Every so often you hear about someone who defies all the usual stereotypes. Simeon is the perfect example. He's 82, trains for strength regularly, and is in better shape than many guys half his age. I've always planned to keep training as long as I can, and Simeon's lifestyle gives me something to strive for as I get older. If you're less than 82 and using age as an excuse for not training, it's time to reevaluate. Check out this Q&A session with Simeon, and get inspired by him like I did.
Paint Us a Picture of Simeon
Today, I’m almost 83 years old. I live in Manhattan. I am a retired businessman. For 40 years, I was involved in pile driving, drilling and heavy building construction. I have two grown children.
When and why did you first take up strength training?
When my wife passed away in November 2004, I was 70 years old, overweight, lived on Maalox and was involved in my stressful business. And my two children were young. I realized I could not go on like this; I had to make changes in my life. Through a relative, I met an excellent trainer, who I allowed to start me on strength training and taught me to be conscious of proper nutrition. I started strength training in March 2005 and could barely curl a 15 pound dumbbell in each hand. It took a while for my body to overcome the aches and pains from this new exercise, so that I could have a pain free session twice a week.
What are some of your greatest Fitness achievements?
I was amazed at how quickly my body was transforming due to the strength exercises. My weight dropped from 180 to 155 pounds in eight months. Then it crept up to my natural weight of 160 that I weigh now.
How have your strength levels progressed since you started training? What are some benefits you've experienced from strength training?
From the 15 pound curl, I reached a point where I could curl 35 pounds in each hand. The rest of my body progressed accordingly. At 75, I reached what I think was my genetic potential; I could not increase the weights I was using, yet I saw that the toning of my body increased. And stayed strong.
Lots of folks believe regular walking or jogging is enough exercise, especially as you get older. Strength training is often seen as dangerous and unnecessary. How would you respond to this viewpoint?
Lately, there are many articles that disprove these comments. Walking and biking may help your lower body, but does nothing for your upper body. In order for an older person to increase muscle or prevent muscle loss, he must practice what is called “High Intensity Training” called HIT. This means that your muscles must experience resistance, in order to get any benefits. Which is more strength and toning.
What sort of workout program do you follow?
I use the Maximum Contraction Method popularized by the Canadian Ph. D. author and nutritionist, John Little. I only train two days a week because recovery is as important as the training. In each training session, I work every muscle from head to toe.
How do you eat to build strength?
Rob, it took me a long time. Much trial and error to come up with a proper nutrition regime. I try to avoid what our food culture provides; I eat nothing from a box, bag, can or bottle, except for whole milk. I eat small portions of fresh foods, especially salads. My meat and fish is free from growth chemicals and I only buy from organic purveyors, such as whole foods.
Some of my readers are in their 50's or 60's and want to start getting strong, but find the prospect intimidating at their age. What advice would you give them?
One word, Rob, discipline. I started when I was 70 years old, overweight and my body was a mess. If I could do this, anybody can do this. All it takes is will and discipline. And trying to avoid the popular food culture as much as possible.
What are three pieces of advice you'd give novice lifters?
I can only talk about people my age. The first word is discipline. The second is to try to avoid the popular food culture. And stick with it. If I did it, you can certainly do it.
Have you needed to limit your training in any way because of your age?
Not at all! At 82 I train the same way I did at 76. In fact, I've increased the weights that I use somewhat. Using slightly heavier weights than I did, then.