I had heard of Jerry and Liberty Gray through my friends, Ken Blackburn and Steve Cotter. Recently I saw that Jerry took second place in his division in the World Kettlebell Championships at age 74. I asked him for some details about training and diet, but what he gave me was far more valuable. It’s about a man who views stumbling blocks as stepping stones, sets goals, but focuses on process and walks the walk by training for life. If you aren’t impressed,… you don’t have a heartbeat! What follows is largely unedited since I think the character of Jerry is something you don’t need to change. Enjoy!
BIO: Born 7/27/41 Saginaw, MI. Graduate Ferris State Univ. and Michigan Tech. Univ. Civil Engineering
Professional Engineer and Land Surveyor, MI.
Instructor at Ferris, Surveying 4 years, Building Const. 6 years
Started my business Mid-MI Engineering 1971 and still active in the business
Married to Liberty Gray
5 Children, 1 stepson, 22 grand and 8 great grand kids
Heavy smoker for 23 years until I had my first heart attack at age 39 and got my second divorce. From that point on I totally changed my life.
My decade in the 40’s was filled with racquetball and running. I chose racquetball because it was while I was playing that I had my first heart attack. I attended several training camps, competed in tournaments statewide and nationally, coached a club sport team at Ferris, was appointed as vice chairman of the American Collegiate Racquetball Assoc., ran local, regional and national collegiate tournaments, was invited to an elite racquetball camp at the the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs and another coaching clinic at the OTC as a speaker, and in MI I received the Contributor of the Year Award 1988. While I wasn’t in the court, I was out running and biking. In 1989 I completed the Chicago Marathon and 1990, the New York Marathon.
During the decade of my 50’s I added weight training to my program and I met Liberty. I remember buying 2- 15# dumbbells when I turned 50 because I read that I needed weight training for long term health. By the time I turned 60, I had a room in my house filled with squat rack, bench, dips, treadmill, bike, 400# of plates, and dumbbells from 10#-50#.
Heart disease also raised it’s ugly head again in this decade. In 1995 I received my first 3 stents, heart attacks followed in 1997 and 1999. My personal feeling is the the high carb, low fat diet I was on plus previous smoking were the culprits.
Liberty and I married in 1999. While we dated for 7 years Liberty was pursuing a career in accounting and soon after we married she decided to switch to a career in fitness. She is very accomplished, 3rd dan Taekwondo, Paul Chek Institute Level 2, Natural Bodybuilding pro card, Kettlebell Certifications IKFF, EKC, IKSFA, Crossfit Level I, Diet Doc nutrition program and I’m sure I’m missing a few others smile emoticon. She runs 2 small gyms Grand Rapids and Big Rapids. She is my biggest supporter and I wouldn’t be where I’m at today without her covering my back.
Liberty decided we were training hard but seeing very little results and she wanted to seek help. I had went from 172# marathon weight 1989 to 205# at age 60. So we hooked up with a body builder MD who explained in detail the importance of diet and how the food we ate affected the body.
We never looked back and started reading and researching everything. Liberty even got me to enter a few bodybuilding shows in my 60’s. Granted I wasn’t very good at it, but during the process and education the pounds started dropping off.
I was getting bored with the barbell work although I had acquired some needed strength, I started looking around and found kettlebells. We both went through the RKC, I was 65 at the time when most guys my age were heading for the couch. Later that year we met Ken Blackburn who introduced us to girevoy sport.
So I sold all my equipment in my house and train almost exclusively with the kettlebells although I still do some barbell work.
Up until last year I wrote my own training programs and trained the girevoy sport classes at Liberty’s gyms. Last year when I decided to train for the National Team I hired Ken Blackburn to be my trainer and write my programs
I do most of my training at home on an every other day basis. My weight now is 172#, the same as 1989 marathon weight.
My diet is not as strict as Liberty’s smile emoticon but I eat pretty basic, very few grains, hardly any processed food, never overeat, only eat when I hungry. Most of my training is in the morning in a fasted state. Ken Blackburn and I started yesterday preparing for the National Team 2016.
Through the years I have always used the competitions , racquetball, running, lifting, etc. for health reasons, to keep me engaged, to always be looking forward. I never looked at it as something I had to win, because I’m always a winner when I compete.
I think the GS has made my heart much stronger although I did have 2 other events in 2010 and 2011. I have to be careful because of the diseased arteries that still exist.
I believe it is all the interval training I do with the kettlebells. The longest lift is 10 minutes, versus running at a steady pace for hours.
The running doesn’t build the cardio reserve that interval training does.
Yesterday’s workout had my heart in stage 5 and higher for about 12 minutes. 5 minutes after completing my workout of 45 min including warm up my blood pressure had dropped to 123/83 and heat rate of 75.
A couple of more things that I’ve done over the years. My kids and I started backpacking in 1989 and have only missed 2 years since. Most of the week long trips are to Montana, Wyoming, or Colorado. We have volunteered 6 different trips to do trail inventory with hand held GPS on the continental divide trail. In 2007 I was picked to do trail inventory with a group on the continental divide trail in ID/MT by Backpacker magazine. In 2008 I did a technical climb of Grand Teton Mtn, in Jackson, WY at age of 67.
I also love to ski and golf. I ski with a group out of Big Rapids and we have skied practically every major mountain in the lower 48 and some in Canada.
In 2007 was my last bodybuilding show 66 yo BW 185.
This past summer Liberty did 1000 hand stand pushups in 22 days.It gets a little crazy around here. Being on the podium in Dublin was special.