Frank Thompson’s Cycling Story – at 56
I love hearing stories of people who’ve taken up cycling in their later years and found all sorts of benefits that come from it. Frank Thompson is no exception, he seems to have found a stack of benefits from his new sport.
This is Frank’s story. Take it away Frank.
Road cycling for me began shortly after a divorce with an invitation from a couple of buddies of mine, Ardie and Steve to join them for a ride.
At the time I was pushing 200 lbs in a 5’9″ frame and my heart was quietly rebelling. At the time I had given up jogging due to the negative impact it was having on my ankles and knees. The arthritic pain I suffered beginning in my 40s made me abandon running for a better way to get into shape. I would go for very short rides up the to the mouth of American Fork Canyon and back home. I struggled with the wind coming out of the canyon and the difficulty of pushing a heavy steel mountain bike against it.
On the first trip with my friends; a challenging ride on my cheapo bike. I was astonished at how much easier it was for my buddies of the same age to climb the serious cardio climbs of Utah and I have to admit, I gave up a few times especially on the infamous 10% grade mile segment, but my fellow riders gave a lot of encouragement and kindly waited for me desperately wanting to do what they could do.
I could see that their vintage narrow-tire road bikes were much easier for them to pedal and maneover. Immediately after the ride, I ran right down and bought a real, but inexpensive, aluminum road bike and YES, it was much easier to ride with the narrow tires–I was thrilled.
I made up my mind that I was going to ride every day NO MATTER WHAT (well pending Utah weather). I could feel my muscles fight back and let me know this new activity was not normal, but I would recover each evening and feel so good the next day, I got very excited about getting back on the road just to see if I could go farther and faster.
I remember having to stop 3 times up Traverse Mountain Climb just to recoup and get mentally ready for the next stretch. Within two weeks, I climbed to the top and then realized,
“Hey you didn’t even make any intermediary stops to get up this beast! What? Good Job!” Within 2 months, I lost 50 pounds and felt great–twenty years younger! No more blood pressure medication needed.
That first cycling summer I had to keep returning a pair of purchased board shorts at the local Sports Authority from a size large to a medium to a small. I hadn’t worn a size small since high school.
When I went in for a medical checkup and told my doctor about my experience and he said, “Most people don’t know what weight they should really be because society is so used to seeing overweight people, they really don’t know what a fit person should look like.”
I could now climb stairs without huffing and puffing (later run up stairs) and mow the lawn without stressing. Eventually I got regular compliments about how “buff” I looked. No one ever said that to me before. What other motivation would one need? I began to realize that for me, regular cardio activity (challenge yourself to climb when cycling) trumps preoccupation with dieting by far – within reason.
Here I am, eleven years later, still slim at 56 years old. I have more cycling gear than I care to admit. My favorite part of the ride are the climbs and I recently purchased a bright red all carbon fiber Specialized Tarmac bike (my girl) and ride 3.5 hours per day on the new inter-city Murdock Trail in Northern Utah County, a trail created to cover a dangerous canal. Unless the rain, snow or cold absolutely forces me to spin inside – yes, I always have a back up plan. I can’t wait to get home from work to get on my ride – it re-energizes me! I have kept the weight off, can compete with any 20 year old on the trail charging any significant climb as I did this last week.
When young roadies realize I am an older dude in passing, they are shocked. I have the calves and quads that rival the best of them and I don’t plan to stop until I am forced to. Cycling is a major enjoyable part of my life. I absolutely love it and am learning new ways to get better all the time. I challenge everyone to get dedicated and cycling fit for life! I have many more cycling stories to share.