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Keeping It: The Vet Rider

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This article comes to you from our friends at Training Peaks provides the complete web, mobile and desktop solution for enabling smart and effective endurance training. Training Peaks solutions are used by Tour de France teams, Ironman World Champions, Olympians, and age group athletes and coaches around the world to track, analyze and plan their training. It is also what we use at Virtual Trainer to administer our premium training plans. They also have great articles. And while they are written specifically for endurance athletes they are easily adapted for the motocross athlete. This is one such article. - Virtual Trainer

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Author: Carrie McCusker

In Jeff Bercovici’s book, Play On: The New Science of Elite Performance at Any Age, Bercovici says that “finding peak performance as an older athlete isn’t about denying reality. Nor is it about reconciling oneself to suffering or disappointment. It’s about being the best version of yourself, [and] performing better while feeling better.”

The fact is, athletes over the age of 35 are still out there hitting balls, running races, swimming fast and pretty much proving that athletic prowess isn’t over in your twenties. In fact, many athletes are just coming into form in their early thirties, especially in endurance sports. The “reality” Bercovici refers to is the effect of age on our physiology. The best diet and training will help ward off cognitive decline, muscle wasting and cardiovascular impairment—but even the most rigorous routine can’t completely stop the effect of time on our bodies.

This begs the question, how does an ‘older athlete’, or masters athlete, continue to remain in the game both physically and psychologically?

Aim for Consistency

Adopting a routine that generally follows a predictable, well-planned pattern will reduce your chances of taking on workouts that may result in injury. Anyone who has joined a masters cycling group knows what happens frequently; it’s like a world championship on each climb. This is OK, for the well-trained cyclist, but could cause injury for the less-so. Having a coach in this sort of situation can help you set realistic athletic goals and then pursue them in a logical, planned manner.

Prioritize Sleeping

I personally can attest to the changes that every older athlete needs to come to terms with. While I was, fortunately, able to deny most of it until I hit 42, the fact is that you can’t have it all forever, especially not at a high level. It can be really difficult for the ‘once was fast’ older athlete to face performance declines than it might be to a new-to-the-sport older athlete.

Adding to the challenge is the fact that endurance junkies are often in it for the fun and adventure as much as the competition, so the “more is more” training model can be appealing on a number of levels. But as Raymond Verheijen, Dutch exercise physiologist says, “if you are extremely fit but also extremely tired, your performance will be shit.”

So what do you do? Sleep. Joe Friel puts it in Fast After 50, “Sleep is your primary means of recovery from training stress. There is nothing else you can do that will help you recover faster or more completely.” Our production of human growth hormone consistently decreases as we age, and cutting sleep cycles (where that production occurs) to add extra training is a mistake.

Eat More Protein!

Another area to focus on is diet. Older athletes need more protein than our younger selves because we don’t synthesize it as well when we age. Older athletes may need 40 grams of protein, for example, to achieve the same level of protein synthesis as younger athletes, who need only 20-25 grams. To optimize protein synthesis and retain muscle, be diligent about adding protein immediately after strenuous sessions, which increases the rate of muscle rebuilding. Adding in some protein 30 min before bed can also assist in this. Foam rolling, ice baths, compression, massage, cupping, acupuncture are some other great tools in assisting with recovery.

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Try Intervals

There are high mileage runners who could handle big weeks in their 30s, but start to experience injury and breakdown in their 40s, and can’t get through a successful training block to get to the starting line. Luckily, research is showing us that interval training on an already strong aerobic base allows the experienced athlete to train less and still achieve more.

Aerobic capacity intervals (at or slightly below VO2 max speed/power), and lactate threshold intervals (90-95% of lactate threshold HR) are both effective and require less volume.

Don’t Skip Strength Training

Every piece of available research suggests that masters athletes will benefit from building each type of muscle fiber. Friel suggests you start your strength program in your base period (20 or more weeks out from your A race) and follow through until you are in a maintenance phase approaching your race. In my experience, strength also works best when it includes mobility and movement patterns. Put your body through the motions you will need to do your sport well, and monitor those patterns as you go so that an imbalance or weakness is stopped before it becomes an injury.

In summary, you can continue to be the best you can be as you age. You may need to make some changes in goal-setting, training methods and lifestyle, but I can tell you it’s worth it. You will not only enjoy the great age-defying benefits of exercise, but you’ll satisfy your inner endurance monster, creating challenges and adventures that will continue as you age.

About the Author: Carrie McCusker specializes in athlete performance at all levels. While she has spent the majority of her life as a competitive elite athlete she is also an experienced educator and coach with an MS in education and extensive training in the implementation of science based coaching with a focus on meeting the needs of each individual athlete. She can be reached at or see details at or

That's it for now, until next time, good luck with your training and remember, if you have a question, log on to the Virtual Trainer Expert Forum and have your question answered by a panel of experts. In addition, be sure and check out the Racer X Virtual Trainer archive section. Your complete one-stop information zone for motocross fitness. VT Signature

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  1. Gravatar
    Mark November 08, 2018 at 11:03 pm

    The only thing I kind of worry about is max heart rate. I am 62 and have worked out my entire life. At 62 I have no problem it hitting the 170 heart rate mark and it doesn't seem to bother me at all. I can keep it there for a good bit of time as well. I just wonder if because of my age is it bad for my heart to do that can I damage my hard by working it like that at my age.

  2. Gravatar
    Racer X Virtual Trainer November 15, 2018 at 5:27 pm

    My best advice would be to talk to your family doc or see a cardiologist. But in general I would assume they will tell you if you are not exhibiting any negative signs that you are pushing too hard and you will be fine. But to be safe and ease your mind, talk to your doc!

  3. Gravatar
    kevin decker November 19, 2018 at 3:16 pm

    Excellent article.
    I am a Spinning instructor, teaching 4 classes a week currently and averaging 3-5 a week since 1999. Currently 62yo, and active in motocross and mountain biking. Spinning gives me cardio and leg strength training, I also teach an Ab class twice a week and lift 2-3x a week.
    I'm in a position to see how my training impacts results as I am able to compete against others 10-20 years younger, and the endurance aspect is where I have seen the biggest benefit. But I do see the decline in competitiveness as I age, which is hard to deal with, since I remember and therefore expect the same performance. Add to that, joint wear, loss of cartilage from knee injuries and surgeries, impact from years of these sports (was a distance runner until mid 50's), these have their own effect on performance.
    I see my youger friends starting to see effects from joint wear and overuse.
    I will take the advice on sleep and protein.
    Thanks for a good article!

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