“It kept me alive,” Eugene Charlesworth says, choking up as he remembers his transformation from a skinny kid to the Men’s Health model. “It kept me engaged, it kept me focused.”
In the midst of a mental health crisis, Douglas Matthews had only just started training in a gym for the first time at age 40. He feels that the gym helped save his life and that his experience is proof that there’s never been a better time to begin exercising.
“It was a really dark period in my life. I’d had enough and wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue living. My friend was very into the fitness scene and noticed that I was falling apart, so he invited me along with him. But I just kept going even though it looked like a lot of nonsense to me.”
He’s been doing it for years. Charlesworth says that, initially, he concentrated on compound training as a fast approach to get in shape and shed body fat – deadlifts, squats and clean and jerks. He began to develop trust in himself, confidence, and a helpful outlet for his difficulties as he saw his body change.
“You can give it all your aggression when you pick up the bar and grip it. It goes through the equipment like a bolt of lightning, then you do not take it out on others.”
Charlesworth’s regimen is still going strong at 60 years old, and he is much happier and healthier as a result. He claims the key to keeping his figure is working out every day, which he does since “training is like eating or breathing.”He’s not performed deadlifts in a while, but nevertheless, he’s had to make modifications to his routine, so while performing squats and clean and jerks that earned him a spot on MH’s radar are still present, deadlifts have been removed from the equation.
“It’s just too dangerous as the body becomes more brittle and the muscles tear more readily as you grow older,” he adds. “Plus, injuries take much longer to heal.”
Charlesworth’s exercise routine has gotten more vigorous as he gets older, and he advises other men to do the same. “As we grow older, we tend to become a lot less active, so maintaining your cardio is critical,” he adds.
While Charlesworth’s training has changed in the last 15 years, he thinks that the fitness industry hasn’t. He feels sorry for the fact that there is no diversity in the gym and isn’t a fan of the notion that he is essentially alone (almost) among pensioners in the weights room. He believes exercise’s potential in terms of mental health has not been fully realized, and that more must be done to make gyms accessible for all people.
“There’s no plan for anybody else. It hasn’t changed in 15 years, and it’s gotten much worse. I want to assist those who are hesitant to step into a gym,” he says. “I’m really frustrated that we have so many gyms, but they’re unappealing to so many people.”
To avoid this, he urges gym members to be polite to newcomers, greet the person close to you and “stop walking around the gym like you have two carpets underneath your arms.”
He has this message for anyone frightened by gyms crowded with people who – frankly – resemble him: “Don’t be fooled by a person’s appearance into believing they have the ideal existence. Mental health is just as essential. Do you want to be able to function and be happy, or do you wish to have nice abs and be mentally unstable? The gym is not only about pumping iron; it guided me in the right direction when I was on the verge of following a bad path.”
And how will Eugene be celebrating his 60th birthday? Of course, with a cruise. “I’m already smiling because I can envision myself strolling the ship at age 60 – and I’ll be wearing Speedos,” he chuckles.