“You should be dead by now.”
That’s what the doctors told Hugh after some tests were run on him following a series of ischemic strokes.
He got some of his affairs in order on the outside chance that he not survive his surgery and he went in for an aortic valve replacement and quadruple bypass surgery.
On April 4, 2017 he was released from the hospital.
Within a few months of being cleared to exercise, his daughter (and current client) Kellie had persuaded him to come and see me.
At 75 years young, Hugh was no stranger to exercise. He consistently used his Bowflex at home and even had the pedigree of an amateur boxer. Over the years, I’ve worked with several members of his family and this was the first time he had considered making the 30 minute trek to come and see me.
Initially, he was given clearance to lift no more than 20lbs. So, we played with some light dumbbell and machine work to get him started. However, it didn’t take long to notice that if I stepped away from him, he might push the weight stack up an extra plate by time I came back. Clearly, Hugh had a slight agenda of his own beyond what the doctors suggested. Kellie and I kind of chuckled about it but I was still aiming to keep the workouts more conservative.
I’d check in on him routinely and ask how his recovery was: Any soreness? Any aches and pains that don’t seem normal? Hugh seemed fine by all accounts and I could tell that he was more than a little frustrated that I wasn’t pushing him harder.
I would frequently give Hugh a rep range for a given exercise, say 3 sets of 12-15 reps. And I’ll be damned if he didn’t gut out every last rep of that range even if it looked like it was all he had in him. I started to joke with him “No one can ever say you don’t leave it all in the gym!” Hugh would smile and nod in agreement.
So, as we developed more of a relationship, Hugh started to get some heavier weights. His doctor was informed that he was under my instruction and didn’t appear to have any reservations about Hugh progressing.
If you don’t know much about my training style, I do err to the side of conservative. Yes, our clients might lift heavy weights. And yes, some days are harder than others. I do not subscribe to the philosophy of burying people in high intensity training every time they step through the door.
I also tend to be forgiving when the body puts up a fight. As a result of what Hugh has gone through, his right side does indeed push back. And where I have been inclined to give some slack and say “It’s okay if you’re not able to finish.” Hugh would shoot back “No, it’s not okay.”
And it has been moments like this when I’ve known that Hugh is quite special.
So, my dialogue started to change and I began telling him how much grit he had. Other clients began to notice too. Hugh was going to give his all, no matter what.
Little by little, we’ve been able to push where we can. Hugh’s body, post-surgery, doesn’t move as smoothly as he might like but he is progressing. Last week, he saw a huge jump in his traplift and pulled an easy 235×3.
Yesterday (just one week later), he pulled 255×2.
As I said, he is quite special.
I would love to tell you that I can get anyone in their seventies to do what Hugh is doing, but I can’t.
I can try my best but beyond skill level, Hugh has determination and will beyond the average person. That’s saying a lot because I get the opportunity to work with some amazing people day in and day out.
So, this is my little tribute to the man I now affectionately call “Mr. Grit.”
We are so happy to have you healthy and thriving in the RevFit family.