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Ned Overend’s Secrets to Riding Forever
At 57, Overend is still one fast rider. The Energizer Bunny of mountain biking tells you how he keeps going, and going, and going...
By Brian Fiske
The Expert: Ned Overend (Specialized) has been winning races since the ‘80s, and even though his travel schedule keeps the 57-year-old from racing as much as he used to, it doesn’t keep him from winning tough events: “Deadly Nedly” won the Mount Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb in 2011, and is the current Masters World Champion in Cyclocross. We caught up with Ned—a guy who won his first National Championship 26 years ago—on his way to Brazil for aSpecialized dealer launch (he does marketing and R&D for the company, as well as racing) to learn his secrets to staying passionate for the long haul.
Drop the Obsession: “I love to train hard and race, and I’m still passionate about riding,” Overend says. “And I think that’s because I’m not obsessive about my training.” According to Overend, a lifelong passion for riding can be hard to develop if you constantly push yourself to the limit, and then continue to push even when your passion starts to wane. Keep it up and you’ll put away the bike and take up golf.
Listen to Your Body: Rest makes you stronger, and your body will tell you when you need morerest. Your job is to listen. “Let’s say Tuesday is an interval day,” Overend says. “You can judge your rest by how you feel. Not on the first interval, because that’s always a shock to the system, but on the second, if things don’t start to improve and you still feel terrible, pull the plug and go for an easy hour-long spin.” The worst thing you can do, Ned says, is continue to push when your body’s not recovered—and that means no two-hour “easy” rides, either. “With that, you aren’t recovering, and you aren’t getting intensity,” Overend says. “You’re just getting more tired.”
Eat Well: Overend admits to liking healthy foods—he eats a lot of salad, pasta with red sauce, and lean meat—though he also has a sweet tooth and a taste for beer. Regardless of your personal preferences, though, Overend says the trick to staying energized is simply to keep your body supplied with the right balance of nutrients. “I’m not that strict, but I make sure I get the right things,” he says. “High-quality protein, fruits and vegetables, and I take a vitamin and mineral supplement, too.”
Do Something Else: “Back in the day, I used to cross train in the off-season to rebuild—trail running, swimming, and gym work ,” Overend says. “Now that I’m older, I do it throughout the season, too.” Why? Bikers tend to have overdeveloped quads and weak…well, most everything else, especially the upper body. And that makes us prone to injury. Overend’s gym routine consists of situps, back raises, pull ups, dips, bench press, curls, and lateral stability work—basically 15 exercises with lots of push and pull, in a workout that he can get through in 30 to 40 minutes. During riding season, it’s mostly maintenance work with lighter weights (strength development is for the off season). “You can’t get your ego involved,” Ned says. “A 100-pound woman gets off the machine and you’ve got to drop the weight down a couple notches. Yeah, that happens.”
Work with Your Body: Older cyclists aren’t necessarily slower cyclists—Overend is proof of that. But certain things do change, and you need to work with the change. One example Overend gives: His eyesight. “I bring reading glasses with me when I ride,” Overend says. “If something isn’t right on my bike while I’m riding, I like to fix it right then. I can fix a flat without reading glasses, but if I’m trying to see derailleur screws, I know I need the glasses.”