Weightlifting: A Guide for Seniors

July 25th, 2023 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  JoAnn Cranson

What is happening to me? I’m still very active, walking, running, cycling, swimming, playing with the grandkids, yet…. I’m not as strong as I was a few years ago!! The inconvenient truth is that we lose muscle mass as we age into our late 50’s, 60’s and beyond. By the time we are in our 80’s statistics show some have lost over 30% of our muscle mass!! What?? No wonder it is harder to get up that big step or balance oftentimes feels off.

If you feel this way, you’re not alone.  I’m fighting this muscle loss, too. To combat Osteoporosis, balance issues, muscle loss, slower metabolism and to increase calorie burn, I’ve found that the best thing to do is WeightLifting. I realize many women are not keen on this.  But you also want to stay active, burn fat, strengthen bones and have good balance as you age, right?

I’ve weightlifted off and on in the past to get faster at cycling. This year I knew I needed to do it for more than cycling, I needed to do it for my overall health. The weightlifting, whether at home or in the gym, is not simply for toning. To increase muscle mass, you must lift somewhat heavier weights. Now this doesn’t mean you are lifting like a body builder, but small weights doing it fast with lots of reps will not work either.

I’m here to remind you that it’s never too late to start!!  I was listening to a podcast about lifting and learned about a study that was done on 90-year-olds that had not lifted weights before they entered this study.  After 12 weeks of lifting two times per week, they all showed significant improvement.  Click here to review the study.

Before you start weightlifting you should:

  1. Check with your physician before anything else to make sure you are healthy enough to be lifting weights.
  2. Ideally find an experienced trainer to get you started. (Athletic Mentors can work with you in their gym or remotely).
  3. Develop a training routine.  Do strength training 2 to 3 times per week (make sure to have a day of rest in between – even once per week is better than nothing). Normally you will do the same exercise for one or two sets starting with 6 to 10 repetitions, then as you build strength you can do 3 or 4 sets. I normally do between 6 to 9 different exercises per workout. Between sets I rest about 1-1 ½ mins depending on how strenuous the exercise was.
  4. Get a weightlifting buddy.  You can encourage each other.  Alternate taking turns and you will get your rest break while your buddy is lifting.  Watch each other and help your partner keep good form when lifting.


  • Lift the weight slowly; lift to a count of 4 and lower to a count of four. Start with 3 to 5 lbs., then hopefully over an extended period of time you can build up to 10, 15 or 20+ lb. weights depending on the exercise. You should be able to feel your muscles having to “work” when lifting.
  • Don’t use other muscles to compensate when you are lifting. If you can’t help compensating, then do less repetitions or use lighter weight until you gain more strength to only use the muscle you are using in the movement.
  • Tighten your abdominal muscles to help protect your back from strain. The great thing about strength training with dumbbells or other free weights is that it is also working your “core” muscles – abdominal area – which is a great help with balance.

If your doctor has advised you that you have osteoporosis or are in the beginning stages, it is super important to begin strength training right away and stick with it. Strength training can help prevent bone loss and can even help build new bone. You will need to focus on hip and back exercises as that is the most damaged by bone loss. Here is a good website to give you professional advice on lifting – https://www.webmd.com/osteoporosis/features/weight-training

For the cherry on top, weight lifting increases your metabolism, burns fat/calories not only when you are exercising but afterwards. Check out this article about it, https://www.shape.com/fitness/workouts/strength/calories-burned-lifting-weights

When I’m lifting consistently I see significant improvement in my strength, balance and calorie burning too! Give it a try and don’t let your age get in the way of your overall health and feeling strong!



Mid-Season Break

July 14th, 2023 by JoAnn Cranson

By: Christina Vipond

Most sports have an off season which allows an athlete to have some well deserved time to take a physical and mental break. The off season also allows an athlete to return to basics, work on building a strong foundation and work on skills.  For cyclists, this may be difficult to schedule into the season as there are so many opportunities for training and racing the entire calendar year. Gravel racing alone runs from March through October. Cyclocross season takes over from there and fat tire races happen all winter long. There is also mountain bike racing, crits and indoor racing.  For many athletes, training and racing an entire season is not an issue. For other athletes, it may be beneficial for not only an end of the season break but also a mid-season break. 

Photo courtesy of Rob Meendering

A cyclist usually plans the race season around  peak or big events mid season and at the end of the season. Training and racing up to those events helps prepare for peak performance. Peak performance requires a huge amount of energy and focus. Most people can identify acute fatigue, this is what is felt after a hard workout. Athletes can generally recover quickly with nutrition and rest. However, it can be more difficult to recognize chronic fatigue which accumulates over time. It’s a slow build up from stress on the body’s systems, physically and mentally. By mid-summer, an athlete may have been training and racing for months to prepare for a peak event. A well timed mid season break following the event can be beneficial for the second half of the race season.  

It may seem counterintuitive to take a break in the middle of the race season. However, many studies show fitness will not be lost with a short break (up to 10 days) and can help avoid burnout and injury. A mid-season break is different for each athlete. Some athletes may require only a small break, while others may require a few days completely off the bike. Just like the end of the season, a mid season break is a good time to focus on basics such as proper sleep and nutrition. This time can also be spent with easy activities such as walking or gentle stretches. This period can be followed with a few days of short, easy rides. 

After the mid-season break, it is time to start rebuilding aerobic capacity, endurance, and mental focus. A structured training program is key to the overall performance and health of an athlete during the entire training and racing season. Be sure to talk with your coach at Athletic Mentors about your program, stay strong, stay focused and have fun the entire race season!

Race Weather

June 8th, 2023 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Christina Vipond

In training or racing, the only thing we know for sure is that we won’t know what the weather will be until we are on the start line.

Race season typically begins in March. We could get lucky and have a warm, dry day or we could get snow or cold, rainy weather. Usually, the morning is cool and may or may not warm up so having kit ready for any weather is essential.  

Some athletes can tolerate colder weather, others aren’t so lucky. Thankfully, the technology for clothing is such that it allows for layers of clothing to be worn without affecting movement required for racing. Drinking warm liquids before and during the race can keep the body temperature warm. Its is also a good idea to consider eating more carbohydrates if you are a person who shivers as shivering can break down glycogen.

The opposite side of the spectrum is intense heat. The last week of May was unseasonably warm in Michigan with temperatures reaching upper 80s and into the 90s for an entire week. There have been studies done that show just 10 days of heat acclimatization training improves time trial performance and power output when racing in intense heat. Unfortunately, that isn’t realistic with the unpredictable and inconsistent weather. Other studies have shown that aerobic fitness is an effective strategy for heat stress. An overall aerobically fit body can keep blood flowing and keep the heart pumping blood to muscles in all temperatures. 

Drinking plenty of fluid seems obvious but drinking too much water can lead to a condition called hyponatremia. Drinking too much can dilute blood sodium levels which can cause athletes to collapse as well as more severe health issues. Urine color is one indicator for hydration. Clear urine along with high volume can indicate too much hydration. However, if urine is  dark or low in volume, this could indicate dehydration. When an athlete is dehydrated, blood is sent to the skin to increase sweat for cooling. This means less blood is going to muscles to deliver oxygen and nutrients. This can cause muscle cramps, decrease power output, increased heart rate and increased breathing. 

Not only is drinking important in heat but eating can be affected as well. Hot weather can also decrease appetite as well as upset stomachs.  Liquids with drink mixes, electrolytes or soft gels when racing can be helpful

Here are tips which may help race performance in extreme heat (may seem obvious but are good reminders):

  • Staying in the shade as long as possible when available. 
  • Use an ice sock.
  • Drink cold fluids before, during and after the race.
  • Do training rides in a warm environment (or without a fan if indoors). This is a good way to experiment with different drink mixes and electrolytes to learn what works for your body in extreme heat. 
  • Wear sunscreen, sunburns amplify heat stress and dehydration.

Weather can be unpredictable. Training for all types of weather to understand how your body responds to cold and heat as well as how to compensate is an important component to healthy racing. 

Capturing Rob

October 28th, 2022 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Christina Vipond

Is it a race without Rob, Mortimer and dog snouts? Racers can catch a glimpse of Rob Meendering, Rob Meendering Photography, behind trees or right in the middle of the road, not moving as the bikes whistle by. I had the opportunity to talk with Rob and get his story.

As a teen and in his early 20s Rob wanted to be anywhere other than Michigan. He had always had an interest in photography and took photos during the time he traveled. He had cheap cameras during this time and even used throw away cameras. Eventually, his very nice in-laws who spoil him, bought him a nice lens. 

Rob told the story of being a regular smoker and drinker. He drove an old jeep and worked at a garage. When gas prices went up to $4, he bought a Cannondale mountain bike to get to work and back. One day, he had the bike on the back of his jeep and a family member said he was going to ride Yankee and invited Rob to join. He said he hit every tree and took over 2 hours to ride 1 lap. His wife was a runner and swimmer so they decided to train for a triathlon. Rob decided to get a road bike and coincidentally, he lived 5 doors down from Ada Bike Shop manager, Steve Kunnath. Steve was so energetic and his enthusiasm got Rob excited about riding. He did his first 30 mile ride and joined the Founders team.

Rob started taking his camera to races. After he had finished his race, he would take “really cool” pictures of his teammates. It didn’t take long for race promoters to invite Rob to be the race photographer. He described himself as a “caveman with a camera”. Rob is now an icon at cycling races. I asked him about his favorite moments. He said he loves what he does so much, there isn’t 1 thing. He loves watching folks accomplish something they didn’t think was possible. He enjoys being in the woods, being a part of the experience, seeing his nephew, bad a$$ cyclist, Logan Barksdale,  as well as friends. “It’s always great to see Matt Acker and seeing him win.” Another highlight was when Alexy Vermeulen won the Iceman Cometh 2019. Rob was able to chase him with the camera. Another meaningful memory for

Photo taken by Rob Meendering

Rob was when he was asked to shoot Peak to Peak. Rob had broken his leg in August (riding a bike, of course) and was still wearing a big boot. He told Ted Peacock that he could sit at the finish line. Rob got to the race, ready to shoot the finish line when Joel Voss said he would be chasing Marie and Brandon around the course and invited Rob to ride with him. Rob hopped in with Joel and was able to get pictures from the course. That memory and story is touching for so many of us. 

I asked about the dogs. Rob was playing around with a wide angle lens and trying new shots. A dog walked right into the lens and a new category was formed. We all love seeing the pictures of fur friends at the races. Rob will be happy to talk about his rescue pit, Simon. (The Mortimer story is a fun one as well).

There was so much more to our conversation, it was a fun and interesting conversation. It is obvious that Rob loves being out there, taking photos and allowing us all to share our memories. He stated several times that he would never deny how fortunate he is. We are so fortunate to have him out there with us.


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