Most athletes have a "dream goal." I want to live like Jon Adamson. If I have one athletic wish, it is to enjoy training and competition until the day I die, and Jon seems to have discovered the athletic fountain of youth.
Jon does not look, act, or race like any 71-year old man that I know of. In fact the contrast between Jon and most men his age is startling, and he is in considerably better shape than most 30-year olds. This is also demonstrated by his having a place on the podium at various triathlon World Championships—from Olympic to Ironman-distance. While most men his age contemplate assisted living, Jon contemplates another age-group World Championship title.
According to physical therapist Jen Henry, "the number of healthy, older individuals who are active in sports has increased significantly during the past generation. While these individuals continue to perform at a high level, there is of course a loss in functional capacity that cannot be overcome by training.
"Although no accepted theory of aging exists, older athletes are limited primarily by the inability to maintain the same volume and intensity of training. Also, older athletes appear to respond more slowly to the same training load than do younger athletes."
I believe Jon approaches the aging process as he would a training plan. He is a very smart man and has studied the effects of aging in depth. His research targets the specific limiters and fitness substrates that degrade with age. For instance, loss of muscle mass is something that naturally occurs with the aging process, but by strength training you may drastically mitigate this protein loss.
Jon has an athletic build very dissimilar to most men his age. He walks and runs without stiffness, hesitation or imbalance. He can hold a bike speed that challenges men 50 years younger and has remained remarkably injury-free. He attributes this to listening to his body and being proactive with his health.
Jon recognizes that his attitude has as much to do with his athletic success as his training. You will not hear him complaining and he does not have a lot of patience for complainers. He has always been competitive and focused throughout his life, whether he is at work or competing in a race.
Like most triathletes, he did not come from an athletic background and started off his endurance sport career as a runner. He entered his first triathlon in 1982—before clipless pedals, aerobars and race wheels—and was subsequently hooked. Since then he has pursued triathlon with passion and it has become a lifestyle for both him and his wife, Jo.
Jo is an equally talented triathlete, having placed top in her age-group at the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii, a silver medal at USAT Nationals, and an All-American title. The two of them make a very dynamic duo and serve as an example of what can be accomplished at any point in your life.
Jon is equally passionate about coaching. He has an encyclopedic coaching knowledge, especially in regards to power training. He has produced a number of great athletes and inspires a loyalty among them that I do not often see.
Jon likes to learn and recognizes that coaching not only is a vehicle to give back to the sport he loves, but also makes you a better athlete. He adapts his methods and utilizes the latest technology to get his athletes faster than the competition, and is definitely not an "old school" coach. He is analytical and precise in his approach and challenges his athletes to a high degree.
To enjoy the freedom and movement of your body late into life is a fantasy for most of us, but in Jon's case, it is a reality he has worked very hard to achieve. If you are looking for the fountain of youth, Jon will tell you that it can be found through discipline, a positive attitude, challenging yourself to a high degree, healthy living, and most importantly, removing the mental barriers to achievement.
His goals each season are to stay healthy, have some fun, and place well. In June, 2008, he took silver at the Age Group World Championship in Canada, and is training to win his age group at the Ironman World Championship.
Matt Russ has coached and trained elite athletes from around the country and internationally for over ten years. He currently holds an expert license from USA Triathlon, an elite license from USA Cycling, and is a licensed USA Track and Field coach. Matt is head coach and owner of The Sport Factory, and works with athletes of all levels full time. He is a freelance author and his articles are regularly featured in a variety of magazines and websites. Visit www.thesportfactory.com for more information or email him at email@example.com
Photos courtesy of Matt Russ.