Is it possible to stay fast or even increase your speed or fitness after turning 50? America’s leading endurance coach, Joe Friel, has a book out that answers that question with a resounding yes. The way you go about it though may surprise you.
Drawing from the most current research on aging and sports performance, Friel shows how athletes can race strong and stay healthy well past age 50.
Friel’s latest book, Fast After 50: How to Race Strong for the Rest of Your Life, synthesis what Friel has learned over the past 50+ years as an athlete and a coach. “The book came out of my personal experience. It was me trying to give myself a birthday present, trying to understand what happens when you turn 50 or more, what happens in your life athletically. So the book was a birthday present to me and ended up being, as far as I know, the only book written on this topic based on the research.”
The book, published by VeloPress, presents guidelines for high-intensity workouts, focused strength training, recovery, cross-training, and nutrition for high performance:
- How the body’s response to training changes with age
- How to adapt your training plan and avoid overtraining
- How to shed body fat and regain muscle density
- How to create a progressive plan for training, recovery and competition
- Workout guidelines, field tests, and intensity measurement
“Probably the first thing the aging athlete discovers is the fact that they don’t recover as fast as they did when they were younger. There is something about my body that is not responding like it did a few years ago. So, that’s the starting point for most athletes in understanding that they are becoming old is they just don’t bounce back anymore.”
“The older you get the more you have to focus your whole concept of training around recovery instead of focusing more on high quality workouts which is going to be done anyway. You need to give a lot of thought on how am I going to make sure I will recover so that I can do the next hard work out after this one. In the book I offer suggestions for the athlete to start including more recovery days between hard workouts as opposed to just one.”
“Another one of the key issues that I had with my clients was that typically none were getting enough sleep. How I determine if you get enough sleep is if you use an alarm to wake up in the morning. It’s an artificial waking mechanism which means you just interrupted your sleep and we need to get to the point where you don’t have alarms. The key point is when you go to bed not when you wake up. Sleep is recovery so as you get older sleep becomes more and more important.”
What Do You Eat
“Nutrition can become somewhat like religion. We have these strong beliefs because it has been beaten in to us since late 1970s that you need to eat a high carbohydrate diet. Otherwise you you won’t be able to train hard and are going to die of heart disease and cancer and all these other problems. That’s just the way we’re supposed to do it. It is kind of ordained that we are supposed to eat a high carb diet.”
“Only in the last, 5 or 8 years has it been questioned, so now we’re starting to see more research on the topic. We’re starting to see good athletes who are abandoning the concept of eating constant carbohydrates and are depending more on fat and protein. If you’re in your 50’s and you weigh more than you think you should weigh or want to weigh, its likely you have some insulin resistance and if you do have that then you probably shouldn’t be eating many carbs.”
Friel actually wrote a book about this with Professor Loren Cordain called The Paleo Diet for Athletes. There is also more information on this in an earlier post called Why Do We Get Fat As We Get Older?
Less Time Off
Finally, between finishing the book and the publication at age 70, Joe had a nasty training accident. Joe was not able to train for an extended period of time and learned a new lesson: “What I discovered was basically that the older you are the less you can afford to miss training for long periods of time. You lose fitness very rapidly at this age and take much longer to come back.”
Joe Friel has trained endurance athletes since 1980. His clients are elite amateur and professional road cyclists, mountain bikers, triathletes, and duathletes. They come from all corners of the globe and include American and foreign national champions, world championship competitors, and an Olympian. Friel is also still a competitive age-group athlete in his 70s.
He is the author of ten books on training for endurance athletes including the popular and best-selling Training Bible book series. He holds a masters degree in exercise science, is a USA Triathlon and USA Cycling certified Elite-level coach, and is a founder and past Chairman of the USA Triathlon National Coaching Commission.
What’s Next for Joe?
“I’m still writing, I just finished totally rewriting one of the first books I wrote back in the nineties which was called “The Triathletes Training Bible.” I came to realize that in the 17 years since I wrote that book it has become outdated. I threw the entire manuscript away and just rewrote the entire book from scratch and that will be out this fall (2016).”
Boomerangfit interviewed Joe Friel via Skype from his home in the McDowell Mountains in Scottsdale, AZ.