Pro Cyclist On How He Went From Asthmatic To Athletic

When you think of a stereotypical 50-year-old, you might think of someone with a wide girth, settled in routine and not up for an adventure. Today, I’d like to introduce you to the exact opposite of that, the coolest 50-year-old I know, Peter Plaisance!

Born in America, he spent the majority of his life in the States before moving to Australia for four years, and then Singapore for another three years before settling back home in the States.

Peter, basically, is the kind of person I want to be when I’m at his age. He’s outgoing, assured, knows what he likes, has a ridiculously active life that will put most 20-year-olds to shame. Plus point, looks about fifteen years younger than his actual age. He’s not afraid to go after what he wants, and makes overcoming challenges look like a breeze. His very first challenge started when he was a child, which is what shaped him to the person he is today.

“In the first few years of my life, I had to go to school with oxygen and a plug in nebulizer.”

“When I was very young, I was very sick. I had severe asthma. When I was born, I would stop breathing several times during the night. In the first few years of my life, I had to go to school with oxygen and a plug in nebulizer. I had an inhaler as well. I was this sick, skinny kid in school with really bad asthma and I couldn’t do the same activities that other kids could do. So the reason I became an athlete is that I just wanted to be normal. I was around the age of 11, and my brother was running, and I wanted to start doing something because I was just full of steroids. I was sick, and I guess I just got a little angry. I thought, you know what, I’m just going to beat my disease. So I became an athlete not because I wanted to be a jock , but because I wanted to be normal and healthy. At first I couldn’t even jog around the block. But as I ran more and more, I started getting better and better. I found that it kind of helped my asthma. It was just years of that, and it was grueling. I ran track for a while, and then when I got into college, I started bicycle racing. So the irony is, I’m lucky that I’m so healthy, and with only about 60% lung capacity. Kind of like the bumblebee, he’s not supposed to be able to fly! I’m the happiest athlete because I’m lucky to be able to do what I want. I just love it. And I appreciate it.

I was still racing at a pro level until I was in late thirties. I still had my license. Now, I play tennis, I run a little bit and I cycle for fun! I like to just about do anything. If there’s a pick up game of Frisbee at the beach, I’m in!”

Don’t you think it’s almost unbelievable that someone who had to go to school with an oxygen and medication ended up racing at that level?

“I was able to race and at the most competitive level for cycling. I was racing for 15, almost 20 years, but out of that, 7-10 years were serious. I rode every day, and I was racing all the time. At different times I would also do adventure racing and some 24-hour mountain bike events. Tennis, now that’s also something I enjoy. . When I was younger, I picked up tennis in middle school but I couldn’t do both. I always loved it, but I wasn’t able to do both. Now, I’m getting back to it. When I was in Australia, I coached some kids and also got another coach myself. Tennis is more of a hobby and great as I get older! In Singapore, I met a bunch of people and started playing more frequently. I met this couple, Janice and Milton. We’d play a couple of days a week, and then I found out that they were national coed champions in Singapore! At first, I thought, oh yeah, they’re nice, fun people to play with, but then I found out they were champions and I was really intimidated, but then just enjoyed the fact that I could play more and have fun. So, tennis is something I love and I’m going to do more as I get older.

I remembered a couple of things when I worked in the same office with Peter. He was always at the office very early, and during lunchtime, he would disappear to the gym. Whenever I asked him what he was doing after work, he’d tell me he was off for some kind of sports, whether it was cycling or tennis. What was a typical day for him now that he was back in San Diego?

“I’m not as active, because I’m travelling so much. When I’m home, I get up early. I do something either 5 to 6 times a week. I’ll either run, go to the gym, play tennis or I’ll go cycling. I love to get up early, so that’s easy. On weekends I’m up at 6am, and I did a 100km ride this morning. I’m pretty much always doing something. Even when I was in Argentina or Chile, there were a couple of guys who were playing tennis so I just picked up a few games. I just enjoy being active, it’s not just good for the body; it’s good for the soul.

How does he end up meeting all his sporting buddies?

“Friends of friends are the best. In Singapore, I met a few groups playing tennis then just developed better friendships. Cycling is easy, because you just show up to a group ride. You go online and search for a couple of groups and then you just naturally meet people. It’s funny, I have about 3 different teams/ clubs that I still keep in touch with and they still call me “Coach”. Sometimes you click with them, and sometimes you don’t. Tennis is the same way and that’s ok. I just like to get connected super quick. I’m like you, I love to meet people! When I lived in Singapore, all my friends were Singaporean. I didn’t have any Western friends because I didn’t have any desire to hang out with my people. I mean, I moved across the world, right?”

“When I lived in Singapore, all my friends were Singaporean.”

My boyfriend used to be in a cycling group with Peter, and tells me how Peter was always the guy that was pepping everybody up and had a great connection with everyone. According to my boyfriend, Peter seemed to be the most loved cyclist in Singapore – he was known across all cycling groups in Singapore, whether they were local or expat groups. In fact, Peter seemed even more popular in the local groups!

Peter travels a lot for work now. What’s the duration of a trip, and how does he work out when travelling?

“In Singapore, most of our trips were 2-3 days. Now, my trips are anywhere between 7 days to 2 weeks, because I do multiple countries. When I travel, normally I exercise by going to the gym, which I don’t like, but I’ll do anything to keep my focus and a good sweat always makes me feel better and think clearer. I’ve even hopped in classes overseas. I’ll go out for a 5k. It’s either swim, gym or go for a fun. That’s all you can do.”

For someone so disciplined, what’s his eating like?

“Even when I was competitive, I had horrible eating habits! My coach used to call me out all the time when I was eating junk food!! I don’t eat poorly, but I should probably watch more what I eat.”

Now, Peter really doesn’t look an average 50-year-old at all. Heck, or even a 40-year old. A lot of people make excuses not to exercise – some of them, legitimate excuses like they have children or a really busy job. What’s his advice to them?

“I don’t sit around the house.”

“Yes, even though I don’t have my own kids, I do have a very demanding job that takes me around the world. I think it’s important to just do stuff. I don’t sit around the house. I go for a drive on my Vespa. I go for a walk, I go for a run, I take a stroll with my partner, and I try to not just sit in front of the TV. I enjoy how it feels to feel healthy. And that just trumps everything. That trumps glasses of wine or mugs of beer. I love feeling good. Maybe because I was sick as a kid, and that’s what’s driven me to be this way. Now that I’m healthy, I love how it feels. So my thoughts would be, do something. It can be a walk, or the playground with kids. It can be hopping on a scooter and going somewhere. I think it can be the easiest things, but just get out of the house. It promotes better quality of time, and more conversation. Get out and see the world! I’m 50 and when you get to this age, it’s even more important to appreciate and cherish the moments you can. , You really start to assess your health and well being and I not only want to live a long life, but a healthy, happy one!”

When one talks to Peter, there’s just this incredible energy radiating from him. He just feels very young and enthusiastic! What’s next in store for him?

“Right now, I need a goal! I was just talking to my friend about this, because right now, I’m at a point where I can’t cycle as much and be competitive. I’m a member of a tennis club, but I want to start playing more competitively and at a higher level., so for me, probably being in a team is what I want to do. I also really enjoy working and coaching with kids so I would like to get more involved in swimming, cycling, tennis and quite frankly anything around helping kids learn and grow. Since I don’t have my own, I want to help other kids realize their potential and grow more confidence through sports. . Of course, I have other things on my bucket list like Kilimanjaro and Machu Pichu but I will get to those in time!”

Peter spent seven years in total abroad, four in Australia and three in Singapore. What made him move out of the States?

“You never know where your next opportunity is going to come from, right?”

“I think I was just ready. I had a great job, and a great social network of activities and friends but I needed something to challenge me. Australia was actually a fluke. I wasn’t actually looking for a job. It was a friend of a friend, and I just got connected, so you never know where your next opportunity is going to come from right? I just thought it was a once in a lifetime experience. I sold my furniture, I sold one of my houses and I jumped on a plane. And I was, what, 42? That was pretty risky. I walked out of the airport in Melbourne and didn’t know one person and had to recreate a life. Not easy at all but such a good learning.”

What was Australia like?

“Life changing. Living in a different country just changes your life. It gives you perspective; it just changes your life personally and professionally. It was just a great learning!”

I’ve never been to Australia, and I want to know what he found surprising living in Australia.

“Aussies are resilient, friendly, tough and athletic. But in my experience working with them, they could be super difficult to work with. I’m very diplomatic and professional at work. With the Aussies I worked with, it was ‘F this’ and ‘F that’ and ‘Whatever mate’. There was no filter and sometimes a lack of professional etiquette. They work hard, and they’re smart, but it really got on my nerves because it was a different level of professionalism and standards.. They are the friendliest people in the world and I still keep in touch with some close ones. But they can drink! And I mean party so sometimes I just had a hard time fitting in and keeping up!”

What about Singapore? How was that like? As Peter had a regional role then, his job entailed loads of travelling, all across Asia!

“Singapore was by design. I wanted to work in Asia, and I wanted to work and experience all different countries and cultures. It was just incredible. I can’t even describe it, because travelling all over Asia, in every single country; you have to learn the nuance of every culture and every business environment. I feel like in those three years, I packed in 10 years of learning. I met incredible friends. Very rich experience indeed and I have met so many special people that have enriched my life.”

What was his biggest learning from Singapore?

“I think with my role, it brought out what I enjoy most which is learning, listening and then trying to really help people do something or learn something better. But in the meantime, they actually taught me. I think my personality really fits Asian way of life and I was very willing to observe, learn and in terms of communication, behavior and personality. I found I was very comfortable there.”

As an American, how did he find working with Asians?

“There’s a simplicity of living, without an accumulation of things.”

“Out of every place in the world, and I love Europe, South America and the US, I’ve always had an affinity for Asia. I’ve always been interested in the culture. I like the simplicity of life there. I guess that’s what I enjoyed most. Sometimes, as Americans, we overcomplicate things. We are so diplomatic and so politically correct, and those things are good things, but I think we’re also very material driven. We are career driven and progress driven, and these things are important and good, but I think that for the Asian personality, or at least a lot of places in Asia, the definition of happiness is simpler. They can be happy with not as much around them. Think of Japan. There’s simplicity of living, without an accumulation of things. It’s not about having lots of clothes or a cool car. It’s about enjoying THEIR life and the people in their life.”

Peter seems to have had a great life with loads of adventure packed in it. If he had no limits, what would his ideal life look like?

“Wow. That’s a loaded question. I feel very grateful for my life as it is, quite frankly. I think the only thing I would want to change, is to probably take care of my parents and make sure they’re better off. I enjoy being with a loved one and also enjoy being around kids so I guess I would want to be a strong partner for someone I love and also a mentor to kids I can be around. Volunteering more for people who are less fortunate and also kids that could use another role model. I guess I feel like if I take care of myself and make sure I am healthy, well balanced and focused, then I can give that to other people in my life, whether that is family or work colleagues or children I spend time with.”

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Ann Jie

Loves good conversations and hates small talk. Finds people fascinating and wonders why meanies exist. Loves writing violent, graphic short stories but finds horror movies too scary to watch. Follow me on Instagram @annjieslices or tweet me a slice of YOUR life at @annjieslices!

1 Comment
  1. A superb story, Peter. It should be an inspiration to many, to go from being sickly to achieving so much in sports and in your professional life! I am so proud of you.

    Your friend, Ginny.

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