Question: As I transition toward my sixties I wonder what considerations I should be making in my mind about becoming — officially — a maturing athlete. I think I need to know what to anticipate so that I can navigate through and take the best steps.
Your timing is impeccable as we were just discussing this as a coaching team. In fact, Coach Mel is leading a Squad office hours on this very subject in the coming weeks and I would encourage you to attend. The good news is that just because a few things begin to happen, it doesn’t mean you have to slow down (at least, yet!). The key areas that are impacted include:
- Strength / Muscle Mass
- VO2 Max
When we add it all up, while our endurance retains a strong profile and isn’t the decider on performance decline, we are impacted with areas around the rate of recovery, strength, mobility and the size of our engine (VO2max). It simply means we must be pragmatic in our training approach. If you have seen someone who always loves just training for hours and hours — and chased big endurance gains — that approach is destined to fail. If you do not address strength, mobility, and integrating recovery, then your fitness will just become slower fitness.
Instead, we must hit a simple approach that:
- Has more dispersed very strong days of training in each week. No more than two really tough days for the maturing athlete would be recommended typically.
- An emphasis shifted to strength, mobility, and higher intensity work becomes the main feature. Outside of this, much of the training is very light.
- Training that asks for sprints, strength-endurance low cadence pedaling, and running hills is going to be a feature of your success. Lean into this tough work!
- We double down on key habits such as hydration, sleep, and nutrition. Anything that boosts the recovery score demands new emphasis.
- A more flexible mindset is preferable. You cannot stick to a rigid plan as a maturing athlete and must be willing to actually listen to what the signals of the body tell you. If it isn’t the day — then wait — and come back for it tomorrow. This mindset must be implemented and takes real pragmatism and courage. Yes, there is a reason I always say it takes courage to recover.
Double down on this mindset and you will be in a good place. You can beat, for a while, the inevitable decline, but not if you don’t decline. It is why we always say it’s emotional. It is. In so many ways — it’s emotional.