From Men’s Health

A few weeks ago, I was named the overall winner in a national transformation challenge hosted by Gold’s Gym. For 12 weeks, I worked on getting into the best shape of my life at age 62. In that time, I managed to lower my body fat percentage from 22 percent to 12 percent, shrunk my waist by almost 7 inches, and kept my weight at 187 pounds, meaning I added lean muscle, and lost fat.

It helped that I’ve always been active—for decades, going back to the first time I played pickup basketball in 1967, I’ve felt that sports and physical fitness are uniquely aligned. Now I live in Georgia and work as a Life Extension Specialist, and I’m constantly challenging myself to inspire others. During the 12-week transformation, I kept myself on a four-day split over a five-day rotation of legs, back and triceps, chest and biceps, shoulders and calves, and legs on alternating days. Five days a week, I also worked out on the stair climber, and I did sprints, sometimes outdoors, sometimes on the treadmill. This allowed me to burn calories but keep the muscle I worked so hard for.

Photo credit: Gold's Gym/Drew Key
Photo credit: Gold’s Gym/Drew Key

My nutrition consisted of eating low fat, high-quality foods, six times per day. The staples of my diet include lean white meats and fish, whole grain, starchy and non-starchy carbohydrates, including vegetables, and a half cup of high antioxidant fruits. More specifically, my go-to menu items are egg whites, oatmeal, blueberries, strawberries, chicken, ground turkey, fish, sweet potatoes, rice, asparagus, cabbage, and broccoli.

While every meal included protein, as I got closer to my goal date none of the meals included fat; with the exception of what was a part of the protein itself. It’s this final phase of the nutrition plan that allowed the abs to show up. My coach and I discovered that my body responded best when I took in all-natural lean foods. The most important thing I learned during the process was how to listen to my body. I won’t lie: After taking the contest photos, I did indulge in a few of the foods I had been missing, but I’ve learned to enjoy them without overdoing it because I choose to want to look and feel my best.

I also worked online with my trainer, House of Payne Personal Training, who modified my workouts to fit the equipment I have at home during quarantine. I texted him weekly photos, and we spoke on the phone while doing check-ins via FaceTime to ensure my progress was going in the right direction. When you’re committed, you do what you have to do. My wife also helped me stay motivated—we have a shared mission to serve as ambassadors for good physical and mental health. There’s no better way for us to encourage and inspire others than leading by example.

Persevering through quarantine definitely made the whole experience more challenging than I originally thought it would be. I found a close-knit family at Gold’s Gym who helped me push through the difficult times that I questioned and it was so worth it in the end. They made me even more determined to be my best so I could show others how important being healthy and fit is to your quality of life.

That said, people still ask me why I wanted to do this. I tell them that my priority is taking care of my body and my health. When I see those around me, both my age and even younger, that suffer with aches and pains, I hope I can be their inspiration. I’m passionate in my desire to encourage others to transform their lifestyle because I want them to feel as full of life as I do. I can show them that the excuses they have are challenges that can be overcome. Anyone my age would feel pretty good showing off a six-pack.

I also gained even more confidence through this journey—it fuels my desire to strive for a level of excellence every day and live a life filled with vitality. Fueled by that motivation, my new goal is to compete in a professional physique fitness competition against younger competitors. For people who are just getting started, I always tell them to focus on the mental side first and surround yourself with likeminded people. Setbacks will occur, but a proper support system will help you stay focused. —As told to Mike Darling

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