He Celebrated Turning 80 With 125 Push-Ups

A Pennsylvania car dealer sets fitness challenges for himself and his employees that are anything but easy

Fred Beans, holding weights, is a car dealership owner in Doylestown, Pa. He skips the gym and has trainer Todd Soura, with him above, come to his home two to three nights a week. Mr. Beans, below front and center, performs push-ups with members of his staff.

MOST PEOPLE celebrate birthdays with cake. Fred Beans recently celebrated his 80th birthday by knocking out 125 push-ups. The annual challenge, which he started eight years ago, motivates him to keep fit throughout the year.
 Mr. Beans has never considered retiring. He founded his eponymous car dealership business in Doylestown, Pa., in 1959 with just one employee. Today, he owns 20 dealerships in southeastern Pennsylvania and employs 1,750 people.
 “I don't have to play golf to be happy,” he says. “I like working.” Knowing he'd need to shape up if he wanted to keep up 10-hour days, he invested in a personal trainer just before he turned 70. “My birthday gift to myself,” he jokes.
 For the past 11 years, he's worked with trainer Todd Soura to improve his balance and strength. Looking for motivation, Mr. Beans set a goal of completing 100 pushups nonstop on his 72nd birthday. “I was never a physical specimen,” he says. “At the start, boy did I struggle.” But he accomplished his goal, then added five more pushups the following year.
 “He's happy with 100, but not satisfied unless he matches or beats the previous year's number of push-ups,” Mr. Soura says. The trainer always awards him with a certificate of completion, which Mr. Beans hangs in his office.
 “I've always been a believer in goal-setting,” he says. “I try to encourage my employees to work toward a goal each month by holding monthly fitness challenges.” Mr. Beans always participates in the optional contests and keeps the goals low-key. He gives winners prizes, including $10 gift cards to a local convenience store.  

The Workout
Mr. Beans has Mr. Soura come to his home two to three nights a week for one hour. After a warm up, he goes right into sets of pushups. As his birthday approaches, he increases the number and takes fewer breaks working toward his new, higher goal. “My wife likes to come in and criticize my form,” he says. “She also works out, but she doesn't need a trainer.”
 Core work involves a variety of crunches, followed by a one-minute plank hold. Free-weight and resistance-band exercises include a variety of presses, rows, dips and squats. He typically does three sets of most exercises, performing 15 reps of the first set, followed by two sets of 10 reps with increased resistance. For some sessions he uses lighter weights and performs 50 to 100 reps to work his slow twitch muscles.
 Mr. Soura ends the workout with two or three balance exercises. “I think these are crucial as people age,” he says. “These are the exercises that help prevent injuries when you, say, slip on ice.” He might have Mr. Beans do single arm curls while balancing on the opposite leg or squats performed on stability pads. “You'd be surprised how hard it is to stand on one foot,” Mr. Beans says.
 He recently bought a Peloton treadmill, which he uses for 30 to 45 minutes, four to five days a week. “I've learned a lot about Chicago, a place I've never been, from the virtual runs that take you along the lake or by Soldier Field,” he says.

The Diet
Most mornings Mr. Beans eats half a grapefruit and scrambled eggs. “Sometimes my wife makes pumpkin muffins,” he says. “She tells me they're healthy.” Lunch is a salad and an apple. He eats salmon for dinner five nights a week. “If I have wine, I share one glass with my wife,” he says. His weakness is butter pecan ice cream.

The Gear and Cost
Personal training sessions cost $75 an hour. His Pelton Tread cost $4,295. Mr. Beans says New Balance sneakers fit his wide feet comfortably. He estimates he spent a few hundred dollars on his weight bench, free weights and resistance bands.  


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