Richard Landry, of Glen Cove, began his workout like he always does. First, he grabbed the elastic cables tied around his squat rack and stretched out his broad upper body. Staying flexible is one of the most important aspects of his regimen, Landry said. Next he moved to the stationary bike, ducking under the miniature train tracks that wrap around the perimeter of his homemade gym.
After working “like a hamster,” as he described it, for a few minutes, he moved to the curl machine. “I can’t stand sit-ups,” he explained in mid-rep, “so I do these.”
After he demonstrated the other elements of his warmup, he finally took a moment to pause. Then the 71-year-old moved on to the barbell, eager as a teenager with a sugar rush, and began pumping out dead lifts. Thirty minutes into his routine, the real weight work had begun.
Landry, a retired teacher and gymnastics school owner who has been pumping iron since 1966, is not only a world-class Olympic-style weightlifter, but also a former world record holder in the pentathlon. And over the past year, he has become one of the top competitors in the country in another weightlifting discipline, powerlifting. Different from Olympic weightlifting, which comprises two lifts — the snatch and the clean and jerk — powerlifting has three key lifts: the bench press, the squat and the deadlift.
Since his first powerlifting meet last October, which he won, Landry has gone undefeated in five major competitions in his age and weight class, setting 21 New York state records in the process. According to the International Powerlifting Federation, he’s the nation’s second-ranked lifter in his class.
His prowess as a powerlifter hasn’t stopped Landry from competing in Olympic-style lifting events. A former Pan American champion, he qualified for the world championships in Montreal next August. “I think I can win, but you never know,” he said. “The best thing to do is just go out and compete, and whatever happens, happens.”
Originally a pole-vaulter, he branched into five-event pentathlons after high school. He set the American pentathlon record in 1980, having become a national-class decathlete as well in the 1970s.
Although he occasionally lifts at commercial fitness centers, he trains primarily in the gym he built a few years ago in his Duck Pond Road home. He started by digging a 10 foot-wide-hole several feet into his basement floor, so he could have enough room to lift a barbell above his head. Today, the hole is a neatly squared-off space lined with a weightlifting mat. Inside it are a squat rack and two barbells that he works out with every 72 hours.
While Landry usually trains by himself, he is never alone down there. Scattered across the basement are cages and tanks containing a variety of species of animals, ranging from two turtles he hatched himself to a pair of chameleons he acquired a few days before the Herald Gazette’s visit.
He has downsized the zoological collection over the years, he said. “I used to have over 80 birds in here,” he said, opening the door to a walk-in aviary just steps away from his lifting equipment. “When people don’t want their animals anymore, they bring them to me. I love it.”
Richard and his wife, Carol, have a son and two daughters. His oldest daughter, Jenna, 41, said that neighbors used to call their house “Landry Land” when she was growing up. “There was always something going on, whether it was javelin throwing in the backyard or riding horses,” she said. “It was a really fun and athletic childhood that’s carried on into our adulthood.”
Her father said he believed that not all of life’s important lessons are found in textbooks. “There is so much out there,” he said. “What it really boils down to is being in nature and out in the world. That’s my high in life.”