Susan Casey calls Don Wildman The World’s Healthiest 75-Year-Old Man — although fittest is probably more accurate:
Wildman himself is a world-class athlete in several sports. In recent years, he has competed in the Ironman Triathlon nine times, the three-thousand-mile Race Across America bike race, the Aspen downhill ski race, and the New York and L.A. marathons. In the sailing world, Wildman made history by winning all three of the Chicago Yacht Club’s famed Mackinac races in one season. He snowboards the Alaskan backcountry with Olympic downhill champion Tommy Moe. Two years ago, he paddled through the entire chain of Hawaiian islands on a surfboard.
Wildman leads a brutal group workout he calls The Circuit:
“People come here and say, ‘This is madness! What the hell are you doing this for?’ ” he says, working his way through a set of shoulder presses. And it does seem fair to ask whether, maybe, two thousand repetitions might be enough to do the trick (especially since most people his age consider lawn bowling a fine workout). That kind of thinking is alien to Wildman, just as it is to the hardcore group of regulars who adhere to the same philosophy: When it comes to endorphin production, more is more. Along with Hamilton, Commerford, and Winn, the group includes John McEnroe, Detroit Red Wings defenseman Chris Chelios, and another dozen ultrafit men. In Wildman’s crew there are stuntmen and ski racers and motocross riders. There’s a sheriff, a restaurateur, and an ultimate fighter. There is the occasional celebrity (Sean Penn, John Cusack, John C. McGinley) or rock star (Kid Rock, Eddie Vedder). And one time, there was NBA star Reggie Miller.
“Ohhh, Reggie got torn up by this workout,” Commerford says. “I saw him the next day, and man.”
“Well, that’s because Laird tried to kill him,” Wildman says, shaking his head. “We definitely did all six rounds that day.”
Thing is, for Wildman and his crew, this kind of behavior isn’t abusive at all — it’s fun, heavily laced with lactic acid. “It’s just that our play is harder than 99 percent of other people’s work,” he explains.