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Midlife cycling, fizzing with energy
Phil Cavell: Cyclist and writer
BY PETER BOWES | LOS ANGELES | DECEMBER 14, 2021 | 1300 PT
Older cyclists often try to push the boundaries of athletic prowess as they pursue their life-long, or new-found passion – dogged in their love of the bike and determination to keep on riding. But is it wise to continue running the engine indefinitely? Phil Cavell is the author of The Midlife Cyclist and the co-founder of Cyclefit, a UK-based company dedicated to cycling analysis and biomechanics. In this LLAMA podcast interview the veteran club cyclist discuses the art and the science of riding. He shares a barefoot cyclist’s enthusiasm for the sport and explains why attitude, diet, sleep, alcohol consumption – or lack of it – all matter, in the quest to be a successful midlife rider. He also discusses aging wisdom and the rules of the road that apply to anyone bent on mastering the aging process.
Interview recorded: October 13, 2021 | Read a transcript
Connect with Phil Cavell: Website: CycleFit | Facebook | Twitter | Book: The Midlife Cyclist: The Road Map for the +40 Rider Who Wants to Train Hard, Ride Fast and Stay Healthy
Listening options: Apple Podcasts, Audible, Stitcher, Tunein, Spotify, Pandora Podcasts, Google Podcasts
“The romantic obviously wants me to be as fit and strong and fast at 60 as I was at 30, 25, even 40. But the pragmatist in me knows that’s not possible. I have to use wisdom. I can’t just throw youth at the problem.”Phil Cavell
Transcribed using Sonix. Please check against audio recording for absolute accuracy.
Peter Bowes: [00:00:20] Hello again and welcome to LLAMA, the Live Long and Master Aging podcast. My name is Peter Bowes. This is where we explore the science and stories behind human longevity. Now, when was the last time you went for a ride on your bike? Do you still own a bike? Were you once a cyclist and for whatever reason, either lost interest or the physical stamina to head out for a long ride? Well, maybe you just think it’s a young person’s pastime? Well, no surprise. That’s not my view. I love cycling, especially as part of a triathlon. I’m a happy amateur, but my interest in this subject was piqued when I heard about the midlife cyclist, a new book by Phil Cavell. It presents a roadmap for the 40+ rider who wants to train hard, ride fast and stay healthy. So let’s talk about it. Phil, welcome to the Live Long and Master Aging podcast.
Phil Cavell: [00:01:12] Thank you. It’s nice to be here Peter.
[00:01:14] Joining us from… I’m in Los Angeles. You’re in my home country, the U.K., of course. In Marlow, in Berkshire.
Phil Cavell: [00:01:19] Yes, I am. Yes I am. And it’s a fabulous autumn day here in in in Marlow.
Peter Bowes: [00:01:23] You’re making me a little homesick because of COVID. I haven’t been back for quite a long time, but hopefully we’ll be making that journey in the next few months. So let’s talk about your book, Phil. It is titled and the first chapter kind of leaps out at me, the aging cyclist growing old disgracefully. So I suppose the first question is, and leaving aside the disgraceful bit for the moment, how old do you have to be to be an aging cyclists? 40 sounds quite young to me.
Phil Cavell: [00:01:51] Yeah, 40 sounds very young to me. I agree, but probably I guess medically, I guess we’re looking at 45 plus Peter. And in the first chapter, I talk about, you know, What our expected lifespan would be going back through the centuries. And really, we didn’t start living into our 40s and 50s until this century. The obviously, the upper classes might, might do that in the last century and in the 19th century, but 20th century and 21st century, the first two centuries where we kind of typically can expect to live, you know, to into our 50s and 60s and 70s. So in that sense, I suppose you’d have to say genetically midlife would be 40s
Peter Bowes: [00:02:33] And reading through your book age does matter, doesn’t it? We are all growing older and there is a significance to that, and it’s undeniable.
Phil Cavell: [00:02:42] Yeah, that’s right. And I guess that’s the first pillar of the book, if you like that, just to accept that you know you’re not Peter Pan and that you are aging and it’s a biological process, and exercise can be used to ameliorate the effects of that aging process. But you can’t stop the body clock. And you know, that’s why the first chapter is talking about actually biologically what’s going on as you get older
Peter Bowes: [00:03:05] And you talk about a quiet revolution occurring in the ranks of middle aged older sportsmen and women, that quiet revolution, what do you mean by that?
[00:03:17] Yeah, that’s a good question. And I guess the missing piece of the book and I was talking to someone about this recently is probably this book is actually part science and part part sociology. We’re the first generation, I mean, in 300,000 generations of biped that have ever tried to exercise like this into our middle and, you know, older age. Never, never my parents didn’t. Your parents probably didn’t. And if they did, they were outliers. They know they were one offs, if you like. So we’re the first generation ever to try and exercise hard focus on performance as we get into middle age and beyond. And that’s that’s a sociological thing. There’s been changes, sociological changes that have triggered this, this exercise revolution. But we’re the pathfinders. No one’s done it. It’s an it’s an exercise, a test. No one’s ever done it. We’re the first generation to do this, and in a sense, we’re shining the torch for generations that come behind us, our children and our grandchildren.
Peter Bowes: [00:04:17] So this is a podcast about aging, the aging process and longevity. We’re not shy about talking about age that a lot of people are and actually refuse to acknowledge their age to talk about their age. I’m just a few months away from my 60th birthday. How old are you?
Phil Cavell: [00:04:34] I’m a couple of months behind you. Literally, I’m 62 in June next year, so I’m just a few months behind you. But we would have been in the same class at school, Peter, because I was always the youngest in my class. So we would have been almost certainly the same year group at school. So I’m 60 next year.
Peter Bowes: [00:04:52] That’s interesting. Yes, March 1962 for me. So tell me just a little bit about your life and your your career in terms of cycling and your experience and what brought you to this point,
Phil Cavell: [00:05:04] I was a racer. I was a what they call in England, well you’ll remember first cat racer. So I was a good club racer, but I wasn’t a great racer. I was never talented enough to be a professional or consider going professional. So I was just a good club cyclist, got injured and my co-director at Cycle Fit he also got injured and that took us on a journey of exploration about how the body and the bicycle behave together, how they interact. And it was that journey that led us to start Cycle Fit 20 years ago, just over 20 years ago. And at the time, it was quite a unique service in Europe, certainly. And so we became busy quite quickly, and we’ve always just been fascinated by the relationship between the body and the bicycle. So we started a scientific conference that looked at that subject. We’ve been fortunate enough to work with some incredibly talented physios, doctors, surgeons along the way. Some of them, many of them are actually, you know, featured in the book, if you like. So we’ve kind of learned together over the last 20, 25 years about how the body and the bicycle interact together. Is that what you mean by my story?
Peter Bowes: [00:06:14] Exactly, yes. No, that perfectly defines certainly who you are and where you are. And what really interests me is from your own personal experience, can you define the aging body, the aging athlete, the passing of the years? What does it do to a cyclist in particular?
Phil Cavell: [00:06:30] What’s happening in your body? And there’s many changes, but let’s just look at a few of them. You’re your heart rate or your ability of your heart to beat fast is dropping year on year. It’s a fairly linear, predictable, trackable response. And that that means that essentially, if nothing else changes, your VO2 Max is declining over time, and that’s just a biological fact. So you can offset that if you want to by by training and diet, et cetera, et cetera. But essentially your your heart rate, your ability of your heart to beat as high and as fast is dropping. And at the same time, you’re losing muscle fibers. And that’s called sarcopenia, and it’s featured in the book Not a popular topic, but you’re losing muscle fibers, and that’s OK because you can build the remaining ones up to be bigger and compensate. You can’t stop the loss, but you can keep the muscle bulk. And and then there’s also things like in men, our testosterone is declining at a fairly linear, trackable rate also. In women, there’s obviously hormonal changes around the menopause and perimenopause. Sometimes those changes are less predictable and trackable than men with our testosterone decline, but nevertheless there is perimenopause and their menopause. So these are sort of changes, biological kind of waypoints that we pass through. And the interesting thing is is what happens when you try to preserve high level performance as you go through these waypoints? Peter
Phil Cavell: [00:08:10] You mentioned VO2 Max just for anyone who doesn’t know what that is. Can you
Phil Cavell: [00:08:14] Explain? Yeah, it’s the ability of your body to uptake in oxygen, essentially as a proportion of your body weight. So you know it’s your it’s your respiratory potential expressed as a as a as a represented against your body, where your VO2 Max a very big metric in the 80s and 90s in bike racing, probably in triathlon as well actually. It’s sort of fallen out of favor a little bit now, but I still I still think it’s, you know, it’s it’s known as a kind of as a biological potential, if you like.
Peter Bowes: [00:08:45] And another metric that you write about is heart rate variability. And up until fairly recently, until I started wearing an Aura ring, it was something that I hadn’t really paid much attention to. And now every day I look at my phone and see what my overnight heart rate variability was, and it is fascinating. Can you explain the significance of that?
Phil Cavell: [00:09:06] Yeah, that’s right. And heart rate variability is the… So we always think about if our hearts are beating at 60 beats per minute. But the duration between the beats is equidistant and it’s not. In fact, that’s literally heart rate variability. The variation between the beats and counterintuitively, one wants a greater variation, not less variation and less variation between the beats is significant because it probably denotes that you’re tired or you’ve got an underlying illness or you’re just not feeling, you know, you’re feeling so strong. So that’s what heart rate variability is, and you actually want to have high heart rate variability as an indicator of whether you should be training or not.
Peter Bowes: [00:09:51] How important is it, do you think, for people to to fully understand all of these metrics and your book is? As a fascinating read, because it’s full of scientific detail, it’s incredibly well researched for anyone who wants to delve into all of this just in the back of my mind, I’m thinking of the the happy amateur who perhaps doesn’t, and I hate to use the word obsess. But you know what I mean to have a deep interest in all of this kind of stuff? How important is it to to fully understand it? Or is it perhaps a distraction to some who just simply want to get out on the bike to get some great exercise and have a bit of fun?
Phil Cavell: [00:10:27] Yeah, agreed. I totally agree with you. And you know what? This is a secret between you and I. Peter, I’m sort of more the latter than the former. Personally, I was when I trained. I think I actually think I’m quite open about it in the book. You know that I am philosophically speaking, I’m the latter. I’m a barefoot cyclist, but I want people to know the science and the details that they can use it usefully. But I think in the book, I also give you an escape route. If you’re not interested in the hard science, then you can, for example, you haven’t got to use FTP or heart rate you can use or power. You can use the Borg scale, which is a very simple way of looking at how much effort you’re putting into your cycling. So I think in the book, I’m quite careful that to give you the detail in the science, but also to give you a bailout option you do.
Peter Bowes: [00:11:14] And it’s a great read for anyone who really does want to dive deep into that science. But equally, I think the philosophy side of this book is fascinating, and it’s fascinating to anyone who isn’t necessarily a cyclist. I think to anyone who is who’s growing older. There are some real gems in this book that we can we can read and we can use in our lives. And one thing that you write that really struck a chord with me was that you said being a successful midlife athlete and I guess that can apply to swimming or running other kinds of sports isn’t about living life as if you were half your age or less. It’s about gracefully and rationally accepting the arc of life with all of its challenges. The arc of life. How do you see that arc of life?
Phil Cavell: [00:11:59] Yeah, I think we have to sort of dig in deep into all of us ourselves and find the pragmatist. The romantic obviously wants me to be as fit and strong and fast at 60 as I was at 30, 25, even 40. But the pragmatist in me knows that’s not possible. But I also still want to be a good father. I still want to be a good husband. I still want to work hard and ride and on occasion ride quite hard. And and the balancing of those now means that I have to use wisdom. I can’t just throw youth at the problem. I’ve got to use wisdom and knowledge and pragmatism and sense to deal with that and to manage all those life forces. So I’m sort of I’m kind of imploring all of us to invoke wisdom. We can’t be young again. But my God, we can be wise. You know, we can use that life experience to make pragmatic decisions about how we balance these things. I think that’s what I’m saying. Peter
[00:12:55] And you’ve mentioned Peter Pan already and you say, you’re Peter Pan clients are sometimes quite hard to work with, say the body gets old, but the mind refuses to accept it. And you say you worry about these people. What do you mean by that?
Phil Cavell: [00:13:10] I do. And when I say difficult to work with, I’m not sure I use that word. I mean, my clients, you know, generally, I see my clients, the ones that are having problems. I see the most, so I get closer to their problems. The Peter Pans are, yeah, you’re right. The fact that they don’t want to grow old and they want to still ride hard and achieve all these things and go and do massive, great multi-day rides in the Alps. And that’s fantastic. It’s laudable. It’s wonderful, it’s inspiring. But at the same time, they’ve got to put strategies in around that that are in keeping with what’s going on for their body and what what I don’t what I what I find concerning sometimes is either I just look at them and think you’re just embedding fatigue and then you’re embedding inflammation, and then you might be embedding bigger problems and just, you know, trying to implore them to be a bit has some common sense. And, you know, if they look down at their training plan and they’ve got they’ve got one more training ride to do because the event is next week, it’s like, look, drop it. Just, you know, the best thing you could do is just now go and eat properly, sleep properly and just drop that session. That session is not going to help you, really, it won’t. It’s just going to embed even more fatigue. You know, we can’t shrug those things off at 60. Peter, I will. I certainly can’t, you know, 25 30. Yes, you could.
Peter Bowes: [00:14:33] Essentially what you’re saying is and what I’m understanding is that people can be quite dogged in terms of their determination as they get older. They’re not being deliberately difficult. They are being perhaps overdetermined to achieve something.
Phil Cavell: [00:14:46] That’s right. And I like difficult clients. I mean, I guess in a sense cycle fit because of what we are and who. We are we draw those clients to us, so, you know, so I do like them and their challenge, but I also, you know, they are the ones that keep me awake at night, you know, the ones that are, you know, think, Well, you know, I know for a fact you you’ve done enough now you’ve done as much as you can. Nothing’s going to make any difference now for the event. You know, your body just needs to rest and and you probably know this yourself when you’re forced to rest, you know, because of illness or injury and you’re just forced to. That’s just how it is. You know, often you come out of those occasions just like fizzing with energy, and that’s how athletes of our age Peter should start these events. We should start these events where we’re challenging our body in a way that nobody ever has before in any other century. We should start these events fizzing with energy. We should be like, Oh my God, I feel 30 years younger because that’s the best chance of us doing well in the events and and being happy at the end and then fulfilling all the other things we need to do in our life. And that’s the message that are trying across in the book and also to my clients. It’s like, really, you’ve really got to take care of yourself and rest more than you think you need to and eat better than you think you need to and sleep more than you think you need to and then get to the start line, you know, desperate to come off the leash and and perform.
Peter Bowes: [00:16:12] It’s such a sensible, simple message, but so difficult to accept, isn’t it for some people because we all want to to push ourselves and we might not even see it as pushing ourselves? We just think we can do it and we don’t want to waste a day. It’s a beautiful, sunny, clear blue sky day and you just want to get out and do a run, do a walk or do a bike ride.
Phil Cavell: [00:16:32] Yeah, and we’re a self-selecting group. I mean, the fact that, you know, there’s millions of us trying to exercise hard into into middle age and beyond, Peter, we’re a self-selecting group. You know, that’s there’s no it’s not an accident. We’re doing this. It’s what what’s what we love? You know, we’re just trying to keep going. And in a sense, you know, the clock kind of moves in the background. We’re not aware of the body clock every day. So it’s just it’s just another rainy Tuesday in November. But you know what? It’s not. It’s one year on and you know, there’s biological changes taking place. So, you know, I’m not trying to be the voice of doom. I’m a very optimistic person. But to achieve success athletically, our age does require us to take a step back once in a while and just dignify what’s going on, you know.
Peter Bowes: [00:17:17] And a big part of looking after ourselves and again reading through your book and you put a lot of emphasis on what we eat our diet being so crucially important, how important and what is the biggest mistake that you see aging athletes make?
Phil Cavell: [00:17:34] The several. I mean, this is to be to be I am not a nutritionist. So I was I was lucky enough to reach out to some very good people. Catherine Brown from British Cycling was one of them whose great help and she was a great help in in what we can change nutritionally. And one of them is really unpopular. And the biggest one which is probably received the most attention in the book is that the the controlling of alcohol content. And I guess if there’s one thing that we can do as midlife athletes and I’m not saying be temperate or don’t drink, I’m just saying in times when you’re training hard and then you’ve got an event at the end of that training block. I would my advice would be to stop drinking altogether during that period because it will interfere with sleep. It will definitely interfere with with rapid eye movement sleep, which you desperately. That’s the recovery sleep. So that’s going to be interfered with. And it’s nutritionally it doesn’t have any value whatsoever. Ethanol doesn’t have any value. It’s an obligate toxin so the body tries to clear it first before it does anything else, and also it has has a deleterious effect on your heart rhythms. Now, none of those things are good for us as midlife athletes. Now, I’ve not always followed that advice, and in the book, I think I’m pretty open about why I now have to follow it. But I think if I could say one thing I’d say by all means drink by all means, enjoy wine and whatever other drink that you like, but hard training blocks that lead to an event at the end of it. I would say that there’s probably no good limit, lower limit or upper limit for you to drink. I’d say probably you should just give up alcohol altogether, and I know that’s not a nice message to hear, and it’s not actually a very nice message to deliver, but I think the evidence is quite clear now about that.
Peter Bowes: [00:19:17] Well, it is a fascinating section of the book, and you’re right, it isn’t a message that everyone wants to hear, but what really interests me is and we’ve talked about wisdom as you get older. I think one of the benefits of getting older is that wisdom and that you learn from your mistakes and you can learn from your mistakes as an athlete. In terms of all the different aspects that go into your training, the time of day that you train and what you eat the night before, what you don’t eat the night before. And of course, that includes alcohol intake and people our age, perhaps much younger with the benefit of wisdom. I think generally realize that too much alcohol or indeed any alcohol before an athletic performance isn’t going to be a good thing. So what interests me is the fact that some of us don’t necessarily listen to ourselves. We have that wisdom. And yet sometimes keep on making mistakes, whether it’s alcohol or food consumption or some of aspect of training that we keep on doing the wrong thing, even though our brain is telling us that we shouldn’t be doing it.
Phil Cavell: [00:20:19] Yeah, that’s right. And one thing that I found very powerful and I wanted to include it in the book, and I didn’t, and I probably will include it in the next one is fasting. Now I had to start, I had to have some fairly serious surgeries over the last few years. The last one was a few years ago and I had to lose a lot of weight into going to surgery and I couldn’t exercise, obviously, because of the … I had a spine injury. So I started to do intermittent fasting and I found it very powerful as a middle aged man, middle aged athlete, very powerful beyond the weight loss? I mean, it did. You do can lose weight through fasting. But I found it very powerful for other reasons. Emotionally, I found it powerful. I found it sociologically quite interesting. I did find it a very powerful phenomenon, and I’ve kept going with it. I take a month off and then I’ll have a month and I’ll do intermittent fasting twice a week. And I didn’t include it in the book because I thought, Well, it’s quite controversial still. And the evidence is mixed, but personally, I find it very, to not eat for a day. You know, I like the way I do it is I stop eating the night before and I go through the entire day without eating, and then I have an evening meal in the evening with my family reduced, not too many calories, but so I’ve got on a complete, you know, complete 24 hours with not eating anything. It’s powerful. We’re not used to being hungry in the first world, are we? And I do find it quite so. That’s why I find it powerful on many levels. But I also find it very powerful in terms of I think it makes people our age, I think quite mentally strong. And I for me, I also think it makes me physically strong. Now I’ve got no evidence to back that up, and that’s a cohort of one Peter. I should say. I was going to put it in the book. I don’t know what your opinion is about that.
Peter Bowes: [00:22:02] Well, I think it’s fascinating. And regular listeners to this podcast will know that I’ve had quite a lot of experience of fasting. I’ve taken part in clinical trials to do with fasting and a fasting mimicking diet that was developed by Dr Valter Longo at University of Southern California. And I was certainly one of the first group of, I think it was 19 of us using that diet, which is a type of intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting, of course, being an umbrella term that can involve lots of different forms of of fasting and yours is quite close to the 5:2 regime that was developed by a BBC colleague in the UK, and a lot of people very successfully follow. But intermittent fasting can mean for some people it could be a 23:1 diet where they just have one meal a day and they follow that almost on a permanent basis. Or it could be perhaps a fasting regime that involves time restricted eating, which is what I’ve really sort of gravitated towards so that I have my first meal in the morning, maybe breakfast about 9am, and that follows a three and a half mile hike with my dog at about 7am before breakfast. And then I try to stop eating by six or seven latest in the evening. So I’ve got a long spell of usually 12 to 14 hours overnight when I’m not eating, and I find that works best for me. And you’re absolutely right, Phil. I think the jury is still out in terms of the science. There is a lot of positive science that suggests that this is is very beneficial for us. And and one thing I find interesting, especially talking about alcohol as we were when you’re fasting, even if it’s just an 18 hour fast or almost a 24 hour fast, as you say, missing breakfast, not eating until the next evening meal, there’s no thought of alcohol in your mind during that time. You’re focused on on not eating and looking forward to that meal, but there’s no desire to drink any alcohol.
Phil Cavell: [00:24:00] That’s right. And I wanted to mention in the book because I the whole book, it goes back to what our evolved function the whole book is. You know, one of its pillars is evolved function. What did we evolve to do? And if you think about it, it the ancestral environment. We would have to be our most capable when we are most hungry. Otherwise we would never come through it, would we? And that’s the bit I’m interested in about fasting. So when I get off my bike at Maidenhead Station and ride from Maidenhead to where I live in Marlow on my bike after not having eaten for twenty six hours, I feel fine. Do you know what? I’ve gone through some wobbly moments, Peter, but for that bit, when I’m actually at my most food deprived, I feel fine. I can ride home fine. I’m not going to ride fast, but I feel fine. And that’s what I think is remarkable. And that’s the bit I’m interested in kind of experimenting with. You know, for myself at the moment, I’m not going to write it or proselytize it or anything else until. You know, but I do think there’s something there. And I do think there’s something there for people our age, and I’ll say no more than that because it’s I think it is controversial and I don’t think it’s all proven. I was doing some research after I read the Michael Mosley book.
Peter Bowes: [00:25:06] Michael Mosley, being the BBC guy that I refer to who put a lot of work in, has met Dr Longo, a USC, and I think a big part of his work was was based on the work atthe Univeristy of Southern California.
Phil Cavell: [00:25:20] Yes, that’s right. That’s right. That’s right. It is fascinating. But I didn’t put it in the book, but alcohol is in the book. The effect of caffeine is in the book. Insulin resistance is in the book. And, you know, maybe our ability to metabolize sugar is getting is reduced as we get older. So, yeah, there is plenty about nutrition in the book. Fasting isn’t though.
Peter Bowes: [00:25:40] Right, And I agree with you. I think we need to really delve into the science. I think and I should also say, I always say this. Anyone listening to this, if you’re thinking about trying fasting for the first time, speak to your doctor first because it isn’t for everyone. It could be harmful. It could be extremely dangerous if you do it in the wrong way, and we’re all individually very different, so speak to your doctor. Get some good professional advice. But from my personal experience, I really go along with what you say that you can have an extraordinary amount of physical endurance actually during a fast, it maybe isn’t wise to do a heavy weightlifting session while you’re you’re fasting. There are lots of quirks and nuances to this, but the other really interesting aspect to this is the impact on our longevity. And there’s lots going on in our bodies that we can’t see and not necessarily feel during a fast, but our bodies change in response to a lack of food. Hormonal changes happen that the science suggests could be very good for us. Long run – in terms of preparing us for for older age and perhaps preventing some of those serious diseases of old age like cancer and heart disease.
Phil Cavell: [00:26:49] Yes, agreed. Agreed. I feel it. But at the moment it’s intuition. Not not, not proven science, Peter. So I think you’re right to caveat that. Yeah.
Peter Bowes: [00:27:03] Let’s talk about, as I say, this is a podcast. We talk about aspirations in terms of longevity. Do you think about what your life will be like in 10, 20, 30 years time? Is there something that you’re you’re aiming for in terms of what you might be able to do?
Phil Cavell: [00:27:19] I guess I really want to keep riding and I we do a family 5 or 7 or 8K run every, every Saturday. My daughter is only 11 years old. We had children very late. And it’s really important to me that that, you know, I exercise and run with her and ride with her, you know, while I can because, you know, I’m like, you won’t be 60 next year and soon I’ll be 70 and you know, she’ll be 20. And it’s, you know, it’s really important that when I’m 70, I can still cycle and maybe just shuffle along a bit running. Maybe not, I don’t know. But you know, it’s really important that I stay active and stay fit and stay, stay strong, you know, for her because she deserves to have me like that. It’s not her fault. You know, we I had, you know, we had children when I was, I became a dad when I was already quite old, so I felt an obligation. And also, I enjoy it. You know, it’s I cycling is fantastic. The slight irony, which I point out in the book that the better cyclist you want to be at our age, actually, the more you probably need to start dropping cycling sessions out of your training plan. But nevertheless, it’s still cycling. I enjoy the most.
Peter Bowes: [00:28:30] Interesting you should mention children because I ask this question quite frequently of people, and almost always the answer relates to their children or their grandchildren getting older and being around and being physically able to be part of their lives. It’s not just a it’s not a selfish thing wanting to aspire to great longevity. There’s generally another reason and that’s connected to your family or those close to you. And another reason often cited is just sharing the wisdom of your life. And I suppose you do this in a big way in your book here. And we’ve talked about wisdom and those lessons that you learn, and clearly you’ve learned many lessons as as an athlete that you want to share.
Phil Cavell: [00:29:10] Yeah, yeah. I mean, I was I was a chaotic athlete, and I think I confessed that in the book I was not, you know, I was I wrote in a team or a club where there were more gifted athletes, no more disciplined athletes. For me, racing and bike racing was I just loved the adventure of it. I loved the fact that I went out and then I had no idea what was going to happen. I had no particular race plan. I didn’t know whether I was going to come first or last or not come in at all. And I just loved that about it. I just loved that adventure that, you know, you start a race mountain bike race, road race criterium. And it was just an adventure. I loved that drama filled full of characters and you know, you’d spend three hours or whatever in this drama and then there’d be an outcome and sometimes you’d win, often you wouldn’t. But I loved that, you know, and it’s it’s that sense of adventure that I hope comes across in the book, I keep trying to kind of pepper it in there. You know, you can try and metricate this and plan it in as much as you like, but you know it’s bike racing and cycling. In a sense, is a metaphor for life. You can only control so much, you know?
Peter Bowes: [00:30:15] And is that a big part why you wrote this what you want people to take away is is inspiration?
Phil Cavell: [00:30:21] I want them to before beyond anything. I want them to enjoy reading the book. If they take anything out of it, which is useful, fine. If they take anything out there which is thought provoking, that’s even better. But more than that, I just want to enjoy the experience of writing that I’ve read, reading the book. I guess what I want people to just consider take a step back. And if the book encourages them to take a step back and consider what they’re doing and what they might change to make the outcomes better. That would be a perfect outcome for me, and I have had plenty of response from people who said, Yes, I’ve changed the way I train or I’ve changed. I’ve given up alcohol, went around heavy training blocks. They’ve made small adjustments. They’ve really focused on sleep. That’s what I’ve heard over and over again from people. You know what? The sleep thing really hit me hard that I, you know, I thought as I got older, I needed less sleep. The whole Margaret Thatcher thing three hours a night. You know, it’s like, Well, that’s not true, you know? So a lot of people said, the sleep thing’s hit hard to me. I go to bed an hour earlier. I don’t look at my iPhone, you know, for an hour before bed. The sleep hygiene thing is important, I’m encouraging melatonin production. So, you know these little things fine. You don’t have to adjust very much to get quite a big outcome change.
Peter Bowes: [00:31:35] I think what’s really nice is the way that these days we can talk about wisdom and the lessons that you learn, but applying that in conjunction with the new science, and it’s almost like putting a jigsaw together, isn’t it? And making the pieces fit that suddenly things begin to make sense, like like sleep. We haven’t always and we still don’t fully understand sleep, and I think we understand its importance, but we’re still figuring out how it works and why many of us, and especially at our age, still have difficulty sleeping. Or maybe if you can get to sleep, why you can’t stay asleep for seven or eight hours is a great frustration to a lot of people, but we’re slowly beginning to piece together that jigsaw. And your book certainly helps with that.
Phil Cavell: [00:32:14] Yeah. And I think sleep is, I think is the is the magic wand here, actually. And this whole thing about middle aged people and as you got older, you needed less and less sleep because you were, you know, you’re you were, you know, you had this senescence going on. Your cells weren’t renewing, weren’t replacing, and therefore you didn’t have to spend any energy doing with offsetting senescence and therefore you need less sleep. It’s just not true. You know, people are age Peter need to sleep as many as much as somebody who’s 30, 40 years younger. We need sleep as much and and sleep is where the magic gets done. You’re quite right. We don’t understand what that is. Science really doesn’t understand that yet. And science is, you know, scientists are put their hands up. Science isn’t about answers, it’s about questions about asking the right questions and then testing them and then retesting them and then passing the baton to somebody else who tests them in a different way. You know, you get to a gold standard view about what’s probably happening, but science very rarely settles. And then that’s it. There’s no change, does it? It’s, you know, it’s an evolving picture. And I think sleep is the is right now is one of the really big ones no one really knows, but we all absolutely know it’s crucial we cannot recover if we don’t sleep and people our age and older and slightly younger can’t athletically perform without sleep.Simple as that.
Peter Bowes: [00:33:30] Phil, this has been a really interesting conversation. The book is full of fascinating nuggets, just like the one that you’ve been referring to, and I thoroughly recommend it. Thank you very much indeed.
Phil Cavell: [00:33:40] Thank you, Peter. Lovely talking to you.
Peter Bowes: [00:33:42] And as I say, a really inspiring read, and it certainly makes me want to get on my bike more often than I do. It’s called the midlife cyclist. It’s about more than cycling a lot of aging wisdom in there that is relevant to all of us as we grow older. I’ll put a link to the book into the show notes for this episode, you’ll find them at the Live Long and Master Aging website. That’s LLAMApodcast.com LLAMApodcast.com. You’ll also find a transcript of this conversation there. The LLAMA podcast is a Healthspan Media production. You can follow us in social media @LLAMA podcast and contact me by Direct Message @PeterBowes. Thanks for listening!
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