This 55-Year-Old Is In The Shape Of His Life Despite Losing The Use Of His Arm

At 55, Peter has never let any kind of training hurdle slow him down.


Megan Flemmit |

When it comes to sport, Peter Tuerk has tried it all. During his school years, he played soccer and tennis. He then tried his hand at mountain biking and wrestling in his 30s. “I love them all as there is nothing better than the endorphin high you get from all forms of serious physical exertion,” he says. Still, now in his fifties it’s not odd to see him doing yoga one day, crossfit another followed by a session of squash. “They all have their benefits to remaining as fit and strong as you can at any age,” explains Peter.

And at 55, Peter is in the best shape of his life. He’s been consistently weight training since he first found his way into the gym at 19. Before that he would train in a friend’s garage. Training hard helps him celebrate what his body can do, and how far he has come.

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Training after injury

Ten years ago, he started losing function in his left arm. At first it was thought he just tore his rotator cuff, but this diagnosis proved to be incorrect. Eventually a specialist diagnosed him with Brachial Neuritis, a disorder which causes the nerves in your hand, arm and shoulder to become inflamed. The disorder causes severe pain and muscle weakness in the areas affected. It develops quite suddenly causing the affected muscle to atrophy. While patients can recover use of their limbs, full-functionality is not always guaranteed.

For Peter, the pain was in his left arm. “While the virus is still active, the pain levels are around 10/10, he explains. “[I had] to manage the pain and reduce the inflammation in the nerves in the arm and shoulder to make sure the nerves did not die.”

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Despite losing function in his arm, Peter still tried to train. Training was in his blood, and it wasn’t something he could give up easily. But while moving his arm was tough, trying to gym with it was even tougher. “I remember going to the gym to do dumbbell flies and picking up 2.5 kgs and my left arm just collapsed when I tried to lift the dumbbell above my head. I could see the muscle atrophy on my left side literally happening overnight.  My wedding ring just fell off my finger.”

To get his arm working again, Peter went to rehab twice a week. A special machine was used to force his arm through a full range of motion to make sure it started functioning again. A year later, the nerves and muscle connection to the brains were functioning almost normally. While he could once again use his arm normally, there will always be a bit of imbalance.

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Losing function in his arm was a psychological blow. “Not being able to to lift your arm that you used to be able to curl a 55kg dumbbell with knocks you for a six.” Fortunately for Peter, his dominant hand was not affected, so he was still able to carry out most of his daily tasks. His recovery showed him just how important it is to not take his health for granted.

He’s now more committed to staying in shape and being healthy. Fitness is also something he shares with his family. When his wife started crossfit, she knew it was a ‘sport’ he would enjoy. She persuaded him to try it out, and three years later he’s stronger than ever. “Its added a new sense of of intensity to my training and also created new targets and objectives by taking me outside of my comfort zone. It’s also shown me you can teach an old dog new tricks.” Both his son and daughter joined crossfit, and it’s one of the ways the family keeps fit together. “I am blessed to be able to enjoy something I love with them.”

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No shortcuts

“Your training platform has to be built on a solid foundation, one layer at a time, and that takes consistency and patience and only by doing this can you get the results you want.”

The most important lesson Peter has learnt over the years is that there are no shortcuts to success. The lessons he’s learnt in the gym, he’s carried over into his personal life.

“[You need to be able to] physically challenge yourself and push yourself beyond what you thought you could accomplish, into every facet of your life, whether that’s in business or personal challenges you face,” he explains.

Peter doesn’t intend on slowing down anytime soon. People are generally surprised to hear he’s fifty – a testament to the great shape he is in. He knows that being in your fifties doesn’t mean you have to start giving up on life. “You have to put one foot in front of the other and keep going. At 50 you still have half your life to live, so live it well and live it in the best shape of your life.”

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He’s not letting his age stop him. What stopping you from starting today?

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