So on this Thanksgiving Day of 2018 I celebrate my first year as a naturalized US citizen and rather than heading to the stores to load up on all those deals I have decided to document my path to learning how to be a powerlifter. I hope that this will help inspire others who are similar to me, and at the same time helps me document my own journey.
Who am I?
I was originally born in England in the late sixties but moved over to the United States in the year 2000 through my job at the time. While I was living and working I met the most beautiful lady who subsequently became my wife. A few years later we moved to North Carolina and have been here since.
Although I enjoyed track sports, swimming, cycling and rugby growing up I became less and less active as I got older. My hobby and then my career was computer programming and so I became the typical geek who didn't do much athletically at all. The notion of going to gym would fill me with horror, so naturally I never went.
So I'm not some life-long health freak, just an average guy going through life.
Like most Americans we enjoyed the standard American diet and were heavy users of take out and local restaurants. In many cases it was simply because we were working so much that we didn't have time for anything else. In reality though we enjoyed the food and were hooked. Needless to say our waistlines started to grow and we both piled on the pounds.
It was my wife who first decided enough was enough and found a local personal trainer who worked with her to attack those pounds and start whipping her into shape. When she started I was somewhat skeptical as to whether this would work, but after six months of regular sessions we were both very surprised at the real results she was getting. This guy knew his stuff.
It was on my 42nd birthday that I decided I had to do something about myself. I was 240 pounds and am 5' 10". The last straw was when were away for my birthday on a cruise through the Panama Canal. The photos of the scenery were spectacular. The photos of me were anything but!
So I started on a regimen of initially two personal training sessions a week. I have to admit that I was so unfit that this started out as sheer hell. However, I did feel very good (and sweaty!) after each session. I guess this was my first experience of the endorphin high you get.
I stuck with it - the trainer was concentrating on my legs, as they are the biggest muscles in the body and therefore the key to burning the fat. I also made sure that I didn't miss a single session - consistency is absolutely key.
At the same time we changed our diets so that we made sure we ate at home as often as we could - this was principally a grilled meat on the barbecue, typically chicken or pork, with a baked potato and a veg. My trainer berated me because I never ate breakfast. So I started eating fried eggs along with potato latkes from Trader Joe's (these are delicious, but I've now switched to the cauliflower latkes they now make because they taste so much better!). Lunch would be a salad and protein bars or nuts would be for snacks.
We allowed ourselves one 'cheat' meal a week where we could eat when and what we liked. This gave us something to look forward to and keep us on our eating track.
After a year, and stepping up to three sessions a week, I had lost 50 pounds and was actually able to lift things without putting my back out!
Joining a regular gym
The training was going really well, and I stuck with the personal trainer for about three years until he ended up with personal issues and closed his specialized gym. We felt homeless and wondering if we would fall off the wagon.
In our town nearby there was a small Anytime Fitness gym and we decided that we would join it and see what happened. I knew enough exercises that I wasn't a complete novice, but it was daunting not having someone guide you through. However, I was 45 and I knew I didn't want to go backwards and become that guy again. I applied the same discipline as before and made sure I always went three times a week - always at the same time - so I had no excuse not to workout.
I did get stronger and widened my repertoire of workout exercises, but I will be honest that love handles were starting to grow - especially once I hit my fifties. Despite working out regularly and doing quite a lot of lifting, rows, cardio, rowing, planks and a many, many more I just couldn't shift them. From a low of 189 pounds when I finished training with the personal trainer my weight had increased up to 203 by May 2018, aged 51.
All that changed when I met Nick, the new owner of the gym. Nick is a North Carolina state powerlifting champion and will teach anyone how to execute the key moves:
- 2Overhead Press
- 3Bench Press
So in May 2018 I had initial one-on-one sessions with Nick, where we focused on each move and the ideal technique for each. It absolutely isn't about the weight, it's about form and technique. I had never in my life even walked into a power rack, let alone used one. I always felt very intimidated by them and the thought of unsuspended weights filled me with horror. I had previously used a Smith machine for squats and bench, and using a neck pad while doing the squats. The first thing I learned was no padding to be used, and absolutely no gloves! "You won't be needing those again" I was told. To build up callus and strengthen your hands for grip gloves are a no-no.
Once I'd learned the basic technique for each move I signed up for Nick's online coaching. The program is based around the online service Fitbot, which is now called TrueCoach. This allows my trainer to give me a personalized workout schedule for the week, which he normally loads in each Sunday. I'm on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule following what is known as "Novice Linear Progression". For each of these days there are each exercise, the weights, the reps and for how many sets. All I have to do is follow these to the tee and record the last set of each exercise on my cellphone. Once I'm done and gone home I will upload these videos along with any comments that I had about the exercise. The next day I will get a full and honest critique from my trainer on my form, mistakes, things to watch out for etc.
The Start of the Powerlifting Story
So this has been a brief introduction on my introduction to the sport of natural powerlifting. I feel compelled to document my path because usually those who write about it tend to either be younger and/or gym rats their entire lives. I am neither of these. Just a regular guy who enjoys working out - I have found powerlifting to be more fun than ever I thought I would.
Would love to hear feedback from anyone who is either wanting, or thinking about, starting to powerlift, or if you are already doing so and wants to share their views or comments. Please comment. Together we can be a community and prove that life after 50 can be stronger and better than ever.
My personal reasons are to not have to be on medication, or have to use healthcare for any chronic issues. As we progress through life we start to look at our own mortality - many just have blinders on and ignore the pot bellies. I'm not one of those people, and if you've read this far then you probably are not either.
Drop us a comment and let's share our best tips and experiences.