The Ageing Athlete

One of the greatest battles every athlete has to face is getting older and the subsequent decrease in performance that invariably occurs. 

So how can Masters athletes physically  fight the effect that ageing has on performance?

  1. Train for muscular strength

With ageing muscle mass generally declines. Appropriate strength training will assist in slowing the loss in muscle mass thus allowing an athlete to maintain higher levels of performance.

A more sedentary/inactive lifestyle may also cause new muscle imbalances and/or weaknesses to occur. A proper strength training programme can help to eliminate or avoid these and thus aid performance.

  1. Focus on high intensity exercise

This will help to delay the decrease in cardiovascular functioning. As people age there is a drop off in both heart rates and (generally) stroke volume. High intensity exercise can assist in decreasing the rate of decline in both of these.

High intensity exercise will also assist in fighting a drop off on VO2 (Max)

  1. Manage weight

A more sedentary lifestyle will often lead to an increase in weight. This may well in itself lead to a decrease in performance due to a decrease in power to weight ratios. Additionally increase weight has the potential to decrease the aerobic capacity of the athlete.

Consequently it is important for the athlete to manage their nutritional intake – ensuring:

  • an appropriate balance in their diet
  • that they get enough protein to fuel muscle growth and repair
  • that their energy intake is equal to their energy expenditure
  1. Prioritise recovery

In much the same way as it is inappropriate and ineffective to train a child merely as a “small adult”, it is equally as ineffective to ignore the effect of ageing and to thus train a Masters athlete the same way as you would train someone in the 20s.

Training loadings need to be adjusted based on training performances and the impact on the body. Rest, nutrition, sleep and other modalities such as massage and physio need to be structured into the training programme to ensure that the athlete is able to get the most from each training session without compromising performance and risking injury.

  1. Continually work on flexibility

Whilst flexibility often declines as people age this is one area that does not need to decline at the rate it often does. Continuous, regular flexibility and mobility training, dynamic warm ups and longer, static stretching at the conclusion of training sessions can significantly decrease the rate of decline in flexibility with age. In terms of performance it is imperative that any flexibility programme is designed to cater for the individual athlete and the specific requirements of their sport

To learn more about how strength and conditioning programmes can help you prepare for your sport and for individualised online programs go to

Author: DamnFitSC

Coaching athletes since 1988. Post Graduate qualifications in Sports Coaching. Accredited with Australian Strength and Conditioning Association. Have coached athletes across numerous sports at local, state, national and international level.

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