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We want to improve in athletics all of the time. In many respects, we appear to be in command of our own skills. You will get faster if you workout hard. Practice climbing hills if you want to improve your climbing skills. You get a skinsuit if you want to be more aerodynamic. Aging appears to be the one aspect of human physiology over which we have no control. It can happen to anyone. Even the best athletes in the world become old. While some aspects of performance often deteriorate with age, we also witness individuals well into their 50s achieving new personal marks. How can we get faster as we get older? After all, the most experienced athletes are the ones who are the oldest.

Fitness at its best

Men and women reach their peak performance between the ages of 25 and 35, according to strength and endurance records. This could be due to the fact that maximum muscle strength is often reached between the ages of 25 and 35. Many athletes, however, will reach their personal optimum performance at an older age if they receive sufficient training. One reason for this is that older, trained athletes are typically, if not always, stronger and faster than younger, untrained competitors. That implies that if you’re in your 40s and picking up a bike for the first time, your best days are probably still ahead of you. Recognizing the changes occurring in your body and tailoring your workout properly is the most crucial component of trying to out-race our age.

Age and Strength

After the age of 35, national and global records in powerlifting normally fall by about 1.8 percent each year, indicating a generalised decline in strength. The good news is that studies shows that growing muscle strength and size does not get more difficult as you get older. This means that, with the right instruction, senior citizens can continue to improve. While elite athletes may find it harder to progress with age because their training has already been optimised, most amateur athletes can still polish their abilities and strength routine in order to gain fresh benefits and thus experience improvements.

Given the fact that strength reduces with age, an athlete’s strength and resistance training should be prioritised. Increased resistance training may be sufficient to maintain strength and perhaps improve strength performance as people age. Strength training will also aid in the prevention of bone loss.

Age and the Cardiovascular System

Similar to strength, elderly athletes may have lower cardiovascular ability; yet, cardiovascular exercise will still benefit them. While older adults’ total values tend to be lower, when following a similar training regimen, they can achieve the same percentage gains as younger adults.

According to study, records for the mile to the marathon are declining at a pace of around 1% per year at the top level. After the age of 60, the rate of decrease increases to 2% every year. These minor reductions are documented in record books and thereby reflect the performance levels of athletes at the pinnacle of their sport who have undergone the most rigorous training.

Anecdotally, most athletes complain about a reduction in type 2 muscle fibres (sprinting ability) as they get older, while boasting about enhanced (or maintained) endurance. This emphasises the importance of paying close attention to the area that appears to be deficient. Sprints, explosive movements, resistance training, and power movements should all be prioritised for older athletes. The other alternative is to follow your body’s natural physiology and take on longer, more endurance-based challenges as you get older.

Alejandro Valverde celebrated his 41st birthday in 2021. (Photo: David Ramos/Getty)

Age and Performing in Difficult Situations

We frequently observe that elderly populations are more sensitive to environmental factors, and this is not a psychosomatic condition. In the heat, older athletes will most likely struggle to perform. The ability to dissipate heat is reduced in older athletes due to reduced skin blood flow. The good news is that, even at an advanced age, increasing training and aerobic ability can actually boost the body’s ability to dissipate heat. Furthermore, simply being aware that your body need some extra assistance in the heat allows you to prepare cold beverages, wear ice socks, and use other cooling measures.

Cold exposure, like heat exposure, can enhance the challenge since the body’s ability to constrict vasculature to maintain blood closer to the centre decreases. This means that rather of looking at their younger peers, elder athletes should rely on their experience and pack the clothing and layers that they believe are necessary.

Finally, there is no evidence that altitude poses a larger risk to the elderly than it does to the younger population. While more research is needed, it’s safe to state that high-altitude exercise is difficult for people of all ages.

Take it with you

Don’t let your body’s natural ageing process discourage you. Instead, consider any symptoms of a drop in performance as valuable reminders of where you should focus your training efforts. The most positive feature of growing older is that your body continues to respond and adapt to training, ensuring that nothing you accomplish is in vain. You will reap the benefits of hard effort for the rest of your life.

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