By Michelle Amour | Editor-in-chief
HELEN – Members of the Helena Health Club may know trainer Dave Purcell. He has been with the club since it opened eight years ago and works closely with many residents of Helena.
On July 23, Purcell competed in and won the 2021 NPC Masters National Bodybuilding Championship in Pittsburgh, PA, where he faced bodybuilders from across the country. At the age of 70, he said he didn’t feel like slowing down any time soon.
âI’m not 70,â he laughed.
Purcell has been training with weights for 56 years. Growing up, he said he was inspired by people like Steve Reeves and the “Hercules” movies which showed the strength of bodybuilders. âThese guys were bodybuilders who were in the movies and really inspired me. I have always been impressed with their strength and endurance.
His career has taken many turns, from bodybuilding competitions (he proudly said his name was Mister Louisville in 1975) to the automotive industry, but his love of fitness has always filled his life.
âI worked in the automotive industry for a long time with Southtown Motors in Pelham, and I was always interested in fitness, but I just couldn’t make any money,â he said. âI’ve always had this desire to help people. That’s what brought me to this, what I really love is passing it on and helping people. I know the benefits and being able to see their improvement is amazing.
He works with people who have a wide range of issues, from back issues to post-operative issues.
âA lot of people have daily problems caused by their poor physical health and poor nutrition,â he said.
Purcell’s favorite part of fitness? âThe feeling of well-being,â he said. âIt’s really amazing the benefits you get from keeping yourself healthy. Along with exercise, there is dietâ¦ the importance of nutrition is that you simply cannot outdo poor nutrition. It’s a combination of healthy eating and cardio and resistance training.
Working in the South where comfort food is a way of life, Purcell said people often prefer convenience over healthy. He said that once people start to feel the benefits of cleaner eating and exercise, they begin to understand the preparation and thought required to take care of yourself. The transition then becomes easy.
âIt’s amazing how people will adopt a healthier lifestyle and then eat something that they used to like that doesn’t taste as good and that will often upset their digestive tract. Your body stops craving it and you don’t even miss it.
In his personal life, Purcell is a family man who loves his wife, Betty, and their 5 year old daughter, Bailey. He credits Betty with her success, calling her his “training partner”. She plays a key role in helping him prepare meals and prepare for tanning competitions. âI’m coming home and she has my 36 eggs waiting for me for dinner. It has been huge in my success, âhe said.
âI’m just the woman at home,â she said modestly.
Purcell said Bailey couldn’t help but hide his enthusiasm for his father’s competitions. âI go on stage and all of a sudden I hear: ‘He’s my daddy!’ People started to laugh and applaud, âhe said with a laugh.
One of his goals as a trainer is to educate people on what works for their personal fitness program and to dispel common misconceptions about health and fitness.
âOne thing people think it’s just not true is that eating clean is expensive. It really isn’t, âhe said. âEating out is expensive. We went out for our anniversary a few years ago and spent about $ 50, and in my mind I’m like, “That’s 50 dozen eggs.”
Being able to see the physical and mental changes in the people he works with is a favorite part of Purcell’s job.
âI like being able to physically see the changes in their face and in their attitude, their whole perception of themselves,â Purcell said. âSometimes these people have such a bad image of themselves and to see this change is amazing. When you change physically it gives you that mental change that can change your whole life. I can see them grow up and see their feelings of self-worth and confidence grow. They feel good and that makes me feel good.
He said there is no such thing as “no time to train.” People have time to play on their phones all day and they say, âOh, I don’t have timeâ¦â You’re telling me you don’t have three hours out of the whole week to be active? “
Purcell said he doesn’t believe it when people say you can expect to slow down after a certain age, both physically and mentally. Instead, he is a firm believer in the idea that people go as far as they allow themselves.
âEveryone always says, ‘Oh, after this age your metabolism slows down, you’re going to start slowing down,’â he said. âWell, what I’m saying is your metabolism isn’t the one that has slowed down. You slowed down. You stopped working. It’s all in this mentality. If you slow down, that’s it.