AGING & TRAINING
Over the years I've met a number of folks who have sold bikes they bought but could never comfortably ride. This was due largely to poor bike fit. Shops would never intentionally sell an athlete a bike they couldn't use, so where is the disconnect? To address this I'd like to look at a number of factors: the impact of age on performance, core strength, flexibility and bike fit.
Remember when you were invincible? You could throw any workout at your body and get up the next day and do it again! Age, genetics and past exposure to the repetitious nature of sport movement make each of us physiologically different in the way our bodies react to training. Sprint and Olympic volume impact one person's physiology differently than another person of the same age and gender. Training for 70.3's or 140.6's have a very different mix of aerobic to anaerobic content within training plans. A given athlete's physiology may tolerate short-course training without issue, but struggle with long distance, or vise-versa.
Volume and intensity also impact our ability to tolerate training regimens. Then there's the issue of the ratio of intensity to volume over time, within a single workout, within a week, within a six week or meso-training plan or seasonal macro plan. The fact is, adding strength workouts to our regimen as we age is an effective way to combat injury caused by repetitive training activities.
Gretchen M. Sanders talks about muscle innervation in an article in the November-December 2016 issue of Swimmer Magazine. In layman terms, muscle innervation is the process our body uses when sending electrical impulses originating in the mind through the spinal column to a specific group of muscle fibers, telling them to contract. The net result is movement. A motor neuron and the muscle tissue it innervates are collectively called a motor unit. The motor unit usually consist of either slow-twitch or fast twitch muscle fibers. Younger athletes have a mosaic pattern of mixed slow and fast-twitch muscle fibers within a given motor unit. For a variety of reasons, around the age of 40, our muscle motor units begin to lose their ability to innervate, and often become attached to adjoining motor neurons. Known as denervation, this causes 'clustering' of similar muscle fibers within given regions of a muscle, which changes the distribution of force as applied by the muscle.
These changes can result in any number of issues, from falls to a simple lack of coordination. Muscle atrophy is simply the denervation of muscle fiber. As people grow older, fewer and fewer of these muscle motor units are able to be re-innervated. One of the most efficient ways to combat muscle denervation is to begin mixing strength training into your regimen. You may not be able to avoid muscle loss, but you certainly can slow the process by adding strength regimens to your workout calendar. My coach, Eric Limkemann, a local pro triathlete, includes strength training in my meso-plan through incorporation of the Oregon-Project-Stability-Routine. https://www.therapeuticassociates.com/locations/oregon/portlandvancouver/north-portland/more/oregon-project-stability-routine/.
So how does a good bike fit encourage efficient muscle use? My definition of bike fit is simply this: Physiologically positioning an athlete's body on the correct frame size to maximize muscle power output and cardiovascular efficiencies while tolerably comfortable. A good bike fit varies by athlete, and maximizes VO2 absorption through biometric positioning of the body on the bike. What good does it do if an athlete is totally comfortable but aerodynamically inefficient? The opposite of an aerodynamically inefficient bike fit would be a bike fit that's so aggressive an athlete cannot expand their diaphragm and breathe. The point is a perfect bike fit accommodates the most aerodynamic biometric position possible while maximizing oxygen absorption. Oxygen absorption is directly related to performance, and bike fit is directly related to oxygen absorption. The best bike fit for a given athlete should evolve over time.
I strongly encourage athletes to have a bike fit done first, prior to making their purchase. Bike sizing is very different from bike fitting! Bike sizing determines the correct frame size in proportion to the ratio of your inseam and torso lengths. Bike fitting uses the five points of contact - your butt, right and left feet, and hands, to that specific frame size in a way that maximizes your power output at a given level of exertion. Your bike fit may vary based on the length of the race you're completing, or the given volume of your bike training.
Feel free to reach out if you'd like to learn more. You can reach me on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/jachinboazllc/ or on the web at: http://www.jachinboaztri.com