HOPEWELL, Va. -- It’s not uncommon for men in their 60s to enjoy a hobby like golf or fishing. But for Barry Walker, weight training is his escape. The 62-year-old has been fine tuning and shaping his body since he was in high school.
“This has been more of a friendly gym than any gym I’ve been too,” said Barry. “I feel very comfortable. This is home for me.”
It's not just his way of life. It’s his livelihood. You see, this gym rat owns the gym. Walkers Gym opened in the heart of Hopewell 28 years ago.
“I’d say there is only one other business on this street that has been here longer than we are,” said Barry.
Frills? You won't find them here.
“It’s not like a gym where people are standing in front of the mirror smiling and looking at themselves and all of that,” said Barry.
Customers say Walker's is a throwback to a simpler time. Barry says the only thing that changes in his gym? Muscle size.
“There really isn’t hard core lifting at the gyms no more. I don’t think,” said Barry.
Some of the well-worn, homemade machines date back to the Nixon administration.
“When I buy new equipment, I don’t throw nothing else away. Because as soon as I buy new equipment and move it I will have 10 people lining up saying I used that and now it’s not here. So, I never throw nothing away,” explained Barry.
If Barry needs inspiration he need not look far. Walker's Gym is a family affair. Curtis, Barry's 85-year-old father, works the front desk.
“He is here five days a week,” said Barry.
The elder Walker is no stranger to punishing regimens which get results. Curtis captured power lifting titles around the globe. The competitive spirit still burns deep inside.
“I’m proud of him. I come down here trying to help him keep it opening. I’m proud of him,” said Curtis.
Spending so much time at the gym doesn't concern Barry's significant other. Jeanette Walker, his bride of nearly 40 years, trains almost daily and competes annually.
“She is probably into it a little more than me if the truth was known,” he said.
“They’ll tell Barry, I want to work out, but I don’t want to look like your wife,” said Jeanette.
The walkers prove a couple which lifts together grows stronger.
“I think we motivate each other. We keep each other going,” added Jeanette.
But their bond was nearly broken recently when Barry's most important muscle 'stopped' pumping.
“I’ve had a double bypass in the last 12 weeks,” said Barry.
During surgery to fix a genetic disorder in his heart three months ago Barry essentially died in the operating room. Twice.
“The more you think about it… It will scare you if you think about it,” he said.
Doctors say their patient's top physical conditioning helped save his life. Twelve weeks later Barry Walker is back pumping iron.
“Never be satisfied with the shape you are now. Always try to get in better shape,” said Barry.
Barry Walker says he has too many reps and sets ahead to give up. He says for now Heaven can wait.
“I still feel like I’m in my 40’s,” said Barry. “I would like to do it forever if I could. I’ll constantly train. Until I can’t get out of bed that is when I’ll stop. You know. Hopefully, that will never happen.”
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