Get Better from Injury
Maximizing performance as we age can be a challenge, but triathletes participate and compete with vigour well into their later decades. Physiologically there are things that start to work against us, but there are many things you can do to thrive as you age. Here are some strategies you can implement to maximize your performance at every age.
FAST AT FORTY
Athletes in the forty to fifty age category are incredibly fast these days. Considering that life expectancy 100 years ago was not much over 40, it’s truly remarkable how good you can be after that age now. One of the most significant changes is a steady decrease in some key hormones that are favourable for sport, most notably testosterone. Testosterone is responsible for everything from sex drive to recovery to sleep patterns, along with the body’s ability to control and regulate weight. After about the age of 30 there is roughly a one per cent decrease in this hormone each year. So, by the time you are 40, testosterone levels can be as much as 10 per cent lower than they were in your early thirties. I like to call the forties the “smart choices decade.” This is the decade where the consequences of bad choices seem to be compounded. You need to carefully consider sleep. Establish a regular routine (go to bed and wake up at the same time), avoid electronics 30 minutes prior to bed, avoid alcohol and create an environment that allows for as much sensory deprivation as possible. You need to carefully consider nutrition. Stay away from refined sugars, fuel properly during longer workouts (avoid running major nutrition deficits), fuel properly after workouts and make sure meals are balanced with good quality fats and protein. The decline in vital hormones like testosterone leave less room for error when it comes to sleep, recovery and nutrition, so make great choices and you will perform better.
FAST AT FIFTY
Older does not have to mean slower. But, there is a reason we tend to slow down and go for longer distances as we age. We change muscularly. The two primary muscle fibre types are Type 1 (slow twitch) and Type 2 (fast twitch). With age comes a shift in fibre types from fast to slow. This does not mean that you need to give up on going fast.
In fact, shorter, higher intensity training may be the most beneficial thing you can do in your fifties. Hormonal changes like lower testosterone may mean your recovery times are longer, but this shouldn’t stop you from making some higher intensity sessions a staple in your training regime. This is true across all three sports. Don’t resign yourself to the idea that you are getting older and slower. Keep doing interval work on the track or hill reps on the bike and don’t be afraid to mix it up on the sprint sets in the pool. If you use it you won’t lose it (as fast).
FAST AT SIXTY
Bone density and muscle mass may be two of the biggest challenges athletes in their sixties will face. This harsh reality can also lead to an increased rate of injury. Less bone density puts the skeletal system at risk for fractures and a decreased ability to handle impact and load. Likewise, less muscle mass leaves the body more vulnerable to loads that were once easily tolerated. Resistance and/or weight training in this decade is essential. Resistance training will not only limit the damage, but it can also stimulate an increase in both muscle and bone mass. Athletes of all ages should get into the weight room, or have some kind of resistance training in their program, throughout the year. The weight room is not always the first place older athletes think to spend time, but it may be one of the most important.
Getting older has its drawbacks but by no means should it be a forgone conclusion that you will fall off the fitness cliff. Declining performance, because of age, should not become a self-fulfilling prophecy. With age and experience there often comes a greater degree of awareness on how to approach health, fitness and competition. What you lose physically can be countered by maturity, smart decisions, experience and wisdom.