CONCORD -- It is a gym without a hint of pretension.
Instead, there's an atmosphere of robust camaraderie, good humor and kindhearted teasing of each other.
There's a core group of five men, ranging in age from 65 to 85, who meet there twice a week, at a place they simply call Jack's Gym.
There are no membership dues. And, if you commit to coming for two weeks, there's a free olive-colored T-shirt with the signature logo of a bulging bicep.
The gym a bit of a hodgepodge, with several pieces of equipment for cardio fitness and weight training squeezed into a small space in the side yard of a Concord residence.
Free weights were brought in from the owner's son's home in Southern California. A rowing machine was found on the street. There's a once broken bar dip station, a renovated stationary bike that was minus a chain, and an exercise mat that was donated by a woman in her 90s who wasn't using it anymore.
Jack Smith, 85, a former athletic director and coach at Diablo Valley College, has been inviting others with "just a can-do" outlook to join him in keeping fit, since first assembling discarded pieces of machine weights that were dropped off on his front lawn in 2004.
A Total Gym was one of the first investments.
"I was the victim of an infomercial," he says.
With the muffled clanking of weights and country western music piping in the background, the men discuss the morning headlines.
"There's a lot of bologna, a lot of talk and we work out at the same time," Smith adds.
The regimen is open-ended, with participants adjusting their own ratios of weights they can press, repetitions and ranges of motion.
"If it hurts too bad, we don't do it," says Davey.
Smith has offered seniors a venue for fitness long before joining that demographic. He helped start a workout class for older adults and DVC faculty back in the 1980s. He recalls how four dozen people arrived at 6:30 a.m. for circuit and cardio training, working out on 22 machines, stationary bicycles, adjustable steps and running pads. A traffic light in the center of the room kept them on course, indicating the 15- to 30-second intervals.
The grandfather of seven and great-grandfather to two has had his own commitment to physical activity since his Southern California boyhood. He recalls pole vaulting in a sand lot using poles made of bamboo. Smith then played football and ran track in high school, and added wrestling and tumbling to the mix in college, earning a degree in physical education at San Jose State.
As an adult, there have been the mini triathlons, 20-mile runs and the Bay to Breakers.
"I always thought running and weight training were the way to go ... You use it or lose it ... I've always been a P.E. man," he says.
Smith coached the local junior college's gymnastics team after years spent teaching P.E. at area elementary and middle schools, including the former Montecito School in Martinez, where Jerry Gilreath was one of his students.
"He taught me to play kickball," Gilreath says.
Now 73 and a dedicated participant, he had heard of Jack's Gym via word-of-mouth, and then ran into his former teacher at a sports equipment store.
"Jack encourages (us) to move," says the retired insurance agent. "I know I'm stronger and I do feel better."
Before his retirement in 2003, Smith also coached swimming at Rankin Pool in Martinez and Gehringer Park in Concord, where he coached the children of his first Jack's Gym client, Dick Goltra, 84.
During a recent workout, the former Lockheed engineer quickly moves his legs on the squeaky stair stepper.
"It ran me out of gas," Goltra says. "This gets the blood circulating. It gets your day started ... It's made me the man I am."
And for John Gurney, the youngest member, Jack's Gym has been the added dose to restore his cardiovascular health, significantly lowering his cholesterol and enabling the environmental engineer to stop taking statins.
Meanwhile, Smith's exercise now includes daily, three-mile tricycle rides, with his Golden Retriever, Cooper, running alongside.
"That's not a workout. It's a pleasure," he says. "Of course, you'd have to interview the dog to make sure that's true."