He didn’t realize it at the time, but Norm Archeck has been a significant inspiration for me. A catalyst for some of my proudest physical accomplishments.
This story – of one friend motivating another to achieve fitness success – wouldn’t be anything special … if Norm wasn’t 84 years old.
Two and a half years ago, after I had already rid myself of my adult-life-long baby fat, I noticed Norm regularly coming to the front desk of the JCC and challenging anyone within shouting distance to do push-ups with him. Right there. Drop and give me 20. Or 40, in Norm’s case.
Caught in the crossfire one day, my male ego couldn’t refuse the challenge, so I threw in a quick 25. That same ego was forced to up that 25 to 30 the next day. This was really no big deal. Until a couple of months later I managed to push my body away from the JCC floor 111 consecutive times. Yes, in a row.
For the most part I stopped doing push-ups with Norm after that day. But only because I decided it was time to parlay those gains into a more rounded gym routine. Since then I have hit new personal fitness levels again and again, staring down my upcoming 40th birthday like it’s going to put 20 to shame.
Now, there is something to be said about right place, right time, right motivation. I was clearly ready to embrace Norm’s challenge that day. But without Norm it wouldn’t have happened the way it did.
Brushing off everything with a laugh or a smile, Norm is that guy the rest of us look at and say, “I hope I’m doing that when I’m his age.” So when he issues you a physical challenge it’s pretty hard to turn him down.
Throw in three knee replacements, a new hip, a win over colon cancer 15 years ago and open heart surgery seven years later and it’s hard not to smile when Norm says, “Come on, young man. Let’s do some push-ups!”
… in front of everyone you work with.
“My friends say I’m a nut case,” he laughed while taking a break in the JCC fitness room. “That’s how I live my life. I forget about the things that are challenging me and live my life.”
Norm was an athlete in his younger days, always wanting to push the limits. As he aged his doctor told him that if he didn’t work out he might as well just fold up shop, so to speak.
“He says I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t exercise. And he tells his other patients to just do what Norm does.”
More recently, just to change things up a little, Norm has taken on the plank – a popular core strengthening exercise – as his new daily JCC-front-desk activity.
Targeting an absurdly-long 5-minute plank, he’s come close many times while brushing off non-believers one minute at a time.
He tells a story of being at a relative’s house for dinner recently when his planking prowess was brought up at the table. A burly, middle-aged dinner guest called Norm to task.
“He laughed at me when I said I could do it,” Norm said. “He was kind of a big mouth. So he challenged me and I knew he would struggle. I did it for around four minutes and he quit around two. I get a call a month later and he tells me he has gotten to 2.5 mins.”
So if you are ever at the JCC and you see an old gent sitting on the floor by the front desk, he’s not filming a new “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” commercial. It’s just Norm, living his life on his terms.