TORPY: I worked out 5 times a week for 35 years; here’s the written proof

For 35 years, columnist Bill Torpy has kept logs of his workouts. And, oddly, has kept every one of them.

Credit: Bill Torpy

Credit: Bill Torpy

For 35 years, columnist Bill Torpy has kept logs of his workouts. And, oddly, has kept every one of them.

In 1989, I was 30 years old and hadn’t boxed competitively in three years. The fear of getting battered in front of a crowd is a powerful impetus to remain fit. But by then, I was working in Chicago where hot dog stands and Italian beef joints seem to haunt every other corner. And I frequented them.

I noticed a friend hadn’t missed a day of running in four years and asked his secret. He scribbled each run in a daily log. So I figured I’d do the same. I puffed through three miles and then jotted it down.

It’s now 35 years later and I’m filling out yet another pocket calendar for a new year: Jan. 2, did 10 3-minute rounds on the heavy bag in garage.

Being a pack rat, I still have all the notebooks detailing that journey. It’s odd and obsessive, I know. But this newspaper once ran TV ads using a photo of me at my desk with piles of documents and notebooks. The marketing message, I’m guessing, was, “We have compulsive reporters.”

The goal has always been to average five workouts a week, usually 30 minutes-plus of vigorous exercise. It could be running, weights, calisthenics, skipping rope, a stint on my Chuck Norris Total Gym or now even hiking because I’d be a nut to keep running on a new titanium knee.

I used the term “goal,” but that’s a misnomer. I’m not trying to get faster or stronger or even flatten my abs. I just want to feel better and look halfway presentable. Plus, hitting the heavy bag is cheaper than therapy.

Being Catholic, guilt has always been a strong motivator. And if I miss a couple days of workouts, the empty dates in my calendars call out my inaction.

Simply put, it’s a “Just do it” bodily maintenance plan.

Golden Gloves contender Bill Torpy and “St. Louis” Goodum meet in the ring in 1983. Torpy was TKO’d in the third round.

Credit: Courtesy of Bill Torpy

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Credit: Courtesy of Bill Torpy

For 35 years, AJC columnist has kept daily logs of his workouts. Here he is during the inaugural workout of 2024

Credit: Julie Hodack

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Credit: Julie Hodack

While paging through the logs, I came across a de-facto diary amidst all the notations of “ran 3.5 miles,” or “did weights 42 mins.” I learned I ran the morning our twins were born in 1997 and hit the heavy bag for nine rounds the day their brother died in 2019.

There are notations of the many lunchtime runs in downtown Atlanta with my friend and colleague, the late Rich Whitt. I can almost hear our trash talk as we hit the hill at the Mile 4 mark near Centennial Park.

The beauty of paging through 35 years of DayMinder logs is they present a body of work: About 8,700 workouts since I started scribbling them down.

The other day, I posted on Facebook a photo of my logs lined up by decade. A friend reminded me that there are apps for that. “But,” I responded, ‘‘35 years from now you can’t lay out apps on the floor.”

I was feeling a proud of my stick-to-itiveness until I stumbled upon Richard Westbrook.

Westbrook, a retired cross country coach who turns 77 this month, has run at least 1 mile every day for more than 50 years. Every. Single. Day. And running a single mile would be an off, off, off-day for Westbrook. He usually bangs out 5 to 10 miles a day.

As of Tuesday, he had run 18,267 days straight since Dec. 29, 1973, according to Streak Runners International. He’s ranked fifth. Jon Sutherland, a 73-year-old writer from Utah has run every day since May 26, 1969. That’s 19,945 days if you are counting.

If you figure Westbrook ran 7 miles a day, he would have run 127,869 miles — or more than half the way to the moon.

How did he confirm his feat? Well, he keeps logs, the dead-tree variety, and sent in copies to the organization that represents irrepressible joggers.

His journey, as you might imagine, started with one foot after another.

Richard Westbrook, a retired cross country coach from Jonesboro, marks a streak of running every day for 50 years during a run last week at Piedmont Park.

Credit: Courtesy of Richard Westbrook

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Credit: Courtesy of Richard Westbrook

“I started with the goal of running for one month,” he told me. “Then I wondered if I could do a year. Then 50 of them went by.”

Time has a way of doing that.

Westbrook jokingly called himself a “crazy person.” But would a crazy person sneak out of his hospital bed, shuffle down the stairs and run in a parking lot on his infected foot to keep his streak alive?


I asked Westbrook if he has had to drag himself from his sickbed with the flu or a bad cold to keep his streak alive. No, he said, he rarely gets sick. He reads a lot about the science of chronological age versus biological age and says research shows aerobic exercise like running or cycling can ward off illness.

Westbrook is seemingly is encased in the body much younger than his 76 chronological years.

At the beginning of his streak, he started keeping a log. “I wasn’t sure why,” he said. “It was just to keep track.”

Since then, Westbrook has gotten very detailed in his record keeping: mileage, how he felt during the run, what kind of shoes he was wearing, the hours of sleep he had the previous night and his weight. The 5-foot-11 runner weighed 148.6 pounds the day we talked.

“If you write it down, you can see progress,” he said. “If I run into problems, I can look back for any patterns. It’s a foundation.”

As to New Year’s resolutions, he suggested people should aim at realistic, incremental steps to allow them to hit concrete achievements and prevent discouragement.

His goal for this year? To run The Last Annual Vol State Race, a 315-mile event that must be done in 10 days.

My goal? To just keep marking off pages in my little notebooks.