Once you meet Sam Lanzarotta, you’ll never complain about the aches and pains of ‘getting old’ again.
The senior, who is closing in on his 100th birthday, is still pumping iron three times a week at Fitness Unlimited.
On Tuesday morning, some of his fellow gym rats held a birthday party for Lanzarotta, featuring a homemade, oversized card with a likeness of him sketched on it – all bulging with muscles. There was a gym shirt as a gift, and a mini birthday cake with a 97 on it.
“He’s an inspiration to many at the gym,” Darryl Stone said of his super-senior friend. “How many guys 97 are going to the gym?”
So Stone organized a birthday get-together to appreciate Lanzarotta.
Jeff Ardron, the club’s president, said there are members in their 80s who work out, but Lanzarotta stands out for both his age and his dedication.
“He’s here Monday, Wednesday and Friday religiously,” said Ardron. “And he’s not going through the motions – he’s working hard.”
Lanzarotta’s former trainer at the club, Barb Dales, said he first started coming to the gym when he was 72, with his late wife.
The benefits in bone density, increased mobility, better balance and heart health are all well documented for elderly people who strength train.
“I’m sure it’s what has enabled him to stay in his house all this time, and live independently,” said Dales.
But for the elderly, the gain can be more basic than that.
“The biggest benefit is that it gets him out of the house – it’s a social circle,” asserts Dales.
That’s the payback Lanzarotta was feeling after the surprise party, after “Happy Birthday to you” had been sung.”
“It’s great,” he said. “All these friends, it’s really wonderful.”
He has had an active life.
“I always exercised and did fitness work, and participated in sports, and a lot of walking,” he said.
He was playing Junior A hockey in Sudbury, and field lacrosse in the 1930s.
“Then war broke out and I joined the army,” he recalls. “I went overseas. I was in Sicily, Italy, France, Belgium Germany and Holland.”
He had been a machinist, and the arm put his trade to work in war-torn Europe, salvaging workable equipment.
“We called it liberating equipment,” he laughs. “Equipment we could get a hold of before the enemy destroyed it.”
He ran his own garage in Maple Ridge, and went to work for the city, keeping equipment running in the arena and pools. He was capable, and management kept asking him to stay on “for one more year” past his 65th birthday, until he eventually retired at 71.
At 72, he started his workout routine.
“I pretty well mix it up,” he said. “I do about an hour and 15 minutes to an hour and a half, three times per week. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. And I do that pretty regularly. This past year I’ve only missed two days.
“I do mainly weights – I don’t do cardio, because I find it hard on my legs.”
He can still push about 85 pounds on the peck deck, and he’s got a strong back.
“It’s the legs that go first – to me anyway. The legs seem to lose their strength. And of course, you lose your balance as you’re going along.”
That birthday cake would have a short life span. Lanzarotta isn’t such a fitness nut that he wouldn’t partake.
“I eat normal.”
Meat and potatoes?
“Everything. Everything goes. I have a good appetite, and I sleep well.
“One thing I’m really proud of is that, at my age, I don’t take any medication of any kind – no blood pressure, no heart pills, nothing.”
He, too, thinks one of the key assets to his workout routine are his friends at the gym.
“It’s good companionship as well as the satisfaction of being able to do a workout. It’s rewarding in many ways. I look forward to it.
“I tell ya, I never, never in my wildest dreams thought that I would be doing this at 97. I’m very fortunate. I feel I’m blessed in some way. Someone is looking out for me.”