Inspiration and info for midlife women who lift—or want to start

Tag: motivation

Strength is a Superpower

Why do I lift? Why is strength training important to me?

As a competitive powerlifter, I never lack for reasons to train. When you compete and have performance goals (plus a coach to whom you’re accountable), motivation tends to get baked into the process.

Every training session provides an opportunity to move yourself a little closer to those goals. You really don’t feel a need to look for other reasons to keep going.

Still, every now and then, the universe serves up a perfect reason on a silver platter. That happened today. I’m not a big believer in fate, but days like this make me think twice.

An unexpected encounter

It was a rest day, and my training program requires at least 10,000 steps daily. The forecast called for serious heat, so I decided to make a good dent in that number in the cool of the morning, before things got too crazy.

There’s a loop that I walk quite often, usually in the same direction. But today, for no particular reason, I decided to reverse it and do it backwards from my usual routine.

That turned out to be a significant decision.

I’d barely walked 100 yards when a woman waved me down and asked if I could give her a hand. She introduced herself as Sheri. Then she pointed to an older gentleman who was sitting on the ground at the base of a large tree. He had apparently stumbled, fallen, and found himself unable to stand up.

Sheri had found him sitting there, but didn’t have the strength to help him to his feet. She was a slight woman, and he was a pretty stocky fellow who probably weighed at least 200 lbs.

The man, who said his name was Michael, was very sweet and also clearly very embarrassed. I shook his hand and said hi, reassured him this could happen to anyone, then assessed the situation. I decided our best bet was for me to simply get behind him and lift him high enough to (hopefully) get his legs under him.

We didn’t know yet if he’d have the strength or balance to hold his own weight, but he didn’t seem ill or otherwise injured, and we had to start somewhere.

Real-world strength

I wedged myself between Michael’s back and the tree and got him in a bear hug. Then I adapted the same movements I’ve done hundreds of times before with a barbell. I half squatted, half deadlifted him up to a near-standing position. Then I held him there for about a minute so he could get his footing.

As he worked to get to his feet, he said, “I can’t believe how strong you are!” I explained that I lift weights as a hobby.

Michael was able to remain standing, but he was a bit shaky, so I kept hold of him just in case. No surprise he was a little unstable; he told us he’d been sitting at the base of that tree for nearly an hour before Sheri came along. I happened to walk by shortly after that.

We wondered if perhaps we should call an ambulance, but he insisted he was fine and lived nearby with his wife. He did seem to be doing better by then. In fact, he wanted to walk home, but Sheri convinced him to let us drive him. She pulled her car up, and we helped Michael lower himself into the passenger seat, drove to his house a couple of minutes away, then got him back up out of the car and escorted him to his door. Happy to see that he seemed much more surefooted now, Sheri and I said our goodbyes, and I resumed my walk.

The bigger picture

I spent the rest of the morning in a state of profound gratitude. Whether through fate or simple luck, I’d been in the right place at the right time. And I’d been able to make a difference, thanks to eight years of strength training.

This isn’t the first time I’ve found myself in this kind of situation. Years ago, soon after I started lifting weights, I was at a movie when a woman tripped in the aisle. She went down hard, and was, like Michael, unable to get to her feet.

Along with some other theater-goers, I stepped in to help. However, I was considerably less strong at that point, and she was quite heavy. We collectively got her up, but I had a much harder time managing that lift and had a sore back for a few days afterwards because I hadn’t been able to maintain safe form in the process.

Credit: Angelica Soave

When you spend hours in the gym every week, it’s easy to forget how all that time and work transfers to real-life situations. Strength gains take months and years, so you don’t really notice day-to-day changes, like how much easier it’s gotten to move furniture or put away heavy pots or hoist your bag into the overhead compartment.

Finding that I’d actually gotten strong enough to help Michael up with relative ease was a wonderful and welcome surprise. It was like not noticing how much taller your kids are getting from day to day, then being shocked to discover they’ve grown an inch in a month.

I do occasionally question why I spend so much time pulling heavy barbells off the floor. Moments like this put those questions to rest.

Strength today, strength tomorrow

We know the long-term benefits of weight training. Barring unforeseen circumstances, being strong will help us live a longer and better life. The work I’m doing now is a long-term investment that will pay returns in 20 years.

But I’m only 57. While I’m aware of those benefits, they still feel rather far off and theoretical.

So it was a wonderful feeling to discover, when faced with an opportunity NOW to help someone, that I was actually capable of doing it.

Gravity rules our lives every minute of every day. The ability to loosen its grip when it really counts is the closest thing I’ve ever felt to having a superpower.

If you lift, you know what I mean.

If you don’t, I hope you’ll give it a try and find out for yourself!

Older woman holding smartphone in the gym, smiling because she knew how to get motivated and stay consistent.

How Do I Get Motivated and Stay Consistent?

I may earn a small commission for purchases made using links in this post. I only recommend items I know, use myself, or have otherwise vetted.

I’ve been going to the gym on and off for five years. I go from fully committed, getting great results, great diet, etc. to falling off and starting again. I can’t figure out how to get motivated and stay consistent.

If this is a priority for you, stop allowing training and good nutrition to be a choice based on how you feel, or on motivation. 

Build habits. 

Thief with flashlight as a metaphor for comparison is the thief of joy.

Outsmarting the Thief of Joy

You know those days when you wake up feeling like a champion? Like you could eat the world for breakfast and in fact you just might? Those days when you feel strong and powerful and capable and you know in your bones that nothing’s gonna stop you?

I fucking love days like that.

Unfortunately, they’ve been rather few and far between these last few months.

Lately I’ve been waking up quite often feeling small and weak and scared and full of doubts. Doubts that I will be able to get past this back injury to put up decent numbers at Nationals. Which leads to questioning why I shouldn’t just say screw it and drop out, because I’m not going to win. Which reminds me of the videos I keep seeing of my friends PRing their 300-plus-pound deadlifts, when pulling 300 is just an elusive dream for me right now.

And on and on, down the rabbit hole of comparison and self-doubt.

These days happen to me more often than I’d care to admit. I share them occasionally, but mostly I keep them to myself and do what I can to hack my brain and endure the negativity until it passes. Talking about it feels self-indulgent and whiny.

But I decided to write about it because I figure I’m not the only one who has feelings like this sometimes. Maybe talking about them, and what I do to deal with them, might resonate and help someone else.

Unmotivated woman sleeping on bed instead of morning training

How to Train When You Don’t Feel Motivated

This morning, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Daily Pump Club email mentioned something I often share with people:

Smiling makes you feel better.

(By the way, Arnold’s newsletter is terrific. Great value for a small time investment. Ten out of ten would recommend.)

People tend to assume they need to be happy to smile—that the feeling should precede the action. After all, isn’t smiling a signifier of our mental and emotional state? If we feel miserable, why in God’s name would we grin?

Lifting in the Middle

Australian powerlifting great Liz Craven posted something on Instagram recently that hit me, as the young folks these days say, “in the feels.”

She recalled breaking some IPF All-time World Records back in 2017, just before a forced six-year hiatus from World competition due to powerlifting politics and Covid (during which time she also overcame some incredibly challenging health problems).

Liz is finally heading back to IPF Worlds this year, and at 48 will be competing against lifters half her age. She writes:

there is a whole new generation up there.

Very few of the old guard (my friends) will be there, I will be around the middle these days and sometimes it is hard to find the drive to work that hard to be in the middle.

Everything hurts more, everything is harder. Will I even get to weight?

I have been trying to change my perspective though.

It is a privilege to still be able to get there, one other people would love.

So I’ll keep working hard and we will see what I can do after all this time.

Working hard to be in the middle

Working hard to be in the middle is what I do literally every time I train. That’s why this caption resonated so much.

5 Podcasts to Improve Your Mindset and Build Resilience

During the more than seven years that I’ve been strength training, I’ve discovered and become a devoted fan of a small handful of podcasts that are designed to help build resilience and improve your mindset. These have become important resources for me and I even credit some of them with helping me perform tangibly better in competitions.

Sunrise over the trees in Vermont

A Single Step

I may earn a small commission for purchases made using links in this post. I only recommend items I know, use myself, or have otherwise vetted.

I got up early this morning.

This is, for me, quite an accomplishment.

I am NOT naturally a morning person. I’ve been a night owl as long as I can remember. If left to my own devices with no clocks and no responsibilities, I’d be one of those vampires (along with teenagers) who goes to bed at 4 a.m. and wakes up at 11.

In fact, I DID that my freshman year of college. I purposely never had a class before 11:30 a.m, and I routinely stayed up until 4 a.m. doing my work.

I love the quiet of the night; it makes me feel creative and full of possibilities.

Or it used to. That kind of life hasn’t been viable for a long, long time, thanks to kids and day jobs.

But I digress.

There’s a reason I’m telling you about my sleep habits.

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