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Defining Fitness through Quality of Life – or Better, the Other way Around


I’ve heard and read a lot of stupid stuff over the years but my new doctor laid one on me that I hadn’t heard before – that the health risks outweigh the benefits of extreme athletics.  A friend of mine doubled down on that in a comment by sharing that she’d heard that not only do the risks outweigh the benefits, there are no benefits to exercising the way I choose to.

“Incredulous” is the best word that fits, for me.  Maybe “nuts” would be for anyone who actually believes as some doctors do.

I am slim enough to be able to complain about five extra pounds, and actually mean it.  I am fit enough to keep up with my kids and teach them sports by doing, not by trying to explain from the sideline.  I have a zest for life that the vast majority of the world would be jealous of…. because I get to play for an hour a day and a few more on the weekends.

I ride with my wife, spending hours on the road together throughout the week.  The fun we have cycling together passes on through every moment we spend together.  We laugh together like we used to when we were just kids dating.  I no longer seek an escape from life through drugs or alcohol, I have a Twelve Step Program that I work diligently, and my bikes.  Either one alone leaves something to be desired.  Together, I feel like I’ve won the lotto.  Every day I wake up.

No benefit indeed.

Life is short, bikes are cool, and cycling is fun – and anyone who would put out the garbage that there is no benefit to cycling ten or twelve hours a week, when done wisely, is a quack.  Better, with a straight face, look at some poor, obese person who’s body is shutting down due to complications from diabetes, heart disease, liver disease and poor circulation then tell me there’s no benefit to riding a bike twelve hours a week.  How about someone who can’t leave their house because they’re too fat?  Someone who can’t even get out of bed?

The notion there is no benefit to a good bike ride is simply freaking nuts.  The idea that the risks outweigh the benefits is right behind it.

I wonder if the issue here isn’t about the definition of extreme, though.  While many could view what I do as extreme, mainly by duration of a weekend ride or perhaps by speed (with a fair bit of ignorance, I might add – I may be fast against the average Joe, but I am not fast against real speed), I find it hard to classify me as “extreme”.  Dedicated?  Absolutely, but extreme? Hardly.

The real issue here is laziness.  Labeling a fit cyclist or runner as “extreme” is lazy.  It’s measuring a fit person against a horrendously unfit populous to come up with an average that unfairly slants against a fit person.  Any doctor who would stoop to such a label for a fit person in their late 40’s who is so healthy they don’t take one prescriptive medication to correct a lack of fitness, is off (even if I would view the label as congratulatory anyway).

Life is about quality, and while I would definitely like some longevity, I wouldn’t trade my happiness for an extra ten years on the back of 85, 90 or 100.

Now, if you would excuse me, I have a hundred miles to ride.  Chuckle.


  1. saoirsek says:

    The most offensive thing I got asked by a woman at my gym when she heard I was doing a triathlon was “what are trying to prove.” or by the lady at the health food shop who asked me, her head cocked to one side, with a patronising look on her face ” but what are you REALLY running from?Arrrggghhh. Go back to your couches and eat cake…phew rant over, spiritual fitness returned🙂

  2. Dan says:

    Find a new doctor!! Good grief I can’t stand uneducated morons holding degrees!

  3. chape says:

    I agree with Dan 🙂

  4. Sheree says:

    Doctors, what do they know? They are generalists and sadly dish out advice about which they know little. Find a new one pronto with a more holistic approach.

  5. Well said you! Ride on! 🙂

  6. FitnessObsessions says:

    I get told by people what I “must think” while they’re eating. I’m not some crazy judge of everyone. I guess I’m a threat to an unhealthy lifestyle 🙄

  7. wanderwolf says:

    You’ve got a good balance. As long as you’re not riding yourself into injury, you’re doing it right. Who knows what kind of other problems you’d have if you didn’t ride. I think your melon committee has it right, 🙂

  8. getwifed says:

    First of all let me say I agree with you completely… I’m a dedicated but less focused exerciser. Some years its a dirty century ride, others a 1/2 marathon, yoga teacher training and this year hopefully an olympic triathlon. Let me play devils advocate for a second here. But what we do is extreme compared to the average person. Only about 4% of the population gets 30 minuets of vigorous exercise 5 times a week, the recommended minimum. In the USA and Canada where I’m from, about 30% of the population is obese and a further 25% are overweight as adults. If the average person got up and tried, it would be dangerous. What we do is not extreme for the human body but it is for a lot of the human bodies out there. Last year around this time I had an experience that changed the way I would give advice to someone starting a fitness journey and it really affected me. I even wrote about it which you can check out here if your interested:

    Now I think how lucky I am that I made the choice I have that let me do all the things I do.

  9. unironedman says:

    Just out of interest, is this doc fairly fit and healthy? And what age? And what does he do to keep fit? And have you checked his qualifications…? 😉

    • bgddyjim says:

      He comes highly recommended from my last doctor. I respected him greatly. Unfortunately he retired shortly after our last healthcare train wreck was passed. My new doc is slightly overweight but definitely not fat… and finally, one of my cycling buddies who also happens to be a highly respected physician holds him in high regard. What he said really hit me hard.

  10. I loved this entry and coming myself from a place where obesity almost took my life I salute your extreme workouts! Cycling is life changing. They just hate us, cuz they ain’t us!

  11. theandyclark says:

    I’d note that there is science here – the effects of heavy exercise on longevity, heart disease, etc. have been studied repeatedly. It gets pretty involved because the type of exercise matters and there’s always the question of other factors (diet, genetic bias toward healthy physique in the study pool). There also needs to be consideration for “exit conditions” (series athletes can go to a really bad place when they hit retirement and groups like Olympic athletes are the easiest to work with for this type of study). However, the studies to date do show a definite benefit over the general population.

    There is also research showing benefit from moderate exercise. I haven’t stumbled into a comparison of moderate vs. heavy exercise. I’ll mention that I really don’t like using the word “extreme” here because it brings along some baggage.

    I don’t know what your doctor’s problem was or what prompted him to make the observation he did. I will say that people like doctors who walk around in “robes of expertise” really should check the science before offering opinions. The worst possible reaction to his advise would be to say, “ok then forget it all” and cut back to a level of moderate exercise that eventually turns into essentially no exercise.

    Oh, the other bad thing would be to replace cycling with boxing. Contact sports definitely do not show the same benefits as cycling.

    • bgddyjim says:

      That’s an AWESOME comment, Andy. Absolutely dig it. I may not have made this perfectly clear in the post, but I know my doctor personally and outside of his practice. I am friends with friends of his and we bump into each other frequently out in the world. He also knows my wife and her father as well… In other words, we’re all very tight. I’m certain he’s just being cautious and protecting my wife so her husband comes home to her for a very long time.

      He also knew darn good and well that I won’t quit pedaling till they bury me. He felt safe that I won’t turn 180 degrees. So do I. Thanks for the awesome comment, brother.

  12. mmpalepale says:

    I guess it is all in the eye of the beholder. Compared to his other patients, you are extreme. If his other patients were outside of the GP type of audience, I wonder what he would consider ‘extreme’ at that point. Otherwise, you’re happy and healthy, ride on! 😁

  13. Ignore everybody and their opinion about cycling , .personally im not a bike person . but who cares , enjoy the ride

  14. adarling575 says:

    It’s a ridiculous argument – there are a very few studies that show that extreme exercise is bad for you but the studies are VERY badly done – we have a great podcast over here called More or Less that did a whole episode debunking all those studies. So there is really no evidence at all to prove it. I tend to just smile and say well I exercise because I enjoy it, I drink alcohol too and that’s not healthy but I enjoy it – and I would drink way more if I wasn’t exercising!

  15. Reg says:

    This post is exactly what I’m trying to get across with clients and potential clients. If they want fitness to stick, they need to feel good doing it.

  16. FYI, my OB/GYN is a cyclist. After having some female issues from cycling, his advice…Get back in that bike and ride. Don’t stop riding!

  17. Susan says:

    Well said!

  18. It is the other way around. When you are fit and healthy everything else seems so much brighter. People compliment you all the time which just makes the pain of working out just negligible.

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