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Old 06-04-11, 08:05 AM   #1
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50 year old woman had a setback and needs encouragement


I love to cycle. I've cycled by myself on country roads for 50-100 kms many times. I like the adventure of discovering something new while on my own. I have always been thinking that I can't wait till I have time to do a tour across the country, perhaps in my 60's. (That, of course, I would do that with an organized group.)

That was until last week. Last year, I fell while walking through an icy snowbank and I broke my fibula. It healed well and I went on to being very active.

Last Sunday, while riding in a different city, I headed down a mild declining slope at low speed with a heavy tote bag over one shoulder. (Dumn I know.) Anyway I thought I should stop to avoid falling. When I stopped, I landed on the side of my foot instead of my ankle and got an uncomplicated 5th metatarsal fracture. The doc said I should be good in 4 weeks. I am walking with an air boot.

A bone density test revealed that my bones are fine.

Having said that, I am rather unnerved. 2 fractures in 2 years. Am I too old to be cycling around by myself? Am I too old to do bicycle touring? I love it but am now afraid of it.

(Part of the reason that I cycle by myself is that I know of no one around here who cycles these distances like I do.)

Are there any women over 50 out there who can give me some words of encouragement to keep on cycling?

Thanks so much.
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Old 06-04-11, 08:26 AM   #2
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Hang in there. You'll be back on a bike in due time. I noticed the big change in my body when I hit 40 years old. Before then, when I'd get the usual "injuries" while doing sports, after the next day or two I'd be fine and ready to go back at it. After 40, I noticed the "aches and pains" would last for days instead of just overnight. My latest injury was about a month ago when I stepped off the false floor in our lab onto the base floor layer. My ankle rolled under me. Painful for just a moment, then seemed fine. About four day later, at the end of a tennis match, I went back to retrieve a lob and after hitting the return shot, I spun around to get back into the point and rolled the same ankle. This time I went down ... hard. Three week later, it is still swollen and tender. I can walk on it fine, and cycling is unaffected, (probably because cycling is a fore and aft flex of the ankle, not a side to side twisting). In another week or two, I should be fine for tennis again. I'll be riding in a charity century tomorrow, and don't expect any problems.

As we age, it just takes a little longer for our bodies to heal. Don't give up. Someone on these forums has a sig line that I really like. It goes something like this, (paraphrased), "We don't stop cycling because we get old ... we get old because we stop cycling." I like that!

- - - - -

p.s. I'm not a woman, but my sweetheart went riding for about an hour yesterday for the first time since September (she's a school teacher, and has no time during the semester for much of anything). She has some pretty serious hip/spine issues, (two lower crushed vertebrae from a skiing accident). She turns 62 tomorrow and it would devastate her if she couldn't ride anymore. She'll never give up riding.

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Old 06-04-11, 08:28 AM   #3
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Hi Obsidian,
Keep going! I have managed it through quite a few injuries and a knee replacement, and am 25 years older than you. At least one of your injuries was acquired while walking, not cycling!
My friend (same age) and I tour at least twice a year, but don't do quite as much mileage as we used to. Sometimes we use a base B and B, and cycle out from there in different directions. The rest of the time, I bike around the city, and leave the car at home as often as possible. If you keep cycling, you'll stay strong, and gain more confidence again. Where are you in Southwestern Ontario? Anywhere near Kitchener?
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Old 06-04-11, 08:31 AM   #4
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Your not to OLD to cycle, do you have any cycling groups in your area?
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Old 06-04-11, 08:53 AM   #5
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Hi, I am not a woman but I am over 50, getting real close to 60. Last year I crashed one Saturday afternoon, broke four ribs, punctured a lung, and got a concussion so bad that I cannot remember anything about that afternoon, including the crash. I got back on the road as soon as the ribs would let me. You've had your bone density checked and that is good because that would be the most obvious concern. If that is ok then you seem to be just the victim of bad luck. In my case I would like to prevent a recurrence of the crash but since I can remember nothing about it, I have nothing specific to try to fix. So I am unnerved too but I think the bigger problem is that if you don't continue a vigorous exercise program you will loose that ability and hasten the decline we all know is coming some day. I rediscovered the joy of cycling a couple of years ago when the cancellation of a company shuttle bus to the train station forced me to buy a folding bike to take on the train and make up the distance by pedaling. I do all of my cycling alone so far but most of it is on heavily traveled bike paths and suburban streets where someone would find me relatively quickly if the worst were to happen -- again. My crash last year came at the end of a ride about 100 meters from my home. Tomorrow I am getting up early to attempt my first century, alone, but it typically attracts around 1500 riders so it is likely that I will have plenty of company even if only briefly as they blow by me!

I would make sure that you carry a freshly charged cell phone with you when you head out alone. In many cases you will be able to make a call for help even if you do crash. I was conscious and rational after my crash last year. At the time I was able to give my wife some information about what happened even though not the details I would love to have now and even though I know that now only because my wife told me, not because I remember that. I could have called for help, I just was not in immediate danger (as far as I knew!) and expected my wife home soon to take me to emergency care for a checkout. Even if you cannot find riding companions you can let friends know your plans in advance and check in with them occasionally on long rides. I would think you can find people willing to do that. Keep trying to find riding companions in your area, there are probably a few. If there are any health clubs or bicycle clubs even somewhat close you may be able to meet someone at one of them who is close enough to you to ride with regularly. Try to find routes that are well traveled enough so that help would not be long in coming. I know that is at odds with the desire to avoid routes heavily traveled by auto traffic but a reasonable compromise should be possible. Above all I think you want to keep riding. It is too much fun and too beneficial for your general health to give it up.

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Old 06-04-11, 09:45 AM   #6
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Just general advice... I'm at least ten years older than you and my most important lesson learned from various injuries is not to resume activity too fast - or at least not to push it. I learned that some things can take up to a year and to have the patience to wait it out. The reward is to come back stronger than ever. Oh, and cross-train.
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Old 06-04-11, 10:05 AM   #7
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Don't be discouraged, just keep at it! I'm 59 and in the shape of my life. The advice about cross training is solid. You need to exercise different muscle groups. Yes, there are seemingly more injuries as we age, and they do take longer to heal. It also takes longer to recover from high intensity workouts than when we were young. But, let none of that stop you. I sense you are already aware of the potential for injury, and that is good - but don't let that make you over cautious or take the joy out of your sense of adventure. Go, girl!
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Old 06-04-11, 10:06 AM   #8
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I had a stretch of bad crashes, three in three years starting at age 49. It's been almost 3 years and I have been crash free. I just pay more attention and don't make bone head moves or take too many risks.

You are not too old to ride, you are not too old to ride alone, and you are not too old to ride distance.
I suspect if you look around you may find a bike club you could ride with, sometimes bike shops know the local clubs or organize rides themselves, riding in a group can be rewarding.
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Old 06-04-11, 10:20 AM   #9
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Sorry to hear about the injuries and resulting self-doubt.
Not a woman (at least the last time I checked), but I'll toss this out for consideration. Iron and calcium intake is a bit more crucial for ladies' bones than for men it seems. Generally this would not be the primary cause of most ladies' bone injuries. BUT, it's a consideration.

Otoh, accidents do happen. I stepped off a curb wrong and rolled my ankle - nothing big, right? Twenty-three years and two surgeries later, I still think about that single misstep. Definitely not age-related.

The only way to avoid accidents is to do nothing - not a particularly attractive alternative/lifestyle choice.

Hang in there.
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Old 06-04-11, 10:29 AM   #10
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I'm 65 and have been commuting to work by bike (and everywhere else) for the past five years in whatever weather is out there, rain, snow, ice, you name it.
I've been lucky to have never had a biking injuring even though I did bounce on the ice once or twice.
Don't get discouraged or let others talk you out of biking. And don't be afraid.
I have found that taking it slow and easy and really enjoying every minute of biking makes a big difference. It's not a RACE, it's a lifestyle of enjoyment in being "out there in the middle of it all" while our contemporaries and sitting in recliner chairs.
If you feel as if you are going to fall, DON'T TENSE UP, just relax and really, you will find that you won't get as injured that way.
I gave up my car five years ago for this experiment of "going green" and it was the best thing I ever did. Knowing that your only transportation is a bike doesn't give you the chance to "take the car on a bad day."
And you know what, I've never had a "bad" day of biking no matter what the conditions are. It just becomes part of life and you don't question it, you just really, really enjoy it.
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Old 06-04-11, 10:52 AM   #11
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Injuries are a normal part of being active. Your first one didn't even come from cycling! And breaking a toe isn't that unusual or problematic. I broke one a couple years ago accidentally kicking the coffee table when I got up off the couch. You're not safe even in your own living room.

I'm only 50 but one thing I have noticed is that the older you are the harder it is to become active again after you quit. It's easier to just not stop.
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Old 06-04-11, 12:18 PM   #12
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One of the benefits of physical fitness is increased mental sharpness. And I think that a particular benefit of road cycling is the requirement that you maintain a sharp attention to detail. I think I have benefitted greatly from the mental acuity that comes from fitness in general and cycling in particular. I suspect that exercise like running on a treadmill at the gym or sitting on a trainer will increase fitness, but those exercises also allow you to zone out. The constant threat of imminent death from cars, the need to constantly plot courses around obstacles, the need to stay away from the gutter - all of those things train the brain in a good way. While some folks let a crash keep them off the bike, I think that a crash from which you recover well can be a great learning tool. I really hope you find that as well.
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Old 06-04-11, 01:09 PM   #13
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Hi cycleobsidian,

One of the most valuable things I have learned about as an adult is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This is a particular "school" of psychotherapy which was "invented" by a psychiatrist named Dr. Aaron Beck. What Dr. Beck and his collaborators found was that people suffering from depression tended to have the same "dysfunctional cognitions," that is, patterns of thought. They developed therapies to deal with these thought patterns and found that this helped their patients get over their depression.

Although specialists in this area have develped quite a few categories of these thought patterns, I think you can summerize most of them by saying they are examples of "all or nothing thinking." It is easy to fall into this trap when you've experienced a setback, but try not to do it. Don't box yourself in: always give yourself more than one option. After your foot heals, get back into cycling gradually. Build your endurance, muscular strength, and confidence step-by-step. Even if you must limit your first couple of rides to around the block, get out there and do it. Each successful ride will lay the foundation for successful rides in the future. Before you know it, you will be back to riding the longer distances you love.
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Old 06-04-11, 01:57 PM   #14
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There is no correlation with bone density tests and bone breakage (ref:; at least back in 2006 the publication date.

Cycling is a poor exercise to maintain bone density and (likely) bone strength.

The mishaps could have had nothing to do with anything except a streak of bad luck. However, more women die of broken hips than breast cancer, but not in their 50's.

As we age we lose our balance/reflexes because our fast twitch fibers degenerate faster with age than our aerobics and the other muscle fibers. Fast twitch fibers respond well to Plyometrics, jogging/sprinting and strength training, particularly to heavier weights.

Another "option" is that weak muscles/low muscle mass don't protect the bones adequately. Then too, how one falls affects the outcome. Tumbling exercises, some of the martial arts might be helpful.

I'm 72 and have several falls per year due to the nature of my activities. Sometimes it's on rocks or into a tree from a mountain bike. I've not required medical attention yet, but the tree impacts hurt for at least a week. I still fly on the single track which is great training for balance and reflexes.

A month ago I flew off the back of a treadmill when I stumbled at about a 9 minute/mile pace. I got a lot of comments from a half dozen folks on the other machines about maintaining my balance and not falling or crashing into another machine. It was my first and last time running on a treadmill. Apparently I dripped sweat on the surface and slipped on it. Outside is much better.


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Old 06-04-11, 02:34 PM   #15
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I did not start riding again until five years ago, when I turned 50. Biking has had a huge positive impact on my life. Last year I met up with some BF50+s for a weekend in the Finger Lakes and had a great time. Last September, I did my first charity ride and did 45 miles, this year I'm signed up for 75 miles. I've taken two spills with injury, one was awful and l was grateful I was wearing a helmet. I usually ride alone, too. My biggest fear in riding alone is not injury, but that some thug will come up and steal my bike when I'm down! Girly-girl, get back on that bike as soon as physical health allows--mental fortitude will follow.
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Old 06-04-11, 02:43 PM   #16
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I have a friend who's older than you that commutes to work by bike, and rides centuries and races mountain bikes in her free time. This after a road bike crash a couple years ago that left her with screws and a plate in her ankle. She's getting a hip replacement this month. But she's never mentioned giving up cycling. Neither should you.
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Old 06-04-11, 03:01 PM   #17
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We have several women in our club, older than you, who do a few double-centuries each year. Machines, is what they are. When I did my first century last year, I took off fast, did the first 80 miles in 4 hours, and then... er... "slowed appreciably". One of the women I mentioned came motoring right past.
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Old 06-04-11, 03:07 PM   #18
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my honey just started riding,at the ripe old age of .. well anyhow when i get injured and think its an age related thing i think back to all the injuries in the past when i was young, remember how you just moved on.You must take time to heal i think we accepted that more when we were young,now we get all up tight about it and seem to rush recovery.We are no different than any one else.So get well soon and see you out on your bike.
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Old 06-04-11, 04:26 PM   #19
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I started cycling again as a 53-year-old Athena. Many of my rides are solo.

My worst injuries were in my 30's. I'm medically retired from almost all activites except swimming, bicycling, and weight-lifting due to a dislocated knee/soccer injury. I plan to keep cycling as long as I am physically able.

I've had a couple of bike crashes, one was when I took a curve too hot with the inside pedal down, the other was when another rider lost control and rode into the spokes of my front wheel. Both were just nuisance bumps and bruises.

I also stubbed a toe and fell while walking in a parking lot, broke my elbow. No surgery, but was not cleared for ANY activity for 6 weeks. Nevertheless, I decided to go ahead and do a 400+ mile 7 day bike tour 2-1/2 months after I was cleared to ride. (it was hard, but I'll never regret it). I figured if I wasn't going to do that tour that year, when WOULD I ? We're not getting any younger.

I'd rather take a few risks than stay home in fear. Prepare as best as you can, listen to your body, learn as much as you can , and go for it.
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Old 06-04-11, 04:35 PM   #20
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I'm a woman who returned to riding at 53, having not ridden a bicycle since I was in my early 20s (I had been riding motorcycles a lot though). Less than a year later I crashed and suffered the first broken bone of my life -- shattered the top of my humerus and had to undergo two surgeries and seven months of rehab. It was nearly a year before I could ride again. When I got back on the bike it was pretty intimidating.

There were two things that helped my confidence immensely. I scheduled a private session with a bike coach who helped me evaluate my riding and looked for any habits that might have contributed to my crash. I think feedback from an experienced person is very helpful, even if they tell you you're doing just fine.

And I wore body armor (dirt bike/downhill mountain bike armor) when I rode. I did crash once more, shortly after getting back on the bike, but didn't get injured. After about a year of daily riding and skills practice I stopped wearing the armor.

You are definitely not too old to ride! If you analyze your riding and find some specific problem areas, there are lots of creative ways to address those, including skills practice, balance exercises, weight training, or even a different style of bike. Breaking it down like this also makes things feel much more manageable, and neutralizes the general paralyzing fear.

If you worry about being alone and getting hurt, you might consider carrying a personal locator beacon for emergencies.
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Old 06-04-11, 04:44 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by cycleobsidian View Post
Am I too old to be cycling around by myself? Am I too old to do bicycle touring? I love it but am now afraid of it.
I'm not a woman. I participated in a birthday ride today for a female whose 70th birthday is today. I have been riding with the group she founded for 4 or 5 years. She has gotten stronger each year. You are not too old.

With regard to the 2nd fracture, you should modify your cycling behaviors to minimize potential catastrophes.

Go ride when your doc gives you the green light, and post photos of your rides here.
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Old 06-04-11, 06:49 PM   #22
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Gender doesn't really have anything to do with it. But risk management does.

I am more risk aversive at the age of 56 than I was at the age of 40 (when I smoked and drank and drove fast cars).

Your two incidents both appear to be a matter of a little overconfidence. Even the second one, you admitted that it was a little dumb to be carrying the overweighted tote bag.

So the answer to your question is simple. No, you are not too old to be riding a bike. People in their 70s and 80s are doing it, and women in their 60s are doing the trans-Am ride like you dream about.

But, there is a definite need to ensure you think about the risks of what you are doing, especially when you are about to engage that is a little unusual (such as carrying an overweight tote bag over your shoulder on the bike). There may well be alternatives that mitigate the risk.
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Old 06-04-11, 10:04 PM   #23
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Disclaimer: I have read no subsequent posts.

No. You aren't limited. Take a calcium supplement and you should be fine.

I run and do weight training a couple times a week. Like you, I fear breaking a bone from lack of impact.

Hope you recover soon.
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Old 06-04-11, 10:47 PM   #24
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I'm 50. One of the neat things about getting into randonneuring is that a lot of the people involved are right around the same age as me. So when I was riding a lot training for a 1200k, the ladies that were riding at the same time were 59, 53, and 47, I think. The two ladies I rode with today are both about 50. The two ladies I see on my weekly club ride are around 53 and 62 or so. Meanwhile, my wife refuses to do anything physical and has all sorts of health issues going on.
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Old 06-04-11, 11:42 PM   #25
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I haven't broken any bones as I've gotten older, but I notice that I bruise much more easily. Small bumps that used to have no effect will now leave black and blue marks that last a couple of days.

If you really enjoy cycling, don't give it up. If you are worried about cycling by yourself, let someone know your route when you're going for a long ride (I leave my daughter a note outlining my route) and carry a cell phone.

I see a lot of people at my workplace who are in their 30's or early 40's who can't walk up a flight of stairs because they are so out of shape. Don't give up cycling because you're afraid of what might happen.
Originally Posted by Xerum 525 View Post
Now get on your cheap bike and give me a double century. You walking can of Crisco!!

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