Jay Lehr inspires by sky diving, unicycling and Ironman triathlons…at 75

Jay Lehr inspires by sky diving, unicycling and Ironman triathlons…at 75

“I just keep moving, no talent at all.”
- Dr. Jay Lehr, professional speaker, author and athlete

As a long-time endurance athlete, I’m always fascinated by what the human body is capable of:

Will Laughlin and his friend Ray Zahab recently ran a record setting 150 mile across Death Valley from north to south in 120+ F ambient temperatures with scorpions, constant 30 mph headwinds and the worry of stepping on unexploded ordinance.

JC Chamberlain at age 54 will attempt to the break the one hour cycling world record on September 27th in Los Angeles.

Stroke survivor Karin Linnér wants to bike from Boulder, CO to New York City to raise awareness about stroke and save you, a friend or a family member’s life.

All three stories are incredibly inspiring and push the limits of human endurance and desire.

But, I found someone who inspires me even more for what he does every day:  professional speaker and author Dr. Jay Lehr.

Jay Lehr Ironman finish

Jay Lehr Ironman finish

I’ve done 28 Ironman distance races so an Ironman finish (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run) is not very impressive to me…until I learned that Ironman finisher Lehrer is 75 years old.

I emailed Jay to ask him for an interview for the ELITE project and this is the answer I received back:

With my 70 hours per week work schedule and 24 hours per week workout schedule, I can only fit in an interview between midnight and 3 AM. My wife Janet hates me talking on the phone between midnight and 3AM.

So we did the interview by email.

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1. How many Ironman Triathlons have you done?

I have done 10 official Ironman competitions – 9 in Hawaii and one in Florida. On Sept 11 (my 75th birthday) I am only doing the Aqua Bike which is the 2.4 mile swim and 112 mile bike ride which is really just a walk in the park that anyone can do. My family and surgeon talked me out of the full Ironman with a marathon to save my fabulous new artificial knee. I feel like a wimp.

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2. You’re still working 70 hours a week and training 24 hours a week at age 75. You must be truly passionate about what you’re doing.  How did you find that passion?

That was easy. I decided in college I would never work just for money.  Work had to be interesting and fun so perhaps I have never worked a day in my life, as I am always having fun. I salivate over my work every day just as I do my work outs. I do essentially no drudgery.  I just make sure my workouts are my first priority, as working to make a living can drive out the time for exercise but the reverse is never true.

Dr. Jay Lehr on the bike

Jay Lehr on his bike

I went away to summer camp for 8 weeks each summer from age 3 (believe it or not) through age 16 where you just ran and jumped and swam all day, then to prep school where you had to play a sport each season or chop wood then to a college where you could be on any varsity team as long as you could handle the practices so 3 sports a year in college.  Next I went into the Navy where I played football then to grad school where I started a Lacrosse team and coached and played on it.  Then to industrial baseball.  Then I started an amateur ice hockey league , a new lacrosse team and an amateur tackle football league and then on to the Ironman.

I added skydiving in 1978 and unicycling in 1998.  I practice on my unicycle one day week so I can ride it in parades. I am actually working very hard with an ice hockey coach to become a faster skater and I am working on my hitting in baseball so I built a batting cage in the basement. I am not looking for anything new now but rather focusing on getting better at 75.

Obviously, I am a role model for everyone around me. In last nights ice hockey game so many marvel at my drive even though I am a step slower than most of the young folks. My team is all in their 30s except one guy who is 60 and was going to quit under pressure from his wife a few years ago until I came along.

The point being why would one ever stop running, jumping and swimming?

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Dr. Jay Lehr

Dr. Jay Lehr

4. Can you given an example of what a “typical day” is like for you?

I start with a shower and a 20 minute stretch routine, then a quick check of email and then onto my stationary bike where I read my business stuff while cycling. Then I perform rubber band knee rehab exercises I will do every other day for life, as I have an artificial knee.

Every other day, I hit 25 baseballs and throw 50 balls into a net with each arm so that I can be ambidextrous in case one arm gives out in tournaments while I am catching.  I have a right and lefty mitt. Every other day I race walk 5 or 6 miles on my treadmill and every day I walk my four Jack Russell Terriers one mile. I also lift weights for an hour in the evening. I only swim one day a week for 90 minutes. I do some email amidst my training during the day.

My work day generally begins seriously at 8pm and lasts till 2 am. Obviously there are many phone calls interrupting me through the day.

I am on the road 100 days a year lecturing and work out in the hotel exercise room every spare moment morning and evening and have no trouble getting in 3 hours. I do not carry a cell phone so my time is really mine when not lecturing. My wife and I usually get in three bicycle rides a week from March to November. I skydive one full day a month, but in winter I usually just do one jump as it is hard to line up a plane pilot and clear runway.

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5. If you could give one piece of advice to someone my age (40) or younger, what would that be?

There is absolutely no need to grow up as peer pressure says. Try to see life through the eyes of an 8 year old by never losing that sense of wonder about everything surrounding you and do not let others dim your spirit.

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6. OK, what’s your secret?

My real secret is I was never much good at anything so I never lost my ability to do anything it has always been an effort to get competent.  The gifted athletes quit when they lose their gifts, I was fortunate to have none.  Just love running and jumping.

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Wow, I’m inspired.  Thank you, Jay!

You can read more about Dr. Jay Lehr at jaylehr.com.

Live life richly and without regret!

David

David B. Glover, MS, CSCS
President, ENDURANCEWORKS, LLC
Author of Full Time and Sub-Nine: Fitting Iron Distance Training into Everyday Life

© 2011 David B. Glover

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