Feb 2, 2012 at 5:46 am #1285054
@leslerLocale: right here, right now
i'm curious to hear perspectives on long-term athletic performance (i.e a month+) with age– notably transitioning 20's to 30's. while i'm certainly not lacking fitness, and while i prize nutrition, sleep and mindful meditation like never before (measures i formerly blatently neglected), i recognize i'm no longer 20-something and i DO notice my body craves regularly scheduled recovery time in order to avoid injury and perform well. i'm strongly considering a trek for summer and there's no disputing that frontcountry training differs from backcountry performance. mentally i feel sound, but i'm mildly concerned how my body will react when the time comes.
what can i anticipate as far as:
* pace/mileage reduction?
* mental capacity to "get there"?
* other thoughts/concerns?
thanks. ltFeb 2, 2012 at 6:30 am #1833236
I can fast forward your question well into your 40's…..
I don't believe that age up to at least 50 is a determent to hiking. I can do hikes now that I'm in 40's that I wouldn't have dreamed of even in my 30's. The only negative that I have seen is that recovery takes a bit longer. But that is more than offset by a mental toughest which is developed by experience. For example; if you have ever hiked a 40 mile day the thought of 50 in a day suddenly seems achievable whereas if your max has been 30 then it looks beyond reach. And I'm not talking about physical barriers, it is mental barriers.
Besides, in your 30's you're a still a young pup!Feb 2, 2012 at 7:01 am #1833249
ultra trail runners typically don't hit their peak until mid to late 30's.
the average age is around 42-44 years old, with many ultra men and women in their 50's. the drop off in participation doesn't start till 60 or so … soooo …Feb 2, 2012 at 7:29 am #1833264
I can tell you that right now, at age 52 (almost 53), I am hiking and training in a manner that is absolutley amazing to me. As a young man I was a world class cyclist, and rock climber. I was climbing 5.11 and harder solid back in the 80's and kept it up for almost two decades. I was a state champion cat rated cyclist, and I was pretty much super man!
As the 30's and 40's hit, I tended to slow down a bit with regards to allocating time to these pursuits, as the family and career poked its head into our lives. I still trained, still was in fantastic shape, and was able with some discipline and some planning to pull off some major trips and some major climbing accomplishments.
Enter the late 40's and now my 50's. I retired from climbing, as I did begin to feel some effects of big packs and hard pulls on my aging body. Recovery takes longer, but it is still full recovery. UL became more logical, my running mechanics changed with info from "Born to Run" and my body has flourished. I'm training less, but with more intelligent design, and I'm astounded that I can go out and run between 10-20 miles! without much problem. My UL hiking has allowed me to just fly down trails without any hurt, and I'm covering more miles per day on and off trail than I ever have in my entire 40 year hiking career. I've a few extra pounds around the middle, and I recognize that I'm not going to be a PX 90 poster child. But that is ok! I choose my style, and my training, and my body is thriving. Decent nutrition, good sleep, recovery times, and patience. Sure the body will decline with age. But I am seeing that experience and skills are making up for a tremendous amount of pure physical abilities. Most of my younger friends, (20-30's) are lucky to keep up with me, and many I have to wait on. I just ran a trail race where I finished 19 out of a 100 and was the winner in my 50-59 class. I'm not driven to be first, it was a pleasant surprise, and I was only slightly sore the next day. The confidence in my mind, body and spirit are at a point where my age is a wonderful asset.
With regards to some of your specific questions,
I'm running pace at 10-12 min miles for up to 20 mile runs, 8 min pace for sub 10 mile runs.
Walking/backpacking pace is almost limitless. I can easily log 20+ miles on trail and on the SHR was doing 12-18 offtrail per day. This is still being in camp by evening.
Mental capacity is much sharper as I can use experience to work out scenarios to my best advantage. And I'm not prone to being down if I have to change plans or "don't reach" my planned goal for the day/moment.
Confidence and desire to maximize the experience is at an all time high! I finally understand keeping it simple, and am very satisfied with my time out doing whatever.
Cheers!Feb 2, 2012 at 8:08 am #1833279
@leslerLocale: right here, right now
steve! your thoughftul insight and sage wisdom comes at a much needed time. i do so appreciate and value ALL that you've shared, as much of it closely mirrors my own thinking and experiences. other 30 something athletes–do you too sometimes/ always/never get conjured into thinking that you're physically capable of what you once could do, while the rivaling thought warns of the need to exercise conservatively with "intelligence"? i'm ever challenged by this conundrum.
what gets you there?
ltFeb 2, 2012 at 8:58 am #1833303
@eugeneiusLocale: Nuevo Mexico
Awesome Steve! I love meeting individuals who embrace their age and keep pushing it, well beyond the point when many their age are transitioning into a later life of increased sedentary 'activity'. I try to keep up with my father who is 52, he rides 24 hour races on a single speed in solo division and his fitness is through the roof; he inspires me to keep taking care of myself and to enjoy my running as often as I can.
I turned 28 this past December and I'm very much looking forward to 30! Bring it on.Feb 2, 2012 at 9:13 am #1833313
based solely on your two entries in this thread (I don't know you), you're talking like someone who just turned 50, not someone with their whole life still in front of them and turning 30.
You're still no where near your peak (well, unless your a ballet dancer).
Keep a young mental attitude, and don't psyche yourself out.Feb 2, 2012 at 9:34 am #1833321
@texasbbLocale: Pacific Northwest
I'll echo some of the sentiments mentioned by others. I'm about to turn 52 and am in better physical condition than at any time in my life. For me, endurance actually improved in my 30s and 40s, and I don't think that's an anomaly. In terms of cardio and muscle endurance, you should find nothing but benefit from turning 30.
Age does tend to show up in structural contexts, though. Nagging little pains in knees, ankles, feet, backs, shoulders, wherever, can bloom to sidelining injuries if not respected. Things heal more slowly. But this mainly means being a bit more careful. I use trekking poles religiously. More than once I've tossed an almost new pair of boots/shoes because they put stresses where they shouldn't. I consciously plan my routes so the steepest sections are uphill, to spare the impact on my legs and feet. And so on.
It's no less fun, probably even more fun, now that I'm over 50. My multi-day trips tend to be maybe 12-16 miles per day with up to about 4500 vertical. God willing I'll keep going til I'm 100.Feb 2, 2012 at 9:43 am #1833323
@mikefaedundeeLocale: Under a bush in Scotland
Worried about the 30's? I was at my peak in my 30's! :)
I was running 90 miles a week in training, and regularly going under 3 hours for a road marathon. I only got into off-road running in my 30's, and regularly ran 20/30 miles over mountains just for fun, and loved it, and wished i had discovered it earlier. I was a fearless beast on gnarly descents. Although i never won anything, and my highest ever finish in a mountain race was 10th, it became my life. I carried that on into my 40's, but ground to a halt at 45. I had a bad injury that i never really recovered from. Now my joints are suffering from wear and tear, and running is out, on doctors orders. Walking is my limit now, but sometimes i can't help myself from running, if the doctor isn't looking. ;)
If i could go back in time, i would have done all my running off road, and stayed away from hard roads and pavements.
I turned 50 last year, and still think i'm 20. My hope is to die in the mountains, preferably in a tent with a 20 year old blonde, and a bottle of malt. :)Feb 2, 2012 at 9:48 am #1833325
all i've noticed so far is recovery takes a little bit longer and the hangovers are worseFeb 2, 2012 at 10:59 am #1833362
@ngatelLocale: Southern California
Probably need to define athletic performance. Are we talking about being a competitive athlete into our 30's and beyond, or living an athletic lifestyle and maintaining our level of fitness.
Constantina Dita Tomescu won the women's marathon in Beijing at age 38.
Al Oerter won a Gold Medal in the discus at age 32, a sport that requires both strength and technique. He set his PR at age 43, but the competition had improved over the previous 10 years and he was no longer a serious contender in international competition.
Bernard Lagat ran the mile in 3:47 at age 25, and 3:51 at age 35 (last year). He is still a competitive force in middle distance running.
Steve Scott ran 136 sub 4 minute miles in his career, the last one in his late 30's.
Elite athletes often live fairly one dimensional lives. They train, eat, sleep, and compete. With age, most broaden their interests and competition no longer becomes the central focus in life. Even then, many can continue to perform at high levels of performance due to improved knowledge and technique.
With the aging process we slowly deteriorate, but how quickly depends on how we live our lives each day.
So can we as backpackers (or other sports) continue to perform at a fairly high level? Obviously the answer is yes, as previous posters have provided examples. And how long can we do it? I still do 20 plus mile days in my 60's. But my lighter gear and experience have changed how I hike. The most I have done since turning 60 was 25 miles. But this wasn't a mileage goal, it was how far I needed to walk to get to my next water source and was planned. I am sure I can do more if I want or need to, but mileage in and of itself is not important… which begs the question, "Why?" I just want to walk, not meet any performance standard — this answers the mental capacity question to "get there". All of this requires a fairly active lifestyle, and sometimes "day to day living" gets in the way of the lifestyle. So how long can I continue doing this without slowing down? I am not sure. If I stay healthy, maybe another 10 years, maybe less, maybe more.
I hike further than I did in my 20's and 30's. Part of this was due to heavier gear, and mentally 20 miles per day was a good days walk. I am probably less tired now at the end of a day's hiking than I was 30 or 40 years ago. I can still hike a 10,000 foot elevation gain in a single day, but not as fast as before, so I am thrilled with that. I cannot move at high sustained speeds as I once did, but can maintain a good average over a day — something younger hikers don't seem to do; you know the hare vs the tortise — which answers the pace question. But I focus on all the other aspects of the trip, and the mileage just follows. If I find some other diversion on a walk, then I may stop at 10 or even 5 miles.
As to the question about "other thoughts/concerns" — An interesting thing about this is that when we are in our 20's or 30's we begin to wonder if we can continue at the same level, as Leslie has mentioned. When I turned 60, I started to think about my mortality. When you hit the 6th decade, your friends start to die off. And you realize you are running out of time, and unfortunately you don't know when the clock will stop ticking. Some of my friends have "thrown in the towel," and are waiting to die. I am simply continuing to live, without worrying about that final day. So I continue to hike (along with other physical activities – but backpacking is my passion), and age has not yet limited my hikes at all. So looking back, I would say just get out there and do want you enjoy for the pure pleasure of doing it. Don't worry about how fast or how long you can do it; but rather how much of your time is spent doing the things you love in life. And the more things in life you learn to love, the greater the journey.
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