We talked to Chuck Bent, age 69, about how he got started on his fitness journey in his 50s — and we all can learn from his approach and attitude.
I had been fit and active until my early 30s when I changed careers from one that was physically demanding to one where I was sedentary, traveled every week, and lived on an expense account. I gained about 40 lbs that first year and I couldn’t stop the gain. As I grew into that lifestyle, and accepted my larger size, I added another 40 lbs, and then a bunch more. The salesmen at Men’s Warehouse were happy to continue to supply me with larger and larger pants and jackets. One day – as I tried on a new jacket – the salesman told me that my jacket size was now an “Executive Cut.” It sounded nice, but basically that meant that there was lots of extra material around the waist.
Then in August of 2007, I saw a friend who had lost a lot of weight, and I wanted what he had, but I walked away sad as I knew I would fail, or that it would be too great a sacrifice. Two months later, just prior to my 55th birthday, as I was walking up the one flight of stairs to my office at home, I had to stop halfway up to catch my breath. My knees were killing me, and something inside me snapped, and I said that’s it. I’m done. I had tried to lose weight in the past and had always failed, gaining it all back and then some. But this time was different. I was not going to fail. I was willing to do whatever it took to lose the weight and get back to feeling like the person I was when I was 30. I joined the HMR Weight Loss program at Baptist Health Milestone Wellness Center. I began walking every day before work and at lunch. I began climbing stairs at work. And right around my one year anniversary of starting this new journey, down 80 lbs., I ran a 4.4 mile stair race in Bisbee, Arizona and came in 27th in my age category. I went back the next two years trying to improve on my time. At my lowest weight I was down 108 lbs.
Also, after losing the weight and learning to eat a much healthier diet, I realized that living a life where I traveled every week was just too stressful on my body. I left that job, took the summer off, and while at the gym one day I was offered a job as a Health Coach at Milestone Wellness Center. Up to this point my exercise routine consisted solely of walking, as well as step and spin classes, and I had not lifted a single weight, or participated in any strength exercises. Consequently, I had lost all my muscle mass. Then about 9 years ago, one of our regular gym members, Jeff, stuck his head in my office and said, “Meet me on the flat bench downstairs in 5 minutes.” Jeff took me under his wing and we became best friends, and continue to lift each Monday through Friday. We also quickly discovered that we had both recently graduated with theology degrees from St. Meinrad Seminary, and so we often talk theology and scripture during our workouts.
A few months after I started lifting weights, my wife, Cyndi, and I were on vacation at the beach in California and we saw a guy my age with his shirt off, working out on the pull-up bar doing these very challenging “V” shaped pull-ups. I told Cyndi “I am going to be just like him. I am going to do that.” When we got home, I bought a pull-up bar, installed it, and when I tried to do a pull-up, all I could do was hang. I couldn’t even pull myself up a measly half inch. It was pretty pathetic. But within a couple of years I was doing those “V” pull-ups. Maybe not as smooth as the guy at the beach, but I made it. Now pull-ups are a part of my weekly routine.
By Chuck Bent | Photo by Melissa Donald
P.S. Check out this hiking spot this fall.