Chris Carmichael Blog: Intensity now means greater effectiveness later.

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I’ve been thinking about age and athletes a lot recently, so it’s fortuitous that I came across an article published in the NY Times on November 25 about a record-setting 91-year-old track and field athlete named Olga Koltelko. (Click here to read the article.) Researchers are studying her and the growing number of athletes over the age of 80 to learn what’s keeping them going while their age-mates decline. For most people reading this, 80 is a long way off and Olga’s story might seem irrelevant. But it’s not.

I took a few things away from the NY Times article that are very relevant for athletes in their 40s-60s:

  • Protect your mitochondria: these powerplants in your muscle cells process fat and carbohydrate into energy, and when you lose mitochondria your performance goes downhill quickly. Exercising consistently and including hard efforts are crucial components of maintaining and increasing the size and number of mitochondria in your muscles.
  • Don’t stop training or competing: Your peak performance markers and your interests may change as you grow older, but research is suggesting that staying engaged in training and competition keeps aging athletes out of the doctor’s office and adds life to their years, if not years to their life.
  • Intensity is important throughout your life: I’ve written about it in “The Time-Crunched Cyclist” and “Time-Crunched Triathlete” and I’ve experienced it myself – athletes in their 40s and older, especially those who are short on training time, need more intensity in order to attain high-performance fitness. And the newer research is suggesting that higher-intensity training now may mean retaining the ability to train effectively decades from now.

Of course, the other reason I’m thinking about age and athletes is that I recently celebrated my 50th birthday and a few weeks ago finished 3rd in the 50+ category at La Ruta de los Conquistadores. The 4-day mountain bike stage race in Costa Rica was a tremendous experience, and it was made even better by the 10 CTS Athletes and 4 CTS Coaches who raced with me, and the awesome support from Lava Tours and our CTS support crew. CTS Coach Jim Lehman won the Male 40-49 classification, Van Council finished 2nd in the 50+ category, CTS Coach Jason Tullous finished 3rd in the Male 30-39 category, and CTS Coach Jane Rynbrandt finished 5th in the Women’s category. In all 14 out of the 15 CTS-supported athletes reached the finish line, and the majority of us were over 40 years old.

I plan on living a long, healthy, and active life. And training for and competing in events like La Ruta are going to keep me young. So as we approach the shortest days of the year, and as the snow starts piling up outside, remember Olga Koltelko and get your butt out there to train.

And since the Holiday season officially arrived last week, here are a few gift ideas I think you might be interested in:

  • Give the Gift of Power: Sign up for 12 months and get a great price on a Powertap, plus you can pay for the Powertap using our 12-month, no-interest Powertap Payment Plan. Already have a power meter? Give this one as a gift!
  • CTS Camps: If you’re looking for a great gift for the endurance athlete in your life (or a great gift for someone to give you…), check out the CTS Camp Calendar for a range of cycling, triathlon performance, and Ironman camps.
  • Training Books: The Time-Crunched Cyclist and Time-Crunched Triathlete books are in stock and available, and I autograph all copies purchased from
  • Training DVDs: With 23 titles to choose from, we have indoor training covered. And starting now every DVD order will include a copy of The Trainright Guide to Indoor Training, which features a 6-week training program and recommendations for incorporating training DVDs into your workout schedule.

For details on any of these items, you can also call 866-355-0645 or email


Chris Carmichael


Carmichael Training Systems

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