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Worth the Weight: Senior Citizens Power Up in Lebanon Group

  • Jack Stinson, 88, of Hanover, N.H., likes to say that "it's all between your ears" at his age. "If I only got physical exercise from being a part of the group, that would be great, but the mental part of it is the most important," he said. As a lifelong hiker, Jack prided himself on always knowing where he was, where he was going, and how to return; but over time, he noticed his mental awareness beginning to fade. The mental focus he works on as part of the routine with the group helps him regain some of what he's lost, he said. (Valley News - John Happel) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Carl Wallin coaches Jane Higgins, 68, of Lebanon, N.H., between throws during the women's masters category at the Dartmouth Relays on January 7, 2017. Many of the members were introduced to lifting and throwing for the first time through their involvement with the group. Through training and competing together, they know what one another is capable of and they encourage each other's personal best achievement. (Valley News - John Happel) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Being a part of the group means training for competition. Aside from powerlifting and Olympic lifting, members compete in throwing events using shot put, weight, discus, hammer and javelin. Roger Penland, 76, of Lebanon, N.H., knew Carl Wallin when they both coached at Dartmouth in the 1960s. When he heard about Wallin's group, he called to congratulate him on the idea. Before he knew it, Wallin had him out on the field throwing track instruments. (Valley News - John Happel) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Gisela Johns, 75, of Lebanon, N.H., practices a powerlift with the help of Chuck McLeary, 81, of Springfield, Vt., at the CCBA in Lebanon. Both have been with the group for several years now. Like most members of the group, they were approached by Wallin with the offer to give these activities a try to see if it was something they enjoyed. (Valley News - John Happel) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Thor's Stone Athletic Club began five years ago when former Dartmouth Field Coach Carl Wallin began teaching Olympic lifting and throwing to anyone who showed interest. The group has attracted a number of seniors who prove that aging only brings new stages of challenge and strength. They train at the CCBA in Lebanon four times a week and participate in national competitions. (Valley News - John Happel) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Cal Wolfe, of Lebanon, N.H., would have needed to use his arms to pull himself up from a chair just three years ago, he said. In a recent lifting competition, Wolfe performed a 179-pound squat. Wolfe knows that he has to work harder to maintain his strength at his age, but being a part of the group gives him the focus to always be improving. At 77-years-old, he competes in most of the throwing and powerlifting competitions. (Valley News - John Happel) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Jack Stinson, 88, left, Cal Wolfe, 77, and David Brooker, 73, joke with each other while getting ready to bench press at the CCBA in Lebanon. Those who participate on a regular basis discover that the combination of exercise, socializing and competition brings back a sense of camaraderie that is sometimes hard to sustain as people get older. (Valley News - John Happel) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



STORY BY LIZ SAUCHELLI
Sunday, January 22, 2017

Lebanon — Ask members of Thor’s Stone Athletic Club what led them to join the weightlifting group and they’ll point to one man: Carl Wallin.

“He’s very good at giving older people a sense of self-worth,” said Jeff Licht, 67, of Hanover. “None of this would be possible without Carl.”

Wallin, 75, of Lebanon, started the group, which includes more than 40 members and meets four times a week at the Carter Community Building Association in Lebanon, after he retired from Dartmouth College, where he was the track and field coach for 40 years. Since then, the athletes involved have participated in competitions and set world records.

“I consider each and every man and woman one of my best friends,” he said.

And his deep regard for each individual in the group is apparent in his interactions with them: there’s the words of encouragement as Wallin coaches them one-on-one and the ever-present pride in his voice as he recounts competition victories, where members were physically when they started in the group, where they are now and where he knows they will be.

“Three-and-a-half years ago, I could barely get out a chair,” recalled Cal Wolfe, 77, of Lebanon, while taking a break from lifting on a recent morning at the CCBA. “Now I’m deadlifting 300 pounds and I have no trouble getting out of chairs or carrying grocery bags.”

Wolfe’s story is echoed by Chuck McCleary, 82, of Springfield, Vt., who was a runner before having foot surgery.

“I’d never lifted before,” McCleary said. Weightlifting, with Wallin’s encouragement, has helped to fill the void left when he stopped running. “I can’t say enough good about him.”

David Brooker, 73, of Lebanon, was working out at the gym one day when Wallin approached him. “Do you want to get stronger?” Brooker recalled him asking. Pretty soon, Brooker was powerlifting and competing in throwing events.

For members of the group, the mental and social benefits of working out are perhaps just as important as the physical.

“When you’re retired you still need some form of structure,” Brooker said. “We have a wonderful group and I love the camaraderie. Everyone here has a good sense of humor.”

Hanover resident Peter Aptakin no longer drives, but that hasn’t affected his participation — other club members give him rides to and from the gym.

“My distinction among these people is that I’m the oldest among them,” the 92-year-old said. Aptakin had started to come to the CCBA to work on his upper body strength. “Then Carl found me.”

“I find that it is quite addicting,” Aptakin said. “It has made me stronger and healthier.”

Roger Penland had known Wallin for decades when he heard about Thor’s Stone and called to congratulate him on the club’s success.

“The next thing I knew, I was out in the field throwing” the hammer and shot put, the 76-year-old West Lebanon resident said.

Penland started competing in events until he was sidelined with a heart attack a few years ago. His doctor had cautioned against him returning to the lifting, telling him he was already doing enough physical activity.

But Penland missed it.

“I like the camaraderie and competition that is instilled here,” he said. With Wallin’s help, he slowly got back into it.

Penland recently met with his doctor, who declared him to be in good health.

“It gets harder as you get older. You just need to keep going,” Penland said. “This group does well. Most of that is because Carl is such a great coach.”

For Wallin, while the competition matters, the connections he has formed with other members of the club matter more.

“We all have a wonderful time,” Wallin said.

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.