Back To The Roots

By Peter Yates

Peter who wrote this for The History Of Physical Culture Forum and was published there on 2/8/016 kindly sent this article to me.

I am sure you will agree that Peter and his friends are true Old But Strong Warriors

Ian x

Since leaving my hometown of Darwen, Lancashire U.K. almost 50 years ago I have made it a point to return when able to visit family and spend time with old friends. I was recently able to spend just over three weeks there and made sure I got as much training and physical activity in as possible.


On the first weekend just after I arrived I attended a three day International Soul Festival. I have been a fan of this music since the early 60’s and especially enjoy the chance to spend several hours at a time dancing to this music as I did over that weekend. Many of the records played have a fast beat and I find this a much more enjoyable way to do cardio than the boring old treadmill or stationary bike.


This also gave me a chance to catch up with old friends who in their sixties still keep fit by attending regular soul music dance venues.


My first gym workout occurred in the Isle of Man Where I was visiting friends. The owner of the gym kindly let me have a free session. Although it was not my kind of gym with most of the space being taken up by cardio and weight stack machines there was a decent dumbbell area to keep me occupied.


My workout consisted of single dumbbell snatches, swings, clean and press followed by two dumbbell split squats and deadlifts. A few sets of chins and dips rounded things out. I got plenty of sideways glances and a few outright stares, as I am sure many had never seen most of these exercises/lifts before.


Back from the Isle of Man I had a visit from my old mate Gil Waldron. Gil and I keep up a regular correspondence and try to meet up any time I am in the UK. As always we had a good old chat starting off with of course the topics of strength and training and gradually venturing into putting the world to right. Gil had recently injured his left elbow, which was limiting his training, and he bravely allowed me to perform acupuncture on him, which seems to have helped. As per usual he also brought a gift with him, this time his personal collection of 1950’s UK editions of Mr. Universe and Muscle Power Magazines, absolute gems for which I am very grateful. My sister made us a delicious lunch of lamb chops which happen to be Gil’s favorite and which we devoured with relish.


A few days later I boarded a train for the forty minute trip to Manchester to visit another old mate and iron slinger, Kev Fitzgerald. At 81 years young Kev is still a fit, strong and healthy man. Upon arrival I was greeted by his lovely wife Diana and soon had a mug of tea in my hand followed by sandwiches made from Kev’s homemade sourdough bread. While I rarely eat bread, as I do not digest it well this bread really hit the spot, was delicious and gave me no bloating or digestive upset. Just as well as Kev had been planning our training session for that afternoon and was getting me fueled up for it.


A while ago Kev twisted his knee while walking his dog Sammy (AKA Russell thee Muscle), so has laid off the squat while it healed. He found that he could do trap bar dead lifts without discomfort so has been concentrating on those. After a good warm-up we commenced the workout with T.B. D. L. starting easy and adding weight each set. Next we did rows using a leg extension bench that Kev had modified to be used for that purpose and very effective they were. I could feel the area between my scapula had been very well targeted the following day. Next came seated presses in the power rack using the trap bar from a dead start off pins. This is another exercise that was new to me and again was really effective in the shoulder girdle and deltoids the next day. We finished up with EZ bar curls and mounted wrist roller. We averaged 5 sets on all exercises except wrist roller and Kev was with me pound for pound all the way. He certainly is an inspiration and proof what steady, continuous training can do and gives me something to aim for. As usual Kev also presented me with gifts, the first being one of those giant Krusher devices popular in the 60’s. Secondly a bunch of back issues of Milo Journal. Thanks Kev – looking forward to next time.


After all that graft we headed for the local pub and fed our weary muscles with a fantastic mixed grill dinner. While I was there Kev signed up for the Forum using Sammy’s Moniker of Russell the Muscle and I sincerely hope he will share some of his opinions and vast training knowledge with us.


Another person I always try to see is someone I have known since he was a baby. David Ainsworth is the son of Jack Ainsworth and nephew of Maurice Ainsworth, two men who started and ran Darwen Weightlifting Club for many years. Growing up in that environment it is no wonder that David started training in his teens and had continued the activity to this day in his very nicely set up garage gym. David also brought me gifts in the shape of 1950’s Reg Park journals and a health and Strength Annual from 1950.


Of course no trip to Darwen would be complete without a visit or two to the Weightlifting Club. I arranged to meet one of the few remaining members and friend since childhood, David Parker, In his late 60’s David still puts in three or four sessions a week and still uses respectable poundage in his training. I had a total of three workouts there using front squats, power cleans, push press, dips, chins and rowing in the main. I also did the seesaw press with 56 block weights. At one time I could do a total of 50 reps with these but now just managed 10 each hand. These feel very different from dumbbells of the same weight. My friend and ex member Louis Staffa who now lives in Canada could in his prime do 56 reps in each hand for a total of 112 reps.


Of course I could not neglect the martial arts on this trip and was taken by my good friend Sifu Mike Fielden to see his new training premises. On the drive there Mike casually asked if I would take the class that evening. I was quite honored that Mike had asked me as he comes from a very strong lineage and is a no-nonsense, old school instructor. I did my best and I think the evening went well and next time we talked about doing a mini workshop.


Being with family is always special and we are a close, loving family. One Sunday I went on an eight mile country walk with my two nephews, great nephew and dogs. Both of my nephews have practiced martial arts and weight training and I think I was able to encourage them to resume their training.


Something must be said about food and the great home cooked meals my sister provided using such nourishing ingredients as free-range eggs, grass fed meat, local grown veggies, etc. Also I had a daily pint of milk from the same family farm that was operating locally since before I was born. This milk comes in a glass bottle with cream floating on the top and a short walk from my sister’s house you can see the cows which produce it contentedly munching grass, clover and wild plants in the meadow. You know it is full of goodness and it sure tastes like it.


As a teenager the milk was delivered by horse and cart and I would guzzle 6 pints a day. Now the milk is just as good but is delivered by a motorized vehicle and I kept the consumption to one pint a day and thoroughly enjoyed every drop.


Besides the friends I met up with I had some enjoyable phone conversations with Paul Shaw and David Horne, two men with serious grip strength and who are very knowledgeable in all things relating to strength and training. I always learn something of value that I can incorporate into my own training whenever I communicate with these accomplished gentlemen. I also called our very own David Gentle but owing to problems in his throat and ears he was unable to converse but his wife Rosemary filled me in on what had been going on (It’s alright David I will not divulge your secrets). I hope to get down to see David next time around.


As nourishing and rejuvenating, as the trip was it was also tinged with a little sadness. Four people who I always spent time with are no longer with us including my Brother-In-Law Dave and my mentor Maurice Ainsworth. I also visited elderly parents of several friends who are in failing health and may no longer be around the next time I am over there. My visits seem to have perked them up though and we laughed and reminisced over copious cups of tea in the English manner.


A big thanks to family and friends who made the trip so enjoyable and especially to my sister Susan for her hospitality and delicious home cooking. Looking forward to next time.

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