by Kevin May
I grew up in a family of thirteen children and we didn’t always have enough to eat. We needed money and when I turned nine, I got my first job. I worked in a pizza place for tips and all the pizza I could eat. I got so fat that my nickname became “Fat Slice.”
My weight embarrassed my older brother Anthony. He was on his high school gymnastics team and he made me run with him. I hated it. I was so heavy that my bulk slowed me down and made it painful to run.
But then something happened. Maybe it was because my brother was helping me with exercise, I don’t know. But I began to pay attention to the Jack LaLanne TV show. He really inspired me. I watched Jack turn household items into exercise equipment. He also used his own body as a source of resistance to build muscle and it made it seem like fun.
I began to follow his instructions and work out on my own. I continued to follow my brother’s coaching and work out with Jack and pretty soon noticed changes in my body.
The real turning point came during my first year of high school. I decided to try the fitness challenge, which is a series of track-and-field-type events and exercises. My first attempt resulted in failure.
But I didn’t give up. I continued to exercise, and by the end of the school year I passed the fitness challenge. I climbed the rope and ran the required laps around the indoor track. My gym teacher gave me a trophy for the most improved physical fitness and that’s when my obsession with exercise and fitness began. I became a motivated and confident athlete. I competed in wrestling, bodybuilding and football.
After I graduated from high school, I went to work for a Jack LaLanne Health Spa in New York City. For the next 15 years, I worked at major health clubs and gyms including Gold’s Gym, Crunch and Bally Total Fitness. I taught aerobics, body sculpting, stretching, and one-on-one training.
I also began to study martial arts. Judo really appealed to me and I earned my brown belt within a few years.
But then things changed for me. In the late 1990s, my wife Kathy and I moved to the suburbs. I took a job in retail home improvement and later in telecommunications. My work schedule made it very difficult to establish a regular workout routine and I began to gain weight, lose motivation and energy. My health suffered and I no longer recognized myself. I felt like that fat little boy again. It was a very depressing time for me. I was smoking cigarettes and my overweight, out-of-shape body dragged me down so much that I didn’t even enjoy walking with my wife in the park.
I felt as though my work life had taken over and killed my passion for fitness.
But about the time I turned 50 I started to get serious again about my health and fitness. I lost my job installing satellite TV dishes and after I got over that, I realized that I could finally think about working on myself.
I joined a local gym and created a simple routine with basic weight training and aerobics. My body did not respond the way it did at 25 or 35. I could not do the same routines. I realized I needed to reassess my fitness plan and create a new strategy.
Here’s what I did to face the challenge of how to work out after 50:
1. Went for a physical to make sure I was healthy enough to start a fitness program.
2. The doctor helped me assess structural imbalances that may have developed from old injuries and repetitive strains. These changes required me to adjust my posture and alignment.
3. I began to strengthen my core because all movements originate from the core.
4. I started with basic body movements and used calisthenics including lunges, pushups and bodyweight squats.
5. I began a program of low-to-moderate intensity aerobics for 20 to 30 minutes and made that part of my regular warm-up routine.
6. I changed my eating habits. I reduced my sugar intake, began to eat regular meals with more vegetables, fruits and lean meats and allowed myself to have a treat one day a week. I also quit smoking, began to drink lots of water and started to get 6 to 8 hours sleep every night.
7. I also include regular acupuncture sessions from my talented acupuncturist wife Kathy Yocum. This helps with joint and muscle pain and strain, reduces inflammation, increases circulation, and improves my energy level.
After almost a year easing into the routine and going slow, I made a good amount of progress. I lost 15 pounds of fat. Because I could move with agility again, I went back to my real passion, Judo. But I still had to learn to pace myself in Judo to accommodate my age. The Judo works my whole body out on every level.
Here’s the big pay-off. After seven months of Judo, I am preparing to compete in the world Judo championship in the over-50 category next year.
I also returned to personal training and fitness. I look forward to sharing what I learned and my experience with people who are starting back into fitness at this age, or just beginning.
It is possible to feel and look your best at any age. Here’s to the next 50 years of health and happiness.