Everett doctor shows bicycling is great for the body and mind

Getting older doesn’t have to mean getting slower.

Just ask Dr. Art Grossman of Everett, who turns 65 next month and still maintains an ambitious fitness regimen. Grossman usually bicycles seven days a week when weather permits, and he also runs about three days a week, teaches cycling for several hours a week, and somehow manages to work three days a week at his medical practice.

“I agree, it’s almost sick the amount of time I (exercise),” said Grossman, who has completed 12 marathons and five triathlons. “But on the other hand, it’s very enjoyable and it makes me feel good.

“I think it’s a reasonable way to spend one’s life,” he added. “If you think of all the things you could be doing, this is a positive thing you can do for yourself.”

Grossman, who grew up in the Philadelphia area, started cycling while attending medical school at the University of Washington back in the 1970s, and he continued after moving to Everett to start his practice. A few years ago someone wondered how many miles he rode in a year, and Grossman had to admit he had no idea.

So he started logging his mileage, and then began adding a little bit to his total every year.

Two years ago he was on track to reach 12,000 miles for the year. But foul December weather left him a few hundred miles short, and the same thing happened again last year.

This year, and barring absolutely dreadful weather in December, he should surpass 12,000 miles for the first time.

After that the goal “will be 13,000 miles next year,” although, he acknowledged, at some point “there has to be an upward limit. Because there’s no way I’m going to be able to bike around here an average of 40 miles a day (for 365 days). That’s not going to happen, because with my schedule there’s not enough daylight. … I think 13,000 or maybe 14,000 is probably the limit.”

The motivation for all this is not merely to accumulate mega-miles on his bike, Grossman said. Rather, he simply enjoys the physical, mental and aesthetic benefits of cycling.

He rides to and from work “unless it’s really bad, snowy or icy, and then I won’t ride,” he said. His daily commute usually includes trips to the Everett YMCA, where he teaches several of his cycling classes, and that pushes his total to about 20 miles a day during the week. On weekends he typically goes for longer rides in excess of 100 miles.

During the good weather of summer, Grossman might go three or four months without missing a day on his bicycle.

It bothers him to miss a day, “but I don’t fret about it anymore because I’m trying to be grown up about this now,” he said, smiling. “I don’t want to make it an obsession. I still want it to be fun. I’m going to be 65 and I want to enjoy this as much as I possibly can, so I’d rather just have fun doing this.”

There are, he added, “lots of days when I should not have been on the bike because of health reasons, but I did it anyway. Either because it was just a nice day or because I just felt like riding that day. … It kind of feels better to do it than not do it.”

Grossman has several preferred routes in and around Snohomish County, but his favorite place to ride is probably Whidbey Island. Some days he takes the ferry directly to the island, but on other days — usually a weekend, when he has the time — he will ride toward Anacortes and then across the Deception Pass bridge before biking the length of the island. He usually sticks to back roads as he makes his way to Clinton and a ferry ride home.

“(Whidbey Island) is nice and peaceful, and it’s beautiful everywhere on the coast,” he said. “It’s hilly, scenic and pleasant, and you can’t beat it.”

There are occasional hazards to cycling, of course. Falls can be painful — fortunately for Grossman, those have been infrequent — and bikers always have to look out for reckless, impatient and inattentive drivers.

“I’ve been lucky,” he said. “I’ve never broken anything. … I feel like most of my close calls have been in the car. But I’ve had things thrown at me.”

The payoffs, he went on, are those days of pleasant weather and striking scenery, and when he has the leisurely hours to savor both.

“I really enjoy the time alone,” Grossman said. “If somebody comes up to me and says, ‘How about if we take a ride this weekend?’ I say sure. But I relish those times when I’m away from the phone, away from the questions, and can just be by myself. It’s just very relaxing.”

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