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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Cycling offers way for older Memphians to get into shape and to possibly feel younger

Cycling offers way for older Memphians to get into shape and to possibly feel younger
By:  Michael Lander
Old and young alike will find some very scenic places to ride such as Overton
Park that has a bicycle arch at its entrance where Sam Cooper Blvd and East
Parkway intersect.

It has often been said that we are only as old as we feel and, it would be safe to say, that none of us ever want to feel any older than we actually are.  Looking and feeling younger is what most of us want and what we typically strive for as we move into our 40's, 50's and beyond.

Without a fountain of youth to keep us all looking and feeling younger, however, we all have to rely on what we've always been told about the importance of eating right, getting plenty of rest, and making time in our busy lives for some exercise. 

Of these, it is especially important to keep moving and to remain active as we age even though the temptation might be to slow down and to start taking it easy, particularly when you feel the aches and pains that inevitably come with growing older.

Instead of spending our later years in sedentary pursuits like kicking back in recliners and rocking chairs, though, each and every one of us will find a lot more benefits in getting up, getting out and to start moving rather than sitting around and watching the world around us from the sidelines. 

There are any number of great ways to get moving and to get into and to stay in shape.  These include walking, hiking running, and swimming, just to name a few, but in Memphis, one of the best and fastest growing ways to get exercise may come on a bicycle.  With a ever-growing network of bike lanes, paths and trails, Memphis has become a Mecca for cycling in less than a decade.

A slow and leisurely ride on one of the many bike and pedestrian trails
in Memphis is something that cyclists of any age can appreciate.

While no one would argue that any form of exercise is better than doing nothing at all, cycling may be one of the better options for those who are older and who enjoy being outdoors.  Many who suffer from joint and knee pain may also find cycling to be considerably easier on them, for instance, than running and hiking might be.

Cyclists come in all shapes and sizes and of all ages and, contrary to what some people might think, it is never too late and you are never too old to start cycling.  Bikes don't come with recommended age labels and, as long as you can peddle, there is no reason that you can't ride a bike.  

If you are out-of-shape, or returning to cycling after a long absence away from it, it is advisable that you first take it slow and easy.  Trying to do too much too fast will not only make it a painful experience for you, but it will make you less inclined to go back again for seconds. 

For tips on how to get started in cycling, you might want to visit the Memphis Cyclist website.

As with any exercise or work-out regimen, it is important to listen to your body and to make adjustments along the way.  You should also decide, early on, why you want to ride.  Whether your want to do it just for fun, to get into or to stay in shape, or to even possibly compete in your age group, this will help you to set goals and to determine the amount of time, effort and training that you will need to put into it.

Cycling is an activity that can be enjoyed throughout each season of the year and
it can be a great way for older Memphians to get into shape and stay healthy.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with just wanting to do leisurely or recreational riding, but for those who want to do something more than that, everything really comes down to getting adequate training.  In Jesper Bondo Medhus' article, "Age is No Barrier to Cycling," Medhus emphasized this point and how important training is for both young and old alike and that each is capable of achieving the same results.  Also, for the most benefit in training, it is highly recommended that it is done with as much frequency and intensity as possible.

For those who want to ride for a purpose other than just the pure pleasure of it, you should expect a little pain and discomfort through long and strenuous training rides, but it should not exceed more than you can tolerate.  If there is too much pain and not enough enjoyment in it, you are not likely to stick with it over the long term.

As anyone with a little age on them will tell you, some pain and discomfort is sometimes just a part of life as you come to and pass middle age, but you also should know your body and what you can't and should not do.  Everything seems harder when you are older, but with a little time and effort, there is no reason whatsoever that you can't keep up or even ride past some of those who are half your age.

Whenever you do not perform or ride as well as you hope, try not to be too hard on yourself.  Just think, you probably don't have any appliances or electronic devices around your house that have lasted as long as you have and you shouldn't expect that any will ever be made that will be as durable and long-lasting either. 

As with anything else in life, you should expect some occasional setbacks and disappointments along the way with your cycling, but you should never let this hold you back from staying at it and continuing to set new and greater goals for yourself.  When you reach a time in life when it seems like just being able to wake up in the morning is an accomplishment, each and every other challenge that you overcome should be savored for all it's worth. 

Over the decades, you experience a lot, endure through a lot and yet you often persevere, but you do usually pay for the years of wear and tear and abuse that you inflicted on yourself over the decades.  The American composer, lyricist and pianist, Eubie Blake, had the classic line about this when he said, "if I had known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself."  But in spite of all this, the human body is often quite resilient and it can overcome a lot if the mind and spirit are willing to put forth that effort.

Whatever people might want to say about cyclists, the one thing that they are not is wimps.  For that matter, when it comes down to it, the same could also be said for just about anyone who survives into old age.  Life isn't always easy, but nothing worth having usually is and we often don't learn to appreciate anything until we've worked hard for it.
The bike and pedestrian trails in Memphis and surrounding areas offer older
cyclists, and others, an opportunity to ride at a more leisurely pace while
taking in some of the beautiful scenery along the route.

Even though older cyclists are at a disadvantage to the younger counterparts, they do have one distinctive advantage in that they have endured many difficult life lessons, but then have overcome them and, with some training, they can do the same with any that they might encounter while cycling.  With that, the older cyclist need only know their own personal limits and then they must be willing to try to move past them in order to make progress and to improve. 

Should you be older, and are interested in cycling, you are likely to find that you are not alone.  In the years ahead, Memphians should begin to see even more seniors out riding their bikes around our city.  It has been identified as one of the best places to retire and was voted as a top retirement destination in the Huffington Post, Kiplinger, and on the nerdwallet & areavibes websites.

If you would like to know more about older folks and cycling, you may want to read the article, "Cycling in Older Age," on the Bike Culture website, "Aging and Physical Performance," on, or you might want to check out the website:

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