More focus on higher intesity for aging athletes ?

  • Creator
  • #41873

    In this post Joe Friel suggests aging athletes consider two high intensity sessions in the week.

    Does this merit us aging athletes putting a little more focus and time into higher intensity sessions of some kind and trade off some of our low intensity work (Z1/2) ?

    Some more ME, intervals, … ?

    If so when would it be appropriate to start to build that in ?

    Before AeT and AnT are within 10% or just keep focus on lower intensity until the AeT and AnT are within 10% ?

    – Garret.

  • Participant
    Reed on #41884

    Hi Garret! Glad to see you here! I skimmed Joe Friel’s book Fast after 50 (I gave it to Ted for his 50th birthday). What I took away from that, and that blog post, was:

    • The ability to recover from a training load decreases with age. I’m guessing that’s particularly true in absolute terms for stronger athletes. A recreational rower might train 250 hours per year, collegiate-level 500 hours per year, international might see 800-1,200 hours of training volume (figures from Nolte, Rowing Faster). An elite rower in his 60s would be less likely to be able to handle 1,000 hours per year.
    • A couple of decades of endurance training probably put into place most or all of the structural changes (capillary density, tendon & ligament strength) that the athlete is going to see, although maintaining those with appropriate stimulus remains important. High intensity work will have more impact on functional changes (enzymes, mitochondria) that will result in high force production / speed.

    So, combining those two: if you had been training 10 hours per week, you might allocate 5% or 30 minutes per week to high intensity on average. My interpretation of Friel’s advice: first, don’t get lazy and stop doing the 30 minutes of high intensity work. Second, if you have to drop volume down to 8 hours per week, keep the 30 minutes of intensity. The percentage obviously increases. But I don’t think he’s arguing for a substantial increase in absolute volume of high intensity (unless you didn’t maintain that 30 minute allocation).


    Anonymous on #41942


    As an old but life long athlete myself I agree with the points Reed is making. I have read Joe’s book (full disclosure: I have coached his son for several skimo race seasons) and have similar take aways.

    I definitely recover MUCH slower now than 40 years ago. My explosive power is MUCH lower. My maxVO2 (aerobic power has dropped from 80 to the low 50s). All this with consistent training in the range of 500-800 hours/year during my 50s and 60s. Aging is a bitch.

    Of all these qualities, speed and strength drop off the fastest and need the most work to maintain and increase. There is a significant strength training effect that comes from high intensity training that is very sport specific.

    All that said however, if you are aerobically deficient, jumping to a high relative volume of high intensity will still delay the aerobic base development that you need just as much as a 30 year old does.

    High intensity training is important component of any endurance training program but it is supplement to, not a replacement for a high (relative) volume of aerobic base training.

    Reed’s comments about training volume are central to the whole discussion. How much aerobic training (all zones) volume are doing in a week? What are your goals? What is your training history? How much can you train? There is no one size fits all recipe, only general guidelines.


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