You’re never too old to be young again

May 17, 2017
Ashley Ann Lawrie

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Around Easter, retiree Richard Schwalm decided to give himself an added fitness challenge – he did 1,000 pushups … per day … for five days.

Not bad for a 67-year-old grandfather.

But this former civil servant and life coach has always been one to tackle a challenge with a positive, even spiritual, attitude.

Richard has three basic truths he believes in: “If you don’t want to be sick, stop complaining!” (German spiritual healer Bruno Gröning); “If you want to be healthy, stay happy!” (Bulgarian spiritual leader Mikhaël Aïvanov); And, if you want to live long, stay amazed (learned from a 97-year-old lay nun in Trois-Rivière, Cécile Béliveau).

“If you don’t have a strong will or strong spirit, it’s easy to slide down and not come back up,” Richard said. “And if you want to grow old and stay young at the same time, you’ve got to keep a spirit of awe –the kind of spirit you see in a child.”

That attitude served Richard well through the 2000s, when he endured several years of poor health. In 2002, he underwent surgery to remove a cancerous tumor that left him with a bacterial infection of the blood that took four years to shake off. He also suffered complications and had to undergo another surgery in 2003 to address a post-operational hernia.

For three years, he couldn’t work. Always an active fellow who liked to cycle to work, Richard’s fitness routine skidded off the rails. He settled into retirement in 2013 and never got back in the groove.

But about a year ago, he laid down for a nap and noted something alarming.

“I rested my hand on my belly and realized I could almost tickle my backbone,” he said. “There was no muscle tone at all. I told my wife, ‘this isn’t right, I have to do something.’”

After investigating various options, Richard decided to try FFF. He took advantage of the introductory offer of eight sessions for $96 last summer. In addition to coming in about once a week, he worked out alone at home with a simple program provided by his trainers.

“Within a few months, I lost three to four inches off my waist and had to go shopping for new pants,” he said.

Since October, Richard has continued to come in one day a week and work out at home with a routine provided by trainer Jonathan MacDonald.

“I’ve seen a lot of improvement, especially in the upper body and the arms,” he said.

At home, Richard has made the humble pushup the core of his routine. Since the beginning of March, he has worked up to a morning and afternoon regimen that includes a total of 500 pushups per day. (And then there are those five days of 1,000).

So what’s next?

Richard has always wanted to do a triathlon. He’s going to start with the mini at Mooney’s Bay this summer – a 200-metre swim, followed by a 20-km bike ride and a five-km run. In addition to his work at FFF, he plans to train at a local pool and running club to get ready.

His next goal? Run the 20-km marathon in Quebec City in less than twice his age, or, in under 135 minutes.

“It’s not enough to feel young,” he said. “What you feel is fleeting, and changes from day to day. You want to be young – find that stability within yourself, no matter how you feel, how you look or how people perceive you.”

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