Community vs Competition, Round 2

If you know exactly what motivates you most days, scroll to the bottom of this article to cast your vote. If you would like to be included in the raffle for Michael Morrison’s original art work, be sure to include your name & email in the comments. If you require more thoughtful reflection, see below.

The battle of two great motivators continues below. In this corner, is our need to be a part of a larger community, supporting and being supported by a group of people who share our love for any particular sport / activity. In the other corner is our primal need to pit our abilities against a group of competitors. Both motivators can alter your daily behavior, change your habits and create a lifelong love of being active. But for you – the Athletic Aging population – which is the primary motivator? Are you more likely to get out of bed on a cold and dreary morning because you are committed to your community? Or because you are committed to an event on the calendar and you had better show up prepared.

Round 2 considers if it might be possible for both to co-exist.

Can you combine both Community & Competition in the same group?

Definitely, says the Head Domestique of Webb Bridge Cycling in north metro Atlanta

Webb Bride Cycling was originally founded by racers and that heritage will be maintained.  Every Saturday morning, through all four seasons, Webb Bridge remains a home for those who pin on their race numbers each season, but also for cyclists of varying ages and various levels of fitness who are ready, willing, and able to start improving their cycling skills.

The rides rotate through three main routes, each route a minimum of 60 miles, and varying elevation gain.  Everyone knows what to expect each week.  On average, you can expect at least 100 cyclists, broken out into three main groups:

Group 1 –  These are the racers, a fast group with strong personalities and community is not the priority.  There is always a strong sense of competition – every man and woman for themselves.   This is a drop ride.  They do not stop for mechanicals.  If you cannot keep up, you will be picked up in a few minutes by Group 2.

Group 2 –   Not a true race group, but they will still push a hard pace.   This group is more community oriented and will usually wait if part of the group gets stuck at a red light, and will also provide reasonable support for mechanicals.

Group 3 – Community is a major focus of Group 3.  Still a fast ride, but they try to conduct a true group ride and keep everyone together.  Group 3 is the safety net if you are dropped by either of the first two groups.   Mechanicals are enthusiastically supported.

Open invitation:  If you find yourself in north metro Atlanta on any given weekend, do yourself a favor and join these amazing cyclists for an early Saturday morning ride.  You will be welcomed, and if you desire – you will be challenged.

Introducing Tim “Bo” Reese of Webb Bridge Cycling

Tim Reese is a an I.T. executive with a large, global systems integration firm who is thrillingly married to his high school sweetheart and lives on a small farm just north of metro Atlanta.   Weekdays, Tim provides a calming voice in the chaotic world of large global IT projects.   On weekends, Tim Reese lends that soothing leadership quality to his alter-ego, “Bo” Reese – chief domestique of Webb Bridge Cycling in Alpharetta, GA.

Tim Reese is a mentor to people in the professional area.   Bo Reese is a mentor to 100+ spandex clad cyclist every Saturday morning.   Before relocating to Colorado, I was one of those mentorees.  Bo and Van Purser (a beloved co-founder of Webb Bridge Cycling who lost his battle with ALS in 2019) were extremely patient and never tired of answering my unending questions about cycling and how to ride in a group setting. 

My Q&A with Bo Reese

From the hyper competitive racers of group 1 to the community minded group 3, you have an incredible mix of personalities and expectations.   Does each group represent its own community?     -There is one overall Webb Bridge Community, and no matter which group you ride with, we engage in fellowship.  The difference is what each group needs or expects from that week’s ride.

Each week, you get a front row seat to a large group of cyclists seeking community and another group seeking competition.  How would you describe the primary differences in those personalities?    –The prominent trait of Group 1 is single mindedness.   They are the tip of the Webb Bridge spear.  Mentally, they are different animals.  Around 80% of Group 1 are active racers – Cat 4 up to Cat 2, and for many of them, the Group 1 ride works as a developmental team:  they show up for race fitness and learning race tactics. 

The Group 2 and Group 3 cyclists are also extremely fit, and while the competition streak remains, they tend to be more community focused.  Less “me”, and more “we”. 

What does a more community focused ride look like?   –More instruction and more encouragement.  No matter the speed, we roll together, we climb together, we descend together.  For each member of the group, it’s much safer when we all roll as one cohesive unit.   And except for Group 1, the groups will ideally wait for anyone with a mechanical issue or for anyone caught at a redlight.

So, no matter who shows up, they know what to expect out of each group ride.  You are managing the expectations of each group.     -Yes.  In that way, the Webb Bridge rides are like a McDonalds’ burger – you’re going to get that same product each week.  I was taught long ago that you never invite your most treasured guest for an Italian dinner, and then serve sushi.   Each of our groups will ride according to what is advertised. 

Can you elaborate how the Group 1 ride helps racers to develop?   – We will have high school and college athletes who want to join the Group 1 ride right away.  They have the power, but not necessarily great handling skills in a group setting.   We encourage those Group 1 hopefuls to be on-boarded in Group 3, to learn the dynamics and rules of riding in a group before joining the Group 1 rides. Those skills are needed at every level, but the higher the speed of the group, the higher the risks for you and for the group if you are not familiar with ascending, descending together, and rotating through a paceline.

Other than speed – it seems the biggest difference between those who show up primarily for Competition versus those who ride for Community, is the mindset?    -Yes.  Each group is getting what they need from the ride, so mental health may not be that different between the groups.  Physically, the racers tend to be younger and leaner, but overall health is obvious across all groups.  

On the ‘community to competition’ spectrum – which group has more attrition?    -All three groups have a consistent core that show up each week.  Group 1’s attendance is only influenced by key race events taking place on a Saturday, which might wipe out 80% of the group.  Otherwise, they’re a very hardy group.  Group 3 is the welcome mat for Webb Bridge, so out-of-town visitors as well as riders aspiring to the ranks of Webb Bridge, can significantly affect attendance in any given week.  So, it is considered most transient.

After years of cycling / racing, what are your personal goals for these rides?     -I still use my power meter and my HR strap, still tracking my rides and performance trends, but I’m not seeking to compare myself to others – just watching my own health and performance.  I am much more rewarded by the sense of fellowship.   At Webb Bridge, we try to create and nurture an “all for 1 mentality”.   This is my sense of fulfillment.

“If I had to choose for me, it’s community.  I’ve met so many great friends through cycling.  But I like being friends with fast cyclists which means I have to train competitively enough to be in that community”.

Aaron Cargas of Longmont Velo Cycling

What would your coach say?

Introducing Jim Hallberg of D3 Multisport Coaching

Jim is a young and spritely 45-year-old multisport coach.  Not old enough to be the subject of an AgeIsNoBarrier interview, but he does coach several athletes in their 50’s and 60’s, including Mark Kohl who is featured in this article.  

Over 25 years of competing and coaching, Jim has built an impressive resume:
USA Cycling level II 
USA Triathlon level II
5x USAT AG  National Champion

I wanted to get a coach’s perspective on the physical and mental value of competition for the Athletically Aging demographic.   Jim coaches several master athletes in their 50’s and 60’s who continue to pin on a race number, and are now faster than their previous selves. 

My Q&A with Jim Hallberg:

Jim, you work specifically with a group of athletes who thrive on competition and dream of podium finishes.  In your experience, what is the value of pinning on a race number and comparing your fitness and skills to hundreds of other athletes?     -Physically, there’s a value of performing high intensity efforts that have been shown to provide that extra level of strength and fitness that is very beneficial as you age.  But so much of competition is mental.  It’s often the thrill and excitement of the chase.  The rush of adrenaline of being pushed to your limits by your fellow competitors.  Even that feeling of post-race exhaustion can be a high.

Do most of your athletes have a similar personality or x factor that drives them to compete?    –Most of my clients are type A, high performing individuals.  Many high performers in business tend to be high performers in their sport, testing themselves against others is just their natural bent. 

The need to excel in a sport can be a little intrinsic, a bit ego driven, and if we don’t have anyone to push ourselves against, it can be less rewarding for all of this hard work.  I would say that none of my athletes are really egotistical, but they are very motivated.

At any age, overtraining is a risk.  More so with this age group?     -Definitely.  Some athletes can live in that space too often and too long.  Risking injury, hitting plateau’s, experiencing physical and psychological burnout.

Why do they have to ride that hard all of the time?     -If they’re riding at high intensity too frequently, they are probably not working with a coach.  A good coach knows their athletes cannot train at race pace all the time and will factor in different levels of intensity.  If they’re uncoached, athletes will often burn every match for the instant gratification of feeling that rush just for this day, this event.

Your athletes are training for individual glory.  Does community play a role?    -Not on race day.  And maybe not on days when my athletes are following a specific plan.  But the training dynamic of a competitive group who pushes each other appropriately cannot be overvalued.

Biggest coaching difference between the 40-yr-old and the 60-year-old athlete? -Mindset.  Usually, the 60-year-old just knows themselves better.   That wisdom could be just from having more experience, knowing how many matches they have to burn.    And 60-year-olds are typically better about following my programs exactly as written.

Does age soften the desire to be competitive?    -Not at all.  Once you have that competitive mindset,  you almost always have that drive.   Most of my athletes did not compete professionally, so today, they are having a blast and loving the adrenaline.  This is not their job, this is their outlet.  Competitive, but fun.   They won’t continue training this hard if it’s not enjoyable.

As a racer who coaches racers, could you or your athletes just enjoy a sight-seeing multi-day cycling tour, maybe through California wine country?     -Sure, I could enjoy those tours…as long as I get to the campground first”.

For anyone who rides primarily for community and fitness – give me a sales pitch for moving beyond a social ride.  Convince me to sign up for an event.     -If you’re cycling regularly, you may feel you are as fit as you want to be, and that’s fine.   But if you want to know just how capable you are, how fit you can be – pick a race, sign up, and properly prepare for that event.  Race training can make you more efficient, stronger and faster.  It will reward you with the rush of adrenaline and the amazing feeling of being fast under your own power.  And there is nothing better than a race to see your progress for all of this hard work.   

And if you are already in your 50’s, 60’s – race training will certainly help your body get stronger and more capable for your 70’s and beyond.   If undecided, the next time you join a group ride, maybe just once a week – ride with the next group up.  Experience the dopamine.  See how it feels.  And if you need a coach…

Competitiveness is natural.  It can be healthy, and it’s encouraged.  What you don’t want to see in any group is envy.  Envy is a very undesirable trait.  If any individual is trying to pull you down or trying to elevate themselves, this can create dangerous dynamics in a group”.

Tim “Bo” Reese of Webb Bridge Cycling

Time to vote!

If you have read this far, then you have compared two viewpoints in support of Community and two viewpoints in support of Competition. I have my own thoughts and opinions about the balance of these two great motivators, but I am more interested in hearing from you.  Later, after we have compiled the votes, I will share more of what I have learned through these conversations.   What I do know:  sports are participatory, and this article is about sports, so your participation is required.  Or at least requested.  What do you think?  What moves the needle for you personally?  What is more likely to get you outside and consistently active?  

I have included a simple poll below and only giving you three options. If you would like to offer a more nuanced explanation or additional comments, please include those comments below, in the comment section for this post. And be sure to leave your name for the Michael Morrison NT raffle. I would love to hear from you and will include a compilation of those comments next week.

In the chance we get to ride together in the future, be sure to let me know up front – are we riding socially….or is this a race?  

Thank you for voting!

To ensure you are included in the Michael Morris raffle, make sure to leave your name in the comment section below!

“I love riding bikes with people who love riding bikes, whether it’s a group ride or a race.  For me, the two are not mutually exclusive”.
But…I do ride to race”!

Chad Elmendorf of Longmont Velo Cycling

Community vs Competition: Round One

You are a cyclist, a runner, a triathlete, a weightlifter, a swimmer, a cross country skier, maybe a winter Curler.  Whatever you do for sport and recreation – why do you continue month after month? How do you stay motivated? Why do you go out in horrible weather, why do you continue to push yourself mile after sweaty mile?

What could be worth this level of suffering? What is your WHY?

I am betting on one of two motivators: either you value your community, or you crave the thrill of a competition. I ride with both types of athletes every week and I still do not know which is the more powerful motivator. I need your vote.

And I am motivated to get your vote.

I have partnered with Michael Morris, a renowned northern Colorado artist and illustrator. Michael has agreed to donate an original work of cycling themed art as an NFT. The exact piece has not yet been selected, but this original from LeMond’s 1989 World Championship race will give you an idea of what to expect. The raffle for Michael’s NFT will occur one week from this Thursday, one week from when I post the 2nd part of this conversation.

This Community vs Competition discussion will be published in two parts so neither section will demand too much time from the reader. Considering the relatively short attention span of busy humans – I will post Round 1 of this debate on Tuesday, Nov 1st, and Round 2 on Thursday, Nov 3rd. At the end of Round 2, you will have an opportunity to vote. After you vote, please use the comment section of the post to include your name for the Michael Morris raffle. There will be a 7 day window to vote, polls close next Wednesday, Nov 9th, and I’ll share the results that Thursday or Friday.

In addition to your vote, if you would like to share more insight to your specific “why”, please include those comments when you put your name in the raffle.

For anyone new to this site: AgeIsNoBarrier is dedicated to telling stories and sharing ideas for the Athletic Aging population.  Every now and again, we will discuss a topic that transcends all active generations, this discussion is in that category.   My focus remains on the 50+, but this fun debate will apply to the mindset of any athlete of any age. Disclaimer out of the way, let’s start a very unnecessary fight.

When you are participating in your sport of choice, what gives you greater fulfillment and purpose – standing on the podium after passing and dropping your fellow competitors, or giving strength and encouragement to an entire group of cyclists during an event?

There is no one correct answer and I am not taking one side over the other.  I just find the topic incredibly interesting.  I live in northern Colorado where competitive endurance athletes are more populous than the prairie dog – and that is not a small number.   I have the great fortune to ride with several different packs of cyclists, some of which simply reflect the joy of being outside and on a bike, and some of which are fiercely competitive.

Where do you fall on the spectrum?   Is one motivator better than another?   Which motivation is better for physical and mental health?  Which is a greater magnet for attracting new people to your sport?  What is the better motivation for longevity in that sport?

I have my opinion, but I want to know yours.  I would like this short piece to create a conversation between you and the entire community that you ride with, run with, ski with, tri with.   Please take time to voice your opinions, either by responding in the comment section at the end of the article, or send me your thoughts on the AgeIsNoBarrier facebook page.

Quick background on this topic:  as many of you know, I am a lifelong believer that Exercise is Medicine for the body and the mind. The challenge is and always will be – how do we motivate the masses to keep moving and remain active through all four seasons?  Adherence to any exercise program has been a raging debate for years in the health & fitness industry.   What I (and many others) have found, is that nothing can glue people to regular activity better than a community of shared interest / purpose. 

But – what kind of community?  More social?  Or more competitive?  We love being social, and we often enjoy a little friendly competition.  And sometimes – fierce competition.   Which of these motivators move the needle for a greater number of people?   These questions are what fueled my curiosity and led me to erase all assumptions and simply ask you – the Athletically Aging population, for your opinions.

I spoke with multiple people in my cycling circle regarding this topic, but for this article, I collected the thoughts of four:  two representing the value of community and two taking the side of competition. The first conversations represent Round 1.

Community vs Competition, Round 1

My first conversation was with Bill McDonough – president of the Fort Collins Cycling Club.  Bill has been a regular with the FCCC for over 7 years, and the club president since 2020, serving a 3-year term.  Bill’s path from casual biking to organized cycling will be familiar to many.

Growing up in Michigan, Bill was extremely active in his teen and college years with swimming and cross-country skiing.  At graduation, he was gifted a road bike and fell in love with cycling.  Then his Game of Life tile landed on marriage and parenthood, so bikes and skis were put away in storage.   He gained an uncomfortable amount of weight in those years, joined weight watchers in 2017, lost 120 pounds and has been cycling since. 

A little background on the Fort Collins Cycling Club
The FCCC has seen a lot of growth over the last several years, and with that growth, the member demographic has evolved dramatically.  Founded by former bike racers, the club was originally intended to attract other formerly competitive cyclists, who are now slightly older, but still fit, strong.   If you’re familiar with larger club rides, all of the original founders of the FCCC were in the A group.

Since then, their club rides have attracted people of widely diverse fitness levels – with the biggest growth coming from older and often retired individuals whose motivation is primarily community, in a sporting but relaxing environment. 

Today, the Fort Collins Cycling Club has 4 levels of club rides, appealing to everyone from the “cycling curious” to the Hammerheads.  Bill provided the following descriptions.

Social group:  Often new to cycling.  They just enjoy being outside, on a bike and in community.  Not worried about speed.  The Social group has seen the greatest growth over the last few years.   What used to be an afterthought is now a twice weekly series of widely attended, very social events.
The C group:  This is a teaching group.  Perfect for individuals who are starting to show an interest in joining the faster group rides.  They’re getting more fit, and want a bigger challenge, but they need to learn the rules of group dynamics, including how to behave predictably in a paceline.  The C Group is the perfect platform for that transition.  
The B Group:  A more experienced, faster ride for people comfortable in a group environment.  Stepping up the intensity and duration, but not really competing with each other.   Whether you join one of our rides, or ride with the St Vrain Chain Gang out of Longmont, the B Groups tend to be the heart and soul of the club.
The A group – The competitive hammerheads.  A very competitive group dynamic just shy of race pace.  If you cannot hold the wheel in front of you, or get stuck at a red light – you will be dropped.  Hope you know your way home.

My Q&A with Bill McDonough

Bill – thinking of all the cyclists who show up for your rides – regularly or occasionally, what are your members looking for:  community, or competition?    “Even though FCCC was founded by former racers, most of our members today are more interested in being part of a community”.

Even the A group?    –Even the A’s, but less so.  The A ride is a drop ride, meaning if you cannot keep up, or even if you get caught at a red light, they will continue their ride without you.  They might hang out post ride with the larger group, but the A rides will typically become splintered during the ride.  There’s still a social aspect, but primarily before or after the ride.   The ride itself can be very competitive. 

Other than the A group:  describe the typical FCCC group ride.     -the FCCC promotes the philosophy that a group ride is supposed to ride together.   Other than the A rides, we Stay together.  We will not drop anyone, not even at red lights.   We start together, roll together, end together.

What would you say is the greatest benefit for cyclists to join group rides?   – Having a beer together after the ride!  And not getting lost on unfamiliar roads.  Belonging to a group helps motivate you to show up, as much for them as for you – you feel more accountable when part of a group.  Until you build your confidence and know you belong, you need the encouragement that a social ride provides.  And new cyclists (or new to the area) also want to learn the area, learn where to ride. 

Are the social rides completely non-competitive?    –Not necessarily.  Even though we are not trying to drop each other, the group still pushes me in ways I won’t push myself.   I can see what other people are achieving and think “if they can do it, so can I”.   But, if you push too hard, it can be very discouraging.  People HATE to be dropped.   Sometimes the hate motivates, sometimes it defeats them.

So, today – the A group makes up the minority of FCCC members and the majority prefer a less competitive, more social experience?   -Exactly.  From my years in cycling and heading up FCCC, I believe everyone is happier when cooperating.  You don’t improve friendships when you’re always trying to drop the next person.  Super competitiveness can be isolating.  

But doesn’t the thrill of competition attract new people to the sport?   Maybe after they just watched a stage of the Tour de France?    –Maybe it gets them to the bike shop, maybe we all have thoughts of competing and winning the sprint, but the desire for community is the biggest driver of new cyclists showing up to our group rides.

What about the need to “get in shape”, or lose weight?   –nope.  I never hear of cyclists joining specifically for health reasons.   Fitness is a side effect.

Specific to the FCCC, most new members join your rides for community and most existing members keep returning more to belong to a healthy social group, and not necessarily for competition.    –Yes.  Emotionally and mentally – social has many benefits over the competitive group.  The hyper competitive crowd fuels the “win at all costs” mentality.   Social riding contributes to community and emotional well-being.  The A group wants to have someone to ride against.   Social cyclists wants to have someone to ride with.

Summary of why Community should win this debate:
All types of people are attracted to cycling and they each have great stories to tell of why they first got on bikes as adults, and what keeps them consistently rolling down the asphalt, gravel or single track.  But those who are part of a larger community, a social group of like-minded people are more likely to continue riding on a consistent basis.  Just like the competitive group, the social cyclists develop much greater physical health and fitness, but maybe mental health is fed a healthier diet by being part of a group whose focus is more on cooperation rather than competition.

“I vote for Community!  For me, group cycling gives our community the opportunity to get together and practice the sport they love while taking care of their health.  By participating with groups at different levels, they can enjoy the outdoors and beauty all around, while making lifelong friendships”.

Debbie Bush of Fort Collins Cycling

…but what would a competitive triathlete have to say?

2022 St George 70.2 Ironman

Introducing Mark Kohl – 51

Mark is a 50+ triathlete out of northern Colorado, who typically trains with much younger athletes and is being coached by Jim Hallberg of D3 Multisports.  Out of the three sports he competes in, he will tell you his weakness is the run.  Don’t believe him.  Mark is a very strong all-around athlete and competitor.   Sitting a few safe inches behind the rear wheel of his TT bike, I have earned several Strava PR’s that I’ll never come close to on my own.

When not training or competing in triathlons, Mark is most likely riding horses with his wife, and when the mountain peaks are painted white – you can find him exchanging his bike for his snowboard.

Mark – I hesitated to ask for your participation in this heated debate, because – although you are a strong competitor – you are also extremely nice.   Not a “win at any cost” kind of athlete.     –Having a competitor mindset does not mean you’re not in community, you just have a very like-minded community.  We know each other, we often train together.  I still have a need for fun, social rides, but when that race gun goes off – I am immediately in competition mode and our friendship does not mean I will not try to beat you, every time.

If you were not competing, would you keep up with your running, biking, swimming?    -Of course.  As you know, even our social group rides can quickly become competitive.  The community aspect will always be important.  It’s the perfect time to encourage others and to improve bike skills.   But when the race number goes on the bike – it’s game on, and I want to win.

Have you always been wired to compete?   -More so as an adult.  I’ve always been involved in athletics, and really enjoyed master’s swimming in my early 40’s.  But when I started getting serious about mountain biking  – those races made me more competitive.

That desire to race and to win, is that a switch that can be turned off?    -Not anytime soon.   Maybe at 80.   (Says the man in his early 50’s.  I’m betting the 70-year-old Mark Kohl might disagree)

You know many of the guys you race against, even train with them.  How does winning or losing affect your relationships?     -I’m friends with most of my close competitors, but during the competition, that friendship is not a factor – we are each giving it our all to win.   I’m not going to lie, even if we know each other well, it always feels great to catch up to and pass another competitor.  If I pass them – I love it.   If they pass me, I congratulate them and do my best to keep them in sight.  No matter how we finish, I can feel great about my effort and still good about their achievement.  I have not found that it changes our friendship.  

Can you describe the emotions you feel when standing on a podium?     -It’s a phenomenal feeling every single time.  It’s an achievement that validates all the hours of training and prep.  Makes the sacrifice seem small.

Ok, you are nearing the finish line, you can see it, smell it – all of those podium emotions are just ahead.  In that last quarter mile of the run,  you are caught and passed, finishing just off the podium.   No anger?    -Can’t say there’s no disappointment, but no anger towards the athlete.   This is a very competitive sport, there’s always someone faster.   And I am honestly encouraged by people who beat me.  I may have lost this event, but I am never defeated. 

The speed round. For the outcomes listed below – Community or Competition? 

Physical health    -our riding tends to be more competitive, higher intensity.  In general, we can compete at a higher level, and will be able to for more years to come.  So – competition.

Mental health    -Competition is tied to what you go through in life – knowing how to get through the pain.  Knowing how to relax, focus and stay calm.  Training for races has helped me learn to deal with stressful situations at work and home –  and emotionally, I love the flood of endorphins after a hard ride, especially when I hit my numbers correctly.

New friendships   -Love my competitors, and friends with almost all of them.  They are my community and I appreciate it when they push me to a new place.  Never envious, just determined.   At least a tie.

Staying with a sport for the long term   I’ll be competing as long as I’m having fun and since much of my community consists of my competitors, I believe I’ll be racing for many years.  When racing is no longer fun, then I’ll join more social events.  

Encouraging new participants to take up a sport?     – I love to see people fall in love with the sport, but community is essential at first to get them involved and engaged.  Eventually you’ll see their personality – who’s competitive, who’s not.  You’ll know which ones want to race.  

Once you start competing – and winning – you have a responsibility to your community, to give back to the sport.  To encourage and build up.  We’re all trying to help each other get better, get faster.  

“Competition is the driving force that allows me to fail time after time, dust myself off and come back for more….competition makes me and those around me better”.

Matt Franz of Webb Bridge Cycling

Have you already identified your primary motivator?

Are you leaning towards a fun pub-ride with Fort Collins Cycling, or thinking of taking Mark Kohl in a sprint to the finish? Whichever way you are leaning, you will have a chance to vote in just a few days once we post the Round 2 interviews with the head Domestique of Webb Bridge Cycling in Atlanta, and a USA Triathlon certified coach in northern Colorado.

In the meantime, I hope you find time to get outside, and get moving in whatever way you most enjoy and inspires your friends and family.

Round 2 will be posted in just a few days. Although you cannot vote until then, you are free (and encouraged) to leave any opinions or thoughts in the comment section of the post.

Is Age a Barrier for the 50+ athlete when training for Colorado’s famous Triple Bypass?

join us next year?

How is the 50+ crowd training for the Triple Bypass?  Does passing the half century mark change how you prepare for this epic challenge in the Colorado Rockies?  How does age affect your recovery?  Should you change your nutrition & hydration strategy?

If you’re not familiar, the 2022 Triple Bypass included 106 miles of mountain roads with 10,600 ft of climbing, covering three mountain passes.  The highest point is Loveland Pass, sitting at 11,900 feet – a bit more than 2 miles above sea level.  Depending on what time you started the ride, you experienced rain either on the first long sustained climb, or while on the first long sustained descent.  Either way, you were most likely freezing when you arrived at the first rest stop in Idaho Springs.  Once you started towards the Loveland Pass, you were warmed by your efforts….then rained on again….and again.  Maybe even experienced a short hailstorm on the way to Frisco.  Rule #9 of the Velominati was absolutely shouting at all registered athletes this year.

Below, I’ve included the training details of a few 50+ athletes, who all attempted to complete the 2022 Triple Bypass, a road race that tests your nerves and will, as much as your legs and lungs.


Mike Schweiger – age 55
Mike is a corporate controller for the outdoor apparel brand 37.5 – and he bleeds cycling.   From squeezing in a good weekday ride as time permits, to his 70+ miles rides each Saturday / Sunday – he never rests on how he performed last year, or on the last ride, he’s continuously seeking to improve. Mike has been an avid cyclist for over 20 years, including co-founding the Ft Lauderdale based zMotion cycling club.   This was Mike’s first Triple Bypass.

Paul Anderson – age 52 in October
Paul is the owner of Longmont Velo and a naturally strong endurance athlete.  So incredibly strong, we often have to remind Paul “not everyone can warm up at 300 watts”.   When not buried up to his greasy elbows at his shop, Paul is often mentoring young cyclists, or leading weekend shop rides.  (there’s a nasty rumor that Paul and his wife grows their own broccoli)  This was Paul’s third Triple Bypass. 

Cynthia Brown, age 60
Cynthina Brown is an Associate Professor, Dept of Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management at Colorado State University. Her alter ego (Cini) is an avid cyclist and racer.  Cini signed with team Rio Grande back in 2006 and still loves racing and team tactics.   This will be her 3rd Triple Bypass.

Andrew Graham – age 59
Andrew is a wannabe sharer of people’s stories.  Stories about aging well, about turning a deaf ear to father time.  He’s curious to see how long we can still perform at a high level in our favorite sports / activities – and how long aging athletes can hold off the tide of chronic issues.  In love with all four seasons of the Colorado Rocky’s, Andrew spends most of his free time cycling, skiing, hiking.   This was his first Triple Bypass.  (first and only?)

Anna Giovinetto – age 53
Anna is a member of the Fort Collins Cycling Club and this was her second Triple Bypass. She completed her first in 2018, a little more than a year after receiving a liver transplant. As you may have guessed, Anna likes a challenge! (photo: Anna on top of the winner’s podium)


What was your training program for the 2022 Triple Bypass?

Mike: “I’ve never used a structured training program, but for the last month prior to the Bypass, I have been focused on ramping up my base miles.  In addition to my regular miles, each Sunday, I’ll ride about 90 miles, with at least 6,000 ft of climbing.  Shooting for a good six hours in the saddle”.
Paul: Paul works with D3 coaching year-round and remains “at the ready” for any race, any time of the year.  “This is my biggest ride for the year, but I don’t train for any one specific ride.  I work out year-round, staying fit for any event”.  His volume stays consistent from March through early October, riding approximately 250 miles each week, incorporating a hard interval workout at least once per week. 
Cynthia (goes by Cini): “I followed Gale Bernhardt’s training program.  Gale designed a training program for the Leadville 100 mountain bike race, and I adapted that program for the Triple Bypass.  I used it back in 2010 to train for Logan-to-Jackson (LoToJa), and I was happy with how that went.  The Triple Bypass is 100 miles shorter than LoToJa, so I think I will be pretty well prepared”! Quick training details:  “I used the Training Peaks app to follow Gale’s 14 week program for Leadville – averaging about 10 hours of riding each week, peaking at 20 hours about 6 weeks prior to the actual event, tapering the few weeks before the actual ride.  “For similar events, my strategy is to go moderately at first, go hard at the end”.
Andrew: “I scheduled three long rides per week (Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday) with as much climbing as my legs could handle.  Goal was to ride 70+ mile rides with at least 6-7k ft of climbing.  Moderate pace for the first 2/3’s of the ride, then pushing as hard as possible for the last third…if I’m not cramping”.
Anna:  “I don’t have a coach or follow a specific training program — I just suggested to my boyfriend that we make this a big year, and we have!”  As a self-employed writer who works remotely, Anna has the flexibility to ride when she wants. “Among other ‘make it a big year’ rides, we traveled east for the Assault on Mt. Mitchell, and did both the Mt. Evans and Pikes Peak fondos.” (the latter two are 14k ft peaks; Anna placed 2nd and 1st, respectively, in the amateur women’s category in these events). 

How has age factored into your training for this event? 

Mike: “Not really, still maintaining a similar weekly volume. Since I’ve turned 55, I just haven’t felt as strong.  Maybe partly due to how I’ve been training, but thinking partly due to getting older.  Maybe a bit of both.   With age, thinking of introducing more structured training.  But need to understand what I need to achieve”.
Paul: “Age really hasn’t factored into my training plan, the volume mostly stays the same.  But I do have to schedule more time for recovery”.
Cini: “Primarily for injury prevention, I have to focus more on my off the bike supportive work, such as strength training, mobility and flexibility.  Joined ECFIT out of Boulder and started using their strength programs app.  Very happy with the results.  (Boulder based ECFIT almost exclusively focuses on strength development for endurance athletes)
Andrew: “Never seriously trained for a ride like this in my 40’s.  I chickened out of Georgia’s Six Gaps, more than once.   But for the TBP, I’m taking more time for recovery after a hard ride.  Either no ride the next day, or a very slow, very flat recovery ride”.
Anna: “Age is dragging us all down, but training helps flatten the trend line. Due to limitations imposed by work and my declining health prior to my transplant, I wasn’t able to train as much when I was younger. Today I’m able to do much more, although I’m mindful that the immunosuppressant drugs I have to take to prevent rejection of my transplant reduce my ability to recover from hard efforts. I have a good sense of what my body can handle, and I try to toe the line of ‘productive training stress’ without tipping over the edge.”

What are you mindful of at this age that you would have ignored when younger? 

Mike: My diet.  I’m mindful of it, but not making a strong enough effort to do anything about it.  In my 40’s, I could still eat crappy, but could train those calories away.  Now at 55, I need to adjust my mindset and strategy”.
Paul: Nutrition.  For the first time in my life, I properly fueled for the Bypass.  My fear is weight gain – especially during the winter months.   Did not have that worry when younger, I could ride off the calories”.
Cini: “The off the bike supportive work (see above), and my diet.  And of course, it takes longer to recover”
Andrew: Was not as serious about cycling when younger, was more focused on strength training.  The body still responds to the stress, but I do have to take more time to fully recover, and my recovery starts with improving my quality of sleep. Also very mindful of my hydration and how many calories I need to consume during longer rides”.
Anna: “I am much more conscientious about my sleep hygiene, and making sure that I get enough rest overall. In response to an increased training load this year, I’ve become more rigorous about hydration and nutrition. I was never careless about either, but now I’m more precise about both! I try to drink at least every two miles, and more frequently if I’m climbing and/or it’s hot. I also focus on eating ‘real’ food on long rides.” 

How has your fueling strategy changed? 

Mike: “I have to consistently eat and consciously hydrate.  For the bypass, I set the timer on my garmin as a reminder – drink a little every 15 minutes, and try to eat something every 45 minutes.   But, my garmin died early in the race, so had to rely on the group to remind me”.
Paul: “I have to eat more regularly on the bike.  I used to starve myself on rides, can’t do that anymore”.   Paul’s hydration choice on longer rides:  tailwind and scratch.   “I made sure to top off both bottles at each rest stop”.
Cini: ”I’m tending to eat more whole foods.  Instead of the typical gels, I’ve been switching to Lara Bars and similar.  Many of my food choices are now determined by the results of taking a mediator release test”.  (The MRT is a blood test that measures your inflammatory response to foods and food chemicals)   “Highly recommended”.
Andrew: “No real difference, just more.  Starting the ride with Nuun’s in one bottle and Scratch in the other, and have to remind myself to drink more frequently, even at cool temps.  For food, I’ll mostly devour whatever they have available at the rest stops.  And keeping my new secret weapon in reserve – a snickers”.
Anna: “I’m a fan of caffeinated Clif Bloks and the occasional gel, as well as oatmeal cookies. On longer rides, I take small tortilla roll-ups filled with peanut butter and cheese. It’s a good way to get protein, and they’ll keep in hot temps!”  (editor’s note:  I can attest to both the deliciousness and effectiveness of this snack.  I did make one change – I mixed a little honey with my peanut butter)

Did you have any specific goals for this event?

Mike: “Wanted to finish the Bypass, feeling like I accomplished something without feeling wiped out and exhausted”. 
Paul: “Originally, I was shooting for 6 hours ride time for the entire event.  Not including rest stops, my actual moving time was 6:38”.  Paul was not entirely riding for himself.  He’s been mentoring a strong young 13-year-old cyclist who easily has the power, now working on the endurance for the ride.
Cini: “I had three primary goals:  First: remain healthy.  Last year, I was caught on Loveland pass behind the man who died of heart failure on the ride.  Second:  spend minimal time at the rest areas.  Third:  to finish in under 8 hours of ride time.   Last year, my actual ride time was  8 ½”.
Andrew: “Just to finish, and ideally – finish without cramping”.
Anna: 1) Not to freeze. 2) Time goal:  7 ½ hours ride time + 1 hour for rest and food stops. 3) Speed goal:  14 mph average.

Post-ride results and reflection

Mike: Mike not only finished strong, he looked like he could keep going.  So he did.  The next morning, he got up and started the Bypass in reverse.  He completed 50 miles and another 5k+ ft of climbing, finishing the day with a descent from the Loveland Pass. “I felt my training up to the event was perfect with solid base miles and time in the saddle. Next year, I’ll focus more on strict diet up to the event”.
Paul: Paul made it look easy.  Again.  He shrugs casually, “Very happy with how it turned out.  When we crossed the finish line, I still had great legs and lots of energy.  Next year, my strategy will be about the same”.
Cini: Cini was incredibly well prepared for the hard miles of the Triple Bypass, but ran into something no athlete could control:  rapidly changing mountain weather.  “I had crossed the summit of Loveland Pass around noon, which was my goal to minimize risks due to weather on that highest point (11,900 ft) and was on pace to finish in less than 8 hours of ride time”.  After getting drenched by rain multiple times, Cini pulled out of the race at mile 80.  Soaking wet and approaching a fast descent down the Vail pass, she chose health and safety over the finish.  Still, she completed 80 miles and most of the 10,600 ft of the climbing, only skipping a very frigid Vail Pass descent.
Andrew: “Finished!  Very emotional crossing the finish line and receiving the finisher’s medal.   Other than very uncomfortable weather – hot, cold, warm, freezing, I felt fairly strong until the final 5-mile climb from Copper Mountain up to the Vail Pass.  Just wiped out.  If I do the Bypass again, I will focus on eating earlier and more frequently.   And I’ll start longer training rides earlier in July”.
Anna: Unfortunately, weather got the better of Anna early on, and she wasn’t able to achieve her first goal (not freezing). “My boyfriend and I got thoroughly drenched on the descent from Juniper Pass, and we were shaking and hypothermic when we got to Idaho Springs. With more rain in the forecast and no way to dry out or warm up, we called it.”  Not willing to throw in the (soggy) towel just yet, she reports that “I still want to ride the Triple course this year, and my boyfriend has kindly offered to SAG me if I do, so hopefully we can make that happen in the next few weeks!”


Fuel, Hydration and Recovery. When younger, each 50+ athlete I spoke with were often able to outrun a bad diet, inadequate hydration, and force their bodies to perform at a high level without consistent rest. The tipping point will be unique to each athlete, but that ability fades with age. The body will continue to respond positively to the stresses of training – even the sufferfest level of training required to finish the Triple Bypass – but our gains will be limited if we ignore the demand for better fuel, hydration and more time devoted to recovery.

Specific to the Bypass, and similar events held at high altitude, we quickly learned that as athletes, we can control our training, our diets and our mindsets – but we can’t control the weather! Get outside, start dialing in your strategy for fuel, hydration and recovery – then add patience and plenty of layers.

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…

forgive me disney?

…and/or running, hiking, biking, walking, skiing, strength training, paddle boarding. Pickle-balling? If you want to be healthy, functional and fit in your 50’s and beyond, just keep doing whatever activity you enjoy, whatever form of movement puts a smile on your face and connects you to your community.

This is such simple advice. Simple, but difficult, and often impossible advice to follow if you are not among the minority of people who are wired to really enjoy (need?) the sweat of hard physical effort. If you are past the half-century mark and reading this short post, you already know there are no secrets or shortcuts to being a 50+ athlete. The non-secret is consistency. How to stay consistent is equally simple…and difficult.

I started this website to learn from other 50+ folks who are reframing expectations of what can be achieved with a no longer youthful body. Among the many lessons learned so far, I keep running into two constants: joy of movement, and community. If you pick an activity you do not enjoy – you will most likely find an unending supply of excuses not to get up and get out. If you do not surround yourself with a likeminded community, then you are less likely to hold yourself accountable to consistently staying active.

I recently added three new snapshots to my site. Read them. Read why they do what they do, read what they are still able to do, read what they plan to be keep doing as they age. It is worth repeating that our generation is the first to really want more out of life’s second half than to grow old gracefully. As Phil Cavell wrote, “we are a generation of crash test dummies”, testing the boundaries of health, fitness and performance into our final sunsets.

Yes, you can become fit after 50, but it is so much easier to achieve fitness while young, and maintain it. Most people reading this blog exist somewhere on the spectrum of recreational athlete, to “dear god, how are they still able to perform at that level at that age”. No matter where you fit on that scale, I hope you will find a community who inspires you and an activity that gets you outside through every season. You are already an example and leader to younger generations – I hope the example you provide is the joy of movement, daily demonstrating that Age Is No Barrier.

Keep moving!

I’ll Keep Waving

I saw you today.  I’m pretty sure you saw me.  At least, you looked my way as I was pedaling west on my bike, and you were spinning east.  I smiled and waved.  Your expression never changed.  If I had to label your facial expression….I would define it as indifference.  Of course, despite my persistent headwind, we passed pretty quickly, and I was across the street.  So maybe I missed a head-nod, or maybe just an upturn of the corners of your mouth, indicative of an almost smile.

And by “you”, please understand I’m speaking to a very large group of cyclists on the roads of northern Colorado.   I would never be so rude as to call out “you” specifically.  Just, you know…”you”.

The blog section of this site is intended for advice.  From a wide variety of fitness, health and medical professionals – to any 50+ athlete who clicks on these links.

For this short entry….please manage your expectations.  Today’s blog is more of rant, and it will not be based on a peer-reviewed research study.   Let’s call this one “wisdom from an opinionated midlife cyclist”.  I’m invoking editor’s privilege. 

I lived in Roswell, GA when I first self-identified as a cyclist.  Not just a fitness enthusiast trying to get some cardio, but a spandex wearing, hopelessly addicted member of the Velominati.   At the time, almost every cyclist I passed on the opposite shoulder, loosely defined as a bike lane – would offer an enthusiastic wave when they passed.  I was on a bike, they were on a bike, that’s all that mattered.  Instant camaraderie, instant community.  It was us cyclists against…them.  The cars.  The red lights.  The sedentary lifestyles contributing to chronic disease.  Dogs not on a leash.   We are the skin-tight, brightly colored rolling billboards, not understanding why everyone does not share our love with touring the city or countryside on two wheels.  We recognize each other for our shared passion and values, and we saluted each other’s joy and dedication.  We waved.

I now live in Colorado, maybe more in love with cycling than ever.  My enthusiasm for all things related to bicycles has only grown.  Which is maybe why I am so disheartened when so many cyclists roll by without recognizing that we are in the same fraternity.  No wave, no smile, and sometimes – more disturbing – just an emotionless glare. 

I lived in Georgia for a very long time.  When I see someone flying a UGA flag from their car or house here in Colorado, I feel an instant affinity.  But my birth state – that is an even more robust connection.  I was born and raised in Arkansas.  And every Arkansan knows that no matter how long ago you left that state, you will always be a Razorback.  And Razorbacks, by birthright  – know how to “call the hogs”.   I have run into groups of Arkansans all over the country and have spontaneously broken into calling the hogs – from a restaurant in Indianapolis, to a conference center in San Diego.  “You’re from Arkansas”?  Instant community.

That is how I normally feel about other cyclists.  Whether you are a speed demon in search of new PR’s, or a couple on a tandem (who are almost always smiling), or if you are using your bike for daily commuting – we are a community.  I have no idea who you are, but we are now a “we”.   

So….why don’t you wave?

I understand you don’t have to like chocolate because I like chocolate.  I drink coffee black, maybe you prefer a latte.  But I’m constantly confused and saddened by the number of cyclists who don’t share the same sense of community.  Obviously, you don’t have to feel the same as I do, but….I’m still going to wave.

I’m going to wave at every cyclist who is not fighting horrible traffic, who is not descending at 30+ mph, who is not rotating through an aggressive paceline.  We may not be riding for the same reasons, or the same goals – but that’s ok, we are both in love with cycling and that is enough for me.

If you are a cyclist, riding in Colorado and pass a guy on a red BMC with a big grin on his face – that will be me.  And I am going to wave.  You are a cyclist, and you are part of my community.  If you have a flat, I’ll stop to help.  If you are struggling on a climb, I will shout out encouragement.  If you see me on the road and wave – I will wave back.

And if you just happen to be from Arkansas, know anyone from Arkansas, have ever driven through Arkansas….I’ll be happy to call the hogs with you.  In public.

Advice for the 50+ athlete from the Functional Aging Institute

“It does not matter how old you are. As long as you don’t stop”.

Dr. Dan Ritchie

I am going to use the blog section of my site to supplement the “interviews of the athletes” with “advice to the 50+ crowd”.   I will be interviewing a collection of professionals who work with older clients & athletes to see what kind of wisdom they can pass along to anyone who finds this site.

This first post is a love letter to anyone visiting this site  – who are not career professionals in the fitness industry.  

Dear Athlete….you need help.

You are amazing.  You have found a sport(s) or activity that you love and keeps you moving.  You have surrounded yourself with old and new friends who share your love of this activity and suddenly, this new community has become an enormously important support group in your life.  You are eager to learn from those who have come before you, and eager to share your wisdom with those who are just now discovering the thrill of the same sport / activity. 

You have learned so much about running, cycling, swimming, skiing (insert sport here) and have probably achieved more than you dreamed at the onset.  Congratulations to how far you have come, you have earned every Strava “kudos” and more.

But.  Unless you have a strength training plan that will enable you to keep enjoying these activities for years to come….you need help.   Many of you have enlisted coaches to help you run faster, cycle further, swim more efficiently – but if you are not purposefully following a program to keep your body physically capable of withstanding the rigors of your sport (and the onslaught of aging) with a strength training plan specifically tailored to your goals, needs and abilities….then you need help.  With that in mind, I spoke with one of the founders of the Functional Aging Institute (FAI) – Dan Ritchie – to see what advice he could offer. 

FAI founders: Dan Ritchie (L) and Cody Sipe (R)

Quick FAI background for my non-fitness industry friends.  The Functional Aging Institute origin story is a pretty familiar one:  a new company born from the market vacuum created by the aging baby boomers.  Prior to the boomers hitting their mid-50’s, there was simply not massive demand for senior fitness programming.  In 2002, Dan Ritchie and Cody Sipes were both attending Purdue University, working on their PhD’s, when this need first became apparent.  They opened a small training center called Miracle Fitness – focusing solely on the 50+ market.

At the time, industry education for this rapidly rising demographic was lacking.  After four years of continued success serving the boomers (then in their 50’s, today in their 70’s) other owner/operators started coming to them looking for advice on how to successfully train their own local baby boomers.  In 2013, the Functional Aging Institute was born from this need.

Today, the FAI has trained several hundreds of trainers who serve the 50+ population, while also teaching the owner/operators how to market to the boomers.   In addition to ‘training the trainers’ – Dan and Cody fill their calendars with business coaching, hosting workshops and mastermind groups.  Luckily, I was able to catch up with Dan just long enough for a quick chat about the challenges they see in keeping the Boomers as active as they want to be.

You and Cody have been doing this for quite a while now – any specific trends you can share?
The only real change is this population is getting bigger and bigger – the 65-75 age group has exploded.  Between the ages of 60-68, many seniors are noticing massive changes for the first time –  an accumulative effect of losing strength, losing energy.   Their endurance is gone, running is no longer an option, and many cannot complete a 5-mile walk, even at a slow pace.  A combination of multiple age-related issues sneaks up until they experience that light bulb moment when they realize their body is not working as before.

That’s where you and your trainers enter the picture?
Basically.  They know they need to do something, and cannot wait any longer if they want to maintain their same lifestyles.   We constantly hear:  “My Doc is suggesting I lose 20 lbs”.   Or…“My grandkids want me to do things with them”.    At varying points on that age graph – they suddenly feel their age. 

Your bottom-line advice for any member of the 50+ community?
If they want to maintain their lifestyles, it’s an absolute must to add functional strength programming and to incorporate neuromuscular exercises that train the nerves and muscles to communicate properly and to react quickly. Exercises commonly utilized in neuromuscular training programs include: plyometric and movement, core strengthening and balance, resistance training, and speed training.

Would you offer different advice for the casually active 50+ vs the still competitive 50+?
Yes.  Your readers are Fit BUT they want to prevent injury, and a good strength training program will be preventative.  They are fit BUT they realize they still need instruction / coaching – just like the coaches they hire for their sport.  We are seeing a much higher interest from 50+ endurance athletes who are looking to incorporate a guided strength training program.

How do you convince 50+ endurance athletes they need coaching for strength training?   
They need to realize this part of their overall training program is just as important as the actual activity.  This is injury reduction.  This is a reduction in muscular issues.  This is core strength and a healthy back.  Strength training helps any athlete of any age maintain their independence, lifestyle, identity.  

A not-small segment of our clients over the age of 60 are just cardiovascular giants.  However, many of them cannot perform well in an obstacle course, or a carrying task, or helping to push a car out of a ditch.  Outside of their sport, their functional capacity is very limited.

Biggest training misconceptions for this age group?
For training this age group, the two biggest misconceptions are the extremes:
** Many trainers treat them like they’re easily broken, limiting their clients to chair-based exercises, or  water-based aerobics, etc.
** The opposite is equally defeating:  train them like they are elite athletes in their 20’s and 30’s.   They are not going to respond the same or recover as quickly as those younger athletes.  Recovery is an essential part of the program.

All training programs must be specific to the individual.  Created around their goals, but it has to start with their specific strengths, weaknesses, and structural needs.  Start with a complete musculoskeletal assessment.

If anyone reading this blog wants to start a strength training program, or tweak their existing program, what should they consider?
Remember to incorporate all 6 Domains of Human Function from the Functional Aging Training Model: Musculoskeltal, Cardiovascular, Balance, Mobility, NeuroMuscular, and Cognitive/Emotional.  Fitness is multi-dimensional, all training programs need to be balanced, and must include neuromuscular training.

Dan and Cody – thank you for your time, wisdom and for educating an entire army of trainers who are impacting the lives of seniors across the globe!

Repeating the theme of this post: strengthening the body is not an option if you want to age well and continue enjoying – or competing in – your sport of choice. If you are unsure of how to design a strength training program specific to your exact needs or aspirations – I would encourage you to find a certified coach / trainer and start that conversation today. Do not wait for the lightbulb of age-related issues to make you realize your body is not working the same as before.

100 Reasons to Never Stop Moving

I strongly believe we are going to see a lot of age-related records fall.  This generation or next, those records will not be just in the realm of youth and speed.

Arthur Muir, oldest American to summit Everest

Lately, I have been forwarded articles and videos featuring amazingly athletic centenarians – mostly women.  With a website called “Age Is No Barrier”, I am more than eager for a chance to speak with these women, but I am finding it is much more difficult to get in touch with people who do not have a social media account. 

I have reached out to two of these incredible athletes, and hopefully will be able to connect soon.  In the interim – if I cannot interview these women, at the very least, I can honor them.  Their stories are inspiring for any of us who hope to age well, and remain active all of our days.  Whether or not we walk this earth for the same number of days, we can certainly strive to extend our healthspan; enjoying more time with friends and family and the hobbies / activities in which we participate and find community.

Below, you will find a few brief introductions to older athletes who are completely rewriting the rules of active aging.  If I am able to connect in person with any of the athletes featured in this blog, I will post the interview in the portfolio section along with the rest of the 50+ athletes.

Julia “Hurricane” Hawkins

Today, Julia Hawkins is 105.  When much younger – only 103 – Julia became the superstar of the National Senior Games where she won gold in the 100-meter dash and the 50-meter dash.   Born in 1916, Julia may be the new benchmark for senior track and field.   Her hometown of Baton Rouge filmed this wonderful local feature of this amazing woman.

Diane “Flash” Friedman

Another centenarian track star, this one from Ohio.  Diane did not start running competitively until she was in her 70’s.  Now 100, her coach and friend Bruce Sherman believes her master’s records will be difficult to surpass.  In this video, you can see Diane set a new record at a senior games event from this summer.   A local Ohio affiliate provided this wonderful introduction to Diane and her engaging personality.

And thank you to Dr. Bruce Sherman for bringing this incredible athlete to our attention!

Edith Murway-Traina

Then we have Edith Murway-Traina, the 100-year old powerlifting sensation.  You may have seen her story floating around Facebook over the last few weeks.  If not, here’s a link to an article from her hometown of Tampa, including a link to her Guinness World Records lift.  You may also be interested in this accolade from Men’s Health featuring another video of this amazing athlete.  I have reached out to her daughter to hopefully schedule a conversation with this former dancer who is now the world’s largest female powerlifting competitor.

As my friend Hillis Lake likes to remind me, “as long as you safely and appropriately challenge the body, the muscles will keep responding”.  Edith – who entered her first sanctioned powerlifting meet at the age of 92 – would probably agree.

Dave Keggy

Honorary mention has to go to this “Future Centenarian”, and only man on the list so far. The 95 year old Dave Keggy.   Dave’s workout routine was captured and shared in this video by a local financial advisor.  He sounds and moves like someone 20 years younger – at least.

Keep going Dave, I can’t wait to speak with you after your 100th birthday!

The Boomer generation is showing us that Age Really Is Not a Barrier to remaining healthy and active all of our days. I am positive this inspirational list will grow quickly, maybe faster than I can add their stories. However, I would like to try! So, if you know of a centenarian athlete who’s story should be shared, please let me know.

Who’s next?

YOU are the healthcare revolution

My voice is small, maybe your voice is small as well.  But combined – we can shout this message in a way that will echo.

The message is simple:  the myriad of businesses that make up the American healthcare system – as currently designed – do not benefit if you remain healthy.  There is little to no financial incentive to keep you active and healthy.  We need and deserve better.  We need a healthcare system with prevention as its foundation. And prevention starts with you.  YOU are the healthcare revolution we have all been waiting for.

Well, not everyone is waiting.  There has been a massive up-swelling of entrepreneurs, educators and activists that have all been very busy creating this change.  Direct primary care docs, concierge medicine practices and self-insured corporations – all are providing proactive care designed around your specific health & wellness needs.

And there is another massive group effecting change – the athlete.  Specifically, the older athlete, the 50+ demographic who is more commonly known to be mismanaging multiple chronic issues, slowly sliding into an expensive life of weaving through the healthcare maze.  Ok boomer, enough.

Today’s older athlete is the disruptor.  The majority seem to be avoiding every chronic issue except one – just being over fifty.  This niche demographic frequently gets addicted to a new sport – running, cycling, tennis, skiing (downhill & cross country), rock climbing – there are so many options!  Once addicted to their new activity(s) of choice…a whole set of dominos tend to fall into place. They start strength training programs, they make dietary changes, they learn recovery techniques – whatever it takes that will allow them to keep enjoying their activities / sports for as long as possible.  It is a most wonderful circular addiction.  They find community.  They find purpose.  And whether it is intentional or not – they find health.   This group of 50+ athletes is bending the healthcare cost curve and having a blast.  Best.  Medicine.  Ever.

This collection of interviews was created for two primary reasons:  first – for my personal curiosity.  (I’m a cyclist, and I’m extremely curious how other cyclists train, eat, recover.  What are their secrets?  Why did I just get dropped…again?)   Second – we are constantly exposed to messaging regarding the health benefits of exercise and I wanted to hear exactly what that meant to the people within my circle of influence. 

Every interview so far has been the proof statement I expected.  These 50+ athletes are not just exceeding their “by date” – they remain an extremely healthy bunch.  No obesity, or any of the lifestyle diseases that travel with it.   No bullhorn needed, this group is communicating a simple but important message – purely by example – to friends and neighbors: “if you are concerned with the rising cost of healthcare in America, and your health specifically – plug into an active community and become an athlete.” 

“Chronic diseases account for 75% of the money our nation spends on health care, yet only 1% of health dollars are spent on public efforts to improve overall health. Four chronic diseases—heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes—cause almost two-thirds of all deaths each year.”

National Council On Aging

Any activity, any sport you enjoy will get you moving.  And moving is smiling.  As you get involved, you will find incredible numbers of local clubs dedicated to your new sport of choice:  cycling, running, triathlons, hiking, yoga, walking, tennis, pickleball.  (if pickleball is not already in your area, it’s coming) You can find these groups by visiting your local bike shop, running store, health club, or even the bulletin board at your local park.  Meetup is another great resource.  And within those clubs, you will find more experienced athletes who love to share their experience and wisdom.  You will make new friends and find community no matter where you travel.  In time, you will be the athlete taking the newbie under your wing.

I cannot stress enough the importance of the community you choose to plug into.  Jim Rohn famously said that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. Who you choose to surround yourself with is so incredibly important. This theme is reflected in every interview I have conducted so far. We are greatly influenced by those closest to us – they affect how we think, how we view ourselves, and how we make decisions. If you want to be more active, then find a local community that support your favorite sports / activities and dive in headfirst.

If you decide to become a 50+ athlete, your name will also be auto-enrolled as an active participant in the healthcare revolution, and I would love to hear your journey.  The good and the bad.  The pain and the glory. (there is most definitely both) 

Welcome to the land of Strava kudos, a closet full of spandex, a pantry full of electrolyte drinks and a wonderful sense of community and accomplishment.

Andrew Grahamlost somewhere in the Rockies
50+ Cycling geek
Outdoor fanatic
Mediocre downhill skier
Hiker enamored with Colorado beauty
Healthcare Revolutionary