I turned 70 this year and in an earlier column I wrote about Lessons from my Journey Through Life. The basic message is that chronological aging is unavoidable; however, you can choose how you live the journey and control physiological aging.
To mark my 66th year (2015) I challenged myself to climb at least 66,000 feet in the Colorado Rockies (I live in Boulder). To make the challenge more interesting I was only allowed to count a climb once. That winter the challenge was to cross-country ski at least 66 days. I exceeded both goals.
To mark my 67th year (2016) I challenged myself to climb both sides of each Colorado pass that’s at least 12,000 ft. high:
- Trail Ridge Road (12,183 feet) through Rocky Mountain National Park is the highest paved pass in the United States.
- Cottonwood Pass (12,126 feet) was a particularly fun climb on the west side, which wasn’t paved.
- Independence Pass (12,095 feet) was the Queen stage in several of the Colorado Classic stage race.
- Mt. Evans (14,265 feet) isn’t a pass but it’s the highest paved road in the US.
Over the course of the summer I mastered all seven climbs.
That winter my goal was to participate in cross-country ski races totaling at least 67 kilometers. I started with the 10K Snow Mountain Classic in early January racing in temps in the single digits and a few weeks later skied the Stage Coach Classic 15K. Then Carol and I enjoyed traveling to the Chama Chili Classic 12K and the Crested Butte Alley Loop 26K – the 13K course loops through the alleys of Crested Butte. In March it warmed up so much that the snow wasn’t good for cross-country so I only raced 50K but we sure had fun that winter!
I couldn’t think of a fun road cycling challenge for my 68th summer (2017) so I set out to improve my mountain biking. By the end of the summer I’d ridden most of the intermediate trails around Winter Park, CO in the Rockies. I avoided the expert trails lest I fall and break bones.
Then in January 2018 I stupidly fell of a ladder and fractured my ankle. You can read about my recovery and riding goals for 2018 here. This past winter my goal was simple: get back in skiing shape. We skied the Ranch-to-Ranch 15K and then both got bad cases of the flu, which shot the season.
Carol and I both love hiking, snow shoeing and cross-country skiing. Carol loves downhill skiing and I love mountain biking. We’d tired of driving two+ hours from Boulder to the Winter Park area to play so in March we decided to sell our Boulder home and move to the Winter Park area. We spent April – July getting the house ready to sell, putting it on the market and closing the sale. In August we put many of our belongings in storage, moved into a small condo in north Boulder and found a great new home at 9,000 feet in Winter Park Highlands, the former Winter Park Honey. You can check out the location here. The last two months we’ve been working on the house and moved our furniture up last weekend. I’ve only ridden once or twice a week since March!
Can I Improve as I get Older?
The physiology is clear. Most people’s health and fitness start to irrevocably decline about age 50, and as we get older our health and fitness decline more rapidly. This is called the geriatric curve. In spite of the 66K of climbing in 2015, the seven 12,000 foot climbs 2016 were harder than the same climbs the year before. You can slow the rate of decline but you can’t stop it.
I’ve talked with my doctor who specializes in patients in their 50s and beyond. I’ve told her my goal is to stay as healthy and fit as possible into my 90s and then drop dead. This is called squaring the geriatric curve. You can read about it here.
I’m 70 and unfortunately have lost fitness over the last two years. The good news is that I have a lot of upward potential!
Improving This Winter
Snow Mountain Ranch opens for cross-country skiing in two weeks! We had our first snow in Boulder on Monday and I skied the last three days in Boulder parks. After nine months of dealing with house stuff I have a long way to go before I’m skiing well. My goal is to be able to ski for three to four hours. I know how to get back in shape.
- Build my base: Since March Once or twice a week I’ve ridden for 1 – 1:30 hours. From now to the first of the year I need to do endurance training on the bike and on skis when possible to build up to 3 to 4 hour outings. Tips for Base Training in the Cold.
- Increase my strength: Cycling my cadence is 80 – 90 rpm. Skiing my rate of turnover is much slower so I need more strength and power in my legs. Skiing also uses the arm muscles, especially the triceps. I’m going to the gym three days a week and also doing simple things like one-leg squats while brushing my teeth. Chopping wood is a great workout for my core and arms. And then there’s shoveling snow.
- Work on my balance: To ski my best I need to push off one ski, shift my weight fully to the other ski, glide and then push off, shift back to the otherski and glide. To help I practice tai chi most mornings. Moving from one tai chi pose to another involves a similar weight transfer.
- Do ski specific drills: I ski classic, which is also called the diagonal stride because of the particular rhythm of arms and legs. I practice this rhythm in the yard or down the hall and back. I also attach an exercise cord to an anchor with a handle in each hand and practice the arm motion and strengthen my triceps.
Other Ways to Improve Your Performance as You Age.
My column 5 Ways to Improve Your Cycling explains how to improve your muscle firing pattern, increase your pedaling economy, get a bike fit, train your upper body and learn how to relax – these all produce free power!
More on Squaring the Geriatric Curve
I designed and wrote my eBook Anti-Aging 12 Ways You Can Slow the Aging Process to help you flatten the geriatric curve by increasing your aerobic capacity, doing intensity training, building and maintain muscle strength and power, increasing your flexibility, working on your balance and reducing bone loss. Anti-Aging incorporates the latest research and most of it is new material not published in my previous eArticles on cycling past 50, 60 and beyond. Anti-Aging: 12 Ways You Can Slow the Aging Process is your comprehensive guide to continuing to ride well into your 80s and even your 90s. The 106-page eBook is $14.99 ($12.74 for Premium Members after their 15% discount).
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.