about others experiences.
Talk to masters racers that compete in their 50s and used to race hard in their 20s. They’ll say their training has to be more structured because recovery ends up being an issue.
All kinds of variables. I will NEVER be in the physical shape that I was in at 18. About 5-6% body fat, 130lbs of sinew, and I’d ride up into the mountains to the ski slopes every weekend on the bike. My idea of “fun” was to spot anyone ahead of me on the climb and demolish them. I was never passed on that climb in the 2-3 years I did it.
Now? Now I’m in my mid-40’s, 50lbs over what I was at 18, and climbs are my nemesis.
That being said… one advantage that some of us who have been biking for decades have now is technology. Both in equipment, and training. Those mountain climbs in my teens were on a 12 speed fuji. Now I’m riding a Ti frame, Campy 2x10 with all the electronic tracking tools I could want. And training - there was nothing like Sufferfest then. If I wanted to train, I just went out and did the same ride again, and tried to do it faster/harder. Now I can go down to my basement and actually TRAIN.
If nothing else, my strengths (according to Strava at least!) have gone from climbing to descending. Gravity working in my favor on that one
My stats from 20 yrs ago are limited but I can calculate max 3 minute power based on times on a favorite hill rep and bike/body weight:
At 36 max 3 minute power = 430 watts (at 73 + 10kg)
At 56 max 3 minute power = 365 watts (at 75 + 7kg)
So that’s about a 15% drop over 20 years at peak fitness. Probably a bit more than that due to improved stiffness of current bikes.
However over long distances the drop is less marked due to improved training knowledge and indoor equipment.
Slightly off topic but… when I was 26 a 5km fun run took me 31 minutes. 34 years later I can still run 5km in less than 35 mins (usually 33 and a bit) which says two things. I was rubbish when I was 26 but I can still run unlike many of my work colleagues who think a 3km bike commute is LOOONG! I’ve never generated many watts but what I have I guard jealousy and use wisely.
For non-pro athletes, I’d suggest reading Faster After 50 by Joe Friel. That will give you the answers you’re looking for based on real data. Roughly speaking though:
- V02 Max starts a steeper drop off around 65
- V02 Max is a leading measure to lower your ‘all cause mortality’, that’s dying from anything. V02 Max turns out to be what you want to watch if your goal is to live a longer and higher quality of life. I use Garmin products to estimate and track my V02 Max.
- It turns out that structured training programs are really good at V02Max because of the interval work you’re forced to do.
My personal story is that I had kids when I was between 34 and 38, so my dedicated training went out the window till I was 50. I’m 53 now and the kids are almost all able to drive. The result is that I’m in the best shape of my life, but obviously it’s all about lifestyle and not my chronological age. I bet that’s true for all non-elite athletes too…lifestyle and training drive your results much more so than age.
Get lots of sleep, drink lots of water and do lots of intervals. You’ll keep getting faster for the next 30 years. If you don’t, it’s very possible that getting older isn’t the reason why.
There is a Breakfast with Boz podcast that is definitely worth listening to as it relates to the discussion in this thread. Neal Henderson and Mac Cassin are interviewed and both provide some great info on what to expect, where to change training, etc.
I’m a 65 year old woman and I’m still setting PRs on Strava, but only if I have a strong tail wind.
Nice article on what counts as good for ones age.
Great question and the short answer is if you keep training and using the muscle you have, you will avoid loosing it. Sure the body slows down and more gains will be tougher too see but there is nothing to stop you carrying on.
Here is an article coach Spencer put together a while ago which you may find useful:
Im 83 this coming May. Here’s a site that knocked my socks off; a whole host of serious research. You may have to copy/past the url. HTH, Anthony