June 18, 2022 5 min read 10 Comments
Photo: Courtesy National Senior Games
By Ray Glier
Andy Steinfeldt, 74, will do the gravity-defying core exercise called “planks” for 40 minutes, or longer, every year on his birthday until, he says, “Age catches up to me.”
Good luck Age. You’re in for a race with this guy.
Cancer caught up to Andy, but it can't hold its grip, or leave him debilitated. Chaos (his business collapsed), Despair (his father died), and Evil (a friend was murdered in a mass shooting) tried to run him down and they failed back-to-back-to-back.
Blood Clot and a congenital condition ambushed his right leg, but Andy warded that off and subsequently ran marathons.
Depression caught up to Andy because of all the turmoil, but then he turned on the jets of resilience and he left Depression behind, too.
Age will eventually win. It always does, but it will huff-and-puff and swear at Andy because he won’t give up easy.
I met Andy at The National Senior Games. He has been nicknamed “Mr. Impossible” because of his comebacks from one health crisis after another, along with his exhibitions of planking, which last longer than Super Bowl halftime shows.
Andy is not a big guy, but he is too big to wear him around your neck as the charm that you touch to get you through your worst days.
Andy did track and field and basketball at The Senior Games and I'm sure something else I can't recall right now. He did an exhibition of his planking on opening night and left everyone feeling out of shape. The opening ceremony would have lasted until 2 a.m., if they had let Andy continue with his planking. They had to shoo him off stage so the show could go on.
This is Andy on his ordeals the last 12 years:
“I kind of hit rock bottom. I had all these bad things happen and I sunk into an abyss. What did I see in the abyss? I saw darkness. I saw a place that I had never been before and a place I never want to go again. I had so many bad things happen all at once and it had a physiological effect on me.
“I could use the bathroom, and could get some breakfast, but I could barely get out of the chair. My career was over. I didn’t have any place to go. So, I went through a bad period and then one day, I just realized I had to change.”
Here is the rundown of Andy’s calamities. Hold on to your disbelief.
Steinfeldt is from Minnesota and he owned a sign company. It was a top-shelf company in Minneapolis. And then the wheels came off.
“I was a superstar in my industry, then I lost my company and my career and my identity, all overnight,” Steinfeldt said.
His father died and a friend became “an anchor” in place of his father. Then the friend was shot and killed. You won’t remember this mass shooting because there have been so many, but it was Sept. 27, 2012 at Accent Signage in Minneapolis. Six people died, including the gunman and Andy’s friend.
That’s when he first started to spiral. You would have to be soulless not to spiral in the face of all this.
“I had never been a depressed person,” Andy said.
He could get out of bed, but he sank into that chair in the house. For about a year, Andy was glued to that chair. His family was supportive, but Andy said he didn’t want to lay off the anxiety on them. When he got some help with some medicine he gained weight.
And, then, one day, he had enough of the weight gain and lethargy.
“It's kind of like hitting rock bottom and just figuring out, you know, am I gonna stay in an abyss or am I somehow going to climb out?,” he said.
He didn’t climb out. He walked out.
The walks turned into jogs and it was all very therapeutic. He started running with his son in 2014.
All was well, until it wasn’t. Andy was diagnosed with prostate cancer. There was a botched surgery to remove his prostate. He had a kink in his ureter and he went into kidney failure. In the second surgery a needle dropped off the robotic arm, Andy said. More complications. They did a total of six incisions in his abdomen.
Then came the appendectomy and hernia surgery.
Andy had 14 incisions in his abdomen in two years and the doc said the pushups he was doing to stay in shape would have to stop.
“I didn’t accept that,” he said.
Then came the blood clot in his leg, and gee whiz, the guy couldn’t catch a break. He was told he could forget about the long distance running. He would have enough trouble walking.
“I have a survivor mentality,” Andy said.
His mother died at four. His father had trouble keeping the family together. By himself, Andy would take a train/bus trip between home in Minnesota and relatives in Iowa. He was 7.
He knew how to keep going.
Andy had signed up for a Silver Sneakers program at 65 with Medicare and when he did the fitness test to determine what level he should start at, they had Andy do a plank.
“Ok, Mr. Steinfeldt, you can stop now,” the trainer said.
“I can keep going,” he said.
He kept going and going with the routine of getting to the up-position on a pushup and staying there. It became his thing. When he turned 70, the local YMCA had Steinfeldt come in for an exhibition he called The Strength and Endurance Trifecta where he did his planking, then did handstand wall pushups, and regular pushups. A TV station came out and filmed it. Andy went viral.
Andy soon got into a pushups competition and did 300 and injured himself. Badly. The injury was diagnosed as long thoracic nerve neuropathy. That was 13 months ago. Now he has modified his shooting in basketball, his favorite sport. The shoulder hurts, but it was yet another comeback.
Andy, the businessman, remade his body and reinvented himself professionally.
He always wanted to be a professional singer. He was a shower-singer, but people told him he had a good voice. He does have a good voice, rich and full and smooth. A career singing in Bossa Nova was born. Here he is. Listen. Not bad, right?
Andy can speak Spanish and Portuguese and some French and Italian. He traveled to Brazil and produced and recorded some songs. And that is a whole other part of Andy's story.
One of his side hustles is as a funeral singer. He joined the Minnesota Funeral Directors Association. There was a convention at the end of May and Andy was going to perform there.
So that’s sort of another brush with death, but at least he was not the guest of honor. Andy’s still here. Somehow.
Age is inevitable. Age will grab Andy Steinfeldt.
But it will be a race for the ages with this man.
Photo: Jackie Moon.
That's Andy Steinfeldt planking for the crowd at The National Senior Games. The sun was setting in this terrific shot, but Andy wasn't going anywhere.
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