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Ageless at 50 & 70

Clarence at 50 in Winett’s Ageless Athletes

Wonderful events sometimes come out of the blue. For us, it happened twice. Chapters on Clarence in books written 20 years apart turned up almost simultaneously. To our surprise and delight, Lee Bergquist's chapter on Clarence at 70 in Second Wind: The Rise of the Ageless Athlete popped up online unexpectedly in August.  And now, Richard Winett’s Ageless Athletes (Contemporary Books, 1988) portraying Clarence at 50 (along with 17 others) has come back into our possession after a long absence. What’s more, Dr. Winett has given us permission to post the entire piece on Clarence, photos and all.  

Winett’s book was returned to us after residing with the directors of the Albuquerque (now NM) Sports Hall of Fame for about 20 years. (Clarence has been nominated numerous times, but never made it to the top of the list.) We are reminded what a truly great book Dr. Winett produced almost 30 years ago. Looking back, we realize the tremendous amount of leg work and effort Winett put into researching, interviewing, and writing about men and women who were pushing their limits at a time in their lives when most athletes have retired to the sidelines. Bill Pearl, Frank Zane and several female bodybuilders, Al Oerter and other track and field athletes, marathoners, a race walker, and a swimmer were included. Lee Bergquist’s book, written 20 years later, is similar, but was released to much more fanfare.

“It is hard now to believe what I considered 'old' back then, with 55-60 seeming ancient,” Winett reminisced. “[I] even recall back then…that resistance training…was more or less considered not very good, sort a of cult activity.”

Bergquist noted the changing attitude in the 20 years that followed, quoting Waneen W. Spirduso, a professor of kinesiology and public health at the University of Texas at Austin, who used pictures of Clarence in her landmark text Physical Dimensions of Aging to make the point that strength and muscular endurance decline mostly because of lack of exercise. “One of the clearest findings in the literature on strength and aging is that disuse accelerates aging,” she wrote.

A professor of psychology, Winett explored Clarence’s motivational strategies at length. “For Clarence,” he wrote, “real winners are people who steadily improve themselves and like what they are doing, not necessarily someone who walks away with a trophy.” Bergquist, on the other hand, focused more on the inevitability of aging. "Bass's approach to aging underscores a trait I've seen in older superfit persons: They use knowledge, experience, and sometimes a healthy dose of independence to find a way to adapt," he wrote.

Dick was clearly ahead of his time. We thanked him then, but it could not have been enough. We greatly enjoyed being refreshed on a wonderful time in our life.

We are honored and thankful that Lee and Dick have seen fit to write about Clarence. They are both masters at what they do, Lee an award-winning investigative reporter and Dick an often-published scientist.

Dr. Winett’s portrait of Clarence follows in its entirety. Compare it with Lee Bergquist’s coverage 20 years later: http://www.cbass.com/SecondWind.htm.

Both are telling. Some things have changed--training at 50 and 70 provides valuable insights--and others are essentially the same.

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