Four times a week, self-confessed “creature of habit” Martin Berger wakes up at 6.45am to travel to the Village Hotel gym on Otley Road from his home in Adel. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday he performs the same Herculean routine he’s been doing for the past decade: a 90-minute full-body workout that includes rowing, jogging, spinning, leg extensions and free weights. Every Sunday, while most of us are enjoying a lie-in, Martin is up and out, enjoying his early morning swim.
Martin is a widower after his wife passed away in 2006, and admits life alone can be tough: “It’s not easy living by yourself. But going to the gym has really kept me going. You get talking to all kinds of people from all different backgrounds you wouldn’t normally get to speak to. It’s a wonderful atmosphere.”
Martin found his love of exercise late in life, well before the gym craze of recent decades took hold: “It was my wife, Stella who got me into exercise back in 1986. She used to go to the Posthouse Hotel in Bramhope, it’s a Britannia Hotel now. I said to her, who wants to do that sort of thing! Nobody went to the gym in those days, it just wasn’t something people did at the time.”
After serving as a Royal Naval Reserve surgeon, he went on to establish his own medical practice in Holt Park in 1956, which he ran for 42 years before retiring at the age of 70. Despite a long-serving career in the medical profession he cautions: “Keep away from doctors! The best medicine is a good workout.” Asked if he suffers from aches or pains, he replies: “Pain? I don’t know the meaning of the word. I’ve never had to take a paracetamol in my life.”
Commenting on the recent upsurge in anxiety among the UK population, Martin believes that exercise can often be the best medicine: “When you go to the doctor these days, rather than prescribe you pills you’ll often get told to exercise. I like to do my exercise early in the morning, because you don’t have time to sit around and feel depressed. It doesn’t have to be a session at the gym, even taking the dog for a walk can work wonders – but you have to do it regularly.”
Having made several appearances in the media, Martin has achieved somewhat of a celebrity status and is proving a big hit with the ladies of Leeds. “When waiting in the launderette, I often see people, usually women looking down at their smartphones. I’ll tell them to type my name into Google and up comes my story. And after that, we soon become friends!”
After celebrating his 90th birthday back in November, which the Village Hotel helped him celebrate by throwing a party in the gym, Martin has no plans to quit his superhuman regime: “I like to think I’m an example to people. If I can do it at my age, so can they!”