Eighty-five-year-old 24 Hour Fitness member Tony Sanchez credits his insatiable curiosity and his family for getting him into fitness and sticking with it. He joined 24 Hour Fitness a month after it opened back in 1984, and he never looked back.
A California native, Tony served in the Army and after he was discharged, he became a welder and later forged a successful and long career selling real estate.
We sat down with Tony to talk about his forty-year commitment to fitness and how he managed it.
24Life: How did you first become aware that you needed to get fit?
Tony Sanchez: I believe things happen for a reason. I was in my early 40s, and my daughter was just a little girl. I had her on my lap, and she said, “Daddy, you have a nice table here.” She then patted my stomach.
24Life: And prior to that, you’d had issues with underweight due to hyperthryroidism that went many years undiagnosed.
TS: After treatment, [my doctor] said, “I’m sending you home.” He says, “You’re going to be gaining weight.” He says, “When you get to 140, stop.” I said, “Okay.” So 140, 160, 170, 180, 190. It was I think about 210, 215 when it finally slowed down.
At that time, there was no 24 Hour Fitness [in my area]. You could go to a fitness class at the Y. It was funny because you wanted to go, and you didn’t want to go, because there was nothing but women. Three of us guys, we were the only guys that went. And we said, “If you come Wednesday, I’ll come Wednesday, okay?” You needed support. Two or three guys against all those women. [Then later] 24-Hour Fitness opened in April of 1984. And I signed up. And I started going. And I got so addicted that I was going there at 6 o’clock in the morning, and I wasn’t leaving until 9:00, 9:30, and just doing everything.
24Life: It sounds like you enjoy it and we hear you’re unstoppable!
TS: The support I’ve gotten from everybody there is just – they think I’m a role model, but they don’t know how much they support me. And that makes me go even more. I’ve built up some great relationships [with instructors].
I was 65 years old when we decided to go hike up Half Dome at Yosemite. We spent the whole weekend hiking up to the Half Dome. And it was unbelievable, the sights up there. It took us about four hours to climb up, and four hours to get back.
24Life: How do you stay motivated?
TS: I come from a family of 12. And everybody in the family took care of each other. I’ve been very fortunate. I have my oldest daughter. She’s 63. My son is just turned 50, and we just had a little granddaughter. And my daughter Gloria has three girls. And my son-in-law, he’s a jewel.
My son is my number one fan. When I was 66, he was 32. And he came to our home one day and he said, “Dad, my friends and I are going to learn how to rollerblade and join a hockey team. You want to join us?” And I said, “Yeah.”
[Then] he said, “Dad, you got to try ice.” I said, “I have never been on ice in my life.” He says, “Dad, just try it.” So what do I do? I tried it. So I did rollerblading for 18 years and ice skating for 16 years.
24Life: So your family has been instrumental in keeping you going.
TS: And [24 Hour Fitness team members] keep me going. The more I went, I just loved it. I just love the camaraderie. There’s times when people will go in there to do the class the first time, and they start walking out. I go after them and say, “Look, we all went through this. We all got to learn the steps. Come four or five times, do the routine, and you’ll be fine.”
24Life: What do you do for rest and recovery?
TS: I work on the yard and whatnot. I have an apartment for rent right now. I went out there and just threw a bunch of sheetrock. It took me about five hours, but I feel great. Then I went to the gym. At this point in my life, I don’t know that I need down time. I just never learned how to spell the word “stress.”
24Life: Any final words of advice?
TS: Do it. Don’t procrastinate.