Master Blasters. That was the headline of the Baltimore Sun article posted at the first gym I joined when I was 15 years old. It was about a group of old guys who came to Bally's White Marsh and lifted at 5am. I don't recall the details of the article but I do remember being impressed with how strong these old guys were and their dedication to working out that they'd get up so early to lift.
15 years later I'd end up meeting one of the Master Blasters when he came to live at the retirement community I was working at. Bob Franklin and his wife Joanne joined the fitness center immediately after moving in and we soon became friends.
Bob was a meathead to the core. You'd think the only thing he trained was his arms, but he did chest just as frequently. He'd do some stuff for his back, but it'd be a rainy day in hell before he did anything for his lower body. As much as I tried, I just couldn't get him to squat.
Bob and I had a good relationship. It was one built on mutual respect and banter. I'd tease him about his skinny legs and he'd make fun of my shoes or something. We'd always finish our chats with a handshake where he'd try to crush grip my hand, then he'd squeeze my upper arm and tell me I was a "hell of a man" and to take care of my family. Although it's been 5 years since I was a regular employee at the community where he lived, I still teach a class there every week. And every week, Bob was there doing biceps curls with his buddy Norm. And unless I was in a rush, or he was in the middle of a set, our exchanges were virtually the same every week.
It wasn't until earlier this year that Bob got sick. I didn't see him for a couple weeks, which was unusual, and then caught up with Joanne who told me that he wasn't doing well. He made a few attempts to come back to the gym, oxygen tank in tow, but it wasn't long before he was in the care center. Bob Franklin passed away yesterday at the age of 81.
Bob served in the US Navy and spent 25 years in the Fire Department before retiring as a captain. He lived a life of service and he loved to lift. He was dedicated to his training, never made excuses for his age or any ailments that came with it, and because of that he enjoyed health, strength and a life that most men don't live long enough to see.
Make no mistake - strength training IS the fountain of youth. It allowed Bob, and countless other men & women, to live longer and stronger. Mental faculties not included, its usually a lack of strength that separates us from independent living. When you can no longer carries groceries, reach overhead to the top cupboard, or get up off of the floor; that's when you need assistance. There is no question about it, regular exercise helps stave off the need for assisted living.
Take a lesson from Bob - incorporate strength training into your life and do it for the long haul.
R.I.P. Mr. Franklin