Don Magee doesn't waste time. When he called me Tuesday morning, he'd already cranked out 600 push-ups. And it wasn't yet 9 a.m.
But what else would you expect from the Push-up King of Lilburn? You might remember Magee from a column I wrote last year chronicling his passion for push-ups. He said he averages more than 1,000 a day, dropping down and giving 20 (and then some) everywhere from the golf course to the concourse, where he's been known to kill time between flights with a few reps. In that column, the Illinois native also said: "My goal is to do 4,000 one day before I'm 80."
Tuesday's call was to inform me the goal has been met. Magee, who turns 80 on Sept. 28, surpassed his goal last week, totaling 4,050 push-ups. His day started at 6:10 a.m., but he didn't complete his effort until 12 and a half hours later, with an afternoon nap thrown in for good measure. Magee said he's proud of the accomplishment, but more than anything he feels relieved.
"When you blow your mouth off, you better back it up or people will say you are a blowhard," he said. "I still subscribe to the theory that just because we're old doesn't mean we can't do things."
Before last week's milestone, Magee's personal best was 3,220 push-ups in one day. He started this form of exercise years ago, beginning with sets of 25 and working his way up from there. Last Wednesday, he began his day as usual with no thoughts of topping his own record. But by 10:20 a.m. he'd already done 1,000, and that afternoon he hit the 2,000 mark just after 2:30. Sensing that he was on record pace, he pushed himself hard, doing reps of 250 every 10 minutes until he reached 3,160 and had to take a break.
"I could not go any further, so I took a nap," he said.
After some rest, Magee dropped his sets down to 100 each time, finally reaching his goal more than 12 hours after his push-up regimen started. He knocked out 50 more after that to "put a little bonus on it" and then rewarded himself by drinking three ice-cold, and hard-earned, Bud Lights.
Those 12-ounce curls pale in comparison to the push-ups done by Magee, a genial sort who moved to Gwinnett more than 20 years ago after a career that included being superintendant of schools in Eureka, Ill. He enjoys a nice conversation, a cold beer or two and the chance to promote physical fitness among seniors whenever he can.
He also is quick to credit his wife Florence for inspiring his push-up pursuit through her battle with rheumatoid arthritis. Nearly 20 years ago, when she was diagnosed, she vowed to fight it through exercise and her husband joined her, starting an obsession that Florence never could have predicted.
Though his push-ups are inspired by his wife, Magee said she's glad his pursuit of 4,000 in one day has finally come to fruition.
"She's awful glad I'm done with it now," he said with a laugh, "because I keep talking about it."
Later this month the Magees are off to Seattle to mark an item off their bucket list. The push-up record is another check off that list for Magee, who said he plans to continue doing push-ups for exercise while curtailing his pursuit of any more personal records.
"I'm still going to continue doing my 1,000 a day. That's what is keeping me in condition. That's what I do," Magee said. "But it doesn't make any difference how many you can do. If you can do three, do three as many times as you can, and then add two to it."
Those are words that ring true, whether you're 8 or 80. Or whether you're just getting started with something or you're the Push-up King of Lilburn.
Email Todd Cline at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Wednesdays.