Age Versus Performance


By William Misner, Ph.D.

William Misner, Ph.D.
William Misner, Ph.D.
From 1996 until his retirement in 2006, Dr. Bill worked full-time as Director of Research & Development at Hammer Nutrition. Among his many accomplishments, both academically and athletically, he is an AAMA Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner and the author of "What Should I Eat? A Food-Endowed Prescription For Well Being".

Age and peak performance in the Olympics has been confirmed increases with the length of the race. (Schulz & Curnow 1988) Women generally achieve their performance peaks at slightly younger ages than men. Most performance bests occur in the range between 23 and 30 years of age, but after age 40 there is a linear parallel decline in performance. VO2 Max, as I described in a former post on mitochondrial cell degeneration, declines after the age of 30 at roughly -1% per year until its average result is -27% by age 55 in most of us. Anabolic processes begin to decrease at ages 25-27, while catabolic processes begin to decrease. The older athletes need to consider slowing those catabolic and degenerative processes by anti-oxidants, macronutrients, micronutrients, also using training rest-intensity-recovery techniques that allow physiology to adapt to exercise stress at a maximum rate in the shortest time period.

World Age Records for the standard marathon and the double marathon, (South Africa's Comrades Marathon), are achieved at ages 25 and 26. The World Record for age 25 is around 2:07, but at age 95 that translates into a 6:42 effort! This does not apply to but about 98% of us allowing for the exception to the rule. If you want to know where you are plausibly going in terms of age and performance the following table shows the relationship of your age to the World Record Standard:


**Find the approximate reference value for your age group. Divide 1 by your reference value then multiply the winners time or World Record by this quotient. This then will give you your relative age-graded performance in terms of the winner's performance on that course during that specific event. The 75 year-old divides 1 by 0.62=1.61. Next, multiply 7629 seconds (World Best in Marathon=2:07), or roughly 3 hours and 24 minutes and 28 seconds to derive an age-graded performance equal to the World Marathon Record, or any participated event-winning time. (Noakes 1991)

Occurrence of cycles may not always "happen" when we want. A Physical cycle is said to effect aggressiveness, energy, strength, endurance, and occurs every 23 days. A cycle of sensitivity or emotions, temper, mood, positive attitude, occurs every 28 days. An intellectual cycle of mental alertness, logic, memory, focus occurs every 33 days. Each of these cycles is said to have a positive swing which peaks midway through the first half of the cycle, but dramatically falls during the latter half of its duration. Quigley and his associates (1982) plotted 700 World Records (WRs) set during 1913-1977, and found that WR's occurred randomly and were not influenced by biorhythms. Since the body does have established circadian rhythms, Winget(1985) showed that afternoon performances always exceeded morning event performances. He found that between the hours of 12:00 noon and 9:00 P.M. performances peaked to the maximum levels, while their lowest ebb was between 3:00 A.M. and 6:00 A.M.

Most researchers agree that a minimum of 7 years to a maximum of 11 years is needed to train an endurance athlete to their optimum peak performance effort. I did my fastest 1-mile and fastest 50-mile time within 6 months of each other shortly after 7 years of specific training aimed to peak in ultramarathon running. My 100 mile PR came 8 years after I had begun running, but I have run the farthest distances this year, or 16 years since I began. Regardless of age, we each have a "PR" in us that may be called "Our Best Ever". To get to that PR, we may need 7 to 11 years when everything comes together, and wham, a race we will never forget!!! Everybody else will forget it, but we will take it to the grave. I am reminded of the 77 year old 1500 meter runner, who in trying to qualify for the USAT&F's National Championships gave it all he had, and collapsed at the finish with a heart attack, and died...,But a Nurse and Medical Doctor at the finish line gave him CPR, and revived him! What do you suppose were the first words out of his mouth? "What was my time...", the elder athlete moaned in a slightly confused state. The end of this true story is he did qualify for Nationals, and 6 weeks later won the bronze medal for his age group! However, one never knows unless they try..., who knows, you may be the exception (2%) to the rule.

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