Too Old For Conditioning ?

Before I post my question, some stats, so as to provide a context:

I will be 40 years old in April, and have been training for 25 years. I am 6’ 1", and maintain single-digit bodyfat throughout the year, at anywhere between 180 - 190 pounds.

My training typically combines powerlifting-based strength training and high-impact conditioning, e.g. strongman training, sprinting, boxing, anaerobic drills, etc.

Now to my question: An athlete friend recently advised me that, in view of my impending 40th birthday, I seriously need to start thinking about how I am going to cut way back on my conditioning.

His premise is this: Computing my max. heart rate at 90% x(220 - 40) = 162 BBM, I am consistently exceeding this in training, thereby stressing my heart to an unacceptable degree.

This really got me thinking - I swear that, subjectively, I feel the same, if not BETTER, athletically, than I have ever felt before. Do we over-35 guys need to tone it down, just on basic principle ? Is the mere approach of a birthday sufficiently compelling to cause a total re-think of training philosophy ?

What do you guys think ?

Dimitri

I think your friend may be jealous…

While the formula you are using is very common, it is just an estimate. You really need to do a formal stress test to determine your individual MHR. Otherwise it is just a shot in the dark.

I’m 40 and I ain’t slowing down yet. It’s nigh near impossible to damage one’s heart with exercise, but pretty easy if its neglected long enough.

Do a search on how the max heart rate formula was “discovered”.

A couple of doctors came up with the formula on an airplane trip using charts from heart patients. This might be just fine for your “average” American, but your description does not sound average.

I never really understood out an out of shape, dorito munching, video game playing fat ass could have a higher threshold than someone who watches their diet and visits the gym regularly simply because they might be a few years younger.

this is an article from nytimes… the quote at the bottom is from the doctor who came up with the formula.

‘Maximum’ Heart Rate Theory Is Challenged
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By GINA KOLATA
Published: April 24, 2001

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C04EFDD1F30F937A15757C0A9679C8B63&sec=health&pagewanted=1

‘‘I’ve kind of laughed about it over the years,’’ Dr. Haskell said. The formula, he said, ‘‘was never supposed to be an absolute guide to rule people’s training.’’ But, he said, ‘‘It’s so typical of Americans to take an idea and extend it beyond what it was originally intended for.’’

I entirely agree with the other two responders. What seems to matter more than percent of max HR is that we take the time for adequate warm-up and cool-down after strenuous exercise. We tend not to be able to just jump into the fight like we used to without adding risk.

[quote]dr dimitri wrote:
… thereby stressing my heart to an unacceptable degree.[/quote]

I’d like to see a citation for this. I train for brief periods in the 90% range all the time. “Stressing” your heart is how you strengthen it. Periodically hitting the 90% - 95% range is the whole point of Intensity Interval Training, so I’d like to see a scholarly article telling me that I’m “stressing my heart to an unacceptable degree.”

I am over 50 and I don’t feel like I need to slow down at all. In fact I am training harder than ever and seeing results from it. The gains may not come as fast as they used to, but they still come if you train intelligently and get adequate nutrition and rest. I read at least one book that said teh average person can realistically continue to make real improvements in stength and conditioning until at least age 80 (I believe the book was “Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever” by Ray Kurzweil and Terry Grossman). I intend to prove they are wrong, the right answer is age 120.

According to that formula I should be training at a heart rate of 136 (80%*(220-52)). I don’t even feel winded until I get over 150.

I will be 54 in February, am 6’1, 182 pounds. Two years ago to rehab a shoulder injury from a water skiing accident, I started lifting seriously. I agree with a previous poster that warm up and cool down are important.

Also, I don’t know any guys my age who lift, so most of my training partners are twenty years younger than I am. I don’t lift near the weight they do, but I am still making gains in all my training. Just last year, I began sprint training. I can keep up with the younger guys there! I think as long as we older guys keep our egos in check, we can continue to stay as active as we desire. I never really think about MHR.

Thanks for all responses.

In truth, I should know better before taking any comment to heart before researching its premises - I am off to Pubmed directly after this post in order to see where this whole {220 - age} business came from, and how valid it may be where non-sedentary individuals are concerned. Judging from the links put forward in response to my post, I suspect it is an “urban legend” oversimplification…

It is encouraging to hear from guys who are in their 50’s and beyond and are still training hard. Exercise is my holy grail, and I intend to keep at it with fierce intensity for as long as I possibly can, hopefull for another 3 decades !

Dr D

[quote]dr dimitri wrote:
Thanks for all responses.

In truth, I should know better before taking any comment to heart before researching its premises - I am off to Pubmed directly after this post in order to see where this whole {220 - age} business came from, and how valid it may be where non-sedentary individuals are concerned. Judging from the links put forward in response to my post, I suspect it is an “urban legend” oversimplification…

It is encouraging to hear from guys who are in their 50’s and beyond and are still training hard. Exercise is my holy grail, and I intend to keep at it with fierce intensity for as long as I possibly can, hopefull for another 3 decades !

Dr D[/quote] kEEP DOING WHAT YOUR DOING! i’M 53 AND WORKED OUT/LIFTED AND SOUNDS LIKE YOU DO ALOT OF THE SAME THINGS I DO. YOUR BODY WILL TELL YOU IF YOU NEED TO SCALE BACK. ESPECIALLY SINCE YOU HAVE BEEN DOING THIS FOR SO LONG YOU WILL BE MORE IN TUNE WITH YOUR BODY!

After almost a half century of training and at 61 1/2, I have no intention of slowing down. That’s for guys who think they are old. If I listened to doctors, I wouldn’t be 185 pounds with 9% bodyfat at 5’8" and 17" arms, 47" chest and 32" waist. And that is after 2 knee surgeries and 1 back surgery due to bad bone genetics and 1 cancer surgery to remove my thyroid gland many years ago. Screw those namby-pamby cry babies.

you are NOT too old…thats all baloney…I 40…almost 41. I had my body fat measured hydrostatically at 4.5%.I push myself til death when I do hill sprints or 1/4 mile sprints…I also do a lot of olympic lifting. I know I am not big…only 165.

my waist is 29-30. I believe in lifting heavy as well. dips and squats to supplement the olympic stuff…dont listen to those guys…they are jealous of you…keep up the intensity. I do know though that getting older its important to stretch more…keep flexible…I am glad to see others that get the same crap from those who want to make us “older” guys feel bad…I feel more fit than ever.
good luck
steve

Agree with all the posts. Just like BMI, the max heart rate calculation may work for sedentary individuals, but not for people who work out on a regular basis. I’m 50 and commonly run my heart rate up to 190 or so when running sprints, etc. My resting heart rate is in the 50 BPM range, think there is any correlation?

“Steviebeast” & “Avoids Roids” - excellent stuff, you guys are an inspiration.

Steve - how in hell do you get your bodyfat that low ? 7% seems to be a genetic barrier I just cannot break. How many sprint sessions do you manage per week ?

As for BPM, I regularly hit 185, with a resting HR of 56. It turns out that it is the rate of recovery that is the best indicator of cardiac health. That is, an athlete with good conditioning will take perhaps a minute to drop from 190 to 120 during a rest period, while a sedentary individual may take much longer, or even go on to meet his maker.

It turns out that the {220-age} calculation is simply a “rule of thumb”. There are more accurate regression equations, where age is still the predominant predictor, but it seems that one cannot apply the same formula across an entire population, which is simply another way of saying - We are a long way from the “average” person.

D.

The max HR does not vary based on conditioning level. Your max HR will be your max HR regardless of your fitness level. However it varies within people and the formula is only a crude estimate-a stress test would be needed to get a more precise number.

Clearly if you’re comfortable at what is by formula 90% of max HR your real max is significanly above that. You will not hurt yourself working in a range that feels comfortable for you.

[quote]hlc wrote:
The max HR does not vary based on conditioning level. Your max HR will be your max HR regardless of your fitness level. However it varies within people and the formula is only a crude estimate-a stress test would be needed to get a more precise number.

Clearly if you’re comfortable at what is by formula 90% of max HR your real max is significanly above that. You will not hurt yourself working in a range that feels comfortable for you.[/quote]

That’s true. But we don’t know if the MHR of a someone who’s been training all his life, challenging his heart, pushing the envelope, couldn’t be higher than that of his identical twin brother, the couch patato.

Anyway, you’re not to old for conditiong.

On the other hand, you’re getting on a bit.

Might be prudent to go see a specialist and get your heart checked, just in case, and your Max HR determined.

And then you might want to decide if you follow up on his advise or not. Chances are he willadvise you to tone it down it bit, if only to cover his ass.

I know experienced Belgian bikers (and we’re talking world class athletes here) in their mid-thirties are advised to cut down on the high intensity interval work.

I have a link, but the website is in dutch.

well Drdimitri,Its a matter of cycles…First do more of a “runner” routine… 10-15 miles a week…and build up to doing 2 speed days…Once would be repeat 1/4’s…same slow speed for time as the 1/4 was…ex…70 sec 1/4 and then 70 sec slow over 200-300 met…then go fast again…do 10…this is not the fastest day,

then another day do 10-15 sprints on hill or steepest incline treadmill for 15-20 sec…here take 4-5 times the time for rest as the time to sprint,but only walking…for ex…15 sec steep hill sprint…walk 1 min -1:15…do many…the other 2 days are long slow or med runs.

.Always do the running after the lifting…immediately…it kills…
also to get your b/f low…do 3-4 excer. with only 1-2 min rest…2-3 circles…ex…bench/pullups/milit press/ chinup/dips…do each to almost failure…Low weight,reps of 15-25…3 sets with 1-2 min rest between each exc. and 5 min or more rest between each big group of 3-5 lifts…then run…you WILLLLL lose fat FAST!!! but do this only 4 weeks or so…then go back to stronger lifting then back… but always run…

But maybe more importantly is the diet…
Rules…NO fried food, no dessert, no alcohol, no dairy (only skim milk) no simple carbs…simple…do this and you rule…eat tons of veggies raw, tons of fish and chicken(no skin)…tons of whole grains.( highest amount of fiber for each carb you eat is best) and tons of fruit…but careful on fruit if its late or not running a lot…

5% is easy if you incorporate it all…hope it helps
steve

For trained, fit individuals [220 - half your age] is a better formula to get your max heartrate. Of course, it’s still a rough ballpark. But don’t worry that you’re exceeding 220 - age.

[quote]jsbrook wrote:
For trained, fit individuals [220 - half your age] is a better formula to get your max heartrate. Of course, it’s still a rough ballpark. But don’t worry that you’re exceeding 220 - age.[/quote]

Hey, if you’re exceeding what you thought was your max heartrate, then you thought wrong, didn’t you?


Maybe you should ask this guy if you’re too old for conditioning?

Happy New Year to all & thanks for your thoughtfull responses.

Steviebeast: Thanks for the tips. My 2007 program incorporates a great deal of conditioning along those lines, e.g. circuits of calisthenics with 60 sec. rests in between, e.g. [Chins + Burpees + Plyo Pushups + Jump Squats], etc.

220 - (1/2 age) is an estimate that is more in line with my experience, since I hit 190 +, no problem (and drop to 120 within a minute).

The consensus, gentlemen, seems to be: Let’s train hard, and “never mind the bollocks”.

Dr D.