WEDNESDAY WINS! PAUL K.!
Today we celebrate one of the best guys out there, Paul K. (or Benjamin Button as we like to call him). He seems to be reverse aging – that is, looking younger and fitter as time goes on – and just getting better at everything as he ages.
For Paul, fitness isn’t just a way to keep his body young and healthy, it’s to keep him young at heart. It has been an important part of his life since he can remember, and it pays off in ways most of us don’t even think about.
He works at a large media company; chock full of young go-getters that pretty much requires him to stay one step ahead. “Ageism is a real thing.” But his strategy is simple: “Look young, act young, dress young and talk young. The minute they think you’re an ‘old guy’ it’s over. I think the most senior people at the company think I’m 40.”
But at 51, he’s winning that game big time. “I look at some people my age and I’m like ‘Get to the store. Get to the gym. Get your shit together. I want to work for a long time so all of this matters.”
Sure, it helps in his professional life, but fitness has been a huge part of his personal life since he can remember. “I played all the sports in high school. Among other things I played basketball and football, but my best sport was tennis (which he still plays competitively today). When I got to college I wasn’t doing much and went to go try wrestling with a friend of mine. We walked in the gym and there were 200 women taking aerobics classes. We joked to each other, let’s hop in and do this. We might meet someone! Six months later I was teaching the class.”
“I ended up teaching four classes a week to over 200 women for four years. I’d roll into the bars and it was like Shaq walked in. ‘It’s the guy from aerobics!’ they’d shout. In a school with 50,000 people I met so many of them through health and fitness. My degree was in teaching but it was just a degree to me; health and fitness was what I loved. I basically went to school for everything but the academics. But I learned about life and to meet people… how to deal with people.”
After college I started my own business called ‘Fitness Express.’ It was basically a personal training based company and I had a studio the basement of a friend’s agency. I got certifications, taught all kinds of classes from step to those glider classes where you’d slide on a mat with booties. I did it all. I taught until I was 26 or 27 and had 4% body fat, but was broke.”
“I thought to myself, if I could find something that I was as passionate about as I was about fitness I’d probably be okay. Then in the early 90’s a good friend of mine called and said they were launching something new at the Cincinnati Inquirer and he’d bring me on. It was a digital platform called Cars.com and needed help launching it. On Friday I was a personal trainer. On Monday I was an online expert because that’s what my business card said. Fifteen months later I was a manager and the business was growing exponentially.”
“At that point in my life I started running to stay in shape. I ran 6 marathons. At one point I was trying to qualify for Boston and hit a PR in Chicago at 3:46 in 1999. “ But instead he was focused on his career. I eventually went to Clear Channel radio working for a guy named Bill Reinberger (who is now a VP for the Cincinnati Reds). Not only was he great to work for then, he got me to sing the national anthem at a game.”
So we have to ask ourselves, is there anything this guy can’t do? Well, double-unders used to be on that list. But no more. Keeping up with the younger guys a the gym? Nope. He’s doing that too.
“Most of the people who come to the Cove… heck, my kids are their age! When I was 26… geez… if I had found it then, maybe I’d be Steve Michelotti.” For a guy who’s dabbled in almost every fitness regimen out there, why CrossFit? Why the Cove?
“It feels really good on my body. And I love ‘appointment fitness’. It’s an hour of my day that I look forward to. To me, it’s almost always about the people I’m with. It’s the notion that misery loves company. I love the fist bump at the end of the workout. You know, like we’re all in this together. We can talk about it before hand to strategize and commiserate after. Jessica, Irina, Eyal, Dan, Keith, and Aaron… they’re all awesome. In the evenings. Rob Novak is one of my favorite people of all time. He’s in his 40s and I love to watch him. Marcus too. The camaraderie of this place and the people. That’s what it’s all about”.
“People outside of here think I’m crazy, but it’s my release. I’m in a crazy business with crazy expectations. I walk in here and it all goes away. It’s all about what I’m getting done and the people I’m with. I say the same thing to my team in business meetings that I say to myself here at the gym: “Just get incrementally better each day”.
In the last two years, these ‘increments’ have been more like giant leaps. He’s gotten so much stronger. Faster. Leaner. And now he is mastering skills most of us couldn’t do at 20, no less at 51. But he’s in it for the long game. “My aunt always said to me ‘Paul, if you don’t have your health you don’t have anything. My mother cannot get off the couch because she’s aging and afraid she’ll fall and won’t be able to get up. My dad died prematurely at 78 because of a heart attack. That is not going to be me.”
And it’s a lesson he’s passing on to the next generation. “My kid and I are really close. They see Gina (his wife) and I work out and they know health and fitness is REALLY important. I know they will take this seriously and they already do. Paige ran a half marathon (and does CrossFit at the Cove when she’s home!). Mia cheers – and it’s not like the cheer when I was young — it’s such an athletic thing these days, it’s insane.”
While he plays the young guy role well, he does see signs that he’s getting older. “I have more time on my hands now than when my kids were younger. I used to run around from work to practice and school events and all the things I see people doing now with younger kids. I remember those days well. But now they’re older and no one’s worried about when I get home. It’s great on some levels, but it’s sad because I see time slipping away.”
Yes, Paul… time continues to tick for all of us, but you are out-running the clock big-time. Every single one of us can learn from your ability to stay young in body, mind AND spirit. Walt Disney once said that “growing old is mandatory but growing up is optional”. We think you’d be perfectly cast as the star in that film.