Age-appropriate training is critical to reaching your full potential and staying injury free. In this episode, TriDot coaches John Mayfield and Jeff Raines discuss how training and performance change over the lifespan of a triathlete. Learn how your age impacts your training, when you typically reach your aerobic and anaerobic peaks, and what considerations you should take as you transition from age group to age group.
TriDot Podcast .052:
Training As You’re Aging: Insights for Every Age Group
Intro: This is the TriDot podcast. TriDot uses your training data and genetic profile, combined with predictive analytics and artificial intelligence to optimize your training, giving you better results in less time with fewer injuries. Our podcast is here to educate, inspire, and entertain. We’ll talk all things triathlon with expert coaches and special guests. Join the conversation and let’s improve together.
Andrew Harley: Welcome to the show, everyone! We are super glad that you’ve joined us for today’s multi-sport conversation. Hey, real quick, y’all--shameless podcast plug. If you’ve been listening and really enjoy the podcast and are learning from our coaches and team would you just take a few seconds--now if you can, later if you’re driving in the car or something--stay safe out there.But if you could just take a second and hit the subscribe button? Whether you listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Pocketcasts, Podcast Republic, Google Podcasts...whatever you are on, hitting that “Subscribe” button just helps our show pop up towards the top of the list as fellow athletes are looking for a new show to listen to. So be a friend to the podcast, give us some love, and hit that “Subscribe” button. Alright, let's get going. Today we are talking about all the considerations that we need to make as athletes as we get older in age. We’re going to go decade by decade and talk about when you’re in your twenties, in your thirties, forties, fifties, sixties, and on...what are the things you need to know about your body’s ability to train and race?
Our first coach joining for today is Coach Jeff Raines. Jeff has a Master of Science in Exercise Physiology and was a successful D1 Collegiate Runner. He’s qualified for the Boston Marathon multiple times and has raced over 120 triathlons from competitive sprints to full distance Ironmans. Jeff has been coaching runners and triathletes since 2009. Welcome to the show today, Jeff.
Jeff Raines: Thanks, Andrew. This episode is reminding me of the saying, “The older the violin the greater the music.” As a soon-to-be dad of 3, I’m getting more and more gray hairs every single day. This episode is one that I know many will enjoy and hopefully learn some cool info, but also be encouraged from.
Andrew: Absolutely. Next up is Coach John Mayfield. A successful Ironman athlete himself, John leads TriDot’s athlete services, ambassador, and coaching programs. He has coached hundreds of athletes ranging from first timers to Kona Qualifiers and professional triathletes. John has been using TriDot since 2010 and coaching with TriDot since 2012. John, you ready to talk about getting older?
John Mayfield: We’re not getting any younger.
Andrew: That’s so true. Let’s get on with it.I am Andrew the average triathlete. Voice of the people and captain of the middle of the pack. After our warm-up we’ll talk through the training considerations we need to make as we advance in age and then we’ll cool down by hearing from one of our athletes in the TriDot family about some of the things they’ve noticed in their own bodies as they’ve gone through racing at different ages in their tri journey. Lots of good stuff. Let’s get to it.
Warm up theme: Time to warm up! Let’s get moving.
Andrew: Everyone loves a good corny popsicle stick, candy wrapper, or beverage lid joke printed on the label for our enjoyment. We’ve joked on the podcast before about having a warm-up session question where everyone shares their most horrendously corny triathlon jokes. Fellas, today is the day. Week after week our podcast audience has had to endure some terrible triathlon-based puns, so I know you two have some corny jokes to share. Jeff Raines, king of the dad joke style pun, let’s start with you. Just share your best--whether it’s from a meme or a gif or a race morning emcee joke--what is your funniest triathlon quip that you want to share?
Jeff: [Silence] Oh, sorry. Sorry for the pause there. You must have mistaken my silence as interest in your triathlon training.
Andrew: Okay, okay. I see what you did there. For a second I was like, “Jeff. Jeff, I was talking to you.” We’re all so good about talking about the sport, right? We’re all so quick to share our journeys and our training and what we’re doing. That’s kind of the joke there, right? That triathletes are so good at talking about our training. I don’t know about you guys, but my wife is very glad I have this podcast because before this podcast she’d have to hear me talk about triathlon all the time. She cares a little bit, but not a lot a bit. I was sharing a lot a bit. So now I can share my lot a bit thoughts with you guys on the podcast and not the other way around. That’s a good one, Jeff. John, what is your go-to triathlon joke?
John: There’s a great meme...it has an old house and the lawn is completely overgrown and it says something like, “Ironman...neglecting your yard since 1978.” That is so true. I do my own yard. I have a pretty big yard. If I’m training for Ironman and I’m out there doing long rides on the weekend the last thing I want to do is stay out in the heat and take care of my yard and mow and pull weeds and do whatever around the house that needs to be done. Usually I get that session in and the rest of the day is super low productivity. It’s like lay around, nap, do the recovery boost, that kind of thing. It’s always like, “Yeah, I’m going to do that as soon as Ironman is over. As soon as race day comes and goes I’ll get to that. That’ll be like a post-Ironman project.” That’s so true.
Andrew: Hire somebody to do your yard and like add it in on the budget as a training expense.
John: That would be great.
Andrew: Not a lawn maintenance expense. For me the one that always gets me is when you show up for race morning and everybody’s getting ready in transition and getting ready for the swim, they have an emcee out there usually cracking jokes, making announcements, pointing people where to go, keeping everybody reminded on how long you have before transition closes, etc. Well those guys always crack a few jokes from time to time. It’s always the same 5, 6, 7, 8 obvious triathlon jokes. They always start with, “How can you tell who the Ironman is in the crowd? You don’t have to--they’ll tell you.” It’s always the jokes we all know and we’ve all heard before. But the one that gets me every time and I always laugh out loud when I hear it is on those middle of summer--May, June, July, August--those hot-weather races where the water temperature is so absurdly high that everybody...noone brought a wetsuit because you know this race will not be wetsuit legal. Never has been. Never will be. 85 degree water temperature, feels like a hot tub in there. We’re miserable. It’s never in doubt whether this race will be wetsuit legal. They’ll get on the loudspeakers and they’ll say, “Okay, I know you’ve all been nervous about this. It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for. I’m pleased to announce that today we will not be wetsuit legal.” That announcement catches me off guard every time and makes me laugh out loud every time because it’s just so funny. Obviously we’re not wetsuit legal. It’s the middle of the summer and that water feels like a jacuzzi. That one gets me every time. For you in our podcast audience, whatever tri joke it is that makes you LOL, genuinely whenever you hear it...we’re going to throw this question out to our audience on Facebook. I Am Tridot on Facebook. Join that group and find the post where we ask you to share your best, corniest, funniest, horrendously stupid triathlon joke. We want to hear from you on what that is. So go find us there.
Main set theme: On to the main set. Going in 3…2…1…
Sponsored ad: Today our main set is brought to you by TriBike Transport. If you are traveling for an upcoming race, let TriBike Transport ensure that your bike gets there race ready and stress free. TriBike Transport is the original fully assembled bike transport service for cyclists and triathletes. I love traveling for a race. After registering, the first thing I do is book TriBike Transport for my bike. You start by using the easy online reservation form to guarantee space for your bike. Then, about one week out from the race, you’ll drop off your bike fully assembled at one of their conveniently located partner shops. Your bike will enjoy a smooth ride all the way to the race site where you will pick it up near T1 ready to race with your bike fit position untouched. Thousands of athletes have trusted their gear to TriBike Transport and you can, too. Learn how by heading to TriBikeTransport.com and as a friend of the podcast, use coupon code TriDotPod for $25 off your next booking.
Andrew: As an athlete in my thirties, I can tell you good and well that I am not the guy I was in my early twenties. Now my understanding (having had conversations with friends and mentors of various ages) is that that sentiment only grows as you advance in age. It just makes sense that there are considerations triathletes should make in regards to our training as we age up every 5 years. Today Jeff and John will walk us through decade by decade all the things that we need to know about training and racing at whatever age we are at. So, guys, TriDot training already takes our age into account when designing and optimizing our sessions. But what exactly is it about our training that is impacted by our age?
John: So age is a major consideration in training, in racing, how we go about racing. Even what we distances we race. So a major consideration is we reach our anaerobic peak earlier than our aerobic peak. So we peak anaerobically generally somewhere in our early twenties. Whereas we continue to develop aerobically throughout the thirties and generally peak somewhere in the late thirties and early forties aerobically.
Andrew: So our bodies are predisposed to the shorter, faster stuff early on and our ability to aerobically go longer develops as we age?
John: Right. And we see this even at the high level of racing so when we look at the guys that are racing in the Olympics, these athletes are generally in their early twenties. That’s because they are at the peak of their anaerobic capacity and that’s that shorter, higher intensity, faster racing that we’re able to do better in our early twenties. But what we see on the flip side of that are the athletes that are winning Ironman World Champion long course racing...they are more so mid to late thirties. That’s because they are at that...they’re demonstrating that we reach our stamina, our endurance later, generally in the late thirties. What we see in between is oftentimes we’ll see those guys transition from that. So these guys that are winning the Ironman World Championship now, they were studs at the Olympic distance and the ITU type racing.
Andrew: Current men’s champion Jan Frodeno was the gold medalist in the Olympics earlier in his career.
John: Right. And we’re seeing the Brownlees transition from short course to long course.
Andrew: Yeah, Alistair is starting to race long...See I always thought you see that when you follow the pros and follow what they’re doing on social media. So you see Alistair Brownlee is a current example of that. He started racing 70.3s and Ironman this past season. Did Kona for the first time. Was kind of coming off that gold medal in the 2008 Olympic games. I always thought, John, when you see that, I just always assumed they got good at the short stuff, they conquered that world and now the next step up as a professional is to go long and conquer that world. I always thought that was the progression of a career. I never considered that just biologically that age lends itself to ordering your career that way.
John: It is, but again it’s not just because we went short and now we’re going to go long. It’s because the body is changing. It’s because where he peaked...this is something that’s actually really cool. It’s almost as if you get a new birth, a new opportunity to start over to where you hit that peak in your early twenties. So in the big team sports most of those guys are relatively young in their twenties and thirties. By their mid-thirties they’re done and gone.
Andrew: They’re an old man in the league by 35.
John: Tom Brady playing at 40 is a big deal. There’s still guys winning the Ironman World Championship at that age. All of them are in their late thirties. You’re not an old timer.
Andrew: Tim O’Donnell age 39 with his second place.
John: Yeah. Even from there, these are professionals that are highly competitive. For those of us age groupers it’s that much more. We’re not looking to go 8 hours at Ironman World Championships. We’re just looking to do these races so there’s a unique opportunity for us as age group athletes to have these really long, successful careers in triathlon and really take advantage of that two different phases that we go through. An example of it is Chris McCormick. He started off as a short course athlete. He dominated the short course world. He won pretty much every title that there is in the ITU short course circuit. He transitioned from there into long course. Was a two-time Ironman World Champion into his mid to late thirties and then he tried to go back and reversed course. He said his greatest regret in triathlon was never making the Olympic squad so that was his goal. After he’d already won World Championship twice he wanted to go back and qualify for the Olympic team. As great of shape as he was, as much experience and knowledge he had, he just couldn’t hang with those younger guys like he did when he was younger.
Andrew: Their bodies are just more optimal for that age.
John: He had moved on, he had peaked several years prior on that anaerobic ability. He was where he was with his stamina, endurance, and it’s harder to go back on that. Again, that’s also at a very high level. That’s not to say we can’t race short course races competitively or successfully as we age, but you’re probably not going to make the Olympic team once you cross over the hill.
Andrew: Speak for yourself. I can do it.
John: Challenge accepted.
Jeff: There’s a quote by George Bernard Shaw, the famous playwright, that applies here. “We don’t quit playing because we age. We age because we quit playing.” This could be applied to training or general exercise. I read a number of years ago a pretty neat statistic that after your peak endurance capabilities--arguably your upper thirties that John alluded to--if you don’t work out regularly at that point and beyond that you lose those peak capabilities by about 1% per year. So, arguably, each decade you could lose up to about 10% of your peak capacity.
Andrew: And you hear 1% per year and at first you’re like, “Oh, that’s not that bad. That’s not that much.” But if you consider over the course of a decade that’s a substantial amount that you’re losing from age 40 to 50, age 50 to 60.
Jeff: Yeah, and then they continued to further show in their studies that if you train regularly that that loss and that reduction rate can be hindered by as low as only 3% loss in capacity per decade.
Andrew: So just by staying active you can retain up to 7% of what you would’ve lost ordinarily if you stopped staying active.
Jeff: Exactly. And there’s tons of other factors that come into play here that we’ll talk a little bit more deeper later. But besides just the aging issues or being 20 versus 70, there are other aspects of life that can hinder our training. So being 20 versus 70, let’s say your work, your family, mortgages, taxes. They all have varying impact on your life at different stages in your life. They add different stressors and stuff like that. Even in your twenties, triathlon constraints may stem from acclimating to newer budgets, new job promotions, more peak hours per your work week. Even daily home stress like newborns and sleep patterns. But maybe in your sixties on, these same triathlon constraints may stem more from muscle loss, bone density issues, your max aerobic capacities may change later on in life. Even recovery rates, stuff like that.
Andrew: So like I said we’re going to go a little bit deeper for each age group here in just a second. But, just in general, what are the biggest differences biologically for an athlete who is younger versus an athlete who is older?
Jeff: There are a number of things--aesthetics, bone density, osteoporosis, testosterone levels, recovery rates, and many many more. But just to dive in to a few of those. Aesthetics--every decade of aging on average people typically gain about 10 pounds. I’ve seen it written. Trying to lose weight by maybe a caloric deficit means...actually that weight loss by that method actually yields about 25 percent of the weight loss being in muscle tissue, which can be very unhealthy as we age. As we age our bone density and osteoporosis rates increase. They’re more prevalent. So that rate of bone loss speeds up and starts mid-life. In women it happens at greater rates, especially after menopause when estrogen levels drop. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, that 5 to 7 years after menopause in women they lose up to 20 percent or more of their bone density. So it’s a huge contributing factor to how we train. Especially in long course and endurance. Testosterone levels...gosh...First of all, testosterone helps us build lean muscle mass and the more lean muscle mass that we have the greater our metabolic functioning is. This means more energy. Energy is just a huge, huge topic. We could do a whole podcast on that, just as we age. As our T levels and estrogen levels fall mid-life, our dairy intake needs to be increased to aid in preventing the onset of osteoporosis as well as strength training. Strength training has actually been shown to be the greatest promoter of bone density increases. So later on in our triathlon journey or lives...
Andrew: Strength training becomes real important.
Jeff: Absolutely it needs to be incorporated. Lastly, the rate of our recovery. As we age our joints stiffen. We also lose flexibility. Don’t be afraid to start new routines. A lot of us tend to be stuck in our ways, especially as we age it’s harder and harder to teach an old dog new tricks so to speak. Don’t be afraid to start new routines. New ways of cross-training even. New ways to promote good health. Whether it’s diet, nutrition, new stretching. Maybe you’re going to incorporate yoga for the first time in your life. Tons of recovery techniques or even neuromuscularly challenging yourself to reprogram certain form and maybe gait pathways to promote being more efficient as we age.
Andrew: Let’s get to the part of the show where we go decade by decade. Jeff, that was super thorough in terms of those are all the things that we need to be on the lookout for in general as we age. Let’s get a little more specific for whatever decade somebody is in--what are the high-level items that they need to be aware of for where they’re at in their tri journey and their life journey? You enter your twenties. You enter the adult world. You find this sport as a hobby or passion. What are those items for a twenty-something that they need to know about themselves as it relates to triathlon training?
John: As I mentioned before, in the twenties is where you’re going to have your anaerobic peak. You’ll most likely be faster in your twenties, or you’ll have the potential to be faster than any time in your life.
Andrew: I wish I had known that in my twenties!
John: Exactly. That actually is part of it. It is advantageous for those that start in their twenties and maximize that anaerobic potential. That’s going to be something that sticks around. That’s something we talk about all the time. That fast before far, strong before long. Not only is that a concept that works within an individual training seasons or over a series of individual training seasons, but that is also true within our life. So the faster we get in our twenties and thirties…
Andrew: You’re just raising your ceiling.
John: ...the faster you’re going to be able to be...Right. The higher percentage of that you’re going to be able to sustain as you age throughout these decades.
Andrew: If only I could go back to then and know that and work a little harder, work a little smarter.
John: So both from a physiological standpoint and a lifestyle standpoint, what we tend to see in the twenties are athletes that are racing sprint and olympic distance races. Again, we’ve already established that you have that higher anaerobic capacity. You’re going to be racing faster. Your ability to race long is not fully developed yet, so the best thing you can do is race short. Really even lifestyle--that tends to fit better. So as Jeff mentioned, oftentimes in our twenties we’re just getting started. We have not a lot of money, not a lot of extra cashflow laying around. Time is limited. We’re often working jobs that take a lot of that time. Starting families. Those kinds of things that really don’t allow for excess amounts of training. So it may just be thirty minutes to an hour a day that you can squeeze in a couple days a week. But when we’re racing shorter course racing that’s really all you have to. So it lends itself to better...I was fortunate that this was in my late twenties when I found triathlon and started racing. This is what I started with. I still love the short stuff. This year my A-race was a sprint race. Going back after a couple years of racing Ironman races, I had my best success in racing was always short course. I think that goes back to starting in my twenties and really focusing on developing that anaerobic capacity. As we move into thirties, I call this more so of a transition decade. Right when you hit thirty...I would say it’s more in the mid-thirties, 35 is kind of where this transition begins to…
Andrew: So the difference between 27-28 to 32-33 isn’t that much?
John: Not that much. But I would say the difference between 32 and 38, that’s generally where we see a bigger delta and where we see those changes really come to fruition.
Andrew: Sounds like I have a lot of changes to look forward to as a 32 year old. Great.
John: Some of them are awesome! Some of them not so much. So as you progress throughout the thirty decade you’ve now largely maximized that anaerobic capacity, that anaerobic potential and set that ceiling, so to speak, for how fast you’re going to be. As you progress through the decade now you’re really beginning to have that capacity to really go long. Your body is built for these multiple hour sessions. So in our twenties we thrived on a 60-minute max session, maybe getting up to two to three hours for that Olympic distance race. But now we really have the ability, the infrastructure, so to speak, to go 4-5-6-10-12-15 hours more so as we truly get into…
Andrew: Training for those longer races.
John: Right. We begin to see this in the age groups at those long course races. So typically if you...say an Ironman race...you may have several hundred athletes in the thirty age group, but you look at the twenty age group and there may only be a couple dozen in there. So, again, all of those things--lifestyle, physiological differences between the twenties and thirties, and that tends to even increase…
Andrew: I remember when I was a 29 year old and I was about to move in to the 30-34 year old age group. I never really peeked at the thirty something age group results all that closely. At local sprint and olympics, I would place second/third/fourth out of six or seven guys in my age group. I guess I thought when you aged up you thought it would be a little less competitive, less people. You get into the thirties and you’re like man...you start looking ahead and the thirties, forties, and fifties are men who are highly competitive. Some fast dudes. Now at the same races whereas I would be second/third/fourth out of seven, now I am fourth/fifth/sixth/seventh/eighth out of 32. The amount of people entering the local races in their thirties goes up substantially. To your point, that’s almost when a lot of people find the sport of triathlon.
John: Yeah. I was going to make that point oftentimes in their thirties that’s when a lot of people will come in and start there. As we move from thirties to forties...as I mentioned before, a lot of times the pros will peak in that late thirty, but it’s definitely for us age groupers, there’s lots of room for continued improvements and gains as we move into the forties and even into the fifties and beyond. Now we have that...we’re fully peaked in both the anaerobic and the aerobic so it’s a great opportunity to even take on some of those goals if you haven’t raced the 70.3 before. If Ironman is something you want to do. Or you still even have the capacity to improve in those because you’re still very much there and now you have that aerobic engine that’s fully developed. Now it’s time to see what it can do.
Andrew: Yeah. I almost had the mental approach of let me do an Ironman while I’m 32 before I get any older so that I can do as well as possible. It’s almost a different mindset. I might actually be more capable of that distance when I get into my older thirties and younger forties than where I’m at right now. Wow.
John: Absolutely. I’m now 40 and I am now swimming and running at some of my fastest paces that I ever have. My FTP is currently higher than it has ever been. And I’ve been doing this since my late twenties.
Andrew: (chanting) John! John! John! John!
John: I’ll say every month when I do my assessments I sometimes even surprise myself that I’m continuing to make those gains. I report back to coach and team that TriDot continues to work. I appreciate the chant. But I’m just doing as I’m told like everybody else.
Andrew: ‘Atta boy.
John: I’m 40 years old. I raced Ironman twice last year. I was close to previous PRs. So for me I continue to see this throughout my twenties, thirties, and now my forties, continuing to do well. But I will say that I have started to begin to experience some of those signs of getting older. Some of those sessions hurt a little bit more the next day. Sometimes a pain or a niggle or something like that maybe historically would be gone in a day or two, maybe now it takes two, three, four days. Maybe have to be more intentional with recovery. Definitely different than when I was in my twenties.
Andrew: I never thought about recovery in my twenties.
John: Right. Something else that I’ve experienced, especially into my late thirties and now into forties--it seems like the weight comes on real easy and it doesn’t come off quite as easily. It’s one of those things that Jeff mentioned it’s common for us as we age throughout the decades to put on weight. I’ve definitely seen that for myself. It’s kind of that catch-22. It’s easy to put on, and harder to get off. As we age through these decades things definitely change.
Jeff: So now as I tackle the top of the hill and over the hill and beyond, the fifties/sixties/seventies, I want to start off by reminding everyone that this midlife here, the fifties, over-the-hill, let’s say, it isn’t where everything all goes downhill. I want to remind everyone that midlife is when aging and physiological factors start to hinder performance. It can be...but this is also where other factors begin to negate those things and counter those thoughts. Especially in triathlon when compared to other sports, such as experience, for example. Many triathletes don’t pick up the sport until later in life. Maybe they had monetary constraints in their twenties, thirties, and forties. They couldn’t afford that nicer, lighter, sleeker $8,000, bike. So maybe now they’re at a point in their life where they’re able to get more of the tools and the toys and the things that can help them out on their journey. Those little bit of improvements or enhancing your gear could give you the improvements that would negate or encounter some of the aging aspects.
Andrew: That’s very, very true.
Jeff: So, also, we’re not trained for one sport. We’re training for three. Four and five, even. Strength and nutrition. It takes time to master these things. So into our fifties doesn’t necessarily mean that the aging things super start to hinder us. So you kind of learn what works in your fifties. You also learn what doesn’t work day-to-day, race-to-race, season-to-season. So just because physiologically we peak, let’s say, in our thirties, maybe early forties for endurance doesn’t mean we can’t have a personal record in our fifties.
Andrew: You can’t be competitive. I’ve seen local races where the overall winner was a fifty-something. It’s guys and gals that still have the fitness and are still racing very successfully even at that age.
Jeff: I talk about this a lot, maybe even on another podcast. It’s not always the fittest, youngest, stallion steed out there. It’s the smartest. That...let’s call it midlife, fifties and beyond athlete...they have it together. They have the experience. They know what works, what doesn’t work. Now they have to rely a little bit more on nailing transitions, technical aspects, stuff like that. They have to be cognizant of the cadence, heart rate, and stuff that they’re holding to have that success, but I just wanted to throw that out there. I don’t want the fifties, sixties, and seventies to be deemed negative. But midlife--fifties and beyond--where women start menopause, men’s T levels start to change. Metabolic functioning because of that hormone levels.
Andrew: And as you mentioned earlier, the strength training becomes a little bit more important. The flexibility work becomes more important. To keep yourself able to...and, really, how you talked about earlier, the study for athletes that stayed consistent in their training, they saw less losses due to age as opposed to athletes that stopped training for a period of time then try to get back to the sport. So you can stay competitive and keep your body primed and ready to go if you stay consistent in training.
Jeff: Yeah. If the fifties, arguably, is when some of the aesthetics...our metabolism changes. John talked about it’s harder to hold your race weight. Bone density, osteoporosis, T levels, estrogen, our recovery rates...those things all start to really hit harder. Those are things that at least you have to start paying attention to. You can hold it off, ignore it, be a little bit naive to it all, but in your fifties is when the onset of those things happen. But it doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going to get slower. But as we transition into our sixties, once you hit optimal performance levels in triathlon, you tend to be able to hold that and stay there awhile or for a number of years. So kind of like you peak in the 100 meter dash in the Olympics in your low-twenties and you can only hold that for a couple of years, essentially, and then you’re kind of done. But for us in our sixties in the sport of triathlon, you can hold those peak levels for longer. 10, 20, 30 years, even, because it’s such a holding percentage of our max. That whole stamina aspect. So our sport yields that kind of optimal performance longer. More years. A number of years. So sixties is when you’re like, “Man, I still got it. I’m still doing this thing I was doing in my fifties if I did it right.” But there are some statistics and things that really start to hit hard adversely, unfortunately, as we start to hit our sixties. So as we hit ages 65 to 70, let’s say, those who experience a hip fracture are...and this is quoted: “They are five times more likely to die within a year.”
Andrew: That’s some dark stuff, Jeff.
Jeff: It seems dark, it seems harsh, but it’s a true statistic. Endurance exercise is an anti-aging tool. There are cardiovascular benefits, better bone densities. You can also maintain fast twitch muscle fibers longer into life being an endurance athlete. As well as the atrophy there as we age is prolonged, too. So we can hold the muscle atrophy in that regard. There are also technological advances. Data metric collections. Improvements in gear and toys and watches. All the metrics that we can now measure prolong aging. You can maintain or even build your endurance peak performances by using technological advantages to your advantage. So this is where we start getting into the CDC, the World Health Organization...but I’m going to throw out a few things here. The Bone Health and Osteoporosis Center reported that by the time we are 70, we only have about 50-55% of our muscle mass left. That’s just the general healthy population. Endurance exercise, performance triathlon training, consistent training over the years can significantly improve that. It doesn’t mean when you hit 70.
Andrew: It’s not a forgone conclusion.
Jeff: That’s just for the norm. A blanket rule for the norm. The latest CDC reportings show that the average age of men is 76 while women live up to, on average, 81 years old. So women live longer than men. The World Health Organization reports that the average number of full health years in males living without major disease or injury is 67. While in women it’s 70. So that gender gap is a trend. It’s reported across all societies, as well.
Andrew: Knowing those life expectancy statistics, what are the training...for our folks who are getting over 70 and are still involved in multi-sport, still wanting to stay healthy...what are the training implications for that crowd based on knowing those statistics?
Jeff: Good question. Women, yes, live longer than men and all of that. But all of these anti-aging tools...our sport is just the perfect sport to aid in all of that. We can do our sport and continue our sport lifelong. A lot of sports out there after a certain age, you just can’t really do it anymore.
Andrew: You can’t take a hit on the football field at age 72.
Jeff: Yeah. So it’s very encouraging that our sport does nothing but help us. Socially, physically, and we can do it for a long time. So settle in, have a good time. But inside of all of that, we just need to ensure that whatever plan we’re using, workout regimen we’re following--these things need to take age into account.
Andrew: The good thing is for every age group we just went through from twenties all the way through seventies plus, TriDot does...part of the individual customized training plan for each person, for each athlete is it does take that into account to then optimize the training. It’s one thing for us as athletes to hear that and know that it’s happening. But, John, what are the actual considerations that are made for our training based on our age? What is it about our training that will change based on whether we’re 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70+?
John: All of the training variables have to be considered at every age. So this includes volume, intensity, frequency, sequence of workouts, and recovery. For the rest, recovery, all of that, that allows the body to make those adaptations from the training. So that’s a little different at all those ages. There’s a different mix. There’s different opportunities at different ages. So all of that needs to be taken into consideration.
Andrew: So threshold 150s in the pool when you’re 32 might look a little bit different from threshold 150s in the pool when you’re 52. The sequencing might be a little different.
John: Right. They may serve a different purpose. Then again, it could be a similar session. But, again, catered to that individual for a different purpose. Even times those same sessions can be repurposed within that. The training stress profile takes all of that into consideration and we’ll prescribe each athlete their optimum training mix. So what is their proper amount of volume, what is their proper amount of each type of intensity, and, again, how much recovery do they need to be able to make those adaptations and stay healthy? So regardless of age, TriDot’s purpose is to maximize each athlete’s potential while keeping them healthy. The main considerations as we age are volume, intensity, and recovery.
Andrew: The cool thing about the training stress profile page--if you’re listening and you’re an athlete, you’re training with TriDot--if you’ve never visited that page, I would encourage you to do so. There’s a bunch of charts on there. It really shows you based on your biometric data, your genetics if you plug that in, and your age, it just knows what kind of...for the swim, bike, and run, how much aerobic training stress you can take.
Jeff: It knows your capacities to handle those types of stress and monitors that and changes…
Andrew: It’s using that to generate your sessions and make tweaks to each session based on who you are. So go...the cool thing about TriDot is--know that it’s there. Go take a look at it. You never have to think about it or change it or tweak it. It already knows that about you. But it is cool to go look and see, “Man, for my age, for my biometrics, what am I capable of?” It’s a cool and formative chart to go look at. Right, John?
Andrew: You guys have done an excellent job walking us through age group by age group what to consider as athletes. Each of you guys have worked with athletes of all ages. Additionally, from a coach’s perspective...even anecdotally, looking past the stats and the factors, what are some of the tangible measures that you implement to best help athletes of various ages?
Jeff: The biggest thing for me is communication. There’s just so many aspects of the sport and even the training plan that the sport will always need that communication and a coach. Knowing the specific goals of my athletes and catering to their goals all has such a great impact on the race selection. Your season planning, recovery strategies, and more. Also knowing the health status of the athlete. Each individual athlete has their own unique health status and it can be hard...not necessarily to pry that out of the athlete, but just also having a relationship where you’re comfortable enough to where you’re able to ask certain things or the athlete feels comfortable enough to share certain things. But knowing the difference between a technical or biomechanical related issue or from a serious health issue. Those are the big things. So if you have a big health issue a training plan may not know that. So having that relationship and communication with the coach and knowing when to go see a doctor. A lot of times an athlete will have an ache or pain or an issue and they naturally go to their coach before a doctor. But there’s a point and almost an integrity there where a coach needs to know 1) when to recommend that athlete go see a doctor, but then 2) say, “Hey, you know what? I’ve gone as far as I can here. We’re going to have to take the recommendation of your doctor first and foremost.”
Andrew: We’ve talked a little bit about how athletes as you age, strength training becomes more important. The flexibility work becomes more important. Incorporating some things like yoga and cross-training becomes more important. John, does the conversation with your athletes...does the coaching of your athletes, do you spend any more time prescribing some of that than you would with a younger athlete?
John: You definitely need to make sure they’re doing it, so yeah. We always want to make sure these athletes are healthy.
Andrew: For the record, all of that is beneficial in your twenties and thirties, as well, right?
John: It is. You can kind of know or get away with it with being less prudent with those recovery techniques in the twenties. As I mentioned, you start to feel them some time in the thirties and forties and from what I hear even from there. It’s understanding what makes these athletes unique in their season of life. What I always say is the coach’s job is to maximize each athlete’s triathlon experience. Whatever that means for the individual athlete. But that’s going to be pertinent to the season of life they’re in. So taking those unique opportunities they have at each age and getting the most out of those, but also some of the limitations that they have and working with those to produce whatever it is that the athlete is looking to get out of triathlon. Make sure that they’re tempered with those opportunities, but also the limitations.
Andrew: Before we sign off for today and slide into our cool down--how far are each of you from aging up to the next age group? How do you feel about that particular age group promotion that’s coming up?
Jeff: I will say that I’m about to age up. I’ll be the young blood in the 35 to 39. John, I think, nailed the nail on the head earlier. I was a middle distance collegiate runner and I have this year alone beaten every time of mine from the two mile, 5K, and up. So I’m mid-thirties. I cannot beat my 1 mile time trial, my 800, my 400 meter dash. I can’t do it. I pull a hammy or something like that. So I just can’t do it. You ask how we feel about it...I’m excited in that I know my endurance potential is just at its start and have some high hopes for next year racing for me. At the same time, I’m angry, you know. I don’t want to give up my mile time trial. I don’t want to give up those collegiate run days. It’s hard. It’s not midlife crisis by any means.
Andrew: Mid-thirties crisis.
Jeff: But it can be hard. It’s a little nerve wracking. I’m having to compromise in that regard, for sure.
John: So what is that one mile PR?
Jeff: Oh gosh...I don’t like being put on the spot.
John: It’s just a number.
Jeff: I never broke four minutes for the 1500. I’ve been very close. 4:01, 4:02, 4:03, a number of times. So collegiately it’s a 1500, not a full mile. So just shy of a mile. So 4:16, we’ll say.
Andrew: I don’t hit 4:16 on my MAV shuttle, but that’s just me.
John: I’ll say my one mile PR is not that fast, but I do currently have a faster Ironman PR than Jeff Raines.
Andrew: That is so true.
Jeff: Moving along! I’m just kidding.
John: But I’m older. I’ve reached that...we’ll call it that. We’ll blame it on that. I’m just older and I’ve reached my aerobic potential sooner than he did, and I fully expect that to go down very soon. But for now I’m going to put that on the record that my Ironman PR is faster.
Andrew: So, John, for you as the one at the table...you’re in your forties. You mentioned earlier you’ve seen some more recovery time needed when you have a little nick or niggle or in between some of those harder sessions you’ve noticed a little more soreness due to age--how do you feel about racing in your forties?
John: So actually quite excited. I’ve raced as I mentioned last year--I did one race as a 40 year old. I had my birthday in between those two Ironman races that I did late in the season that I raced last year. My race age was 40, but only that last race of the year I actually was. So as I mentioned before, too, this year my A-race, my focus was a sprint race. Of course it got COVID so it got cut.
Andrew: It got corona-ed.
John: It got corona-ed. My goal was to win Masters. So, for me, I was actually kind of excited because I started in my late twenties and those guys are fast. Then I aged up to thirties, those guys were faster. I aged up to 35, those guys were even faster. I would say if anything it kind of levels off. I’m not sure the 40 age group is necessarily faster than the 35.
Andrew: But they’re not slower!
John: It’s not much. But at least we have a new measuring stick where we get to compete as Masters so we’re not competing with all those...especially with the sprint race, I don’t have to beat the 29 year old, the 32 year old. I don’t have to beat Jeff Raines. I just have to beat the 40+ guys. Especially as one of the youngest in the Masters I certainly have that advantage. I’m closer to that anaerobic potential.
Andrew: We will be rooting for you there.
John: So that was my goal. Man, it sucks. I was in great shape on what would’ve been race day. So we’ll see. For now, it’s probably going to be my goal heading into next year.
Andrew: Alright, great.
John: I’ll be a year older, but so is everybody else.
Andrew: We will be rooting for you on that.
Cool down theme: Great set everyone! Let’s cool down.
James: This is TriDot athlete James from Virginia. Elder statesman of the TriDot Ambassador Corps. I did my first triathlon in 1990 at the age of 38. I did my first full Ironman in 2019 at the age of 67. I was a distance runner in high school and after college I got caught up in the gym fix running fad of the seventies. I did my first marathon in 1976 at age 24. But even at that age, I began to learn very early that the older I got the more recovery I needed. I got into triathlon on a whim because I was at a point in my training where my body and my knees could no longer handle the constant run training. My son’s boy scout troop wanted to do the C&O Canal on bikes. The leadership of his troop said, “James, you have to come with us because you’re the only one in good enough shape to hang with the older boys.” So that reintroduced me to the joy of cycling that I had as a kid. Several of my friends who were triathletes said, “Hey, we know you can run. Now that you can ride your bike again, if you can learn to swim you can hang with the big dogs.” That statement prompted me to show up for a Master’s swim class the very next day. That was my start on this long journey of triathlon. When I think back on the types of training that we did...we read the books. We followed the training plans. But they were all designed for the under 30 athlete. We were always tired. We were always hurt. We had no life outside of triathlon. The dumb things we did back then all under the guise of state of the art training. So to get the recovery I needed I tried to strategically skip workouts or cut them short, having no clue what I was doing. Fortunately I found TriDot. They take all the guess work out. They design my workouts based on my age and even on my genetics. Their pitch is better results with less training with fewer injuries. I set my PR at a 70.3 back in 2008 at the age of 56. Through TriDot training I broke that PR in 2019 at the age of 67. So I can truthfully say for me that TriDot has definitely lived up to their pitch. I still have...I’m still looking for that perfect race where you put all three disciplines together. I still have Kona qualifying on my bucket list. I truly think through TriDot I have a legitimate chance of fulfilling that dream.
Andrew: James, thank you so much for sharing your tri journey with us. Everyone at TriDot is rooting for you to fulfill that dream of qualifying for Kona. My hope for you is that you get to check Kona off your bucket list. My hope for myself is that I’m still healthy knocking down PRs at age 67 just like James. Inspiring stuff! Well, that’s it for today. Big thanks to Coaches Jeff Raines and John Mayfield for talking to us about training as we age. And thanks for TriBike Transport for partnering with us on today’s show.
Enjoying the podcast? Hit the “Subscribe” button and leave us a review. If you have a topic or question you want to hear us talk about, head to tridot.com/podcast and click on “Leave Us a Voicemail” to record your question for the show. We’ll do it all again soon. Until then, happy training.
Outro: Thanks for joining us. Make sure to subscribe and share the TriDot podcast with your triathlon crew. For more great tri content and community, connect with us on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. Ready to optimize your training? Head to TriDot.com and start your free trial today! TriDot – the obvious and automatic choice for triathlon training.