senior fitness story

Meet 78-year-old Steel Mace Fitness Enthusiast Jan Libourel

February 10, 2020 9 Comments

We’d like to introduce you to our new friend Jan Libourel, a 78-year old steel mace enthusiast.

Jan reached out to us a few weeks ago to let us know that he is really enjoying his new 20LB SFS Mace.

Jan told us, “I am finding it excellent for some of the ancillary mace exercises like uppercuts, grave diggers, thrusts, stork walks, barbarian squats, etc. I had not found them very challenging with my lighter maces.”

He is still working on performing the classic mace exercises (360s and 10-2s) with the 20 pounder.

Jan also told us about one of his recent steel mace workouts:

“Just finished a vigorous workout, commencing with about 10 minutes of Indian club swinging, and the rest of the time doing the "classics" with my 10 and 15, interspersed with ‘ancillaries’ using the 20. The whole business left me good and winded, which I like.”

After chatting via email, we asked Jan if he could tell us about his fitness journey and how he got involved in steel mace training. He kindly gave us a glimpse into his life, which we are about to share below.

We are really excited to share this with you all and we hope this will inspire people out there, especially seniors and older adults who are considering to start working out steel maces and other unconventional training tools.


By Jan Libourel

steel mace workout for seniors and older people

My interest in fitness was probably kindled when I was all of four years old when one of my uncle's friends gave me a copy of Joe Weider's Muscle Builder magazine for Christmas. This would have been in 1946. In any event, I was intrigued by the images of the muscle men and kept the magazine for many years. My father, a pilot in the Dutch navy, had been killed at the outbreak of the war in the Pacific, and my pregnant mother, an American woman, had made a dramatic escape from Java two days before the Japanese invaded the island. I was born in Australia, and my mother was soon able return to her parents' home in Los Angeles, where I was raised.

In early adolescence, I became body-conscious, as most young people do. I began with devices like spring-loaded chest pulls and "krusher grips." They were probably of some minor benefit. I also became fascinated with boxing and spent a lot of time pounding a home-made heavy bag consisting of a gunnysack stuffed with rags. I really wanted a set of weights, but most of my mother's money went to sending me to an excellent private school, and I never got the weights.

Three years of boarding school and four years of college (UCLA) followed. I did well enough at UCLA to be accepted into Balliol College, Oxford, to "read for" (as the English say) the prestigious Final Honour School of Literae Humaniores. During the summer of 1964, between my two years at Oxford, I attended a summer session of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. While in Greece, I contracted a very nasty case of dysentery and returned to Oxford a mere wraith of the young man who had departed six weeks earlier. At a height of 6'3" I was down to a mere 165 pounds.

At this point my fitness journey really began. I got a pair of adjustable dumbbells. I also acquired a useful little book entitled The Book of Strength by one William Lindsay Gresham, whose ex-wife had married the famous Oxford don and a Christian apologist C.S. Lewis. I spent the rest of the summer working out intensely and guzzling large quantities of milk and protein powder. By the time the fall term commenced I had been transformed into a much larger, stronger man than when I had left Oxford that spring.  One of my classmates exclaimed, "So it [weight training] really works!"

For the next 12 years, fitness for me consisted of working out with heavy dumbbells. Eventually, I bought a 400-pound Olympic barbell set and a pair of squat racks. I was big and strong, but that was about it. That changed one day around 1976 or 1977. I went shopping for clothes with my uncle, who would have been about 63. To my dismay, I found he was out-hustling me as the afternoon progressed.

"This will not do!" thought I and commenced running. My first attempt was running a few blocks and back. I was completely winded by that little effort. However, I persevered, running on the days when I didn't hit the weights. Within a year or so, I was running up to ten miles in the city, and when I visited the beach, as I often did in those days, I would run for as much as 16 miles, followed by long swims in the ocean.

The following years (1978-1984) were my best years physically. My running wouldn't have won any races, but I had good endurance. I was also taking frequent day hikes of up to 18 miles in the nearby mountains. I was strong--not powerlifter or strongman strong--but strong in comparison to most of the male population, and I had a muscular, shapely physique--not bodybuilder quality--but pretty good withal.

That came to an end in late May 1984, when I came down with a cold. "No big deal," I thought, but it turned out to be the prelude to a three-year sequence of frequent colds, flu, chronic sore throats, fevers, sub-normal temperatures and whatnot. Finally, I had the mumps in March 1987. This may have kicked my autoimmune system into overdrive because since then I have enjoyed reasonably good health to this day. I have heard in recent years of athletes having breakdowns in their health from over-training, and this may have been the cause of my period of ill-health. Another possibility was that I had been working with molten lead (casting bullets) a lot. I have also wondered whether I may have picked up some "bug" by frequenting the beach.

In any event, in the following years I rather neglected the weights and concentrated on running and hiking. A move to Long Beach when I married my present wife (who pursues fitness even more keenly than I, I think) in 1994 made frequent hikes less feasible and knee problems curtailed my running. Most of my exercise in the following years I got from taking long walks with our large, powerful Japanese Tosa dogs.

After the death of one of our dogs in 2008, I resolved to take a more systematic approach to fitness again and began exercising on an elliptical machine my wife had bought and doing some moderate training with the weights. I had intended to get in better shape when I retired, which I did in 2010. I increased my time on the elliptical and trained with the weights more intensely. Still, the elliptical I found boring, and doing the same barbell and dumbbell exercises that I had been performing for many years had the same effect. That I could not handle the same poundages as in my younger days was also mildly depressing.

Things changed when my wife bought me some private sessions in 2015 at a little gym where she trained. There I acquired a medicine ball from the proprietor. This item of "old-timey" equipment led me to experiment with Indian clubs. These I liked and eventually acquired four pairs, ranging from one to 6.5 pounds. I still train with them almost daily for about 10 minutes since they are excellent for warming up for heavier work with kettlebells or maces.

I bought my first kettlebell in the early summer of 2016. They quickly became my primary exercise tools. I particularly liked that I could train with them outdoors and required no ancillary equipment like benches or squat racks. By Christmas of that year I had acquired four more and "max'ed out" with a 75-pounder in the following spring. I still like the kettlebells very much, but the number of exercises that can be performed with them seems rather finite, and it seems easy to "plateau" with them.

Buy kettlebells from SET FOR SET

kettlebell exercises for seniors

I had been aware of the maces for several years but had been resistant to trying one. I could pound a tire with a sledgehammer, which I already had, and I thought I could duplicate the effects of maces with my heaviest Indian clubs or doing "haloes" and such with the kettlebells. Over a year ago, I bought 10- and 15-pound maces. I immediately discovered that the classic 360 and 10-2 were very useful, beneficial exercises, and I was glad I had acquired the maces. However, I still regarded the mace as an exercise tool of finite utility. Most of the other suggested mace exercises did not seem very challenging even with the 15-pound mace, and I was unimpressed by them.

My recent acquisition of a 20-pound mace from Set-For-Set has radically changed my attitude about the versatility of the mace. Exercises that had seemed like going-through-the-motions with a 15-pounder were now a real workout with the 20-pounder. I can now get a total-body workout with the maces. Moreover, the 82-page e-book provided by Set-For-Set opened my eyes to the plethora of great exercises that can be performed with them, this notwithstanding my having already viewed a lot of mace-training videos.

Well, I am going to be turning 78 in a few weeks. At this point, my primary fitness goal is to be springing for a 25-pound mace before my 80th...from Set-For-Set, of course!

Jan Libourel was a writer and editor for firearms publications for 31 years, including 12+ years as founding editor of Petersen's Handguns.

steel mace

Jan’s story is incredibly inspirational to us.

Fitness is not a destination, it is a lifelong journey that should be enjoyed!

Learn More: Fitness Tips for Seniors by Jan Libourel

If you have a message for Jan, please feel free to leave a comment below.

9 Responses

Sergio Antonio Graziano
Sergio Antonio Graziano

June 05, 2021

Jan, I am a rancher in Patagonia, Argentina and have read your work in Handguns Magazine for many years.
I hope you are doing OK. I miss your articles and Dave Arnold’s too. What a team you made.
Thank you the wonderful writings and all the pleasure I got reading them.
God Bless you!
God Bless America!

Don Gillig, Sr.
Don Gillig, Sr.

March 07, 2020

When I first read about you working out with a mace, I thought this was like something William the Conqueror would’ve done. You have a lot of drive for a man in our age group and are in great shape. If you ever go hiking in the mountains again, maybe you could carry your mace in case of bear attacks, which we have frequently talked about. Ol’ Don (If I could just get myself to begin walking, maybe I could still lose a lot of weight.)


March 03, 2020

This was so inspiring hearing about Jan’s fitness journey. Thank you for sharing. I hope that I am continuing to learn new skills and explore movement right till my last day. Keep up the great work Jan!

Mark Tompkins
Mark Tompkins

February 11, 2020

I am very impressed with this story.Although my life story is not as colorful as Jan’s and my fitness journey not exactly the same,parts are very close.I am motivated to now get back to mace work!

kim mcquay
kim mcquay

February 11, 2020

Wonderful article from an amazing guy – this is how a fit life should be for the baby boomer generation! Good on him for incorporating movement as part of life. I try to convey to my clients that health and fitness isn’t seasonal – we don’t “start back at the beginning of the year” or think of it as “getting in shape” – we must treat it as we do our personal hygiene. Moving is what our bodies crave and we must incorporate it into daily life.
I love that Jan is open-minded to trying new modalities and techniques. When you’ve been doing it as long as he has, it’s important to change things up. In my own training at age 61, learning to move in different planes with different patterns, as we do with a mace or kettlebell, allows for power to be gained and balance to be challenged – so important for those of us over 50. Rock on, Jan!


February 11, 2020

Great piece! Well written and inspirational. Go Jan!

Mike Travis
Mike Travis

February 11, 2020

Right on! Keep on trucking!

Jann Dolk
Jann Dolk

February 11, 2020

Absolutely loved reading Jan’s story. Thank you for emailing it from SET for SET. Such an inspiration.


February 11, 2020

Thank you, Jan for sharing. You have inspired me to up my mace game!

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