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Dealing With the “Being Fit Doesn’t Guarantee Longevity” Meme…

June 2014

If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone, usually of heft, claim that being fit doesn’t guarantee longevity in life I’d be retired in a villa overlooking a mountain in North Carolina (or maybe Tennessee) with an in-ground pool carved into the mountain (technically I’d probably live lower down on the mountain so I didn’t have to climb the thing after a long ride, but I digress). My favorite is when people cart out the old, “so and so had a heart attack and they were a world renowned runner who even wrote a book”… Shocked, jaw dropped amazement is usually followed by an educated, detailed explanation of why fitness is so important. Studies are quoted, etc..

In other words, those who choose to maintain fitness tend to treat that comment with way too much seriousness. I would like to suggest this line instead:

Fitness may not guarantee longevity but lack of it guarantees brevity.

The point is this: We know why those fitness gurus died early and their conditions can be tested for, easily.  In addition, the “fitness guru died” excuse is just an excuse to ignore reality and a conversation.  Even if there were any truth to the fear, I’d rather die fit, mobile, happy and hard than soft, miserable and unable to walk a flight of stairs without breathing hard and heavy.

I simply lack the ability to be fat and happy at the same time.

Now, where we get into trouble, and I see this all too often as well, the growth of fitness works better when we concentrate on attraction rather than promotion.  We can get into trouble when brutal honesty is chosen over plain old honesty.

Some (including some very seasoned cyclists who I ride with regularly) would rather opt for complete non-confrontation, allowing noobs to learn on their own.  While I do see the wisdom in this approach, I am a different kind of person.  I am one of those rare few who possesses the ability to understand that I won’t walk right into something brand new and expect to understand all of the intricacies without a little help from those who came before me.  I actually appreciate some sound advice where it’s needed.  Cycling, because its traditions are so strictly adhered to by those in the know, provides the perfect backdrop to examine this a little more closely…

A case in point:  Two years ago, a noob showed up to our advanced club ride on an old steel ten speed.  His jersey was half tucked into his shorts, no-no number one, and his tighty-whities were sticking out of the waistband of his shorts as well…  In other words, he’d tucked his jersey into his underwear.  Now, much to my surprise, he could actually ride fairly competently (meaning in a straight line).  On the other hand, those undershorts had to be killing him.  So one of the guys and I exchanged smirks and I suggested maybe I should let him know that underbritches are kind of not needed with proper cycling shorts – this is what I would want.  He, on the other hand, suggested that I leave it alone, that the kid would figure things out in due time…

See, I’d rather know as soon as possible that I’m a dork rather than find out on my own a year down the road and wonder why nobody cared enough to let me know I was committing such an egregious faux pas.  Like I said, I am a rare bird, I know.  The other side of that coin are the people who embarrass easily and would rather figure out their mistakes on their own, hoping against hope that nobody caught their error.  I can certainly understand that side too.

When I was a noob, I didn’t have a whole lot of money to put into cycling.  I had a decent bike that I’d bought used, but my clothing was at the lower end of the scale.  My shorts were ultra cheap, I wore white cotton crew gym socks (an absolute no-no) and in cold weather, rather than the proper leg warmers, I was relegated to riding in my wife’s old running tights.  On more than one occasion my choice of attire was brought to my attention, nicely of course.  My answer, every time, was simply that I couldn’t afford anything better at the moment but I’d take their advice as soon as I could.  This was the end of the conversation – it was never taken further.  Unfortunately for some, copping to the fact that you don’t have enough disposable cash to shill for expensive gear is looked at as embarrassing.  I can only speculate as to why as I am not afflicted with mistaken belief.

All of that said, there is no law against being a jerk and unfortunately, jerks know this.  I read a post last evening written by a woman who took exception to the derision of another woman (by a woman I might add) who was lifting five pound weights.  Her point was that she was worried that the woman would quit because of the way she was treated…  I see that side of it, I do, but if I quit every time I felt less than, I’d have been relegated to the couch years ago, yearning for what I have now.

Tis a pickle.



  1. sueslaght says:

    I’m about helping others rather than making fun of them. If people are getting out and moving shouldn’t we be encouraging them rather than laughing at them? You and I are on the same page on this one.

  2. With you both here & sometimes education needs a teacher too.

  3. JC Hammond says:

    As a returning “noob” to cycling, I appreciate your approach. I’d rather be told when I’m doing something wrong or a tradition has changed from what I was familiar with than founder around trying to discover where I went wrong on my own.

    Also, thank you for admitting that fitness doesn’t guarantee longevity. Being fit and healthy improves your odds of living longer. There are just some things that no amount of good health or fitness can overcome. Anyone can be hit by a bus or choke on something even without the disease component thrown in, which is how I usually address such comments. I also point out that I am usually doing, seeing and experiencing more than the average couch potato. For me, that’s the real point of fitness. 😉

    • bgddyjim says:

      That’s a great final point there… I was a tater for a bit, long ago, and I missed a TON sitting there playing video games! I’d never go back to that. Two points, well written and thank you.

  4. FatSlowTri says:

    As a “person of heft” I would have to say you are not a rare bird at all. The majority of people I have met through triathlon are more than willing to help and the rare ones are those that make fun and ridicule. After 4 years, though, I will say this: those that mock and ridicule tend to be the cyclists groups and not the runners or swimmers. I am not sure why that is.

    • bgddyjim says:

      I can tell you what it is, pure and simple: Danger and fear. If you’re running in a group and you slow down, what’s the worst that happens? If you ride a bike like crap, you put the whole group at risk. There is a very specific order of becoming accepted into the group… Ride well first, all else is forgivable. I practiced for more than a month riding on the white line, spent hours every weekend researching proper etiquette and learned what to do. In other words, I removed the danger so I was forgiven for some minor fashion infractions. The attitude is a simple way of keeping the group safe, even if it is a bit rude and nasty.

    • bgddyjim says:

      Oh, and you misunderstood the origin of my rarity… I love to help noobs out, you can see that in my posts… I’m rare because I don’t take offense to people letting me know the difference between right and wrong. Too many people call that criticism and get upset. That’s where I was going with that. 😉

  5. I tend not to tell people if they are making some kind of error because I worry that they think I view myself as an expert. However, I cycled home from work one day wearing my assos shorts inside looked like I had a giant green sanitary pad stuck on my ass. I would have appreciated someone telling me as I walked out the door! I am similarly tired of people who are overweight denying that they are risking their health and that what matters is that they “love themselves whatever the size”. This is a view perpetuated by the media, who have made fat a feminist issue instead of a health one.

  6. fastk9dad says:

    I admit I took the non-confrontational approach this weekend and apparently everyone else in the group did as well. 😉 It’s more of a social club so a lot of things slide and we try not to judge.

    Anyway, it was a fairly new rider who I had not rode with before but apparently this is his first season riding but has been on a few club rides before. I’m not going to nitpick but the bike cable and lock coiled around the top tube was a bit much. 😉

    What struck me as odd was the bike. It didn’t look like he had been fitted on it as the seat looked a little low, even for a more upright position. It was a Specialized frame but I could not for the life of me figure out the model. The bento box may have been covering the name and then on one of the climbs we were chatting and I asked what model is that anyway… Dolce.

    He admitted he knew it was a womans frame but it was his size and the price was right (on craigslist). I really wasn’t sure what to say a that point and came out with a “whatever works”. I just didn’t have it in me to explain the geometry and physiology differences and while the frame size might be the right # the rest of the bike probably isn’t. But then the padded seat sort of made sense as a womans saddle was probably not even close to the correct size for him and would likely be mighty uncomfortable by itself.

    With that said, he was a strong rider so wasn’t really holding the group back.

      • fastk9dad says:

        That about sums up my reaction. I may try and casually bring up bike fit the next ride I see him on and take it from there.

      • bgddyjim says:

        Hey, maybe it’s the new Peter Sagan thing to do, ride a chick’s bike! Chuckle. Speaking of chicks, I got to ride with an ex-Olympic cyclist at the club ride. Man, she was awesome… One of those “I won’t be able to pull for that long and I don’t think I’ll be that fast… And she picked the pace up. Talk about grace, she was GOOD.

  7. I think it comes down to attitude. It’s one thing for someone to correct or encourage someone else to reach beyond the 5lb dumbbell because it’s only a stepping stone to greater health, it’s another when someone sneers at another person working out. I think there is a lot more sneering than actual helpfulness, and in those cases it’s often an insecurity issue in the derider that makes them want to take others down.

    I agree with you that if I took every naysayer’s insult, I’d never get anything done. But as the daughter of a naysayer, I say say it made it a lot more difficult to get the motivation to continue than it needed to be.

    All that said, if I wore inappropriate undergarments, I’d be much happier if you pulled me aside and told me that wearing only my thong while cycling was unwise. I shudder to think of the chafing.

    • bgddyjim says:

      Dear God in Heaven, thongs are AWESOME everywhere but on a bike. That thing would feel like barbed wire after 50 miles.

      Funny, I ride with a guy who knows better than to ride a Time Trial bike in a group ride (no access to the brakes when it’s important) yet he brings it regularly. He almost took two people out last night. And by almost, I mean it was CLOSE. The guy is dangerous. This is one of the main reasons that cyclists get snippy. Group riding, especially at speed, is dangerous enough when everyone rides well… Throw an ignoramus in there and bad things happen.

      As for naysayers, judging by your last two comments, you had one of those uncharacteristically terrible mothers. Your experience is a whole new level.

      Finally, that first part of the comment nailed it.

      • I imagine it would make me snippy too if I were on the road with someone like Mr TT bike. As it is, the few times I’ve tried cycling I was terrified of cars, the other cyclists and that I’d somehow feed my leg to the bike chains. I’d want to know that I was doing what I could to not be a danger to myself and others.

      • bgddyjim says:

        Cycling is a funny thing that way. I’ve wondered, often, why traffic doesn’t bother me as much as others but I just can’t put my finger in it. It just doesn’t. Part if it would be the stat that only 3% of cycling accidents occur when the cyclist is following the rules of the road. The lion’s share occur when the cyclist rides on the wrong side of the road or on the sidewalk. Other than that, I live in a GREAT cycling town and I have faith. It is a tricky sport and I have to be paying attention at all times to do it, there’s no doubt about that.

        It looks like you really love running though and that’s what is most important; that we love what we do. 😉

  8. […] Dealing With the “Being Fit Doesn’t Guarantee Longevity” Meme… […]

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