Becoming an Athlete After 50

The first time I touched a barbell, I was 48 years old.  I’m now 54.

Some people say my age is an irrelevant point about me as an athlete, but they are wrong.  It’s extremely relevant.   I was a fully formed adult with scars and strengths from living life before I decided to live a completely different way.  And my decision impacted a lot of people who thought they knew who I was before I decided to be someone else.  I’m still working on making sense of all this.  Something yanked my chain this last week and I need to write to figure out what I think about things.  Sorry – I need to be a bit cryptic about it because it’s private.  But I believe humans have similar responses to things, even if details are different.

Please forgive me for veering into the past for a moment.   If what I’m going to say later is going to make any sense, I need share parts of my personal history.  I don’t feel comfortable doing that, because I don’t want to give the impression that I think my life has been difficult.  It’s just been a “life”.  But these things are a bit relevant to why I think what I think as I keep transforming into an athlete in the second half of my life…

  • My scoliosis was diagnosed early in high school and I was pulled from all sports. I was told to be “careful” for the rest of my life.  Between the ages of 17 and 24, I had at least two episodes when my back would freeze up and I could not move for about a week.  I remember my mother pushing me around in a wheel-chair at the hospital to get x-rays.   I believed all the adults who told me I was fragile.
  • In my 20’s, I got a job at a gym as a receptionist. That’s when I first saw female bodybuilders in magazines.  They were about my age, but they looked so strong – not fragile.  I wanted that, but I was intimidated by it for a couple of really good reasons.  1) I have scoliosis and shouldn’t lift, and 2) women aren’t supposed to look like that – guys didn’t like it.  I didn’t question those beliefs at the time.  I accepted them and set other goals for my life.
  • My mother died from a brain aneurysm when she was 56 and I was 28.  I was the family member who was tasked with the decision to remove her from life support.  I watched her die.  I know some of you have had to do that, too.  It’s not exactly like how they show it in movies or on Grey’s Anatomy.
  • I decided to get a degree in mathematics and teach math because I was intimidated by it. That was when I began to do battle with my fears.  The time span from my first day of college to my graduation with a degree in mathematics was 16 years.  Mom died during this time and I lost my job because I needed to take a leave of absence to handle my mother’s affairs out of town.  Once I could get back to work, I had as many as three part-time jobs to support myself and still have a schedule flexible enough to attend school during the day when the classes I needed were offered.  This was the first time I set a scary goal and achieved it.
  • For the last 20 years, I’ve taught math to teenagers, ages 15-18. Takes a little courage to show up and do that every day.   Not many adults would want to attempt to manage a room of 30+ teenagers.  Fewer can handle it when a whole bunch of them are anxious about what you are asking them to do.  Math teachers are in short-supply these days.  Burn out is high.  Many students believe they will fail before they try, so they won’t try.  They will do a lot of other things to avoid trying.  While teaching geometry, I teach a lot of other things, too.

And that brings me back to my first point – the first time I touched a barbell, I was 48 years old.  All of these other things happened years prior to that.

To decide to become a female bodybuilder at that point in my life, I had to challenge and beat down a lot of my own thoughts about what women can do, what a person with scoliosis can do, what a busy teacher can find time to do, and what a post-menopausal woman can accomplish in bodybuilding.  I’m not saying my journey has been harder than someone else’s, because I know it hasn’t been.  There is no comparison to what others have had to deal with to just get through another day.  I have not had to survive trauma.


That said, I’ve still accomplished enough hard stuff to feel like I can do more.  It’s my journey.   I’ve already lived a life and I’m still in the mix.  My ego tells me that I should be respected for that, but I can’t control what others say or think.  (Yeah, something happened a couple days ago. I was hurt by it, but I learned something useful.)  I remind myself what I’ve done to get here.  My ego wants to puff up – that’s what others do, right?  But that’s not going to help me do anything except become an asshole.  I don’t need to defend my thoughts.

I am sensitive.  I am scared.  I am brave.  I reflect.  I learn. I overthink.  I lose my focus sometimes, but I get it back.  I tell my ego to shut the hell up.  She just wants to generate negative thoughts that feed uncertainty about whether I will ever have tangible success as an athlete.  I may always be a novelty act in public, she tells me.  Ageism is alive and well, we all know that.  Is that my only obstacle?  Of course not.  But it’s there.  I can’t get younger, but I can improve.  I may always be switched to the outside of the youngest, most novice bodybuilder in the line.  If I’m a better bodybuilder than I was the last time I showed up, I guess that’s going to be enough.  My voice may shake when I say “my journey on my terms“, but I’m still saying it.  I’m still insisting on it.

“Why bother?”  I ask myself almost every day.  Almost every day, I quit.  And then I recommit to what I’m doing as an athlete.  The last year has been difficult.  I may not be able to break this cycle until after I compete again.  That last competition experience needs to be replaced by a new one before I’m going to get closure on what happened that day.  Simply getting on stage again will be a win because I will be able to put away two years of trying to make sense of what will now be called the “2015 WTF Happened? Blesson”.

And then I touch a barbell and I happily battle gravity.  I get a little bit of clarity when I’m at the gym.  Lifting still fixes me.  I love to train.  That’s why I bother.   Everything else is just distracting noise, whether it’s external or internal.

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Filed under Competing, Life, Opinions, Venting, Ranting

18 responses to “Becoming an Athlete After 50

  1. Thank you for sharing this, your experiences have obviously made you a very thoughtful and insightful person

  2. Alison

    I haven’t reached body builder status and don’t really want to but I have similar battles within myself. Parts of your story could be me or anyone who has decided to take the time finally for themselves and be a little selfish. Yes selfis and do what makes them happy. – I love training I had 20 +years away from anything remotely sporting, Igor fat, lazy, had every excuse under the sun and used them, and I was I. Blood pressure medication too. (Botany more).. I dont count cheering from the sidelines as participatio and I now train 5 days per week.. Life go in my way too, I don’t have scoliosis but I do have a knee that needs replacing but achieving what I have in the past 4 years I manage it means icu sit my physio more than I would like but you do what you do and it is what it is!! it doesn’t stop me lifting respectable weights it stops me doing a full squat so I do a lot of things with straight legs lol 😊 I’m 51 and feel 30 most days when the body doesn’t throw a new arthritic hurdle at me. I battle my weight but basically I’m 30 kg lighter than I was am still a work in progress but I reckon we would compare in your off season 😉 when I did go into the gym 4 years ago it wasn’t for myself but that’s how it’s turned out!! And it has been the best thing I ever did.. My battles are similar to yours I believe I just don’t have the urge to compete on the stage my competition is my self and I guess proving everyone wrong about not being able to do stuff “at our age’ – at any age anything is possible – trust in yourself and you are never be wrong keep doing what makes you happy 😊

  3. Love it, please never stop being you. Last two paragraphs were epic af

  4. I wish I could do what you do..:)

  5. Thank you for this post. You are brave. Strangely this post has inspired me. I’m 56 and ageism exists for sure. Especially in the lifting world. That’s just from my observation in the years I’ve just worked out. For various reasons I have not worked out in 3 years. I’ve been thinking of starting back but as I read your post I realized that the loudest voice of ageism is in my own mind. Ouch.

    For whatever you went through this week I wish the best for you. For you are a true inspiration to me and I’m sure to others also. No matter what another does or says to you remember that what they say towards you says more about them than it does about you. And don’t let anyone steal your sparkle.

  6. Getting back up after a blow is tough. Not many even bother to try. Fewer succeed. You will succeed simply because you are you. What a treasure! I watch for your social media posts and devour each one. As a post-meno gal and a ways to go before I can reach my own goals, you inspire me each and ever day. Keep going for one reason and the only one that matters: because it’s important to you.

  7. Jihan Alam

    What a motivation !!!!!!! I feel sometimes someone’s battles and struggles become a motovation for so many others out there. Thanks for sharing.
    Keep up the great job and motivation.
    Stay strong and healthy!

  8. I’d like to reblog this if you give me permission. I don’t want to press the reblog button because then wordpress will just add a link to your site on my page for the readers to click on. I’d like to cut and paste the article instead because at the end of the year, I put my blog entries into a book to save them. It doesn’t make much of an impression if all that’s seen on the page is a link that can’t be pressed on. Would that be OK with you? I thought this was an excellent bit of writing and very motivational. I think my readers will think the same thing!

    I’ll include a link to your site so readers can visit you if they would like to read more of your stuff online.


    • Thank you for wanting to share! A cut-and-paste is fine as long as the LMS page is credited and there is a link back.

      • Thanks! I will definitely add a link back to your site. I think a lot of people will want to come see you there. You are a very motivational person.

        I’ve just started a mass building program that I got off I usually rely on my own programs but everything was feeling stale. I’m going to post a “before” photo tomorrow and then your article will be up on Thursday.

        Thanks for permission and for the motivation.

  9. Great post, thank-you! I have severe scoliosis (73 / 43 degree S curve) and started my fitness journey – and pain transformation – at age 40. That was almost 7 years ago. In 2 weeks, at age 46 1/2, I’ll be doing my first NPC bikini show…it’s good to see a fellow scoliosis warrior who competes!

  10. Ali Ome

    I am thankful you found the courage to share your words. They meant a great deal to me as I search for meaning along a similar path that I have yet to start. Especially the part about how others react to the person you have become. That part scares me. You really are an inspiration.

  11. Maré De Freitas

    Thank you for sharing! I relate to this. At 52, started ‘bodybuilding’ in March 2017 (I was inspired by a post I saw of you!). Well since then, it’s been a rollercoaster ride of emotions, fears, dreams, successes and downright failures. Four months ago, I literally quit the ‘gym’ and joined a ‘box’ and I am now a CrossFit Athlete! I never thought it possible! I still have a long journey (53, overweight, menopausal, somewhat fit), but I enjoy every moment. I started lifting for real and my cardio fitness has improved so much. Thank you so much for inspiring me to start my journey.

  12. Reblogged this on Lifting My Spirits and commented:

    This is one of the blogs I need to reread every so often.

  13. “And then I touch a barbell and I happily battle gravity. I get a little bit of clarity when I’m at the gym. Lifting still fixes me. I love to train. That’s why I bother. Everything else is just distracting noise, whether it’s external or internal”
    I love this. I’m so glad for you that you found something healthy that lifts you, challenges you, and give you new goals every step of the way. A true hero for being true to yourself and an inspiration 🤗

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