Cycling fitness motivation: Younger Next Year.
You want to drop weight, ride faster, climb like Froome and look younger doing it? Then read on.
Six months ago, my wife said I looked skinnier, in fact, she said my shoulders appeared narrower. At first, I took that as a compliment — I’d been riding more and generally eating the kind of super healthy meals that only a nutritionist wife could prepare. I was riding more and except for a problematic addiction to wine and beer, I thought my fitness was pretty good for a 56 year old.
Then I realized I wasn’t skinnier — I was wasting away. I wasn’t dropping weight, I was shedding muscle mass. That was a scary thought because at 6’4″ with NBA-length arms and legs, I didn’t have a lot of muscle mass to give up. I got a little frightened as I realized maybe for the first time in my life that I was physically in trouble — closer to 60 than 50 and and on a physical decline I couldn’t stop without immediate, serious behavior change.
My wife handed me a book entitled Young Next Year. My wife hands me a lot of books that I ignore — stuff on Buddhism, spirituality, having empathy for others, active listening, parenting teenage boys without going insane — but this time around I had a pressing problem.
I read the book. It’s fantastic; the best book on health and fitness and diet and the entire world of science and biology and genetics and neurology that keep the million miracles in your body all working together in harmony.
I’m here to tell you that Younger Next Year is the most motivating, inspirational and compelling book I’ve ever had the good fortune to read. It’s written by two guys, one a doctor and one a geezer. They essentially trade off chapters; the doctor giving you the latest insights into your body — the science, the studies, the implications and possibilities. The geezer is in his 70’s and provides a real person guinea pig with a great sense of humor who gives you his personal experience on the path to greater health.
The first and perhaps biggest thing they do is to explode a health myth that most of us buy into on some level: the inevitability of falling apart . They make a powerful distinction between unavoidable aging and largely avoidable physical declines associated with everything from disease to sore joints. In their view, there’s no reason why you can’t be physically active — biking, skiing, playing porn star, well into your 80’s.
I don’t want to detail the entire book but each chapter tackles a different part of the equation and that combination of hard-core science and you-can-do-this motivation is hard to beat. They insist on a few things and one is serious exercise 6 days a week and in particular, weight training. (Remember, I was wasting away and saying adios to muscle mass.)
So I got back into the gym — a place I hadn’t been in 10 years — and started lifting weights three days a week. There’s been some up and down — I irritated my knees on the leg press, tweaked my lower back doing too many core ab routines and a lingering shoulder injury forces me to avoid any overhead lifting — but I saw significant improvements in three months.
My strength is building back — slow but steady — and that has translated on the bike and up the mountain. At 56, I have a new best time on my benchmark climb and the pedals feel lighter, like I have more spin in my legs. I’ve lost the love handles on the side and my chest and shoulders are a tad more defined — not muscled but there’s a rumor I may even take off my t-shirt this Summer.
There’s no question in my mind that from here on out — into the 80’s — that I will be in the gym three days a week. Just the core exercises have improved my power on the bike. My best time on the 3.2 K climb was just over 17:30 . Now, it’s 16:40 and that was using a slightly heavier carbon wheel-set, not my usual Mavic Ksyriums.
I’ve gone from about 205 pounds to 193. That will always jack up the power to weight ratio. Now some of that was the loss of muscle mass but I’m gaining a measure of that back. The leg press and squats have me excited about ski season and what amazing Strava times I might post this Summer. I plan on being a bad-ass 57 year old on the bike.
So I highly recommend Younger Next Year. It’s a New York Times bestseller, which generally doesn’t mean much to me but in this case, is more proof that word-of-mouth on this book is huge. Download a sample chapter for a look-see. Then buy the whole thing and get cracking.
It’s an extremely enjoyable read– factual, funny and empowering — and when I say that, know that I hate self-help books and have bought only one in my entire life.
You will ride faster in 2014. And you will become the top ranked 80 year old on Strava someday.