Still going strong

Jim Day
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

SUMMERSIDE
For Summerside bodybuilder Ernie Heckbert, it was a long wait from first hitting the weights to hitting the competitive stage.
In fact, Heckbert pumped iron for almost 60 years before entering his first bodybuilding competition at age 74 in 2005.

Velda Heckbert says youd have to look long and hard to find a 78-year-old as hunky as her husband Ernie, who was the oldest competitor at a regional bodybuilding championship earlier this month. Jim Day/Transcontinental Media

SUMMERSIDE
For Summerside bodybuilder Ernie Heckbert, it was a long wait from first hitting the weights to hitting the competitive stage.
In fact, Heckbert pumped iron for almost 60 years before entering his first bodybuilding competition at age 74 in 2005.
"I think you call that a late bloomer,'' came the understatement from Heckbert.
He placed fifth out of seven competitors in the over 40 category that year. The closest competitor to him in age in the so-called Masters division was 20 years his junior.
"The guys told me I had done so well I'd have to come back,'' he said.
His return earlier this month at the 2009 Atlantic Classic Bodybuilding Championships in Moncton brought the house down.
Heckbert, who turns 79 in July, was given the Inspirational Award after the oldest man ever to compete in this regional championship flexed for the fans in his tiny posing trunks.
"This was a shocker that I got a standing ovation from 400-plus people - a sold-out show,'' he said. "And then to present me with this award and be honoured by my peers, I was practically in shock.''
Heckbert always felt he was far from bulky enough to compete in bodybuilding championships. Still, he has sure liked shaping his body over the years.
As a skinny kid (he prefers the description long and lanky), Heckbert bought his first set of barbells at age 16. He had tired of his slight frame drawing unflattering comments.
"And I started working out and I never stopped,'' he said. "I wanted to look like those guys in the (muscle) books.''
He also took up boxing, which he saw as another means to keep the bullies at bay.
By age 24, he was quite pleased with his physique.
His wife Velda says Heckbert looked "pretty good'' a few years earlier than that when she first met her muscular mate.
She thought early on that her husband would eventually hang up the barbells. Not so.
Heckbert, who for years worked as office and credit manager for Smallman's in Summerside, was destined to be in bodybuilding for the long haul, push and curl.
"I thought he would get over it,'' she said. "It was a passion probably and he just stuck with it.''
Heckbert calls his decades of bodybuilding a lifestyle. He has worked hard over the years to maximize the muscle and minimize the fat on his body.
He still works out three times a week in his garage, an addition to this Summerside home affectionately called Papa Ernie's Gym. The gym holds roughly $10,000 worth of equipment, including about 450 kilograms of free weights that Heckbert uses to strengthen his entire body.
In addition to a full length mirror and a life-size photo of Heckbert posing in competition, the gym features furry toy gorillas, appropriate mascots he explains because the beefy beasts never lose their muscle mass.
Heckbert, even with age 80 not all that far around the corner, is never shy to slip into shorts and pull off his shirt.
"Well, down at the gym, a lot of people say 'you are in great shape for your age' and I say 'let's leave the age out of it','' he said.
He says he feels like 40 and when he hears his wife comment that the couple has nine children, he quips "so far''.
Asked if she has the hunkiest husband who is in his late 70s, Velda responds: "Oh I haven't checked them (Heckbert's elderly competition) out, but probably. . . everybody always tells him he is in good shape.''
Heckbert credits his devotion to bodybuilding, combined with good eating (lots of protein, carbohydrates and fruits), to living a healthy life.
His doctor told Heckbert he was in better shape than anybody the doctor had ever seen over 70. He was also told the pneumonia he had last August would have put most people his age in the hospital, but not him.
Not surprisingly, Heckbert has no plans to push the weights away. He will keep lifting weights, he says, as long as he can breathe, walk and move.
"She (Velda) might even have trouble getting me into a manor (one day) unless they have a gym there,'' he said with a chuckle.

Geographic location: SUMMERSIDE, Moncton

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page

Comments

Comments