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LE Magazine July 1999

Profile


A Traveled Sportsman
In the midst of his continued youth, Maury takes the court!

Maury Schwarz Maury Schwarz surprised even himself when he took home seven gold medals-for the 50-, 100- and 200-meter runs, the high jump, long jump, shot put and softball throw-at the 1997 Senior Track & Field Meet in San Jose, California. After all, as he points out, it had been awhile since his last track meet-about 65 years. But while Schwarz' track skills may have gone a bit unpracticed over the years, he never once let up in his pursuit of strength, stamina and well being. Indeed his lifelong dedication to competitive sports, vitamins and alternative health practices has left him feeling good enough today, at age 84, to take on people 30 years his junior on the tennis court.

"Once in a while I mention how great [an athlete] I was when I was young," he says by phone from his home in San Francisco. "But I'm most interested in maintaining [my health] and being something special for my age. I may not beat anyone in their 20s at anything-but I think I can beat anyone over 80."

He's probably being too modest. He started his sports career with football, before moving full force into the martial arts, with a judo scholarship to Keio University in Tokyo. His interest and aptitude for fighting soon found new outlets when he began wrestling and boxing. In 1939 he won the Olympic boxing tryouts at Treasure Island in California and, although the war intruded on his Olympic dream, he continued to box. During summer vacations from college he found work as an athletic trainer on a cruise ship and earned extra money by fighting the local champs at whatever port of call he found himself in from the Orient, to the Panama Canal, Italy, France and England. In his career total of 186 fights, he counts only four losses. Among those wins were three consecutive intercollegiate titles, not to mention a number of bouts with men who outweighed him by 40 pounds.

An avid runner, he averaged seven miles a day until back and shoulder surgery sidelined him. Then, at age 76, Schwarz took up tennis for the first time. And while his artificial shoulder forces him to serve underhanded, he compensates with a mean top spin that keeps his opponents flat-footed. In order to get the right competitive mix on the court, Schwarz plays part of the week at a resort for seniors where he's a star. The rest of the time he tests himself against a younger crowd who, he says, respect that he can "give them a run." He's even taken home a few singles and mixed-doubles titles.

Schwarz dabbled briefly in yoga as a contemplative exercise during a time in his life when he needed calm. But today, he finds yoga "too mild." Although he no longer visits the ashrams he once frequented in California and Canada, he still makes periodic trips to find rejuvenation through alternative health therapies. For the past 30 years, he's done chelation therapy to flush the plaque buildup from his arteries, and he travels to Tijuana every two years for life-cell therapy treatments to encourage cell regeneration. He's also spent time at vegetarian resorts in Mexico, sought guidance from psychics, astrologers and spiritual healers, and often spent ten days fasting.

Though physical fitness was always important to him, Schwarz developed a more rounded approach to good health and a deeper appreciation for it 35 years ago during a time of great despair. That's when a divorce left him unhappy, overweight and out of shape: his wake-up call was a heart attack. From that point on he began reading about health and frequenting local health food stores-and he hasn't stopped since.

"I take so many vitamins it can be embarrassing," he says. "If a visitor [enters my lavatory] and opens the medicine cabinet, they all fall out." That's because as many as 50 to 60 vitamins and supplements may be stored there. Schwarz is constantly updating his daily regime, adding new products and axing others. He tries to keep a balance among products for overall good health and those designed to address more specialized needs. For starters, he takes plenty of vitamin C - some 2,000 IUs two or three times a day for its antioxidant properties - and a similar amount of vitamin B (as well as three times weekly injections of both vitamin B12 and B complex). Vitamins A and D are also staples and grape seeds are important in that they are some "30 times stronger than vitamin E." He takes lipoic acid to help maximize the vitamins' effects. All of this helps him maintain general good health. He also takes specialized supplements designed to keep his joints, cartilage and bones healthy, guard against arthritis and counter the effects of his old sports injuries. "Actually, I'm glad I've outlived my parts," he says. "It's much better than dying in perfect condition!"

Six months ago he began using DHEA and also DMAE, and usually takes Melatonin nightly to help him sleep. He turns to Flora to promote good bacterial health and, though he has used Coenzyme Q10 in the past to help promote cardiovascular health, he is currently taking a break from it. Schwarz is planning to add a memory/brain enhancer soon such as Ginkgo Biloba, though that will be a big step. "I've been avoiding them, because I hate to admit that I need them-and that's probably the first bit of evidence that I do," he deadpans.

It was, however, less difficult to admit that he needed to increase his liquid intake. His long-time habit of drinking very little water, coupled with a strenuous exercise regime, was causing him severe cramping. At the urging of his daughter Stephanie, who never goes anywhere without her water bottle, he recently began drinking six cups of green tea a day, in addition to upping his water intake. Crampless since then, he is now a true believer in rehydrating himself.

As for the rest of his diet, Schwarz says he tries to be conscious of what he puts in his system and is stricter than the average person, but still has his lapses. He won't say no to chocolate, for instance, and, try as he might to finish off the many fresh fruits and vegetables he buys, he inevitably ends up throwing most of them out. He prefers fish to red meat, which he'll only eat once a month. His dislike of home cooking means he often eats out or seeks out frozen dishes that he can reheat at home. Knowing this may not always lead to the right nutrients, he tries hard to compensate with the right mix of vitamins and supplements.

When not exercising, Schwarz is fond of the ballet, opera and the symphony and takes in the occasional foreign film. He's cut back on his movie going, since he's already logged so many hours watching films. (For 35 years, he ran a chain of movie houses that showed foreign films in the Bay area.) Then there's his passion for rock 'n roll dancing, though he admits it's not always easy to find partners his own age. He also enjoys spending time with his two granddaughters, seven-year-old Jackie and 10-year-old Melissa. Jackie is going to be a model, while Melissa seems to have inherited her granddad's natural athleticism, already excelling on the soccer field and as a baseball hitter. She was so impressed by her grandfather's gold medal haul, that she took them to school one day to show her classmates.

When asked if he feels better as a result of all the healthy things he does for himself, including his vast array of vitamins and supplements, Schwarz says that for him feeling good is just a way of life. "I've been doing this for so many years that I don't notice a difference," he says. "My theory is that I've maintained this degree of health so long, that I don't really notice any improvement-because you only notice improvement if you're health level is low to begin with."

Indeed, Schwarz is able to bounce back even from those occasional periods when he's feeling under par. His annual winter trip to Mexico with his tennis group left him with an infection that turned into pneumonia, which he battled for several weeks. But he's back on the tennis court now and wants everyone to know it.

"I've developed a philosophy," he says. " If I feel well I like to be effusive about it."

-Twig Mowatt