After a Long, Stressful Career in Law This Rider Regained Her Health on a Bike

barbara blackford
This Rider Regained Her Health on a BikeCourtesy Barbara Blackford

Name: Barbara Blackford
Atlanta, Georgia
Retired Lawyer
Time Cycling
: 15+ years
Reason for Cycling:
I love being outside, seeing the world at the speed of a bike, and feeling the sun and wind on my skin. Most of all, I love exploring beautiful places on the seat of a bike!

I was a lawyer working long hours and under the stress of constant deadlines for 30 years. I ignored my fitness for too long, and in 2006 at age 48, I embarked on a mission to lose weight and get fitter.

Eventually, I decided to start running. It went so badly, I hired a coach. As an older, heavier runner, she suggested I take a couple of spin classes a week taught by a local cyclist/triathlete. After a few months, she had the audacity to suggest I ride an actual bicycle... outside! That’s when a love of cycling began.

I started riding two to three times a week, as cross training for running. After I retired in 2010, I did consulting for two years. Once I was finished with my professional career, I needed a big goal.

I decided to participate in a half Ironman and ultimately chose Ironman Arizona in 2012. My focus during that period was largely on endurance, maintaining a zone 1 to 2 heart rate, and high cadence for longer distances.

I had also learned about a friend’s bike ride across the United States, and it inspired me to try adventure and exploration cycling. I cycled the Atlantic Coast in 2015 for two weeks, the Pacific Coast in 2016 for six weeks, and did the first quarter of the Trans Am (coast of Oregon to West Yellowstone) in 2018 for four weeks. (These were supported tours with a group called Woman Tours!)

However, I didn’t enjoy being away from my family for so long, so now my adventures are shorter, with a few week-long bike tours in Montana, Arizona, Idaho, and France each year.

I started a blog called Fitter After 50, and a Facebook group to coordinate training rides and adventures. A core group of us (about 10 people) decided to ride Glacier to Yellowstone in 2021, and we’ve done a week-long trip each summer since then.

In 2022, we did a week of biking and hiking in Sun Valley, Idaho, and the Sawtooth Mountain Range, also in Idaho. In 2023, we completed a Glacier bike tour with The Cycling House. This August, we are planning a week of cycling and hiking in Jackson Hole!

I work in threes for my current cycling schedule: ride three days a week, strength train three days a week, and run or hike three days a week. On strength days, strength is first, and easy aerobic effort is second.

Cycling has brought terrific friends and great adventures into my life! And a lower stress way to maintain fitness. The sense of accomplishment from getting to the top of a big climb or finishing a long ride is amazing!

When I started, I remember getting off my bike and walking up a particular hill, feeling so defeated. I’ve now ridden that hill dozens of times, and used each milestone to support the next.

barbara blackford
Courtesy Barbara Blackford

These tips have made my cycling journey a success:

1. Be consistent

Even during the winter, when I don’t want to ride outside, getting on the WAHOO a couple of times a week gives me structured workouts that help maintain cycling fitness.

2. Enjoy the ride

Be in it for the long run. And don’t do it over the long run if it is not fun. Find what you consider fun, like cruising along, or hammering, or a combination. Find what motivates you, whether it’s a big goal, riding with friends, seeing the country, and use that motivation to continue to be active.

3. Go on a bike tour or week-long state ride

With such a wide variety of options available now, bike tours are a great way to see new places and/or try new things like gravel riding. The Cycling House is my favorite group for week-long bike tours in the United States, and I’ve done four gravel tours with them. If a commercial bike tour is not in your budget, state rides like Cycle Oregon or Tour de Wyoming are great options or shorter events, like the Bourbon Burn in Kentucky.

4. Strength train

There’s a ton of research showing how we lose muscle as we age, but likewise tons of research showing strength training can go a long way to offset that loss.

Barbara’s Must-Have Gear

BIVO Insulated Bottle: Lightweight BIVO insulated bottles keep drinks cold for hours. They’re also easy to clean and ends the need for plastic water bottles. My BIVO goes with me everywhere!

Fusion Triathlon Shorts: Early in my Atlantic Coast tour, I abandoned padded bike shorts and reverted to triathlon shorts to avoid chafing. I love the quality of the fabric and the side pockets—and no chamois!

Rene Herse Tires: I love the quality of the tires and the company’s support for the sport. I also like supporting a United States-based smaller company.

Revelate Mag Tank Bag: The Mag Tank provides easy and accessible storage for snacks and other items you want quick access to while riding. It’s also from another smaller United States-based company making high-quality products.

We want to hear how cycling changed you! Send your story and submit your photos to us via this web form. We’ll pick one each week to highlight on the site.

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