At 66, bodybuilding champ becomes indoor rowing finalist

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Dave Spector has always been an advocate of health and physical fitness.

The 66-year-old Boca Raton man owns a personal training studio and is the holder of national championships in wrestling and bodybuilding.

He is now building a reputation as a world-class Indoor rowing competitor after finishing second in the recent 2021 World Rowing Virtual Indoor Championships in his age group. He finished 11th in 2020 when he competed in Paris. He also won the Continental, British Rowing and the United States Lightweight National championships. The Continental win qualified him for the World Championships.

“I feel like I am a kid again,” said Spector, who has only been rowing three years competitively. This year’s championships took place virtually due to COVID-19 precautions with competitors rowing on Concept 2 ergometer machines. “My condition is like I am a 30-year-old. I got to do what I wanted to do (compete) later on in life and I never thought I would be able to do that again.”

Spector won a junior national Greco-Roman wrestling championship as a high schooler in 1972 and turned to bodybuilding, where he won the Mr. New York State amateur bodybuilding championship in 1978 at age 23. He also captured the 1979 Mr. Atlantic USA bodybuilding competition and finished fourth at Mr. USA in 1980.

During those years he regularly appeared on the covers of bodybuilding magazines and befriended four-time Olympic gold medalist Al Oerter, who also mentored him.

“When I competed, I was on the cover of six or seven magazines,” said Spector, who was forced to stop competing in bodybuilding when he had his biceps tendon ripped off the bone. “I couldn’t compete anymore, so I got into marathon running and ran a marathon. I wanted to try it. I never thought I would be able to compete again but then the rowing came along.”

Even though injuries forced him out of bodybuilding competition by 1982, he later established himself as a personal trainer and fitness studio owner, helping others live healthier lives. Spector moved to Boca Raton in 1996 from Syracuse and set up a personal training studio, Dave Spector’s 1on1 Fitness Studio.

Three years ago, a longtime friend and fellow wrestler Bob Dermody introduced him to the world of indoor rowing. It’s now become a central element of Spector’s own workouts, and he develops individualized rowing regimens for his clients.

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“I have a guy in the U.K. (Ed Fletcher) who trains a lot of the people who are among the best rowers in the world in different age groups and he writes up my programs to compete,” said Spector, who was accepted into a master’s program at Florida Atlantic University. “The guy also writes up programs for my clients. We take it to the next level on the rowing machine.”

Spector said through his years of training, he developed arthritis, shoulder problems, knee problems and other injuries, and indoor rowing provided him with something that he could do without pain.

Boca Raton’s David Spector, front, works with Andy Ghosoph at a recent indoor rowing competition.

Boca Raton’s David Spector, front, works with Andy Ghosoph at a recent indoor rowing competition. (David Spector/Courtesy)

“When you do a 2,000-meter on a Concept 2 rowing machine, it is one of the hardest things to do,” he said. “I have done a lot of sports and it really is difficult. It is a combination of power, strength, everything together. The whole thing takes about seven minutes and you have to learn how to race. You can’t just go as hard as you can for seven minutes.”

“I do 15,000 meters a week training for this,” said Spector, who noted the competition is from December to March. “You don’t realize the intensity of this. I am on the machine a good seven to eight hours a week and each workout is totally different.”

Spector said for those wanting to get into shape, it’s all about having a plan, changing habits and being consistent. He said many of his clients, who are people in their 60s, 70s and 80s, have been with him for 10 to 15 years and train up to three times a week.

“If you have a plan to train and eat in moderation, you will see a real difference in six months,” Spector said. “When I was younger, it was important how I looked. As you get older, it is about how you feel. It’s very rewarding to see people believe in me and my advice. It makes me feel great that they get healthier and feel better because of our work together.”

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