To read the quick intro this "Enduring for Life" series, scroll down to the previous post. (I'm such a techno-doofus that my blog works like one of those dial-with-your-finger telephones we used to have, but at least, thank God, I can still run!) Now, to continue:
2. Keep recovery time in synch with performance time.
With the passing years, as your body slows in running tempo, it also slows in recovery and regeneration time. A lot of athletes overlook this; they know they can't run or ride as fast as when they were in their 20s or 30s, but they still try to maintain the same seven-day-a-week training schedules they had then. I made that mistake for decades before I woke up to the fact that after a hard workout or race, my muscles and blood needed more time to bounce back than they did once. That posed a problem, because if I now needed--let's say--a third more regeneration time, it wasn't practical to just shift from working out every 24 hours to doing it every 32 hours; I'd be wrecking my normal sleep and work cycles. But I did find that a fairly productive solution was to simply take days off more often,. So, for example, I might run two consecutive days, take off one, then run three and take off one, then repeat that seven-day cycle for a while to see how running 5 of every 7 days worked for me. Total weekly mileage dropped, but amazingly, so did performance times!
That's a fairly simple observation, but the booming sciences of human performance suggest that "Slowing" is not just what happens to tempo and recovery time as you grow older. It's more complex, and multifarious, than that. Physiological slowing also plays a role in the performances of young people who have not yet reached their athletic peak. As a runner improves in cardiovascular efficiency, his resting heart rate slows. An average young adult migh have a heart rate around 75 bpm, but the pulse of a well-conditioned endurance runner, regardless of age, is likely to be much slower--often around 50 bpm or even lower. In effect, the heart is taking a longer rest between contractions in a runner than it does in the chest of a couch potato.
So, again (recalling the point of the previous post), slowing the recovery between exertions, whether in the hours between workouts or the one second between heart beats, is not a symptom of decline but a measure of efficiency. As we grow older, we have less time left to live. So, paradoxically, we can most appreciate the time we have left by taking more of it to do what we enjoy most.