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Mayo Clinic on the Summer Olympic Games: Better Athletes, the Physiology of Performance, the Lactate Threshold, the Aging Athlete and Much More
Date:7/31/2008

rs with good running economy, for example, can generate more speed per given oxygen uptake. The legendary Olympic champion Frank Shorter had outstanding running economy and this likely contributed to his success. Lance Armstrong also showed marked improvements in his efficiency when he returned to bicycle racing after beating cancer and that clearly helped him win the Tour de France seven times.

Most world-class athletes have a high VO2 max or, as Dr. Joyner says, "They all have big engines and high lactate thresholds because they've been training hard for a long time. Their muscles have adapted to run very fast without releasing a lot of lactic acid.

"In cycling for example, when Lance Armstrong came back from cancer, he became much more efficient - he could generate more power per given oxygen update. That is the same as a runner being able to generate more speed per given power. When you look at this small pool of elite athletes of runners, cyclists and rowers, all of them have a high VO2, all have a large engine and all of them have skeletal muscles that are designed not to produce a lot of lactic acid. So the question then becomes who is the most efficient," Dr. Joyner says.

The Aging Athlete

At 41 years old, nine-time Olympic medalist Darra Torres will be one of the oldest female Olympians at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games. It is not unheard of for a professional athlete to compete into his or her 40s, but it's unusual. Torres, a swimmer who specializes in sprints, depends more on muscle power and technique, not necessarily aerobic capacity.

Torres is not the first to compete into her 40s. Carlos Lopes was in his late 30s when he won the Olympic marathon in 1984. Jack Foster of New Zealand was in his 40s and he placed highly in the marathon in the 1972 and 1976 Olympic Games.

How can some athletes continue to compete into their late 30s and early 40s?

"Your VO2 max typically starts to decline in your 30s, but a h
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SOURCE Mayo Clinic
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