YOU Are in Control of How You Age
One of my favorite cycling venues is the Pinellas Trail that runs from St. Petersburg, FL to the South to past Tarpon Springs to the North. I was enjoying a recovery (I call it “active recovery”) ride one morning on the trail when another cyclist came whizzing by. In that I have met some fascinating fellow riders over the years on that trail, I decided to chase him down and engage him in conversation. As I approached, I noticed that he was quite fit looking with shaved, very muscular legs and he was riding a high-tech carbon fiber bike with electronic shifting. He revealed that he spent his working life in the bicycle manufacturing business and was in fact riding the actual bike that Fabian Cancellara used to score one of his three wins at the famous Paris Roubaix race. What interested me mostly however was that the chap was a very successful racer both in the USA and Europe and was a 1948 cycling Olympian! He was 86 years old!
I have had the pleasure of doing a considerable amount of riding with another amazing Olympian, John Sinibaldi Sr. John was an Olympian in both the 1932 and 1936 Olympics and held the national 100 kilometer time trial record for 50 years. He was also a multiple national champion. One day I was riding with John through downtown St. Petersburg at 22 mph, and it suddenly occurred to me that I was on a vigorous ride with a 92 year old man! John died that year, but left an incredible legacy. This is a picture of John and Me at a competition – John was 91 at the time. The other person in the picture (I am in the middle) is Jean Goergen who was the cycling champion of Luxembourg in his youth and is still an active cyclist and competitor in his 70th year.
Another Olympian whom I have had the pleasure of knowing and riding and competing with is Joe Becker, a 1952 Olympian who is still kicking competitive butt in his mid 80s. This is a picture of Joe and me at the Florida State Senior Games Championships:
YOU can age like these amazing guys! But wait, there’s more!
The catalyst, however, for me writing this piece occurred yesterday at the Florida State Senior Games Championships where I won both the 5 & 10 kilometer time trial events and broke the state record in the former event for the third straight year in a row. If you read the ageist press, however, you will become convinced that as you age, you and your performance will necessarily deteriorate. One treatise I read proposes that after age 55, an athlete will lose approximately 1.6% of his aerobic capacity annually. I find that proposal quite amusing in that I am now in my 10th year of riding, and I, at the age of 73, am faster now than I have ever been! Interestingly, in 2007 in the same event on the exact same course, I broke that same 5K state record. I was competing in the 65-69 age group, and my record time was 5 seconds slower than my record yesterday. Gee, I guess I shouldn’t be able to do that according to the medical/physiological (ageist) press! As an aside, I came to cycling rather late in life at the age of 64. I commenced competing at the age of 65, broke my neck (C1 – the deadliest of all cervical fractures) in a bicycle race when an official stepped in front of my speeding bike. I spent 5 months in a cast and 9 months healing. I returned to competition in 2006 at the same event in which I competed yesterday, and since returning to competition, I have won 30 state and one national cycling title and broke 14 cycling records including the national 5 kilometer time trial record.
Speaking of yesterday, I had a conversation with one of the competitors by the name of Dr. John Taylor. I seem to run into John whether I am competing locally or out of state. He shows up everywhere to compete in cycling, triathlons and swimming. Oh, I almost forgot – John is 92. Here is a picture of John and me sporting our gold medals at the Georgia Golden Olympics last September!
Is there a message here? Right – you guessed it; there is a big message here. You are in control of how you age. You are in control of the kind of lifestyle you will lead as you grow older. At this point to save me a bit of preaching, please read a blog that I wrote the day of my 72nd birthday – it can be found here:
I remember receiving a recent request to take part in a survey by active.com. I was told that it would take about 15 minutes of my time. When I got to question number two, which was, “What is your age,” my answer of 73 immediately brought up a screen thanking me for my participation. Ageism in action. I was actually the guy they wanted to survey. I am active, I am a consumer, I have the expendable income to buy the products of their advertisers, but how can that be? I’m an elderly 73! Did I mention that at the 2011 Senior Olympics with 400 competitors competing in five-year age groups commencing at age 50, that I turned the top time of the day for all athletes at the age of 71? They just don’t get it, and don’t let yourself be lured into believing the inaccurate press in regards to the aging process. “Ask your doctor if you are healthy enough for sex.” Yeah, right – where’s the telephone?
Get (or stay) busy, exercise regularly, take up new ventures and adventures, find new projects or hobbies, take a course, engage in a competitive sport, etc. I took up skydiving at the age of 55 – I now have 657 jumps and I am licensed as a master skydiver. As mentioned above I took up cycling at the age of 64, I started playing the drums at the age of 70 and took up astronomy at the age of 71. I took up the hobby of photography about 5 months ago – you can see samples of my work by clicking on the “Photography” button on the home page of my blog. As the Nike slogan says, “Just Do It.” My life in retirement is so enjoyable and so fruitful, that if I were to be offered $1 million dollars a year to go back to work, I would honestly decline. If you want to feel the same way when you get to your 70s, get busy. It is never to late to start – even if you are 90. I mentioned John Sinibaldi above. He fought and won a battle with colon cancer many years prior to his death. Expect obstacles to be in your path, but just treat them as something to defeat. Keeping your mind and body active (start today if you do not) will pay incredible dividends as you age. In summary, keep your body and mind active and treat obstacles as challenges to be overcome.
One of my stated missions when I got began competing as a cyclist was that I intended to redefine the aging process. Since turning 70, I have turned the top time of the day in high level time trial competition in one national, three state and one regional competition beating out all of the 50 & 60 year old kids. Age CAN be just a number, but you need to work to make it so!
A great reference source for more information successful aging is the blog of ex super model Oleda Baker. It can be found at:
Here is a photo of 79-year-old Oleda – she has had no cosmetic surgery, and she knows the secrets to aging well – she will reveal them to you!
Please consider checking out some of my past blogs on the Growing Bolder website by clicking on the “Sandy’s Blog Archive” button on the home page of this web page.