WIESBADEN, Germany -- You could call him a poster child for fitness and health.

Carl Johnson, a 69-year-old retired Department of the Army Civilian and Service Member, recently joined an elite group of individuals in the 500-/1,000-Pound Club at the Wiesbaden Sports, Fitness and Outdoor Center.

The former U.S. Army Europe G-2 civilian, who retired from government service after 44 years of military and civilian service, credited the professionals at the fitness center for motivating him and showing him the safe way to enhance his overall fitness while working toward joining the 500-Pound Club.

"I started by deciding that I needed to give myself a Christmas present and I hired a personal trainer," said Johnson. "I had not worked out for 19 years at that point.

"We started out very slowly," he said, praising the support of his trainer, Amanda Moser, and fellow fitness center staff and patrons for constantly encouraging him.

"I got out of the Army in 1998 and that was the last I had done any exercise. About three years ago I started walking to get in better shape. I realized I couldn't motivate myself very well and was very gym phobic in the beginning," Johnson said.

"I started out two years ago, 67 years old, lifting 10 pounds. I saw the sign for the 500-Pound Club, and about five months ago, started working toward that goal," he said, adding that Moser's "patience and motivation just kept me going.

"I've done a lot things in my life and I don't think there's anything I've been prouder of," Johnson said, explaining that in addition to lifting 525 pounds to meet the 500-Pound Club goal, he also shed some 25 kilos while getting in shape. "It's been a group encouragement, individual effort and a great, great trainer."

Individuals have three chances to achieve entrance into the prestigious club.

"It's comprised of three separate lifts," explained Maria Diaz, facility manager. "It is a bench press, squat and a deadlift. And adding those numbers separately, the goal is to either reach 500 pounds or greater or 1,000 pounds or greater.

"Once you've been graded by one of our professionals, your name is recorded and put on a little plaque that we put up at the front of the fitness center for everyone to see that you're in this very unique club," Diaz said. Club members also receive a commemorative shirt for their efforts.

"You have to build a habit," said Johnson, adding that fitness isn't like the habit of smoking or using drugs. "This is the habit of health where you have to keep going.

"I now have a full-body exercise routine that I will take with me when I leave Wiesbaden," he said. "This is something that I won't give up.

"I feel heathier -- I feel better," he added. "It's been just tremendous. I can't recommend enough people getting in here and doing something."

"Those are just a few of the benefits you get from working out," said Diaz. "Entering this club is a personal decision that you make. But as you can see with Carl -- it's changed his life. That's what we're here to do. We have personal trainers here; we have professionals here -- ready and willing to assist and help you meet those goals."

For more information about personal trainers, the 500-/1000-Pound Club and other services available at the Wiesbaden Sports, Fitness and Outdoor Recreation Center, stop by the center on Clay Kaserne or visit https://wiesbaden.armymwr.com/programs/clay-kaserne-fitness-center.