Fast After 50 is an valuable resource for masters and senior athletes that want to remain competitive and stay healthy well past age 50. Author Joe Friel, a legendary endurance sports coach entering his seventh decade, provides an honest and unblinking look at the effects of aging on runners and other endurance athletes. Most importantly, his training advice is backed by exhaustive research and scientific study.
While none of us can stop time, we can slow down the effects of the aging process with thoughtful attention to training, diet, and recovery. Slowing down the aging process means we can continue to be fast for decades after turning 50. Age is just a number, not an excuse to give anything less than your best.
Endurance Athletes Aren’t Normal
Good news! If you’re reading this article, chances are you’re not a normal person. What I mean is, you probably don’t fit the profile of the average person. You’re an endurance athlete, and that makes you special.
Joe Friel defines normal as “sedentary, overweight, and unmotivated.” Normal folks make up the bulk of our society and are considered to be common markers for the current state of human physiology. You already have a leg up on all of them simply because you lead an active and vigorous lifestyle.
Nevertheless, even athletes experience the symptoms of aging. Aerobic capacity declines, maximal heart rate is reduced, muscle fibers are lost, and recovery takes more time. Not great news, but good to know moving forward.
Use it or lose it. If you stop training hard, you’ll stop racing fast. Lots of older athletes succumb to long slow training runs day after day. Running fast as you get older isn’t as much fun as it once was. The threat of injury, the loss of top-end speed, and the patient recovery required as a senior athlete can deter runners from incorporating high-intensity training in their routine.
Joe Friel reminds us that basic training principles still apply to older runners. Training volume (miles and minutes) and intensity are the two biggest indicators of performance. Not only that, but several studies cited in Fast After 50 prove that high-intensity workouts like intervals help preserve aerobic capacity in aging athletes. Could the fountain of youth be as simple as 400m repeats?
We suffer from decreased hormone production as we age. Testosterone, human growth hormone, and erythropoietin (EPO) all dwindle. But, the good news is that we can boost our hormone levels through, you guessed it, high-intensity training. Weightlifting is particularly helpful in raising hormone levels. Lifting heavy weights with few repetitions leads to big strength gains in aging athletes.
Sleep is the most important part of recovery. Nothing else you can do will help you recover faster or more completely. In fact, many studies have linked sleep duration to longevity. Muscles and bones are repaired while you sleep, and this is when your body produces tissue-building hormones.
Pro Tip: If you struggle falling asleep at night, try drinking tart cherry juice for a natural source of melatonin.
Nutrition is the second most important component of recovery. protein is important for muscle recovery and growth. Studies show that older athletes may need more protein as they age because they process it less efficiently than younger athletes. Post workout and before bed are crucial times for high snacks.
We’ve only hit the tip of the iceberg. If you want to learn how to race strong for the rest of your life, check out Fast After 50 by Joe Friel. And, if you have any advice for senior runners, leave your comments here for discussion.