MISSOULA – When Dale Garlitz was 16 years old, he spent the first $25 paycheck he earned on a set of Ted Williams barbells. Flash forward 50 years, those barbells have helped him become one of the world’s strongest humans at his age.
Earlier this year on Sept. 1, Garlitz competed in a WPC-AWPC sanctioned powerlifting event in Idaho Falls, Idaho. That day, the 66-year-old Missoulian set an all-time world record for a man in the 65- to 75-year-old age division, squatting 392 pounds.
“I was thinking, ‘I’m glad this happened. I’m getting tired of going home and telling people it didn’t happen.’ So it felt like I had a monkey off of my shoulders,” remarked Garlitz.
“Something like that, I’m just enjoying it. I’m going to enjoy that for as long as I can. I don’t know how long it will last before someone else breaks it. But it’s mine right now. So if it last five seconds, five years, or however, I’m happy.”
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Spend a minute at Ridge Fitness in Missoula, and you’ll find it’s easy to point out Garlitz. The silver-haired man stands 5-feet-6 at most, but he’s well-revered in the gym; and as one can imagine, he’s the only man of his age squatting 400 pounds, and bench pressing nearly 300 pounds.
“That is one badass old man,” said one weightlifter, approximately 30 years younger.
“He’s in here every day,” remarked another. “You wanna see a strong old man? Just watch him.”
Garlitz is quite the figure at his old/new job as well. Last May, Garlitz retired from his position as an elementary school counselor after 12 years. Six months later, he went back, and now oversees the lunchroom of Lowell School.
Similarly to how he draws attention of local weightlifters in the gym, the students in Lowell’s cafeteria want to hear all about Mr. Garlitz’s accomplishments as well.
“They’ll ask me, ‘Mr. Garlitz, do you have any more videos yet?’” he said. “They like to go home and tell their parents. I think they like seeing adults be active.”
Despite working out in the gym nearly every day, Garlitz only recently started competitive powerlifting in 2010, after a friend, Larry, suggested Garlitz was among the world’s strongest.
“I’d always say, ‘It’s a pretty big world, Larry. No way,’” said Garlitz. “So after about two years of this, I took time to look it up and I went back and told Larry, and said, ‘Larry, you might be right!’”
That was six years ago. Since that realization, Garlitz has set or held 33 world records total, and he knows he’s close to adding to that number. The former school counselor turned lunchroom celebrity squats well over 400 pounds in the gym, and wants to carry that into future competitions. He laughs at the thought of age slowing him down.
“I think what amuses me is when people start talking about age, like there’s limitations,” Garlitz said. “I found no limitations.
“At 66, I’m stronger than any point in my life. And yeah, I think I can bump it up to 410, 415; I don’t think that’d be real hard to do.”