If you do karate at 79, you can have ice cream too

John Weingust’s goal is ‘to see how long my present program can last. I hope to do it at 85 as well.’

John Weingust’s goal is ‘to see how long my present program can last. I hope to do it at 85 as well.’


Lawyer John Weingust’s fit at 79 formula: karate, slalom and


Special to The Globe and Mail Published on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2009 12:00AM EST Last updated on Thursday, Dec. 24, 2009 2:23AM EST

A strange thing happened to John Weingust after he started skiing at 33. As he continued to exercise, he became fitter and functioned better, living out the adage that it’s never too late to begin getting in shape.

Prior to getting into the best shape of his life, eight years of law school had put his body in hibernation. Then at 39, he took up tae kwon do, earning a fifth-degree black belt. Four marathons followed in his late 40s. Five years later, Mr. Weingust turned to track and field and won a seniors’ pentathlon. This month, the 79-year-old litigator celebrates his 11th year of karate.

My goal

“To keep doing things I’m doing, and in order to do that, I like to keep myself active and in good condition.”

My workout

“Every morning I do my patented 12 minutes; I do 50 push-ups and I stretch every muscles head to toe. I don’t belong to a gym, but I have a stationary bike and weekends I cycle outdoors.

“I did tae kwon do for 30 years, after that I switched to karate and I do that once a week. I have a cottage in Collingwood where I hike and cycle the Bruce Trail in summer. I’m a member of the ski club and do slalom races. Last year I won my category as a senior racer. I’m skiing better now than 10 years ago.”

My lifestyle

“I work 9 to 5, five days a week,” says the non-smoker who’s had six beers in his life.

“I cut out fat and salt. I eat dark chocolate, I don’t eat pastries or [have] soft drinks. Breakfast is instant oatmeal, flax bread with peanut butter and coffee. Lunch and dinner is mostly chicken – I have red meat once a week – with lots of veggies and salad to go with it. I eat five fruits a day. I drink 100-per-cent orange, cranberry, and watermelon juice – lots of antioxidants. I can’t resist Bing cherries.”

My motivation

“To see how long my present program can last. I hope to do it at 85 as well. I want to see how far I can go.”

My workout anthem

“I don’t listen to music when I’m exercising.”

My challenge

“Haagen-Dazs is my guilty pleasure. I subscribe to the Royal Alexandra [Theatre, and] when I go I have to have chocolate ice cream. That’s six times a year.”

The critique

Daily exercise is the secret to long life, weight maintenance and strong cardio systems, says Paul Oh, a medical director of Toronto Rehab’s cardiac rehabilitation. Here he’s identified ways to optimize the effects of exercise on Mr. Weingust’s health, which will continue to decrease his risk of disability and age-related diseases.

Calculate heart rate

Mr. Weingust gets plenty of exercise for heart health, and the contrasting modes of biking and hiking offer variety, says Dr. Oh, a leading expert on the role of exercise in rehabilitation. However, for a safe, effective session during sustained cardio, it’s important that Mr. Weingust learn the fitness equation to calculate his heart rate (HR).

“The general rule: heart rate maximum [the upper limit that the heart can handle] equals 220 minus age; the appropriate zone is 60 to 80 per cent of that. For John, the max HR is 140, and the training zone is 84 to 112. The other clues that John’s in the right zone are the rating of perceived exertion, or the walk-talk test: exercise until he’s a little short of breath, but able to carry on a conversation. The latter clues align well with the heart rate guideline.”

Grow stronger, systematically

Mr. Weingust follows a consistent body-weight training routine, but he could boost bone density and metabolism, and improve body composition by switching from a maintenance scheme to a progressive model that increases the muscular challenge as his strength builds.

Although the frequency of Mr. Weingust’s workouts should remain constant, continued improvement requires systematic increases. According to the latest American College of Sports Medicine position, that can be accomplished in several ways: add repetitions, shorten or expand the rest period between sets or increase the volume of work.

Winter workout wisdom

Among winter-related risks, including slips and falls, older adults have a lower metabolism and produce less body heat than younger people, according to Dr. Oh. With that insight, he offers a final bit of advice.

“John’s slalom races put a strain on his heart, causing the muscle to both work harder to keep the body warm from the cold and do the exercise he’s engaged in. So he needs to do a warm-up before skiing and stay hydrated.” Mr. Weingust should also check the wind chill and layer his clothing, he adds.


One thought on “If you do karate at 79, you can have ice cream too

  1. it’s never to late to change your lifestyle
    “One reason I chose Mr. Weingust is I’ve heard people in their 40s say they’re too old to start exercising and that they feel they’ve likely missed much of the benefits. As a yoga friend once said: “That’s like saying you’re too dirty to take a shower.””

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