For a local grandfather and his grandsons, fitness has become a group enterprise. While the physical benefits are certainly a big plus, the memories created along the way are priceless.
Alan Smith, 66, found himself quite depressed a few years ago.
“In 2018 I got terribly ill,” Alan said. “[I] was lying on the sofa, walking with a cane. I had an infection in my blood.
The toll of the disease on his body persisted for some time.
“I had to keep trying to have any strength,” he said.
Enter Connor Smith, Alan’s grandson. Now a senior at John Milledge Academy, Connor had decided as a junior to do The Split Training Option, which allows 17-year-old juniors to join the US Army Reserves or Army National Guard with the consent of the parents. In the months leading up to last summer, he had to prepare to leave for basic training in early June. Alan had started working with a trainer from Planet Fitness to improve his own strength and endurance at that time, and he had an idea.
“He wanted me to train in the gym to start training with him,” Connor said.
Both had an agenda. Alan hoped to help Connor get in shape for basic training, and Connor hoped to help his grandfather improve further after the illness that had drained his strength so much.
Although the two obviously had different levels of physical ability, that didn’t stop them from encouraging each other. There were times when Connor was running and Alan was walking on the nearby treadmill, or Connor was lifting weights and Alan was working out on a machine. The two usually met early in the morning before Connor left for school.
“It held us accountable to go there,” Connor said. “We were going there four or five days a week almost every week… I think that helped him a lot actually.”
When Connor left for basic training, that’s when his younger cousin, Grayson Thomas, a 14-year-old seventh-grader at JMA, started replacing him. Like Connor, Grayson also had a goal in mind.
“I kind of wanted to do it, and I kind of wanted to help him out a bit as well,” he said of his grandfather.
Grayson picked up where Connor left off, training alongside his grandfather at Planet Fitness.
The camaraderie between grandfather and grandsons has been something that has been meaningful even to the staff at Planet Fitness.
“At Planet Fitness, we love seeing our club members train together and keep each other on track to achieve their individual goals,” said Jasmine Ingram, club manager for Planet Fitness in Milledgeville.
In this case, Ingram said the exercise doubled as family ties.
“I’m glad they were able to find common ground here and spend this quality time together.”
All the while, Alan hadn’t lost sight of what being a role model meant to the two boys.
“I had to try to set an example for them,” he said.
Looking back, Alan realizes how much having his grandsons as training partners has helped him. He can say without a doubt that he has come a long way.
“My cardio was getting up and walking 100 feet,” he said. “That’s how bad I was.”
Alan has since been able to get rid of his cane, and he’s even been able to get back to work repairing rental homes. As his work is strenuous, he has taken over his training for the time being, but he hopes this summer to be able to return to the gym with his grandsons.
“It’s helpful when you have someone backing you up who expects you to train,” he said.
And while the responsibility was a bonus, the time spent with his grandsons was perhaps what he enjoyed most about the experience.
“That was part of the fun I had doing it was spending time with my grandkids.”
The feeling, it seems, is mutual.
“I consider it one of our great memories together,” Connor said.