Decline with age

General discussions about getting and staying fit that don't relate directly to your indoor rower

Re: Decline with age

Postby hjs » February 14th, 2018, 3:43 am

gregsmith01748 wrote:Henry,

A couple of points.

1. The analysis that I did is looking at the whole population of rowers, by definition, the WR holders are outliers, so would have a different characteristic.
2. In some cases the world record holders in a new age group were world record holders in prior age groups, but in other cases they are new folks. The effect of this is that you get the best of each age group, not a picture of the way the population changes with age.
3. Your point about rewriting the record books is a good one. Every year, there will be new data and it's likely that the trends will change.

One side note, I found that the decline for the top 10% of ranked rowers was pretty similar to the decline for the 50th percentile rowers.

One thing I have not figured out how to do is to follow specific rowers through the rankings over the 16 years to see how they changed as individuals. This kind of a longitudinal analysis would remove some confounding factors.


Greg, In general I do think that older athletes don,t train that well and the records are relative soft, a very telling example was the 500m record in the 50 plus cat, stood for years on 1.18.x. This year two ergers broke this very dramatic, first 1.14 (baker) and later 1.13.7 (jeffries), so it looked like 1.18 was pretty good, but it now turns out to be a half paddle :wink:

1k and above, Benco turned 50, never broke 6.00 in his 40 ies, but slowed down not much, and set most records in a few months time.

2k record lightweight man, was 6.38 for years (6.34 out of racing) 55plus, now 6.29 in one jump.

Point is, the records are so "soft" because" of the small population and the kind if training those people do. Comparing that to the overall records, which come from olympic athletes who more or less are close to max trained is not right. The real drop off is less, ofcourse we loose potential after our youth but the rankings do not tell the real story.

The examples I give are just things I know, no doubt others are just as telling. The overall 2k revord is not moving at all, it standing sub 5.40 for a very long time. 5/6 guys pulled 5.36/38, but never faster.
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Re: Decline with age

Postby gregsmith01748 » February 14th, 2018, 8:01 am

Hi Henry, I think you are completely right. The age group records for distances other than the 2K could be pretty soft due to lack of competition. Just in terms of the numbers of pieces ranked for the different distances, there is a huge difference. And the drop off in the older age groups is pretty remarkable too.

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But I think the main that I was trying to make still stands. The original poster asked the question (and I paraprhrase)...I did a 6:46 as a lightweight when I was 50. What's a reasonable expectation for now.

A 6:46 as a 50yo is a great score. For the 2018 ranking year, it would be ranked 4th of 297 rowers, or around the 98th percentile. If I rerun the analysis for 98th percentile male lightweight rowers, you can see the same basic trends.

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But this is just data, not destiny. With proper training, nutrition and good luck to avoid injury and illness, there are going to be athletes that will be able to stay ahead of these trends. In fact, since it is just statistics, you can assume that half of the population will do better than this and half will do worse. There is a little research into the topic of aging and athletic performance, some of it cited in this thread, but not nearly enough to be able to guide decisions about training and nutrition. Joe Friel is a notable exception. I'm just trying to help out by using the data that exists to provide a little insight about how rowers of different ages have performed


When you get to the bottom of this issue, I think that there
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Re: Decline with age

Postby Gammmmo » February 14th, 2018, 9:03 am

The 40s age group is clearly where it's at. :D :wink:
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Re: Decline with age

Postby hjs » February 14th, 2018, 9:03 am

I was not so much doubting the data, but more reacting to mike, who used it to date his current result back.

And for an individual rower you need more info, for myself for instance I did not slow down in my 40 at all, does that mean my potential kept the same during that time, I wish :P , it clearly got less, but I trained better and more. This kept my level pretty stable and on the shorter stuff I even got better. So results need reference, the overall population does slow down, but a number of factors make that happen, not only natural slow down.
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Re: Decline with age

Postby mdpfirrman » February 14th, 2018, 9:23 am

hjs wrote:I was not so much doubting the data, but more reacting to mike, who used it to date his current result back.

And for an individual rower you need more info, for myself for instance I did not slow down in my 40 at all, does that mean my potential kept the same during that time, I wish :P , it clearly got less, but I trained better and more. This kept my level pretty stable and on the shorter stuff I even got better. So results need reference, the overall population does slow down, but a number of factors make that happen, not only natural slow down.


It was tongue in cheek Henry. I don't think I could have ever broken 6:45/6:50 at my height and weight even if I had taken care of myself and trained aerobic endurance all of my life. I'm just not built for rowing honestly. If anything, the data really tells me that I'm doing a pretty darn good job of maintaining/gaining back any amount of fitness I've ever had for my age relative to my God given ability. But the discussion is very interesting and insightful too.
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Re: Decline with age

Postby hjs » February 14th, 2018, 9:42 am

mdpfirrman wrote:
It was tongue in cheek Henry. I don't think I could have ever broken 6:45/6:50 at my height and weight even if I had taken care of myself and trained aerobic endurance all of my life. I'm just not built for rowing honestly. If anything, the data really tells me that I'm doing a pretty darn good job of maintaining/gaining back any amount of fitness I've ever had for my age relative to my God given ability. But the discussion is very interesting and insightful too.


Ok Mike.

Think its a difficult point, real data is almost not there. They only think we know is we will slow down, but what is possible and how much slow down is to be expected ??
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Re: Decline with age

Postby mdpfirrman » February 14th, 2018, 11:20 am

hjs wrote:
mdpfirrman wrote:
It was tongue in cheek Henry. I don't think I could have ever broken 6:45/6:50 at my height and weight even if I had taken care of myself and trained aerobic endurance all of my life. I'm just not built for rowing honestly. If anything, the data really tells me that I'm doing a pretty darn good job of maintaining/gaining back any amount of fitness I've ever had for my age relative to my God given ability. But the discussion is very interesting and insightful too.


Ok Mike.

Think its a difficult point, real data is almost not there. They only think we know is we will slow down, but what is possible and how much slow down is to be expected ??


I'm not the data junkie that Greg is (and I'm glad for guys like him, doing the things I don't have the patience for), but I appreciate information like this and often have other curiosities as well. One of the big ones I'm curious about is how well can you train your aerobic endurance later in life? Like me (and others like me for example) that never really truly did aerobic training in youth. How far can you train something if it's never been trained? And how limiting are the physiological adaptations (like for the heart valve, the heart size and other variables often influenced by behaviors early in life) for someone that starts after 40 or after 50?

It's all fascinating to me either way. But ultimately, you are right. We all peak and then decline. Just life. Still yet, having information to slow it down is great.
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Re: Decline with age

Postby hjs » February 14th, 2018, 11:51 am

mdpfirrman wrote:I'm not the data junkie that Greg is (and I'm glad for guys like him, doing the things I don't have the patience for), but I appreciate information like this and often have other curiosities as well. One of the big ones I'm curious about is how well can you train your aerobic endurance later in life? Like me (and others like me for example) that never really truly did aerobic training in youth. How far can you train something if it's never been trained? And how limiting are the physiological adaptations (like for the heart valve, the heart size and other variables often influenced by behaviors early in life) for someone that starts after 40 or after 50?

It's all fascinating to me either way. But ultimately, you are right. We all peak and then decline. Just life. Still yet, having information to slow it down is great.


I think at almost any age we can still improve and work out body. The basic principles never change. Give the body a workload and let it adapt, repeat.

Atm, I am doing the most cardio ever. 6 sessions a week, 3/3 row/ski, volume 75/90km. Plus a bit strenght. Zero speedwork.
I slowly improve, plan to keep going for a while and be patient, so no testing but let the proces take place. I am around levels I have never seen, so improvement now will bring me in unknown water........ :roll:

Find the skierg less taxing, rowing is all lower rate work, av 20 and that does hammer the back/shoulders/hands.
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Re: Decline with age

Postby gregsmith01748 » February 14th, 2018, 12:50 pm

The biggest challenge in my mind for optimizing training as I age is trying to find the right amount of recovery time.

I also have questions about balancing low Intensity aerobic work and high intensity work on the erg. (the Joe Friel reference is an interesting one) It seems to infer that a higher percentage of workouts should be high intensity for older athletes.

Finally, I've see some compelling research that strength training is really important to minimize loss of muscle mass.

All of this sounds great, but it tends to conflict with some things that also have strong evidence.
1. That by most strength benchmarks, more strength work will not make me faster. (Using the McNeely guidelines from Rowing Faster)
2. That there is a huge body of compelling evidence that low intensity volume is highly correlated with faster performance over 2K to 6K distances.

The basic issue that I'm wrestling with is that the more strength work and high intensity work that I do, the more recovery I need. This limits the amount of High Volume work I can do. Without the high volume base, my results start to suffer.
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Re: Decline with age

Postby jackarabit » February 14th, 2018, 1:14 pm

Greg, presumably the av. percentile rank breakouts for participant total by decade grouping for 2k distance (graph #2) maintain the steady rate of decline in 60-70 and 70+? The orange bar really stands out at regular increments of 5+% decline per decade. The other distances don’t reveal that regular progression (ex. 30’).
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Re: Decline with age

Postby Droode » February 14th, 2018, 2:33 pm

Yankeerunner wrote:
lindsayh wrote: If you want to see what is possible though look at the rankings for 70+ lwt now there is a Danish Olympic rower who is rewriting everything - amazing times.


If you mean Jørgen Engelbrecht (and I'm sure that you do), I remember him coming to Boston about 5 years ago and he looked quite intimidating. Solid muscle. I thought he had a good shot at being the first 65+ lwt to break 7:00, but I seem to remember him coming up just a fraction short.

Looking him up on Wikipedia I found that he and a partner had won the world championship double sculls in 1970 and placed 4th in the 1972 Olympics. It makes me wonder how many other past Olympians are out there who could easily kick our butts if they wanted to, but they don't take the erg seriously enough to bother with us. Thanks guys, whoever you are. :mrgreen:


Jørgen Engelbrecht is really impressive he doesn’t even bother to rank most of the wr’s he has set, I think he has only submitted 2 and they were marathons but he blazes in all the distances.
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Re: Decline with age

Postby Yankeerunner » February 14th, 2018, 4:32 pm

Droode wrote:
Jørgen Engelbrecht is really impressive he doesn’t even bother to rank most of the wr’s he has set, I think he has only submitted 2 and they were marathons but he blazes in all the distances.


I'm totally impressed, both from racing in the same heat as him at Boston and from his history. He's the man!
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Re: Decline with age

Postby gregsmith01748 » February 14th, 2018, 5:21 pm

jackarabit wrote:Greg, presumably the av. percentile rank breakouts for participant total by decade grouping for 2k distance (graph #2) maintain the steady rate of decline in 60-70 and 70+? The orange bar really stands out at regular increments of 5+% decline per decade. The other distances don’t reveal that regular progression (ex. 30’).


I think that the 2K bar probably represents the most accurate view of the decline over time since it has the largest population and the greatest number of results that are from races or are verified. I also think that since 2K is such a common test distance that the reference power set in the twenties has really strong performances. Notice how much more the 2k drops from 20-> to 30-> compared to other distances. So, I think that the reference power for other distances are weaker.
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Re: Decline with age

Postby JerekKruger » February 15th, 2018, 6:40 am

gregsmith01748 wrote:2. That there is a huge body of compelling evidence that low intensity volume is highly correlated with faster performance over 2K to 6K distances.


This one interests me, but I don't think the answer is so clear for recreational athletes. For professional athletes who are training 20+ hours per week it seems fairly conclusive that (for most at least) doing the majority of their training at UT2 levels yields the best results. The question I haven't had answered is whether, for a recreational athlete who is only able to train for 10 or fewer hours a week, whether there's any benefit to rowing more of that at UT1 levels, or whether they're best sticking with UT2. Perhaps it's clear that 90 minutes of UT2 will yield more benefit that 45 minutes of UT1, but what if you only have 45 minutes of training time? Is the additional benefit of UT1 (if any) worth the additional recovery penalty?

If you've got any references that address this Greg I'd be interested. I'm at a University so can get to some papers behind paywalls.

1. That by most strength benchmarks, more strength work will not make me faster. (Using the McNeely guidelines from Rowing Faster)


Strength training needn't necessarily be to increase strength, especially once you're older. It could simply be used to maintain your current strength levels or minimise their decline. I'm also not particularly convinced by McNeely's tables for masters athletes (actually I'm not all that convinced by them full stop, but particularly the masters' tables).
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Re: Decline with age

Postby Parky » February 15th, 2018, 7:39 am

Bob01, my times have dropped off dramatically over the last few years, but I don't put as much effort into it now as I realise that more of the athletes over 70 are on the erg to prolong life, not end it. :o

There are only a few of us left in the over 70's group, so take it steady and join us in a few years. B)
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