Two conclusions arise immediately: we are highly evolved to suit our ancestral environment, where lightweight carbon bicycles don’t feature heavily and FTP is irrelevant; and in that ancestral environment we would combat disease and malnutrition every single day, endeavouring to last into our third decade of life, which would hopefully correspond with our offspring’s emerging independence. We may be adapted to live to 30, but not to 40, 50, 60 and beyond. The new millennium has witnessed a revolt, however – a new generation of athletes in midlife and older seeking increased performance and health with advancing years. The problem is that in many instances the research doesn’t yet exist as to how our bodies react to being performance-tested at an age when we would almost certainly be dead in any other century.
Performing in a vacuum
A vacuum of definitive science requires a forensic trawl through existing studies, as well as a conversation with someone who will likely be shining a light in the right direction, be they a cardiologist, endocrinologist, pro team
physician or nutritionist, for example. We will meet all of these people in future columns. Exercise may well be the finest drug the pharmaceutical industry never invented, but can we also have too much of a good thing? Should the ideal prescription dose change as we age? And is the advice different for new and returning exercisers compared to lifelong athletes? These questions will be examined next issue. As a last word on data, I’ll leave you with this thought: we may well demand ever more accurate ways to record, slice and dice our training metrics, but every data set is just an abstract house of cards without the solid foundations provided by a deep understanding of biology and psychology, how it is changing over time and how that relates to you and your life.
That’s what we’ll be exploring in the months to come.
Phil Cavell is co-founder at Cyclefit in London. His book The Midlife Cyclist is published by Bloomsbury
This Column was first published in Cyclist Magazine - January 2022 and is re-printed here with their kind permission.