General Discussion Triathlon Talk » Oldtimer's questions about running performance Rss Feed  
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2019-07-24 2:25 PM


Subject: Oldtimer's questions about running performance
I am a 77 years old man, in very good health except for a border-line A1C, for which I take metformin.
I also see a doctor regularly..

I have been training, mostly running, practically for all my life , although somewhat leisurely. .

Lately, I have intensified my workouts to test my limits and also to better seize my…decline. Now I run 5 km or even 8 km, for an hour or longer, several times a week.

Bearing in mind my age and that I was already in good shape, the improvement in my cardio-vascular performance and in my endurance have been not only remarkable, but also beyond my wildest thoughts, to the point of being somewhat puzzled : I am now down to 90 bpm under effort ( between 70-80% in my estimate) whereas before it used to be 120 or more, up to 140 bpm when running uphill ( 140 bpm is the safe recommended limit for my age, even though I can have short bursts up to 150 bpm, but I am very cautious.). As expected, also my pulse rate at rest is now down, to 60 at wake-up.

In short, I can run longer, with a much lower pulse rate as compared to only one or two years ago.

All this is perhaps normal, but what I find it puzzling and almost hard to believe is that at age 77 the pulse should have come down to 90 bpm under effort, which is only slightly above the normal h.r. of a person at rest who does not exercise. ( It is telling that when I slow down my physical activity for prolonged periods of time, my rest h.r. goes back up to 75-80 bpm.

Of course, my running pace is not fast or at least not as fast as a younger man’s ,( even a 50 years old man, runs faster than me !) but my improvement must be seen in the context of my age and compared to what it was only a few years ago..

When I began to step up my training, on the same outdoor running track, about a year ago, my pulse would quickly rise to 120 bpm, I’d feel comfortable between 120 -130 bpm , with some strain starting only by the 3rd lapse , at around 140 bpm which is about the safe limit for my age, whereas now I can easily do 10-15 lapses at 90-95 bpm.

Only when running on a steepy hill at a local park for about 15 minutes, does my heart rate briefly rise to 140 bpm at probably 90% intensity, to quickly decrease to 110-120 or less once over the hill. Considering my age and the law of the diminishing returns, I am puzzled that my rate under effort has decreased so much.

I venture to speculate that the only variable which could explain this is the medication ( metformin) I am taking for my border-line blood A1C .
In fact, since I started metformine about a year ago, I noticed within two weeks a marked increase in my endurance, accompanied by a decrease in the h.r.

It is well known that metformin counters insulin resistance by facilitating the transport of glucose from the blood into the cells. Here the glucose is broken down releasing oxygen, which translates in more energy.. I spoke to my doctor, but she is unable to make this connection, because science sets the bar very high when it comes to establish causal connections.

I believe the pharmacologicl issue is beyond the scope of this Forum, but maybe somebody can comment about my h. r. improvement..Is it normal? Is it realistic? Or may be my cardio-watch is off?
I know that well trained endurance athletes can have a resting h.r. as low as about 40 b.p.m., hence their heart can work twice as hard as mine at the same rate ( or even much lower) than mine , but I am not a Lance Armstrong and I am much much older.

Thanks for your comments


2019-07-30 3:12 PM
in reply to: ittiandro

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Columbus, Ohio
Gold member
Subject: RE: Oldtimer's questions about running performance
A popular formula is that your max heart rate is 220 minus your age. (Google "Maffetone")

I also know that blood pressure meds artificially lower your heart rate. Often for life insurance physicals they will make you run up and down the stairs to make sure you aren't lying about whether or not you took blood pressure medication. If you run up and down the stairs and your heart rate barely goes up, they know you are taking them.
2019-07-31 5:18 AM
in reply to: ittiandro

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Fort Wayne, IN
Subject: RE: Oldtimer's questions about running performance
Check out the book "Fast After 50" by Joe Friel. It has a lot of good insights.
2019-07-31 2:20 PM
in reply to: ittiandro

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Extreme Veteran
Subject: RE: Oldtimer's questions about running performance
Aside from the medication affects, you have unlocked a big secret to improving athletic performance.

Varying the intensity for workouts.

Many athletes are shocked at what gains can be made with adjustments in volume, intensity and frequency of training.

You don't just have to run a lot to get faster, or fitter.
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