According to the study, older sprinters take shorter steps, with their feet spending longer time in contact with the ground. This seems to suggest that they're less able to generate explosive force with each step, perhaps a result of less fast-twitch muscles than younger sprinters. Other studies build on this, noting that you lose strength more rapidly than you lose muscle. As the authors note, “motor control becomes more coarse-grained, movement smoothness diminishes, motor precision and efficiency decline, and energy costs and injury risks increase.”
It might sound bleak, but there could be ways to train against the decline of speed as you age. It starts with getting stronger. The study authors suggest doing resistance training that includes workouts that aim to build size, workouts aimed to build strength, and workouts designed to build power. Other elements that can improve muscle quality include exercises that challenge balance, stability, and reflexes, such as single-leg balance drills.
It also goes without saying that you don’t recover as quickly as you age, so the goal is to stay healthy to avoid feeling less recovered. To mitigate the risk of injury, reintroduce sprinting gently and gradually, perhaps with post-run strides once a week. Then you can move onto eccentric loading exercises for the hamstring and calf strengthening exercises, with the goal to then maintain high-speed running as a regular fixture in your training.
Finally, ensure you’re getting enough fuel for your workouts. As these kinds of training stimulate a surge of muscle-building, it’s important to be getting enough protein. As Hutchinson notes, “A typical recommendation for athletes in their 40s and beyond is to aim for about 0.4 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight with each meal and after workouts. That works out to 25 to 30 grams of protein for a 150-pound adult: a tuna sandwich with a glass of milk and handful of nuts, for example."
So, there you have it. It might take a bit more than a single tuna sandwich and glass of milk, but perhaps our top speed can be retained with these handy tips.