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.