This is a story about a 64-year-old retired teamster from Louisville, Kentucky who has the body of an Olympic weight lifter.
His name is Robert Durbin, but you can call him “Rock Hard Papaw.”
Why Robert is not a viral video star is beyond me, but the old man—who was once overweight after a series of ankle injuries and a heart aneurism—regularly publishes videos of himself pulling off feats of strength on his YouTube Channel.
Robert works out three hours every day, his regimen a combination of strength training, CrossFit, and yoga. “I do 150 pull ups a day and 400 push ups a day,” he said. “It’s a mad operation.”
Mad indeed, but the Rock Hard Papaw isn’t fading away in the twilight of his life. “I feel 45. I’ve never felt this way. I know I look old, but I don’t feel like it.”
Just five years ago, Robert needed canes and walkers to get around, and was fitted with metallic braces on his ankles to help mobility. “Then I had an extended aortic aneurism. My health was going downhill fast and I just wanted to be able to do stuff with my grandkids,” explained Robert.
It wasn’t until a spontaneous and serendipitous trip to the Louisville Southwest YMCA that Robert found his cure. The first workout of his miracle transformation was a walk around the track; a half-mile journey that took him more than 15 minutes. He started to learn about portion control, a grueling task for a self proclaimed “two plater.” Armed with the discipline of a pioneer, Robert now abides a strict diet of hard boiled eggs, oatmeal, fruit, greens, and chicken.
“Oh mercy,” said Robert. “Learning how to eat was the hardest thing I ever did, but I’m just tickled with it.”
Robert said he wasn’t this fit even in high school when he hauled sheet rock everyday, but he feels better now than he did then. When he became overweight later in life, he experienced feelings many obese people struggle with. “When I got to where I couldn’t move around, I didn’t really care about [anything] and started feeling sorry for myself,” said Robert. “But that don’t get you anywhere.”
After that first YMCA workout, that 15 minute limp around the track, Robert went back the next day. And the next day. By doing so he developed a support system at the gym, opened his mind, and became a happier person. “It was tough,” said Robert. “It took me four months to start losing weight.”
Now, Robert is a Rock Hard Papaw, lifting weights, doing yoga, and flooring people who witness his senior citizen strength. “I’m gonna maintain this as long as I can,” said Robert. “I have such a desire to push myself further, to see how far I can go.”
“And hey, my aneurism hasn’t gotten any bigger.”