By Gen Grant
I have to say that I love the evolution that’s happening in sport and fitness for women – including access to different training methodologies. Can I say we’re there yet? Nope. Can I say improvements and gainz 🙂 have been made? Yes. I can say that society has changed its mind when it comes to women and muscles, and with what I know now as a masters powerlifter I hope young ladies of today take advantage of, and bask in the world of strength sports. Fitness (though I’m finally able to say that word in a way that I love) has surely grounded me and shaped who I am.
I remember having gym memberships from the time I went out on my own. I had a pass to Gold’s Gym where there were a lot of men who were bodybuilders, not very many women, and women were not welcome in the weight pit. There was an unwritten rule that women used the little 5 or 10 lb dumbbells and cardio machines – not the barbells or the benches. Women weren’t supposed to be muscular or strong…just skinny. The typical female image on mags at that time was a super thin woman in spandex with a high ponytail, neon scrunchie, and lipstick. The thoughts going through my head at the time could be summed up in a simple, “Ugh!” A woman had to be both fashionable and athletic, and athletic meant aerobics-style thin? It might seem ridiculous today, but I lived through it.
I wanted to lift weights. I remember it being super frustrating and tough trying to find someone to help at the time and to “rebel against the norm.” Sadly to me now, due to a lack of support, self-confidence, and knowledge I caved and joined in on the aerobics classes. Yep, I was there when Jane Fonda hit it big and I joined in on the movement. Aerobics were great; I loved fitness, but cardio was not what I was ultimately yearning for.
I finally found powerlifting and CrossFit in 2012 and I was both ecstatic and sad at the same time; it was bittersweet because although I’d finally found my place as a woman lifting heavy weights in the gym, I believed 20-year-old me would have relished these sports and excelled.
The upside to all this is that at fifty I’m the strongest and most muscular I’ve ever been. What resonates is the reality is that I still struggle with those old images and stereotypes of what a woman should be.
Being involved in fitness and sport throughout my journey has been the key to lifelong learning and has helped me connect with amazing people who’ve influenced me in carving out confidence as well as mental and physical stamina to manage life’s challenges.
As I write this, I am arriving at the milestone of 50… yes, years old. It’s true that 50 isn’t what it was 20 years ago (maybe fifty is the new forty? 🙂 ), however, I find myself both stunned and concerned yet in some twisted little way, amazed. Somehow my brain still thinks my “self” is in her mid-twenties – my mind wants to push limits and try new things – but my physical self definitely reminds me that I’m a half century, haha.
I’ve been married, divorced, married, divorced (not an error), had the miracle and privilege of giving birth to three children (watched them struggle, grow and become amazing people), gained two great step children and their partners, built a career with Corrections Canada, moved cities and jobs, made and lost friends, buried family members, experienced amazing events and through all of this I can honestly say that fitness has always been there for me – no matter what’s gone on or choices I’ve made. It’s always been a priority and a positive choice. Working out has helped me grieve, manage loss, express joy, express frustration. It’s my time to regain sanity and strength, to work things out in my head, and to recalibrate my mental and physical balance. To sum it up, life is change and life is hard, but there’s something powerful in physical exertion that can keep you grounded throughout it all.
Decades pass quickly, though as time and life changes some things don’t and shouldn’t. Commitment to lifelong activity and physical challenge needs as much attention, dedication and work as being a parent, or as building a career, a marriage, or a relationship. Physical fitness doesn’t guarantee success in any other area of life but it does this: it guarantees that you take an aggressive role in managing change and taking time to accomplish something that is for you. Your partner and children deserve the best you; take the time out to do what makes you feel good inside out. Yes, be selfish! Take care of you.
As time and epochs in your life pass don’t be left to wonder who the hell you are now and what happened to your body. People spend a lifetime investing time and money into careers, homes, cars, savings, investments. What are you investing in you? Where is your savings account for your retirement and health? THE GYM! That’s where!
When you’re young and healthy you don’t give it a moments thought and as a society we really don’t prepare people for their physical beings to age. Images and societal expectations play with your mental health and physical activity keeps your mentality in check.
Being in the gym was my outlet rather than alcohol, drugs, and food – I’m lucky. I’m truly blessed and grateful for good health, physical strength, and physical mobility. I can do stairs, I take zero prescription medications, I have no chronic physical illness, the list goes on. I can honestly say that this happened because of my commitment and selfishness to self.
Ultimately life will produce regrets based on decisions you did or didn’t make; I believe that if you take risks and make changes, some regret will come with it. I have zero regrets for any decision I’ve made regarding my fitness, participation in different sports and activities or what I’m now blessed with enjoying today.
I’m closer to retirement than the other end now. I’ll have focus and priorities and not be lost when my retirement date does come.
Enjoy your life and the challenges and opportunities it brings. It moves very quickly; please remember to be true to the care of yourself. Young women, lose (or find?) yourself in this era where you can be celebrated for being strong and having muscles – I’m finally getting the chance to do just that. Whatever you do focus on your fitness now, before it’s too late. Like me, you might be surprised by what your body and mind are capable of when you push your limits. Age is only a number and I look forward to continuing to prove that.
Projekt Possible, an 8 Week Blueprint for Building your Biggest Life and Cultivating your Confidence – starts April 11.