I was watching the Arizona Cardinal/San Francisco 49er game yesterday and the camera swung over to show the face of the 49er’s defensive end, Justin Smith. The guy’s ‘strong like bull’ and reputed to possess unreal Old Man Strength.
What’s Old Man Strength?
From the Urban Dictionary: Usually acquired by men around the age of 40. It is not something like adrenaline that comes when you need it most, if you are above the age of 40 and reasonably healthy, you will get it. It can be used to do hard physical labor, or prove to the younger crowd that you are not as old as they think you are. It is usually lost around the ages of 65-70 depending on your health.
Maybe it’s the strength that keeps dads from getting beat up by their unruly teenage sons…even though the sons can show them up so well on a weight machine. The way I see it, ‘old man strength’ may be referring to the benefits of year after year of strength training, or doing years of everyday physical labor.
Regardless of the common understanding of this phenomenon, there may be something to it, but more importantly, there’s a parallel in cycling.
Considering that muscle strength naturally tends to tail off as the years wear thin, the whole concept may not hold water. Old man strength doesn’t matter too much in the world of cycling, unless you’re planning to do some match sprints on the local velodrome.
But Cycling Has It’s Own Version…’Old Man Endurance’
Old man endurance is a lot easier to defend in the annuls of human physiology than is ‘old man strength’. It’s well documented that endurance increases as time marches on. The best distance runners are in their thirties, and the best grand tour cyclists are in a similar age group.
I was reminded of the cumulative effects of endurance training when I glanced over to Jesper Medhus, MD’s site, Training4Cyclists. He was advocating three critical ingredients to Chris Froome’s success at the 2013 Tour de France. The number one ingredient was ‘consistency’. He was touching on the issue of the enormous amount of time it takes to fill up the fitness ‘bank account’. Gaining maximum endurance doesn’t take weeks, or even months…it takes years of endurance training.
I applaud those in our little town who ramp up their fitness level each summer in order to participate in the running part of our local July 4th road race (the largest small town walk in America). They get the job done, but it isn’t at all like the training that serious athletes do to accomplish ‘old man endurance’.
Old man endurance entails years of working out. Let’s get something straight though. These aren’t necessarily years of fruitlessness. There are personal bests to be achieved, races to be won, and century rides that were previously undo-able to be ridden.
In short, the path to ‘old man endurance’ has a lot of very pleasant scenery along the way and from the saddle of a bike, you may not even know you’re getting it.