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.
What would you say is the best thing you gain from being fit?
Oh my gosh!! It feels so good!! It feels good to be able to do things that I couldn’t do before. Besides better overall health, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, much better cardiovascular health, it just feels good to be able to do an entire spin class, or step class, or High Intensity Interval class. It feels good to lift weights, to be able to do pullups, and to now easily bench press over 200 lbs. I honestly feel 20 years younger than I did in 2007. I have added so many years to my life. In fact, if I had not lost the weight and gotten into exercise, I would most likely not even be here today. I would have had a heart attack and died. Or be on a walker with bad knees. Losing the weight and getting fit has literally saved my life.
Also, I hate to say this, but people treat you differently. When I was heavy and spoke to strangers at the grocery store, they backed away from me. But now I can pretty much engage anyone without any push back. It’s sad really, as I am still the same person. But that is reality. Now I have much more confidence and am very comfortable wherever I am. I never feel awkward except perhaps in Hip-Hop class.
I recall right after the Covid lockdown, I was working out at one of those boot camp fitness centers every morning. Here I was, this old guy, and two girls in their 20s adopted me. I could have been their grandfather. But whenever they came in and saw me, they would always come over and join me and we would be work out partners for the class. They made me feel very welcome.
However,he absolute best thing is that as a health coach, I am now able to give back. To help others make that same change in their life that I did. To give them what I have. To see that transformation. To get them off their meds. See them run races. And to see that look on their face when they finally realize they have made it. That life did not have to be the way it was.
What’s your fitness routine?
I do an hour of cardio each weekday morning. Either step class, a HIIT class, or racquetball. After that my legs need a rest, so I take the weekend off. I also lift weights daily. Monday is chest day, Tuesday is back and biceps, Wednesday is leg day, Thursday is shoulders, and Friday it is triceps. I also work out with a personal trainer on the TRX straps each Friday and focus on the smaller back and upper body muscles.
Any secrets to your success or tips for someone looking to see results fast (physically or mentally)?
Once you make up your mind to lose any excess weight and to get fit, don’t make excuses. Do it. Make that your top priority and make everything else fit around that. Don’t say, well I am out of town or on vacation this week, or I have guests this week, it’s our anniversary, or birthday, or I just have too much going on, as you will lose any momentum that you may have had and then you will fail. Once you start, don’t look back until you reach your goal. And then once you do reach that goal, you will be able to look back at where you started and say to yourself “Why would I ever want to go back?” Then set new goals. Whether it be a race, or something else, like my pullups. One of my goals this year was to be able to bench press 225, which I did for the very first time just last month. Nothing is impossible.
But you also need some way to be accountable. To do that, you could join a structured weight loss program like they have at Milestone or find a friend with the same goals and work together. But once you start – don’t ever look back.
Do you track your exercise, steps, or your meals? What apps or technology do you use?
I use my watch and a heart rate belt to track my exercise calories. I used to manually weigh and journal all my food intake and continued to do so until just recently. I am a creature of habit, and typically eat from what I call “my box”, which consists of lots of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, smoothies, and a few portion-controlled whole grains. So now, at the end of the day I will mentally go over my day and then add up my calories. Just ask my wife, as I will regularly turn on the night light, and reach for a piece of paper and pen. But we keep it simple, and for me now – it’s really easy to calculate. But in the beginning and for a long time after – journaling your food is critical to your success. There are some apps like My Fitness Pal, or Lose It that can be really helpful and can do all the math for you.
Own your routine and be yourself at all times. Don’t give in to the temptation to just “go with the flow”. If you were a recovering alcoholic, would you give in and go with the flow when someone said “it’s okay, just this once?”. No. This is the same thing. But knowing who you are, owning it, and claiming it are all absolutely key to sustained long term success.
Regular cardio is a must. Your body gets used to it. You will find yourself going to bed at night and knowing something is wrong. And then you realize – Oh, I didn’t get my cardio in. Your body knows. Whatever your form of cardio, set goals. Compete against yourself. Feel good about it. And for me, lifting weights is now essential as well. If some part of me is not sore, then I didn’t work out hard enough the day before. But also know when to give something a rest – like a knee or a shoulder. Just go easy for a week or two if need be. It’s okay. Remaining injury free is also key. I tend to be pretty stubborn and used to work through injuries, and all that did was make it worse. So learn to listen to your body. Also, find a partner or a workout class. Having that camaraderie is essential for me. Make new friends. Make it fun.
By Chuck Bent | Photo by Melissa Donald