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Intensity riding for older riders (70+)

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Intensity riding for older riders (70+)

Old 08-27-22, 03:59 AM
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yannisg
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Intensity riding for older riders (70+)

Use intensity workouts to slow aging and reduce the yearly decrease in VO2max is recommended by various biking articles, and who doesn't want that to happen to themselves.
On the other side, many cardiologists, athletes included, recommend to reduce the intensity for the same age group. Ride but not intensively. Stating that high intensity can cause heart problem such as arrhythmies, AF (atrial fibrillation), and increase of the aeorta. I already have a slight arrhythmia, and an enlarged aeorta.
So how much intensity should I included in my workouts to get the benefit of the reduced aging without risking any future heart problems.
Considering the above, I have reduced the intensity of my interval workouts, and increased the length. My shortest intervals are 4min X2 rec. I have also reduced my average and MaxHR for the intervals. However, the above intervals are still intensive.
So, my dilemma is whether I should continue doing these intervals as I get older or ride my routes, which many of them included a lot of climbing, but I can control the intensity which is harder to do once I am committed to do a series of intervals.
Any view on this matter is appreciated.
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Old 08-27-22, 05:41 AM
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Your question is of great interest to me although I am 6 years shy of the desired age you state. Many older riders develop heart timing issues. I have a few timing concerns, so, I went to 4 cardiologists for workups several years ago. They said no limits, do whatever you want. I want to maintain my VO2 max. because it has the highest correlation to mortality and it also is important athletically.

How does one maintain it?

If you read enough studies, I think a reasonable conclusion is some younger athletes respond better to intensity than training volume (hours per year) but everyone responds to volume.

One of my curiosities is why do older riders stop riding? I am a long distance rider, doing stuff like the 1218 km Paris Brest Paris and it is very rare for someone to be able to finish such an event in their 70's and it is 50/50 to complete it at 65 years old. I plan to try it next Summer. But the question of what hits athletes in the 60's?? I think recovery from injuries is a big one. One of the Cardiologists that did my workup was a real sports medicine guy and he said, it isn't your heart that will stop you athletically, it will be orthopedic issues. He casually said be was astounded by my stress test results and I said that I ride a lot (say 15,000 miles per year) and am probably better than average. He then empathatically said, "No, I am absolutely astounded by 18.4 METs, your VO2 Max is 61 or 62".....about what I see with high level HS age cross country runners, not state champs but good runners. My bike numbers like everyone's are very much lower. I have always done a lot of volume whether it is walking or riding a bike.

Leads to the question, how can we measure or track VO2 max.

I have 3 different hills of duration between 3-8 minutes. When ridden as hard as possible, I use the average power on these hills as a proxy for my VO2 max. Unlike my Garmin, hills do not lie.

I had to recover from an accident almost a year ago. I could not ride much but I did 2-3 short intensity efforts per week, say 20-30 minute HIIT. My 5 minute power only dropped from 350 watts to 333 watts over my 5 month recovery. Was that maintenance? Over the last 6 months, I slowly increased my volume to where my CTL is 75-80, which is low for me but it demonstrates how hard it is for an older rider to recover from setbacks and that volume matters. Overtraining is kind of a setback. Too many intervals can cause overtraining or certainly excessive overreaching. In terms of intervals, I do either Ronnestad intervals or the classic, brutally difficult 4 x 5 minutes at 112-120% of FTP. I never do intervals more often than once every 10 days. I only do them when I feel really good and feeling like I can set a PR up my hills. I recently hit a personal best power for 5 minutes. I ride 14-18 hours per week on terrain with 50-60 feet/mile of elevation and I keep my pace on climbs to Tempo at the most and try to keep all of my riding to Z2. Is there a better approach for me? I don't know. But I do not do intervals easy, they are balls to the wall. My Cardologist says it is fine.

I don't think there are any controlled studies for 70+ athletes out there but please take this youngins N = 1 experience with a grain of salt. Look up Dill and his lifelong measurements at Harvard. He was a big hiker and endurance enthusiast in general. Pollock's study is classic.

At the fairly inactive end of Rogers’ athletic group, the losses in VO2max were greater. Two athletes who cut training volume by 30% or more experienced VO2max losses of about 1% per year. By contrast, a 55-year-old, national-class athlete, who completely maintained the quantity and quality of his training, preserved all of his VO2max – and actually improved his competitive performances – over the entire study period! Such perfect preservation of aerobic capacity by very hard-working veterans was, of course, the same finding made by Pollock in his 10-year study.
Pollock pointed out that one of the most difficult problems faced by veteran athletes is simply the near impossibility of sustaining very high-quality training over a period as long as ten years, especially when the body is beginning to show signs of ‘wear and tear'(6). It is not that veterans can no longer plan and carry out very rugged training sessions; rather that the physiological recovery processes may slow with age, thus increasing the risk of injury and lowering the actual frequency of torrid, fitness-maximising workouts.
That is my experience, too. (emphasis added). Don't get injured and be careful with intensity because recovery is lessened. If Coggan hadn't been thrown off all forums around the world, you could ask him, he is like 90 years old or something. His relatively low decline in VO2 max is pretty astounding.

https://www.sportsperformancebulleti...obic-capacity/

https://www.trainingpeaks.com/blog/z...ance-athletes/
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Old 08-27-22, 08:53 AM
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The first thing I'd do is to get a variety of medical opinions about any issues I have and how exercise can be best used for me. In my case, I am 76 and have reduced the length of my rides from 30-50 miles to 15-30 miles. I've also increased the pace/intensity. That is not to say that my average MPH is up but just that I pick my spots to see how well I'm riding compared to years gone by. I am an ex-college athlete and the attitude of trying to have accomplishments and improvements suits my psyche. My typical ride might be something like 15-20 miles with 1,000-1,300 ft of climbing. On a ride like that I'm usually around 15 mph.
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Old 08-27-22, 09:28 AM
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73 and I train and race at the track and race time trials.

And I was cycling in Greece last year. I like the cycling and it was interesting and challenging.

Last night, I returned from Aguascalientes Mexico where I was training at the indoor velodrome while my wife, age 72, was racing. Aguascalientes is 6200’ but typically measures out at 8300 to 9300’ according to my Kestral weather meter depending on various atmospheric conditions. I was doing high intensity efforts at altitude - 500 meter accelerations, kilos and etc.

I am getting ready for the masters world track championships in LA in a month. Generally, I do at least 2 track / HIIT style sessions per week. However, I am a shorter / middle distance rider.

And I can bias my muscle composition and physiology toward the middle distances but it is not my best. Generally I get about 5000 to 7000 miles per year. At Aguascalientes, these past 20 days, all I have ridden is track and I have about 180 miles of distance on the 250 meter track - lots of motor paced endurance work at 25 to 27 miles per hours using a 106 gear inches.

With respect to aging, I like Clint Eastwood’s latest quote when at age 91, he is making another movie. He was asked if his age is a problem and Clint said, do not let the old man in.

IMO, as I age, I am focusing at lot on mobility and strength. For me, the skeleton and strength is where the action is. If my skeleton and strength are bad, it is a very tough day on the bike at any intensity or duration. YMMV

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Old 08-27-22, 10:13 AM
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I would add that is it easier for me to do a 3x (one minute on two minutes off for 15 minutes) and recover than a 2 hour endurance ride.
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Old 08-27-22, 10:51 AM
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Based on a bunch of articles and book Ive read, it seems that its not the intensity that is risky to the aging heart, its insufficient recovery time that leads to prolonged inflammation, which leads to heart muscle damage.

So the message for us older athletes is to recover well. It takes us longer to recover, so we need more of it.
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Old 08-27-22, 11:52 AM
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I am on the cusp of 70 years of age. I have never raced. I have never done what most riders would call serious bike training, like what a ranked amateur would do. I used to do high intensity intervals on a semi-regular basis, and I did used to sort of track some ride info. Now it is more a matter of just changing the pace over the course of a ride, with an occasional 15-20 mile, fast paced ride. I rarely do any real sprinting, and only for very short distance. Intensity, I guess, is not an adjective I would use much in describing how I ride these days.
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Old 08-27-22, 01:41 PM
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71 here. Foothills east of Seattle.
Lucky to have hills that serve as intervals.
Almost every ride finishes with a 400' elevation gain over the last 1.75 mi.
I listen to my body.
It tells me to still ride hard, but after a hard ride take a day or two off the bike.
I ride fewer days but a bit longer. Now about 30mi 3 or 4 times per week, when 10 years ago I was riding 6/wk @ 20mi avg.

I'm just training to feel good every day. And to hike, bike, ski, et al....
I ride to increase my life's pleasures - sights, sounds, smells, activity, smiling, etc.
No electronics any more. No stats, charts, Joel Friedman (sp?). Been there.

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Old 08-27-22, 07:16 PM
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Originally Posted by yannisg View Post
Use intensity workouts to slow aging and reduce the yearly decrease in VO2max is recommended by various biking articles, and who doesn't want that to happen to themselves.
On the other side, many cardiologists, athletes included, recommend to reduce the intensity for the same age group. Ride but not intensively. Stating that high intensity can cause heart problem such as arrhythmies, AF (atrial fibrillation), and increase of the aeorta. I already have a slight arrhythmia, and an enlarged aeorta.
So how much intensity should I included in my workouts to get the benefit of the reduced aging without risking any future heart problems.
Considering the above, I have reduced the intensity of my interval workouts, and increased the length. My shortest intervals are 4min X2 rec. I have also reduced my average and MaxHR for the intervals. However, the above intervals are still intensive.
So, my dilemma is whether I should continue doing these intervals as I get older or ride my routes, which many of them included a lot of climbing, but I can control the intensity which is harder to do once I am committed to do a series of intervals.
Any view on this matter is appreciated.
I happen to be a physician, so maybe I understand some of the concepts a little better, but I’m essentially a smart lay person in this area. I’m 66 and at risk for these issues, having competed and messed around in endurance sports since high school. I have a couple of comments.

First this concern applies only to people who have put in years of intense training. The big risk factor is years and degree of exposure, not age. For most of us, the damage, if any, is done and it’s not clear from what I’ve read that what we do now is all that important. I still do VO2max intervals and knucklehead group rides, but the intensity and frequency are are limited by my pathetic rate of recovery. I pay close attention to HRV and all this means that I’ve cut way back in recent years. I will certainly never race again.

Second, I do wonder about the potential usefulness of a screening echocardiogram. If I found out I had a huge left atrium, I might think seriously about taking up shuffleboard. The problem is getting someone to put something very tactful in your record or paying cash for the test. One also has to be careful with cardiologists. Some are great and understand elderly athletes, but others are incredibly aggressive and doctrinaire and, as a group, they are the intake stage for the cath lab and the chest crackers, huge profit centers for health care systems.

Good luck, brother.
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Old 08-27-22, 09:19 PM
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My 'longevity exercise cardiologist' told me to sell my power lawn mower and buy an old fashion rotary blade push mower. Works the whole body, has to be done regularly, cardio but not extreme, physical but not extreme. Less dangerous that rock climbing. Big lawn, in season. We all make fitness goals, decisions, actions from a slightly different point of view. I upgraded to an e-mower.

edit: Ride on.

Last edited by Wildwood; 08-27-22 at 09:29 PM.
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Old 08-28-22, 11:54 AM
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Originally Posted by Wildwood View Post
My 'longevity exercise cardiologist' told me to sell my power lawn mower and buy an old fashion rotary blade push mower. Works the whole body, has to be done regularly, cardio but not extreme, physical but not extreme. Less dangerous that rock climbing. Big lawn, in season. We all make fitness goals, decisions, actions from a slightly different point of view. I upgraded to an e-mower.

edit: Ride on.
Yeah I'm getting rid of my old school reel push mower for an e-mower. I figure it will help free up time for more bike riding.

Insofar as bike riding is concerned, I don't tend to spend too much time in my peak zones. I do look for hills to ride though as much as possible.
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Old 08-28-22, 12:18 PM
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Thanks everyone for yr input.
I will probably keep doing longer intervals (4 to 6 min) at 90% of my current FTP once every week or 10 days with fully recovery rides in between instead of shorter high intensity ones.
Furthermore, I could substitute a few of these intervals by hard riding uphill. I live in a mountainous area.
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Old 08-28-22, 03:02 PM
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I’m 71 and have bradycardia and a benign arythmia and have ridden 6,000-7,000 miles a year for over 40 years. Every time that I get a new family doctor, they send me to a cardiologist despite me telling them my history. The cardiologist and I sit around and talk cycling for 20’ like every time that a doc sends me and then he says keep on riding and doing what I do.
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Old 08-28-22, 03:36 PM
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At about 74 (IIRC!), I cut out the high intensity stuff which would max or come close to maxing my HR. I do 30" max sets but not longer. I don't like what I feel like when I get close to max. That used to be just fine, but it isn't anymore. I've only been riding at high intensity for 27 years, so I have that advantage, yet I've eased off.
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Old 08-28-22, 03:51 PM
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Pacemaker (Bradycardia) and a-fib, beta blocker, Xarelto, aged 78. My heart rate sometimes goes bonkers, but I don't feel any symptoms. My doc has told me repeatedly that I can drive my HR as high as I can. Usually that means 115 if I'm lucky and fierce. A couple of weeks ago, I did a 4 mile loop at 160-170, but the next 2 loops were at 105. I spend some time on each ride going faster than whatever my 'normal' may be for that day.

I'd like to ride in zone 3 and 4 a lot, but with the beta blocker, I have no idea what the zones are.
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Old 08-28-22, 07:44 PM
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depends... at some point we all have 'issues' which come with our 'seasoning'. If they're heart related then definition of the issue/s is important as well as the advice of the 'experts'. Then some form of appropriate monitoring is a good idea... Ultimately, you should have a good handle on 'where' you are and what, reasonably you can do. The 'machine' does best when you ramp up the expectations in a lower, not steeper, level of demand.
I have heart considerations, so I try to keep my efforts within a range which is less likely to bring on consequences. But I still challenge myself, and 'intensity' is a big part of doing my best.
As mentioned. 'recovery' seems essential to building these days - recovery was always important. When young, recovery was a short annoyance. These days it's a good time to stretch back and reflect on the goodness of riding and breathing and recover more/longer... LOL!
I always ride with a HRM, it keeps me aware of myself and keeps me honest.
The body is a variable machine, some days great, other days... well that'll change also...
Be honest and then you can also be demanding of yourself.
Plenty of my zone 3 & 4 and I put my toes into the zone 5 pool often enough - sometimes for a longer swim, when I feel right. And sometimes when with a group, I refuse to get shelled... LOL!
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Old 08-28-22, 08:30 PM
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Originally Posted by bikemig View Post
Yeah I'm getting rid of my old school reel push mower for an e-mower. I figure it will help free up time for more bike riding.

Insofar as bike riding is concerned, I don't tend to spend too much time in my peak zones. I do look for hills to ride though as much as possible.
It might be a joke reference, but:
I have an e-mower! I already had four other Makita 18v tools. This Makita lawn mower is perfect for my small lawn. It's quiet enough to run at 7am without annoying the neighbors or to listen to music on earbuds while running it. Easy to tip on it's side after removing the batteries to clean it out too. Now I have some new spare batteries for the tools. The related 18v blower works great, with a wide range from a blast to a minimal soft breeze.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The thread is interesting. I'll have to think about my max intensities.

Last edited by rm -rf; 08-28-22 at 08:33 PM.
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Old 08-29-22, 03:23 PM
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I rode around the hills near home. There are some great training areas, and other cyclists now and again can show me how it's done.
Some of the younger women are fast.
I've had a few missed beats lately, and with a low pulse rate, you tend to notice. An ECG test revealed no problems but you wonder if they look at it and think "OK - for a guy in his 70s . . )
Being a smidges off 74, the spinning classes mainly do it for me now, 6 or 7 days a week. As long as my heart beats to the tune (135 or so bpm, my neck is my guide, I can't read a fitbe) my breathing and cadence follows. I'm happy wi that.
They call it HIIT, and it's recommended for older guys. I am not the oldest there, and it's such fun.
Nor have I yet crashed a gym bike! That's the good bit.
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Old 08-29-22, 07:20 PM
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I’ll go out on a clinical limb here and say that for anyone with adequate coronary circulation and no history of an unstable arrhythmia, irrespective of age, short intervals of maximal exertion carry no risk of acute harm. Personally, I run the tach into the 170s once or twice a week, ‘cause it feels so good (bad).

I was in a race a few years ago where an old guy dropped dead from a cardiac arrest, but it was sailboat race to Bermuda and the poor man crumped in the cockpit on the first night.

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Old 08-30-22, 09:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Trsnrtr View Post
The cardiologist and I sit around and talk cycling for 20 like every time that a doc sends me and then he says keep on riding and doing what I do.
Sounds like a good cardiologist and a good doctor, for that matter. A lot of times a good talk (aka detailed medical history) is more informative than a bunch of (expensive, unnecessary) tests.
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Old 08-30-22, 11:01 AM
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At 75.5 I am trying to restrict my HR to <140 on long climbs with some peaks up to 150. Occasionally, if climbing at this HR for a long period 1.5-2 hrs my HR will jump to 160-165 on my monitor.
Definitely, this is not my actual HR. The monitor must be pickup occasion brief fast beats.
Furthermore, after and extended intense climbs as above, when resting, my HR will drop to 110-115 and stay there most likely indicating that I am over tired whereas after shorter climbs my HR will drop quickly to 90.
Maybe, the extended intense climb is causing a short arrhythmia.
As mentioned earlier, my cardiologist is against high intensity. Arterial pressure goes up with intensity, and that may cause serious problems. Of course, high intensity is relative for each rider, and everyone makes their own choices.
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Old 08-30-22, 11:03 AM
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Originally Posted by pdlamb View Post
Sounds like a good cardiologist and a good doctor, for that matter. A lot of times a good talk (aka detailed medical history) is more informative than a bunch of (expensive, unnecessary) tests.
Truth.

I went in for a work up. The doctor wanted me to do a treadmill stress test, asked cardiologist for a consult. Cardiologist asked me what type of riding I was doing. I told her, she said no need for a stress test, hes doing stress tests on his bike already.
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Old 08-30-22, 11:25 AM
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Originally Posted by terrymorse View Post
Truth.

I went in for a work up. The doctor wanted me to do a treadmill stress test, asked cardiologist for a consult. Cardiologist asked me what type of riding I was doing. I told her, she said no need for a stress test, hes doing stress tests on his bike already.
I get the same response from my cardiologist
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Old 08-30-22, 01:17 PM
  #24  
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Intervals provide the best results and provide an opportunity for the body to recover from short high intensity periods. This is why I love hilly countryside as intervals occur naturally. There is an old adage that if you can talk in a normal manner then you are not pushing hard enough and in general that is true.

A stress test can show a heart arrhythmia although most people have an erratic pulse rate and it is over diagnosed and a lot of unnecessary surgeries often result. A blood pressure test that compares pressures at the top and the bottom of the body done by a competent individual is the best tool to see if there is a problem.

I also adjust my heart rate based on the temperature and the humidity level. I worry more about heatstroke than a heart attack.
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Old 08-30-22, 05:36 PM
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Oy, these comments are interesting. I had a cardiac workup lately, because of some funny metrics (EKG, blood pressure, etc.) I went through all this about 10 years ago and the cardiologists pronounced me healthy, but I'm still going to get it checked out again. The BP is especially interesting, as it is low to normal when I take it at home, high when I take it in the doc office, even with the same device.

In the past, I didn't ride with a heart monitor, but after my last crash, my kids thought I needed an upscale "I've fallen and I can't get up" device, so they got me one of those watches that measures such things. The metrics are wild. Resting heart rate of 47 and heart rate that is regularly in the 165-170 range for minutes at a time when I am climbing. It actually spiked to 189 once, and I felt fine. The watch has also detected super low heart rates when I'm sleeping ... 36!

So back to the cardiologist I go. But every time I see them, they express little concern. I get the idea that people like ourselves are out of the norm, and since we are outwardly healthy (lots more than their typical patient), they don't get too excited about anything. I'd love to find one that is expert in matters like this. At my last appointment, he asked if I had any questions. I brought up A-fib (it is hitting a lot of endurance cyclists I know, and I've seen the literature ... it is not uncommon). He told me he has several patients with it ... all cyclists.

I just ride by how I feel, but I'm now wondering if that is wise. I suppose at least it will be a quick death. lol
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