Monday, February 3, 2020

If you're cycling over age 30, then please read this blog

Of all of my blog posts, this one is the most important...

Chances are, if  you're reading this blog, or any blogs at all these days, you are well over the age of 30. That's okay, you've come to the right place. This blog will address topics related directly to our health and safety as pre-middle aged men and women on our post young adulthood. To put it frankly, there are things that are simply not discussed enough among our cycling demographic. While the internet is full of "Look at me!" video vlogs, dietary advice, action camera footage and bike bling, barely any content is practical to cyclists our age. Brand and lifestyle influencers, as well as industry marketers have given us a false illusion that our fountain of youth will last forever and that it's okay to still be young, wild and reckless. After all of the injuries I had in 2019, some of which I am still reeling from, I'm here to set the record straight as to what exactly is it like to be a cyclist in your 30's.

To start with, why is our age so important? Because we are in an age where many in life have found a good footing financially and have acquired some disposable income for a hobby of our choice. Long gone are the days in our twenties when we would survive on ramen noodles, spaghetti with tuna, mac and cheese and little Vienna sausages ( I still eat that stuff sometimes, these days by choice). With that newly acquired disposable income, some choose a hobby that is both fun and good for our well-being. Others choose a hobby to keep them in a state of feeling young. Some of us choose cycling, a hobby that when done with moderation and modesty can actually prolong our youthful state as well as physical fitness levels. The problem is that when we roll into our 30's from our 20's some of us don't feel the clock change. Even if only of a little while, it seems that we entered our 30's and nothing actually happened. Our fitness levels didn't decline, our energy was the same and we were still going big and sending it on jumps on our mountain bikes. We naively go about taking risk after risk until the day our bike goes sideways on the trail or we decide to go George of the Jungle on a tree. We fall, something breaks, gets sprained or torn and we immediately realize that we are no longer in our 20's anymore. We learn new words like "Orthopedist" and get acquainted really well with our physical therapists. After 4 or 5 injuries  of the same nature our abilities start to decline. Our time on the bike is suddenly regulated on how long we can ride without pain. Daily movements that we used to not give a second thought to are now debated endlessly in our minds. Bending over to pick something up now becomes a chore for our knees. The ground seems a lot higher and our legs don't want to lower us there anymore. Injuries that used to take days to heal are now taking months. Our tendons bulge from our joints as they become scarred and thickened. This is the part of the story nobody seems to be parading on social media. This is what being a cyclist in your 30's is really like. 

I'm currently in this dark place as we speak. Despite my optimism that things will get better or that I will at least reach a new "normal", uncertainty about my ability to recover hides underneath the surface. I find myself deliberately holding back my efforts to ride at the pace I usually enjoy as to not injure myself further and stop the healing process. Since my injuries by body has generously added over 10 pounds on my bathroom scale. I start weighing the cost/benefit relationship that I have with cycling, something I have never done before. I picture myself pursuing other hobbies and accepting a newer, "fatter" me as hypothetical scenario that is slowly becoming reality. I start to think about how cycling helps me adapt and adjust to other changes in life and how stressful life would be without it. I go back in my mind and ask what I would have done different to avoid being in the spot that I'm currently in.  I repent, over and over for being so stupid and not wearing knee pads on the mountain bike trail and not realizing that my body was no longer in it's 20's, even though my mind was. 

I put an old, 90's mountain bike with slick tires on my trainer, because the road bike is just too uncomfortable. 10 to 20 minutes in, I stop as soon as I break a sweat. Gone it seems are the times I could ride the trainer for an hour straight. Even though my sessions are really short, I tell myself that I got my heart rate up and I achieved something. The warm up then turns into a stretching session, a process which I have been repeating for the past several months. 

I go on short rides with my son. Then I go on short rides by myself. I try to increase the distance little by little. Right now I can manage 30 miles at about 16-17mph average speed. Even then, I am at my limit and need to promptly ice my knees afterwords. After 5 months from my last injury, I'm left wondering if I will ever be the same again.

If you are a cyclist or mountain biker in your 30's, please be aware of the following. Jumps, transitions, doubles and table tops are words that shouldn't be a part of your vocabulary. If you don't know what a double is, too bad, you're too old to do it anyway. Instead, familiarize yourself with the words "knee pads", "elbow pads" and "insurance deductible". Trust me, you'll go a lot farther knowing those words instead.