Older athletes

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    I am 55 years old, having started triathlon as a 40y.o. I have just read Joe Friel’s book, ‘Fast After 50’, in which he recommends prioritizing high intensity training, and strength training, over LSD (long slow distance) training. He also suggests that due to the increasing recovery needs of older athletes, just one training session a day is recommended with one full recovery day each week. Having just read 8020 Triathlon, it seems that the minimum I should be looking to commit to each week should be 6 sessions in three sports – 3 x moderate/high intensity sessions (one in each sport), and 3 x LSD sessions (one in each sport) – this doesn’t seem to provide much room for ‘recovery’ – especially when I add in the strength sessions that you both recommend. What are your recommendations on adapting the 8020 Triathlon training program to take into account the increasing recovery and strength training needs of older athletes?

    Matt Fitzgerald

    In my view, guidelines like those you cite here are artificial and arbitrary and should be ignored. The human body is always changing, and one’s training should therefore continuously, gradually evolve. Nothing abrupt magically happens on an athlete’s 50th birthday. I could write an entire book myself on this topic, but so here’s a little reading for the meantime:

    Would Longer “Weeks” Make Your Training More Manageable?

    Fifty Is the New Whatever

    The same principles apply to diet, BTW:

    Why I Eat Pretty Much the Same at 47 As I Did at 32



    As an older athlete myself, how does one know when they are getting enough recovery?
    Are your 7 day plans simply designed to automatically allow enough recovery time?

    Matt Fitzgerald

    You know by how you feel and how you perform. If you feel recovered and you are able to hit your normal numbers at a normal RPE, you’re recovered. If you feel tired and/or it takes extra effort to hit your normal numbers, you’re not fully recovered. The plans are designed in such a way that if a given plan is good fit for you generally, you should have no trouble avoiding recovery deficits.


    Hi – as an older athlete myself (I’m 48), I’d echo Matt’s comments. Whilst I can’t replicate my marathon times from my 20’s, my Half Ironman times are continually improving!

    I’ve read most of Joe Friels books, and they are great, packed with useful information and experience. What I would say is that everyone is different, and the whole ethos behind the 80/20 program is that 80% is easy, enabling the body to exercise at low intensity and facilitating recovery. I’ve been using the intermediate half Ironman plan plus the maintenance plan for about 18 months and I have had zero injuries!

    I would also add that understanding how you feel is key, and this can be supplemented by conducting Heart Rate Variability (HRV)measurements with a quality heart rate monitor. I personally use the iThlete app, but there are a few others out there. Ive found it to be a good indicator of how stressed my body is – here’s a link to an article! https://www.trainingpeaks.com/blog/how-monitoring-your-heart-rate-variability-helps-you-avoid-overtraining/


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