Never too old to be healthy and strong
December 20, 2005
Sweat drips from Burt Walker’s nose as he strains to lift the free weight.”You’re doing great,” says Doug Roessel, who stands to the side and watches. Walker focuses at a point on the ceiling and pushes the two dumb bells away from his chest. He grunts from the exertion. “Remember to breathe,” says Roessel, a personal trainer who operates Elevation Fitness in Dillon.
Walker’s one of three people in the weight room. As he goes through his six-station workout, he fits right in, but he is a bit different than the others. “I’m old,” says a grinning Walker. And he is. The others are in their twenties. It’s been 54 years since Burt could say that he was in his twenties.At 83 he is by decades the oldest client at Elevation.Walker, dressed in a blue sweat suit, tells Roessel he’s added a new twist to his workout.
“I’m going one he doesn’t know about,” he explains. “Still full of surprises, huh?” says Roessel, who tells the story that Walker would only sign up initially for a one-month membership he said since he’d had a heart attack he wanted to be sure he was going to be around for a while before committing long term.There is an easy banter between the two, which both ascribe to their being “jersey guys.” Their hometowns are less than an hour apart; of course Walker left New Jersey long before the 40-year-old Roessel was even born.Walker stepped into the Dillon fitness center for the first time in July. His goal was simple strengthen his heart. Six weeks earlier Walker had found himself in a Denver hospital after suffering chest pains. It wasn’t his first heart attack. The first, in fact, was in 1986, which prompted his retirement. An anesthesiologist and member of the teaching faculty at the University of Arizona’s medical school, Walker readily acknowledged that he wasn’t one for structured exercise programs.
“I had a very sedentary job for a long, long time,” he said. “I wasn’t in great shape.”The first heart attack led to his exercising, which amounted mostly to running at the UA gym, and over time his health improved. But as is often the case once it did he wasn’t as disciplined about his work outs.That won’t happen this time, he says.His workout includes a long warm up on a stationary bicycle, four stops at weight machines and a session with free weights. In all, it takes about 45 minutes. Most weeks he’s at the gym six days out of seven.
“He does the things that are right for him but also the things he wants to do,” said Roessel. “He’s really been dedicated.”Roessel talked with Walker’s physician who OK’d the workout regime and told the trainer that there really were few limitations just keep a good eye on him to be certain he doesn’t overdo it.”Burt’s pushing the cardio,” says Roessel, who explains the workouts a designed to strengthen his heart, which is, after all, a muscle. “He has a good idea of what’s right for him.”Perhaps most important to both Walker and Roessel, the exercises are a way for him to feel in control of his health.
Walker says he’s staying health not just for himself, but for his wife, Priscilla, who is partially disable and relies on her husband to care for her.”I feel much better when I exercise,” he says, resting after completing the new twist to the workout a dumb bell shoulder press. He hasn’t lost much weight, but has lost inches. “From a tight 42 to a 40,” he says. “The next time I take my wife to Denver I’ve got to get some new pants.”