© — Star photo by Diane Crocker
Ford Neal, sitting, and Chris Neal pose with the lat pulldown machine at Forever Young Fitness Centre.
CORNER BROOK Ford Neal exercises just to prove that he can.
“I don’t want to give up,” said the Corner Brook man who turns 90 today.
And as long as he’s interested he plans to continue.
“I have no trouble getting out of bed seven o’clock in the morning, getting ready to come over here,” he said while sitting on a bench at Forever Young Fitness Centre earlier this week.
Ford started working out at the gym in 1995 after he suffered a blocked artery and underwent angioplasty. His heart specialist at the time recommended he start exercising, so he signed up for a gym membership. His wife, Kathleen Neal, decided she would do the same thing and together they exercised regularly until November 2011. Mrs. Neal had to stop exercising because of health issues. She died in March 2012.
While working out at a gym came late in life for Ford, he’s been exercising and involved in sports since he was seven years old. Growing up in St. John’s in the 1930s he swam with the Bowring Park swim team and was city champion in 1933-34. He was also a champion on the track, winning gold for Newfoundland in the 100-yard dash on five different occasions.
Ford can’t help but laugh as he shares a few stories of his early days in track and field.
He said he got started one day when a Fieldians sprinter encouraged him to get in the lineup so they could start running together. Ford was in his everyday street clothes, but that didn’t hinder him.
“I ran and waited for him to come.”
He also used to compete against well-known businessman Geoff Stirling in the highjump.
“I never ever beat him,” said Ford, adding that is something he still gets teased about.
Through the years, Ford also played hockey and golf. In 1956 he was the first golfer to score a hole in one at the Blomidon Golf Club.
Nowadays though, Ford’s workouts are a little less strenuous than when he first started out. Still he goes to the gym three times a week. His fitness regime includes bicycling, leg extensions, leg presses, lat pulldowns, tricep extensions and squats. When that’s all done he takes a few laps around the Pepsi Centre walking track.
Ford has experienced some medical issues over the years and believes exercising has helped keep him going. He said he has a desire for it.
That desire is something he shares with his son Chris, who will turn 60 three weeks after his father’s 90th.
Chris, who describes himself as slight as a child, said he wasn’t one for hockey or other sports, but found his niche in weight training.
He started in 1975 with Fred Carberry, a former physical education teacher in the city.
“I’ve been training pretty much since then,” he said. “To me, weight training is who I am. It’s part of my spiritual as well as physiological development. It’s like I was meant to do it.”
His parents’ support is perhaps why Chris, a personal trainer of 15 years, enjoys working with people and motivating them to be what they can be.
Chris trains six days a week and currently holds the Canadian bench press records in Masters two and three. While he is very proud of his records he said he takes a greater pride in seeing his father coming to the gym.
Ford fakes tearing up in jest of his son’s remarks, but is clearly touched.
“Really, it is true,” said Chris. “I hope he can do it for at least another five years.
“There’s no expiry date on exercise, only an expiry date on longevity.”
Father and son will celebrate together this weekend during a family reunion. Family members from British Columbia, Ontario and St. John’s, including Ford’s 98-year-old brother Bill Neal, who worked out with a personal trainer until a year ago, are expected to attend.