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Mr. Motivation inspires gym members everyday despite spinal cord injury

80-year-old Les Burge works out daily despite huge health challenges.

ENCINITAS, Calif. — If you ever need a little extra motivation to get out of bed for your morning workout, this story may do the trick. In this Zevely Zone, I went to Chuze Fitness in Encinitas to meet Mr. Motivation. 

This story idea came from a Zevely Zone viewer who thinks everyone can find inspiration from Les Burge. He is an 80-year-old man who gets a full workout just getting to the gym. We watched him pull into the parking lot in his car, set up his walker and limp slowly into the fitness club. "Part of my philosophy is the hardest part of the workout is walking through the front door of the gym," said Les.

Credit: Les Burge

As he walked in the front door at Chuze Fitness, Les was met with admiration. "Morning Les," said the staff at the front desk. "I see him every day, he is a real trooper in my opinion," said a man working out. "He is our inspiration," said another gym member. Les works out every day. His arrival reminded me of the television show Cheers where everyone knows his name. "Yeah, ha, ha," laughed Les who told me that when he was in his 20's, he suffered a spinal cord injury playing football.  

Credit: Les Burge

Despite the pain, he still rode his bike all over the world in his younger years. "That's in the Italian Alps," said Les while flipping through pictures from his past. "This is in Spain," said Les. Year by year, he could feel himself slowly losing a battle with his body. "I asked my doctor what kind of life am I going to have? What is going to be the quality of my life and his answer was the quality of your life is up to you," said Les.  

Credit: Les Burge

"More guts than anyone in the world. More guts than anyone I have ever met in my life," said Dennis Munden. "Gives you heart, just absolutely gives you heart." Les started his workout with free weights then moved to a weighted pulley system. "I call this my high wire act because I never know what the hell is going to happen," he laughed. Martha Munden told me if she ever wants to skip a workout, she thinks of Les. "Sometimes we'd be tired and say uh, let's not go to the gym and we say let's go check Les out because he'll beat us," said Martha.  

Credit: Les Burge

"Les comes in everyday with one of the best attitudes you could possibly imagine," said Chuze Fitness Manager Jordan Lancaster. "He came in the other day and said I am just trying to keep up with you and the only thing I could say is Les I am trying to keep up with you."

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Les says wherever he goes, people ask if they can help him. He politely turns the offers down. "Almost every time," said Les. When he was younger, he ran the Grand Canyon from the North to South Rim and even now feels like he's just one step ahead of a wheelchair. "What people do is they come to me, and they say I give them inspiration, that really is not my intent, but it really makes me feel good if that is true," said Les. 

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I asked him how he felt about the moniker, Mr. Motivation. "I don't think of myself that way," said Les. But others do about a man with a spinal cord injury who possesses the strongest backbone you'll ever see.  "He's the one who keeps us going," said Martha. "There is no better person with a better attitude," said Jordan. "Fantastic gentleman," said Dennis.  

Les lives with his son in San Marcos. He says every day in the gym is one less day he'll live in a care home.

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