Bob Russell, 90, is a regular at the YMCA

By ED MERRIMAN Baker City Herald April 07, 2010 02:29 pm

Bob Russell hasn’t been seen changing clothes in phone booths or leaping tall buildings in a single bound, but at age 90 he is earning a Superman reputation for his workouts at the Baker County Family YMCA fitness center.

Russell pumps iron and puts in time on the treadmills, ellipticals and stair-stepping machines.

Russell, who retired some 30 years ago as a wildlife refuge manager for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said he worked outdoors across the Northwest and spent his spare time and the first 22 years of retirement hunting, fishing and playing golf.

When Bob and his wife, Nora, 87, moved to Baker City eight years ago to live near their daughter, Susan Duby-Huddleston, his best days of hunting and fishing were behind him.

Yet he felt it was important to stay physically active.

“I joined the health club (Baker Family YMCA) eight years ago. It was my idea,” Russell said. “I just decided to join on my own.”

“This is the first time I ever joined a health club. I come just about every day. I know that has a lot to do with my health. I like coming here. When I leave after my workout, I just feel good. I have kind of a lift.”

Instead of lifting free weights (with barbells and such), Russell said he likes using the weight machines.

“There are a number of weight machines in there that you can program to the amount of weight you want to pull for your muscles,” Russell said.

“I walk the treadmill quite a bit. There is a stair-step machine. I always try to do 90 stairs,” he said.

Russell said he put together his own workout routine, which takes 45 minutes to an hour.

“They’ve got this half-round ball I try to stand on. It is kind of tricky to stand on, but I think it is good for your balance, so I kind of like to work on that,” he said.

When asked if he had any other secrets to longevity besides getting regular exercise, Russell chuckled.

“I get asked that question every once in a while. I tell people I like my fruits and vegetables, and I stay away from wild women. That’s the key,” Russell said.

Sometimes his daughter or his wife works out with him, but Russell said he often winds up coming to the gym on his own.

 “I try to encourage my wife to come more often, but she always has some excuse,” Russell said.

As for Susan, 61, since her retirement from teaching school in Hereford and Baker City, she has remarried and lives part of the year in Dubai, where her husband, Wade Huddleston, trains helicopter pilots for the United Arab Emirates.

The Russells have another daughter, Terry, who lives in Bend, and often comes to Baker City for visits.

Even when he comes to the YMCA alone, Russell said working out is not a lonely experience.

“I have gotten acquainted with quite a number of people at the club,” Russell said. “I have a habit of coming at the same time every day, and they do too, so you get acquainted with them. That is one of the nice things about it.”

Susan said her dad has been an inspiration.

“I want to live to be 100,” Susan said. “Dad is a good example to me that you can have a long and healthy life, if you stay active.”

In describing how much of a priority an active lifestyle has always been for her dad, Susan told of walks she remembered taking with her father over a mountain to see her orthodontist.

“Dad always packed his fishing pole with him, and we’d stop and fish for a couple hours on the way back,” Susan said.

She said her father was also a champion golfer when he was younger, but stopped golfing about 20 year ago due to glaucoma in one eye.

However, Susan said her husband, age 64, recently talked her dad into going golfing, and her dad won, even though he hadn’t swung a golf club in nearly 20 years.

“He’s an amazing guy. A good role model,” Susan said.

While many people wind up taking numerous pills for ailments such as diabetes, high blood pressure and arthritis, Susan said her parents are exceptions.

She said Bob and Nora both eat a healthy diet, and neither one of them is on any kind of medicine, except for a pill Bob takes for glaucoma.

“My mom recently had surgery and she refused to take an aspirin for pain afterwards,” Susan said.