Posted: Wed, December 03, 2014 | By:
by Hank Pellissier
On August 7, 2014, I became 62 years old. I don’t celebrate birthdays with glee anymore; the era of giddy cake and candles is long gone because I’ve arrived (supposedly) at my final chapter, the “Death Watch.”
On Facebook 113 people I don’t know wished me Happiness. Nice, I thought sourly, but I need more than “Hope.” I need….?
Alex Lightman, a Santa Monica pal with gargantuan Klout, sent me the only memorable message. “What is your goal for the next year?” he asked. “Make it ambitious, but attainable.”
My answer was immediate.
“ I want to do 20 pull-ups,” I replied. “I did 19 when I was much younger… I’d love to be that strong again, or stronger…”
“Good goal,” he FB’d back. “I’ll do the same, to support you.”
I first did 19 pull-ups way back when I was 16 years old, a junior in high school. This digit tied me for best in my gym class, with Preston Bagwell. 19 is a very respectable number; the Marine Corps gives a maximum score of “100” on its Physical Fitness Test if recruits can do 20.
After college, I wasn’t a regular exerciser; like most people I worked out only if it was “fun”, i.e,. part of my social life.
When I was 30, my 24-year-old roommate - Jimmy - asked me if I wanted to lift free weights with him in our back yard.
I pushed my muscles to keep up with Jimmy: bench press, curls, row, clean and jerk. One afternoon we decided that our mutual punishment would be Pull-ups. He did 19. I followed…. ouch! It hurt! But I tied him.
Jimmy moved out eventually, and my muscles slackened for decades. Every 3-5 years or so an exercise partner emerged for me - Dave, Bruce, Jodi, etc. - and I’ toughen up temporarily. I also ran slow 5Ks and 10ks with Paul, swam laps with my wife Carol, went hiking with Curt and Gary, etc.
But now… I am 62… 19 Pull-ups? Am I serious? Could I be a “Comeback Kid”?
I drove to the local park after reading Alex’s email. Grasping the horizontal bar, I yanked myself up - ouch! Seven pull-ups. A long way from 20 but I wasn’t discouraged. Truth is, I was glad I had done more than three.
The next day I returned, and the next and the next.
Abandoning the park, I checked into 24 Hour Fitness. After two months of struggling, I did 17 pull-ups!
Was that the only gain that happened, you wonder? Did everything else in my body fall apart?
No - I got stronger in everything. For example… Dips! I did 30 Dips when I was 22 years old, with a workout partner named Greg.
Initially, on August, I could only do 14 Dips. But quickly, I gained: 16, 18, 20, 22, 24… steadily, painfully, straining my muscles and willpower. I stopped drinking alcohol because I was weaker the day after. I went to sleep earlier, seeking more Z’s for recovery.
After four weeks, I nailed 30 Dips, equaling the strength I had 40 years earlier. I was thrilled. My gait changed, bouncy, swaggering, I moved onto other exercises, seeking “personal bests” in everything.
Dumb-bell Bench Press? My PB in this, set decades earlier, was 10 reps with 60 lbs. But now, at my advanced age, I obliterated that in two weeks - I put up 65 lbs. 10 x, and 70 lbs. 8X.
Nautilus Pull-downs? For years I’d hit a wall at 150 lbs. 10X. But I was a wall-smasher now. 160, 170, 180, and then, just today, I pulled down 210 lbs. 10x.
Dumb-bell Pull-overs? This old-fashioned exercise used to be one of my favorites, because I’d read that it could make my scrawny chest bigger, opening up my ribcage. When I was 28 I did 70 pull-over 10X… I regarded that as a massive accomplishment. But was it? I tacked the pull-over again. Easily, I jumped past the 70 lbs, past 80 lbs., and - just a few hours ago, in the same workout as the Pull-down record - I did 10 Pull-Over reps with 95 lbs.
Am I seriously as strong as I was at 30, or 18? It seems like it; I can’t do the damn 20 pull-ups yet, but I equalled my old Dip total, and I topped by previous PBs in Pull-downs, Pull-overs and Dumbbell Bench press…
Okay, but… that’s just weightlifting… about about other activities?
I’m glad you asked. I don’t weight life everyday - of course not, just every other day - for 45 minutes. On my “off days” I go swimming.
I’ve always been a slow swimmer. I find it relaxing, rather boring, and I don’t like to “kick.” I just drag myself through the water with my arms. I can swim a mile. In college, and ever since then, it took me about 42 minutes to thrash out a mile. But now… I pondered… maybe I can shatter that too?
My local pool has a large digital clock looming overhead - keeping track of my speed is easy here. On my first day, I gave it my best, with my reinvigorated muscles; I ploughed through in 40:25. Excellent, but I believed I could do better. I was right. My progress was so quick it surprised me. My mile record now is a comparatively microscopic 36:40.
I feel like a hard-body boy now. Although I’m 62, I am apparently as powerful as I was 30-35-40-45 ago, when I was a testosterone-filled adolescent. I’ve been rebirthed, via regular exercise, into fresh flesh…
I am relating this chronicle because I want everyone to understand - there’s no excuse for physically falling to pieces in your early 60’s. I did it, and so can you, Senior Citizens. Don’t dismiss me as a freak aberration, either - there are many bodies older than mine at my gym that are far firmer. Last week I saw a 70-year-old man with a V-shaped torso, lifting tonnage anyone would be proud of.
It’s true, I’m exercising harder than I ever have before in my life, but so what? I’m having fun. I’m exercising with more frequency, more intensity, more more motivation, plus Creatine.
Exercising at 62 is different than sweating at sixteen. Back then, the vast majority of my lifespan yawned before me. Today, quite the inverse. My health could end in five years or a decade or two. Three if I’m lucky. But… I want four decades more, or more, as many years as I can get.
Yes, I’m skinny, I weight the same as I did in college. I’m 6’ 2” and 175 lbs. I avoid sugar and high carbohydrate food like bread, pasta, potatoes, and corn. I eat organic and I swallow a gigantic salad everyday. Supplements? Just a few. Probiotics, magnesium, melatonin.