The Denver Post – Pedal and keep trim to enjoy life

Share on pinterest
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on email
Share on print

Bio: A serious bicyclist at the age of 77, Dick Cornwell is a retired Census Bureau supervisor who does volunteer work for the Jefferson County adult diversion program, the hospice unit at Lutheran Hospital and the Colorado History Museum, where he teaches schoolchildren about the Plains Indians. A native of Chicago, he has a B.A. in history from Valparaiso University in Indiana. He and his wife of 55 years, Judy, live in Lakewood and have four grown daughters and 11 grandchildren.

The Journey: Cornwell, who stands 5 feet 8 and weighed about 190 when he was in college, has lost 50 pounds over the years. He lost much of it after age 40, when a doctor told him he risked dying of a heart attack like his mother and father if he didn’t slim down. He shed his first 25 pounds by eating less and lifting weights, and the next 25 by taking up cycling, as well – first by commuting 15 miles to work and back by bike, and later by going on multiday bike tours.

In 1992, having ridden the first three Ride the Rockies tours and pedaled across Kansas and Nebraska, as well, Cornwell was hospitalized with a potentially fatal brain hemorrhage. But he avoided surgery when an arteriogram showed a “bleed” that had already sealed itself and eventually recovered with no residual effects. “The doctors told me the physical shape I was in is what saved my life,” he says.

The Strategy: Cornwell continues to train regularly, clicking off 24 to 26 miles on his road bike three days a week, usually by himself. He has completed probably a dozen more long-distance rides, the most recent a 325-mile trip in Nebraska in which he was the oldest cyclist on the tour. He also watches his weight, which he keeps within a pound or two of 140 by portioning out his meals and sticking to a diet of lean proteins, fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. He has long since given up sweets, including ice cream – which he once loved but says he no longer even likes.

“People ask me, ‘Why do you go through this?’ It’s because I’m always looking over my shoulder at the Grim Reaper,” he says. “But I ride mostly for the emotional benefits. It really relieves stress. I can come back from a 20-mile ride and feel like a new person.”

The Details: Stretching is an important part of Cornwell’s regimen, particularly in the wake of a painful lower-back problem that almost sidelined him two days into a multiday tour last year. The ailment, first diagnosed as sciatica, turned out to involve the piriformis muscle, and has been relieved through a series of specific exercises laid out by a physical therapist.

Cornwell also takes an anti-aging supplement called Juvenon, which he says makes him feel more energetic.

He is training for the 20th annual Tour de Nebraska, a five-day, 305-mile ride scheduled June 20-25 – the same week as Ride the Rockies. -Jack Cox


20 to 25 miles of cycling three days a week or, in bad weather, 30 minutes on a cross-country- skiing machine in his basement. Weight lifting with 8-pound barbells one day a week. Plus stretching and occasional hikes in the hills.


Half a cup of homemade granola with nonfat milk and fruit for breakfast, a slice of home-baked whole-wheat bread with turkey, tuna or cheese for lunch, and grilled chicken or fish with seasonal vegetables for supper. One favorite dish: asparagus quesadillas with jack cheese.
Read more: Pedal and keep trim to enjoy life – The Denver Post