Weight Training for Seniors Shocker: I Hated Weight Lifting, Until I Discovered This!
I used to detest lifting weights. I thought it was boring, pointless, and, well, hard. I’d much rather run or do yoga or go surfing. Then, last year, my son Chris, a fitness expert and record-holding powerlifter, asked me if I’d like to compete in a local deadlift competition.
I looked at him as if he were crazy. I mean, seriously, I wasn’t a weightlifter and certainly wasn’t going to win any competitions!
Chris proceeded to inform me that no records had been set by women in my age and weight class, and that if I were to compete, I would likely set state and national records simply by default.
While it was disheartening to hear that there was a pernicious age and gender gap in powerlifting, my ears perked up at the possibility of becoming a national champion. So, I decided to give it a try. After all, it would be a great mother-son bonding experience and, at age 62, I’d learn something new.
Learning to Love Powerlifting
My son devised a Russian training program for me based on very specific mathematical calculations geared for my individual needs. I was skeptical and just looking at his spreadsheet was mindboggling. But, I trusted my son’s expertise and vowed to push through the five-week program no matter how tedious or boring or difficult it would be.
During my training, however, something completely unexpected happened. I found myself developing an insatiable appetite for lifting weights.
Knowing that each lift would last only seconds, I was confident I could get through those short bursts of exertion. And, because the training program restricted the amount of weight and number of sets I would lift at each session, I found myself yearning for more and anxiously awaiting the next session. It didn’t take very long for my dislike of weightlifting to turn to excitement!
After five weeks of training, a good night’s sleep and hearty breakfast, there I was at the competition decked out in my new singlet, knee socks, and super flat sneakers.
A common goal for deadlifters is to lift twice their body weight. So, weighing in at 92 pounds, my goal was to deadlift 184 pounds in the competition! Each competitor is allowed three lifts. The plan was that I would lift 170, then 184, and then see how I felt after that.
My first two lifts went exactly as planned; 170 pounds, no sweat. I set the first-ever state and national deadlift records for a woman between ages 60-65, weighing under 97 pounds. I was pumped! Second lift was 184 pounds and endorphins were flying. I beat the records I had just set!
As I got ready for my third lift, my son asked if I could pull 198. I felt so amped and so energized that I jumped at the chance. I approached the platform, ran through my mental checklist for form, then I took two very deep breaths and held the second. I pressed through my legs, and pulled with all my might…
Up, up, up. Hold. Wait for signal. Down. Done! Woohoo! What an incredible experience! With the adrenaline pumping, I knew then and there that I no longer hated weightlifting. And, best of all, I got to share this amazing experience with my son. Sheer euphoria!
The Benefits of Weight Training for Seniors
Strength training has tremendous benefits, especially for the aging population. Growing stronger should be a top priority for most of us and it can take many forms, from body weight exercises to lifting free weights to powerlifting.
Are You Up for the Challenge?
If you already enjoy weight training, why not try powerlifting? If you hate lifting weights like I did, why not look at it from a different angle and give it a try? Find your reason not to hate it!
Tips for Getting Started
First, find a highly-qualified trainer. Be sure that he/she is familiar with weight training and is hyper-critical about maintaining good form. Your safety and success depend on it.
Always check with a doctor before starting any exercise program, but especially if you’ve suffered from back pain or other medical issues. Medical clearance will help you determine your beginning level of challenge and give you confidence to get started!
Start small and progress slowly. A good trainer will use a training program that honors your individual level of challenge and moves you ever so gradually to the next level. You will enjoy the rewards, both emotional and physical.
If you’re interested in competitive deadlifting, register at the US Powerlifting Association website and enter a local competition. Having a goal and a deadline can help you stay focused and to work out more consistently. Best of all, you may very well snag a state or national powerlifting record!
Need some inspiration? Check out these inspiring women whose defiance of conventional wisdom has allowed them to reach unprecedented levels of physical and mental strength. Consider Willie Murphy who at age 77 can deadlift 215 pounds and Shirley Webb who at 78 can deadlift 245 pounds. Or, take inspiration from 94-year-old Edith Traina who can deadlift 135 pounds. These amazing people prove that weight training for seniors can change your life!
Challenge Your Status Quo
Bring to mind a fitness activity that you’ve been avoiding even though you know it would be beneficial to your overall health. Get out of your comfort zone and give it a shot. You just might discover that it energizes you, or that it opens up a whole new social context, or that you actually enjoy it and are grateful for the benefits.
Your greatest discovery may be that changing your perspective on something – yes, even in your sixties! – teaches you something about yourself. And that’s never a bad thing!
What activities do you do to stay strong? What activities do you avoid, and why? Would you consider giving them a try? Why or why not? Please share in the comments.
Jacqui Hook is founder and owner of Tenáz Athletics, innovative concepts in women’s athletic wear. Tenaz means tenacious in Spanish. Jacqui’s mission is to inspire in women tenacity for staying fit and healthy regardless of age, fitness level, body type or other perceived obstacles. Follow @tenazathletics on social media for tips and inspiration.