Strong at 81

Jimm Ites of Cedar Falls, Iowa, continues to powerlift and run track as an 81-year-old senior Olympian. Ites was in Parsons recently to visit his son, Terry Ites.

As a youth, once a week Jimm Ites and his family left their farm and went to town to do their shopping. 

An avid reader, Ites found himself drawn to the magazine store.

“I read an interview they did with Joe Lewis (world heavyweight boxing champion from 1937 to 1949), and what he said stuck with me and he got me started training,” Ites said. “He said ‘Never stop training. Work your heart and lungs hard twice a week and keep your legs and back strong.’ That just kind of did something to me, and the next day I started putting pipes up in the trees and I started doing pull-ups and running down the road and back and forth. That’s how it started.”

And it has never ended, despite Ites now being 81 years old.

“I’ve never stopped. I went to my first track meet on the island of Guam in 1958. The following year I was sent to Taiwan. The communists were trying to take over some of their islands. I took judo there and I was in judo competitions.

“To me, this is my personal thing. I don’t just exercise. I train to go somewhere to a competition. Today, I’m a senior Olympian. I do powerlifting and I do track and field. I’m a sprinter,” he said during a Christmas visit to Parsons to visit his son, Terry Ites. 

He’s gone to Arizona every February for years to participate in track and field and powerlifting.  Competitions in Greeley Colorado, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Peoria, Illinois, Iowa and Las Vegas have drawn him in.

“In track and field, I wasn’t always a winner, but I’ve gotten tons of gold medals from that and powerlifting,” he said.

He has held the Iowa state record for older men, bench pressing 374 pounds, and held the senior men’s state record in Iowa for deadlifting 500 pounds.

In 2020, there were no competitions to go to because of the pandemic, so Ites has created his own competitions.

“My message for people is not just to lift heavy weights, but to change their mind about health and the human belief system. In my world, in my belief system, it is the key to perfect health and increased strength, but you’ve got to understand the dynamics of faith,” he said.

Some may say that probably comes easier to a man who served as a pastor for 50 years, but Ites said he learned about believing in the body’s abilities and how it is tied to one’s thoughts before then.

“For example, I don’t believe in being ill. I base this on three things from the Bible. One, as I think, I am, Proverbs 23:7. Two, Jesus said what I believe, I will see (Matthew 21:22). And then, three, what I call it, it will be, Romans 14:14,” he said. “What I call myself I am. What I call my day, it is. A lot of people don’t really practice that, and it takes practice. I call it the key to the fountain of youth that God designed us with.”

Research shows if you speak affirmations of faith, it shoots energy through your body that can promote health, he said.

Since age 60, Ites has held his own birthday show in his hometown of Cedar Falls, Iowa, in which he has a deadlifting competition between 15 or 16 people. The participants are asked to deadlift their body weight as many times as they can. Participants are “auctioned” to party attendees, who bid on the participant they believe can lift their body weight the most times. If the participant lifts their body weight 30 times, then the bidder will get $5 a rep. 

“We do it as a fundraiser for veterans,” Ites said. “We open the show up with the honor guard, and I have a guy sing the national anthem. It’s really kind of fun.”

Professionally, though retired as a pastor, Ites does pastoral counseling for people in just about every area of need, he said. Additionally, he is waiting for the doors to open again as he begins a new ministry he is starting, sharing his philosophy about the power of speaking positively over one’s life, health and well being.

“We had some meetings scheduled in Georgia and Texas in August and October of last year and then the government shut ’er down again, and churches couldn’t have people in like that,” Ites said. “We are believing this year’s going to be different.”

Ites has lived his message, and has a passion for wanting to share with others what he has learned and experienced.

“I tell people why am I still here on this earth, at age 81 with perfect health and increased strength. In auctioneer school they were always teaching that if God’s given you something and you are not giving it away, you are betraying yourself and other people who are supposed to hear your message. Jesus said never hides what you can do. Show people what you can do to give God the glory,” Ites said. “Most people, even in my area, are not used to 81-year-old guys still doing what I’m doing.  That’s tragic to me, that most people end up in some retirement place playing cards and drinking coffee and just going slower and slower and slower. They don’t really need to do that. They don’t realize that’s their choice. They’ve made a choice. 

“When people ask me what’s the greatest thing I learned from the Bible in my life, I said, ‘It’s really simple, that I have the power to choose. I choose my own attitude every day. I choose my own attitude that responds to different things every day.”

Beside Joe Lewis, Ites said he has been inspired by others, such as the story of 1930s wrestler Ed Lewis and Glen Cunningham, who became a famous runner in the 1930s. When Cunningham was 5, he lost a massive amount of muscle in a fire, and the doctor told his parents he’d never walk again. Cunningham found a Bible verse, Isaiah 40:31, and he said it every day: “I will run and not be weary. I will walk and not faint.” 

“He would literally pull himself around a fence, and pretty soon he was running. Then he became a real famous runner,” Ites said. “So it’s all a matter of attitude and choice.”

If someone would like to book Ites to hear more about his ministry in brain training/mind renewal, they can call 319-290-5081. His website is

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