I love to cross-country ski in the winter and we’ve had great early season snow in the Colorado mountains. Before we go to bed we check the National Weather Service forecast and in the morning we read the Open Snow specific forecast for the ski areas in Colorado. I’ve already skied 14 days this winter — some winters we aren’t on the snow yet.
On Sunday I saw my friend Andy Pruitt at the Snow Mountain Ranch Nordic center. Andy is excited that he turns 70 this year and is aging up. He’ll be the youngest competing on skis and on his bike in the age 70+ race division, which gives him an advantage over the older competitors in the division.
I’m also 70 and in the new race division. I’m already logging kilometers on the snow and considering several events.
Aging involves not just physical changes but also cognitive and attitudinal changes, over which we have some control. Robin Saltonstall, Ph.D. is my long-time friend, former swim coach and sometimes tandem partner. We both live in Boulder, CO where she directs the 40plus Integrative Health Program. She works with people on the specific physical and mental issues of traversing midlife and beyond. She calls this process “Wising up.” Your brain changes around age 50 in ways that allow you to synthesize information better and make complex decisions. The midlife brain is better than the younger brain at deriving the gist of situations. I’ve written a column about Wising Up.
Taking the Long View
Rather than lamenting that I turned 70 last April I’m viewing this as a time to start an exciting new chapter in my life. I’m shifting from a full-time cycling coach and author to part-time so I can spend more time recreating. I’ll continue to write for RBR because it’s a way to help my fellow roadies.
This shift includes downsizing from our large multi-level house to two smaller places in which we can age into our 80s and beyond, i.e., homes with the living room, dining room, kitchen and master bedroom and bath all on one level so we didn’t have to climb stairs as we age. We want a home in Boulder with great road riding and one in the mountains with great mountain biking, hiking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Starting in April 2019 (after ski season) our priority was getting the family home ready to sell, selling it and partially moving to a smaller loft in N. Boulder, which is on one level. We put many of our possessions in storage. In September we found a wonderful new home in the mountains, got it ready to occupy and moved in last month. Our mountain home is about a two-hour drive from our Boulder loft. The long-term plan is to live primarily in the mountains until we can’t any more and then move full-time to the loft.
During the eight-month process I only rode a few days a week. When I lament losing fitness, which will take longer to regain now that I’m 70, I remind myself to think differently about aging and to take the long view. We’re setting up our lives for the next 20 years or so.
Creating New Opportunities
Part of the process is creating new opportunities. Moving to the Fraser Valley I’m close to Berthoud Pass (11,306 ft.) and Rocky Mountain National Park with Trail Ridge, the highest paved pass is the US (12,183 ft.) and other passes aren’t far away.
Our home is close to mountain bike trails, which bring new challenges to keep me interested and motivated. Mountain biking requires different skills than cycling on the road. Mountain biking includes short, very intense efforts, natural VO2 max training! We can hike more in the summer and snowshoe more in the winter, weight-bearing activities that are important for strong bones. On the snow people ski away from me because they have better technique. When I was a weekend warrior I tried to ski as many kilometers as I could before going back to work. Now that I can ski almost full-time I can spend time working on my skills.
Warding Off Dementia
According the Malcolm Fraser, MD, “The major problem that most of us face as we age is not physical. It is going to be psychiatric — dementia of one type or another. There are no proven ways to avoid all dementia but the benefits associated with exercise, as opposed to exercise itself, have been shown to possibly help to delay the onset of dementia.”
I want to live into my 80s and beyond and still write and coach so I’m paying a lot of attention to the factors, which may reduce the risk of dementia:
- Aerobic exercise – increasing my aerobic exercise (and fun!) is one of the reasons for moving to the mountains.
- Healthy diet — a healthy, balanced diet may risk of dementia as well cancer, type 2 diabetes, obesity, stroke and heart disease. I’ve written an eArticle about Healthy Nutrition Past 50.
- Don’t smoke — check.
- Drink less alcohol — I don’t drink.
- Exercise your mind — this is one of the reasons I continue to write and coach. In Fraser I’m in a discussion group at the library, a writers’ group and on the board of the Grand County Concert Series.
- Social interaction — to increase our circle of friends we’ve joined the Grand County Wilderness Group. Now that I’m mostly retired I’m spending more time with similarly retired friends.
- Sense of purpose — the Wilderness Group supports the Forest Service and we host trailheads and work on trails.
- Take control of your health — now is the time to see your health care professional to assess your physical condition and talk about how you can improve. I’ve written a column about Working with Your Doctor.
Improving Quality of Life
Living in the mountains is simpler, friendlier and much less stressful than living in Boulder. Up here I go to Sharky’s café frequently — Katie and Dan know I like meatloaf benedict so they save me a slice of meatloaf to make my breakfast. The Icebox services my bikes and skis. Because we’re friends, Jason fits in a bike tuning without an appointment and Daisy stays late to wax my skis. Marie-Ange at the Devils’ Thumb Nordic center sends me daily e-mails about the snow conditions. Jules the post-mistress in Fraser doesn’t put slips in our mailboxes to pick up packages. She knows everyone by name and just hands out packages when we come in.
And then there’s traffic. The Boulder is part of the Denver Metro Area, which has about 2.8 million people. Fraser is in Grand County and only 15,000 people live in the entire county.
You’re Only as Old as You Think. 83-year old Joe Shami, of Lafayette, CA climbed Mount Diablo for 500 consecutive weeks. Diablo (3,849 ft.) is at sea level about 40 miles east of San Francisco, CA. Most of the 11-mile climb is a 10-12 percent grade averaging 8 percent. “The wall” the final stretch to the top is 17-19 percent.
Klaus Obermeyer, one of the pioneers of downhill skiing in the US, turned 100 this year. His thoughts on aging apply to roadies as well as to skiers.
How we think about aging affects how we age. Now is the time to make conscious choices about how you want to live the rest of your life.
My eBook Anti-Aging: 12 Ways You Can Slow the Aging Process includes interviews with Andy Pruitt and Malcolm Fraser. Each describes his exercise program and gives recommendations for a long, healthy and active life. Anti-Aging also includes interviews with 10 other male and female roadies ages 55 to 83. They describe their exercise programs in terms of the American College of Sports Medicine’s recommendations. They talk about changing exercise goals over time. They emphasize the value of intrinsically enjoying an activity rather than doing it because it’s good for you. They describe many ways to adapt positively to the aging process. The 106-page eBook Anti-Aging: 12 Ways You Can Slow the Aging Process is available for $14.99.
Coach John Hughes earned coaching certifications from USA Cycling and the National Strength and Conditioning Association. John’s cycling career includes course records in the Boston-Montreal-Boston 1200-km randonnée and the Furnace Creek 508, a Race Across AMerica (RAAM) qualifier. He has ridden solo RAAM twice and is a 5-time finisher of the 1200-km Paris-Brest-Paris. He has written nearly 30 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training and nutrition, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach John Hughes. Click to read John's full bio.