Triathlon Magazine Canada - - FEATURES - BY NIGEL GRAY

AS WE AGE we start to see our per­for­mances drop, but there are a num­ber of things that we can do to main­tain fit­ness for longer. There are also more train­ing chal­lenges as we get older and, now that I am com­pet­ing in the 45 to 49 cat­e­gory, I have had to face more chal­lenges with my run in the last four years than I had in the first 20 years of my triathlon ca­reer. Here are a few key things that I have learned through both my coach­ing and my own ex­pe­ri­ence:

Every­one is dif­fer­ent: Every­one re­sponds dif­fer­ently to train­ing, so one set plan won’t work for all. You need to be able to step back and look at what has worked for you. Do you re­spond bet­ter to run­ning more fre­quently, or do you need days off the run in order to stay healthy? Be­ing a good run­ner off the bike at a full-dis­tance race is about be­ing durable and able to han­dle the pound­ing that comes with a marathon af­ter a six- to 10-hour “warm-up.” Fre­quency: Run fre­quency and con­sis­tency is the big­gest ben­e­fit to your run per­for­mance over time. Be­ing able to run three to six (or more) times a week, and do­ing that week af­ter week, month af­ter month, makes a huge dif­fer­ence to your run fit­ness and dura­bil­ity. One trick that can work well is to do dou­ble runs: split up a long run into two ses­sions, one in the morn­ing, one in the evening, which can help re­duce some of the pound­ing from a long ef­fort and al­lows you to add more vol­ume and fre­quency to your run train­ing, but with a lower risk of in­jury. Speed work: Do­ing some fast run­ning is a key part of main­tain­ing fit­ness and per­for­mance as you age. Your VO2 Max (the max­i­mal amount of oxy­gen you can take into your sys­tem) starts to de­cline as you age. Harder run­ning is key to off­set­ting this process, but, at the same time, it’s im­por­tant to be aware of the in­jury risks of harder run­ning and do­ing what you can to mit­i­gate them. Plan your in­tense run work­outs ahead of your hard bike work­outs. This al­lows you to run on fresher legs and helps re­duce the in­jury risk. Vary your in­ten­sity: Most athletes run at the same in­ten­sity for al­most all of their runs – ev­ery run is within 15 sec­onds/km. To get the most out of your speed work, you need to learn to run slow. If you do all your run­ning in ei­ther zone three or four, you will be too tired to do the qual­ity work in zone five. To be able to do those qual­ity ef­forts, you need to be able to back off and run easy (zone one) so you can run hard when you need to. If you try to add those hard in­ter­vals on top of do­ing your other runs too hard, you will quickly get in­jured or over­trained. In­juries: As you age in­juries tend be­come more com­mon. Deal­ing with, and pre­vent­ing them, can be crit­i­cal to your suc­cess. The best way to deal with in­juries is to pre­vent them. What this means can vary sig­nif­i­cantly from ath­lete to ath­lete, but mak­ing sure you have a bal­anced train­ing plan that your body can han­dle is one of the first steps. Most of­ten get­ting hurt is a sign that you are do­ing too much. Stretch­ing, strength train­ing, core work, man­ual ther­apy and mas­sage can all help keep you healthy. Hav­ing a healthy, well-bal­anced diet is also key – make sure you’re get­ting in enough healthy fats and pro­tein to go along with the com­plex carbs. One of the big­gest fac­tors that can help with in­jury and re­cov­ery is sleep. Triath­letes are fa­mous for look­ing for the new­est toy, or work­out or sup­ple­ment that will make them faster, but the real se­cret is sleep. Run­ning races: The off-sea­son can be a great time to put in some run fo­cus and to do some run-only races. But, if your goal is to run a good marathon off the bike in an Ironman, you are best to skip rac­ing a marathon. You will be bet­ter to fo­cus on 10 km to half-marathon events. These dis­tances help work on your speed and are much eas­ier to re­cover from. Run­ning a marathon event is not at all like run­ning a marathon off the bike, so it doesn’t have a per­for­mance ben­e­fit to your Ironman run. Don’t for­get the bike: The bike is al­ways a key part to hav­ing a good run in an Ironman. You need to be fit on the bike, then pace and fuel your­self prop­erly in order to run to your po­ten­tial. Many athletes fall into the trap of think­ing that when they strug­gle in the marathon at an Ironman that it’s a prob­lem with their run, while in many cases the prob­lem is with their bike execution.

Nigel Gray is the head coach at NRG Per­for­mance Train­ing. He fin­ished Ironman Mont-trem­blant in 9:13 at age 45.

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