90-year-old regular at gym

Published 12:01 am Thursday, August 9, 2012


James “Snag” Summerlin may call himself an old man, but watching him move, one wouldn’t guess he’s 90 years old and performs a weekly workout routine that many teenagers couldn’t follow.

Summerlin, who lives in the Svea (pronounced “sweer”) Community just over the Alabama-Florida line, travels to Florala’s Super Gym on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

For nearly three decades, he’s started his day at 4:30 a.m., opening the gym for the dedicated customers who like to hit the weights before work.

It’s there that he made connections with young and old alike, inspiring gym members to push past physical limitations to achieve the best physical condition they can.

Belinda Carnley and Sara Goolsby, both of Florala, are two such members.

“Mr. James is such an amazing man,” Carnley said. “He’s touched so many lives and offered so many encouraging words. He is truly an asset to this community.”

Goolsby described him as “something else.”

“That man,” she said. “When I’m sweating with 50-pounds, he’s got 200-pounds on there. He’s something else.”

Not one to take the praise, Summerlin said, “I just do it, because I like to do it.”

“My philosophy is the good Lord put me here on this earth to enjoy his creations and to leave this world in better shape than I found it,” he said. “I do that by helping people at the gym.”

Summerlin’s workout routine consists of non-strenuous muscle-sustaining exercises.

“I was always physical,” he said. “In high school, I played basketball. When I was drafted in to the Army-Air Force, they had us do one hour of exercise a day. I found out I could out do everybody there. I enjoyed it then, and I’ve done it ever since.”

An engineer by trade, Summerlin was born in Florala and later worked for the Bechtel Corp., in the nuclear power and coal power fields in the north. He returned to the area in 1984 after his retirement.

Doctors called him “the healthiest 90-year-old they know,” Summerlin said.

He stresses the importance of a quality of life.

“I firmly believe if you work on your quality of life by taking care of yourself, you will have a quantity of life – meaning you can live longer,” he said. “It makes me feel good, and I enjoy doing it – and it makes me able to do the things that I want to in life – like go dancing.”