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All Hart, no fat genie
By CARY CASTAGNA - Edmonton Sun


Bret (the Hitman) Hart as Aladdin with Jennifer Dale

It's been a little more than four years since Bret (the Hitman) Hart suffered a debilitating stroke, but he's still dragging himself to the gym up to three times a week.

The legendary pro wrestler, who has faced more than his share of adversity, has way too much Hart to let himself go.

"I always had too much pride," he told the Edmonton Sun last week in a phone interview. "I'll never be what I was before, but I will be a reasonable facsimile."

Sure, he no longer hoists a max bench press of 415 pounds. (These days it's closer to 280, which ain't exactly light -- especially considering Hart has never regained 100% mobility on his left side.)

But the 49-year-old Calgarian can boast that he still has the same 36-inch waist he had when he was 20.

"That's my barometer," he explains of his waist measurement. "If I can stay around there, I'm happy."

Ironically, Hart says he was bicycling to the gym on June 24, 2002, when he crashed, smashed the back of his head and suffered a blood clot in the right side of his brain.

Hart recalls he was coasting when he struck a hole in the grass and was thrown from his bike.

He says he wasn't wearing his helmet that day because the chin strap was broken.

The stroke, which Hart believes may have been stress-related, landed him in a wheelchair for three months.

"Being in the wheelchair was really tough. A lot of times I never thought I'd get out of it," he says. "It was a long, difficult recovery ... It was a battle of wills and I'm happy to say I fought pretty tenaciously to get back whatever I could."

Prior to that, Hart says he gained a total of about 10 pounds due to depression between the time his brother Owen died in a botched 1999 WWF wrestling stunt in Kansas City and the period following a career-ending concussion in 2000, which doctors later said wasn't related to the stroke.

But these days, the five-time WWF heavyweight champion is down to his fighting weight of about 235 pounds, at an even six-foot.

How does he keep fit? He lifts weights at BJ's Gym in Calgary three times a week when his schedule permits. For cardio, he usually cycles to the gym, which works out to a 40-minute trek each way.

"I really enjoy bike riding and I like working out. As I get older, it starts to wear on my joints a little bit more than it used to," explains the father of four, who splits time in Italy, the homeland of his second wife.

In the kitchen, Hart practises moderation, eating a balanced diet.

While he says he enjoys butter on his bread, he's careful not to have too many sweets or too much beer.

This week, starting tomorrow, Hart will be at Edmonton's Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium, where he reprises his role as the genie of the lamp in Aladdin, the Magical Family Musical.

Hart says being in shape should help him in the national touring production.

"It's not mandatory. Genies can be fat," he adds with a laugh.

Not this genie.

RELATED LINKS

  • Bret Hart biography and story archive


    Visit the SLAM! Wrestling store!


  • Order the Bret "The Hitman" Hart Triple DVD Set
    Cary Castagna is the health columnist for the Edmonton Sun. An archive of recent columns can be found here.