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Matt DeMinico 07-11-2007 07:23 AM

There seems to be this general opinion out there among athletes and those who follow sports that once you're past 30-ish years old, your sports performance is on the downhill big time. In particular, in my sport of short track speedskating, it seems that there is hardly anyone over the age of 30 who competes at the national/international level. Heck, in Korea (currently generally accepted as the fastest short track skaters in the world), their unwritten (or written for all I know) rule is "two olympics and you're done". That typically puts athletes in the olympics around 17-20 years old for the first one, and 21-25 for their second one. On the other hand, there have been 30-33+ year old athletes (that I know of) who were competitive.

Just recently however, after talking with a coach at a clinic, he mentioned that the "you can't compete after a certain age" is mostly a myth. He said there's really only two differences between older athletes and younger athletes up to about 40 years old:

1) Slightly increased recovery times for older athletes.
2) Older athletes typically have lives.

Does anyone know any knowledge or data on this? He said it's still rather new information, everyone thought that people typically peak in the mid twenties and start going downhill from there, but that belief is starting to be disproven. I've heard questions about the decline of fast twitch fibers, but that's about it.

Then again, Jerry Rice played in the NFL until he was 42 years old, and he was known for punishing the crap out of himself in his workouts to get into peak performance.

Anyone else know anything on this topic?

Connie Morreale 07-11-2007 12:01 PM

i cannot speak about other modalities, but
most of the better ultra endurance athletes are over 40. i believe it is the mental ability to focus and pace yourself.

Milton Grasle 07-11-2007 04:11 PM

Hi everyone. Milton here, and I'm 59 years old. I compete regularly with people half my age and not just people that you may consider "average condition" but some who are really fit. I'm not going to pretend that I can out do them or that I still have the potential to do so, although I do surprise a few. What I have learned is that the older you get the harder you have to go and the more intense your workouts need to become. For some time, it was thought, as still is in some circles, that as you age you need to slow down and take things easier. Don't believe it. Before going hard though you need to have developed a good solid exercise base to work from. Recovery time will be longer also. But once that base is built, you need to rip it up. The harder I exercise the younger I feel and the better my times become. I'm a sprinter, but I won't post any 1-2 or 300 meter times for fear of bragging, but they are very good times, well below my age bracket standards. That's what really caught my interest in X/F. To some extent, X/F seems to hold the same philospohy, except X/F has added extra deminisions that have made me much more well rounded. I'm still improving at 59 and an anxious to see how far I can actually go.

Connie Morreale 07-11-2007 06:29 PM

very inspirational, milton. thanks for posting.

David Sailor 07-11-2007 06:55 PM

Milton, good stuff. Thanks for sharing that. At 44, I'm not ready to hang up the towel just yet. I really don't have any preconceived limits on what I can attain and it's good to hear your thoughts on this. David.

Steven Low 07-11-2007 07:05 PM

For gymnasts it really turns out to be more is less since the sport is too punishing. Jordan Jovtchev, for example, goes into the gym and does a couple of rings routines and a bit of other work and then gets out. Quick, simple and efficient. If he did anymore, he would probably have had to retire years ago but he's still going strong into his mid-30s now I believe.

Milton Grasle 07-11-2007 07:26 PM

Steven, in a sense what Jovtchev does is what's worked for me also. And I am in no way comparing myself to him or what he has achieved. But when you get older you have to make some adjustments so you can continue to perform at full potential. You limit your workouts to every other day, sometimes only three workouts a week. But those workouts are short and intense and fucntional to your purpose. There are weeks when you scale down for complete recovery, but most of it is hard and fast or I lose my edge. I'm no authority on this topic, but if age has done anything positive for me, it has taught me what works for me.

Matt DeMinico 07-11-2007 07:50 PM

Good to hear there's others out there with firsthand success.

Veronica Carpenter 07-11-2007 08:35 PM

My uncle who is close to 60 still races bicycles. His last adventure was a bike ride from Tahoe to Vallejo, Ca. - about 260 miles. He did it just to do it. There's no age limit when it comes to sports and fitness.

I agree with others, though, as we age our recovery time increases and the body just can't seem to take as much volume of work. Doesn't mean we have to stop, though.

Arden Cogar Jr. 07-12-2007 06:39 AM

I don't have any data, but in my sport your prime years are between 35 and 50. My father won his last world title (a big deal in my sport) when he was 55. He also made the ESPN Stihl Timbersports Finals when he was 60 (again, another big dela in my sport).

Granted he's more of an exception as he still competes at 73 and does quiet well. But it gives a lot of people hope.

My sport is an older man's sport, for the most part. But it's all about what you put into it. As mentioned above, most older people have lives and balancing everything is the key.

Coming from a powerlifting background, i believe your strongest years are during your 30s. Some argument about your tendons and ligaments catching up with your muscles or vice versa.

My friend Phil Pfister is 35 and he keeps getting stronger each year. He's been doing strongman for about 9 years now and he feels stronger now than ever. He reckons he can go another good 5 years.

Another colleague, Doug Currence, is nearly 50 years old and last year, at 220, he benched pressed a personal record (single ply) of 467 and deadlifted just shy of 700 (again, another personal record). Doug's been competing for nearly 30 years.

The key is listening to your body. Training while fresh. Understanding your caloric needs and the types of calories you put in your body. And truly periodizing your training regimen. As we age, we suppossed to become wiser. At least that's what I hope.

All the best,

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