8-Week Cycling Training Plan for Seniors Who Want to Improve Their Performance

Take your training to the next level with this plan, designed specifically for older riders. 


BY PAM MOORE |

No matter how you feel about your age, you just can’t train like you’re 25 (or even 45) once you hit 60. But that doesn’t mean you have to throw your performance goals out the window. Whether you want to finish your next century within a certain time frame, hang with the pack on the Saturday group ride, or simply cross your next finish line feeling strong, you can keep training for performance in your 60s and beyond.

With that in mind, we talked to pro CTS coach Jeanna Miller and USAT-certified coach Jennifer Harrison to find out exactly what older riders need to do to get the most out of your training.

Below is a cycling training plan for seniors, which Miller designed for those who have a solid base and are looking to boost their performance in the final eight weeks before their race or event, along with tips on how get the most out of your training.

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How to Execute the Workouts on This Cycling Training Plan for Seniors

This eight-week training plan assumes you can ride comfortably for three to four hours and that you’re strength training (including both your upper and lower body) two to three days per week, says Miller. Featuring two rest/recovery days per week, at least two days between quality sessions, and a focus on endurance, it’s designed for the senior cyclist (age 60+) who doesn’t just want to finish but wants to maximize their performance.

Before diving in, you’ll need to take a field test (details on that here) or you can use any functional threshold power (FTP) test to establish your training zones. Once that’s complete, you’ll know the target heart rate and/or power zones for each ride on the plan.

Interval Sessions

You’ll typically have two weekday interval sessions each week ranging from 90 minutes to two hours—with eight to 15 minutes of a warmup for each session—with a minimum of two days’ worth of easy workouts or recovery in between.

“With a younger athlete, I’d start with two quality sessions every week, but for older athletes, scheduling no more than three hard workouts every ten days tends to be a good starting point,” says Miller. “I’ve used similar programming for both male and female clients, and I find this schedule is very effective in increasing fitness while limiting the risk of injury or overtraining.”

Your interval sessions will either be tempo (zone 3) workouts, which should happen at a 7 out of 10 on the effort scale, or steady-state workouts (threshold or zone 4), which fall at an 8 out of 10 effort level, and you’ll be doing them on fresh legs following a light training day or day off.

Endurance Rides

The bulk of your mileage on this plan will be spent at an endurance pace, or in zone 2, often right after a quality session. These rides will range from 60 minutes to as long as six hours and are a great opportunity to practice riding on fatigued legs, develop your tolerance for time in the saddle, and to experiment with fueling.

Easy Days

These sessions aren’t stressful but they are a crucial piece of your fitness puzzle. Building in days where the focus is a recovery ride, yoga, stretching, upper body strength (with the assumption that you engage in full body resistance training the rest of the year), or even a total rest day when needed, is key. “If you’re tired or need some extra rest, you have to listen to your body,” says Miller.

How to Optimise Your Training for This Plan

“When you’re under 30 or 40, you may be able to go out and hammer all the time, even drink all night, and still get fitter. You can’t get away with that at 40 and certainly not at 60,” says Harrison.

Here are some dos and don’ts to get the most out of your training as a seasoned cyclist.

Don’t Ignore Minor Aches and Pains

“At 40, you can outrun all the little ‘niggles,’ but at 60 it’s a different story,” says Harrison. Rather than trying to train through discomfort, she suggests resting and/or getting bodywork to address the problem before it gets any worse.

Be Proactive About Injury Prevention

You can execute all of your workouts perfectly, but you’ll never meet your potential if injuries are keeping you from training consistently. “If you can stay healthy and injury-free as a senior athlete, you’re automatically going to beat half the folks in your age group,” says Harrison. That means getting regular massages, strength training at least two or three times a week, and a consistent stretching routine.

Harrison also suggests including at least one session per week of a very active recovery session, or “regenerative” activity, such as a dynamic stretching, Pilates, or yoga.

Respect the Importance of Rest

As an older athlete, you might be retired with extra time on your hands—but you shouldn’t necessarily use it to train. “You’ll end up running yourself into the ground,” says Harrison. Senior athletes who are serious about improving their performance need to rest, she explains. While meditation works well for some, any restful activity will check the box, including watching television, reading, knitting, or whatever sedentary activity you enjoy.

Check Your Ego at the Door

To achieve peak performance as a senior athlete, you need the right mindset. “We have to leave our egos at the door as we age,” says Harrison. It might be tempting to try to compete with your younger training buddies or even your younger self, but it isn’t sustainable. “The risk is not worth the reward,” Harrison adds.

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