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How to train as you age: what triathletes need to know as they get older

We explain how ageing impacts your body as it gets older and the key training areas for your age, whether you’re 25 or 65, so you'll be stronger and faster than ever

It’s often assumed that fitness and performance decline with age – wrong. In fact, there’s no reason you can’t keep on improving right up until the Grim Reaper turns up at your final race to take you to the great transition zone in the sky.

The reason? Age-group triathlon isn’t one long, pure, streak of improvement from 20 to 70 and beyond. Unlike the elites, triathlon is a hobby, balanced with work, family, mortgages and taxes. All of these have a varying impact on your life at different times, which all have an impact on your triathlon training to differing degrees.

How to train in your 20s

How to train in your 30s

How to train in your 40s

How to train in your 50s

How to train in your 60s and beyond 

For instance, while ‘acclimatising’ to nominal budgets, a 50hr working week and managing household routines significantly affects a 26-year-old’s training programme, a 60-year-old’s tri problems stem from managing motivation when faced with a loss in muscle mass, bone density and maximal aerobic capacity.

But, as coach Joe Friel says, age is just a number. “The primary reason athletes are ‘old’ is due to their relatively slow rate of recovery following stressful workouts,” says Friel. “Someone can be ‘old’ at 35 due to a poor rate of recovery. On the other hand, I’ve coached athletes in their 60s who recovered very quickly, so were still ‘young’.”

Understanding your recovery rate, as well as the training sessions and build-up races that really work for you, comes down to experience. So whatever your age, reflect once a month to see what worked and didn’t, such as workout intensity, equipment, nutrition…. And when you’ve reached ‘optimum’, the good news is that through manipulation of each, you can maintain peak performance for years. Now on with the advice that’ll see you threaten your age-group podium…


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