This is Your Life

(Your) 30s

May 1, 2003
Outside Magazine

31: Kelly Slatter, professional surfer: "His body works so perfectly with his brain," says surfing buddy Chris Malloy, "That there's nothing lost in the translation."

IF YOU EXERCISE AS FREQUENTLY—and intensely—as you did in your twenties, you'll retain almost all of your physical abilities from a decade ago. But that's a big if.

The Bad News "Physical decline happens in your thirties because you simply give it away," says Jon Schriner, the medical director of the McLaren Sports Medicine Center, in Flint, Michigan. With each year of sluggish inactivity, you're able to lift 1.5 percent less weight. And goodbye, VO2 max: Your aerobic capacity drops up to 1 percent per year.

The Good News You can minimize these losses with hard exercise, even if you can do nothing about a diminishing ability to bounce back from grueling workouts. It's a lesson that mountain-bike racer David Roth, 37, from Los Angeles, learned to heed only after falling out of the top ten in race after race. Finally, after watching his bike-racing wife's smashing podium finish (the result of a carefully measured training plan of exercise and recovery), Roth saw the error of his go-till-you-blow training habit, held over from his teens. To stay competitive, Roth needed to learn periodization, a training plan that ebbs and flows throughout the year, with months of increasing intensity followed by a couple weeks of recovery. According to periodization guru Joe Friel, author of Going Long, most thirty-somethings are capable of three physical peaks—be they marathons, bike races, or triathlons—per year. Nowadays, Roth enters only two big races during the season, but the payoff is worth it. Says Roth, "I know I'm a better athlete now than I was when I was 20."
The Prescription Follow our basic 12-week periodization program to reach peak shape. FIRST MONTH: Complete a full-body weight-lifting circuit twice weekly. Do your cardiovascular workouts on three other days at low intensity, going long on one day. Each week, increase the duration of the long day's workout by 10 percent. On the fourth week, cut the workout load by 50 percent. SECOND MONTH: Cut back to lifting once a week and add another day of cardio. The eighth week is for recovery, so cut the volume in half. THIRD MONTH: Stop lifting and use that day for cross-training. Ramp up your speed by completing one of the week's cardio days at race pace. Your long day gets no longer, and for weeks 11 and 12 you halve its duration. Week 12 has you tapering by doing only 50 percent of week 11's work. After you cross the finish line, take a couple of weeks off and then start the 12-week cycle anew. Your metabolism has started to ease off by as much as 10 percent, so steer away from the burger and fries and head toward the whole-grains shelf and the organic-produce aisle for your caloric sustenance.

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