Body builder aims high

Jerome E. Mitchell puts his body through a regimen that might tire out most 30-year-


He does 400 sit-ups every day, hundreds of squats a week and otherwise puts his muscles through their paces by pumping iron.

His physique is in remarkable shape for a 70-year-old.

Mitchell of Duncansville is a body builder, a sport that requires a lot of stamina and self-discipline.

It’s a sport where you compete with yourself, Mitchell said. “If you don’t improve, you have nobody to blame but yourself.”

A former power lifter, Mitchell has pushed his muscles to their limits most of his adult life but became serious about competing on the body building circuit about eight years ago and has been doing it “full gun” for the last five years.

He has had some success, winning recent competitions in April in his age bracket in State College and Baltimore. He took second place at both shows in the 60 and older category.

To stay competitive, Mitchell works out seven days a week at Progressive Martial Arts, Route 764, Duncansville.

But he says the real mark of a body builder is the food he eats.

His diet is loaded with protein. He eats lots of chicken, turkey and tuna with an occasional steak and takes a daily protein supplement.

“The less fat around the muscle tissue makes you look better,” Mitchell said, adding that judges like to see the veins pop out.

He weighs the portions he prepares for every meal, keeping track of grams of protein and carbohydrates before he puts a morsel in his mouth.

“You have to watch your carbohydrates,” he said. “Processed foods are terrible. If you have a Pepsi with sugar, your carbs go way up.”

He balances out his diet with salads, fruits, vegetables, yogurt and nuts. He sometimes has a sweet potato or squash. Water and an occasional glass of green tea are his beverages of choice.

Mitchell eschews bread, sugar and salt. Spices are not among his staples with the exception on a few sprinkles of cinnamon on his oatmeal.

His diet is so bland that he occasionally cheats, but only for a good reason.

Mitchell said he might have a few pieces of pizza if he knows that he intends to concentrate on leg exercises the next day. The carbohydrates give him energy.

On the days that his diet is low in carbohydrates, he pays particular attention to his body.

“If you don’t eat enough carbs, your brain will let you know it,” he said. “You’re really tired.”

In addition to keeping a watchful eye on his diet and exercise regimen, Mitchell checks in with a physician routinely.

“I go to my doctor every six to eight weeks for checkups,” he said. “My blood pressure and sugar [glucose level] are where they should be. I get a complete blood workup.”

Keeping tabs on his health is important to Mitchell, who has had a shoulder replacement and surgeries for a groin hernia and three herniated discs in the past eight years.

Yet his workout put him on the plus side when it came to recovery. He said he was exercising two weeks after his shoulder replacement.

“My muscles recovered quickly, and I was back in action,” he said.

Mitchell admitted he has a hard time staying out of the gym.

His drive to have a sculptured body began 50 years ago when he was a student at Altoona High School.

“I was a runt,” Mitchell said. “I was a skinny kid in school. I never got involved in sports. It wasn’t for me. I was into hot rods.”

He rented a garage for his hot rod near one that had been converted into a gym with punching bags and weights. Mitchell would pump iron before grabbing a wrench. About that time, Jake’s Gym opened. Mitchell would go there to work out with a buddy. Their goal was to become power lifters.

Mitchell could bench press about 300 pounds and do squats with 475-pound barbells. When they reached their 30s, the routine became too difficult. His friend then introduced him to body building. He continued to be serious about his workouts, but did not compete much. Although at age 46, he did snag third place in the tall class at the Mr. USA Nationals in Atlantic City.

Now retired, he has more time to devote to the sport than when he was raising a family and working the job he held for 35 years as a mechanic for PennDOT.

Mitchell, who has four daughters and three grandsons, said two of his daughter caught the exercise bug from him. One is a body builder, and the other enjoys the gym.

Mitchell can understand why.

“It’s addicting,” he said.