I vividly remember my early twenties as an endurance athlete. I could smash back to back hard workouts, put in 100-mile weeks, survive on minimal sleep and crappy food, and recover fast. Ahhh..those were the glory days when I lived fast and loose! Fast forward twenty years and as I approach my 40th birthday I find myself sore and tired for days after hard workouts, I don’t bounce back as quick as I once did, and eating crappy food haunts me for days.
I’ll be honest, I’m a stubborn old bastard and nothing pisses me off more than these young whippersnappers kicking my ass during workouts and races. Luckily for all us old guys and gals, there are practical solutions that can help us keep up with them as we age. This article will discuss 6 things you can start doing today to help you stay a fit and fast badass well into your forties and beyond.
Tip #1: Do Hard Workouts 2 Times A Week
Newsflash…. you’re not going to be winning races in the master’s division or making an appearance on the 40-60 age group podium without having to put in a little bit of hard work. It’s easy to get caught up in only slogging out easy miles because it feels comfortable. I admit….my pain threshold isn’t as high as it use to be but I still put in the hard work because I know it is necessary. Doing two hard workouts a week will not only help you maintain your fitness, but it also may improve it. Think hills, intervals, fartlek, and tempo runs and rides. Continue to up the intensity gradually so you don’t overdo it and end up hurt and find yourself in rehab like almost every other old fart out there. Allow at least 2 days (preferably three) of recovery before hitting another workout again.
Tip #2: Make Sure Your Recovery Days Are EASY
We are all guilty of not going easy on our recovery days. Whether it’s getting into a race with our training partner or finding ourselves in a time crunch I cannot overemphasize how important recovery days are as we age. Easy days help muscles repair, allow the body to adapt and improve from the more intense sessions, and have us prepared physically and mentally to smash the next workout or race. If you use a heart rate monitor, make sure your easy days are done at 65% or less of your maximum heart rate. If you don’t have a monitor use the 1-10 scale, 1 being the easiest and 10 being the hardest. Your recovery days should be a 5-6, possibly lower if you’re really feeling like an old geezer.
Tip #3: Hit The Weights 2 Times A Week
A funny (well not really funny) thing happens to muscles as we age. It’s called sarcopenia and the only thing that can help combat it is strength training. By definition, Sarcopenia is the degenerative loss of skeletal muscle mass (0.5–1% loss per year after the age of 50), quality, and strength associated with aging. Less skeletal muscle mass means less power produced on the bike or with each footstep, it means muscles fatigue more quickly, it means less strength to grind up a hill. You get the point…. basically, sarcopenia sucks! So, do yourself a favor and get a gym membership and go two times a week. Skip the weenie weights and exercises in favor of big, compound exercises like deadlifts, squats, and presses that work multiple muscle groups and translate over into improved endurance performance. Click here to see some examples of strength training programs for runners, cyclists, and other endurance athletes.
Tip #4: Get Plenty Of Sleep
No need to go in-depth on this one. Anyone who tells you that you need less sleep as you age is full of SH#T! Lack of sleep is associated with all types of bad things. Bad things you don’t want to happen to you. So hit the sack and get 7-8 hours of sleep per night and keep your sleep schedule consistent for optimal ZZZZZs.
Tip #5: Eat Like A Champion
You wouldn’t put low-grade fuel in a classic Mustang and expect it to be firing on all cylinders so why would you slam a big mac, fries, and diet coke and expect to perform your best. You don’t. For the love of god please don’t get caught up in the latest diet fad you read in runners world magazine. Instead stick to a diet high in carbohydrates to restore muscle glycogen, moderate protein so muscles can repair and recover, and moderate fat not only because it tastes good but also it plays very important roles in the body as it relates to hormone production. If you get 60% of your calories from carbs, 20% from protein, and 20% from fat you’ll be sitting pretty. If you cheat on your diet every once in awhile that’s ok…just follow the old rule of everything in moderation.
Tip #6: Consider Supplements
Ok….this may seem like a shameless plug considering EndurElite is a supplement company but actual research does exist on certain ingredients that can be beneficial to endurance performance as you age. High on that list is creatine monohydrate. Creatine cannot only help you maintain strength, power, endurance, and lean muscle mass but new research shows it can benefit your beautiful brain. Beta-Alanine, choline, and caffeine are also high on this list as 100’s of research papers exist on the ergogenic properties of these ingredients. I won’t delve any further into this topic but if you want to know what other supplements can give you an endurance boost click here.
The Bottom Line On Aging & Staying A Competitive Endurance Athlete
Getting old is a poor excuse for not staying fit and fast. Will you be as fast as you were in your twenties…probably not. But by following the steps above you can hold on to some of your youthful vigor and speed and show that young gun at your next race whose the boss!