ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Like many gym rats, Paul Russell lifts weights and runs obstacle courses.
Here’s what makes him different: Russell is 94 — so old he has been retired longer than his personal trainer has been alive.
"I have no intention on stopping. Not until I get too sick or too ... whatever," Russell sajd.
Russell is the oldest member of Max Fitness in St. John’s, N.L., where he strength trains twice a week with Dane Woodland, a man 67 years his junior.
He hasn’t been going for long, but he said it’s changed his life.
He retired from a fish processing company in 1977 and kept healthy by, among other things, shovelling heavy Newfoundland snow every winter.
Then last fall, Russell decided to go to his local gym. His workout gear: designer shoes, khakis and a sweater.
"I thought he was just so silly and very funny," Woodland said.
After his first session with Woodland, Russell said he was hooked.
"I sometimes I tell him, ’What the hell! You’re adding more weights, you’re making it harder for me. You’re trying to kill me, is that what you’re doing?’ and he just laughs and tells me to lift up the weights and stop talking."
Woodland has been a personal trainer for six years, specializing in clients with chronic pain and physical trauma. His oldest client before meeting Russell was 70 years old.
After his first session, Woodland saw Russell needed to improve his strength and mobility.
He modified Russell’s workouts to build strength and sharpen his memory so he can move around more freely in his daily life.
"His recovery periods have diminished greatly and he is a lot stronger than what he was," Woodland said. "His posture has changed dramatically, he’s more sharp and his capacity for breadth of movement has increased as well."
It’s not all physical. Woodland talks about the importance of a social life for an ageing population, and Russell said he’s definitely not lonely at the gym.
"Some people come up and ask me who I am, if I am that Russell they heard about that’s 94. And I say well I am 94 and I am a Russell so I may be the same person," Russell said, laughing.
This spring, Russell celebrated his 94th birthday with cake, prosecco, family and friends — Woodland included.
"I got to know him on a different level," Woodland said. "I do genuinely feel that he is my friend."
"He’s a nice chap," Russell said of his trainer. "I like him very much."
— By Fadila Chater in Halifax
The Canadian Press