Can you be a MAMIL at 30?


This weekend I turn 30. It has kind of crept up on me, but to be honest I don’t feel too bad about it.  As it is winter and we aren’t running any Wine Rides Weekends till it warms up again next May. So I am back working in TV.  The Project is fantastic but sadly still highly confidential and in the early stages, so I can’t say much about it other than in order to get my head around a fairly complex subject matter I spent the day categorising sea animals so I could understand how they relate to each other.

The easiest group by far was the “Mammals” basically if it has nipples then it’s a mammal. As the weather has turned and I have once again started my Sisyphean daily journey into London and back each day, I have regained the thinking time that comes with cycling to and from work. This led me to wonder if I am now a MAMIL in the cycling sense.

The average commute time in the UK is the largest in Europe. On average we Brits commute for 45 minutes a day as opposed to 23 minutes in Italy or 24 minutes in Germany. In fact, our average commute is 20 minutes longer than the average American commute which may be a surprise to some people.

In addition to running Wine Rides Ltd I am a freelance Assistant Producer, so I work for several production companies. As a result my trip into London is generally 50 minutes to an hour on bike. The longest daily trip I’ve had to do is from my house in Crystal Palace to the BBC in Shepherd’s Bush at a whopping one hour and 10 minutes. I found that so draining that I only did it for days a week, and tended to take the train in on Friday.

If you have not come across the term yet: a MAMIL is a slightly derogatory term for middle-aged man in lycra. I do wear lycra when it gets cold, but I think my impending 30th birthday made me conscious of my age and for some reason this stopped me wearing lycra for my commute. The situation came to a head yesterday when it rained badly, and I really didn’t want to get my workload soaking so had to don the lycra once again.

I had a quick look at the reasons that cause such long commutes. A major cause of “extreme commuting” which is people who commute more than 90 minutes a day is the fact that most members of a couple now work. Certainly this has been a factor in mine and Hayley’s commutes. We’ve moved closer to Hayley’s work, but that has on average increased my commuting time.

I hate to keep having a go at the car as a mode of transport, but I was also horrified to see what effects commute time has on people who drive to work. Only 3% of journeys in the UK are made by bicycle. And, generally, any time you spend exercising ads, only the exact amount of time to your life expectancy that the exercise took. So if you don’t particularly like exercise then that probably isn’t worthwhile time you’re adding to your life. I tend to find I do enjoy exercise and the something about the monotonous action of peddling, which creates space in your head and time to think. I’m sure having your hands and legs occupied is a massive help. When you’re riding a bike, it’s very hard (though not impossible) to check emails.

According to Mark J Penn ‘Extreme commuters are at greater risk of dangerous behaviour like road rage as well as health problems. Dr John H Casada, the specialist in road stress has said that the longer people’s commutes are the more likely they are to suffer road rage, which can lead not only to violence, but also heart attack, stroke and ulcers’ and Researchers at Georgia Tech have found that every 30 minutes spent driving increases your risk of becoming obese by 3%. That’s not surprising given that In 2005 ABC/Washington Post poll on traffic found 4 in 10 drivers said that while in traffic jams, They eat.

Robert Putman also found that for every additional 10 minutes you spend commuting you have 10% less time for family and community activities. Which is particularly cruel as most of us who have chosen to live further away from work, did so to get a better quality of life.

Amazingly “the WHO, said that when it comes to cancer, it now considered air-pollution to be even more dangerous than smoking.” And it turns out that drivers are at particular risk from air pollution because of the amount of time they spend sitting in traffic directly behind the exhaust pipe of the vehicle in front. It’s also been shown that including physical activity in your commute reduces your risk of colon cancer by 34%.

So on balance, I’m inclined to think that commuting by bike, not only saves me money and gives me time to relax at the end of the day and think about what I need to do, but it also appears to be reducing the rate at which my ageing body is rotting.

I’ve always thought of 30 as basically being middle aged. When I say this, it normally causes consternation amongst my friends. But the way I see it if you live to 90 years old then, the first 30 years, are the first third of your life. The second 30 years, are the middle third of your life, and the last 30 are the last 30. So if you’re 30+ you’re in the middle period of your life. However, Wikipedia informs me that this is not the case. Middle age is considered to be the third quarter of your life. The first quarter is childhood, so that doesn’t count (??? I don’t quite know why).  And apparently because of the increase in life expectancy middle age has increased from 41 years to 53 years.

That being the case, I was slightly disappointed to discover that I have not reached “MAMIL” status yet. Unfortunately, it will be quite some time before I am officially, or at least biologically a middle-aged man in lycra. So if like me, you’re about to hit 30. Please stop flapping; don’t do what I did, there is no need for an age induced wardrobe crisis. And hey, in the mean time I am pleased to announce, that I do have nipples, so I’m still a mammal in the conventional sense.