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Training for Senior Athletes - Coach Kate's Endurance Sport Lessons

Updated: Jul 24, 2023

This article is a summary of the key points discussed by Joe Friel in his book 'Fast After 50' enhancing training for senior athletes.

If you have been training for several decades, your performance begins to decline after the age of 50 years. Predictors of performance include aerobic capacity (VO2 max), efficiency and lactate threshold (the point at which lactate accumulates rapidly in the blood). Aerobic capacity naturally declines with age, efficiency and lactate threshold do not decline as rapidly.

Athletes who train using long slow distance LSD training, this decline is around 1-1.5% per year. However, athletes who continue to train with high intensity interval training HIIT alongside LSD training, this decline slows to ~0.5% per year.

Triathlon Adventures Geelong at Macedon Ranges

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

  • Workouts that have intervals that feel uncomfortable

  • Have an increase risk of injury, particularly running

  • Programming workouts is important and should be spread out to include sufficient recovery

  • Use your training zones (Pace, HR, RPE, Power etc.) to determine the intensity of the interval

  • Include a mix of VO2 / Aerobic capacity and lactate threshold efforts

Strength Training

  • Reduces decline in muscle mass

  • Increases production of growth hormones

  • Twice per week is a desirable dosage

Avoiding Overtraining (Injury / Illness)

  • Older athletes recover at a slower rate than younger athletes

  • Program enough recovery between sessions, usually anywhere between 3 to 9 days between high load workouts (same sport); this means you can include HIIT sessions for swim/bike between run sessions

  • Gradually increase duration of interval

  • Notice changes in levels of fatigue both in your whole body, mind and specific areas/muscles.

  • Moderate conservative ‘chronic load’ is better than a period of hard training which may result in an injury / illness and loss of training; be aware being too conservative might result in not improving

  • Doing efforts harder than the prescribed training zone is not beneficial. It will increase your risk of injury and increase recovery time post workout.


  • Regular workout routines

  • Factor in days off training, the older you get, the more you should spread out your high load sessions

  • Include a mix of long slow distance, weight training and HIIT sessions

  • Vary the program depending on location, training age, stress and adaptations to training

  • Vary the program according to the training phase leading into an ‘A race’.

Periodisation training senior athletes


Aerobic capacity - your body’s ability to use oxygen to produce energy, measured by VO2 max, an effort sustained ‘all out’ for 5mins. Best measured by pace/power/RPE.

Lactate / Anaerobic threshold - slightly lower intensity than VO2 max, usually an effort lasting 20-30mins put to 60mins duration. Best measured by HR and RPE.

Aerobic Threshold - the point at which you burn predominately fat vs carbohydrate, around 70% of your max HR


Performance Decline

  • Aerobic capacity

  • Increase body fat

  • Loss of muscle mass

Reducing Performance Decline

  • Include a mix of LSD, HIIT, strength training and recovery in your training

  • Periodise your program according to your adaptation to training, current lifestyle stress and goal events


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