Triathlon Magazine Canada - - FEATURES - BY BRUCE REGENSBURG

THE DAYS WHEN it was a nov­elty to see ath­letes over 60 com­pet­ing at triathlon races are long gone. Ath­letes are now stay­ing in the sport longer and choos­ing triathlon as a healthy life­style sport af­ter their kids have grown up and moved out of the house. For peo­ple who have been do­ing the sport for some years, or just start­ing out, com­pet­ing past the age of 50 raises new chal­lenges.

The body ages (no mat­ter how much we want to deny it) and it’s smart to be both prac­ti­cal and grace­ful about this re­al­ity. Ev­ery­one’s body ages at a dif­fer­ent rate, so be pre­pared to do bet­ter, or worse, than the peo­ple you usu­ally race against. As you move through the age groups, there are of­ten in­con­sis­tent per­for­mances as ath­letes deal with life changes, in­juries and fluc­tu­at­ing en­ergy. The guy you were com­pet­i­tive with last sea­son may ei­ther be far ahead or far be­hind this year. Some “Du­ra­cell bun­nies” keep march­ing right into their 70s due to a com­bi­na­tion of dura­bil­ity, ge­net­ics and good luck. These peo­ple are ca­pa­ble of do­ing a sub 11-hour Iron­man into their 60s. How­ever, they are in the mi­nor­ity. Fin­ish times are gen­er­ally about 30 min­utes longer for each age group over 50. For ex­am­ple, I did my first Iron­man when I was 53 and fin­ished in un­der 12 hours. Now that I am 73, I strug­gle to fin­ish in un­der 14 hours. How­ever, I have gone from be­ing ninth in my age group when I was 53 to step­ping atop the podium af­ter 62 and win­ning my age group in two Iron­man triathlons once I was in the 70 to 74 cat­e­gory.

Af­ter the age of 50 the mass and func­tion of your mus­cles de­creases. This makes phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity a ne­ces­sity for health and vi­tal­ity. It also means you need to spend time on strength train­ing. Stud­ies on mus­cle mass have shown that the mus­cle mass of in­ac­tive peo­ple and triath­letes are about the same at age 40, but at 70, the “couch po­tato” has 50 per cent less arm and leg mus­cle than an ac­tive triath­lete. In­ter­est­ingly, older run­ners have the same mus­cle mass in their legs as triath­letes, but less arm mus­cle mass than a triath­lete, who need up­per-body strength for swimming and rid­ing. The old adage “use it or lose it” seems to ap­ply to mus­cle mass af­ter age 50. Triathlon train­ing, cou­pled with strength train­ing, helps main­tain mus­cle mass and also pre­vents mus­cle de­te­ri­o­ra­tion. As peo­ple age, the chance of con­tract­ing an ill­ness in­creases as the body’s im­mune sys­tem weak­ens and health is­sues of an ag­ing body be­come more of a con­cern. While many se­niors who have ex­pe­ri­enced life threat­en­ing ill­nesses still do­ing triathlons, re­turn­ing to pre-ill­ness form can be dif­fi­cult and re­quires mas­sive pa­tience. I had a heart at­tack when I was 66. Ten months later I did Iron­man Regensburg and placed third. I did this through a painfully slow and pro­gres­sive train­ing pro­gram that was based on both re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and train­ing for long dis­tance. So what does it take to con­tinue triathlon into your golden years?

over 45 should fol­low a good strength pro­gram.

In­clude a good func­tional core pro­gram to sup­port pos­ture and biome­chan­ics, which will al­low you to train longer and bet­ter with­out in­jury. Strength train­ing sup­ports your me­tab­o­lism, im­mune sys­tem, hor­mone pro­duc­tion and mus­cu­lar skele­tal sys­tem and should be done two to three times a week.

a good nu­tri­tion plan to con­trol your weight.

Some body types gain weight as they age, while oth­ers lose it, es­pe­cially when train­ing aer­o­bi­cally for long dis­tance. As with younger ath­letes, your food is your fuel, so be wise and prac­ti­cal with nu­tri­tion.

more re­cov­ery in your train­ing pro­gram.

With ev­ery decade, you will re­quire more re­cov­ery be­tween hard ef­forts and races. Re­mem­ber that too many hard ef­forts fol­lows the “law of di­min­ish­ing re­turns.” You need to find a new bal­ance be­tween vol­ume in­ten­sity and re­cov­ery as you age. For ath­letes over 50, one high in­ten­sity work­out per week per sport, with aer­o­bic ef­forts and re­cov­ery be­tween is a good guide­line. For ath­letes over 60, this may be once ev­ery two weeks. Ev­ery sec­ond or third week needs to be a re­cov­ery week of less train­ing and less in­ten­sity. Over 70, most ath­letes are per­form­ing at an aer­o­bic level most of the time. Train­ing should be tai­lored to be fun – not stressful – on the body and flex­i­ble in or­der to ac­count for fa­tigue and other health is­sues that arise.

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