Not all marathoners are twenty-somethings, or even forty-somethings. Last year, the oldest finisher in the Boston Marathon was eighty four years old. This year, a seventy-nine year old three-time cancer survivor is running the race. What is the secret of these older athletes?
That’s the question journalist Jeff Bercovici set out to answer after he started playing competitive soccer in his thirties, and got injured. Bercovici shares what he’s learned in his new book Play On: The New Science of Elite Performance at Any Age.
There are many factors, of course – from diet, to medical technology, and pychology. But Bercovici says the biggest thing is the underestimated importance of rest.
“Most people, what we do is we go too hard on easy days and too easy on hard days,” said Bercovici. “You sort of get out there and you run pretty hard for what feels like a pretty long time. It turns out, that’s the worst way to do it.”
That kind of exercise routine can lead to built up fatigue, which not only hurts performance, it can lead to injuries.
Instead, Bercovici says that about eighty percent of the time, we should be going so easy we barely notice we’ve worked out. Then, twenty percent of the time, we should go for broke.