TRAIN FOR SUC­CESS AT ANY AGE

THE AG­ING ATH­LETE

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - TRANSITION - BY DOUG SCOTT

NOW THAT I am in my fifties, ev­ery time I men­tion I have an ache or pain the re­sponse I get usu­ally starts with the phrase “As you get older …” clearly im­ply­ing that I need to get used to get­ting more and more fee­ble. It is a phrase I am re­ally start­ing to dis­like.

Is it in­evitable that I will grad­u­ally (or maybe not so grad­u­ally) get slower and weaker un­til I can no longer com­pete in triathlons? If the an­swer is yes, at what age can I ex­pect that to hap­pen? And what about those age group ath­letes still go­ing strong in their 70s and 80s? Do they have bet­ter genes than I, or are they sim­ply tak­ing great care of them­selves? What do I need to do to be able to en­joy this sport that I love for a cou­ple more decades?

Triath­letes over 50 make up a sig­nif­i­cant pro­por­tion of the pro­vin­cial triathlon as­so­ci­a­tions here in Canada, rang­ing from a low of 16 per cent in Que­bec to over 30 per cent of the mem­bers in B.C. So un­der­stand­ing ways to keep older triath­letes healthy, and com­pet­ing, is cer­tainly worth­while.

I be­gan by ask­ing Daryl Steeves, head coach of Fundy Ex­treme Triathlon Club in Saint John, N.B., who has seen his share of ath­letes age. Steeves has been coach­ing for forty years and has two MAS in biome­chan­ics and pe­di­atric ex­er­cise phys­i­ol­ogy. Ac­cord­ing to him, the short an­swer to whether per­for­mance de­cline is in­evitable is “yes.” We do start to de­te­ri­o­rate af­ter about age 40. It be­gins with our max­i­mum heart rate, which de­creases by about one beat per year. As well, our VO2 max, which is a mea­sure of our abil­ity to use oxy­gen, also de­creases. One ar­ti­cle pub­lished in Sports Medicine put the de­crease in VO2 max as high as 10 per cent per decade of age.

We also start to lose mus­cle mass in some­thing called age-re­lated sar­cope­nia. Ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can Col­lege of Sports Medicine, by about age 50 we have al­ready lost 10 per cent of our mus­cle mass. In our six­ties and sev­en­ties we lose strength at a rate of 15 per cent per decade and up to 30 per cent, per decade, af­ter that. Flex­i­bil­ity and bal­ance also be­come no­tice­ably worse with age. As mus­cles and the cor­re­spond­ing con­nec­tive tis­sue get tighter, range of mo­tion de­creases, re­sult­ing in a cor­re­spond­ing risk of in­jury.

Colm Kelly races to the fin­ish in the men’s 65-69 age group at the 2012 Iron­man World Cham­pi­onship in Kona

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