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March 1996
Life Balance: What I Learned from Joe the Weightlifter
By Anthony Sepulveda


"You can’t lift weights and not eat meat! How do you expect to get strong?"

I hear this all the time along with, "I can’t believe you’re a vegetarian. You don’t know what you are missing."

My reply to most people is, "What did people do during the Depression and World War Two?" If you ask anyone that lived through those hard times they’ll tell you that meat was hard to come by.

I met a man, Joe, who had worked out since the 1930s, and he trained on pasta, fruit, vegetables, and milk. This man was as strong as a bear. I worked with him in a fruit store in 1979, and he was able to unload a truck full of watermelons in the hot July sun at 70 years old. Even though I was 18, I knew this was impressive. Working with Joe made me realize that even though the body is so complex, it only requires a little maintenance to keep performing well. Exercise and good nutrition is what makes the difference.

There is no magic potion or exercise machine needed. Just a jump rope, some push ups, pull ups, dips and crunches will keep you in shape if you don’t want to pump iron. Once you get up to 50 or 100 push ups, you might want a little more challenge like lifting weights.

Some people get confused in a gym because there is so much equipment and sometimes not enough help. A good rule of thumb is to stick to the basics — for example, squats, bench press, overhead press, dumbbell rows, curls. The same rules apply in nutrition. Some body building supplements make claims that run parallel with an 1800s snake oil salesman. Fruits, vegetables, grains, vegetable protein powder, plenty of water, and a multi-vitamin is really all you need when training with heavy intensity.

Long before there were all these fancy chrome machines, people trained with a barbell and dumbbells and got results. And long before the meat industry made people believe they would drop dead if they didn’t eat meat, there was Joe pumping iron in his garage in Brooklyn.

Anthony Sepulveda
is a weightlifter who lives in Manhattan.


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