I was born a year before Pearl Harbor. I can remember the excitement when the war ended.
What type of sports or activities did you participate in as a kid?
I was a sturdy skinny kid, loved riding my bike and liked swimming. But I was nervous in all team sports situations and avoided them whenever possible.
Were your parents and/or other family members a role model for your fitness endeavours?
My dad was a track star in college and was lean and fit all of his life. He was a hell of a badminton player up till he retired at 65. He was a great walker and hiker and was active until he died in his sleep at 86. He liked to challenge himself and push his efforts and I found that I do too. He taught me to swim (in Menemsha Pond on Martha’s Vineyard) when I was 10. Once I could doggie paddle around he put two poles in the water maybe 100 feet apart and told me to swim from one to the other. I did, and turned around and swam back.
When I was college age we hiked the John Muir trail in the Sierra Nevada together with my brother and a couple of friends. That kind of thing. I never went as far as running a marathon or doing triathlon training, though—nothing that extreme. (I pushed it academically too—took hard courses in hard programs in tough schools. But never mind.)
I taught high school mathematics for 40 years, loved it, and rode my bike to school every day, rain or shine, for nearly all of them. I rode around town to do errands and so forth, avoiding driving a car whenever I could.
How has your level of activity changed the last 20 years?
I saw a Charles Atlas ad when I was 13–wow–and wanted to start lifting then. But my mom said nice people didn’t lift weights and my dad wasn’t a weights guy. So I never picked up a barbell until I was 40 or so, and then it was only totally casual and infrequent. I was busy with family and kids and teaching so weights just got ignored. It pretty much stayed that way until I retired at 65. Then I got a home gym and an elliptical trainer and began working out, but with no trainer for advice so no results. I was still skinny.
The big change in intensity came when I became close friends with a knowledgeable bodybuilder living nearby. We replaced my home gym with a good one (Hoist) and for the last 8 years I’ve been working out systematically, pushing it and being pushed and loving it. Better late than never, that’s for sure.
What does a typical week look like in terms of your workouts?
I try to do a (home) gym workout every other day. I alternate them between arms and chest—the vanity body parts! Vain and narcissistic? Yep, that’s me. I take detailed notes on every workout—the exercises, the sets, and the reps, so that I can write a script for the next workout that will push me beyond what I did in the last one. Keeps me improving. My buddy gives me ways to mix things up to shock my muscles into—well, not into growth in the sense of bulk, but growth in definition and strength. I’m 5 feet 10; my weight varies wildly between 157 and 160.
On the in-between days I try to get out for a socially distanced hour-long bike ride. Note that I’ve said “I try” twice—now and then other things get in the way. I’m having a busy retirement, as is my wife. There’s a lot going on in our household, individually and together, many irons in the fire.
Do you have any tips for working out on the days that you just don’t feel like it?
I certainly have those days, but my page of notes from “last time” helps me get psyched up to get started. I write the script for what I’m going to do. But a very strange thing happened just a couple of weeks ago. My gym is in a corner of my study, only eight or ten steps away from my computer desk. I was supposed to start working out. And I had the script for it. And I didn’t want to do it. Oh, how I didn’t want to do it. I finally said, “OK, I will walk over there and I will do JUST ONE SET. JUST ONE.” So I walked over and did that set, and as I was doing it my body itself just pushed my brain aside and took over. It did the next set, and the next one, and soon enough my brain kicked in and the whole workout got done—and it was a good one. My body wanted to do it more than my brain wanted not to do it. So now if I’m feeling like not working out I listen to my body itself, read the script, do one set, and get out of the way and let my body take over and off we go. Strange, eh?
What is your #1 fitness tip?
Eat real food; not too much. No snacks. No pop. In the market stay close to the walls. Besides food, I take whey protein powder daily.
Post a picture in the fitness group now and then—relish the supportive comments!
And just keep pushing yourself in all ways, relishing what you have done and can do, chugging along. Keep growing in all ways.
The wondrous Oliver Sacks was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and was asked by a friend how he wanted to use the remaining time he had left. He said, “I just don’t want to waste it.”