Fit to Ride

Well, here we are again, coming up fast on summer, and lots of riding opportunities.

Presumably, the bikes are tuned up and checked out, ready to ride, as are the riders.

But among the riding population, there are a number of people over sixty. And out of that demographic, you are going to find a few, like me, who were beginning to wonder how much longer they’ll be able to handle a big bike. Also a few, like me, have been couch potatoes for a few years.

It came to me while I was shoving my bike up a slight (very slight) incline and struggling. It’s a 400 lb. bike and I am a 113 lb. female hominid. The bike has me outnumbered.

A decade ago, my friend was injured in a land-sailing accident, and had to work to recover from his torn shoulder. I signed up and went with him.  When he recovered, we both quit going.  It wasn’t as much fun by myself.  I got pretty fit after six months of working out every other day. Then I rested on my laurels, aka easy chair.

I can’t ride a bike that I can’t road-handle, and neither should you. So, if you fall within the following parameters, read on:

You’re closing in on 60+ and fairly sedentary.

You’re not morbidly obese.

You’re in good enough health that sex and exercise are not off your menu.

You want to keep riding as long as you can.

 

Here are a couple of Fun Facts you should know before signing up at a gym.

  1. Depriving your body of food is one way people think they’re ‘dieting.’ Fun Fact #1: a deprived body will start putting on fat. Lean times (such as fasting or skipping meals) triggers that survival mechanism. I know, it’s counter-intuitive, but it’s true. You can’t argue with biology. Don’t gorge, but don’t skimp on meals.
  1. Light weights and many repetitions will burn fat. Heavy weights will build muscle bulk.

You need to decide what you want out of your workout, but if you’re like me, you’ll be sensible and not roar in to break records. You’ll probably hurt yourself that way.

Many gyms have a set of machines for older folks, a circuit that works your main muscle groups.

This routine will improve your fitness; within a month you will see progress in your new physique.

The routine I follow is working quite nicely. I’ve lost much of the fat around my middle, and a new set of ‘six pack abs’ is beginning to appear.

I start off with 15 minutes of a brisk walk on the treadmill to warm up. Warming up is very important, as you can really hurt yourself by trying to start cold. Also, it’s boring, which is why I limit it to 15 minutes of plodding to nowhere. I bring an MP3 player loaded with my favorite music, to mitigate boredom. The Ramones have a beat, and you can work out to it.

Following that, I do the machines favored by the older folk. The other weight room is full of muscle guys sweating on the big machines.  You can get there too, but I can’t emphasize it enough; TAKE YOUR TIME!

The geezer machine circuit involves leg and arm curls, leg and arm lifts, a diabolical machine that exercises your thigh muscles, a weighted leg dip machine, a sit-up station, push ups, pull downs, and crunches. (By this point I’m usually slightly nauseous and have to stop and rest. Always rest if you feel weird.)

Then it’s off to the other room for the lower back station, the leg lift station, the calf muscle station.

On all the machines, I use a lighter weight and 30 reps, alternated with heavier weights and 20 reps.

One day burns fat. The next day builds muscle.

The whole workout takes roughly an hour, from treadmill to horrible side situps at the end.

(Note, if I am ever stranded on a desert island and forced into cannibalism due to circumstance, I would take the choice tender bits first. Triceps, inner thigh, short ribs. These muscles are seldom used by most people, and are soft and tender.)

Well, you have to think about something while working out…I think about things like this.

Since the YMCA here has two swimming pools, I then change, shower, and hit the indoor pool, which is kept above 80 degrees for the elderly folks who come for pool exercise classes. I just paddle up and down on a noodle, using body surfing flippers. You’re still burning calories while letting your muscles recover. It’s a pleasant way to end the workout. I spend around 15 minutes there, and 10 in the jacuzzi. Then it’s time to stagger back in for a shower before leaving. The whole thing takes about an hour and a half. That’s not a huge bite out of your day. And it’s an investment in your future.

(Fun Fact: if you jump in a hot jacuzzi immediately after working out, you partially obviate your exercise session. That’s why I relax in the swimming pool first.)

In one month, I saw results. My jelly belly roll was shrinking, and strange lumps were beginning to appear. I am told they are muscles.

(Fun Fact: don’t expect to lose weight. Muscle bulk weighs more than fat. As you replace that fat with muscle, you may not see a weight loss. That’s why.)

People who work out regularly know about plateaus, a point at which you don’t seem to be making progress. Last week, I just felt dragged out, so I took 3 days off.

As you age, your metabolism changes. It takes longer to recover from exercise or a hangover. Take a day off if you need to, there’s no guilt in resting. You’re old, remember? These plateaus are one of those “this too, shall pass” things, just keep it in mind when you’re discouraged, and soldier on.

And here is the Biggest Secret of all when it comes to exercise. If I could sell it on TV, I would.

The number one secret to working out: DON’T THINK ABOUT IT.

Get your stuff together, get on your bike, and just go. If you over think it, you’ll talk yourself out of a workout. Look, nobody likes working out except weirdos. It’s boring and a PITA. Just put your brain on hold, get there, do that thing, and before you know it, you’re done for the day.

Don’t think about it. Just DO it! Repeat several times a week, and you, too, will still be comfortably fit!

Photo credit: marnalbano via VisualHunt.com

Photo credit: marnalbano via VisualHunt.com

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