Last weekend Arthur Gilbert completed his 41st triathlon, comprising a 500 metre swim, a 20 km bike ride and a 5km run. His time was a very creditable 2hr 47 min 22 sec – working out at about 1 kph for the swim, 5kph for the run and 17 kph for the ride. Creditable, that is, for a youngish, moderately athletic person. But Arthur Gilbert is not young. He’s 91 and officially the world’s oldest triathlete.
At the age when most people’s bodies cause them only discomfort, pain and embarrassment, Arthur’s is still bringing him pleasure and contributing to his happiness. And Arthur didn’t even start running triathlons until he was 68. Which all goes to show that it’s never too late.
Last year another 91 year-old, Charles Eugster, told the Guardian newspaper how, six years earlier, at age 85, he had looked in the mirror and seen ‘an old man’. ‘I was overweight, my posture was terrible and there was skin hanging off me where muscle used to be.’ He decided to do something about it.
The astonishing thing about Charles (pictured) was that he already went rowing six times a week. Many people might have felt disillusioned and given the whole thing up. Not Charles. He reasoned that he needed to do even more. He added bodybuilding, for muscle, and judo to ‘teach me how to fall properly’. At age 87 he went wakeboarding for the first time. In 2010 in competition, with some modifications on account of his age, he did 57 dips, 61 chin-ups, 50 push-ups and 48 abdominal crunches, each in 45 secs. He could easily pass for a man 20 years younger and there are bits of him that look 40 years younger.
Charles is proof that as you get older you have to do more, not less. For the past three years he’s added hypertrophy training, which means taking the muscles to the point of exhaustion. The result has been a 50 per cent increase in muscle strength. If you’d like to read more about Charles take a look at his website at http://www.charleseugster.net/index.htm.
Meanwhile, how am I getting on with the HIT (high intensity training)? Well, I’ve discovered that you really need an indoor cycling or rowing or cross-country machine. Out in the ‘real world’ it’s too dangerous to take yourself to the point of total exhaustion, in the way I described in a recent blog. Falling off your bike on a road is not a good idea. But I’m getting as close as seems prudent. And I’m increasing my regular exercise – on Tuesday I cycled 17 km to the beach, swam, then cycled back again – and that included about 700 metres of climbing. I felt pretty pleased with myself – until I read about Charles and Arthur.