San Marino’s Phelps Wood Took Up the Sport of Powerlifting When Most Are Looking for A Nice, Quiet Place to Retire
Before us on the floor of Mission Fitness is a weightlifting bar loaded with so many dumbbells that I assume will be tossed around by a buff, 20-something soon to appear out of nowhere, carrying a tub of protein powder and a gallon of water.
Instead, Phelps Wood – an 80-year-old San Marino resident – bends down and dead lifts the assembly as though he had dropped an envelope.
Which indicates it’s not the first time Wood has hefted such a load. And with great success. He holds state age group records in four events, the squat, bench press, dead lift and the total of those three for competitors age 75-79 and in the 180-pound weight class. Currently, Wood is training for another competition on Jan. 21 at Camp Pendleton.
It all came about matter-of-factly.
“I was going to my grandchildren’s baseball games and I had a hard time walking up the bleachers,” said wood. ‘I had a tough time balancing myself if I was away from the handrails. I was telling my wife about this and she said, ‘you know, there’s this gym on Mission Street I have heard good things about. So here I am.”
Wood began training two years ago and soon transitioned from machines to free weights.
“My balance has improved since I started working out, but the major portion of improvement has come since working with the free weights,” said Wood. “I’m a competitive guy, so I began entering competitions.”
Wood works out three mornings a week with Mission Fitness trainer Alex Acosta, who seems genuinely inspired by his client.
“He takes it very, very seriously,” said Acosta. “He has a great work ethic. He is always focused on his form and he really wants do do things well.”
Wood has become sort of an icon in the sport.
“When we post little videos of him on social media he gets a lot of hits,” said Acosta. “When he goes up on stage at the competition, everyone knows who he is. He is a lot of fun to train.”
Acosta – who is also a competitive lifter – said Wood’s success “wasn’t really expected.”
“He had been working out for about five months,” said Acosta. “I just threw the idea of power lifting out there one day and he seemed interested. Now, he is super dedicated to the sport.”
Acosta said that Wood’s flexibility has greatly improved, allowing him to legally complete the required maneuvers.
“He is able to get into a good position for the squat,” he said. “You have to get down to where your hip is parallel to the ground and Phelps can do that.”
Wood still works. He has owned a manufacturing company that makes electronic test components since 1970 and has been joined there by two of his children.
“They let me come in!” he joked.
Wood says he sleeps better and has more vitality since beginning the workout routine. And there is one other benefit.
“I no longer desire a martini nor really any hard liquor,” he said. “I do still enjoy an occasional wine or beer. This was not a goal, but a result of the workouts. It just happened. I never really even gave it a thought.”
Wood and his wife, Beverly – who he met in 1952 while they attended what was then known as Monrovia-Arcadia-Duarte High School – have called San Marino ‘home’ since 1968.
The couple has three children and eight grandchildren ranging in age from 4 to 13.
Which means many things, not the least of which is there will be many more bleachers to climb…