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A First-time Powerlifter at 40 Hostyle

A First-time Powerlifter at 40? – Shelley speaks from the Platform

Fresh from Shelley’s Provincial powerlifting meet just a week ago where she went 8/9 set 2 pr’s and won best master female lifter (more on that in an upcoming post) I thought it was time to have her talk about training and life at 40….

Read on



Twenty years ago I was a grad student. I worked 2-3 jobs (depending on the year) and was a competitive bodybuilder. When there was a break in the day, I trained. Even when I was on campus, I trained in between testing subjects and writing my thesis. Despite the seemingly hectic schedule, there was a fluidity and ease to it that I miss. In those days, I felt as though I kept myself busy, and I liked things that way.

But, being busy is relative. Everyone’s busy.

Strength training at 40

I’m 46 now. I finished my education years ago, but other things keep me busy now. I’m a wife and a mother. I run my own business. Today, my training is condensed into a rigid time slot that falls somewhere between 6 and 7:30am. If I can’t manage to get myself out of bed by 5:30am, training doesn’t happen that day. By 7:30, I’m back home getting my daughter out the door for school and, when she’s gone, I focus on my business.

Work keeps me busy these days, and I’m thankful for that. But the flexible schedule that existed 20 years ago is long gone. I’m at the gym by 6am because time isn’t going to magically materialize at 10am… or at noon… or at 3pm. So by 8:30 in the morning, my priorities are elsewhere.

Make training a priority

Despite working off such a rigid timetable, there’s a growing appreciation for the time I do have. If you have an hour, you can train. I laugh a little at that 20-something girl who thought she was so busy. That kid had no idea what she was in for. I have a profound respect for other middle-aged lifters who compete at the highest levels in this country – and manage to do so with families and careers. I’ve come to appreciate and respect how hard it is.

It’s called priorities.

But, there’s a difference between dragging one’s self out of bed to get in a few training sessions and making the decision to compete.

Why would a 40-something mom want to pursue this now?

Powerlifting makes me uncomfortable.

It isn’t just about handling a lot of weight. Although I still have some technical glitches to work through, most of my issues with the sport have little to do with my technique or my strength level.

Most of my issues are mental

I frequently talk myself out of lifts. It happens in the gym and on the platform, and I’m fighting to get to that place where I don’t do it.

My interest in the competitive side of the sport mirrors how I relate to my business. The fact that I started competing around the same time I switched careers is coincidental. It’s extremely challenging to wrap my head around the discomfort of doing both at the same time. Both have forced me to do things I’d rather not – seemingly on a daily basis. And, both have resulted in my growth in ways that I could never have predicted – despite having such a long way to go.

Competing gives my training focus and purpose. It allows me to set goals (physical and mental), break PRs and hold myself accountable.

If not for competing, I wouldn’t force myself to get under a heavy squat.

If not for competing, the terms “singles” and “doubles” wouldn’t be part of my training vocabulary.


I’ve convinced myself that I could be really good someday if I can wrap my head around things, and I often wonder just how far I might be able to go if I could just stop sabotaging myself. Not surprisingly, I feel the same way about my business.

So, here we are.


Or, it’s a mid-life crisis.


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Lewis Kavanagh

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