CARVILLE: Seniors are doing amazing things |

CARVILLE: Seniors are doing amazing things

In my column last month, I described the results of a “human experiment” in which a senior friend of mine gained strength and flexibility with a simple but regular workout program.

It was a joint project. I agreed to train him and he agreed to have the results published in this column. Our goal was to motivate seniors in Nevada County to gain and maintain health so they can enjoy independence and a fuller, richer life.


The results were amazing, but not unexpected. His strength gains in the first 30–45 days were in the range of 110 to over 200 percent. He is more flexible, stronger and happier now that he has been training for 60-plus days. Some strength gains are now over 400 percent.

The other day we jogged for a couple of miles at the Empire Mine State Park, shooting the breeze, admiring the wonderful day and the beauty of the park. We hope more seniors will start to believe in themselves and start an active program of exercise and good diet.


My friend is an average senior and has improved his fitness and health. But what are the limits of achievement? Let me tell you about another friend, a super senior.

Several years ago, at age 72, I entered the Tough Mudder competition along with 50-plus other members of the South Yuba Club. Let me say that it is rather rigorous endeavor. My partner was another friend, Bob Thurman of Nevada City.

The Tough Mudder is water obstacles, walls, freezing ice baths, crawling under barbed wire, miles of running — and of course — the mud. There is a “buddy carry” in which you pack your partner over the terrain for several hundred yards. I struggled to carry Bob who weighs about 150 pounds. When Bob packed me (170 pounds), he was literally running. I couldn’t believe it. Talk about senior fitness!


This isn’t possible for most of us. Bob is an unusual athlete. He stands about 5-foot, 7-inches and is all muscle and bone. If he were 6’5” he would be a NFL star, competition for LeBron James and probably also an Olympic medalist.

Thurman enters the Huntsman World Senior Games in St. George, Utah each year. The games were started in 1987 by Daisy and John Morgan to encourage seniors to participate in sports and to provide a venue for participation. In 1989, the Huntsman Corporation of Utah became the principal sponsor.

Thousands of senior athletes from around the world show up for the games. St. George becomes the gathering place for some of the best senior athletes. The whole town explodes in a giant celebration and extravaganza.


Out of hundreds in the 60–64 age bracket, Thurman took first place in the 2016 standing long jump. That is: standing in place, then jumping horizontally as far as you can. This 5’7” senior jumped 8’7”, or well over 160 percent of his height. He took second place in the Long Jump at 16’2”. When the South Yuba Club Tough Mudder team was training at Thurman’s property, he was always the strongest no matter what the age of the team member. I am still amazed.


My point is that all seniors can do amazing things. Most of us will not be as fit as Bob Thurman, but we can improve our strength by a two or three hundred percent with a simple exercise plan. We can go from no pushups to eight, 10 or 12 pushups. We can go from inability to jog more than 50 feet to enjoying a mile-long jog at Empire Mine Park.

Everything is relative. You may start from a low fitness base, but that will change quickly. You can feel better, live longer and enjoy life more when your body allows you to do so. It isn’t work — it’s your life.

As John Morgan, the founder of the Huntsman World Senior Games, used to say, “Fun, don’t forget the fun”.

Phil Carville is a co-owner of the South Yuba Club. He welcomes comments and will answer your questions. You can contact him at

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