Science & Technology

Fitness did not protect him from heart problems or COVID-19, but it helped him recover

Credit: Photo courtesy of Dianne Holmes

Approximately a month after the COVID-19 pandemic, LeCount Holmes made a big announcement on television that Maryland Governor Larry Hogan was within a mile of his home.

Because Prince George’s County was one of the areas most affected by the coronavirus, previous community hospitals were reopened earlier than planned to provide treatment to another 135 patients.

Holmes jumped on his bike, hoping to get a glimpse of the governor. By the time he arrived, there was only a news track left, but at least he had some exercise.

He was 70 years old, but Holmes’ attitude towards the virus was “I can’t catch me because I’m so sick.”

Holmes was four years old when his father taught him how to ride a bicycle. He has been active since then.

Growing up in Washington, DC in the 1950s and 1960s, he loved the DC-raised swing dances of swimming and handdancing, backed by the sounds of Motown.

When he was 15, his gym coach had the boy do push-ups. Tall, thin, and weak, Holmes was so embarrassed that he couldn’t do anything and vowed to do something about it.

“My grandmother gave me weight,” he said. “My mother said that the room was noisy and I had to use it in the garden.”

Within a year he was able to lift 110 pounds with one arm.

Over the next few decades, Holmes lived a colorful life.

He considered becoming a Muslim. Now he is a Buddhist in training. He did a narration job on the radio. For over 25 years, he has played Frederick Douglass for high school and college audiences across the country.

He is also a motivational speaker and fitness instructor. At the age of 55 in 2004, he won a bronze medal in swimming and athletics at the Atlanta Senior Olympics.

Two years ago, Holmes taught underwater aerobics classes through the Prince George’s County Recreation Department. One day he fainted while standing by the pool.

Holmes was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, an arrhythmia. For a person who is always healthy and active, this high mortality brush scared him.

“It was scary because I went to quite a few funerals for the people I grew up with,” he said.

But he relied on overall good health and lifelong affirmation. “Don’t give up the name of the game of life.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, Holmes’ fitness classes went online.

The county invited him to continue through Zoom, but he refused. The technique threatened him.

“Then I heard the words,’Don’t give up, Lucount’.”

Last September, he learned how to use Zoom and immediately resumed teaching.

In December, Holmes woke up with a fever. He was vomiting and had difficulty breathing. He went to the hospital’s emergency room on a bicycle until the day the governor announced the reopening.

He tested positive for COVID-19 and was sent home for recovery. Three days later he felt even worse. The hospital’s COVID contact tracer called for him to check.

“She asked how sick I was, I could hardly breathe and called an ambulance,” he said.

In the next two weeks, Holmes lost £ 15. He suffered from pneumonia, had a spike in blood pressure, needed oxygen and plasma, and developed a painful aortic aneurysm.

Still, he did his best by focusing on not giving up. He practiced yoga and frequently chanted the Buddhist prayer “Nanmu Myōhō Renkakyo.” This is an expression of overcoming determination and suffering.

“My old neighborhood, my friends in the Christian community, and my Buddhist community, they all prayed for me,” he said.

His doctor told him that if he wasn’t very healthy with such strong lungs, he might not have survived.

When Holmes left the hospital, he could no longer do one push-up. By resuming his fitness regimen, he is currently cranking out as many as 80 people a day.

In February, he started an online fitness class twice a week. He also has a monthly online motivational newsletter.

“My main motivation is to show older people that life isn’t over, and that aging is just another chapter in your life,” he said.

He is particularly interested in promoting fitness in the black community where obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure are widespread.

One of his regular participants is Lorraine “Burney” Poindexter. Lorraine “Burney” Poindexter is a childhood classmate who reunited when he met at an optician a few years ago.

“My back was turned to him, but I immediately recognized his voice,” she said.

She wasn’t surprised to see him staying fit and leading a fitness class.

“He’s always a very extrovert and his class is really fun and energetic,” Poindexter said. “He always tells us new things. He asked us to order a hula hoop.”

Hoping to return to the stage this year, Holmes has a new goal of writing a poetry book.

“I will continue to reinvent myself until I’m out of breath,” he said. “Age is really just a number.”

Written by Diane Daniel.

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Fitness did not protect him from heart problems or COVID-19, but it helped him recover Fitness did not protect him from heart problems or COVID-19, but it helped him recover

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