Age is an Advantage, not an excuse ~just sayin'

My ex has suggested that I am too old to be pumping out smoothies on a bike blender; which is funny, because I think he is too old to be dating teenagers. Just sayin'. In any event, his comment got me thinking, and I found myself doing a little research into aging and athleticism, with some rather surprising results.

For example, I came across a long-term University of California study examining the physiological and performance changes in active swimmers, cyclists and runners over the age of 40. Heres an excerpt from the University's web site:

“We initially expected to see our athletes gradually decline,” said Robert Wiswell, the study’s principal investigator and an associate professor of biokinesiology and physical therapy in USC’s division of Independent Health Professions, “but that hasn’t been the case.” On the contrary, he said, “the data show that high levels of activity appear to slow down the aging of muscles and help to maintain strength and performance.

"Laboratory tests taken every two years also show that the study’s subjects have lower cholesterol, less body fat and fewer risks of bone fractures, strokes and heart attacks, compared to the normal population.
Excellent health is key to observational aging studies like this, said Wiswell.
“When you talk about aging loss, one of the most important questions is: How much has to do with aging and how much has to do with disease?” he said. “If you can eliminate those with disease and then look at aging, you might be able to find more age-related changes than you would in the general population.”

Because cycling is a low-impact, non-weight-bearing activity, it's forgiving on the joints and can become or remain a fitness mainstay well after middle age, when aerobic exercise is known to delay or reverse the physiological effects of aging. Exercise improves reaction times, flexibility, heart function, muscle strength and lung capacity, blood pressure; while reducing the risk of stroke and increasing cognitive skills such as reasoning skills and memory. So, basically, babes wont keep you young and spry, but bikes can.

The U.S. Cycling Federation counts 1,273 racers over 55 among its 31,097 riders; as for noncompetitive biking, the Adventure Cycling Association reports that biking across America is shifting from a college kids' adventure to a retirees' dream trip. At League of American Bicyclists rallies, the gray-haired set usually outnumbers younger counterparts.

Among the athletes competing in the 2007 Senior Olympics is Marilyn Minnick 59, who began cycling in her mid 40's, and took up competitive cycling at age56. She first qualified to compete at the 2005 Senior Games, and will compete in the 2007 in Cycling (10K and 5K), and Discus. In describing thoughts on aging, Marilyn says, “Aging for me does not mean slowing down, but creating new adventures and new memories.”

Another Senior Olimpian, Tom Higginbotham, age 75, from Kentucky. Higginbotham has competed in Regional, State and National Games regularly since 1999. His primary sport is cycling, but he has also competed in swimming, track & field, and horseshoes. He has 62 gold medals, 22 silver, and seven bronze. Tom says that “if you’re going to be young – you gotta do the things that young
people do!” Tom prepared for the recent Louisville Regional Games cycle event by riding 143
miles in the 2-3 days leading up to the event.

So, although dating progressively younger women will not make one younger, increasing the time one spends biking (and blending smoothies), the better one's conditioning will become- at any age. Just sayin'.


"They See The Sky and Remember Who They Are"

I have two words for you: just two words ~are you listening?~ "Bike Camping"

When I gave up my car, I wondered if I would ever visit the wilderness again ~a far greater sacrifice in my mind than the forfeiture of continence, and ironic given that my primary reasons for going car-free were steeped in environmental responsibility. Time in wild places is, for me, akin to time spent breathing, and the longer I was away from the forest, the more I felt like those cows in that episode of Firefly: "They weren't cows inside. They were waiting to be, but they forgot. Now they see the sky and they remember what they are." I have been waiting to remember who I am for about 5 years, and because of everything that has happened in those 5 years, I didnt even realize it. Wouldn't you know it: once again it is Portland's cycling community that is coming to my rescue.

Several of my fellow SHIFTies have come together to create Cycle Wild, it's mission: "to reconnect people with nature via the bicycle"! Was this created especially for me or what?! These excursions are fully human powered (no SAG wagon) trips that take full advantage of the many wilderness areas within 75 miles of Portland, and the fact that -in many cases- we can utilize Light Rail to shorten that distance.

Now, granted, I have made an art of avoiding hills while riding in town, my son's extended hospital stays have left me less than athetic, and since returning to Portland I have not ridden more than about 15 miles in one sitting; but now I have a goal, as well as a reason to live.

Happy Earth Day!

Mavericks that we are, Portlanders held their Earth Day Celebration today; and although I missed out on the Friends of Trees fruit trees (apparently they were gone before the event officially opened) I had an awesome time and got to reconnect with some friends I haven't seen in ages. Besides, any day spent in the saddle is a good one, and I spent the entire day on or next to my Xtracycle. Sweet.
I can not fathom what folks are thinking who DRIVE to Earth Day events. I am just sayin'

One of the few activities I had always ~however grudgingly~ acknowledged probably _did_ require a car was camping. Which is why I've not done it in years. But this is Portland, baby, anything worth doing can be done on a bike! Low and behold, there is a local group organizing bike camping trips! Yes, by that I mean we load our camping gear onto bikes, have a group ride to the camp site, and camp. I say "we" despite having not yet participated, but I am very much looking forward to it.

Looking back through this blog I was reminded that, in the beginning, I was tracking my bike miles, and Earth Day seems a perfect day to bring that back ~plus, it will help with my training for bike camping!

Today's Bike Miles: 15
Bike Miles this Week: 45
Car Miles this Week: 0

reducing my carbon footprint: priceless


Rumors of My Death Are Greatly Exagerated

"After changes we are more or less the same"

The Boy and I are both older, doing well, and making fewer trips to Seattle these days. We have survived much, including an extended hospital stay in which The Boy underwent injections, inspections, detections ~and major surgery.

I don't feel up to offering a complete re-cap of the past 2 years just at the moment: Come over some time, I'll pour us both some Bushmills and tell ya the whole tale.

In the mean time I just have to tell you this one piece of the story, because it is SO beautiful and SO miraculous ~and because it involves BIKES!

So, The Boy and I had been away for over 6 months, sequestered in a series of rooms, in the Labyrinth that is Seattle Children's Hospital. After all that time confined to bed, one of the countless challenges The Boy faced in his recovery was regaining the ability to walk. The tendons in the back of his knees had contracted, while his legs had grown, and he had lost an enormous amount of muscle tone and strength in his legs. He couldn't walk, let alone ride a bike. Exactly the kind of situation a teenager wants to find himself in while trying to re-integrate into society!

His complete dependency, and the amount of time he was having to spend with doctors and physical therapists, caused a terrible, and seemingly impenetrable, depression.

Meanwhile, Portland's amazing and eclectic cycling community had risen up around us in a way I can neither adequately describe, nor begin to express my gratitude for. It made the final scene of "It's A Wonderful Life" look like a study in apathy. I owe them nothing less than my son's life, as well as what remains of my sanity. Their love, support, and tireless fund raising made everything possible.

At one of the bike-themed benefits organized on his behalf, a friend of ours had brought his tandem recumbent so that The Boy could join us on the ride. Seeing my son on a bike for the first time in over a year was miraculous. More miraculous still was the effect *being* on a bike had on him: the clouds of depression that had obscured his spirit parted, allowing his courage and charisma to shine through. Despite the shortened tendons in his legs, he peddled with a conviction I had forgotten he was capable of, extending his legs further than he ever did in his Physical Therapy sessions. I left the ride certain of one thing: the kid NEEDED a recumbent.

I hate nothing more in this world than asking for help. Seriously. I will do anything, and everything, or just make do, before even considering seeking assistance of any kind from anyone under any circumstances. But, after exhausting all the other options: after our insurance declined to cover the cost of a recumbent (despite a letter from his physical therapist confirming the need for it), et cetera and so on; there remained the unalterable fact that the kid needed a recumbent, and getting it was going to require asking for help.

So, I approached "City Bikes", the worker-owned, collectively run bike shop I have been going to since before The Boy was born, and said "The Boy needs a recumbent, what can we do about that?" Their response was "We have ways of making things like this happen" and by some miracle, they did just that! The brilliant and talented Jonathan Maus of BikePortland was there to capture the moment when they presented The Boy with the specially ordered SUN recumbent.

In addition to a lovely writeup in BikePortland The Boy got a new lease on life, and an alternative to physical therapy sessions that were the bane of his existence. Now he has a way to exercise that focused on his interests and abilities, rather than his shortcomings.

Previously, when he went out in public with his wheel chair or, later, his walker, all anyone saw was the mobility device. On his bike, people saw an amazing kid on an awesome bike! Passers by would stop to ask him about his cool recumbent. Overnight he went from being a pariah to being a celebrity, and he made more progress towards mobility in his fist month on the recumbent than he had in the 3 month prior. Best of all, the smile I had been waiting to see gor over a year returned to my son's face.

That is the depth and breadth of the wonderfulness that is Portland's bikey community; and if I spent the rest of my life doing nothing but offering up my thanks, I could not begin to do justice to their generosity.