Union Tribune

Copyright SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE PUBLISHING COMPANY Feb 19, 2001

When Rico Caveglia tells you that aging is natural and growing old is not, you figure he’s got something up his sleeve. Like maybe a taut tricep.

Either that, or he’s just splitting verbal hairs. Gray ones, to be sure.

Take a look at him, a wiry 6-foot, 165 pounds, and you start to get it. Sure, he’s 58, chronologically. But his fitness age, owing to his score on a simple measuring test, is 20.

And his attitude is somewhere in between.

A La Jolla-based personal fitness trainer, author and speaker, Caveglia defines old as “deteriorated, worn out, useless.” His message: You don’t have to go there.

Caveglia champions what he calls an “ageless living” lifestyle designed not so much to reverse gravity as to painlessly accommodate it.

Working primarily with clients 60 and over, he emphasizes two areas that minimize the symptoms of aging: flexibility and strength.

“As we age we really start to lose flexibility,” he said. “People get stiff, some to the extent that they can’t move their neck — which can be dangerous when driving a car.”

Caveglia, who outlines many of his techniques in the self- published “Ageless Living,” borrows from yoga and conventional athletic stretches. He encourages clients to develop core strength, using their own body weight instead of weights and machines in modified pull-ups or push-ups, for example.

But don’t think you can eat like an adolescent just because you exercise as regularly as you brush your teeth or comb your hair.

“If there was only one thing I could recommend, between exercising and eating healthy, it would be the latter,” Caveglia said. “The only way your cells operate is through nutrients and water.”

So it’s out with the processed foods and the simple sugars and in with the whole grains and soy and lean animal proteins. “Think of vegetables as the base of the food pyramid,” he said.

“If you eat raw food, lean protein and vegetables, there’s no way you can put on excess weight. Real food goes through you. It’s got enough fiber and bulk to fill you up.”

To ease the transition to a more natural food diet, Caveglia wrote “Real Food, Real Fast: How to Prepare Nutritious and Delicious Meals in 12 Minutes or Less.”

He finds himself doing more nutrition counseling than training these days, primarily because “changing eating habits is harder for people.”

Caveglia, certified in health management and fitness instruction by the University of California San Diego, achieved the fitness age of 20 in a test devised by the San Diego-based FitnessAge company.

It’s the same one on which 85-year Jack LaLanne tested 29.

Caveglia sculpts his own body with gymnastics-type workouts, using adjustable parallel bars on a device he invented, the calisthenics cage.

Moving your body weight, instead of pumping iron, better transfers to recreational and everyday activities, he reasons.

By his early 50s, Caveglia had recovered enough from a knee injury, suffered as a New Mexico State running back, to take up sprinting. He wound up winning a silver medal in the Senior Olympics at 53 with a 25.9 in the 200 meters and a gold medal as a member of a 400-meter relay team.

Competing at that level, though, requires the kind of training intensity few people his age can tolerate. So these days, you may see him whisk past you on in-line skates.

Caveglia markets his books and Lifetime Fitness business through his Web site: www.agelesslivinglifestyle.com. He can be reached at (858) 274- 0118.

Jack Williams can be reached at (619) 293-1388; by fax at (619) 293-1896; or by e-mail at: jack.williams@uniontrib.com