Pushing the boundaries as a Champion

Precious McKenzie, MBE, may be 80 but the former weightlifting champion is not slowing down.

He is now a SuperSeniors Champion, one of a small number of New Zealanders recognised as outstanding advocates for positive ageing, and he plans to continue promoting his health and fitness messages.

Apart from regular sessions at the gym where he does weights, rowing, and swimming, he runs aerobics classes twice a week at Settlers retirement village in Albany, Auckland.

Precious McKenzie side view

Two of the class are 90, while others range from 65 to 80 years-old.

“Let me tell you, once they come to my class, they come back,” says Precious.

“They come to the gym to get fit and they believe in my training because they feel better now and they can do what they couldn’t do before.

“Before maybe they couldn’t bend low – some of them can now go lower than when they first started. You can see the progress straightaway.

“And the fitter ones, they are really fit. You wouldn’t believe they’re 65, they’re jumping around like young ones.”

The former weightlifter, who has represented New Zealand in the Olympic and Commonwealth Games and Master world powerlifting competitions, won his fourth Commonwealth gold medal at 42.

He makes sure those in the class work hard but enjoy it.

“The way I run the aerobics classes is fun; you put music on and people will go with that beat. You just get hooked with that beat and you keep up and keep going.

“In the meantime, you’re doing a hell of a lot of work.”

No easy shortcuts

Precious McKenzie weightlifting

The fitness advocate tailors the class to ensure everyone can participate.

“The class is designed specially for them because at this age, people can’t lie on the floor – it’s hard to get up.   I can’t give them any floor work.

“I say to them, ‘Please do me a favour – don’t go overboard, just do what you can. If you cannot raise one arm, you can only raise the other one, just do that. But please don’t try to compete with anybody in this room’.

“I tell them work to your own level but, at the same time, make sure they can do what they do.

“They all take me seriously. Safety is number one.”

Nor are there any shortcuts.

“Lots of people say, ‘McKenzie, how can I just take off the weight off my stomach?’ They’re dreamers. If you could do that because if that were possible, everyone would have the perfect figure.”

The fitness advocate is also a champion of healthy eating.

“First of all, you must look after your diet, it is really important,” says Precious.

“Whatever you put in, you must burn out again.

“If you don’t burn what you put in, it’s like a fridge – if you keep putting food in the fridge, you wouldn’t be able to close the door.

“A good diet, good exercise, you’ll live longer.”

Precious McKenzie has been a lifelong advocate of daily exercise to ensure positive ageing.

“Fitness is the key of everything that I believe in. Exercise, no matter how little, as long as one exercises – it’s very important.

“Health is your wealth. Without that, you are not living because your health controls everything.”