Can you go as fast as Ned? Well, probably not. But can you remain physically fit – like the legendary local cyclist – as you reach middle age and beyond? Absolutely.
World mountain bike champion Ned Overend, now 61, has remained a fitness marvel. At 59 he won the National Fat Bike Championships. Closer to home a few months later, he captured the overall Iron Horse Bicycle Classic title.
A Durangoan since 1980, Overend offered to share some of his secrets for staying fit.
Overend says he used to let himself go a bit during the offseason. Because of his age, he doesn’t dare let five or ten pounds sneak onto his frame now, fearing he won’t return to the same fitness level. Even if you’re not a top-notch athlete, the advice is relevant.
Overend stays fit partly because it’s his job, but warns not to give in to the idea that it’s inevitable you’ll gain weight and lose mobility as you age. Says Ned: “These will be self-fulfilling prophecies if you really believe them.” As a psychological boost he rides with younger folks – people who aren’t focused on the physical infirmities that come with aging.
Work out hard, but let your body bounce back. He follows intense workouts with recovery days, whether it’s “active recovery,” such as a quick ride on the bike path, or even the rare rest day. Training at a moderate level all the time “is one mistake that keeps a lot of people from getting in better shape.” This makes even more sense when combined with the next tip.
HIGH INTENSITY, LOW VOLUME
During the winter, Overend rides five to six hours per week, and in the summer that increases only to eight to ten hours. “It’s not a lot of hours on the bike,” he admits. So this – are you ready? – is his key:
“What has worked for me for maintaining my fitness throughout the years has been a little more focus on higher intensity, and less volume.”
Which means it can take less time to stay fit—if you push harder. Overend says his training graph has large peaks and valleys: lots of intensity, followed by quality recovery time.
ALTER YOUR WORKOUTS
Doing different activities can not only keep workouts interesting and fun, but also means you’re working various muscles and staying balanced. Overend makes sure, particularly in the fall and winter, to run, swim, Nordic ski, and work out at the gym.
“If you’re only riding, it’s kind of working your muscles in one plane,” he says. “You tend to be hunched over the handlebars, so it can be hard on your back. Varying your workouts actually helps prevent injury on the bike.”
This, too, seems like common sense. However, it takes some discipline. If a body part is aching, don’t push it to the point of injury. Give it time to get well.
Overend says one of his longevity keys has been to keep training momentum – avoiding colds and flu, staying injury-free. The older the body, the longer it takes to heal. One temptation we face – even Ned – is to train beyond our ability in order to keep up. “You can’t have as much machismo,” he laughs. “People have to know their limitations.”