Hitting the ripe age of 50 last year, I can't quite understand how I have gone from 20 to 50 in what seems like a flash. When I look back, I have had 3 vastly different jobs, co-produced and co-raised 3 vastly different kids, done a heap of travelling and made lots of great friends. I have packed in a lot in 30 years, but turning 50 has caused me to reflect deeply and often about what is next for my life. My children have or are leaving home, and so for my wife Lucy and I, this is a time of profound change in our lives, maybe more so for her than me.
One big change in my life over the last 15 years has been a reconnection with what was a constant childhood passion, sport. I think it is fair to say that the years from 20 to 35 were a bit of a sport vacuum. I had a demanding job that involved long hours and I had little time or motivation for sport and fitness. Moving back to Devon in 2008 and reconnecting with the outdoors, firstly with surfing, then cycling, was the opening of a door to a new chapter in my life.
These days my health and fitness are a priority in my life, maybe too much of a priority at times! I am an 'all in' personality type and will easily become totally fixated with something. As I get older, I am recognising that things are not always black and white. I am learning to embrace nuance and trying to take a more balanced approach to my thinking and the way I live my life.
And so the question hangs. What is it that I am trying to achieve with my training as I get older?
It is easy to focus on near term goals, race results, event goals etc but at a far more strategic level, what are the things that I feel are important to help me live a longer and more healthy life as I age?
Given that most of my readers will be avid cyclists, I am taking for granted that you appreciate and value the benefits of cardiovascular fitness. Maintaining aerobic fitness and aerobic capacity is important as we age, as it is the foundation of maintaining an active life.
But what else is important to maintaining a youthful vitality and ability to remain active and perform?
For me there are 4 elements that go above, just cardiovascular fitness that are important to me as I age.
This sounds like a long list of extra 'training' requirements to fit into what might be for you an already busy training week. However, as with most things, the key is a moderate level of practise executed consistently over long periods of time.
My new programme seeks to improve cycling performance by incorporating F.A.B.S. exercises and a more frequent recovery cycle to all training plans.
Over the last 10 months I have been practising Yoga. I tend to follow Vinyessa, which is a style of yoga characterised by stringing postures together so that you move from one to another in a flowing motion. I use an app called DownDog and tend to do 6 sessions per week of 20-45 minutes depending on time and what my training day looks like.
Yoga addresses all the F.A.B.S elements. By nature, it improves flexibility with numerous stretches. It has improved my agility as I transition from one pose to another in quick succession. It has enabled me to balance once again, holding one legged poses and switching lines of vision. Finally, it has made me stronger in the legs (especially my chicken leg ankles!), abdominal chain and arms.
As a cycling coach, I am always looking for better ways to help my clients improve their performance. I look after many 'masters age' athletes and over the last few months have been devising a new training methodology that takes a more holistic approach to training, improving all round fitness and health as we age. My new programme seeks to improve cycling performance by incorporating F.A.B.S. exercises and a more frequent recovery cycle to all training plans.
Having experimented with this approach on myself, and having done a ton of reading around the subject of training as we age, I am convinced that this more balanced approach to training will improve not just my clients' cycling, but their life more generally.
I am really excited to start rolling this out for the start of the 2022 training season, when hopefully we will return to a full agenda of races and events.
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Rob Wakefield / Founder and Level 3 Coach