Fast After 50 Response

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  • #9894


    I’m new to the forums, but not new to the ideas and thoughts in Training for the New Alpinism. Forgive me if this topic has already come up.

    I’m 41. And I think a lot about training now for my 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. Longevity in the mountains and life is my primary goal plus enjoyment along the way.

    I’ve bought into the ideas of long slow duration workouts for an increase in my capacity for speed and strength and power. Fat metabolism has helped a lot. I primarily thrive in activities such as ski touring, mountain running, and alpine climbing. So, big long days.

    It is important for me to train in such a way that I don’t injure my body … and so I have more longevity.

    In “Fast After 50” Joe Friel seems to dis the idea of Long Slow Duration workouts for athletes past their 50’s. Intensity is where it’s at for him if you want to stay fast.

    It makes sense to add intensity as we get older … But I’m curious about this community’s response to that.

    Is the Long Slow Duration as detrimental to training as Friel suggests for those over 50? I Have a hard time with his skepticism given what I’ve learned from Scott and Steve in their writings and coaching the long and slow side of training.

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    Anonymous on #9895


    I think with all things, it depends. Speed is not the goal with LSD training, so it would make sense to not do a ton of this if speed is your focus. But even that depends on your definition of speed… is it Rainier in a day? Because alpine-wise, that’s pretty fast for the average Joe, but compared to a 5k run the pace is quite slow.

    In alpine fitness, short duration speed isn’t as important, so it isn’t often prioritized except maybe ramping up to a certain goal. Look no further than the now over-hyped/over-sponsored/etc CrossFit Games. It’s common to hear the announcer say “this workout has a 3 mile run, and it’s probably going to crush these guys!”… pretty minuscule distance for anyone who is a runner, and it seems a little silly to be lauding these as ‘the fittest men on Earth’ yea? But as far as the best at doing CrossFit, they win hands-down compared to probably anyone on this forum.

    If your goal is to stay active in the mountains and keep doing big days, then I suggest prioritizing low-intensity work. If your goal is to climb sport routes well into your golden years and crank out fast 5ks, maybe back off of the 4h fasted jogs.


    Robert on #9901

    Hi danpeck,

    I think you may have mis-read Friel as, although he de-emphasises aerobic threshold training in FA50, he clearly acknowledges that such training still plays a critical role in any athlete’s development. Specifically such workouts will allow for improvements in efficiency and, when properly structured, will lead to an increase in the aerobic threshold (and aerobic power (or pace)). The point he makes (based on some studies he references) is that for endurance athletes over about 50 years of age, aerobic threshold is not as negatively affected by age as is VO2max, muscular strength, and ability to recover (these are the “big three” things that he proposes an older athlete needs to concentrate on). So his approach involves working on these three aspects as priorities but he still specifies aerobic base building workouts in any training plan. This is the base from which all productive training will derive- a good base will allow higher intensity training to yield significant improvements in aerobic power; without the aerobic base the higher intensity training is much less effective (some argue that it will actually be ineffective or even detrimental). So although Friel emphasizes the “big three” it is assumed that one maintains a well developed aerobic base. Under ideal circumstances one would like to move your AeT heart rate (HR) (or pace) toward your LT HR (or pace) and progress such that your AeT HR is within about 10% of your LT HR. Also moving your LT HR to within about 10% of max HR is desirable. Attaining these parametrics typically yield a highly efficient athlete with near-optimal aerobic power and who has substantial dynamic range to respond to whatever demands might confront the athlete.

    As an older athlete your VO2max is declining and the only way to slow this down is to train it. Likewise with muscular strength where, due to substantial declines of natural HGH and T production in the older athlete, it is a battle to maintain muscle mass and attendant strength. The max strength and general strength sessions outlined in TftNA are great ways to battle that loss of strength. And then there is the increased difficulty older athletes have with fully recovering after each training session. Prioritizing recovery is very important and needs to be emphasized and adhered to in order to optimize the net training effect from training sessions. This, of course, is true for any athlete but for an older athlete the time required to recover from an equivalent stimulus is longer, sometimes substantially longer depending on the individual.

    As a 62 y/o mountain trail runner, mountain ultra marathon runner, and cross country skier I have found Friel’s approach and focus on the “big three” to be highly functional. Combining Friel’s old-age specific training priorities with the approach detailed in TftNA has resulted in high performance in national and international-level events at lengths ranging from 1h to over 16h. But it all starts with a solid aerobic base!

    Anonymous on #9903

    I haven’t read Fast After 50, but if that’s his attitude, then I think he’s more concerned with selling books.

    I’m 44, and Long Easy sessions are my bread and butter. I followed some bad advice this past winter and did too much intensity for about six weeks. I felt great for about three weeks, then I started to slow down. Thankfully I’ve read enough that I knew what was happening and put a stop to it.

    Anonymous on #9927

    I’ll offer my 2 cents here as well.

    I have read FA50. I had to because so many people were asking me: WTF?

    As Robert says there is acknowledgement of the importance of aerobic base work in FA50. But it is not the emphasis of the book. Also keep in mind that he is mainly writing this for people engaged in events that rely on high intensity efforts. Everyone should use high intensity training. That’s not in dispute. The thing people misunderstand about this is that it is not an either/or proposition. But, high intensity should be used as a supplement to, not a replacement for aerobic base training.

    And the high intensity training needs to be as event specific as possible. For an alpinist this means that ME is the event specific high intensity workout. For the 10k runner the high intensity work will be more like 10x 400m with 1 min rec. For the Skimo it will be 3x 20 min uphill.

    You must ask yourself what you are training for and build your training toward that goal. However ALL these events, from the 10k to the 8000m peak really first and foremost upon a big aerobic base. Without that you have nothing to construct the rest of the training.


    danpeck on #10034

    Robert. I’m sure I haven’t fully captured Friel’s philosophy. But he definitely seems to say that LSD workouts for people
    Past 50 are worthless … if you want to be fast in the types of events he’s into. Organized races etc. Or at a minimum the LSD approach is just going to make you slower.

    Yes, Rainier in a day is the genre or scope I’m specifically looking to nurture well into my later decades.

    I guess I was surprised to read Friel’s point of view given the huge improvement I’ve experienced for both oth short and long duration objectives by using LSD as 80%of what I do.

    Scott. I suspected you probably get a lot of questions on FA50. So thanks for chiming in. I’ll be in touch soon for some personal coaching. Basically I see my 50s, 60’s, 70’s as
    Potentially my most productive and fun years in the mountains as I’ll
    Have more
    Time and freedom than ever before if I do things right. Hoping to set the stage in my 40s for
    The best climbing and skiing to come. Thanks all
    Chiming in! Sorry about the typing
    With my thumbs. Currently enjoying the Costa Rican pacific coast. Super leisure!

    Anonymous on #10035

    @danpeck: One thing to consider with respect to aging: your capacity will decline, so you may want to plan on doing big goals sooner than later.

    I’m 44. I feel like I’m still getting stronger (albeit slowly), but I need to really stay healthy to avoid any long layoffs. After a sedentary break, it takes me a lot longer than it used to claw my way back to where I was. Friends of mine in their 50s and 60s say that they can’t out-train the decline in capacity; they can only slow it down.

    Something to consider!

    Robert on #10041

    Hi dan peck,

    You might want to take another read of FA50 as Friel definitely does not indicate that “LSD” (or perhaps better referred to as aerobic threshold workouts) is “worthless”. In fact here is what he says in Chapter 6:

    p 165

    “Aerobic threshold training isn’t directly linked to reversing or slowing the ravages of aging, as aerobic capacity intervals are. This workout is exclusively about endurance performance. And since that’s what this chapter is about, we need to review it.”

    p 167

    “As you’ll see later on, this (the aerobic threshold workout) will become one of the staples of your training, not to slow aging but to improve performance while also improving your ability to burn body fat.”

    He goes on to describe, in detail, why aerobic threshold workouts are so important and how to develop a training plan that appropriately incorporates such workouts (and the dose and density) as a function of your goal event length.

    In my case where I am doing 30 min to 2 hour events in the winter as a cross country skier and 2 hour to 20 hour events in the spring/summer/early fall as a mountain trail runner/ultramarathoner, the dose and density of the aerobic threshold work does not actually change much between race seasons and is typically at about 80% of the total volume. What does change substantially between seasons is the dose and density of high intensity work (LT and VO2max sessions)- it’s very high depending on where I am in the periodized schedule leading to “A” races in the winter but significantly less and more focused on LT and vertical ascension in the spring/summer for the mountain trail runs. But the “LSD” stays at just about 80% year-round. And, of course, the strength training is consistent year-round but punctuated with three-four max strength builds in spring, summer, fall, and late fall.

    I think you will find that Friel’s approach is largely consistent with TftNA for event length exceeding 4h.

    danpeck on #10055

    Robert. Copy that. This has been a great discussion with good insight for me all around. Cheers!

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