Over 40 Amateur Of The Week: Bernie Stands Strong At Age 72!
Name: Bernie Long
Location: New York City
Age: 72 Height: 6'4" Weight: 192 lbs
Years Bodybuilding: 2
YouTube Channel: bernielong1
I avoided physical activity throughout my developmental years. I dreaded gym class and never learned how to play baseball or basketball. I didn't even learn to swim until I was an adult. At age 12, I was as tall as I am today, 6-foot-4, skinny, awkward, and wore glasses. I continued to be skinny and underdeveloped throughout high school and college.
After college graduation, I came to New York City. Soon after arriving, I joined the Vanderbilt Grand Central YMCA, which had a weight training room. That was my first fitness experience. For several years following, I went through different phases including swimming, cycling, aerobics, and running.
Ten years ago, I started seriously working out with Scott Weisse, my personal trainer. Initially, our primary focus was on strengthening and conditioning my entire body to improve my energy system fitness.
About four years ago, Scott created a new workout program that, in addition to the above basic objectives, was specifically designed to improve my overall coordination, flexibility, stability/balance, mobility, and range of motion. This new program utilized a variety of training methods including EDT (Escalating Density Training), strongman, powerlifting, and muscular endurance.
In preparation for my first bodybuilding competition in September 2012, Scott revamped my workout program into the current bodybuilding program detailed later. With Scott's help, I transformed my body from 230 pounds with a 40-inch waist to 192 pounds of muscle and a 35-inch waist with an incredibly low body fat percentage.
Because I look so young, most people are amazed to learn I'm 72 years old. As one magazine writer noted, "Bernie is more fit than most people in their 20s. And he looks decades younger than most people his age."
I've had my share of typical injuries and surgeries. In my 30s, I had orthopedic surgery on each of my shoulders. I was in a serious cycling accident in my 40s that fractured my right clavicle and dislocated my right shoulder. I've had arthroscopic surgery on both knees to repair injuries and relieve arthritic pain. In 2006, I was diagnosed with peroneal nerve entrapment of my left leg, which essentially crippled me for more than a year. A few years ago, I tore my right Achilles tendon while sprinting.
In my early 50s, I experienced a series of mini-strokes, which erased my memory of specific events and whole blocks of time. In addition, these mini-strokes permanently impaired my ongoing short-term memory and ability to multitask. My disabilities were so serious that I was forced to take early retirement from my career in advertising and marketing.
To this day, my doctors aren't certain what caused the mini-strokes. Their theory is that they were most likely caused by microscopic blood clots that became lodged in the small vessels of the brain. For this reason, I'm on a permanent daily regimen of Coumadin, a blood thinner.
Through intensive therapy, I learned how to cope with memory loss. Long before today's high-tech era, out of necessity, I learned the importance to record every event and bit of information on my handheld Palm. Without that, I couldn't get through each day.
I have long since moved on to an iPhone and iMac where I continue to record my life in detail. I'm amazed at how well I learned to adjust and cope with my disabilities. Most people around me on a regular basis are totally unaware of my disabilities.
Early in 2008, after monitoring a nodule on my right thyroid lobe for several months, my endocrinologist determined that I needed my right thyroid lobe and nodule removed. Post-surgical analysis showed the nodule and thyroid tissue to be cancerous.
I then had my left thyroid lobe removed, which was followed by radioactive iodine treatments to destroy any trace of remaining thyroid tissue in my body. Now I'm perfectly fine. I have to take Armour Thyroid each morning, which is monitored on a regular basis by my endocrinologist.
Three years ago, I suffered severe chronic pain in my lower back for nearly a year. This was one of the worst periods of my life. I was in near-constant pain for months, which required continuous treatment by pain-management specialists. At one point, I had a severe adverse cognitive and emotional reaction to one of the pain medications.
My primary care doctor immediately intervened and brought in a spinal surgeon. Within one month, I was thoroughly examined and prepped for surgery. On August 25, 2011, I had a 2-level (L3-4 & L4-5) arthroscopic laminectomy. The next day I walked out the front door of NYU Langone Medical Center on my own and have remained pain-free since.
As you can see, like most people, my life has had its ups and downs, but for the most part I feel blessed. I've always had an amazing group of supportive friends and incredible doctors who care for me. I have so much to be thankful for. I truly believe that.
I'm committed to regular stretching. It's vital to my health and happiness. I wake every morning, weigh myself, take my waist measurement, record them on my computer, and do a series of low-body stretches. This is essential before I get into the shower.
Before every workout with Scott, I do 45 minutes of full-body stretches in the studio at the gym to limber up my muscles and joints prior to the start of my workout. I top off my full-body stretch with a 15-minute ab workout.
In addition, every Sunday I have a full-body massage and an advanced stretch by a licensed massage therapist. I've been doing this for the past 25 years. My massage therapist says I can do advanced hip stretches that only a teenage gymnast can.
Scott has an intuitive sense about how the human body works and how to optimize its actions. He has studied and personally tested the body's reaction to all forms of physical activity. Scott has an ability to create the most original yet challenging exercises. Each variation in the movement, even a minor modification, challenges my body and enhances my overall strength and conditioning. Variation prevents the onset of exercise stagnation and possible repetitive strain injuries. He continually develops new approaches and exercises that stimulate the mind and body to adapt.
Today, I'm healthier and in better physical condition than at any other time in my life. This has been corroborated by my medical records and feedback from my doctors. I can honestly say that none of this would have been possible without Scott, my trainer, mentor, and amazing friend.
You can contact Scott at: ScottWeisse@yahoo.com
When I was readied for my first bodybuilding competition, I asked Scott who to talk to about my diet. Without hesitation, he said: Maik Wiedenbach.
Maik is an expert diet specialist and nutritionist. Most important, his diet works. Plus, it isn't depriving or restrictive. I can eat foods that I like. Actually, I eat more food than before and got leaner. I can honestly say this was one of the best decisions of my life.
Because he is also a nutritionist, Maik designed my supplement regimen. He's also my posing trainer. He knows everything about bodybuilding competitions firsthand because he's an elite competitor.
You can contact Maik at: www.maikwiedenbach.com
I'm happy to say my efforts in the gym brought about phenomenal changes in how I feel and look. These amazing changes transformed my exercise experience from one of effort and sacrifice into one of enthusiasm, exhilaration, and passion.
I understand how I was able to accomplish this level of fitness and what I must do to maintain and improve it. It's incredibly empowering to know I have this control over my body and health for the first time in my life.
With every accomplishment or achievement in the gym, I developed a more positive perspective about life and what I can realistically accomplish in the future. At the risk of sounding naive, I believe that by focusing, applying my innate talents, and with hard work, I can achieve almost any realistic goal. Scott often said that no one works harder in the gym than I do.
It's astounding to me that for the first time in my life I have muscles that show. Not just one or two, but all over my body. Muscles I never thought I could have, like abs.
The reality is that I look decades younger than most people my age. This caught me by surprise, primarily because it wasn't one of my planned goals. My successful reversal of the aging process is the combined result of many improvements in all aspects of my life.
This is a thrilling time in my life. When someone says I'm an inspiration to them, it's the ultimate payoff for me.
I entered the 2013 INBF Hercules Championships, which is held in Manhattan on Saturday, June 29, 2013. I will compete in the masters 60 and over category and the masters 70 and over category.
On September 21, 2013, I will compete in the 2013 INBF Naturalmania Nationals in Manhattan.
We all experience highs and lows in life, but I believe it's extremely important to maintain a positive attitude. A positive attitude is essential to perceive what options are available to me at any given time.
In his prime, Frank Zane represented the ultimate male physique. He was perfectly proportioned and beautifully conditioned. He had a muscular, yet natural look. Frank possessed a rare talent in that he could move and pose with the ease and grace of a male dancer, not like a bodybuilder.
Bodybuilding.com is an incredible online store for supplements, fitness products, and advice on workouts and nutrition. It has the most up-to-date information about bodybuilding and exercise, and how-to videos. It's the website I keep coming back to. BodySpace is the world's largest online fitness community, and for good reason. Join up today. It's free.
- "Little Talks" by Of Monsters And Men
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- "That Power" by Will.i.am (feat. Justin Bieber)
- "Feel This Moment" by Pitbull (feat. Christina Aguilera)
- "Is This Love" by Alex Gaudino (feat. Jordin Sparks)
Photography Credits: Rob Lang Photography; Alpha Design Photography
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Excercise, proper nutrition (and stretching!) are the keys to staying young. Share this story with all of your non Bodybuilding.com friends. Those on here already know the benefits of this lifestyle. We need to get more stories like Bernie's out to the masses.
If I can be in half as good shape as you are at your age I will be an extremely happy man, You should be on posters in schools, hospitals etc to show that there is no excuse to be out of shape! inspirational stuff.