Review of The Masters Athlete by Peter Reaburn, PhD

The Masters Athlete by Peter Reaburn is a 331-page compendium loaded with vital information and training tips for masters athletes.  Reaburn is a competing triathlete, so there are references to cycling and swimming as well as running.  But I found 90% of his book pertinent to running.

The Masters Athlete (TMA) is, by far, the most comprehensive resource I have found on aging and performance.  Dr. Reaburn provides context for the book by first reviewing the various accepted definitions and markers of aging and theories on why we age.  An unabashed fitness advocate, he presents a comprehensive list of the benefits of vigorous exercise as we age, including synopses of studies supporting this notion. That’s the good news! 

The bad news is packaged in the second chapter, where the physiological decline with aging is detailed by biological system, from our central nervous system to our skin and everything in between.  Perhaps this is Reaburn’s way of getting our attention.  He certainly leaves the impression that aging is not for sissies and if an athlete is going to attenuate the effects of aging on performance that a comprehensive training program is required.  He draws on his own experience, various studies he has conducted as well as research by mentored students.

The default approach in TMA is safety and prevention.  His watchword is “Listen to your body!” Beginning with proper medical screening, Reaburn offers guidance on progressive training, coaching, nutrition/weight control, and recovery strategies with separate chapters on endurance development, strength and power/speed enhancement, and flexibility.  He outlines the signs, symptoms, and recovery from overtraining.  All of the above is presented in sufficient detail to support his conclusions and recommendations.  The final chapter focuses on the female masters athlete, a topic sparsely covered to this day.

TMA is not a quick read, but it’s enjoyable, and though full of technical data, written in everyday prose.  One downside is TMA was written in 2009 and much has been learned since then.  Having recently retired as Head of Exercise and Sport Science at Bond University in Queensland, Australia, perhaps the author will find time and collaborators to update this comprehensive text.  A second shortcoming is a paucity of references so interested readers might explore some of these topics in more depth, though with today’s powerful Internet search engines, this is not a critical omission. 

Rating: Highly recommended – 4.75 stars out of 5    

Disclosure: I’ve had periodic contact with the author over the past couple of years.  He has reviewed various research proposals and been generous in advising me on my academic pursuits.  Dr. Reaburn continues to teach at Bond — a course on masters athletics!

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