Age defying 80-year-old personal trainer keeping older Americans in fighting shape
04/22/2017 // JD Heyes // Views

You may have heard the expression, especially among older people, that “age is just a number,” and that just because a person gets older doesn’t mean they should just curl up on a couch and wait to die.

At least, that's what one 80-year-old retired Army colonel and personal trainer believes, anyway.

That’s right; he’s a personal trainer. And his clientele is mostly retired people as well, whom he is not only keeping off the couch but for some, keeping them in fighting shape. And frankly, as politically polarized as our country is right now – in addition to the mounting global tensions – the last thing anyone should want is to become a couch potato.

As reported by the Washington Post, 6’2” Lawrence Dawson has worked as a personal fitness trainer for the past 17 years at the Chinn Aquatic and Fitness center in Woodbridge, Va. He’s the oldest trainer there – by about 30 years. But not only is he there training four days a week, he still has no thought of retiring, though many people his age have long since done so.

What’s also notable is that Dawson isn’t ‘soft’ on his clients. He doesn’t get in their faces and yell to motivate, but he does put them through the paces: Combat ropes, weight lifting, box jumps, and other exercises that would tire out people half their age. (RELATED: Be Fit Enough To Fight If You Have To)

Dawson – long and lean and looking at times like he’s in his late 50s or early 60s – has some of his own age-related ailments and conditions to deal with. He wears (largely hidden) hearing aids, deals with a sometimes-gimpy knee, and has to hold his wrist at a certain angle when playing racquetball.


But he’s 80, and he still plays racquetball. That should tell you something about his abilities right there.

His age and his own personal physical dealings are exactly the sorts of things that many of his clients are attracted to.

“I just felt that he would understand my needs and my limitations better,” Bill Skinner, 80, a retiree from Manassas, and a twice-per-week client of Dawson’s, told the Post.

Older clients give Dawson the kind of challenge he enjoys, though.

“The body, as Churchill said, is a conundrum wrapped in an enigma,” he told the paper. “At 70-plus, you probably can’t do the 100 in under 25, but you have an intuitive understanding of what your body can do. When you start breathing and sweating, that intuition takes over and you become another person.”

Dawson learned the “battle” ropes through the years. He developed his training methods through 25 years in the U.S. Army, which included tours of duty in Congo, Germany, Nigeria and Vietnam. Plus, he’s a two-time senior Olympian for Northern Virginia in the 75-and-over category. He’s able to grab an overhead bar and, in an abdominal feat, pull his feet up level with it.

His soft tone belies the physical expectations he has for his clients, the Post noted.

“Some of the ladies who are in their 70s, I say to them, ‘You’ve got to have an attitude where if you’re on the street, you’ve got to be able to knee people in the groin, you’ve got to be able to jab right there and shatter their nose.’ They kind of recoil when I say that to them, but then when they practice on the dummy they get into it,” he said.

Exactly, and that’s the point of keeping in the best physical shape possible, at every point in your life. Getting older in our society doesn’t earn you any kind of respect from thugs; all it does far too often is simply make you more of a target because young punks think you’re a pushover.

Don’t be a pushover, is Dawson’s message. (RELATED: What Have You Done TODAY To Be More Fit To Defend Yourself And Your Country From Terrorists?)

“My motto is, you ought to not have any muscles that are living rent-free. Everybody has a job to do,” he noted.

And while weightlifting for older folks may be okay for some, Dawson has a different philosophy.

“I’d much rather have you be flexible and be able to respond quickly,” he said, adding that he tries to get clients’ heart rate and breathing going, to increase endurance and stamina.

J.D. Heyes is a senior writer for and, as well as editor of The National Sentinel.


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