Some call it cardio. Others call it conditioning. I call it MAP (Maximal Aerobic Power)–a term originated by OPEX Fitness. Terminology aside, let’s get into what it is and how it can benefit those within the masters age group.

Generally, aerobic training is meant to enhance the body’s efficiency in getting oxygen to working muscles. Given that our cardiac strength tends to decline with age, this type of training becomes vital as we get older. In fact, it has been shown that aerobic capacity declines with each passing decade. The impact here is magnified when we consider the negative correlation between age and exercise frequency. This is precisely why you hear people talk about how they struggle with physical tasks that used to be easy or manageable. I can’t begin to recount how many people I’ve come across who say something to the effect of, “I used to be able to run all day in my 20s, but now…” If, to quote Jay-Z, “30 is the new 20”, evidence suggests 40 is more like the new 55 or 60.

Scared? Don’t be. There’s plenty of evidence that all of this can be combated through consistent and focused training. For elite athletes and the rest of us “normal” people, sticking with a long-term aerobic regimencan not only decrease these trends, but actually increase cardiovascular function into our 40s and beyond. For instance, 42 year old Vince Carter has used aerobic training as a cornerstone of his offseason program to continue playing at a high level in the NBA. As a less extreme example, you can find plenty of 40+ clients right here at Lift Off who are conditioning regularly. In fact, 2 of the 3 participants in the gym’s marathon row last year were 40 and over.

So the logical question becomes what should you be doing and for how long? With my masters athletes, the what is pretty simple: row, bike, run for a designated amount of time at a specified amount of effort. The time piece largely depends on their level of experience and testing results. Typically, the more advanced an athlete is, the more variation they’ll see in time and thus, intensity. See below for an example of an advanced and beginner.

-Advanced-

8 Sets:

2 Min Row @ 85%, rest 2 min

+

2 Min AMRAP @ 85%

24 Double Under

12 Russian KB Swing, rest 2 min

-Beginner-

5 Sets:

60 sec Row @ 70-75%

60 sec Plank, rest 30s

Although the advanced session might look like a ton of work (16 total efforts), it indicates that specific athlete is fit and skilled enough to do the prescribed movements, while maintaining the same pace for all sets. For the beginner, this could be used to teach pacing and skill on the rower with a core drill as active rest. To compare both, the intensity (85% vs. 70-75%) is higher and the movements are more varied in the advanced example; however, the intent is the same: sustained effort.

Despite someone’s level, I always use MAP sessions as a tool to teach pacing and breathing. This is extremely important for masters as it relates to blood flow, recovery and energy balance. For those of us who are 40+, aerobic sessions should prioritize consistent effort over all-out intensity so you’re ready to hit it the next day, next month, next year, next decade….