How My 63-Year-Old Client Ended Up Biking from Canada to Mexico

Have you ever thought about biking from Canada to Mexico?

bicycling the Pacific Coast

No?

Me neither.

So how did I end up bicycling from Canada to Mexico?

Eric’s “Biking Canada to Mexico” Plan

Back in 2012, Eric and I we’re completing a personal training session. He hired me to overcome some serious back issues. No, he didn’t have a bulged disk, he had something far worse: 2 shattered discs. Eric experienced chronic back pain for over 20 years. Fortunately, I knew a proven plan to remove his back pain. After assessing his body, I discovered three critical issues. Three troubling issues that would surely stop any attempt of bicycling the Pacific Coast.

Three Critical Back Issues:

  1. Little to No Flexibility
  2. Weak Core
  3. No Glute Activation

 

Critical Issue #1: Little to No Flexibility

Solution: Proper daily stretching coupled with foam rolling(SMR)

I taught him the correct stretches to lengthen his back, hip flexors and hamstrings. The stretches needed to be preformed daily, for months, maybe even years. Eric followed the program religiously. We also employed Self-Myofascial Release(SMR) techniques to give him more flexibility. The SMR is a more effective way to break up tightness in the muscle tissue. If used properly, it can expedite the healing process. This was the first piece of the puzzle.

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Critical Issue#2: Weak Core

Solution: A core strengthening program

The next step was proper core activation. The core consists of roughly 29 muscles that attach the pelvic bone to the spine. If you stand up and cough, you activate your core. The trick is to have your core strong enough to relieve pressure from your back. With simple core exercises, we can strengthen the deep abs and low back. Core activation and strengthening takes time (4-6 weeks) but the results can feel almost magical. 

 

Critical Issue #3: No Glute Activation

Solution: Resistance training exercises targeting glute activation

Go ahead and squeeze your butt. Can you? Chances are you can’t squeeze your butt. Under-active or a weak butt can be a cause of back pain. When you stand, you basically have three muscles to hold you up (abs, butt, low back.) If your abs aren’t string enough, and you don’t know how to activate your butt, then the low back does all the work. Eventually it grows tired, leading to pain. By strengthening the other muscles, less pressure will be on the back. This will help remove pain from the excess burden.

If he stuck with the program, we would see incredible results…

Eric ready to bike from Canada to Mexico

Eric’s back pain became a distant memory

He felt as strong as a bull. The strongest 57 y/o around. He then asked me a question that would change my life forever.

 

“Would you consider biking from Canada to Mexico?”

What?

I obviously thought he was joking.

I replied like any normal person. “Sure, no big deal. Let’s keep working, three more reps.” We finished the session and I thought nothing more of the proposal.

 

Things Got Real…Quick

The next session, Eric showed up with a map and possible dates. I pooped my pants. This guy is serious? I didn’t think it was possible, but I reluctantly agreed.

Eric laying while training to bike from Canada to MexicoOur first long training ride went…awful.

My butt cried. Every hill destroyed us. We found ourselves laying on the side of the road. It took a monumental effort just make it through the practice ride. I just didn’t think it was possible. I would have a TOUGH time. And I knew it would be even harder for him. I had doubts, big doubts. 

 

Our Secret Weapon

We had a secret weapon, we each possessed a Bigger Burn. A powerful Bigger Burn. Eric was a cancer survivor. He beat the odds, coming back from near-death made him almost invincible. He wasn’t supposed to do any of this, not anymore. I had a starkly different experience with cancer. My friend Amadu fought bravely against the horrid disease. Sadly, cancer won.Picture

 

 

We knew what we needed to do. Make the mission bigger than us. Eliminate failure as an option. We would suffer to  raise money for the fight against cancer.

 

Bicycling the Pacific Coast For Cancer

Armed with incredible motivation, we began our first ride. The first part of this epic dream of biking from Canada to Mexico would be San Francisco to Irvine. 6 days, 500+ miles and 45+ hours of cycling (my butt still hurts.) Our navigation confusing. The days endless. The pain immense. Fun quickly replaced by torture. 

Eric Was Ready to Quit

On the beginning on Day 3, a ride from Big Sur to San Luis Obispo, we started the day in horrific pain. We each carried a backpack filled with all our equipment. The backpacks grew heavier and heavier.  We took a little break so Eric could jump on a conference call (he was still working…) I could see the pain as he struggled of the bike. When he sat in the gas station, I calmly took Eric’s backpack and threw it over mine. 

No.

Eric said “No” to me with two backpacks. He shook his head. I told him to pedal. He didn’t fight back after that. We biked the next 45 miles through rolling hills, heat and narrow lanes.

“Eric!”

I screamed as my front tire punctured. My body flew over the handle bars. I ricocheted off the asphalt. Sprawled on the ground, Eric came to my help. He removed the extra backpack, and we managed to complete the day. I tore up my shoulder and hip, but I could still ride.

 

Armed with the right motivation, anything is possible.

Luckily, no serious damage was done. Falling off my bike did motivate Eric to work harder. We completed that ride and 6 more rides the following years. Completing his dream of biking the Pacific Coast. All the way from Mt. Whistler to Ensenada, Mexico. I never dreamed I could ever say something like that:

“I bicycled from Canada to Mexico!”

Crazy dreams come true. 

Biking from Canada to Mexico

Today, we start our 8th annual bike trip. A repeat of our first epic ride from San Francisco to Irvine. Eric isn’t slowing down one bit. Eric proves that age is only a number. He pushes me to work harder. And honestly, I need to. I need to be ready for whatever loony adventure pops in his head. Wish us luck as we ride from Sam Francisco to Irvine (again.) 

Picture

 

Tony Arreola

NASM Master Trainer

Author, “Get Me Medals”

 

PS: For serious cyclists (or crazy ones) make sure you follow our 3 Quick Tips for Speed. Or for more epic inspiration, you can read my New York Marathon journey.

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