TULSA - The elite athletes who compete in the Olympic Games are a world away from most of us with their speed, skill and daring. Yet, that spirit of competition and focus on fitness thrive in a Tulsa man who has not missed a day of exercise since his boyhood.
Lap after lap, Joe Beshara sets a good pace in the pool at St. John Siegfried Health Club in midtown Tulsa. From freestyle to breaststroke and even a few strokes he invented just to get stronger, he spends about an hour a day in the pool each winter. During the summer, you will find him swimming every day in his favorite cove at Grand Lake.
"I don't have any fitness manuals,” Joe Beshara told 2 Works for You news anchor Karen Larsen. “I devise all of my own exercises. Whatever fits me, I do."
Since retiring after 36 years at McDonnell Douglas in Tulsa, he lifts weights four days a week to keep his muscle strong. The Nordic track ski machine and elliptical stepper offer alternative workouts from his almost daily jogs and high step marches down the streets of his neighborhood nearly every day. When he and his wife, Barbara, watch their favorite television programs together, his fitness tracker beeps at him to get up and get moving. That is when he picks up a 10 or 15 pound dumbbell and starts pumping iron or jogging in place.
As you can imagine, Joe’s doctor is thrilled with this patient’s good health and fitness.
"My last physical he checked everything and said, 'Well, I'm going to move you from 90 down to 70.' I said, 'Good!' I said, 'Sure you can't go lower?' He said, 'No. We'll stop at 70.'"
His biological age may be 90, but his body is that of a 70-year old thanks to an interest in fitness that started when he was a boy. During his high school years, he convinced his teachers to let him spend study hour at the YMCA. So, instead of studying, Joe headed to the Y for basketball, running and weightlifting. He played fullback and right end for four years on the high school football team.
"When I grew up there wasn't any television,” Beshara said. “The radio was your only source of social media. So, all of our activity was outside."
With a 34-inch waist, the retired engineer can still wear clothes from the 1950's. He has never had knee, shoulder, back or hip problems nor undergone surgery of any kind. So, when he started having some neck pain six years ago, he went to see the doctor for advice.
"His bottom line was, 'Well, Joe. You're 84 years old! What do you expect?' And I said, 'I don't expect this!'" he added with a laugh.
Unsatisfied with the doctor’s outlook, Beshara decided to try something new. With the encouragement of his children, he strapped in to a decompression table and from the first moment he turned upside down, he says he was hooked. Not only was it relaxing, his neck pain disappeared. So, every night before bedtime, he hangs upside down for 15 minutes to twist and turn and relax his neck and back. Unable to resist making this a workout, too, Joe adds some upside down abdominal crunches.
"And after 15-20 minutes on this, you're ready to go to sleep. You don't need a sleeping pill or anything (laughs)."
When it comes to age and exercise, Joe Beshara is definitely an Olympian with a big heart for the big family that keeps him going year after year.
He proudly points to a recent family photograph that shows his six children and their spouses, his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
"They say, ‘Papa you're an inspiration to us.’ Hey, that's a two-way street. They're an inspiration to me. I want to stay fit and enjoy them as long as I can. "
A few weeks from now, Joe Beshara will gather with his family to observe his 91st birthday which is just one more celebration in Joe Beshara’s long, healthy and physically fit life. The century mark is his next goal.
"Barring any health issues, I don't think I'll have any trouble making one hundred. I hope I don't have to eat those words but if things go like they're going now, I don't think I’ll have any problem making a hundred."
Sounds like a safe bet to us, Joe.
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