ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Fred Glass has not forgotten the days when he weighed 99 pounds and fought to avoid bullies at his Allentown, Pa., high school.
It was a curse that followed him during the four years he spent in the Air Force. He was just a few pounds heavier than he was in high school.
Soon after leaving the service, Glass learned that power lifting could help him gain weight. He took the lesson to heart.
More than 50 years later, at age 76, Glass is a 20-time world champion who can easily lift more than 400 pounds.
He is no longer bullied. In fact, he enjoys chatting with his previous bullies during class reunions. He doesn’t try to intimidate them, but he knows he could.
A lifetime follower of Jack LaLanne, Glass says that while he could never accomplish any of LaLanne’s record-setting feats — which include doing 1,033 pushups in 23 minutes and swimming the length of the Golden Gate Bridge — he is convinced that he can squat and lift more than LaLanne ever did during his training.
Glass’ goals for lifting weights, however, are more ambitious than just being strong. He wants to stay healthy and young.
“You don’t have to age,” Glass said.
He is a role model for younger weight-lifters who see that you can remain strong no matter the age.
“It’s terrific,” said Chris Lottrary, a 59-year-old lifter who trains three times a week at Glass’ home. “It makes me feel like I’m going to keep going. It can be done.”
Besides an array of free-weights and machines, Glass’ house is filled with a dizzying number of medals, certificates and trophies. Most are in the basement, where he trains. But his most prized awards are in a dresser in his living room.
That’s where he keeps his first world championship trophy, which he earned in Italy more than three decades ago. The award is particularly valuable to him because the rules of the competition did not require doping tests. He knew that some of his competitors would be using steroids.
Not only did Glass win his category, but he also was chosen the best lifter in the competition.
“That was like putting a regular car against a NASCAR and winning,” he said.
The win propelled his discipline. He competed in every weight-lifting contest he could enter in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. He has won championships in the 123, 132, 148 and 165 pound divisions, with world records in most of them. He won all of them, he says, steroid-free.
He had tried anabolic steroids briefly at the beginning of his career in the 1960s, but quickly stopped when he learned that the side effects could cut his life short.
“I was scared,” he said. It was a small dose, he says. His peers insisted that if he upped the amount, he would be twice as strong in no time.
“Yeah, but I want to live,” he told them.
He has passed his philosophy to his pupils. The more he has grown in the sport, the more he has tried to help others catch up.
Glass has trained several other world champions and introduced countless new enthusiasts to the sport. He often recruits talented youngsters, and then does everything he can to help them reach their goals, author and fellow power lifter Tim McClellan writes in his book, “Inner Strength/ Inner Peace: Life Changing Lessons From the World’s Greatest.”
Glass’ volunteer work includes driving his friends to Chicago to compete at a national contest or driving a similar distance to judge other competitions, a job that doesn’t pay.
He is still as competitive as he was when he began the sport. He keeps charts from previous training sessions at his house. It is proof of how he has helped his friends do their best. Glass celebrates each milestone, and then pushes himself to do better than his strongest pupil.
“How can some old guy be this strong, run and do most things that younger people can’t?” he is often asked.
He trains six times a week, he avoids caffeine and sugars and he eats large amounts of protein. He also consumes more than $300 a month in nutritional supplements. And his secret trick: He spends time every night before he goes to sleep visualizing himself reaching his next milestone.
It all comes together when he faces the free weights. No matter how much he has to lift, he always has the same strategy:
“Close your eyes and pull like hell.”
Tips to becoming a successful weight lifter:
• Start light: Do not push yourself to do more than reasonable for your weight and experience level.
• Set short-term goals: Set your goals the month before and work your way up month by month.
• Eat healthfully: Diminish your intake of sugar and caffeine. Gravitate toward protein.