Getting Older and WMA

Research appears to indicate that from the age of 40, as individuals our race times will slow by about 1% per year. However, as more older athletes are competing than ever before, it is possible that times for world records will continue to fall for the older age groups for some time ahead.

As we get older our body and the activities we undertake change. How will our running be affected?

  • VO2 max decreases
  • Body composition changes
  • Reduced stride length
  • Increased recovery time

VO2 max

The three factors that will largely affect the energy levels of older endurance runners are VO2 max, lactate threshold and running economy. If the level of training remains steady, then the main impact of age is a decrease of about 1%  in V02 max. The Lactate Threshold  pace gradually declines, but running economy doesn’t change that much.

Remembering that V02 max can be thought of as a measure of how effective the body is at getting oxygen in through breathing, entering the blood system and then pumped around the body  to convert mainly fat to energy. As we age our maximal heart rate slows, our muscles lose mass and the amount of blood our heart can pump reduces. So it’s not surprising our VO2 max reduces. In training terms, older runners tend to do less high-intensity running, which means we are reducing the type of running that impacts on VO2 max. Race preparation for older runners should therefore definitely include Tempo runs, which are of course high intensity.

Body Composition

After 30, the tendency is to lose muscle and store more fat. Hormones have a lot to do with this. Reduced intensity training and retiring from physical work activities also affect muscle mass. Fast twitch muscle fibres atrophy. None of this happens quickly, but if you compare a 40 year old to a 60 year old the difference is usually apparent.

To maintain muscle mass, we must use them. Resistance training, fast running, hill work, strength training, will all help.

Reduced stride length

It seems that this is caused mainly by weaker ankles, so there is less forward power available as the back foot leaves the ground. Drills that can help to power the ankles are short hill repetitions and strides.

Increased recovery time

The amount of muscle damage and tiredness an older runner experiences after a hard session is much the same as a younger one. It’s the time needed to recover that is increased for older runners. There is not really anything definite that can be said to reduce the recovery time. Sleep, good diet, cross training and slow recovery runs will all help.


What is it? A way we can all compete against each other. Female versus male, old versus young. Saffron Striders Club Championship is based on WMA Age Graded results.

“Age-Grading is a way of measuring your performance taking into account your age and sex.  It enables you to produce a percentage score for each run  based on how old you were when you did the competition and the comparative performance of world record holders taking into their age and event itself.”

This gives you a method of comparing your performance against any other runner.

A table is here to make your own WMA percentage. Insert the details of your run (length, time, age) and you will get a %. That is your WMA score. Note that times must be typed in with colons i.e. 1:45:23 not 1.45.23.

Not only does it provide you with a means to compare yourself versus different runners, it also helps you track your own progress. Is a 47:00 time for a 55 year old in a 10k race  a good performance compared to 47:45 when you are 57? WMA gives you a really good indication.