Last week, I interviewed Mr. Clarence Bass, an 80-year old fitness enthusiast who epitomizes a lifelong commitment to exercise and healthy eating. Please stop and take a moment to visit his website and bookmark it to go back to and read his thoughtful articles (he has posted an article a month since 1980, so there is a lot of good stuff to read!)
What makes Mr. Bass so remarkable is that he was photographing his fitness long before selfies and Instagram and I encourage you to look at his pictorial documenting his training from age 15 to age 80.
Mr. Bass was born in 1937 in New Mexico and picked up a Strength & Health Magazine when he was a young teen and got hooked on the idea of physical training.
He was the only boy in his high school home economics class, learning to prepare healthy meals at a time when the term “healthy meals” was an oxymoron. In high school he was a wrestler and won the state championship in the pentathlon. He turned his sights on Olympic weight lifting and in his 40s started to shift his concentration to body building. He competed, and won, many bodybuilding competitions, including Past-40 Mr. America and Mr. USA.
He didn’t spend his entire life in the gym (as you might image looking at his pictures). He practiced law, wrote a monthly column for Muscle & Fitness Magazine for 16 years, wrote 10 books, and raised a family. But, training also had, and continues to have, a high priority and he rarely misses a workout. These days, at age 80, he does an intense strength workout each week, a high-intensity-interval workout (also called HIIT), in addition to walking with this wife in the hills around Albuquerque.
While Mr. Bass has been in top physical shape his entire life (The Cooper Clinic, a world renown center for aerobic fitness, has been testing him for years and places him in the top fitness category for his age every time he is tested), but I asked him what he says to motivate those of us who want to get fit or improve our fitness in our 50s, 60s, 70s, and beyond.
“At age 50, it becomes more and more important to get fit. Without strength training and aerobic exercise, we lose muscle mass and cardiovascular fitness,” he says. But, it is never too late to make gains and improve upon what we have. “When people ask me how long it will take to get in shape, I say that is the wrong question! People defeat themselves when they think like that.” Fitness and healthy eating are lifelong pursuits. “The key is finding something that you like to do and then do it; you’ve got to enjoy your workout if it is to be sustainable. People tend to make exercise too complicated!” He also encourages “finding a goal that is important to you” to motivate you to work to reach your goal. But, once you reach your goal, keep pushing. “I don’t like to hear people say, “train to maintain,’ what motivates me is to make progress. That keeps it interesting.”
When it comes to nutrition, he also keeps it simple. “There is such variety in healthy foods and I enjoy many foods, but I stick to eating whole foods, and less refined, highly processed foods as possible. I tell people that if you can’t tell what plant or animal a food came from, it is probably too processed.” Some easy steps to a healthier diet include his advice to:
• “Learn the difference between refined and unrefined foods.”
• “Steer clear of family style servings; plate your meal and put the extra food away to avoid eating more than you need. If you are hungry, you can eat more, but give yourself time to evaluate your hunger before eating second helpings.”
• “Keep tempting foods out of sight or out of the house. I like ice cream, but I don’t keep it in the house. If I want ice cream, I go out and get a milkshake, but I don’t keep it at home.”
• “Include good fats in your diet. Omega-3s are good fats, and the fats in whole milk are proving to be healthful, too. And, drinking whole milk keeps me feeling full.”
• “Be more mindful about your eating; have fewer distractions when eating (TV, cell phone, tablet) so you can concentrate on the food and how much you are eating.”
As we age, it is almost inevitable that we will have some health issues. Mr. Bass has had two hip replacements, but he says, “don’t give in to deterioration.” After surgery or a health issue, get back to physical activity as soon it is medically safe to do so and ask yourself, “how can you help yourself?”
After my conversation with Mr. Bass, I asked myself, “how can I help myself?” I take aerobic classes 3 days a week, a “boot camp ”class 2 days a week, and yoga twice a week, but am I just “training to maintain?” So, to push myself, I signed up for personal training at my local YMCA, starting today! So, thanks to Mr. Bass for pushing me and to David, my personal trainer. I’ll let you know my progress (but probably not by posing in a bathing suit, like Mr. Bass….sometimes you have to draw a line!)
Photo used with permission of Clarence Bass (http://www.cbass.com/index.html).
Chris Rosenbloom and Bob Murray are authors of Food & Fitness After 50, encouraging you to eat well, move well, and be well. The book is available at Amazon.