When people ask 70-year old bodybuilder Sam “Sonny” Bryant, Jr. when he’s going to retire, he tells them, “Never.” His reasoning? More people die retired that they do on the job working. And, Bryant takes this approach to everything in his life, including working out.
Bryant’s philosophy is clearly working for him. Although he has already entered his eighth decade of life, he has the rippling muscles and youthful physique that would make a man half his age envious. At 5’10”, 176-pounds, Bryant’s looks belie his true age.
He wasn’t always in this great a physical shape, however. He first started working out when he was 44-years-old. In order to relieve the stress associated with being in a bad marriage, he took to hitting the gym and lifting weights. Although he had no experience whatsoever with weight training, he stuck with it; and, eventually a friend suggested that he enter a contest.
Bryant took his friend’s advice, entering a bodybuilding contest in Columbus, GA. Even though he no prior experience, he placed third in the Novice category and fourth in the Masters. He was hooked and decided to become a bodybuilder.
The youthful 70-year-0ld says that the idea that age makes you old is a misconception. Age is just a number, he says; it’s your state of mind that determines how old you are. He also says that he believes that people use age as an excuse to be lazy and relates how that often people will tell him, “Just wait until you get to be my age.” However, when he reveals his own age to them, he says, it’s often embarrassing for them.
When discussing how his young attitude keeps his body feeling young, Bryant says that he doesn’t feel as if he has aged at all since he made the decision to become a bodybuilder. He chalks it all up to the fact that he never sends the mental message to his body that he is old, therefore he continues to behave in a young and vital way.
Bryant says that what he hopes for is that other people will realize that if he can do then they can do it too. He would like to be a role model to show people how their lifestyle choices can affect how old or young they are, more so than their chronological age.
So, what is an average day like for the 70-year-old bodybuilder? On any given day, you might find Bryant deadlifting over twice his body weight in his morning workout session after working the graveyard shift at his job as a forklift operator for Kimberly-Clark. Also, for him, there are none of the ubiquitous pill regimens that so many other seniors deal with; he takes only vitamins. And, if it’s a Saturday night, you might find him out dancing surrounded by twenty-somethings. In short, he lives an active, full life with no plans to slow down or retire any time soon.
By Nancy Schimelpfening