Jim Arrington is in a class all his own.
The 85-year-old great-grandfather was named the world’s oldest male bodybuilder by the Guinness Book of World Records for 2018—and when it comes to passion, he is showing no signs of slowing down.
“I usually exercise two to three times a week for about an hour, and it’s a full body workout,” Arrington tells PEOPLE from his home in Venice, California. “But it’s not a whole lot of weight—I am 85, so I can’t lift the same as when I was a young buck!”
The seeds of Arrington’s journey were planted when he walked up to a magazine stand at a local drug store as a 13-year-old in the 1940s. While other kids looked at the comics, his eyes fell upon a book filled with pictures of bodybuilders.
“They were so huge I just couldn’t believe it!” Arrington remembers. “Even their forearms were massive, just like Popeye. Everything else was huge, too.”
Back then, Arrington got sick often and couldn’t run more than 15 yards without wheezing. So not long after that, Arrington used those pictures as inspiration and ordered a 25-cent booklet with exercise tutorials to begin his transformation. Exercise would keep him healthy, Arrington told himself, but it would help out in another area as well.
“I decided that I was interested in girls around this time, and working out would be helpful in that department!” he says.
Turns out, he liked exercising so much, that hanging with the ladies became an afterthought.
Within a few months, Arrington had put on more than 10 pounds of muscle by lifting three-pound ball bearings, and he kept going. Arrington had sparked what would become a lifelong love affair with bodybuilding that eventually led him to compete on the amateur stages of Muscle Beach and in professional settings such as the Pittsburgh Pro Masters Championships. In all, Arrington has competed in more than 60 competitions and has won 16.
But during recent competitions for men aged 70 and older, Arrington says he has found himself alone on stage.
“Unless someone else older than me comes along, I’m sweeping the competition,” Arrington says while laughing. “I have small bones and I would never be able to put on the size to become Mr. America, so I guess my strategy was to outlive and outweigh everybody by waiting until everybody grew up or died!”
His prize when he wins these solo competitions? Well, he gets his $200 entrance fee back, Arrington says.
The Herculean senior currently trains at Gold’s Gym in Venice, which he calls the “Mecca of Bodybuilding,” but he won’t compete again until next August (when he’ll start a meticulous high-protein, high-fat and low-carbohydrate diet a month before competition).
In the meantime, he has advice for up-and-coming bodybuilders, which may ring true for just about anyone, regardless of their field.
“Everyone always says there’s something they have to work a little more on, and they say they aren’t ready yet, they tell themselves they’ll compete later,” Arrington says. “You can’t look at it that way, you need the experience—you just have to do it.”