Just because you’re getting older doesn’t mean you have to give up mountain biking. In fact, mountain biking can help you age gracefully and keep up your strength. A well-trained rider can keep on doing mountain bike trails, regardless of their age. That being said, it’s important to understand that the body of a 40-year-old is different from that of a 20-year-old. So we’ve put together these 7 tips to help you keep mountain biking after age 40.
Bodies over the age of 40 have different needs that need to be addressed. As we age, our muscles, bones, and joints change. They can become weaker, leading to more pain and longer recovery times. These changes also put you at risk for serious injuries. It’s important to prepare for these changes to ensure that you can continue riding for many years to come.
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There are a number of ways to keep your body in shape for mountain bike riding. Small changes in riding style and a bit of extra preparation can help you avoid potentially dangerous injuries. By following these 7 tips, you can keep up with the younger riders and even show them who’s boss at times!
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Tip #1: Keep Your Muscles Strong with Strength Training
The key to staying safe on a mountain bike is to stay strong. Your muscles, bones, and joints need to stay in top condition to prevent injury. Unfortunately, the body loses muscle mass throughout a person’s life. The bones can also lose mass, making them more prone to injury. Injuries past the age of 40 take more time to recover from, so it’s important to strengthen the body as a whole and maintain it.
Strength training is great for keeping the body young. It’s not about building mass or losing weight, but more about keeping your muscles strong. Strong muscles protect you during falls, and will provide you with the power you need to ride a difficult mountain trail. Strength training can also do wonders for your joints and tendons. Regular training will keep your body looking and feeling youthful. Your joint padding will also become stronger, decreasing the chances of serious joint pain.
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Tip #2: Keep Your Bones and Muscles Strong with a Healthy Diet and the Right Supplements
To help with your bones, it’s important to eat a healthy diet. Once you’ve passed 40 years of age, you can’t eat whatever you want without suffering the effects.
Eat a healthy diet that will fuel your workouts and prevent weight gain. As far as possible, eat whole foods, not excessively processed foods. Prioritize nutritious vegetables, healthy fats (not saturated fats), and healthy proteins.
Vitamin D and calcium supplements are must-haves. They will strengthen your bones and prevent deterioration over time. Try to get as much sunshine as you can without actually burning. This can be quite easy for regular cyclists.
Vitamin D Deficiency
If you are over 40, you are extremely likely to have a Vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D insufficiency is associated with an increased fracture rate and an increased rate of bone loss and treatment. For mountain bike riders, the risk of fractures is that much higher. Supplementing with Vitamin D has been shown to decrease fractures in older people.
A Vitamin D deficiency is even more likely if you do not enjoy natural sunlight all year long. This infographic clearly shows how Vitamin D deficiency levels increase as people age. Women are at higher risk than men.
It’s also a good idea to look into glucosamine and/or chondroitin supplements to promote stronger tendons.
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Tip #3: Keep Your Potassium Levels high
Potassium promotes nerve function and muscle responses, including the responses of your heart. Potassium is also involved in transporting nutrients into and waste out of cells, and in creating proteins. The following foods are rich in potassium:
- Fruits: Bananas, citrus fruits, avocados, cantaloupes, apples, cantaloupe, kiwi, prunes, and apricots.
- Vegetables: tomatoes, potatoes, spinach, kale, silverbeet, cucumbers, zucchini, eggplant, pumpkin, carrots, sweet potatoes, peas, broccoli, peas and winter squash.
- Fish: flounder, salmon, cod, salmon and sardines.
- Meats: chicken and red meat.
- Other foods: milk, yogurt, soy products, veggie burgers, nuts and beans.
Tip #4: Stand Up More to Pedal
Most mountain bikers sit down as they pedal and navigate the trail. While this is great for younger folks, older riders should sometimes stand up to pedal. Doing so will provide a workout for a variety of different muscles in the body, including those in the core, hips, and upper body. Furthermore, standing up to pedal puts more stress on the muscles. While this may not seem like a good thing, it’s actually beneficial for keeping your body strong.
This tension will help to avoid muscle loss as you get older. Muscle loss is something that plagues many older riders. Standing up to pedal can also help to reduce any pain you might feel in the lower back and knees.
Standing up to pedal can feel very uncomfortable at first, as most bikers learned how to navigate sitting down. However, standing up will push your body until it becomes more comfortable to stand up. Before you know it, standing up won’t be a problem.
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Tip #5: Avoid Cold Starts and Keep Stretching
Most exercise enthusiasts have been told countless times that they need to stretch and warm up before beginning their training. Unfortunately, many ignore this warning and just dive straight in. In fact, many younger riders simply hop on their bikes and hit the trail. However, it’s very important to prepare your body for an intense workout prior to starting. This is especially crucial for those over the age of 40. The older you get, the more your tendons lose their resilience, decreasing their ability to prevent injury.
Be Sure to Stretch
At the very least, you should spend a good five minutes stretching out the back, hamstring, calves, and arms. Ideally, stretching should be implemented into your schedule on a regular basis. Every muscle should be stretched to loosen it up.
Check out our Complete Guide to Stretching for Cyclists here!
Cross Train and Keep Limber
It is a great idea to incorporate a range of different exercises into your life. This will help you to stay limber and flexible, which in turn will help you to stay safe when cycling in the mountains. We recommend yoga, which also helps you to keep your stress levels in check.
Try Using Foam Rollers
Using foam rollers is also a great option. You can use a foam tube to alleviate muscle tightness, soreness and inflammation and ultimately improve your range of motion. Foam-rolling is considered a self-myofascial release (SMR) technique. Done before cycling, it will prime your muscles and prepare the connection between your brain and muscles. This connection will help your brain to know which muscles it needs to focus on, and also will help you lengthen your muscles in preparation for action.
A good stretch will warm up the muscles, tendons, and joints. This allows them to do their jobs and provides them with the strength they need to keep you protected. The more time you take stretching, the less time you’ll have to spend recovering after your bike ride. Once you hop on the bike, take a few minutes to ride at a moderate pace before increasing the intensity.
Tip #6: Try to Stay Stress Free
Mental health is an important thing to consider in all aspects of your life. Regardless of what is causing you stress, it’s good to use mountain biking to de-stress and improve your mental clarity. The twists and turns required for mountain biking can help keep your mind sharp.
Reducing stress can ultimately decrease your chances of developing conditions like Alzheimer’s Disease. Stress is also known to affect your heart and immune health. Don’t forget that heart disease is the number 1 cause of death in the developed world. Enjoy the sheer fun of mountain bike riding to de-stress and improve your overall health.
Tip #7: Get Enough Sleep
Getting enough sleep is crucial for keeping your muscles strong and managing stress. Sleep is very important for the body, as it uses this time to recover. If you don’t get enough sleep at night, your body can’t recover and prepare itself for the next mountain bike ride.
Typically, those over the age of 40 will require a bit more sleep than younger folks, as it takes longer for an older body to repair. Instead of staying up late and stressing out, get to bed early. You’ll see the effects of a clear mind and a full night of sleep on your next bike ride.
Video About How Much Sleep You Need
Here’s a video about how much sleep you REALLY need:
Everyone should have a youthful outlook on life. However, it’s also important to be practical. If you’re over 40, it’s time to start taking care of your body to help yourself to stay in prime condition and avoid injuries. By following just a few simple tips, you can keep up with younger mountain bike riders for many years to come.
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Cleveland Clinic. Should You Try Foam Rolling?
Gallagher, Christopher, MD, MRCP. Vitamin D and Aging. Endocrinol Metab Clin North Am. 2013 Jun; 42(2): 319–332.