Review of “Fast After 50” by Joe Friel

Fast after 50

Joe Friel is a well-known author of training books for triathletes, cyclists, and runners. He has also authored books on methodologies for using heart rate monitors for training. His training methods are loosely based on Lydiard-style progression and periodization but incorporate much new sports science-supported approaches and work-outs. I have read and regularly utilize much of the information presented in his book “Total Heart Rate Training” and have found it to be a great resource for both guidelines and specific work-outs (in fact in our household of two very competitive “old” athletes, we speak in “Friel-ese” when referring to various interval workouts, e.g. we might discuss whether a P2A workout or a A1A workout is best for the day’s work). So when this book was announced by Friel on his blog this past summer, and as a 58 year old competitor, I pre-ordered it on Amazon. The book arrived the day before Christmas. I started reading it right away but it was soon appropriated by my wife and I got the volume back about a week ago. I have now been through it twice and looked at a number of the critical references to ensure that I was comfortable with conclusive statements in the text (I am with those that I checked). The following is a review of the book, but suffice it to say that I can highly recommend this book as a resource for all ageing athletes regardless of sport. Note: I already subscribe to the type of training that Friel espouses so my comfort with those portions of the book are significant. Others may not be so comfortable with his approaches and one should keep this in mind when reading this review.

Review

Ageing and the impact of ageing on the competitive athlete beyond age 50 is something that has not been written about in book form before. Friel has undertaken a substantial task and done a very good job with the subject matter. The physiologic changes that negatively affect athletic performance beyond age 50 (and to a lesser extent beyond age 40) are fairly drastic as any committed senior athlete can tell you. Friel develops a detailed framework to allow one to understand these changes and the ramifications on performance and then offers a training approach to slow down or possibly even delay the rate of decline. The current state of understanding is nicely summarized in a quote from page 108 of the book:

“This brings us back to the big three- the primary determiners of performance decline with age according to sport science. To refresh your memory, these are declining aerobic capacity, increasing body fat, and loss of muscle mass.”

Friel’s recipe for combating age-related performance decline therefore involves a primary focus on high-intensity workouts, methods for reduction of body fat, and heavy load strength workouts. It is proposed that these three areas are the keys to high performance as a senior athlete.

The book is structured in two parts where Part I (about 1/3 of the book) reviews the literature and describes Friel’s own experience with physiologic changes going on in the human body. This establishes a base-line of what we are up against. Part II describes the various ways that the changes discussed in Part I can be addressed from the perspective of a competitive athlete. Part II includes a substantial amount of guidance on training plans and suggested workouts (along with good appendices that elaborate on work outs in greater detail) as well as discussions of diet and recovery. It is quite comprehensive, if you subscribe to this style of training.

Friel has done a good job of dancing around the whole “diet” morass that is extant. Although he lauds a so-called Paleo diet (and has co-authored a book on the subject with one of the Paleo cult’s pseudo-scientific leaders) he is quick to point out that there is no one diet that works for everyone and that the task is to to determine what works for you. This is essentially what Matt Fitzgerald has covered in his book “Diet Cults“, a book that I recommend along with another of his books- “Racing Weight“.

As it happens, over the past year I have transformed my training structure to include increased volume of high-intensity workouts and max strength weight training, two of the primary messages in this book. Having had this past year to monitor progress, I can report that inclusion of these elements into my training program has been very successful and resulted in significant power development and associated performance increases. What Friel proposes works, at least for me.

Bottom Line

Friel has written a comprehensive and detailed guide to development of athletic excellence for the senior endurance athlete. Highly recommended.

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