The atmosphere at 24 Hour Fitness in Boulder is powered by a rich layer of raw energy, a trill of clanking steel twisted into a motherlode of shapes and sizes, groans and laughter.
The relentless pursuit of Harder. Faster. Stronger.
While this scene reveals a river of unleashed adrenaline at its finest, there’s a subtext of sorts which focuses on the elevation of mind and body. The road is sweetened by signing up for the Silver Sneakers program. Sponsored by Tivity Health, it offers free membership to those 65 and older.
“We lift what we can,” notes John Stalick, ushering a new arrival into the honeycomb freckled with other workout bees working on their personal infrastructures.
“At my age, you’ve got to keep the parts moving,” adds Stalick, a retired entrepreneur, intelligence analyst and U.S. Capitol police officer. Fun fact: Drawing on his Wyoming roots layered atop a Grizzly Adams demeanor, it’s no surprise he was raised by a family of rebellious prairie dogs.
Jim Wilkins, an 80-year-old Boulder resident, carries flat syllables that follow Tobacco Road to his native North Carolina. He believes “it’s more social than anything else.”
Like the melting snowpack, Boulder County is changing. The Boulder Area Agency on Aging reports the number of older adults 60 and older, relative to other age brackets, is growing at a faster clip than ever; it’s not expected to stabilize until 2040. (And I was under the impression that Boulder County was a hotbed of those reared on “Grand Theft Auto.”)
Weightlifting, Ann Clark concurs, offers another bonus: It lifts her spirits. And it can do the same for anyone.
Clark, 72, has been working out at the gym for years. Like the old sitcom “Cheers,” everyone knows her name. At this writing, she’s pressing “just 50 pounds. I’m more about consistency than heavy weightlifting.”
Clark, who retired from a career in sales and discovered Boulder after “hitchhiking” there as a young woman from her native Wisconsin, relishes the banter woven into the social fabric at the gym.
“I love getting together and discussing politics,” declares Clark, who holds a degree in comparative world religions from Miami University in Ohio. “With so many having been isolated because of COVID, it’s very important to share ideas.”
There’s a good chance you’ll see a tall, well-chiseled guy rolling a mop and bucket around the 40,000-square foot facility. Oh, that’s Derek Deines. The affable manager serves as the unofficial poster child for the club, walking the talk, proving that he’s not above getting his hands dirty. Deines emphasizes cleanliness, keeping the equipment humming, and building friendships.
Deines recalls the time a woman came in. After joining, she worked out. Then things went into overtime. “She stayed for an hour after her workout, talking to people she hadn’t seen in a long time and meeting others. I met my wife at a 24 Hour Fitness in Broomfield.”
But after the regimen, the weightlifting, the toning up the chest muscles, the shoulders, the inner and outer thighs, it’s off to the sauna and then soapy showers.
But the trio is just warming up.
Next stop: Vic’s Again, a popular coffee shop nestled a short stroll from the gym. That’s where the discomfort and joy of competing against yourself takes a turn, reemerging as simply comfort and joy.
In this art deco motif, you’re forced to go for the gold in verbal gymnastics. The formidable opponent: Karen Dolphin. She’s the cashier, the heart of the post-workout cool down. She also lifts weights, rides on a stationary bike and hikes.
“Is Vic the owner?”
“Mike’s the owner,” she replies, faking her signature grumpiness.
When I ask the story behind the name of the shop, she pleads ignorance. “I don’t wanna know.”
Then I asked how she got the name Dolphin.
“I was born with it,” she snaps. “Ask my father.”
At our table, Clark sounds a note of discouragement.
“I’m not as good as normal,” she laments, grabbing her upper body. “I did something to my shoulder blade.”
“She’s a young whippersnapper!” reassures Stalick, sipping his brew and immersed in the festivities.
Just then, Dolphin, ever in character, marches over to the table and drops four pennies. It’s part of what Wilkins left in the tip jar on the counter.
“She hates me,” he blurts out.
“With good reason,” replies Stalick, carefully opening a plastic bag oozing with homemade peanut butter cookies. He passed them around. Everyone munches on theirs contentedly.
But not Vic.
John Stalick’s soon-to-be-world renowned peanut butter cookie recipe.
1 cup peanut butter
2½ cups flour
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar, 1 white, one brown
Pinches of baking soda and baking powder
Mix ingredients. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes. Cool.
Anthony Glaros is D.C. native and longtime reporter for numerous publications. He taught high-school English in suburban Montgomery County, Md.