The Gym Rat
Gilles Berube is cut. Like in a 70s-Arnold kind of way, each muscle group finely toned and calling attention to itself. He’s not a gym rat so much as he’s a gym addict, going five times a week and twice on Saturdays. Sundays too.
This hasn’t been the case all of his life. Berube traces it back to three years ago, shortly before his 50th birthday, when he woke up in the middle of the night with an irregular heartbeat.
“My dad died of a massive heart attack, so that was a big wake up call,” he says.
But there’s commitment and there’s what Berube does, which leads his trainer to demand mandatory days off. Now, to be clear, Gilles is not some ‘roided-out meathead. Rather, Berube’s approach is revealing of his academic, studious mind. The native of Montreal took the same approach learning English as a youngster, carrying both French and English dictionaries with him wherever he went.
When the opportunity came to move to Boston, and to a job as a digital designer in the nascent tech industry in late 1990s, he took a similar approach, jumping at the opportunity to challenge himself in a new and different way. Berube has been in the industry ever since, working now as a creative director focusing on user experience in Los Angeles, a job in which the clients are around his age and his co-workers are far younger. Not that he sees a problem with that.
“I’m forgetting what it’s like to be 50,” he says. “There are differences [with his younger colleagues]. I don’t spend a lot of time on social media. I watch different TV shows and have a different perspective on life and politics because I’m older. But professionally we have to look in the same direction. And in that respect, age doesn’t count.”
His health does, however. And when he woke up in that hotel room in Chicago with the feeling that something wasn’t right, he paid attention. He began to work smarter, not longer, and made sure to hit the gym every morning.
“I realized I needed to not just maintain, but to push the machine a bit more,” he says.
I won’t bore you with the details of his workout – which I selfishly also want to keep for myself. Suffice it to say that the trainers and regulars at his gym have been urging him to enter a competition. So this summer, he’s going to do just that.
“Fun is very important to me,” he says. “I thought, ‘If I take this seriously, it’s going to be a disaster.’ But if I just go in thinking, ‘I’ll do whatever I can and it’s just for myself, to say I’ve done this,’ then I maintain the element of fun.”