Aiming high -- for 100 years

FITNESS PROFILE

Teacher: Al Grau, a high school athletic director, intends to live a century or more

Health & Fitness

October 31, 1999|By Nancy Menefee Jackson | Nancy Menefee Jackson,Special to the Sun

Al Grau doesn't worry too much about old age. At 57, he figures he still has about 40 or 50 good years ahead of him. And considering he can bench-press 300 pounds and run the 40-yard dash in 5.3 seconds, he just might be right.

Years ago, Grau remembers watching the "Tonight Show," and Johnny Carson had a guest who was 106 years old and had just run a marathon. "This guy looked like he was maybe 70 years old," Grau says. "The guy was still employed! That guy was my hero."

Grau, who is the athletic director for Chesapeake High School in Anne Arundel County, teaches two weight-training classes.

"I try to present myself as a positive role model," he says. When the opportunity arises in class, he'll lift a bit with the students, and he'll stay after school to lift weights with the kids. The school's weight room is open until 4 p.m., and Grau takes advantage of that to alternate between upper body work and leg and abdominal work on different days.

He favors the bench press, and he uses an incline bench, too. He does shoulder exercises for the deltoids, and biceps and triceps curls. For his legs, he uses a leg sled machine, which is like a cockpit that he sits in to press a stand that has weight on it. He also will do leg curls.

"At my age, I don't do squats anymore," he says, laughing.

"I don't want weight compressing on my back anymore, either. I'm 5-feet-10-inches and I want to stay that way."

He adds: "I can still bench-press 300 pounds, but at my age I don't need to be doing as much max-out stuff. I gear toward flexibility and range of motion -- those are going to be critical as I get into my 80s, 90s and 100s, which I intend to do."

But weights are only one part of Grau's fitness regimen. Several nights a week he jogs the two- or three-mile routes he has mapped out in his Annapolis neighborhood. "I usually put on my Walkman and listen to WBAL's 'Sports-Talk,' " he says. "This is just for me. It's relaxing; I'm not in competition or anything."

Grau and his wife, Rita, also like to walk in Quiet Waters Park in Annapolis, and they just bought new bikes to take there. Grau also has a swimming pool in his back yard where he can swim laps. "It's not a real rigorous thing," he says. But since weights are his favorite, he has a Marcy EM 1 weight machine in his basement.

Grau likes to lift weights with his daughter, Melanie, a 22-year-old graduate student whose interest in weightlifting must be genetic.

When the Graus sit down to a meal, it's usually chicken, not red meat. Broccoli and squash are favorites, too. When he eats in a rush, as he's doing these days with PTA meetings and doubleheader games, he eats a Lean Cuisine. And when he sees a schedule that includes games after school and night meetings, he'll try to sneak in just a bit of weightlifting to keep muscle tone until he has a free evening to jog again.

The backbone of any successful weightlifting program is regimentation, but attitude counts, too. Grau can't believe when people don't exercise. "They stop by the weight room and say, 'I'm getting so old.' I say, 'What a poor attitude.' "

Grau remembers when he and his brother, Hal, who is three years younger and a football coach in Frederick County, played football at Shepherd College. "The coach there wouldn't put kids through a drill he couldn't do himself," he says, adding that his brother can still run an option play to show his team how to do it.

And students in Grau's weightlifting class who have a question benefit from a teacher who can show them, not tell them, how to do it.

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