Fitness

Ask Pete: Which Goes First with Age—Working Pace or Endurance?


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QUESTION

Which do runners lose first, pace or endurance?

ANSWER

Technically, pace goes first, however the final result for distance runners is a lack of endurance.

First off, earlier than I clarify extra, don’t get mad. Each time I handle age-related efficiency decline in operating, some readers get upset. Age is only a quantity, they write. Fifty is the brand new forty. Yadda yadda yadda. I agree with all that. However I additionally consider that the extra we discover the problems going through getting older runners, the higher geared up we’re to fulfill them head on with sensible, efficient coaching.

I’m an getting older runner myself. And, like everybody else, my age 55–59 file (15:42) is slower than my age 45–49 file (14:34)—over a minute slower. I don’t learn about you, however I wish to know why I’m slowing down in order that I can placed on the brakes of that course of. Which brings us again to the query: pace or endurance?

Let’s begin by taking a look at American data for pace and endurance in three completely different age teams. That’ll give us an thought of who will get hit hardest by the getting older slowdown. The next desk exhibits age group data, then lists the share of slowdown for athletes within the older age teams (versus the age 39-and-under file):

It seems that sprinters decelerate greater than distance runners by mid-40s. Then the pendulum swings in the other way post-40s. So frequent sense dictates that pace goes first, however endurance goes worse. As is usually the case, frequent sense doesn’t inform the entire story.

First, let’s have a look at pace. As early as our mid-20s, we begin to lose fast-twitch and intermediate fast-twitch (pace) muscle fibers at a price that may attain 1% per yr, a course of known as sarcopenia. However, our slow-twitch (endurance) muscle fibers are immune to age-related atrophy. So proper off the bat, we get slower as a result of we lose the muscle fibers chargeable for operating quick.

Our nervous system management of the remaining muscle fibers additionally begins to interrupt down. Particular person nerves management between a only a few (e.g., 10) and a really many (e.g., 2000) muscle fibers. As we lose muscle, nerve-muscle fiber teams (know as “motor items”) reorganize, change into much less environment friendly, and produce much less power. Since pace requires a lot of power, we get slower.

Masters men racing on trackpicture: 101 Levels West

Subsequent, let’s have a look at endurance. A 2014 examine in Sports activities Well being estimated a loss in endurance capability of 10% per decade. That is primarily based on measurements of VO2max, which is the quantity of oxygen your physique makes use of every minute to create cardio vitality. A 2013 examine in Molecular and Mobile Biology places the blame for this decline on age-related lack of mitochondria (microscopic, aerobic-energy producing energy vegetation inside your muscle fibers). However the examine additionally factors out that lack of mitochondria is instantly correlated with (drum roll please) sarcopenia.

Is sensible. Once we lose muscle fibers, we lose the mitochondria inside them. And right here’s the essential half for distance runners: Whereas we use largely slow-twitch fibers for distance and tempo runs (our favorites), we use virtually all our quicker fibers in races just like the 5K—so lack of “pace” fibers additionally impacts each the power we generate for our stride throughout races and the cardio vitality we are able to produce to gas that stride. With a shorter stride and fewer vitality, we run slower.

Now for the excellent news: Sensible, well-rounded coaching that targets quicker fibers can stop, delay, and even reverse the decline in each pace and endurance. That’s as a result of coaching quicker fibers slows the speed of muscle fiber loss and preserves power manufacturing, nervous system operate, and cardio vitality manufacturing at quicker paces.

Together with these 5 varieties of coaching is an effective begin:

  • Resistance coaching: Deal with lower-body workouts (e.g., squats and step-ups) and use sufficient resistance to restrict every set to 5-10 reps.
  • Hill repeats/hill sprints: Working up a hill quick engages all of your muscle fibers.
  • VO2max repetitions: Reps at 3K to 5K tempo stimulate mitochondrial features in quicker muscle fibers.
  • Kind drills: Drills enhance nervous system management of muscle groups and strengthen muscle groups via their full vary of movement, enhancing dynamic flexibility.
  • Weight-reduction plan: Preserve your protein consumption excessive to enhance tissue restore post-workout.
  • For distance runners, it’s not essential whether or not pace or endurance goes first. It’s essential that they’re flip sides of the identical coin. The place one goes, the opposite follows.

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