Posted by on Aug 14, 2014 | No Comments

Generally, athletes reach absolute best times between 20 and 30 years. Over the past years, though, we have noticed a steady surge of top class performances from athletes well in their 30s,40s or even 50s. Advanced master triathletes and runners 40 or 50 years of age that I have coached see their times improve by 6-8% in 2-3 months while beginner and intermediate athletes generally improve by at least 10% during the same time slot.

Paradise Loop (San Francisco) -August 2014-

Paradise Loop (San Francisco) -August 2014-

Studies have shown that “older” athletes still have considerable growth rates in part due to regular exercising and a direct  result of coaching.

Our cardiovascular system is pretty much at it’s peak with ages between 20 and 30. How is it then possible to still see significant growth rates over 30 or 40? Well, experienced athletes simply know themselves a lot better, know what works and what doesn’t, know how to stay positive in the face of challenge & pressure, and likely work with a triathlon coach. Experienced athletes tend to increase training demands in the right dimension and subsequently raise their aerobic endurance capacity thus the oxygen uptake in a race. An experienced coach can help you to determine your strengths, weaknesses, set realistic goals and guide you through the training process pro-actively. Training info are used to create a weekly plan based on power, speed and heart rate zones derived by a field test.

Additionally, over years of coaching triathletes and runners I have found that my athletes live healthier overall, too, which makes a huge difference. Athletes begin to understand the relationship between life habits and performance. Sleep, eating healthy (diet), timing of eating, and hydration leads to a better recovery after a workout and therefore a higher performance. We explore and incoporate “new” training forms for continued growth and training variety like resistance training, functional strength (bodyweigth & core) and x-training.

As we endurance folks get older so do our muscles. Regular exercising over the long haul improve the properties of the muscles. In other words, the more endurance training has been placed on the muscles the better they become.

Muscles exposed to regular endurance training respond much better & faster to longer training loads which leads to a significantly higher economy and muscle recovery.  Beginner, intermediate and advanced endurance athletes benefit from steady aerobic training as it leads to a series of positive peripheral physiological adaptations such as mitochondria density, slow twitch hypertrophy, increased blood volume, increased capilarization, stronger heart muscle (left-ventricle hypertrophy)…lipid power etc).

All of these very fine adapations lead to performance improvements and faster racing.

Who has the better cards? The younger or the older athlete?  We can expect that marathon world records will be broken from younger pro elite athletes not older ones due to the declining maximal oxygen uptake (v02max) in older runners. Having said that, the finishing times of young and older age-group athletes (Ironman, Marathon) will continue to come closer, especially over the ultra endurance distances [70.3 |(Ultra-) Ironman | Ultra Marathons (50|100mi) where experience & maturity (=muscular strength endurance | mental toughness | race & fueling strategy) play a big role and v02max is of lesser relevance.

But even at a pro level ( Triathlon Ironman racing mind you but nonetheless), older Ironman Triathletes in their high 30s and low 40s (Dave Scott, Mark Allen, Craig Alexander, Macca, Cameron Brown) haved still managed to deliver outstanding world class performance and  given the younger athletes a run for their money.

Thanks for reading, folks.

Torsten Abel


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