Dr. Mark Schusterman is a man on a mission. The renowned plastic surgeon, who arrived in Houston more than 20 years ago to start up a microsurgical cancer reconstruction program at MD Anderson Cancer Center, is a competitive cyclist who, at 57 years old, is just beginning to reach his potential.
“The difference between recreational riding and racing is a quantum leap in terms of both ability and fitness,” explained Schusterman. “After I got to the top of the recreational pack, my coach said, ‘Why not race?’ So I did.”
Schusterman became interested in cycling in high school in Louisville, Ky., but his bike was stolen the first week in college at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga. Because he could not afford another, he started running and didn’t stop for 20 years.
“I liked running to stay fit, although I was always getting injured, especially my ankles. When I hit my 40s, I simply could not run anymore, so I went back to cycling and I’ve been on my bike ever since.”
Schusterman, who has been a competitive cyclist for two years, is a loyal follower of the Chris Carmichael system of training. Carmichael, a former Olympian, and the professional cyclist is now a renowned coach and best-selling author. He has coached Lance Armstrong since 1990 and he preaches quality over quantity.
“My mantra is no junk miles and no junk food,” Schusterman said with a smile. “I try to give one hour a day to training. Some days it is difficult but with some effort and organization, I can usually find one hour a day.”
Schusterman is now a Clinical Professor of Plastic Surgery at Baylor College of Medicine
and a very busy man, but he is passionate about diet and exercise
and makes them a priority.
“I work with a CTS (Carmichael Training System) coach, who has a master in exercise physiology, and he and I come up with a fitness routine that works for me. You don’t have to spend a lot of time exercising to get in shape. I aim to get quality exercise six hours a week, and that’s all I need to stay competitive in cycling.”
Keeping his body fueled with the right ingredients is also critical to Schusterman’s success.
“I try to eat clean like most endurance athletes. I eat high-quality non-processed foods and I try to count my calories. But I admit, I have my ups and downs. Clearly, some weeks are better than others. A lot depends on my travel and meeting schedule.”
Schusterman rides for the Space City Cycling Club with the Texas Pro Health Team, made up of doctors and other professionals who are all over 50 and share a passion for cycling.
“The guys on my team are all near my age and we go out and ride and race together. We are not officially affiliated but we love to ride. The great thing about racing at the Masters level is that although we are very competitive people, no one wants to get hurt. Racing can be dangerous, especially if there’s a tight finish, but Masters cyclists know we need to be at work on Monday, so no one is elbowing anyone else out of position down the stretch.”
If Schusterman isn’t racing on the weekend, he is putting in between three and four hours on the open road both Saturday and Sunday. He also does core workouts two to three times a week.
Another of his passions is the Tour de Pink Charity bike ride, slated for this Sept. 16 at Prairie View A&M University outside of Houston. Schusterman is a co-founder and board member for the Tour de Pink, the first ride in Texas solely benefiting breast cancer.
“My goals moving forward are simple,” Schusterman said. “I want to continue to improve and become more competitive at the Masters level. The beautiful thing about cycling is that you can do it forever. It’s a non-impact, endurance cardio sport, and I plan to be on my bike for a long time to come.”