#17 – Biggest Mistakes by Masters Athletes

Glen and I are joined once again by Jeff Winkler of Winkler Cycling ( in Boulder, Colorado.  You’ll recall that Jeff is a Category 1 USAC coach who has over 30 years of experience in bicycle racing.  He started racing as a junior athlete and rose up through the ranks to become a professional cyclist racing in the U.S. and Europe.  As a coach,  Jeff has worked with racers in road, track, cyclocross and mountain bike disciplines, working with novice to professional athletes.   

I thought it would be easy to come up with a list of common mistakes made by masters athletes, but I was wrong.  “Mistakes” per se are contextual, and masters athletes in particular have a wide variety of goals.  We settled on discussing a set of areas where mistakes are easy to make for masters athletes in particular as a result of aging or health issues that seem to arise or become more prominent as we get older. 

In general, I think it is safe to say that we are speaking to masters athletes who fall into a range defined as:  

  1. At one end is the masters racer, who is emphasizing athletic performance but is also interested in not undermining health and wellness.
  2. At the other end is the masters athlete who is emphasizing health and wellness but also interesting in getting better / stronger / faster in his or her sport, and improving over time or limiting losses that may be unavoidable due to aging or shrinking time allocated to athletics.

Health issues that tend to appear later in life due to aging:

  1. Sleep issues/ recovery slowing / more aches and pains
  2. Increasing body fat – slowing metabolism (drives a desire to burn calories)
  3. Emerging general health issues:  cardiovascular issues, metabolic (diabetes), brain health, joint health, cancer
  4. Decreasing testosterone, muscle mass…this becomes a serious issue eventually.  The lost muscle mass is mostly fast-twitch fibers
  5. Dropping VO2 max….decreasing max heart rate, 10% per decade after 30 (can lower to 5% with exercise)
  6. Decreasing elasticity in connective tissue:  getting stiffer and less flexible
  7. Worsening posture and muscle imbalances (stiffness, maybe pain)

Other issues that emerge over time:

  1. Doing the same thing year after year – a loss of novelty & fun…losing the passion
  2. Ego caught up in athletic performance – a loss of fun as performance declines…
  3. More time constraints; limited time for exercise or less willing to spend as much time .

Biggest Mistakes made by Masters Athletes:

  1. Not enough high intensity training (vs. endurance, tempo, and threshold)
  2. Too much high intensity training (thinking that HIIT is enough)
  3. Insufficient cross training (strength, mobility, balance, muscle activation)
  4. Buying into the “I’m getting old” story (no longer testing limits, playing it too safe)
  5. Not being proactive about recovery and health.

You can find Jeff Winkler at

The ever curious athlete who demands answers.
About the Author
Curious athlete who demands answers. Husband to Susan ( Father of 3 daughters. Athletic pursuits over time, in reverse order: cycling, skiing, mountaineering, rock climbing, triathlon, golf, tennis, football.

2 comments on “#17 – Biggest Mistakes by Masters Athletes

  1. Brian Heber says:

    Joe, great episode with lots of interesting information to chew on. I am wondering if you would consider a “deeper dive” into these subjects? For example, recovery. I would find it helpful to discuss the myriad of approaches and flesh out the science based vs. the non-science based. As it relates to recovery, I think addressing the specific nutrition needs of the aging athlete would also be helpful.

    1. joe says:

      Brian, thanks for the feedback and question. Yes, I am working on a few topics that will touch on your question. As you know, “recovery” and “nutrition” are massively big subject areas. I don’t think we’ll cover everything in a single episode, but i hope to keep working on them. I have a “wearables” episode in the works and at least one “nutrition” episode underway. Stay tuned! Thanks for listening!

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