I pulled something in my left knee during Saturday morning’s weightlifting class. Pretty sure it was the sideways lunges that did it.

I should know better at my age (68 in three weeks) and it’s taken four and half very painful days if icing and resting to remind myself not to be so stupid. That’s me in the photo at Petrina’s CyclingCentre.Ca and that’s about how I’ve been feeling since Saturday.14611058_1390268667651384_4608832790281842631_n

Having said that the house does smell like an athletic gym with all the ointment I’ve been spreading around and I am improving and not as likely to snap at small children and yappy puppies.

I’ve been watching old cycling race videos and that’s helped 🙂

How Low Can You Go?

One of the biggest gifts in my life is finding a cycling coach.

So what’s so great about having a coach? My coach, Petrina Tulissi, makes me work less hard than I would do it on my own!


Yes it’s true. Last night my coach said I wasn’t to exceed 130 beats per minute during our two-hour indoor cycling session. My hard stop is 150 and I can go to 140 pretty easily and stay there if I relax on the bike and pedal with some technical expertise.

We’ve got cyclists who can bang their youthful hearts up anywhere they want and can reach cadences approaching 200 revolutions per minute. I’m lucky to hit 130 and that’s tough.

But heres’ the catch: When the hard part is over my heart rate isn’t falling as fast as Petrina wants it to. At best last night I could get my heart rate down to 100 but Petrina said she wanted it down to 80. I’ve got a cadence and heart rate monitor built into my bike computer.

A rapidly falling heart rate is a sign of superior athletic conditioning and I’m nowhere near there yet. So cycling at anything over 130 is just putting my heart muscle into overdrive for no good reason.

So it’s not how high I can get my heart rate. It’s also not about how I can keep it within a range. It’s all about how low I can go and how fast I can get there.

This is a revelation. I had no idea how important this is but my coach knows and that’s why I have a cycling coach.

Athletic Me

My coach Petrina Tulissi ( keeps calling me an athlete.

She calls everyone who is part of the Cycling Centre an athlete so I’m nothing special in her eyes. I’m just a senior citizen who wants to learn how to cycle better.

But having someone whose opinion you deeply respect and who has tried to save your life a couple of times (see previous posts about some of my more foolish exploits) calling you something you aren’t creates the possibility, at least in my mind, that maybe she’s right. Maybe I am an athlete.13726644_1292487937429458_7137738430347162527_n

Now I have never been an athlete. I was a student of marshal arts (karate and Aikido) for many years but I was more of a warrior wannabe than anything else and certainly not an athletic. I ran for awhile and I was a pretty good racquetball B-level club player and maybe that qualifies but it was many many years ago.

So now, nine years after open-heart surgery I have a heart that races too fast for its own good some days yet I’m starting to think like an athlete.

My first two weeks of spinning class were frightening. I forgot who I was. I jumped on the bike and raced off into higher cadences than I should do. I was so concerned I even told Petrina where she could find my nitroglycerin spray if I fell off the bike. This is not a good thing nor was it smart.

So for the last seven days I’ve been watching what I ate and how many yoga classes I took. I went for an hour-long walk yesterday and, with Petrina’s help, I started my spinning class last night with the order that I was not to exceed 130 beats per minute heart rate and to keep my cadence and gearing dialled back enough to accomplish this modest goal.

Then about an hour in Petrina said I could go up to 140 bpm which is closing in on my hard stop number of 150 (which might get boosted to 160 but not for another couple of months). I was working hard but I felt pretty good and at no time did I think I was in trouble.

Petrina kept encouraging me to breath deeper with longer inhalations and exhalations. I was just happy not to be throwing up my dinner 🙂

In my own way I am working as hard as some of the cyclists in my class who routinely complete triathlons or long (several hundred kilometre) rides and can hit cadences well over 150 (200 is not out of the realm of what’s possible for elite racers).

I’m under orders to keep myself within 70 per cent output of power (able to ride easily and talk coherently) and only approach 85-90 per cent (riding hard with words coming out in short phrases) much later.

The essential indicator we’re looking for is my heart rate falling back to 80 very quickly after 70 or even 80 per cent bursts. It’s not doing that yet but it is falling back to 120-110-100 within minutes of light pedalling. This is a good sign.

So maybe I am an athlete in training.

Never thought I’d see the day I’d consider myself an athlete.

Wonders never cease.


The Nutrition Advantage

It was a full house last night at CyclingCentre.Ca to hear Claudia Hutchinson, a local certified nutritional practitioner speak to the crowd of cycling students (most of whom are in their 50s and 60s. It’s brave new world out there people! Cycling is the new golf).

Specializing in sports nutrition and women’s health Claudia is also a triathlete and runner and looks it (a good thing in your nutritionist).

Invited to speak to coach Petrina Tulissi’s students in her highly specialized winter spinning classes (These classes are specifically designed for elite and advancing amateur cyclists who want to improve their stamina and technique. I’m very lucky to be included and it’s not that hard when your coach takes pity on your ageing body!), Claudia presented a real-world look at how to manage your nutritional needs as a cycling athlete. 1446300721

When I say a cycling athlete we heard questions from the audience coming from some very accomplished amateur elite riders as well as newcomers like myself who are happy when they don’t fall off the bike (which is happening a lot less now that I’ve learned how to adjust my cleats. We all got to start from somewhere!). One guy (my age or close to it) was asking about how to keep his energy up while doing 200-kilometer rides! Yikes I’ve got a way to go.

Essentially I got from Claudia’s excellent down-to-earth talk that (a) I’m eating a little too much; and (b) I’m eating out too often; and (c) I could easily be doing better at maintaining a healthier diet which would have a profound effect on my hormonal reactions to the food that I am eating.

In other words I could lose more weight and feel better doing it. There’s a win-win!

Oh yes I don’t drink nearly enough water and my massive intake of morning coffee isn’t as much an issue as was once thought. Yes! Also a little maple syrup on my oatmeal won’t kill me.

So the good news is for Marion and myself, that for the most part, we don’t have much processed food in the house.teri-jaklin-dec-2016-200x300

We did a cleanse with Dr. Teri Jaklin, our naturopathic best friend some years ago that started with a garbage bag and throwing out everything in the kitchen that had ingredients we didn’t understand. A lot of crap got thrown away and never returned.) We eliminated junk food from our diet and even went off caffeine (damn near killed me) and 30 days later we felt 20 years younger. Thanks Teri.

We now tend to buy fresh and we tend to buy often.

What I need to do is lessen the size of my protein intake (meat, fish, chicken, maybe tofu) and increase the size of my real live plant portions (think seasonal vegetables of many colours) and, of course, stay away from snacking especially while watching TV in the evening.

Staying out of restaurant is essential to reduce portion size but also to eliminate the intake of salts, fats and sugars all of which I have no idea the amount being introduced into my body and the effects these ingredients are having on my hormonal balance.

So back to porridge in the morning along with a ground up scoop of flaxseeds and psyllium to help the gut move non-soluables out of the body plus a glass of water with lemon and adding apple cider vinegar.

Of course Claudia spoke against genetically modified foods but I haven’t heard a nutritionist or naturopath who doesn’t. Most I think present a well-meaning but misguided philosophical argument. GMOs may be the way we end world hunger as they promise greater yields and higher resistance to disease and insect damage but there is a lot of opposition.

Then again, all the scientists could be wrong. It wouldn’t be the first time.

Another great night at the here in Oakville.

How Not To Expire While Spinning

This is a good news story!

I survived spinning class at the CyclingCentre.Ca and this morning I feel wonderful.

Last night….not so much 😦 That’s me trying to keep up with the gang. 14611058_1390268667651384_4608832790281842631_n

You see last night Petrina kicked up the training to the next step and I missed the step. Actually I missed the whole staircase. Not to say my fellow spinners were doing much better (okay a couple of them were barely winded) but I was way outside of my comfort zone almost immediately.

I should explain why I am writing this post. It’s not for me. It’s for you especially if you’re 50 plus and just getting into exercise as a way of life. And when I say life I mean it. Here at Rancho West the chaise lounge tried to kill me last winter. It damn near succeeded so I decided to get fit.

I checked out a bunch of different gyms and disciplines and stumbled into cycling.

Thanks to Aman Kapur, an exceptional runner and a man in midlife who is not going to let ageing slow him down, I looked for a riding group and then, after a particularly humiliating ride, a coach and that my friends made all the difference.

So as faithful readers know I went riding with an exceptional group of serious riders twice a week all summer long. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done but also one of the most rewarding. Best of all, it was fun too.

It’s much like I said to Petrina last night as I was reassuring her I wasn’t having a full-blown heart attack right in front of her that I’ve never done anything this athletic in my life. Sure I took karate (who didn’t?) and Akidio (highly recommended) but I never thought to call myself athletic let alone an athlete.

So what took me out last night?

First we ate dinner at Maro’s (on Kerr Street in Oakville. Tough to spend $20 on some of the best meals I’ve ever eaten in a restaurant anywhere and at any price. It’s that good.) and the salad sat heavily on me all night.

Second I took a month off riding (at Petrina’s insistence) and I mistakenly took that to mean don’t do anything for a month. Dumb as a post! I should have been walking daily.

Yes I do yoga twice to three times a week and yoga is essential to my physical and mental wellbeing but it’s not athletic at least not for me. (Although I can do the yoga cool down after spinning pretty easily.)

Petrina is running us through a training course that includes short, intense periods of riding as hard as possible with longish almost leisurely sections of light spinning to recover. Everything I read says this is the way to progress as a cyclist. Cool stuff and challenging as heck. I’d never do this without a coach and team of riders around me.

Because of my limitations of previous heart disease and ageing I have limits I must accept and work within. So last night when my heart rate very rapidly rose towards 150 bpm I pulled the plug.

This is essential good form when you’re older than just about everybody in the room. Let the kids in their late 40s spin their little hearts out. I can’t afford the challenge.

I’m focusing on a short yard running game to use a football analogy. Everyday in every way I am getting better and better…in small incremental amounts that perhaps only my coach can see. (I got a bit of a dressing down by Petrina for overdoing it. I am training myself to obey without discussion as she’s way better to me than I am.)

So it comes down to this….as an ageing athlete (I have trouble even typing the word) I must honour, even savour, my limitations and work to move the fitness ball forward a yard at a time. No more “Hail Mary” passes or 100 yard runs into the end zone for me.

Honestly the biggest hurdle is just to show up. Show up and do what I can. Show up and listen to my coach. Show up and get better. Show up and live the athletic life.

How wonderful is that?