Dr. Peter Nichols may be retired, but he's not slowing down.
The health and fitness devotee gets in a workout at least three days a week at the C.W. Avery Family YMCA. What makes his dedication noteworthy is that Nichols celebrated his 90th birthday last week, complete with a surprise party from the staff at the Plainfield YMCA.
"He goes Monday, Wednesday and Friday," said Susan Lee, director of development at the YMCA and a longtime friend of Nichols. "He goes at about 6:30 in the morning religiously."
On Wednesday, YMCA staff greeted Nichols with a cake and balloons as he arrived for his morning workout.
"It was quite a surprise," he said. As a birthday present, the YMCA also waived his membership fee for the month.
Nichols, a retired dentist, joked that the secret to his longevity is simple.
"I always remember two simple things that you have to continue for longevity — inhale and exhale," he said.
A World War II veteran, Nichols said he's been active his whole life. For years, he ran five days a week. Now, he makes sure to get in his workouts while eating well with healthy, home-cooked meals courtesy of his wife of 63 years, Amanda.
"We're both of Greek descent, so we've been on a Mediterranean diet all our lives," he said, adding, "I've always been active in some form of exercise."
Lee said Nichols is an inspiration for other fitness enthusiasts.
"One of the things that strikes me about Dr. Nichols is to be 90 years old and not only physically fit but also mentally sharp," she said. "He maintains such a positive spirit and sense of humor. He's so quick and witty."
In recent years, Nichols joined the Avery YMCA, but said he's been involved with the Y for more than 50 years. He served as chairman of the YMCA board of directors in 1968, and has been a member of the board of trustees for more than a decade.
Nichols is also an active member of the Greek Orthodox Church, Joliet Rotary Club and Joliet Junior College Foundation.
"He's really been a guy who's given a lot to the community," Lee said.