Training and the Aging Climber (Don’t Forget About Us Old Guys!)

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Q: I’m a retired fighter pilot in Montana, now in my 50’s, who got a pretty late start in life with all this ‘uphill’ business. Nonetheless, I dedicated the decade of my 50’s to climbing and your book came into my life at exactly the right moment. Now in my third year of systematic training, it is hard to describe just how great I feel. I feel I owe much to you, so thank you! My input for content on your new site is simple – don’t forget about us old guys (you’ll be here some day too). Our metabolisms change, max heart rates decrease, etc, as we age and it would be interesting to read what the experts have to say about training and the aging climber.

A: I (Scott speaking) think I am qualified to address your questions of aging and training. I am 62 years old and have quite a lot of residual damage to my carcass, so I have had to learn to adapt as I age. While you are correct that the max HR drops, believe it or not, our metabolism does not change. The reason you think your metabolism changes is that your work capacity drops so you can’t do as much work in an hour as you did in your 20s or 30s. So you don’t burn as many calories as you did when young. You still produce energy via the same metabolic pathways. Go for an hour run now at 10 minutes/mile and you will run 6 miles. Go for a run when you were 25 at 6minutes/mile and you ran 10 miles. Both took an hour but now you are using about half the calories for that hour run that you did when younger. But we eat as much, normally as we did in our youth. I still get after it pretty well for an old guy so I intend to address some of the age/training issues ,like injury prevention etc on the website. Keep training though. At our age we can not afford to stop.

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