Sam J. Bryant is working to spend the rest of his life healthy.
He's 65, an age at which most of his peers are either retired or nearly so and whose idea of a physical workout is a full 18 holes of golf without benefit of a cart.
But Mr. Bryant is still pushing his body like a man a third his age, spending five hours a day in the gym four or five times a week, prepping for professional bodybuilding competitions.
"People can't believe I'm 65," he said. "That makes me feel good. I see people my age that have already gave up."
Mr. Bryant, a housekeeping employee of Omni Health & Fitness of Augusta, took up the sport when he was 43 after he was invited to a contest by a friend.
"I knew nothing about the posing, nothing about the music. I had to watch everyone else and see what they did," he said.
At that moment, Mr. Bryant claims he became "hooked" and a "junkie."
Before Mr. Bryant began exercising, he was 175 pounds and healthy, but he wanted to be in better health.
"I worked in the hospital and saw sickness and illness. I didn't want any part of that. I found out when I work out, I feel better," he said.
Mr. Bryant, a retired nursing assistant from the Augusta Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers, has been competing for 21 years and has won more contests than he can remember.
He captured wins recently at the Iron Eagle contest in Savannah, placing first in the master division (35 years and up), first in the open division (21 years and up) and winning overall in the master division.
Mr. Bryant also was first in recent contests in Atlanta and Augusta. His next competition is in October in Macon.
In most competitions, he is almost 20 years older than other competitors. He thrives off his intimidation factor.
"The young guys claim they are going to beat me," he said. "So I just work hard. I'm not going to just lay it down and let them have it."
Mr. Bryant isn't trying to prove himself; he is trying to preserve his health.
"I'm not trying to prove a point that I'm better than you," he said. "I just want them to know that I can do what you do. It's not my age that has anything to do with it."
Mr. Bryant practically lives at the gym and enjoys being there. He understands what it takes to become all he can be health-wise and career-wise.
"He is an inspiration. You look at different faces and ages of people who come in the gym and realize it gives people something to look forward to as they become older," said Omni Regional Maintenance Director Mark Boyd.
Mr. Bryant is proud that he is all natural when it comes to his bodybuilding, with no use of steroids to enhance his look.
"Don't let anyone talk you into doing steroids. They have no purpose," he said.
"You can't get that way," he said. "You have to work hard and believe in yourself and believe that you can be good or just as good as someone else."
Reach Caroline Price at (706) 724-0851 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
SAM J. BRYANT
OCCUPATION: Housekeeping employee at Omni Health & Fitness
GOAL: "I try to be a model for young and old people."
WORKOUT TIP FOR SENIORS: "People should set reasonable goals. That way they can achieve them and not give up."
ON AGING: "The more you exercise, the more you top the aging process. You get old in the mind. We are all living to age. If you think you're old, then you start acting old. When you start acting old, you feel old, look old and act old."
LIFE PHILOSOPHY: "You have to know how to lose to be a good winner."