Enduring Performance and Age Related Declines Part 2

In part one of this article, I brought up my thoughts about age and declining performance and answered a couple of my own nagging questions this season by seeing the performance of masters’ age groupers performing very well in a major Duathlon.

I still have a few more questions that I am curious to get answered so let’s get started.

Where can I expect to see declines and why?
I am already seeing declines in certain aspects of my fitness but many are subjective but others I can see in my own data. I know that I was able to sustain a certain average HR for hard group rides and road races a few years ago that I have not been able to attain in a couple of years. I also know that certain rides or races that have large Training Stress Scores can take me up to 2 days to recover from where as 4 years ago it was only a day to recover fully. I also notice that I am bit more injury prone. I recognize that it’s more about running at my age than cycling but it is still a factor that masters and age group runners and multisport athletes will be facing. In the journal entry from part one this article it is decided that the main areas of decline are maximal oxygen consumption, lactate threshold, and exercise economy. With maximal oxygen consumption showing the biggest declines.

What are the details behind the declining factors?
Maximal oxygen consumption is also known as V02 Max, which is the maximum capacity of an individual’s body to transport and use oxygen during vigorous activity. Lactate threshold is the exercise intensity at which lactic acid starts to accumulate in the blood stream. Exercise Economy can be thought of as energy required measured as oxygen and or power to maintain a constant velocity of movement. So to sum it up as we age past the age of 40 we see declines in oxygen uptake, the ability to tolerate lactic acid build up and our ability to produce more power.

How can I reduce the risk of injury and the onset of the decline?
I received some information from USAT this week that had covered the fact that the most competitive age group in Multisports is 40-44 I would add that the 45-49 is also becoming pretty competitive itself. While the tests and historical data from marathons shows that real declines don’t start occurring until the 50s I am also seeing some results in 50-60-year-old Time Trial specialists that are much stronger than their younger contemporaries.

So how is it that these 40 and 50 something’s are doing so well? Is it time to train, better equipment, coaching or just the current couple of generations are just better athletes? I think some of this may be true but I also believe that there has been an explosion in age group athletes and a focus from the sports medicine community on these new athletes.

The typical formula for reducing the risk of injury is recovery, recovery, recovery, periodized training and training specificity. I can’t stress recovery enough in masters’ racers. We reduce the number of intense weeks and recognize that higher Training Stress Scores may require us to train easier between harder training days and races than we have been used to. Building a periodized training plan that takes your age into consideration will go a long way to staving off injury and burn out. Lastly one of the biggest recommendations I can make is train specifically for your sport. Only complete workouts that are going to give you the biggest bang for the buck! If you are you going to specialize in lets say the Time Trial why would you be spending any significant time running or using the rowing machine at your gym?!

Age groupers can also limit the rate of decline in performance by adding strength training program that works on muscle groups specific to the range of motion(s) required by your given sport. I also cannot stress enough how big a part that nutrition plays in performance. The old computer adage, Garbage in is Garbage Out, is magnified for age groupers. Consuming more protein, whole foods and supplementing with calcium will go a long way. While this article is not meant to cover the entire spectrum of nutrition and supplements for masters competitors rest assured if you are 40+ years of age and are not paying attention to what you are eating you are doing your self a great disservice.

How long do I want to continue racing?
Not sure why have been thinking about this question so much as of late. I know there is more likely a time in the not too distant future that I will make the decision not based on physical reasons but more likely due to work load reasons as the coaching business grows into a full-time venture. On a positive note, it was made very clear to me this past spring that I can be very competitive as a masters athlete all the way up to my 60s.

I would love to hear from my readers! What are your concerns about age related issues and competing or just you’re recreational running or riding?

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Until next time, Train Smarter not Harder,

Coach Rob

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