In this guest post by Terry Jones, he addresses needs of 40+ year old mountain bikers with a few tips and tricks for the trail.
Okay, all you 40-something and older mountain bike riders, there is no getting around or away from it, we are getting older. Before I continue, let’s just get it out of our system:
“I hate getting older! It sucks! It blows! In fact, it sucks and blows at the same time!” “It’s just not fair!” “I refuse to get any older!” “I skipped a year somewhere, I am still 39!!!” Etc, etc….
There, feeling better now?
The fact is, as we age, we are not quite as resilient and bulletproof anymore but you already knew that right? Despite our best efforts, we cannot keep up with those dastardly 20 something’s day in and day out. We take longer to recover from a great day of riding; we don’t bounce quite like we used to when we fall and we begin to nurse our aches and pains just a little bit longer. While the Homo Erectus has evolved over time, the Homo “ego” us in us keeps us from admitting this to ourselves but, over time, we come to grips with it. In fact, we have to if we want to continue to enjoy trail riding.
If you are like me, you will have to have your body pried from your trusty mountain bike when you come to the end of your trail of life and, of course, it will be buried next to you so you can continue to explore the heavenly trails in the hereafter. Until then, there are things that you, as a 40+ year old person, can do to assist in prolonging your earthly endeavors, reduce (not eliminate) the amount of time aches and pains remain and prevent injuries that occur in older bodies.
Cold starts are not good for engines nor are they good for trail riders. – Too often, a person just hops on his/her bike and off he/she goes! Sorry 40 +’ers, that just does not work anymore. As we age, our joints and tendons lose resiliency and to prevent injury, they need to be warmed up before any serious exercise. Before straddling that faithful bike and hitting the trail, try stretching for five minutes (back, hamstring, calves and arms) and then a short mild to moderate ride before the heavy stuff. If done correctly, this will seriously diminish the possibility of injury as well as joint/tendon recovery time. In fact, the more stretching and warming up a tendon, primary muscle and primary joint encounters, all things being equal, the less time it needs to repair and recover.
What you eat matters! – Remember the day when you would scarf down two Big Mac’s®, a shake, candy bars, and soda and still play hard all while keeping that boyhood figure? Yep, unless you have a seriously hyperactive thyroid, that is another thing that has to become a wonderful memory. Our eating habits must change to leaner meats, whole grains, low fat dairy products and plenty of fruits and veggies. While this is a wonderful core, juices such as pomegranate, blueberry, cranberry, and acai are a terrific supplemental source for their powerful antioxidant properties. Lastly, to help our joints and tendons remain supple and strong, a good quality Fish Oil supplement never hurts. In point of fact, several studies has shown that a quality fish oil or krill oil supplement enhances joint structure.
Strengthen thyself! – If you are not incorporating some type of resistant exercise into your routine, you are shortchanging your 40+ year old body. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, keeps a body more young more than lifting weights. If done correctly, it enhances your entire system exponentially. Besides the obvious stares you receive from members of the opposite sex, the benefits of resistance training are much stronger joints and tendons, greater padding for our primary joints, serious, and I do mean SERIOUS, increases in our boosts of strength to get up that hill, over that rock, or any other stand-and-hammer situation. Sounds hard to believe? I challenge you to give it a try! As this author lives in central Florida and enjoys year round riding (jealous anyone?) there is no “off season” but for those of you who do, why not put that off time to good use. Come spring, you will feel very young again with your increased strength and stamina.
Carbon fiber handlebars. – I know you are thinking to yourself right now, “What has this got to do with getting older??” but it connects quite well. It is a sad truth that as we mountain bike riders age, our elbows do not absorb the constant tension and grind that they once stood up to. Our forty year old plus elbows received a lot of punishment through the years and, now, they tend to start hurting earlier on longer rides. Carbon fiber handlebars, unlike the aluminum ones, absorb shock much, much better and relieve the elbows of the never-ending jarring and rattling. Besides the bling and decreased weight factor, they are one of best investments you can make.
Quality sleep! – Medically, the reason babies sleep so much is because they are growing. The reason older people sleep so much is because they are repairing. Growth and repair only happens when the body is asleep. For those of us in the middle part of life, sleep does both for us and we need all we can get, particularly if you trail ride. I encourage everyone to keep a young outlook on life but if you are partying like a 21 year old college kid, smoking, and boozing it up, you are not allowing your body to repair itself from the severe strains you place upon it by MTB riding. Hence, it will start to fail you and, I might not-so-subtly add, when you most need it. You are not 25 anymore so knock it off. Get to bed earlier and get the amount of sleep you need.
Address the Stress! – Too many of us live with stress filled lives and, truthfully, it has become almost an American way of life. Medically, stress causes damage to your heart and immune system. I wish I could tell you that you could go to your local bike shop and buy a can of “No-Stress” but, regrettably, it does not exist (in a legal form anyway). There is no such thing as a stress free life but there are things that you can do to dump some of it. Exercising and, particularly, MTB riding is a terrific antidote to stress but it needs to go further into your life. “The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People” by Stephen Covey is a terrific and easy read.
Lastly, as a 40+er, you have responsibilities to yourself, your family and your employer. – Can you believe that every time I ride, there is always an idiot (I am being quite mild here) who chooses to ride without a helmet? Your coconut is not stronger than a rock or tree. Let us face up the fact that we are going to fall. Do you really want your wife to have to deal with you as a veggie? No, you do not look cool and tough riding without a helmet; you are shouting to everyone, non-verbally, that you are indeed very selfish.
There is a well-known bumper sticker stating that a bad day fishing is better than a good day at work. I can see the point but, honestly, I do not think that there is ever a bad day of MTB riding and this is something that most of us refuse to give up, ever. Taking care of our bodies is similar to maintenance on our bikes-take good care of it and it lasts for a very long time.
Terry Jones, a military vet, is a 45 (soon to be 46) year old mountain biker, bodybuilder and middle school math teacher who lives in Central Florida. Image by Alice Teoh.