Regular exercise is a part of my life. I’m 65 years old. A petite frame at 5’3″, I barely tip the scale at 122 pounds. What’s not so ordinary about me is that I can currently deadlift 170 pounds. That means bending down into a squat position from a stationary, standing tall position, lifting 170 pounds of metal off the floor, and rising upright again, gripping the full weight of bar and plates into a resting stand.
Sometimes we don’t look for inspiration. It comes right to us. At unexpected times. From unexpected sources. It was a flight to England in 2014 that did it for me. The thirty-something seated beside me on the airplane was headed to an international weightlifting competition. Surprised and intrigued at her unassuming size and stature, I said, “Tell me more.” Combining crossfit (a series of gym exercises that include functional movements of high intensity in rapid succession) with weightlifting at her gym, she was ready for a greater challenge internationally.
A fortuitous encounter. A short conversation. A long flight. A nugget of an idea. Returning to Seattle, I shared my thoughts with my personal trainer, Victor Hernandez, with whom I train twice a week. We agreed to modify my then existing overall workout regimen to concentrate more specifically on lifting weights. Form and dedicated concentration, in this discipline, can overcome factors such as height, body mass, weight, and age. The vast benefits of weight bearing exercise was diminished only by my insatiable desire to improve. And improve, I did. Slowly. Gradually.
Setting goals, breaking barriers, achieving personal “bests,” I moved on to reestablish new goals. Looking back, I was stuck lifting 125 pounds, then 145 pounds. We assessed, analyzed and adjusted—form and positioning. I set my sights higher, establishing a goal at 200 pounds, to stair-step at 175 pounds. Victor trains, watches, and critiques. At times he’ll load and clip the weights on the bar, giving me instructions and encouragement. Last time, I was suspicious when he asked, “So, how was that weight?” “Fine. A bit heavy. How much did you put on there?” He smiled sheepishly, “170 pounds.” I beamed, affirming another former “best” had just been crushed and defeated.
Only five pounds away now from my stair-step goal, 200 pounds seem more achievable than ever, certainly closer than lifting from a distance of 145. Maybe I’ll need to adjust the goal to a heavier test. For the time being—although still a rather challenging distance away—I dream. When I close my eyes and breathe deeply, I tighten muscles into position. I fold forward. I imagine my hands wrapped around a studded metal bar. We unite. Engaged, lifting in unison, we effortlessly unfold upright, standing erect. Locked and done!
Age is only a number, controlled by the mind. At times, restricted by physical limitations but nonetheless, how far could we go without our own mentally imposed barriers? Find your inspiration. Then use your determination to break barriers. You can achieve your own personal greatness. You are your own hero.
Contributor Paula Cipolla, a self-proclaimed gym rat and exercise enthusiast, deadlifts 170 pounds and looks forward to her next goal.
Photo Credit: Victor Hernandez
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