Mandy takes you on her journey of rediscovering her passions later in life.

It wasn’t until I started stringing some words together on the subject of weightlifting in later life that I realised how complex my reasons are for such an activity; it’s been quite a journey!

In my thirties, a full-time Mum to twins and supporting my husband’s business, I’d tried working out at my local gym, but the children howled every time I placed them in the creche provided. My efforts descended into chaos, but I liked how my body responded to short bursts of reps with heavy weights where I had to really focus on each move. It provided the headspace I was craving.

I tried the gym again in my forties. I improved quickly, directly in proportion to the number of reps/weights handled/visits made, but we travelled a lot and sticking to anything was tricky. So, I gave up.

Fast forward another ten years and my 50th birthday celebrations were marred by a diagnosis of endometrial and ovarian cancer, low grade thankfully. Next came a hysterectomy and chemo. Frankly, by the time I came out the other end, I was as weak as a kitten and bitterly resented it, but, naturally, I was very glad to be alive. Researching my symptoms showed general fatigue and muscle weakness were common for many people undergoing similar treatments and I also learnt that working out with weights was recommended in many instances to aid recovery.

With an aching body, lifting weights wasn’t the most appealing option, but by then, Kori, one of our twins, was a qualified personal trainer so she and I decided to give it a go together once my hair had grown back.

Paradoxically, at the same time I started experimenting with an idea around constructible chocolate and confectionery, as I’m a trained chef, making product that encouraged people to come together to make happy memories. It was my way of giving back, and it worked a treat.

Remember above, where I said I liked how my body responded to short bursts of reps with heavy weights, the gym gave me headspace, and the improvement was incremental? These things became important in helping me build my confidence, to block out the fear and insecurity I sometimes felt during recovery.

The gym I train at is inclusive. It started out as a sports performance and rehabilitation clinic, and now, people of all ages and abilities attend. So, is age an issue? Absolutely not, we rock!

Fast forward another ten years to my 60th birthday and we had set a goal for my being able to deadlift 60kg. Please understand that when I first started recovery, I couldn’t lift a 20kg bar, never mind put weights on it!

When my birthday arrived, I smashed my goal by deadlifting 65kg (I have recently gone on to do 70kg). We had a window of opportunity during Covid to have a party that friends and our twins could attend, and we were overjoyed.

The images included are some of my stock taken on mobile devices in the gym to help me chart my progress. Apart from the one where I’m doing a cable pull with colourful leis around my neck, presented on my birthday, you won’t find me posing and showing off. I’ll never be a supermodel and that was never the point. Instead, the deadlift, bench press, overhead lift, and lat pull down in particular will show how my muscles have gained definition, an indication of good development and strength.

Women can be incredibly strong. Due to our physiology, the female body, compared to men, produces much less testosterone, which means adding resistance training to a weekly exercise can increase lean muscle mass but won’t add pounds of “bulky” muscle.

Strength training can cause women to produce more somatotropin, otherwise known as human growth hormone. Considering this growth hormone helps metabolise fat and is an important part of reducing the effects of ageing, this is not a bad thing.

Numerous studies have shown that strength training with weights can relieve stress. My body releases endorphins, the feel-good hormones produced during and after physical exertion, and this was particularly noticeable when the aches and pains, a side effect from chemo, began to diminish.

My confidence and general ability in all spheres of life have remained high. Instead of always being in control with a rigid plan, I think I’ve deliberately tried not to have any preconceived notions of what my limits might be. I concentrate on just enjoying the journey and building on each little success, which influences other areas of my life too.

To conclude, I hope you find this overview of a journey to weightlifting in later life, well… “uplifting”, and maybe pass this article around to encourage others to give it a go.

Kindest Always,

Mandy Gagnerie

You can see more of Mandy’s work by Googling bonbonco® Brilliantly bonkers, British and delicious, constructible chocolate and confectionery.

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