This is an article worth reading from Bicycling magazine that targets people in the +/-40 age group.
The article is obviously geared toward cycling, however its wording is easily interchangeable with martial arts; more specifically, its anaerobic demands.
1. Getting in shape takes longer. When you are 21, you progress quickly. After just one week of hard training you feel improvement. Things don’t happen quite so quickly when you get older, so you need more time preparing for your goals.
2. You have to train specifically to maintain bursts of speed. The older you get, the slower you get. You lose fast-twitch muscle fibers as you age. Do more sprint training! You need short power workouts—painful, highly anaerobic intervals that work on high-end speed. I was never a sprinter, but the ability comes in handy at other times, like when you accelerate sharply to try to get into a breakaway. I like to do a series of six 30-second all-out sprints with a two-minute recovery. Oh, do they rip the hell out of my legs!
3. You must sleep more. The older you get, the more you have little aches and pains, and recovery from them is slower. Good sleep makes a big difference. I’m talking ideally about a full night of sleep without interruption (with a house of six kids I know I am asking for a lot here), but eight hours total works for me. Also: Sleep before midnight is more important than sleep in the morning hours.
4. You have to stretch. Your old body, or at least mine, gets stiff like a piece of wood. The benefits of stretching won’t be immediately apparent (and actually are sometimes≠ quite painful) but over time you will notice you feel better. I am no flexibility maniac like Stuart O’Grady, but I work some simple flexibility routines into my day when I am brushing my teeth or waiting≠ for a bus or cab. My favorite stretches involve the calf and lower back.
5. You really, really are what you eat. When I was younger I could eat anything. And to be honest I had no choice. As part of the East German sports-school system, I lived in a dormitory and always ate cafeteria food full of starches and chemicals. Now I notice a difference in my riding when I’m eating fresh food and buying food from a controlled farm or region where there are no chemicals. The downside is that this food does not last very long at all. The old East German boxed milk would last for three months!
1. You know your body. I used to ignore what my body was trying to tell me—I was sure I could ride through problem times. Now I know that when my body is telling me to stop—day after day, not like in a race when my legs are complaining—it means it. Take a rest.
2. You’ve stopped wasting time looking for the easy way out. With age you realize there is no magic shortcut, no way to make cycling less painful, no way to make an intense interval workout not intense. That’s wisdom! Only pedaling and painful training makes you better.
3. You have developed the best work ethic. If you are still riding when you reach an age like this, it is because you love the sport. You love it enough to not give half an effort. It is like you want to honor the sport with your performance. That’s something kids can’t really understand.
4. You can deal with defeat. Losing never tastes good, but it does become easier to digest. I think this comes from life outside racing. Live long enough and at some point you have to deal with a crisis that is much more serious than what any of us do on a bike. At least I know I have, and such experiences put race results in perspective.
5. You are more cut than the kids. I admit that this is the advantage I love the most. An older rider is leaner and more ripped than those who are still carrying baby fat around their hips!”