“I’m very interested and curious as to how people can exercise to be better as we all go through the aging process, and that’s really taken me on my journey.” That interest in how the body works, and how strength training can change your body, has taken personal trainer Pete Koch from being a gangling 6’ 6” 180-pound teenager to the NFL, to acting, then to helping others understand how lifting weights can keep them active as they age.
And he’s demonstrating it 30-seconds at a time. “If you follow me on Instagram, a fair amount of time I’ve got my shirt off, and I’m 57 years old. I don’t know how many people want to do that when they’re 57, but I’m willing to do it because I want to be a leader and identify myself that way.” A picture, or in this case a video, is worth a thousand words. His social media account features dozens of half-minute videos of Koch—often shirtless with shaggy, gray hair–lifting heavy weights, doing pull ups, and skipping rope.
Inspiring Other Older Adults to Take Charge of Their Bodies
“I don’t mind saying it, I’m selfishly putting myself sort of front-and-center because I’m looking after my own self. I hope that inspires others my age to do the same,” Koch explained. “We need to develop strength in older people, and then we need to make sure that what they weigh is appropriate to their frame. Then, we’re going to have a much happier and more properly functioning person.”
30 years after leaving the NFL, Koch weighs about 30 pounds less than he did in his playing days. He thinks of his body—and yours—like he thinks of a car. “The muscle is the motor in our body. Pretty much, when I meet folks of any age—but particularly middle-aged and older—they are underpowered and that means they don’t have enough strength. Any car that’s designed properly has a motor to fit the size of the car. Most people just simply weigh too much, so the motor is too small. They are woefully underpowered.”
Overweight and Underpowered is a Dangerous Combination
He is concerned that more than 70 percent of all American men and women are overweight or obese and not enough of them spend any time strength training. “Our bodies need to move us, to get us out of the chair. Our skeletal muscles need to produce mechanical tension to move those bones and get us going,” Koch told StrongPath.
Lack of strength training and being overweight combine to rob all of us, but especially older adults, of our independence, and “that’s why they (older adults) don’t feel very good, and they don’t move very good. And we know that people that are overweight, they’re going to inevitably—if they haven’t already—run into metabolic health issues. We need to correct those things,” he added.
From the NFL Back to the Classroom
Koch has been thinking about this a long time. “I used to sit there as a football player in college and the NFL and pick the brains of my conditioning coaches. I was very interested in how to get bigger, stronger, how that worked and how we could lift weights, but that would make us run faster, if it’s done right,” he explained. After football, Koch started taking night classes at UCLA. “I studied physiology, biology, and chemistry, because I was interested in reading the research and I wanted to be able to understand and speak that language.”
Koch is a NSCA-certified strength and conditioning coach, an ISSA-certified fitness trainer, and a credentialed CrossFit coach. “I’ve got all of those credentials, and all that education, I’m quite proud.” While training athletes is a sliver of his clientele, he is more interested in working with other adults looking to improve their health and their lives. “I’ve always been interested in taking care of myself, and others going through that aging process.”
It’s Never Too Late to Get Started
“Listen, at the end of the day, we can all agree it’s nice to look good in a swimsuit. However, we’ve got to be able to get up off the chair and move. As we age, particularly when people into the 60s and 70s, people can lose up to a pound of skeletal muscle tissue a year once they get past their 40s. If you’re not working at your strength training, you’re losing muscle. This I can say with confidence,” explained Koch.
Koch said he believes that it is never too late to get started strength training and he starts his work with his clients by evaluating where they are now. “There’s no one size fits all training. So I look at people and I say, ‘Okay, just squat. Just squat for me. Just stand there, find a comfortable squat stance, and then just lower yourself as far as you can go.’”
He said there is a practical reason he starts with squats. “Well, how far do you need to go? Well, where’s the toilet? You need that every day and if that’s a problem for you to get down to that depth in your squat, Houston, we’ve got a problem. I’m also an EMT, and one of the most common things where people call emergency services later in life is, I can’t get off the toilet, or I can’t get off the ground.”
“These are people that live alone. The moment that happens in your life, your independence is gone. That’s when you go, and I’m sorry, but that’s where you go and it’s to an assisted living home. If independence is important to you, boy, you better think about what it’s going to take to make sure you can get off the toilet for the rest of your life. That might sound a little bit crude, but that’s straight, that’s straight talk. Nothing wrong with that,” Koch told StrongPath.
Do It Now, Avoid Regrets
Koch said that through his one-on-one training and through his social media posts, he just wants to encourage people to consider their strength and prevent muscle loss as they age. “Because at the end of the day, if we’re fortunate enough to live a long life, we certainly hope it’s going to be a healthy life. I haven’t met an older person that wished they had done more cardio. But I’ve met many elderly people that wished that they possessed more strength. I’m positive that strength is going to be a difference-maker as we age. I’m doing everything I can to be prepared for that.”