Explaining Performance in Elite Middle-Aged Runners: Contributions from Age and from Ongoing and Past Training Factors

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Bradley W. Young University of Ottawa

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Nikola Medic University of Western Australia

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Patricia L. Weir University of Windsor

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Janet L. Starkes McMaster University

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Researchers have contended that patterns of age-related decline are not necessarily due to age, but rather to disuse, or declining practice (Bortz, 1982; Ericsson, 2000; Maharam, Bauman, Kalman, Skolnik, & Perle, 1999). A regression approach was used to examine age and training variables as predictors of 10-km running performance between 40 and 59 years of age. A sample of 30 Masters runners (M age = 50.1 years, M 10-km time = 39:19) reported data for ongoing training, cumulative running in the past 5 years, and cumulative running earlier in a career. In Analysis 1, ongoing training variables explained more variance in performance than age alone, and reduced the unique variance attributable to age in a combined model. In Analysis 2, findings were replicated using past cumulative running variables and age; running in the past 5 years explained more unique variance than age alone. Discussion focuses on how findings relate to the selective maintenance account (Krampe & Ericsson, 1996), how various aspects of training help to preserve performance in aging populations, and recommendations for future research.

Young is with the School of Human Kinetics, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON, Canada; Medic is with the School of Population Health, University of Western Australia, Crawley, WA, Australia; Weir is with the Department of Kinesiology, University of Windsor, Windsor, ON, Canada; and Starkes is with the Department of Kinesiology, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada.

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