Monday, November 23, 2009

Age and Intensity

I just got an email from someone on one of my favorite topics - aging and training. I've grown old thinking about this topic. Here's his question and my reply.

Q: I was having a conversation with a friend the other day about 45+ masters racing. We are both a decade or so away from 45+, so I'm not exactly sure why it became a topic of conversation. Like any good discussion/debate there were a series of point and counterpoints. I'll spare you the entire dialogue. Fundamentally, we were discussing the pros and cons to road racing in your 40s-50s. My unsubstantiated opinion is that aerobic exercise, including intensity just above or below LT, is probably good for overall strength and health; but I have my doubts about the benefits of anaerobic efforts for riders approaching their 50s. My unsubstantiated conclusion was that crits and road races probably do more harm than good, and middle aged or aged riders might get more benefit from steady state events.

A: Great topic. But I disagree strongly with you. I'm a big proponent of maintaining or even increasing the percentage of high intensity one does as he/she ages. Otherwise we begin to lose muscle mass. I see many older athletes who have done as you suggest and I've seen them wither over the years. The ones who raced and trained at high intensity stayed much more muscular and lean. At age 65 I do intervals and hill repeats several times a week.

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At November 23, 2009 9:45 AM , Blogger WormWoman said...

I'm 67 and disagree. One year ago I bought the Triathlon Bible and began training that included anaerobic efforts. I've steadily improved and feel great. I've lost weight, become competitive with the 50 age group who only run and love my body again.

At November 23, 2009 9:59 AM , Blogger Michael said...

Thank god. ;) (45)

At November 23, 2009 2:50 PM , Blogger william said...

Go Joe. I attended a seminar you did with Mierke recently and continue to use the info gleaned there as a supplement to your books and his. As a 55 year old planning for IM MOO next year, I am glad to hear your encouragement for the intensity. I actually look forward to those and thoroughly enjoyed an informal cycle time trial this weekend. Keep em coming.


At November 23, 2009 3:10 PM , Blogger Jeff Shilt, M.D. said...


I couldn't agree more with your sentiments. However, this discussion wouldn't be complete without discussing age related recovery.

There is a reasonable body literature to support the importance of strength training to decrease age related changes in muscle mass. (Cristea A, Korhonen MT, Hakkinen K, Mero A, Alen M,
Sipila S, Viitasalo JT, Koljonen MJ, Suominen H, Larsson L
(2008) Effects of combined strength and sprint training on
regulation of muscle contraction at the whole-muscle and
single-fibre levels in elite master sprinters. Acta Physiol193:275–289) Korhonen has written the most extensively recently in this regard.

However, how to optimize the training in relation to recovery is less known, as best I can tell. Certainly interested in your thoughts.


At November 23, 2009 9:17 PM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Hi Jeff--Yes I agree. The big challenge is recovery. The more dedicated to such training (high intensity), the better/sooner the older athlete recovers. But we still recover slower than a young athlete doing the same workout.

At November 24, 2009 8:39 AM , Blogger rusty wrycza said...

@51 I can literally see my MAX HR dropping, 1 year at-a-time... meanwhile I've been to my 30th HS class reunion - wow fat is free after all
my most important observation is that my ratio of training time vs. recovery time has changed since my 30's - now is more like 1 day ON, and 1 day OFF
my recovery is at least as important as the training itself

At November 27, 2009 10:17 PM , Blogger Phoenix in flight, Phoenix in flames. said...

You're 65?!? You do NOT look it.

At December 6, 2009 3:34 AM , Blogger possum said...

Speaking of training racing and recovery:
I'm 60 and started racing traithlon 22 years, in regards to recovery, there is a huge shift in the amount of recovey time I need.
Can you recommend and books for the ageing triathlete ? Much of the litrature our there is frankly

At December 6, 2009 2:20 PM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

possum--I agree on inadequacy of info for aging athletes. Don't know of any recent updates in print. My Cycling Past 50 is getting somewhat dated now (1997). Am thinking about a new book on topic.


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