ASHTABULA — Are you looking for a better way to fitness and to better long-term health? Ashtabula orthopedist Dr. William A. Seeds has just the suggestion for men and women, young and old alike.

The thing is, it might not be in the traditional ways one tends to expect. It’s not running, aerobics, tennis, swimming or any of the other fitness strategies one sees espoused on television or in magazines or other media.

Get ready for this, folks. It’s powerlifting.

One might wonder about that if they witnessed Saturday’s 21st annual Ashtabula YMCA Bench Press Championships with performances turned in by competitors that could lift anywhere between 150 to well more than 600 pounds. But Seeds is a firm advocate of the benefits of the sport to virtually anyone, as long as it is done correctly and strictly monitored.

“Any type of resistance training is beneficial to everybody,” Seeds, whose Seeds Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine Clinic in Ashtabula serves as the major sponsor of the event, said. “It would be great for anybody.

“We could change the world if we could get everybody involved in something like this. We would see far less cardiovascular disease and other diseases like diabetes?”

Anybody who might scoff at what Seeds is saying should understand that the good doctor practices what he preaches. At 48 years old, he’s still out there blending in with lifters who are far younger and a lot bigger physical specimens, even though he has a pretty chiseled physique in his own right.

“I’ve been doing this my whole life,” Seeds said with a twinkle in his eye. “I love being around the people in this sport. I get inspired by these people, whether they’re older or younger.”

Why is lifting in all its forms such a great way to improve the body on so many different levels?

“Resistance training of any kind helps build up muscle,” he said. “Building up muscle activates and energizes every cell in the body. When you build up muscle, it benefits the heart, the lungs and involves every part of the body structure.

“When you build new muscle, it gets the cells working 24-7. It gets everything working 24-7. Some type of this training benefits the whole body.”

Seeds, who sees every type of malady that affects the bone and muscle structure of the body in his practice, is a firm believer getting involved in such exercise would greatly reduce the incidence of skeletal injuries like fractured hips and other maladies that tend to strike the older one gets. Doing such training would greatly reduce the need for artificial joint replacement and the like.

“This will help keep the bone structure stronger,” Seeds said. “There are no limits for the benefits weight training can have for the body at any age. We have a person who competed here who is 67, and he’s doing great.”

Women have concerns about what lifting will do to their shape, fearing they will become muscle bound. Seeds said they needn’t be concerned about that. The benefits far outweigh the concerns.

“I absolutely recommend it for women,” he said. “They’re afraid of getting a muscular shape, when really all it will do is help tone the body.

“Resistance training is more beneficial for the body than doing half an hour of aerobics. They can throw away the scale if they get into lifting.”

Seeds recommends starting lifting programs in the early- to mid-teenage years.

“You can start getting into it after the growth plates have closed,” he said. “With a male, that’s usually when they’re 15 or 16. With females, that’s usually when they’re 13 or 14.”

John Bretz of Erie is a testament to the benefits of lifting at any age. At 67, he’s still going strong.

“I started lifting when I was 40, just to get in shape,” he said. “I got the Pennsylvania state record when I was 65. I weighed 175 pounds and lifted 270 pounds.”

He is a firm believer the sport can benefit anyone.

“It certainly doesn’t hurt,” Bretz said. “I don’t have any aches and pains and I don’t have any medical issues.

“I don’t train as hard as I used to, but I’ve always found it fairly easy. I’m still very mobile and my energy level is still good.”

He highly recommends lifting to the older set.

“I retired at 62 and restore Mopar muscle cars from the ’60s and ’70s,” he said after lifting 250 pounds at Saturday’s meet. “It can’t hurt you to get into something like this. Anybody in their 40s, 50s or 60s can benefit from it. Our society is so obese. I just thank God I’m healthy.”

All of that information is music to the ears of meet organizer Lonnie Anderson, who is grateful to still be chugging along with it after 21 years.

“Considering the state of the economy and everything else, it’s been tough to keep it going, but honestly, we’ve been very fortunate to have Dr. Seeds come along to help keep it going,” he said. “We’ve been very fortunate with all the help of all our sponsors. This year, we were able to have $1,900 in giveaways to all our lifters.”

This year, 31 men competed in the event. There were no female entries.

When Anderson and Dale Cheney started the meet 21 years ago, he wasn’t sure it would last this long. Now, with the help of his wife, Sherri, son James and stalwart supporters like Ray Manes, Anderson is hoping to at least get to a 25th anniversary celebration.

“My wife took over the scoring from Dale’s wife when he got transferred to Tonawanda, N.Y.,” Anderson said. “Sherri’s probably been doing this since 1990.

“My goal is to get to 25 years. If we can keep it going longer, that would be great. This year, we’re giving out 25-inch trophies to the winners in each class, 20-inch ones to second place and 15-inch ones to third place. If we get to the silver anniversary, we’re hoping to have extra-big trophies.”

Anderson still competes strongly at 48. He’ll keep competing and organizing the meet as long as his body holds up.

“I’d like to go beyond 25 years, but time will tell,” he said. “I will if my wife and my body let me.”

Anderson’s son also competed this year at age 16, although he suffered a shoulder injury during the competition. But he hopes to pick up the torch from his father.

“I’ve been doing this for about five years and have been trying to help my dad out,” the Lakeside High School junior said. “I’d like to try and get it to 50 years.

“I’d like to get more people here. It would be great to get a TV station here, too. I have a couple friends like Taylor DuFour here. My job is to spread the word.”

Ray Manes believes the event has maintained its vitality.

“It’s still going good,” he said. “We have people coming in from Pennsylvania and Wadsworth and other places.

“Most of the guys are really dedicated to it. It’s like a hobby to them. It gets in your blood.”

Setting new goals drives the competitors.

“A lot of people come in here really shooting for the Most Improved Lifter award,” Manes, whose son, Chris, is one of the top competitors, said. “There’s still a lot of enthusiasm. I think the guys are highly motivated.

“You have to push it to the limit.”

And they’d like to see more people, male, female, young and old alike, doing just that.



Pearson is a sports writer for the Star Beacon. Reach him at kpearson@starbeacon.com.

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