31st March 2016
In the last 10 years the UK has seen an increase in participation in organised running, cycling and triathlon events. Contributing to this increase in numbers is a rise in 50+ year old participants who are either new to their chosen sport or returning to it following a lengthy hiatus whilst a certain number have been riding, running or competing regularly since their youth.
This welcome increase in numbers has, in the same time frame, been mirrored by an increase in sport science research into the performance of the masters athlete. My MSc. research included areas such as the musculoskeletal and cardiovascular health of men and women over 50 including bone health, joint mechanics and injury, cardiovascular conditioning and common degenerative disease whilst my clinical training at The Hatter Cardiovascular Institute at UCL was spent rehabilitating men and women following heart surgery and I saw a significant difference in outcomes between those who had led a sedentary lifestyle compared to those who had been continually active.
Recent research shows that many of the physiological changes we experience as we get older are not necessarily bought about by the aging process but instead by increased levels of sedentary behaviour. It is without doubt that aging brings about changes in hormonal levels and enzyme activity which can have an effect on certain measures of physical fitness as well as cognitive function but following a proper training program, addressing nutritional needs and incorporating certain healthy lifestyle choices can result in masters athletes improving athletic performance to higher levels than was previously thought and perhaps to new personal bests.
The articles contained in the 50+ section are objective and evidence based. There is a common thread running through the articles of periodised programming and I hope that reading these articles will help you to plan your training and competitive year in order for you to either get faster or get more enjoyment out of your rides.
Don’t be put off by the prospect of a yearly training plan. You can still improve from 4 weeks out but obviously the better prepared you are the greater the likelihood you will improve your times. Also some of the tests mentioned are the best physiological tests you can get in the world used by elite athletes and the test data can be used to design highly personalised programs however I will also show you how you can perform very simple tests to check your progress or assess training status with easily available kit such as a heart-rate monitor as well as the help of friend or training partner.
Finally, in the world of exercise physiology there are many routes to certain goals, some of more effective than others. Whichever route you choose, whether it is one suggested in these pages or one in one of the popular magazines, be consistent, follow as personalised a plan as possible and don’t forget to have fun!
Richard Brennan is managing director of Sport Science Consultants Ltd. He is a clinically trained Exercise Physiologist with a BSc. in Sport Science and an MSc. in Sport & Exercise Physiology. Click here to read his biography.