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Fit Recovery – On Growing Old(er)


January 2015

When my dad was my age (44), I was 17. Things were a lot less happy than I knew but I lived in a nice little cocoon of awesomeness that my parents spun around me.

My dad was relatively healthy back then, except for the fact that he still smoked like a chimney (2 packs a day, sometimes 3 – I quit more than twelve years ago now, I think). My dad was fairly active (if active is considered getting in and out of a golf cart), more than average and in spite of his numerous imperfections, did a great job of raising me. My mom played a bigger, better role in my upbringing but in the end, my pops taught me to be a man (my mom taught me how to properly treat a woman – something my dad didn’t do so well).

As I watch friends and family contract ugly illnesses and the pace of deaths has hit a fever-pitch, I can’t help but think back on how grateful I am to have the past that I do and that I responded to external stimuli as I did.

My dad died of a combination of Alzheimer’s and alcohol induced “wet brain” (dementia brought about by excessive alcohol consumption). Also had a nice case of COPD, obviously a result of smoking. He drank well into his sixties even though he’d sworn off of it dozens of times.

Unlike my dad, I’d had enough of the drinking at 22, quit smoking before I was 35 and maintained a level of fitness my dad never had the stomach (or made the time) for. In fact, now that I think of it, neither of my folks did anything to stay in shape. No jogging, no biking, not even walking.

This year I’m staring at the mid-point between 40 and 50. That wonderful age when so many people slow down. I’m entirely mood and mind altering substance-fee, tobacco free (more on that at a later date) and I’m still getting faster. In addition to cycling, I’m getting back into swimming, cranking out intervals and hanging with an incredibly fit crowd. I am the opposite of my dad’s example for my kids. I am Ward Cleaver, only funnier, happier, sexier and faster.

I don’t claim to have the market cornered on happiness, sobriety or fitness – I have my struggles just like anyone else but the truth is, I do lead a life I can be happy with. I chose the words in that last sentence carefully. One would normally use “proud” in place of “happy” but I have to be very mindful when it comes to pride.

There are two things I don’t do well, and a fella needs to know his limitations as they say…I don’t do righteous indignation or pride (unless it’s a self-mocking, tongue in cheek, pride – that, I rock at). When it comes to righteous indignation, I’m rash, harsh and often say (or write) things without first thinking them through. This, almost always, leads to misunderstanding and me eating some form of crow (warm or cold).

Pride is trickier, more insidious, dangerous. Everything I’ve said or written over the last 22 years was said or written before. On the other hand I have done some pretty cool things with what I’ve had and that’s where it gets messy. Without taking up another thousand words trying to explain this, I’ll limit it to just a few:

There is a fine line between pride and false pride. In my case, I have absolutely no idea where that line is or even what it looks like. Far better for me is to leave figuring that one out to others. Instead I choose to be thankful, simply that I was able to pay attention and pick up what I needed, that I could lead a reasonably happy life.

One thing is for sure… My dad never looked like this at my age:

I am grateful that I can. And do.


  1. my1sttrirace says:

    Much can be said for the company you keep. The majority of people in my life maintain a healthy lifestyle. It helps to keep my perspective on health.

  2. Keep on going youngster!

  3. biking2work says:

    Like you Jim I have no intention of slowing down. At our age, we’ve got another 30 years (at least) in the saddle if we keep going…

  4. bribikes says:

    I am so proud of my dad (55) who after decades of being sedentary, has started to take brisk daily morning walks. (No matter the weather of course, he was the one who gave me my “warm-blooded” gene after all.)

    Now I just have to get him out riding with me sometime, he used to be a big cyclist back in the day.

  5. Think about how different the generation of our fathers was than ours. Smoking was accepted, very common and done in public places, advertised, glorified. Bicycling in the States was not really a thing until the 1990s. Running became a fad in the late 70s but still was a thing for fanatics. Personal fitness was not an industry like it is now. Most athletes in baseball, basketball or even football (at least in the skilled positions that required speed) did not lift weights.

    You and I are fortunate. We live in a time when 50 is the new 40 or even 30. It still takes a mindset that wants to be better, that understands what fitness does for the body and mind.

  6. exmaschine says:

    Jim, very well said.

    Sometimes I do not fully comprehend the difference between pride and false pride…so, I stumble along still making mistakes but hopefully having some self awareness to recognize those mistakes. But at least I have a better appreciation for enjoying all the simple things in life. Regarding being fit, my mom passed at 60, and not exactly a healthy lifestyle she led either. This is one of many factors that drives me to stay fit and healthy!

    • bgddyjim says:

      First, I’m sorry about your mom, that’s always tough. On the plus-side, my aunt Helen died just after her 100th birthday – she rode her bike daily, spring through fall, into her 90’s(!). If you’re willing to learn from and make amends for your mistakes, you are way ahead of the game. Thank you for the kind words man.

  7. I’m 43 and I swear I’m in the best shape of my life. For me I feel grateful that I enjoy working out, being active, eating right, etc. It’s a lifestyle and not a program. I consider it a blessing that I have the desire to live like this. My father, though a great husband and dad to his kids, has never given much thought to his health, except when he gets admitted overnight for chest pains or told his blood sugar is too high and he may be pre-diabetic. I don’t know how it happened that he and I are so different in that regard. Nice post.

  8. Sandra says:

    Oh to be young again like you! 😉
    Keep peddlin’!

  9. You are getting old. Your next bike will be a recumbent. That is my prediction. Old guys like me know things.

  10. We are all getting older — but I am a lot faster now at 56 than I was at 42 (when I started cycling).

  11. adarling575 says:

    I bet your family and your kids are super proud of you 🙂 I know I am ridiculously proud of my mum and she is almost 15 years older than you and still going with triathlon, planning her first marathon next year. So I fully agree with the earlier commentators who said “keep on going youngster”! And I hope I can be in your shape in 20 years time 😀

  12. I am always surprised how similar our backgrounds are and now I am equally stunned how even our dad’s were/ both a blessing and a course in our lives. Just like you, I saw the many problems and ailments and decided to go down the healthy route. It’s I think a natural reaction if you have half a brain. Also, my mother at the age of 48 hopped on a bike and it seems we have to club her off it some day 😉. So there’s a role model. And even though my lack of energy for the last 2.5 years has taken its toll on my physical fitness, I would never want to give up the workout. We ain’t gettin’ no younger! I recently saw a very graphic video on why our body grows stiff with age and sitting around (dead bodies and all to show why), and that convinced me even more to keep moving and moving and moving… Just stay on that bike, don’t forget to stretch…

  13. Well said, indeed. 48 is fast approaching and i too am in the best shape of my life. Still in search of Boston but 19 marathons completed, I appreciate every single day I get out and run. Enjoy the life!

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