Many of us begin to give up on the idea of performing above and beyond previous performances as we age. It was long thought that activities such as 5Ks, half marathons, and triathlons were possibly detrimental to the cardiovascular system after the age of 40. However, over the past 10 years we have learned that older persons can adapt to a program of regular aerobic training just as well as their younger counterparts and can also achieve the same 10 to 30 percent increase in VO2max (the body’s ability to use oxygen) in response to endurance exercise training as young adults (ACSM).
Endurance training is safe and is recommended as long as you enjoy it. Here are four keys to going faster as you age.
Find a training group
Training groups are arguably one of the best ways to stay motivated. Enjoying the camaraderie and encouragement from multiple people is rewarding. You are also less likely to skip your workout if others are depending on you to be there.
Train intensely, just less often
I would suggest doing no more than two intense workouts per week. The remaining workouts during the week should be focused on active recovery. Local athlete Kim Pontius can testify to this approach.
“With one intense speed workout and more recovery during the week, I have run my fastest 5K, 10K, and Drake half marathon,” Pontius says.
More frequent rest is vital to the enjoyment and safety of your training. There is a balance between stress and recovery as we train, and this balance gains importance as we age. This doesn’t just mean resting on certain days during the week, but also balancing every two or three intense training weeks with one lower intensity week.
Plan on strength training year-round
When you age, especially after the age of 50, your muscle mass begins to decline. Endurance activities will help fight that battle, but weight-bearing activity is key. You must introduce additional load to your muscles in order to maximally prevent muscle loss. Develop a strength training plan or use a personal trainer to help you through the season.
With this balanced approach, you are more than prepared to run your first 5K, accomplish a faster half marathon or just continue being active for years to come.
Information provided by John Mongar, NASM Performance Enhancement Specialist, USA Triathlon Level 1 Coach, Ames Racquet and Fitness Center.