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Hampshire Hills Sports Complex. Autumn 1977 by Jim Ganley

Sun, Feb 16, 2014 at 10:40PM

Chet was new to the club. Tipping the scale at over 250 pounds at perhaps five feet nine inches tall, he sat before my desk explaining that he wanted to lose weight and get into the kind of condition he had been able to achieve in high school. I soon learned that Chet had been a good athlete, good enough to have been Captain of the football team at Lowell High School in Massachusetts. But that was nearly 15 years prior, and he had reservations about his ability to achieve this goal because he felt he may have been too old. Chet was 32.

“If you think you’re too old, then you probably are,” I told him, but suggested he try the program while keeping an open mind to what he might be able to achieve. Chet worked as a teacher at the local high school, and was married to a social worker who, like him, was obese and unhealthy. As soon as I heard this I knew that Chet would have his hands full. While perhaps I should have warned him about the outcome should he be able to achieve his stated goals, I held my tongue and watched the scene unfold.

At my urging, Chet chose to prioritize his fitness program. He totally changed the way he was eating, dropping alcohol and junk food. He came to the gym three days a week for weight workouts, while he also was running three days a week, eventually working his way up to five mile jaunts on hills. 

By the Spring of 1979 Chet might have been the fittest member at Hampshire Hills. He was weighing a very lean 175 pounds and was good enough to enter that year’s Mr. New Hampshire Contest. His transformation had been incredible.

Then the problems started. All along Chet’s wife had been quite vocal in expressing her displeasure with his new, lean and muscular appearance. Professionally, Chet had become jaded with the current state of public education and wanted to explore other career options. His wife took a dim view of this as well. Not long after this Chet wound up getting divorced. Then he resigned from his teaching job and opened a hair styling salon.

Chet and I did not cross paths again until the spring of 1993. It was while I was with a client for his first appointment on our way into the Merrimack YMCA.  As my client and I were on our way up the stairs, we were set upon by a rotund, middle-aged man descending the staircase. He had a bulky duffel bag slung over his left shoulder.

“JIMMY!” shouted the man. I was forced to do a double take. It was Chet, and he had regained all of the weight he had lost, but was quick to make excuses about growing older, lack of time, professional responsibilities, and on and on ad migrainium.  

Then, with me and my prospective client seeing, but not believing, Chet dumped that overstuffed duffel bag  on the stairs, and pulled out a slide projector. Using the white-washed stairwell wall as a movie screen, Chet treated us to highlights of his posing routine from the 1979 NH State Bodybuilding Championships.

“That’s the kind of shape, I was in!”  Chet informed my client, “Jimmy’s the best!”

Later I swore to my client that this had not been staged, that I had not seen Chet since 1980, but it’s doubtful he believed me.

Another example which I can cite is the story of Roger. I met Roger for the first time in the fall of 1974 in the Manchester YMCA Weight Room.  At that time Roger was employed as a book keeper for a large, local trucking outfit. The father of two young children, he was married to an overbearing, morbidly obese woman. At that time Roger was a small, timid man who appeared to have been dominated and ridiculed by friends, co-workers, and family.  But changes were definitely on the horizon for him when he began to improve physically.

My attention was drawn to him late one morning. It was the screaming that did it. Roger was leaning his back against a post as he curled a 50 pound barbell for all he was worth. There was crying too, tears streaming down his cheeks.

Not long after this, Roger bench pressed 200 pounds for the first time and lost it completely.

“I GOT IT ! I GOT IT!” he shouted to the rafters, and we all were happy for what he had been able to achieve. This changed Roger. Next day at work, he punched out his boss and was fired.

We all used to laugh about how when the locker room talk was going strong, Roger would be nearby eve’s dropping, seeming to be truly amazed by our adventures. But we were single and Roger was a married father of two.

This probably explains why he had an affair with some woman he had met and hid her love letters in the trunk of the family car.  His wife found the letters. Roger fled the country. We heard some time after that  he was holed up in the Montreal YMCA where he had a job folding towels and got to lift for free, now a new and very lonely man.


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