Many seniors find it a challenge to keep active, but not George Longie. The 91-year-old Medford man spends his mornings — and afternoons — on a rowing machine listening to the sounds of big-band music.
It's on the speakers, but it comes from his iPod.
"I'd listen to a story on a book, but that's too slow," Longie said. "You go by the pace of the band, that rhythm that they have."
Longie turns that rhythm into miles, one low-resistance meter at a time.
In a month-long challenge hosted online by indoor rowing equipment manufacturer Concept 2, Longie covered 700,676 meters on the rower, approximately 435 miles. That's just a few miles short of rowing from Medford to Portland and back.
The Fall 2013 Virtual Team Challenge recorded Longie's rowing from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 at Baxter Fitness Solutions for 50 and Beyond.
Andy Baxter, owner of Baxter Fitness, said the Concept 2 challenge events started as an opportunity for on-water rowers to train and compete in an indoor event during winter, but since then teams have expanded.
The Fall 2013 challenge teams came from all over the world and covered the spectrum of ages and ability levels. The team at Baxter — which combined the rowing records of gym members at its Medford and Ashland locations — earned 28th place out of 315 teams. Although some participants in the challenge were able to log millions of meters, Longie was the top rower on the Baxter Fitness team.
"We as a club have been doing this for about a decade," Baxter said, adding that the team usually performs better than average. "George is a large part of it."
Baxter, a former champion rower himself, uses rowing machines in many of the fitness programs he designs for older adults. He particularly likes that rowing exercises are low-resistance and the machines work the same muscles no matter whether it's an Olympian or a senior at the oars.
"Basically they're doing the same thing," Baxter said. "That's the cool part of the rowing machine. It works all the major muscle groups in a closed-chain pattern," Baxter said.
Longie said his fitness regimen involves two visits to the center daily.
"I come twice a day," he said. "When they want to take off, I take over."
Longie uses all of the equipment at Baxter's Medford center, starting with 10 kilometers on a rowing machine to stretch and get warmed up.
"It's the best for the core of your body," Longie said. "I usually do about 10,000 (meters) per hour."
Sports and fitness have been lifelong priorities for Longie. He said he was a boxer in the army and was an avid golfer — with eight holes-in-one over the years.
He joined Baxter Fitness about four years ago after a bad knee prevented him from golfing, and the gym provides an outlet to stay fit and socialize with other active seniors, he said.
"The reason why I come so many times — if I come home, watch TV and I talk to the fridge, I got no one to answer me," Longie joked. "I live alone."
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