All over the Geriatric Triathlete landscape

An article at Daily Burn from April 27 says (to quote the unsigned article’s title), “Turn up the intensity to turn on the anti-aging benefits of exercise.”

Daily Burn is what I think of as a “numbers” site. It features articles like “5 Avengers Workouts to Get You in Superhero Shape” and “10 Sneaky Ways to Trick Yourself into Drinking More Water.” I’m not sure tricking yourself into drinking more water is the key to effective hydration, or why you’d want to be sneaky about it. But that’s just me.

I sought out the article because exercise intensity is an important question for geriatric triathletes. Should the geriatric’s training emphasize intervals or endurance? Do you get more, for example, out of a 1-hour bike ride with half a dozen efforts in zones 4 and 5 than you get from a 4-hour bike ride in zone 2? Is that even a meaningful question?

Chris Carmichael, who gained fame as Lance Armstrong’s coach, has been promoting exercise intensity for the past couple years, saying “athletes in their 40s and older, especially those who are short on training time, need more intensity in order to attain high-performance fitness.” Carmichael is the author of The Time-Crunched Cyclist and The Time-Crunched Triathlete.

In any case, the Daily Burn article suggests high-intensity exercise is a “miracle cure” for “the physical markers most people associate with old age.” Here’s the billboard graf:

It all has to do with human growth hormone (hgh), a natural hormone excreted by the body that regulates body composition, tissue growth, and muscle and bone repair. Hgh is excreted during the deepest phase of sleep, and works to regenerate the body. Studies show that exercise-induced growth hormone response (EIGR) is a mechanism within the body that is stimulated by intense resistance training. A study published in the academic journal Sports Medicine notes that, “evidence suggests that load and frequency are determining factors in the regulation of hgh secretion.”

But the bulk of the article profiles three people who have “reversed the markers of old age through intense exercise.” Gregory Ellis, 64, is a diet book author whose regimen features carb restriction and weight training. Art De Vany, 73, a proponent of the paleo diet (and author of The New Evolution Diet: What Our Paleolithic Ancestors Can Teach Us About Weight Loss, Fitness, and Aging suggests that our ancestors adapted to their environments with lots of languid periods interspersed with short bursts of very high-intensity efforts.

The only one of the three who isn’t hawking a diet book is triathlete Margaret Phillips-Steinam, 87. She’s a retired internist. She’s been doing two triathlons a year since she turned 60. A profile of Phillips-Steinam from two years ago says her routine includes an hour of tennis a few days a week and 30 minutes of cardio, strength training, and stretching.

Interestingly, the Daily Burn article says nothing about Phillips-Steinam’s exercise intensity. So I don’t think this article has any interest for geriatric triathletes, and I sat down to write this post to save you the trouble of going to look at it. On the other hand, it features a photo of Phillips-Steinam, posed with a child and wearing a tri suit. And it’s worth the effort to go and see the photo. For an 87-year-old, she looks outstanding. In fact, she looks outstanding for a 57-year-old.

But I don’t have a photo for you to look at today. I’m writing this before taking off to the pool to do 1800 yards of swimming drills before going to work, and I don’t have time to track down Phillips-Steinam’s photographer to get permission to use her photo.

I did spend some time at Flickr looking for something I could use under the Creative Commons license, but an hour’s worth of searching on the phrase “aging athlete” turned up almost nothing but photos of the Beijing Olympics. What’s up with that? The average age of an American Olympic competitor is in the late 20s, and I imagine the rest of the world is similar. This is the reason the media gets so much mileage out of Dana Torres stories. That, and she’s gorgeous.

When I think “aging athlete,” a scene from the Olympics is pretty much the last thing that occurs to me. Yes, the oldest competitor at the Beijing Olympics was 67-year-old Hiroshi Hoketsu, who will also be in London this year (at the age of 71!). He’s been competing in the Olympics since 1964. His event is dressage. But people like Hoketsu and Dana Torres get into the news precisely because they are unusual.

If anyone knows a good source of photos of genuine aging athletes (in the public domain or available under the Creative Commons license), please let me know.

Today’s weight: 156.3
Waking pulse: 53

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