An 80-year-old’s workout kicks my butt

When a guy I interviewed recently for a diabetes magazine told me he controls his blood sugar with daily stair-running, I couldn’t resist giving his workout a try.

Having recently climbed up a 25-story skyscraper without pausing to catch my breath, I figured I was up for the challenge — especially considering the guy I was writing about is 80 years old.

Bonny Damocles told me he runs up and down a single flight of 16 steps in his house for a total of 100 minutes, broken up into 4 sets of 25 minutes.

Using our 12-step stairway, I stopped running after 3 minutes and began to walk. I finished that first 25-minute set, and managed to do three more sets over the course of the day, but except for a couple of minutes at the beginning of each, I had to settle for walking up the steps.

The difficulty here is that in addition to the lung-busting component, running stairs is mind-numbingly dull unless you are listening to a really riveting book on tape (which is what helped me get through sets 2-4. Thank you, Jonathan Kellerman).


Does this guy look 80? 

So what’s the secret to Bonny’s mental toughness? For starters, a profound desire to avoid taking medication to control his type 2 diabetes. He’s coming up on 25 years since his diagnosis and says he’s in excellent health with no complications from the disease. That takes an extraordinary amount of willpower and dedication to a hardcore fitness program. As a guy who sometimes went days at a time without food growing up in the Philippines during World War II, Bonny definitely has a survivor’s mindset. Running stairs was the toughest — and cheapest — form of exercise he could think of. When it brought his blood sugar down from over 400 to 130 in 10 days, convincing his doctor he could continue his regimen without meds, Bonny’s course was set. (It doesn’t hurt that he’s not a very big guy, carrying 139 pounds on a 5-7 frame, so he has less mass to haul up those stairs.)

I really HATE this workout. And yet I now find myself doing it at least once a week. As somebody who primarily works from home, it’s appealing to have tough workouts that I can do even when I think I don’t have time. Fitting in 15 minutes here and there gets me past those points in the day when I feel momentarily “stuck.” And I’m slowly starting to build up how many of those stairs I run up vs. walking.

So: Thanks, Bonny, for the inspiration – I think.  🙂

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11 Responses to An 80-year-old’s workout kicks my butt

  1. What a guy! I just can’t run up stairs … and there are some lovely stairs on my beach … my heart nearly explodes just walking up them … do you find it gets easier? (After your skyscrapper trip you are my stair pro now).

  2. bgddyjim says:

    I ride with a guy like that. He’s 68 and I can’t keep up. Drives me nuts.

  3. GP Cox says:

    There’s an 80-year that kicks my butt at our park’s workout trail – so I feel your pain!! (Literally!!)

    • tischcaylor says:

      I certainly don’t mind getting my butt kicked by people who inspire me, and that’s certainly the case here. If we keep chasing those 80-year-olds eventually some younguns will have to hustle to keep up with us as well. 🙂

  4. bonny says:

    Thanks for the story about me. You really are a very good writer.
    Bonny Damocles

    • tischcaylor says:

      Thanks, Bonny. I thought about you on our vacation last week every time I took the stairs up to the condo rather than the elevator. (Just four flights, but hopefully they added up.) 🙂

      • bonny says:

        Thank you very much for taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

        To make it easier, faster, and simpler to write something for me, what do you think of a guidebook/manual/instruction book on stair walking and other things that I have been doing to manage my diabetes? I think that a day or two or three will be enough time for you to finish it.


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