John Clark and friends at Mac Vault Academy 2020

Most of my adult life, I was in pretty good shape. For a number of years, I worked out every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday morning at Bob Bearden’s gym over on 2nd Street in Killeen. I was lean and mean, and learned a lot about lifting weights and nutrition from a dedicated group of fitness buffs who were also members there.

Bob Bearden is no longer with us, and his gym is long gone as well – and so is that young, lean and mean body that I used to see when I looked in the mirror. The days of wearing 32-waist jeans are long gone, folks.

Unfortunately, that unwavering workout commitment gradually went by the wayside during my 50-something years, and by the time I turned 60, I found myself pitifully out of shape, 40 pounds overweight, tired, depressed, and not much motivated to do anything about it.

The low point came when I needed a new pair of blue jeans, and I went to Beall’s department store to get some. As my waist size ballooned over the years to 34, 36, stretchy-36, 38, then stretchy-38, I vowed never, ever, never to buy a pair of 40-waist pants. No way; no how.

So I walked into the store, grabbed a pair of 38s, and headed to the dressing room. I squeezed into the things, managed to zip them up and button the button, but I could barely breathe, and there was stuff bulging out all over the sides. 

It was ridiculous.

I sighed, peeled them off, folded them back up, and went in search of a pair of “fat pants.” Size 40-waist. Those fit a whole lot better, and didn’t really look too bad, but I nearly cried as I set them on the checkout counter.

Even so, I continued to do mostly nothing about my condition, until one day I saw a Facebook post from a long-lost childhood friend about his winning a world championship in what is called Masters track and field. Ready for this? My old friend, Bubba, was 64 years old, and his world championship victory was in pole vault.

Pole vault? 

Yes, pole vault.

I’ll save the rest of that story for a future column, but one thing led to another, and I actually started training with Bubba, learning how to pole vault, getting back in shape. That led to my studying for 10 weeks to earn my personal trainer certification, a desire to help other seniors find their way (back) to physical fitness, and the folks here at this newspaper being gracious enough to allow me to share my story and start this column.

Each week, we’ll cover a variety of fitness topics, including things like weight loss, workout routines, nutrition, motivation, etc.

I will discuss various topics each week, and readers are invited and encouraged to participate by sending questions and suggestions to (an email address, or mailing address?)

To get the medicine ball rolling, most folks know it’s a lot easier to get out of shape than it is to get in shape. Shoot, just sit on the couch all the time and eat. You’ll get excellent results.

If your goal is to get healthy, let’s keep it simple, for now – put down that bag of chips, and go outside for a walk. You can get a simple pedometer at Walmart or Academy Sports or somewhere, strap it on your wrist or stick it in your pocket, and track your steps as you go around the block a few times.

A few simple stretching exercises before you start is always a good idea, and a comfortable pair of shoes is important.

Eventually, you’ll want to work your way up to 10,000 steps a day, but take it easy in the beginning, if you need to. Try starting with one mile – that’s about 2,000 steps on the pedometer – and increase distance gradually. Listen to your body. Set a comfortable walking pace. Stay relaxed and breathe.

Give it a try.

John Clark is a longtime central Texas resident, and a certified National Academy of Sports Medicine personal trainer with a specialty in senior fitness. 

Start your fitness journey here!