In case you’re under the age of 30 and unfamiliar with who Mark Spitz is, let me give you a quick refresher.
Spitz became inarguably the greatest swimmer in the world at the age of 22 when he won seven gold medals – the most by an individual athlete in Olympic history – at the Summer Olympics in Munich in 1972. His record of seven gold medals stood until 2008, when another U.S. Olympic swimmer, Michael Phelps, scored eight of them in Beijing.
Mark is now 62-years-old and after some trials and tribulations – he says bad eating and lack of exercise led to his weight gain of nearly 40 pounds – the former Olympic champion is back in the best shape he’s been in years.
One product he’s been pushing is ‘Ageless Male,’ which is an herbal supplement that increases metabolism and promotes male health.
“If I had a Ferrari, I wouldn’t pull up and put regular gas in it,” Mark told me. “I may look 62, but feel like I’m 22.”
So here’s a guy that’s been from A to Z and back. He’s been in elite, Olympic-like shape, only to gain on the pounds, and now at 62 he feels as good as ever. I had to get some perspective.
The first thing I asked him was in regards to Olympic training. Spitz won seven gold medals in 1972, a time when little was known on how to properly train an elite athlete. Today we have Michael Phelps, who not only won eight gold medals four years ago, but is likely to become the all-time leader in Olympic gold medals in London this year.
So what’s more impressive? Spitz winning seven in ’72 or Phelps' eight in ’08?
“Nobody knew that much about it, compared to what we know today,” Spitz told me before explaining regimen and diet in greater detail.
“When you are a top elite athlete, you’re burning an excessive amount of calories. To a certain amount you could probably eat McDonalds every day and look like a top notch athlete and probably even perform like one. But there are protein supplements…that they know so much more about…If you look at a gym or health club today and look at the equipment they have today, compared to say 1970 when Arnold Schwarzenegger was around, they might have a couple dumbbells and a couple little machines and that’s it. Now they have all kinds of machines for specific muscle groups…this cross training type of technology developed in the past 15 years or so supersedes anything we had 40 years ago.”
And if that’s the case, it’s hard to say which athlete has had a more impressive career. But either way, Spitz has learned that he has to take care of his body; that you can train like an Olympic athlete, but if you don’t eat right, all of it will eventually catch up to you.
“It [the Ageless Male] really promotes muscle health and strength training…if you want to be a super elite athlete… You can’t just go to the grocery store and buy fruits and vegetables and eat fish and stay away from fried foods and turn into an Olympic champion. It’s not going to happen.”
Spitz enjoyed a wild ride of celebrity, fame and entrepreneurial opportunites following his historic ’72 Olympic performance that included not only appearing on shows with Bill Cosby, Bob Hope and Dean Martin, but also interactions with multiple Presidents. His most memorable: Ronald Reagan.
“They’re all unique and different. I met a bunch of Presidents of the United States…Ronald Reagan was governor when I met him. He used to live down the block… he was walking… used to come into my house after he announced he had Alzheimer’s. He was an interesting guy. A very neat guy.”
A President randomly wonders into your house and he's a neat guy? I love it.
Spitz also went on to tell me that he’s good friends with the king of Spain. Turns out he was a sailor during the ’72 Munich Games.
Needless to say, Mark has had plenty of fun over the years.
“As my dad once said, they all have to put their pants on one leg at a time or they’ll fall over,” declared Mark during my interview. Another short quip made by the former great that makes him even more likeable.
Spitz was forced to retire from competing in the Olympics following the 1972 games, because back then all athletes were forced to be strictly amateur. Spitz told me that you couldn’t take a $30 fare for a bus ticket or you would be disqualified. If Spitz were able to compete for one or two more Olympics, it’s very possible that he could have accumulated the most gold medals in the event’s history.
“I would have done some relays and maybe some individual events…realistically I probably would have won gold medals because it was a number of years…after my records were broken. If I would have stayed healthy I probably would have had a great shot at it.”
Speaking of guys that like to have fun, I asked Mark to give his thoughts on the current swimming stars of the Olympics, Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte, two guys that have developed quite the rivarly. Spitz likes Phelps, but wouldn’t be surprised to see Lochte do very well if he gets off to a fast start.
“I’d still put my money on Phelps”… out of 16 swimming events they’re in all but four…The first race of the Olympic games is the 400 individual medley and he swims fresh against this guy Phelps, so whoever wins there is then going to go on to a balance of a lot of other great performances and gold medal swims. Whoever loses is going to have a little bit of a difficult time."
Josh Helmuth is the editor for CraveOnline Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @JHelmuth or subscribe at Facebook.com/CraveOnlineSports.
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