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Nov. 28, 2021

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Pushing 90, Vancouver man still does the heavy lifting

Steve Archer will turn 90 on Friday. He still can do 35 pull-ups and chin-ups and lifts weights three days a week. His fellow gym members consider him inspiring

By , Columbian staff writer
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Steve Archer powers through a workout at Cascade Athletic Club in Vancouver. Archer’s exercise routine mostly focuses on weightlifting, although he also likes to walk and will sometimes use the elliptical for cardio.
Steve Archer powers through a workout at Cascade Athletic Club in Vancouver. Archer’s exercise routine mostly focuses on weightlifting, although he also likes to walk and will sometimes use the elliptical for cardio. Photos by Amanda Cowan/The Columbian Photo Gallery

Linda Schorr didn’t believe Steve Archer, so she decided to spy on him.

It was about a month into dating. Schorr and Archer had been set up on a blind date on Valentine’s Day 2016 through a mutual friend, and pretty quickly after meeting him, she thought: “Gosh, he’s in pretty good physical shape for his age.”

Archer, who turns 90 on Friday, isn’t one to brag about his exercise routine, but he told Schorr, 77, enough that she wanted to verify it. So she went to his gym, Cascade Athletic Club in Vancouver, and attempted to sleuth on him from a recumbent bike. She failed. Archer spotted her (and even tried to teach her some exercises). But she was able to unearth that everything she’d heard about Archer’s workout was accurate.

“Here I am on my little bike, and I was watching everything he was doing, and I’m thinking ‘Oh, my God, he’s telling the truth,’ ” Schorr said.

Three mornings a week — Monday, Wednesday and Friday — Archer works out for a little more than an hour at Cascade Athletic Club, making him a bit of a rarity for his age.

He cycles through weight-based exercises. He does chin-ups and pull-ups (35 combined). He does leg extensions. He does the leg press at 175 pounds. He does pectoral flys, and back exercises and he finishes with 40 push-ups.

Archer is kind of like the Chuck Norris of his gym.

“He’s quite the legend around here,” his friend Norman Inseth said in between workouts.

‘I feel happy’

Members stop to chat with him. He jokingly takes attendance, and likes to give someone grief if they miss a workout. He likes to surprise members when they think he can’t tackle an exercise — he’s made a few jaws drop. At a recent workout, a member walked by and remarked: “He embarrasses the rest of us.”

But the truth is, exercise is something that Archer feels compelled to do. He used to play handball about two decades ago, before switching over to weight training. He said exercise makes him feel healthy, and he enjoys the social aspect of the gym.

“I feel happy that I’ll still continue to do it at the age of 90,” Archer said. “It pleases me, and a lot of my friends at the gym around there. We’ve become friends. It’s a social experience as well as a physical experience.”

Professor, author

Archer, who lives in Vancouver, served in the U.S. Navy and has taught as a professor at Willamette University in Oregon and the University of Washington. He’s also served as a visiting professor at colleges in England, Japan, Italy, Canada and Switzerland — generally focusing on finance and economics. He collects wine, and authored a book, “The Mind and the Stock Market,” that came out last year.

He likes to trade book suggestions with Inseth in between workouts, and Archer’s gym mentor, Pat Lambert, 75, likes to have “intellectually stimulating” conversations with him during workouts. Sometimes Lambert and Archer do chin-ups together, bringing almost 165 years of experience to the chin-up bar.

“He’s an inspiration to all us young guys, and I’m 75,” Lambert joked.

Archer likes to joke that his diet isn’t great, so that’s why he has to keep exercising. He’s admittedly averse to some vegetables, but still likes fresh spinach, green beans and peas. He’s also a fan of fruit — his big vice is pasta (remember, he lived in Italy for six months). When asked what exercise has meant to him, Archer joked: “I’m still walking, I’m 89.”

Archer doesn’t really find any of this particularly special; it’s just what he does. He likes how exercise means he can still lift things if he needs to, and easily tackle the stairs in his house.

He explained that he feels guilty not going to the gym, and Schorr said he hasn’t skipped a workout since they met about two years ago. Archer said his secret is consistency and discipline.

“People at the gym are expecting me to be there, so I better be there,” Archer said. “It’s just a routine, like getting dressed, to me.”

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Columbian staff writer
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