PLATTSBURGH — Dr. Bob Heins joins elite "Super Athletes" profiled in an aging-and-fitness article by Gretchen Reynolds in the March/April issue of AARP Magazine.
Heins's saga started with an out-of-the-blue call from an AARP rep asking him to consent to a New York City photo shoot on senior athletes. He offered to send pictures. A resounding "no" was met with an offer to pick him up in a limo.
Two weeks before Christmas, he flew to NYC and was ensconced in a hotel. The next morning, he was driven in Chelsea to the same building where Lord & Taylor models shoot. The photographer was Scott McDermott.
Four-and-a-half years ago at age 67, he started competing in Ironman triathlons.
"There are better triathletes in my age group in Hawaii," said Heins, a dentist in Plattsburgh. "I don't do well in the world championships. I came in fifth in the Unites States."
In the article, Reynolds writes about recent scientific data that countered previous studies of sedentary people that indicated people lose muscle mass as early as 40, and it accelerates after age 65.
"The muscles of the active older people contained almost as many healthy, robust mitochondria as did the muscles of the young people," Reynolds writes.
"You could compete at fairly high levels," Heins said. "That's something that everyone needs to know. Just get out and walk the malls. Get in the pool. It really helps your cardiovascular system and also muscle-wise."
When Heins first started to compete, he hadn't been a swimmer since high school. Now, he's done 13 Ironmans.
"It was a learning experience."
As was his NYC photo shoot.
"It was really professionally done. They called me a few times and asked my size, my bike size. They had all these things down there including bikes and wet suits for me to try on."
A hairstylist cut his silver locks. A make-up artist worked on his skin.
"It was kind of fun. The photographer, the month before, did George W. Bush in Texas. Bush gave him three or four minutes. He had to do something else. I told him I had all day. They had me doing different things — run across a stage taking off a wet suit."
He had to hit specific marks with his body and head at the right angles.
"It was cool," Heins said. "They had me in a couple of hundred pictures in different poses."
His previous Ironman prep focused on how well he felt and trained. Now, it's how well he looks.
The magazine cover features an image of actor Robert Redford. Heins joked to the other athletes at the shoot about Redford gracing the cover instead of elite athletes like them.
"I met some amazing people," Heins said. "There's an 80-year-old swimmer (Joan Campbell). She said, 'I was 72 when I set all my records.'"
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