Age related performance decline/strength training and mental training

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

So I’m still a bit behind but I’m getting back on schedule. However, I wanted to ensure I didn’t rush my writing about these topics.

Interestingly, within my coaching, I wanted to focus on going a little deeper in a few areas next year. Two of those areas are addressed below. I wanted to focus more on strength training and the mental aspect. I’ll explain more below but I did find it interesting that, as I was thinking about these aspects of training, I came across these.

First, one of my favorite bloggers Alex Hutchinson wrote about age related decline.

The chart he included is very interesting. Basically, peak sprint power drops off rapidly once we age beyond our 30s. Likewise, VO2max seems to have a general downward trend as we age, accelerating as we enter our 60s but generally downward throughout life. Efficiency, on the other hand, declines but less rapidly than the other variables. We also seem to experience a fairly significant drop as we age into our 60s before it apparently levels off going forward.

Beyond that, though, I think it’s interesting what Hutchinson brings up at the end.

So is this a measure of "intrinsic" aging? It’s not that simple. These masters triathletes are certainly fit, but they may well be neglecting the types of training that maintain muscle mass, strength, and power. Indeed, a study back in 2011 (with one of the same co-authors) found that (a) strength training improves cycling efficiency, and (b) the improvements are bigger in older cyclists.

I wanted to add a greater focus on strength training next year because I believe it will take our injury prevention efforts to a higher level. That is still my focus. I believe a basic level of strength makes you more resilient. It allows you to train harder with a lower risk of injury. For the more veteran runners, though, we may have an added benefit of potentially significant efficiency gains. Sounds like a win/win to me and is another reason to believe we’re heading in the right direction.

Second, one of the runners I coach sent me this link to an interesting article about "brain training".

The runners I coach might recognize things I do in parts of this article. The idea of keeping positive is a big one. I always find something positive. I can read a runner’s training log and, in a workout where the runner thinks he or she bombed, see a positive we can take out of the workout. Then I’ll focus on the positive that I see in the workout. Not that we can ignore the misses but, in my effort to always be positive, why can’t we look at the misses and learn from them? Are they negatives if we use them as learning opportunities? See what the runners I coach have to deal with? I guess I know why I’ve been called annoyingly positive.

I think there are a few things every runner can take from this. The runners I coach can expect much greater detail in discussion of this but here are a couple key takeaways I think we can find in this article:

1) Be process oriented, not results oriented. As I often say, take care of the present and the future will take care of itself.

2) Focus on the positive. We all have negative thoughts creep into our minds. No matter how much we practice being positive, they will at times. When things are going good, it’s easy to be positive. What do we do when these things happen? Put a positive spin on it. If I’m racing a 5K and things start hurting late in mile 2, I might for a moment think can I hold this all the way to the finish? Then I turn it around. I’m supposed to be hurting at this point. That means I’m running a good race. Now, let’s keep pushing through this part so I can keep this good race going.

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