The Late Start: Why It's Totally Worth it to Chase Performance at Any Age
We've all seen stories in business, family, art and even personal redemption that remind us that it's "never too late" to make a positive change. When it comes to health and fitness it is no different, but when you extend from "just fitness" and into athletic performance it can start to get daunting again. I think this is harder in cycling because of how capable you can continue to be late into life!
But an example of this is one of my clients Russell. He has fallen in love with the sport of cycling over the past two years. But he is also in his 50s. Looking at your first Cat 5 race full of fit people of all age groups and abilities, brand new to the racing sport of cycling, when you are at the later end of the age spectrum is just plain difficult.
Lots of things come up. You can have feelings of regret from not starting the sport sooner, when your recovery and abilities would have been quicker to adjust. With more life experience you are rightly more apprehensive about the aspects of crashing, balance, control - in a sport that is always done on the edge of being completely out of control. And, to be honest, there are high doses of humility to take in every time a Junior 1/4 your age is barely breathing beside you - and you are doing all you can to stay with the group and save face.
Sounds like a lot of reasons to quit and just ride easy on the B rides, right? Well, some of us are built differently. I didn't start the sport until I was 30, 50 lbs heavier then I am now, with all the signs of poor health. Russell was very fit, spending time in the gym and cardio. But what pulled him into the sport, the same as me, was the attraction of being able to still be competitive, to have our limits pushed, and to let the chase of performance open the doors to all the great experiences to be had in cycling.
This is Russell's second year of road racing. To be honest, with some of my clients that start later I'm not sure if they will ever put all the pieces together of fitness, tactics, and the rawer mental edge to gun for proper results. You don't know until they do it. This past weekend Russell took a huge first step in showing that he's starting to put those pieces together with his first podium.
The Matrix Challenge, the first major crit weekend in the Texas/Oklahoma region, has been going on in Dallas for three decades. It's known to be a very technical, 8 turn course and always a strong battle. Russell raced smart, saved as much as he could battling a muscle-laden guy probably half his age - and came away with a strong 2nd place. A true success that is a result of his hard work.
But what is KEY isn't that Russell is getting results as a racer! What's key is that by chasing performance in racing, Russell's fitness and ability have skyrocketed to the point that any experience in cycling that he wants to do is wide open at his feet. The Hotter n Hell Century isn't even a challenge for him at this point unless he is trying to go under 4 hours. Any of the amazing Rapha Travel Trips - known for their luxury support and dogged riding - are completely within reach. Top Tier Fondo's like Copper's Triangle in Vail, Colorado? - Not a problem.
That is the best-case-scenario for any of us starting cycling mid-life and on. Not JUST that we are taking care of our bodies through fitness and proper nutrition. But that the work we are doing to be healthy is opening the door to a fuller, richer set of experiences to go out and enjoy the world.
I'm incredibly proud of Russell (and putting some solid workouts in place for his ramp into the OKC Pro Am Challenge). But I also want to encourage many of you that are "late starters" like Russell and I.