A new adventure on my Bucket List!

Updated: Feb 12

Sometimes a simple moment can have profound impact on your life. It's called an

"A-Ha" moment. I had pulled into the parking lot of my local grocery store and witnessed several people entering local businesses. One was a Physical Therapy business - people came in on crutches, limping, shuffling, in pain. One was an Urgent Care - cars pulled up and people dragged themselves in, some assisted by friends or family, holding on to their arms, sick, pale, weak, worried. In between these two businesses was a gym. Old and young bounced in or out, moving fast, lively, exuding energy. It hit me - where did I want to spend time? If I spent time at the gym protecting my health, perhaps I could avoid trips to the other two! I'd much prefer time and money spent there than at the other two!

I walked in and signed up. I was 58, had a sedentary job- I love my job as a business owner and jewelry designer, but I rarely moved. The only muscles I used were in my forearms using my pliers, wire cutter, grinder and drill. And did I mention I was 45 lbs overweight - the weight had been gradual and I really hadn't noticed how soft and fat I had become. And on top of this, I had been clumsy and uncoordinated my entire life. I was the kid who didn't catch the ball but was hit in the face by the ball. I had made attempts before to exercise but they always fizzled, not much changed and I got bored and quit.

Now I had a gym membership and a trainer. I went twice a week with my trainer and went once more on my own. I kept the commitment. It wasn't easy - I owned several businesses and I had a lot of responsibility there and not a lot of time. But I made it a priority and I kept the appointments. I was introduced to the plank (who are you Mr. Plank? and what do you want with me?). I went into the weight room for the first time. I had never done exercises like this before - I learned how to do the lawn mover, lunges, wall sits, cable curls, kettlebell swings. I couldn't do a push up. I actually couldn't do almost anything. I started with 10 sit ups, decided to just add one more every day. Surprise! I could do 100 sit ups! I was making progress!

The gym had this coolio machine that scans you and measures everything. As I kept at it, all of my measurements got smaller - even my neck shrunk! I kept working my way back through my closet - I was wearing clothes I hadn't been able to wear since before my kids were born (they are 25, 24 and 20). I was motivated to change how I ate - I tried to keep it simple - eat things with less ingredients (what's in broccoli? broccoli! what's in avocados? avocado!), eat more protein, eat more colorful things, drink more water. My trainer asked me to take pictures of everything I ate, and to my surprise, the advice was to eat MORE! I could do this! I ate better things. I felt better, I kept at it. I kept at it. I kept at it. I didn't do anything amazing, I just kept at it.

I watched at the gym as people came and went and didn't seem to make much progress. Women went to the cardio section, stayed at it for awhile on the treadmill or the bikes or the ellipticals, then quit. I realized how women seemed to know without anyone telling them that they shouldn't go in the weight room. But I understood - without a trainer, I never would have gone into the weight room, way too intimidated. I took a video when I was doing lat pull downs one day and in the background, there were a couple of guys. They were doing their workouts, paying absolutely no attention to me - it hit me that no one was watching, no one was judging or critiquing, there was no reason to be intimidated in the weight room! Wow, what a relief, I was now comfortable going there because I knew what to do and I had goals!

I learned about progressive overload and saw my strength grow. It seems so obvious now, but it was a giant leap of understanding that to get stronger, you have to increase what you are doing. You aren't going to get anywhere if you come in every time and do the exact same thing. So I got a notebook and I kept track of what weights, what reps, what sets I was doing and I watched my strength grow. I did curls, threw the medicine ball, did the military battle ropes, bench press, deadlifts, hammer curls, lat pull downs, tricep presses, farmer carries, skull crushers, Bulgarian split squats, flys...I was getting stronger and one day I looked at myself in the mirror, and what was that thing on my arm?? It was a....Muscle!!!! My son, a former high school basketball and football player, asked me what I was doing in my workouts and when I told him, he exclaimed, "Mom, you are working out like a football player!" I guess I was, whatever it was, it was different and I was getting strong and fit and I loved it!

It became so clear to me that women are frustrated with results because their focus is on LOSING weight, not on GAINING strength. My trainer didn't ask me about my weight, I rarely weighed myself, instead I was focused on my workouts and how much weight I could move on push day, pull day and leg day. It was an amazing epiphany. It's about gains, not losses. Anyone can become strong - you focus on getting strong, the weight takes care of it itself. And anyone, at any age, can get stronger!

It hit me that I have something amazing to give as an inspiration to women, especially older women. Nothing physical comes easily to me. No exaggeration, I kept at doing squats for a YEAR (zombie squats, box squats, banded squats) before I could get the bar on my back with weight. My ankle mobility was terrible, my hip mobility was terrible, my balance was terrible, but I kept at it. One time as I was trying to just keep my feet flat on the ground while squatting (note - this is after a YEAR of trying to strengthen the muscles to be able to do this) my trainer said outloud, "I've been praying for patience." But I didn't give up. I finally got it. I can now squat with the right form and depth with 155 lbs on the bar on my back. If I can do this, anybody can do this!

I began to feel a strange and wonderful sense of empowerment. Exercise produces endorphins (the same amazing feeling you get when you eat chocolate), but for me, it also produced empowerment! If I could do this and transform my metabolism and my body, what else could I do? My fitness journey was also an attitude journey! My confidence and attitude had transformed - I had always been positive and optimistic, but the truth was that I had to work at it. With the physical transformation came an attitude transformation too!

Usually birthdays that end in a zero were depressing and hard for me, as I think they are for most people. My 60th birthday felt great - I was proud of what I had accomplished, I felt great and felt like I was reverse aging. My 61st birthday felt even better - I put on my bucket list to do a powerlifting competition, so if not now, then when? I signed up for a powerlifting meet at 61! It was interesting to see people's reactions when I told them what I was doing - it was as bizarre as if I said I was going to go join the circus or become an opera singer! But everyone in my life was very supportive and encouraged me along the way. And I did it! I competed at Rookie Rumble in Suwanee Georgia on January 9th, an official USPA competition. It was terrifying and exciting and I did it! To prepare for the meet, I worked at my training program to increase my strength doing the deadlift, bench press and squat, the 3 lifts you perform in the meet.

Training towards achieving a goal is different than just working out - I worked towards my goals and saw my numbers jump. Although I loved doing the meet, really the victory for me was believing in myself and having the courage to do it. And yes, I was the oldest competitor at the meet! There was a young boy there and his courage inspired me - most of the competitors were in the 20-23 age group and they came up to ME to tell me I inspired them! I realized that I was inspiring to them as the young boy was inspiring to me! I brought home a gold medal and even managed to not fall off the platform accepting it (I'm still fighting clumsy!) The journey to get there was as meaningful as the accomplishment of actually doing it!

So here I am today - a competitive athlete at 61! Because of my results at the USAPA approved meet, my totals qualify me to go to Nationals in Vegas in June! Looking at my before picture, to think that I could do this just 2 years later is amazing to me!

And so onward to the next thing on my bucket list - going to Nationals in June in Vegas! -Ann

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