You Are Never Too Old

I’ve heard a lot of excuses when I ask people why they don’t try cycling for exercise but the big excuse is age. People think they’re too old to bike and that’s just sad. I see people biking who are much older than me (I’m 63) and they swear by it. Once more, they’re healthier than their non-biking counterparts still getting aerobic exercise well into their 80’s and keeping their cores strong.

That handsome fellow in the featured image next to me is Dave, he’s 83 and still going strong. We’ve been biking together occasionally for the last 2 years after meeting on the trail. After seeing me this year me he told me he was impressed with how I look and how my biking has improved since last year. Music to my ears I worked hard for it.

I have a good friend in Oakland, CA whose approaching 70 and he’s been riding for decades. He belongs to the Yellow Jackets who host rides and more. If you go to the website you’ll see photos of him. He keeps up with the younger riders and is an impressive hill climber.

These are but a few people enjoying the benefits of cycling into old age. Biking has kept us all looking good, moving well and thinking fast. Depending on your comfort level and skill set there is a bike out there that will fit you, personality and all. So what’s stopping you?

Your health is everything!

Most older Americans (over 55) fear:

  • dementia
  • diabetes
  • heart problems
  • hormones
  • stroke/blood clots
  • high blood pressure
  • bad joints/wear and tear
  • falls/bad balance
  • loss of bone density/breaking bones
  • being overweight

If you haven’t figured it out already most of these (if not genetic) are caused by being overweight and spending hours sitting. New studies have shown that sitting for hours on end is as bad as smoking cigarettes and even modest exercise may not be good enough to combat it. And that’s not all!

As a fellow American, I think we should be ashamed because we are fat when compared to other countries. Roughly two-thirds of adults, nearly 30% of children are overweight or obese.  The numbers continue to rise despite interests in eating better, diet and exercise fads.

Not everyone who has these serious health problems is overweight but the majority are. Even a few extra pounds tipping the scale can be the culprit that’s making you sick. Being heavy can affect many things you wouldn’t think about:

  • the way you move
  • your mood/depression
  • your skin and hair
  • your back and joints
  • quality of sleep
  • energy level
  • pain
  • self-worth

ME 2015

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In 2015 at 198 pounds and terribly depressed I finally got fed up with myself starting a diet of 1,200 calories a day. I needed both knees replaced and they always hurt. I was having some problems with vertigo, I walked with a cane and couldn’t walk very far. I had a lot of falls.

When I look at this photo it’s still a little painful, I was 30 pounds overweight and covered in fat. When I went to the doctor my heart would be racing and I had to have EKGs. Heart problems were around the corner and my father had adult-onset diabetes.

I needed to lose around 30 more pounds and I had some hard places to lose it in, like my stomach and thighs. I had back fat that looked terrible in a bra and I was desperate to get rid of it. That’s when I dragged out my old Schwinn and decided to ride it every other day. It was the hardest thing I ever did-not riding the bike-but making myself do it.

ME 2017

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NOW-Almost 2 years after “getting serious” I’m proud of myself. My hard work paid off and the changes are remarkable. My doctor just told me I don’t necessarily need knee replacement now because it might be a tendon problem (being treated.) I am strong and so is my heart. The only medicine I take is for my thyroid and sometimes a pain pill. My pain and mood have been much better.

I realized that if I could do this by myself that anyone could. I did it by eating good food, working on getting a better nights sleep and riding my bike regularly. I followed my diet and rode my bike every other day increasing my miles per ride. Soon I could ride up hills, go further and with my experience came confidence. It felt great.

You are never too old to ride a bicycle.

During my rides, I meet and see lots of older people on bicycles. Some of them look comfortable but I still see beginners and reflect back on my first months of riding after years of neglect. I may not know them but feel proud of them for being brave and tough enough to get out there and do it.

Always check with your doctor first, but riding a bike is the best way to get in shape especially for older people. It’s the easiest aerobic exercise you can do (sitting on a saddle and moving your legs up and down) and there’s no need to target any body part because it works on your core taking fat off just about everywhere. It’s one of the top calorie burning exercises, you’re playing outside and if done regularly you won’t have to diet again.

A word to all of you not lucky enough to be able to ride year round or afraid to ride a traditional bicycle outside there are spin classes (riding a stationary bicycle) offered everywhere. There are many kinds of classes to choose from like Soul Cycle and you can find stationary bikes at the gym. Most have recumbent and regular style bikes.

Take your time and start slow.

Remember, I have very bad knees and all it did was make them much better. I can walk 4 miles easy and no more cane or falls. I had problems with my back and once I learned to relax in the saddle that went away too. My heart is strong and my doctors are patting me on the back. I have a new body and attitude.

Don’t be afraid of falling your confidence level will grow and being nervous won’t help. Take your time and start slow, it took you time to get out of shape and it will take time to get back in shape. You will need to work on your balance, be patient with yourself.

Rest on your days off that’s what they’re for. Eat healthy foods and get 7 1/2 to 8 hours of sleep a night. The calorie burn and weight-loss start immediately!

Riding outside is much healthier than spinning getting sunshine is an important source of vitamin D for our bodies and balancing a bicycle while riding is a core strengthening exercise. Avoiding bumps and maneuvering a bike around is an important core exercise that includes strengthening the arms. You have to steer a bicycle that helps the arms and overall our whole bodies get into the act.

My rides differ from day to day and I will ride outside even in the rain but if it got too cold for me I’d consider spinning. It’s the next best thing. If you wanted to try spinning before biking outside I’d advise you to get a bike and ride outside first anyway. I know you’ll fall in love especially after seeing the effects it has on you after 6 months. I’ve found it to be a fountain of youth and so amazing which is why I do this website. I want others to feel this great.

If I could I’d get everyone on a bicycle. You don’t have to hunch over the handlebars or get an expensive bike either. Make sure and get the right bicycle for you and it will be the last weight-loss equipment you’ll ever buy. No matter what age you are. You are never too old just ask us!

Thinner, taller, faster, stronger!

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Avoiding Painful Rides

Whether you are a beginner or just doing something wrong biking can be a real pain. It’s no fun to find yourself 30 minutes into your ride wishing it was over with already. Hands falling asleep, arms hurting, backaches and backside aches are common complaints that make us want to give up but with practice, we can avoid some of that pain.

What hurts you beforehand?

Before taking up any sport it’s good to be aware of your weaknesses. Prior injuries or disabilities will haunt you if you don’t plan ahead and protect yourself. It’s a good idea to have a talk with your doctor about biking and whether it’s something you can do first. Your doctor will tell you the best way to protect yourself so you don’t make any problem areas worse.

A pain in the butt.

Not many people come away from a bike seat saying it feels great. Most bikes come with the smallest size seat you can get similar to what comes on a 10-speed bike. There are 3 sizes of seats and unless you want to buy a new seat you can learn to use the one that comes on your bike.

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My bike has a medium size seat which is standard on a touring bike but even my seat was painful at first. Instead of buying a new seat, a cheaper alternative is a seat cover. They cost about $20 and come with memory foam or gel to give you a more comfortable ride. Easy to install and remove you can take your seat cover with you if you change bikes.

When riding your bike you’re not always pedaling. When coasting, lift your rear off of the seat a little resting it. You can always stand while coasting stretching out your body and giving your rear a rest. Added up these small breaks can really help.

Benches give us a great place to take a break but rather than sitting again stretch in place or take a small walk.

If all else fails a new seat may be in order but make sure you get one with springs underneath they make all the difference in smoothing out your ride.

My aching back.

Back pain is always a sign that you are straining rather than letting your legs and core do the work. When riding a bike you don’t want to “put your back into it” you will be in extreme pain. Before your legs are strong enough to take the slack it’s easy to pull or tense your back going up that hill rather than relaxing in the seat and using your legs.

Concentrate on letting the bike carry you. Sit high in the saddle and don’t hunch forward or round your back. Don’t lean heavily on your hands keep a light grip and relax.

When you are tired this is the time you should be the most careful with your back. Take a break, stretch your back and remember to pull with your thighs and core when you pedal relaxing your back. Develop a good riding style watching the angle of your back and stay comfortable.

Make sure the balls of your feet are on your pedals pushing forward. Be patient, in time you will build the core and leg muscles it takes to bike with less effort without back strain or pain. The key words are bike fit, core muscle stability and riding style—all of these likely contribute to back pain.

 

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Use the correct bike posture for your type of bike.

My hands are falling asleep and my arms hurt.

If you are grasping the handgrips too tightly you will be on pins and needles. Leaning heavily on your handlebars will cause your arms and shoulders to hurt moving into your back. It’s good to have some options so you don’t have to keep your hands in one position during your ride. Changing hand positions is a big help.

If it’s possible, ride with one hand resting the other. I can do this with my touring bike because the handlebars are upright. Put the weight on your seat not your arms or hands. Keep a light but firm grip on your handgrips.

Watch your wrist and arm position with elbows bent depending on your handlebars. It’s possible to get padded riding gloves and handlebars that offer more than one hand position if you can’t get used to your setup.

My neck is killing me.

Whether in a bike lane or on a path when cycling you must watch for traffic. On bike paths, you ride on the right-hand side and get passed on the left, always. You need to be aware of what’s around you. It can give you a sore neck. If you are tense this can get worse.

Relaxation goes a long way in bike riding. I look at it like Yoga on a bike. If you keep the parts of your body relaxed you will have less pain. It takes concentration and if necessary, stretching beforehand. Do some neck circles before riding…simply sit and gently move your head in full slow circles one way, and then the other.

Keep your head moving when you ride. You’ll want to take in the view and watch for other bikers, people walking, objects in the path and cracks in the path that can capture your tires. Keep your eyes and ears open.

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The position that you ride in makes all of the difference. Get acquainted with your type of bicycle and select the right bike fit for you. Adjust your seat and handlebars as suggested for your bike. When done right it will serve you well and keep you comfortable while you ride.

Pick the right bike for you and where you are going to ride. 

There are many kinds of bikes to choose from when you buy your bike do some research and get what you need. If you are going to bike on pavement but take the occasional dirt or gravel path a touring bike is your best bet. A 10-speed type of bike is good for paved bike trails.

If you don’t mind a little extra weight on your bike you may rethink having fenders on your bike when there’s a puddle or you drive over hot asphalt. I’m not talking about high-performance biking on Bike With Bekkie I’m talking about biking for good health and enjoyment.

Many people ride mountain bikes on the Bay Trail but they are made for mostly dirt paths and don’t offer the best ride on pavement. They make the mistake of buying mountain bikes for everyday riding but they are uncomfortable for long rides and the gearing is different. The right bike makes all the difference.

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If you still have pain after doing all you can with your bike it might be time for a new bike. I feel biking is for almost everyone and see people of all ages biking when I am out. The common denominator is the smile I see on everyone’s faces.

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Here I am taking a break to stretch. I do this at least 2 times while I’m on a ride. I used to have terrible back pain, a nerve would get pinched and half of my back would go numb. One day it hit me that I was putting my back into it not my upper thighs and on hills, I’d tense up my back muscles. When biking into the wind I’d yank my back around instead of gearing down and relaxing. It is so easy to ride the wrong way if you don’t think about what you’re doing. Now my back never hurts and the pinched nerve has not come back.

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Keep these tips in mind and ride pain-free.

Got any questions or comments leave them behind and I will give you the best advice I can muster. It’s summer in the US and prime riding time.

The more you ride the better you feel!