We all know that working out with a friend is a great motivator. But what about working out with your twin? Double fun or double jeopardy? Ask twin brothers Rod and Ron Johnson. The pair belong to Welcyon, and encourage each other to work out three or four times a week. The only catch is Rod's club is in Boise, ID, and Ron's is in Lakewood, CO. Yet despite the mountains and plains between them, they remain closer than many siblings who live in the same town. You might say, this is a case of distance making the heart grow stronger.
“At our age, staying upright isn't a given—you've got to work at it!” —Rod J.
After Rod Johnson had a triple-bypass in 2014, he realized it was time to get serious about his health. Not that Rod, now 84, has ever been a slacker. From serving aboard B-29 bombers during the Korean War to pioneering scientific research as a specialist in animal diseases and nutrition, he has been active and energetic for most of his life. But it wasn't until he was recovering from the painful surgery that he considered joining a health club again.
“I'd belonged to other clubs in years past, but now those places didn't seem like the right fit. They're all about people much younger than me.” As chance would have it, that's when a brochure from Welcyon turned up in the mail. The idea of a gym for people over 50 really resonated with Rod, so he decided to give it a try. Now he and his wife, Judith, workout three days a week.
“That's part of the secret of longevity. You focus on the things you're doing—that mean something to you—and don't get lazy. It'll keep you going. It's as simple as that.” —Rod J.
“I built a lot of strength and tone in my muscles pretty rapidly,” Rod recalls. “It increased my already high energy levels—and I've always had a lot of energy and go. There's people half my age who get tired before I do,” Rod laughed. Apart from doing circuits on the machines, he always works on stretching and balance. “At our age, staying upright isn't a given—you've got to work at it!”
By far the greatest benefit he's found at Welcyon can't be measured by a computer or on a chart.
“It keeps me focused. And that's part of the secret of longevity—goals and focus. You focus on the things you're doing—that mean something to you—and don't get lazy. It'll keep you going. It's as simple as that.”
Inevitably, Rod called his brother Ron in Colorado, and enthused about the club. Like his twin, Ron has a colorful resume that includes war-time service aboard B-29s, and a career as a chemical engineer working for major companies like DuPont. So although the pair share a common history and many passions, gyms was not one of them. In fact, Ron—who still regularly skis, snow-shoes, hikes and bikes in the Rockies—had tried gyms and found them a big turnoff.
“For a while, I went to a gym that was covered by our insurer,” he said. “But it was filled with huge weight lifters—all tattooed from head to toe—walking around in short t-shirts and shorts. They looked like Tarzan! A guy like me feels a little conspicuous at a place like that.”
Still, he realized that maintaining muscle and cardio strength was the key to continuing his athletic lifestyle. So during a visit to see his “big brother” in Boise (Ron likes reminding people that he is younger by “almost 15 minutes”), he tagged along for one of Rod's Welcyon workouts.
“I want to keep doing the things I've always done in the past—at my age, there aren't many people skiing. The one way to do that is to get strong and stay in shape.” Ron J.
“What a big change from that muscle gym. I liked the equipment and the coaches, and that it was for people our age. So I worked out there a couple times.” The only thing he didn't like was that there wasn't a Welcyon in Colorado.
That all changed shortly after returning to his Denver-area suburb. “One day a while later, my wife and I were driving down Wadsworth in Lakewood. And what do you know, there it was—Welcyon,” Ron recalled. Although the club was still under construction, he and Marilyn signed up on the spot and became charter members. Today, they work out three or more times a week, taking advantage of the strength and cardio circuits, plus the new yoga and Tai Chi classes.
“As you get older you need to be concerned about your overall level of health. I want to keep doing the things I've always done in the past—at my age, there aren't many people skiing. The one way to do that is to get strong and stay in shape,” Ron explained. “The gym is toning up my legs, chest, and arms. And the yoga is helping my flexibility and balance. This club proves that you can get healthy no matter how old you are.”
His big brother echoes Ron's perspective and expands on it.
“If you can walk—you can go to the club! You don't have to be Joe Atlas!” Rod said. “Even if you can't use all the equipment at first, you can do enough to improve your breathing and strength, and take it from there. In the long run, it will prevent a lot of diseases, and help you live a better life as you age.”
During their frequent phone calls—sometimes the brothers chat as much as three times a day—they compare workout notes, and egg each other on toward new goals. Ultimately, it's a way to take care of each other, even when they can't be together in person. “When you've got a twin, you've got a close friend forever,” Ron says. “So there's a lot of camaraderie.”
Rod agrees: “We talk a language that no one else can understand. We're very close.”
There's one more reason the brothers are so committed to staying healthy. They've made a pact to celebrate their birthdays together every five years.
“That gives us a huge motivation to keep in good shape,” Ron said. “We're planning on a lot more reunions.”