Thoughts On Training At 50+: ‘Not Going Slower’ Versus ‘Going Faster’

Hi folks,

Fixing the power lines during Hurricane Irene. Duke Power Company were really prompt (Thanks!)

The power is back on, hurricane Irene is leaving and in spite of blustery winds Rory and I went for an easy spin on our bikes. During the ride we were comparing our ride times (speed) over the years for certain routes and we agreed that we were definitely slowing down. It then occurred to me that a training program designed to make you faster might not be optimal for older endurance athletes. Your competition is slowing down as they age, just like you, so maybe your training should be designed to slow down your slowing down. This could play a big role in your motivation and psychological approach to your sport. It might also reduce your risk of injuries.

A very large pot of spaghetti sauce prepared by the author, still half full after feeding 15 people.

When it comes to slowing down with age, what we [can] eat and drink also changes. For instance, I can’t handle alcohol like I could when I was younger. If I have more than two glasses of wine I definitely feel it the next day. This also seems to be true of eating. My digestive system does not handle change as well as it did. For instance, yesterday afternoon Deb asked me if I could make a spaghetti sauce for 15 to 20 people. I said sure, thinking that it would be needed the next day. WRONG! It was needed in one hour and fifty minutes. As soon as I realized this time constraint I rushed off to the grocery store, returned, and cooked, completing the sauce on time. However, in my haste I made too much. I used my largest pot (see photo), and we returned from the dinner with over half of the sauce uneaten even though everyone was well fed (and happy with my sauce apparently). So! Before my ride I thought, “why not eat a nice big bowl of spaghetti sauce,” which I did. My aging gastrointestinal tract did not like that very much, whereas only ten years ago I could eat anything before a ride and be fine.

A number of human systems start to deteriorate as we age, and this should be taken into consideration when you set your goals and judge your performance. Be kind to yourself, for heaven’s sake. Bodily functions that lose their ability, slow down, or have decreased sensitivity with age, and should be considered as you train, include the following:

  1. Recovery from training.
  2. Eyesight.
  3. Hearing.
  4. Sense of smell.
  5. Sense of taste.
  6. Reflex motor activity.
  7. Fine motor skills (manual dexterity).
  8. Thermoregulation, both with respect to hypothermia (cold) and hyperthermia (heat).
  9. Ability to handle alcohol
  10. Digestive function
  11. Ability to sleep.
  12. Electrolyte balance.
  13. Hydration (water balance).
  14. Chez Ollie (immune function).

I am sure that there are others, however. The rate of decline of these functions can be prevented or delayed in many cases if you take appropriate measures.

In spite of all that gloom and doom, here is Herb Kirk still running marathons at the age of 102:

Herb Kirk still running marathons at the age of 102. From:

Finally, the best you can do may decline with age, but if you are not in good shape you can expect considerable gains in performance until you reach your potential peak level of athletic skill. Once you reach that point, or approach it at least, work to delay the decline by trying to ‘not go slower.’ And enjoy being much fitter than many people your age.

And remember, you are not a statistic, you are you and no one knows what you are capable of achieving, including you.

-k Your Medical Mind



  1. Rory Conolly says

    Morgan, you never could handle alcohol…

  2. Your right, I do become a bit noisy. -k @NoisyOldDog

  3. “Be kind to yourself, for heaven’s sake.” Wise words, sir. Spoken like someone who has learned from experience. I think I might adopt that as my meditation phrase for a few months!

  4. Hi LeeAnn,
    I’d forgotten about that old post. Yep, we can sometimes drive ourselves too hard. Thanks for liking my thoughts. I do enjoy blogging, as it teaches me so much.
    Kind Regards and Happy Holiday Season,
    Kevin aka FitOldDog

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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.