September 25, 2013

Kids these days

Kevin Helliker writes in the Wall Street Journal:
Saying I finished in the top 15% of my age group in last month's Chicago Triathlon is like bragging that I could outrun your grandpa. My age group was 50 to 54. 
But against the entire sprint-distance field, I finished in the top 11%. That's right: Team Geriatric outperformed the field. 
I'd love to report that this reflects the age-defying effects of triathlon. But my hair is gray, my hearing is dull and my per-mile pace is slower than it used to be, even at shorter distances. 
Rather, this old-timer triumph is attributable to something that fogies throughout the ages have lamented: kids these days. 
They're just not very fast. "There's not as many super-competitive athletes today as when the baby boomers were in their 20s and 30s," said Ryan Lamppa, spokesman for Running USA, an industry-funded research group. While noting the health benefits that endurance racing confers regardless of pace, Lamppa—a 54-year-old competitive runner—said, "Many new runners come from a mind-set where everyone gets a medal and it's good enough just to finish."

The last time I checked a few years ago, marathoning continued to grow in popularity but average speeds of finishers were slowing sharply.

Half Sigma likes to report on deaths during the New York City marathon to imply that marathoning is kind of crazy, which, at 42k, it sort of is. Top professional marathoners from East Africa often skip the Olympic marathon because they can only perform at their best about every six months, so they hit a paying marathon in the spring and another in the fall and skip running in the summer for free at the Olympics. In contrast, top 10k runners typically run every weekend during the high season for track meets.

So, maybe it's not such a bad thing that kids these days aren't that into driving themselves into cardiac arrest at marathons.

Changing demographics also matter. I looked at the backgrounds of the 185 top male high school cross-country runners in 2006:

Non-Hispanic White 82%
East African 9%
Spanish Surname 5%
Black American 2%
American Indian 1%
East Asian 0.7%
South Asian 0.3%

So, all non-Hispanic whites other than the tiny East African population (and maybe American Indians) aren't excelling at cross country.

44 comments:

dearieme said...

"Marathon" comes from a Greek word that means knee-buggering.

Z Blog said...

I'm not a boomer, but I have noticed this as well. I never get passed on my bike when on a ride. It is always me passing someone younger. On my runs, I don't see many young people and those I do see are staggering along like zombies. If I were an elite rider or runner, it would not be a big deal, but I'm not.

That said, the local gyms are packed with 25-35 year old people, mostly female, on treadmills. My hunch is that as the first generation to not go outside and play, they don't go outside and exercise as adults.

Son of Brock Landers said...

Please check the Cory Booker tweets to a stripper story. Smells of cover for the gay rumors. After Anthony Weiner, what politician is even acting strange on twitter with women? It just opens the door for any crazies to come out of the tweet-works. The phoniness of this one feels like a score for the 'he's gay' crowd and not the 'he's dating a classy white woman who worked for Corzine' crowd. We're a couple years from Booker re-enacting the Buffalo Bill tuck dance from "Silence of the Lambs".

Cail Corishev said...

There's a lot more knowledge now about the harmful effects of jogging and other "cardio" exercise. Many have switched over to high-intensity workouts like sprints or fast hiking, and I suppose younger people are going to be more open to different methods like that. Most of the long-term runners I know seem pretty addicted to it for the high they get after enough time plodding along.

Anonymous said...

Kids these days also don't care as much about SAT scores, GPA, college rankings, and other measures of supposedly universal "merit". That's a mid 20th century thing, before the 60's.

A broken down, Balkanized country starts to regress down to social capital, networking, popularity, and so on. Only a homogeneous nation can feel safe enough to strive for more horsepower, more efficiency, more accuracy, and so on.

Ball sports will always have fans, but the nerdy statistics guys are in a real decline. It has hit baseball hard, and you've covered it a lot. Sports that are truly just about performance instead of group loyalty, like racing, are easily going to lose the most interest.

Note that these sports are most popular with white nerds, and dirt poor third world types who can't afford anything else. Neither group is going to hold up well in a post-meritocracy era.

Anonymous said...

Off topic: MacArthur Genius Award winner attorney Margaret Stock focuses on military personnel and their families who she says are victimized by the nation's immigration laws. After September 11, as politicians asked the nation to take care of those fighting for their country, Stock was getting call after call, hearing things like a soldier begging her to stop immigration officials from deporting his wife to Mexico.

What say you about geniuses these days? Was the fix in? Is she really that many standard deviations beyond any other advocate.

Anonymous said...

Actually, they do better in Cross Country than do in Swimming. I see some Mexicans make it at State in Cross County or CIF more than in swimming. In fact the Olympic Team has a Mexican miler not one Latin except for half-Cuban Ryan Loche in Swimming.

Whiskey said...

Since motorsports racing is very White, I expect it to hold up better than baseball which is mostly Caribbean now.

MKP said...

We're in the gym, you old-ass f-cking whiners. Come in for an afternoon and we'll show you a few things.

E. Rekshun said...

I've run 5K races off and on for 20 years, and have always won my age group. In my mid-40s I regularly ran an 18:00 minute 5K. But for the past two years, I've been battling nagging foot, hip, calf, and hamstring pain and soreness and haven't raced. I'm now down to running just 2 miles and a half-dozen wind sprints per week. I had been looking forward to kicking butt in the 50+ age group, but it looks like the nagging pains are not going to let that happen. Oh well, more time to lift weights and read blogs.

Anonymous said...

"""""
While noting the health benefits that endurance racing confers regardless of pace, Lamppa—a 54-year-old competitive runner—said, "Many new runners come from a mind-set where everyone gets a medal and it's good enough just to finish."
"""""

Maybe younger people just demanding more from their exercise... the health benefits of distance running in comparison to lifting + sprinting work don't really exist(distance running can actually be bad for your heart and joints)... it also gives men unsexy, effete bodies, and that's more important than winning a medal.

"""""
Terrence Cutler: There's something you need to know, Kenny. You're not the only athlete here at Jeff Davis. I happen to be training for a Triathlon right now. Doin' a lot of running, and cycling, swimming. Well you know all about that.
Kenny Powers: No actually I don't. I do SPORTS. Not try to be the best at exercising.
"""""
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=De7rbB2bteE


I did a lot of "endurance racing" in from about 8 years old to the end of high school(5ks, cross country... etc)... I ran a 1:56 800m and a 4:35 mile...these days though, I quite honestly long distance running tedious... lifting weights + spriting + fast walking is much better.

Here's my current exercise cycle...
Day 1: Lifting - Arms, Chest, Back
Day 2: Lifting - Legs and Abs
Day 3: Ski Machine - HIIT
Day 4: Recumbent Bike - Fast walking pace
repeat

The Anti-Gnostic said...

Marathons and triathlons require huge time commitments so you can end up weak and slow. More people are figuring this out.

Anonymous said...

"Ball sports will always have fans, but the nerdy statistics guys are in a real decline. It has hit baseball hard, and you've covered it a lot. Sports that are truly just about performance instead of group loyalty, like racing, are easily going to lose the most interest."

Ball sports in the US in general aren't about much anymore except advertising. The sports themselves hardly matter to the folks in charge.

You're right about baseball. There's been a tremendous aging of the ballpark population in the past 20 years. When I was a kid in the early 90s the stadium was always full of children waving mits and begging their fathers to get them hot dogs. Today there are far fewer of them, and many more middle-agers and grumpy elderly men. Tis a shame.

Mr Lomez said...

Marathoning may be growing in popularity, but I think for a lot of the SWPL set, it's one of those one-and-done, checklist endeavors. It's like visiting Machu Picchu or buying a homemade beer kit. Do it once, take some pictures, then pretend to be an expert whenever it comes up in conversation.

Generally speaking, this mentality seems to pervasive for my generation. There's very little real dedication or loyalty or conviction. Everyone's a dabbler, a wannabe Renaissance Man.

Anonymous said...

"There's a lot more knowledge now about the harmful effects of jogging and other "cardio" exercise. Many have switched over to high-intensity workouts like sprints or fast hiking"

I seem to have missed this (I run, not very fast, about 3.6 miles every day). Being in my 50s, I've avoided high-intensity stuff except for very short bursts - a famous UK journalist, Andrew Marr, recently had a stroke aged 52 while doing high intensity on a rowing machine.

What's the problem with cardio? Or jogging, come to that?

Anonymous said...

As quite a few have noted, young people don't run marathons because we know marathon running is unhealthy and stupid.

Eat right, lift and sprint (on a Wingate bike is fine if you're afraid of impact).

Running a long distance is worse than useless, but being able to carry equipment, or food, or a person up a hill without major exertion comes in handy pretty often.

Steve Sailer said...

Mr. Lomez says:

"It's like visiting Machu Picchu or buying a homemade beer kit. Do it once, take some pictures, then pretend to be an expert whenever it comes up in conversation"

Hey, did I ever mention I've been to Machu Picchu? Ask me anything about it!

Anonymous said...

Why do people lift weights?
It's always seemed rather odd to me. The idea that you would go into a room a start lifting heavy things that have nowhere to go is strange to me. And no, I've never been in a gym.

Justme said...

Sometime in the 1990s it became acceptable to run a 5-hour marathon. Before that time marathons were the province of athletes and skilled distance runners. But the marathon changed from being a competitive race to a participation race and now just about anyone who can drag his butt off the couch and is willing to endure the pain and boredom of running lots of hours can complete a marathon.

Cail Corishev said...

"What's the problem with cardio? Or jogging, come to that?"

Jogging destroys the joints. Cardio (by which I mean exercise that raises the heart rate significantly while still being aerobic -- not gasping for breath) in general seems to be the worst of both worlds. It doesn't stress the muscles as much as high intensity does, so they don't rebuild and strengthen as much. On the other hand, extended periods of cardio raise the levels of cortisol and other stress hormones, which wear down the body over time. It's better to stress the muscles with short periods of high-intensity work than to stress the metabolism for long periods; and keep the rest of the body fit with low-intensity, low-stress exercise like walking.

Some cardio is fine; if you enjoy running and your knees aren't killing you, go have a ball. But it's not the best way to get/stay fit, and it's especially bad for losing weight because of the elevation of stress hormones. It got popular because it looked like it burned more calories than other types of exercise, but we know now that the number of calories directly burned is about the least important benefit you get from exercise; far more important is the hormone balance that's created and the muscle building and strengthening that happens.

There's tons of information about this stuff online, as long as you stay away from running websites. Any place where people are talking about paleo eating, or at least realize that pasta isn't a health food, will probably also have some information on this.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

Why do people lift weights?

It makes it easier to pick you up and dunk your head in the locker room toilet.

Anonymous said...

Millennial here, just tired if hearing baby boomers toot there own horns about being competitive. I wrestled at a Big Ten University, debatably the hardest, most competitive sport in the world. It's only getting harder and more competitive. The training and weight cutting alone are comparable to besieging an ancient castle in the Middle East during the crusades. Physical hand to hand combat at high temperatures with minimal food and water. I've seen supposedly tough, foot ball players quit on day one and admit it was magnitudes harder than football. Baby boomers can act competitive and pretend they've done something for society but lets remember they were the people that raised my pathetic generation. I'll be the first to admit my generation is off to a very bad start and probably not going to ever turn it around but I also have witnessed baby boomers and how pathetic they have been with the U.S. Clinton, Bush and Obama... All terrible, they certainly are not A Reagan, a member of the greatest generation, which, hands down earned their designation as the greatest generation. So, baby boomers, go watch the movie "Red" with Bruce Willis and pretend you're tough, you're generation never won a war, millennials have already fought and won two, we were the boots on the ground.

sunbeam said...

"Maybe younger people just demanding more from their exercise... the health benefits of distance running in comparison to lifting + sprinting work don't really exist(distance running can actually be bad for your heart and joints)... it also gives men unsexy, effete bodies, and that's more important than winning a medal."

This always gets me. What are people supposed to look like?

The modern conception of a fit individual is very different from what people actually looked like when physical activity was a part of everyone's life.

Look at pictures of old school axe lumberjacks or some of those WPA photos.

Everyone is whipcord lean.

Heck look at old movies or TV shows. The body type of everyone is very different from what we see now.

I know that the sculpted body fad has occurred in some cultures in the past (Greeks and Romans?), but this is definitely an outlier in the human experience.

Crap, I doubt John L. Sullivan would win many boxing matches today, but I'm positive he would annihilate anyone he fought in a bar now, if he were running around today.

And he looked nothing like modern athletes.

Corn said...

"Why do people lift weights?"

Ummm.... to get stronger? Boost testosterone? Boost metabolism?

Anonymous said...

Cail is right. I grew up in a running culture, protein starved and carbo loaded. (Hey, more than four eggs a week will kill you, doncha know?)

After fifty (as a hopeless lard-assed one time athlete) I went paleo nutrition and exercise. Now people say:
'You must do a lot of cardio , right?' Wrong. Google crossfit for an approximate idea. (If it looks scary, bear in mind that it is scalable to where you're at.)
'You must starve yourself, right?'
Wrong. Bacon and eggs, steaks, chicken, fish, etc, plus copious amounts of green and orange veggies dripping in butter. Oh, and more wine than I admit to on those medical questionnaires.

I look at people grimly dragging their often overweight bodies along the side of road; day after day, week after week, and I wonder at their dedication - to their carb and sugar habits.

It's hard to talk about this stuff without sounding like a cheesy evangelist. It's just that powerful.

Gilbert P.

http://laketaupocyclechallenge.blogspot.co.nz/ said...

I have checked out the life span of Tour de France winners and many have lived a long life. None seemed to have had heart attacks .Several killed in motor accidents or being murdered. Coppi died of malaria. I am 84 ,and done several Ironman races and Duathlons and am training for a 160K Round Taupo Challenge next November. I'll take my chances. Wally Heywood, a South African, held many ultra distance world records died at 96.

Eric said...

What's the problem with cardio? Or jogging, come to that?

You run into problems if you overdo it. I don't think anyone is saying cardio is bad for you, but if you run four hours every day you're not doing yourself any favors.

Antioco Dascalon said...

"Why do people lift weights?
It's always seemed rather odd to me. The idea that you would go into a room a start lifting heavy things that have nowhere to go is strange to me. And no, I've never been in a gym."

"Strong people are harder to kill than weak people, and more useful in general."- Mark Rippetoe

Belisarius said...

Kudos to the millenial commenter for defending his generation. It's a good default position to avoid baby boomer fads- running, carb loading, neoconservatism, etc.- and instead look to older generations. The renewed interest in combat sports is a great sign- grueling workouts, very competitive (the consequences of losing can be grim), and (most important) very practical. Being able to run a couple of dozen miles 'fast' probably won't be much help in protecting your property, your family, or your honor- but a well-placed punch or kick (or a well-executed takedown or choke) just might. Ask George Zimmerman how much easier his life would have been if he'd just won the fistfight. I side with Edward IV, who outlawed mob football in the middle ages because he thought his subjects should spend their free time more constructively- namely, practicing the long bow.

For more low-impact activity, you can't beat hunting and fishing- useful skills in the coming third worldization the boomers have set in motion.

Now, about the video games, tattoos, and rap music...

DYork said...

...non-Hispanic whites

Have you noticed how physically inferior and nerdy these cross country dorks looked in high school?

They are the geeks/nerds/dorks of high school and college male sports.

And something like 99.9% of White Americans are physically unprepared for triathlons and cross country at any age.

They are no more capable than the average "non-Asian blacks".

Simon in London said...

So, my impression from the Comments is that it's a generational thing. Baby-boomers like aerobic exercise outside, Gen Y and the tail end of X likes anaerobic exercise inside.

There's an obvious shift in male film star looks from the lean '70s to the steroidal '80s. It looks as if the generations that grew up in the '80s and later aspire to that look.

Me, I'm 40, I walk to the gym every day and when I'm there I go swimming, but I have a fairly major health problem for which swimming is the best help. The young men in the gym are all doing weight training and mixing their protein shakes.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, so lots of new people flooding into the system and results are way down. That sounds almost...familiar.

Part of the problem, from my perpective, is that running for its own sake feels so pointless. I am ferociously competitive in real life sports. Semi skilled at best, but determined as hell. What exactly is the point of running?

If going slow and making it less competitive is what it takes for these people to run, then fair play to them. I'd rather eat my own eyeballs, but whatever.

Captain Tripps said...

Belisarius: “The renewed interest in combat sports is a great sign- grueling workouts, very competitive (the consequences of losing can be grim)…”

This renewed interest also coincides with our decade-long fight with urban insurgents in Afghanistan/Iraq. When I was on active duty in 2004, the Army instituted “combatives” back into physical fitness training. Essentially a combination of pugilist skills (punching/counterpunching, pugil stick matches) and wrestling (body takedowns, etc.). This was in part a response to the close quarters urban combat action we were getting involved in.

My gym has recently been pushing cross-fit as well. I’d like to try it, but I did enough of that when I was in the service (cross-fit basically strikes me as doing an indoor obstacle course). I’m old school; I go to push the weights around, swim in the pool for the cardio benefit, and use the treadmill when it’s too cold to run outside. I’m pushing 50, and 25 years of running in the Army (often with full equipment and boots on) has taken its toll on my knees/ankles. So now my max run distance is a 5K. And I agree with Cail Corishev; ditch the carbs (or at least drastically lower them) and go paleo. I lost 15 pounds when I did.

Anonymous said...

I'm in the gym too, MKP, watching you whiny-ass young pu$$ies. I'm that burly, gray-haired guy still benching 405 for 2 reps and leg-pressing 1,260 for 7 reps. I turn 55 next month and no, unlike a lot of your generational cohort at the gym, no juice. And yes, I'm that a$$hole who says to you, after watching you twist yourself into a pretzel trying for a new bench max, you call that a rep?

I ride the Expresso exercise bike for some cardio before I weight train. It's an interesting unit that you have to steer and shift through a variety of courses where you choose your distance and hill component. If you register, it records your performance on the various courses and compares it to that of your facility and all users of the unit. It has a screen where you can keep track of your performance in real time, and you can race someone doing the same course. It feeds your competitive fire, kicks your ass and I've had spin instructors tell me that it's better than a lot of spin classes.

Me, the old and overweight guy, am in the top 5 at my gym for every course I've done, and, as my girlfriend has observed, this facility has probably got a membership in the best aggregate shape of any we've belonged to. I've seen younger guys saddle up, punch in an intermediate course, and quit halfway through.

You kids compete very little as children, and it's further socialized out of you by the feminized public schools.

Anon Millennial, I agree wholeheartedly about the weenies you listed. Your comments about your two wars, however, are incorrect; they are not "won", and in 5 years they will be clearly seen as lost.

Podsnap said...

Isn't this simply explained by a higher level of participation by the young ?

Some kids are good, some are dabblers. Whereas, by your 50's only the pro's are still running.

The general level of participation among the young in athletic activities is much higher than it was in say the 70s and 80s. For one thing no-one went to the gym in those days.

And P.S - screw the boomers.

Anonymous said...

Long distance running is an idiotic activity. It's catabolic and tears up your knee cartilage.

anon said...

The only young people (as in late 20s or younger) who are into running are women. Which is interesting, because a decade ago the ratio of people jogging I noticed around was 3-4 males for every 1 female. Even older men seem to be transitioning out of the jogging craze- biking is becoming more popular all the time, and it's about 80 % men out there.

E. Rekshun said...

"Why do people lift weights?"

So I look better with my clothes off when I'm entertaining a pretty young thing.

About ten years ago, after I had to slow down my running, I bought a high-quality spinner bike for $700 like brand new on eBay. It gives an excellent no-impact workout. I've been using it about 30 mins. per day, every day, for ten years, and it's still in perfect working condition.

E. Rekshun said...

"[wrestling is]the hardest, most competitive sport in the world"

Roger that. I'd second boxing. I boxed in my teens for a couple of years under the YMCA and AAU. The training, sparring, and matches are tough, brutal, and painful. My amateur record was 3-3, and I felt Every. Single. Blow. My mom attended my first fight and I can remember her yelling at my opponent, "don't hit him in the face!" I got my nose bloodies and lost that fight, and Mom never came to another one. Today, MMA seems to have surpassed boxing in popularity and that looks even tougher.

bluegrassHank said...

Bleh, sorry Mr. baby boomer that us youngn's have to try and live and thrive in a society that you either zealously created or did nothing to stop as it went from shit crazy to crazier than shit.

Like, when LA was burning, did you just shrug your shoulders there thinking "Meh, it'll still work out. American Exceptionalism and all that stuff."

Anyhoo, don't know if this is a trend that's peaked or something, but I do Brazilian jiu-jitsu (I'm not very good, honestly) at an MMA gym.

Here, at least, it is TOTALLY a White guy thing, surprisingly. MMA team fighting is like 50/50 Whites and NAMs. Boxing like 80% NAM, and all the submission wrestling BJJ stuff is 100% White.

Maybe, subconsciously, White guys are seeing the writing on the wall and know that in future America, a fighting man's grit will mean more than SWPL exercise contests.

Anonymous said...

Half Sigma is now Lion of the Blogosphere. http://lionoftheblogosphere.wordpress.com/

Anonymous said...

bluegrassHank, again, your thinking is colored by the fact that you've been brought up in Feminized America. "Fighting man's grit" has a very poor record versus "prudent man's Glock". Or the wary man's blade, for that matter.

Steve Johnson said...

I'm that burly, gray-haired guy still benching 405 for 2 reps and leg-pressing 1,260 for 7 reps.

Sorry anonymous but anyone doing the "leg press" isn't serious about lifting.

I expect that if you can do a 405 lb bench - which you can't (here's a video of a 50+ year old pressing 407 lbs - which is a world record at 220 lbs http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r_k7TS-qFMQ) - it would be one of those "dip the bar a quarter of an inch" "bench presses" that people who enjoy lying to themselves do.

Lol, leg press.

Anonymous said...

Down to the chest, back flat on the bench, Stevie. No benching shirt. You are absolutely correct about benching competitions; I've seen winning lifts that moved about 3 inches. I'm old enough and have been doing it long enough that I'm comfortable not lying to myself.

For the last set on the leg press, 28 45-lb. plates. It takes longer to gather all the plates than it does to do the workout. I leg press because I can't squat anymore due to knee issues. I've read the research saying that the leg press isn't an exercise that the training world likes; no machine that needs no instruction is endorsed by the trainers. If you read this blog regularly, you know the concept of Who/Whom. The guy I've had the most interaction with, Wayne Wescott, is OK with the leg press as a workaround, so it's OK with me.

Seriousness has nothing to do with it. I see guys like you every time I'm at the gym. You're usually "trainers", imparting the latest "training research" BS to your clients, who never show any gains in weight loss or strength gain. You justify it to yourself by saying they didn't work hard enough outside your "training" sessions. Anyone not doing it your way isn't serious. Talk about LOL.

As for the "world record" bench press you allege, does anyone know the guy's name? Does anyone know the open record holder's name? Does anyone care? BTW, there was an NPR story a while ago about a guy who did 405 on his 60th birthday, so I've gotta look askance at your who screed.

I'll just say that it's like people who are really smart and good at trivia. They have friends that tell them, "You should try to get on Jeopardy and be like Ken Jennings!". Of course, 99.99% of them never do. Does that make Ken Jennings the smartest guy in the world?