Plus Sage Advice From a 1990s TV Show
By Kevin Kolodziejski
Feeling like the Hemingway character futilely fighting off the sharks devouring the mega marlin lashed to the side of the boat? Or maybe more like the Tour de France rider who just ripped the number from his jersey and plopped his butt in the broom wagon?
This time of the year can do that to you. The holidays have gone; the bad-for-biking weather hasn’t. Plus the start of a new year makes you reflect not only on those fish that never made it to market but also cycling seasons past. What appears in your mind is like a bad scene from “A Christmas Carol” — yet not a single ghost is present.
Instead, you see Ebenezer Scrooge and he says something far more unsettling than “Bah, humbug.” He asks you,“What’s Christmas time but a time for finding yourself a year older and not a tenth of a mile per hour faster?”
Projecting Me Onto You?
Okay, so maybe I’m the one really seeing Scrooge — and he’s saying five-tenths of a mile slower. Whatever. It’s called poetic license and it serves to highlight the fact that just about every cyclist — except maybe those on a two-week bike excursion in Australia — could use a mental reboot this time of the year.
So the task today is to make us both view cycling — and possibly even other parts of our lives — with fresh and optimistic eyes, while making a few lame literary allusions in the process. What comes next may not leave you feeling as good as seeing a suddenly healthy Tiny Tim running to a magically transformed Scrooge to hug his “uncle’s” knee caps, but that’s okay. The goal is not to tug at your heart strings, bring a tear to your eye — or have you embrace any part of your article-writing uncle’s body.
The Old Man Who’s the CEO
What I hope you come to share in common with 74-year-old Norwegian billionaire Torstein Hagen is not wealth but a philosophy. A philosophy about time.
The chief executive officer for Viking Cruises expresses it in a commercial for the cruise line, calling time the “only truly scarce commodity,” so it’s important to spend yours wisely. Not exactly a unique observation I grant you, but I saw the commercial at least three times every time I watched an episode from the first season of “Annika,” an exceptionally well-done murder-mystery drama that recently aired on PBS. It got me thinking about the significant time commitment serious cycling requires.
Then after such a disappointing ride that I did feel as if I were viewing the bones of my prized but picked clean marlin or sitting in the back of the TdF broom wagon — and I hate to admit this — I saw the last three hours of my life as a waste of time and actually considered riding considerably less than my standard 11 hours per week in the wintertime. But that idea evaporated in less than a day because I came across a Today.com article by A. Pawlowski about Les Savino. He’s not Norwegian, nor a billionaire, just my new idol.
The Old Man Who’s Really Old
What makes Savino worthy of my idolatry is not that he surpasses my total typical weekday exercise time by working out in some way for three hours all five mornings. It’s that he surpasses me despite the fact that virtually every one of his contemporaries has — in an oddly euphemistic manner of speaking — already surpassed him. Everlastingly. Eternally. They do their cardio and weightlifting at the health club called the Great Beyond.
Les Savino is doing his at the YMCA in Hanover, Pennsylvania — and he’s 100.
What I find especially noteworthy about Savino besides his age is that he has no more motivation at the start of the day than a 300-pound, 30-year-old who considers working the lever on the armchair to recline it and pop out the footrest a few times a good-enough arm workout. He tells Pawlowski he never feels like going to the gym but knows it’s necessary if he wants to enjoy the rest of the day. Once he gets going, though, he feels far more flexible and really good — so good that afterwards he’s far more motivated to go about his day.
And for good reason.
“Most people at 100 no longer enjoy life,” Savino says. “[But] my days are as normal as when I was 30.” He believes exercise is “much better than medicine,” and the only type he takes is a single daily pill to keep his blood pressure in check. He’s never had any sort of heart disease or any type of cancer, though he has been battling with Ménière’s disease.
It affects his balance enough so at times he uses a walker, but not enough to keep him from driving the Lincoln sedan he gifted himself on birthday 100 to lift weights on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and ride a stationary bike and walk on a treadmill on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Think about that. And also that Pawlowski spoke to him on a cardio day, and he admitted to breaking his standard routine that morning — by adding “bonus” weightlifting to it.
Anybody else feeling the requisite juice— augmented by a healthy dose of guilt — needed to hop on the wind trainer and do one helluva Tractor Pull workout?
‘This Is Who We Are’
To conclude our cycling reboot, let me tell you I generally get up in the morning naturally, a few minutes before the alarm is set to go off. As well as what Peter Watts, his handler and friend, says to Frank Black on more than one occasion during the three-year run of “Millennium.” The television show ran from 1996 to 1999 and followed Black, a former FBI profiler who recently suffered a nervous breakdown, as he works with a mysterious group that covertly investigates serial killers, conspiracies, and the occult.
When Watts senses that Black doubts himself or the task at hand, he very matter-of-factly says, “This is who we are. This is what we do.”
That’s what I’ve started saying to myself on those rare mornings when I’m roused out of bed by the alarm and want to stay there. Maybe it appeals to my perverse sense of pride. Who knows? But it gets me up immediately, which gives me almost four hours to write before I exercise.
And I’ve come to use it more than once after the writing session when I’m not exactly champing at the bit to exercise.
Give the saying a try the next time you feel that way about exercise, riding outside in the cold, or anything at all.
Kevin Kolodziejski began his writing career in earnest in 1989. Since then he’s written a weekly health and fitness column and his articles have appeared in magazines such as “MuscleMag,” “Ironman,” “Vegetarian Times,” and “Bicycle Guide.” He has Bachelor and Masters degrees in English from DeSales and Kutztown Universities.
A competitive cyclist for more than 30 years, Kevin won two Pennsylvania State Time Trial championships in his 30’s, the aptly named Pain Mountain Time Trial 4 out of 5 times in his 40s, two more state TT’s in his 50’s, and the season-long Pennsylvania 40+ BAR championship at 43.