I started playing sports around 10 years old. My dad was a squash player, and he often brought me along to the club where he played. I fell in love with the sport and I started playing, and I competed until I was in my early 20s. As a young adult, I also used to go to a local sports centre where I took step and other aerobics classes for several years.

At 23, I joined the police force, though I continued playing squash and doing aerobic sports during my early years of training. Time passed, I had three children, and I still did sports and aerobic activities sporadically. But to be quite honest, spending more time in gyms was never really on my radar. They frightened me, and I believed the myth that I'd get "bulky" if I turned to weights in the gym.

I eventually started training in a consistent way at age 45 through a 12-week online programme

When I turned 45, I started experiencing perimenopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and stubborn weight gain that left me unhappy with how I looked and felt. I wanted to develop more muscle tone, but I didn’t know how. I started researching on the internet about what middle-aged women can do to achieve this look, and everything pointed to resistance training, so I decided to give it a go.

I didn’t know where to start, so I downloaded a 12-week programme from a trainer named Joe Wicks (known as the Body Coach), a fitness instructor and author whose method focuses on high-intensity interval training (HIIT).

The first four weeks of the programme were all HIIT sessions that incorporated movements, like press ups, burpees, air squats, lunges. Then, it moved on to resistance training with dumbbells. The final four weeks consisted of barbell work and more weightlifting, so I took the plunge and I went alone to a local gym. It turns out, I loved it. I got a real buzz out of lifting weights and being able to see what my body could do. And a bonus: I was actually really good at it.

After a while, I started advancing my strength skills and competing in powerlifting competitions

At the gym, I was fascinated watching one woman doing deadlifts and squats. I started a conversation with her one day and said, 'What are you doing? And how do you do it?' She showed me the ropes. I started training with her and I did a lot of my own research, looking at YouTube videos all the time to practice the right technique. I’d watch the videos at the gym and I’d practice and practice.

Then, my friend mentioned she was going to do a powerlifting competition. I thought, 'I’m never going to be good enough to do that.' But I just kept training and got myself a personal trainer who put me on a good programme that helped me work toward competing. The trainer had me doing a lot of barbell work, like back and front squats, Romanian deadlifts, bench presses, lunges, Bulgarian split squats, side lunges, lat pull-downs, biceps curls and more, working all the parts of the body.

When I went to my first competition, it was absolutely terrifying. There was a lot of adrenaline. I thought, 'What on earth have I signed up for?' I had a lot of nagging and doubts in my head and I was scared.

Thankfully, I was with my friend and my coach, who reminded me to be positive and to go out there and focus. Once I warmed up, I felt more confident. All you can hear is the support of the screaming crowd, and that really helps you. By the end of it, I was really proud of myself for the achievement.

My proudest strength achievement was being able to go for a fourth lift of 287 pounds (130kg) during a deadlift competition

My favourite memory from my powerlifting competitions is when I got to try for a fourth deadlift after hitting my personal best of 275 pounds (125kg). Because of this, the judges let me come back and do a fourth attempt at 287 pounds (130kg), which was just massive for me. I felt euphoric, and people who were there with me were jumping all about. It was such a lovely moment of excitement because it was such a heavy lift.

As time passed, I started diversifying my interests and experimenting with CrossFit movements

During the pandemic, I began exercising from home and experimenting with more functional fitness, like CrossFit. Once lockdowns lifted, I started at a new gym to continue my functional training, and I absolutely loved the different challenges.

For CrossFit, I was learning more about Olympic lifts like the snatch, the clean and jerk, swings, bar muscle ups, and handstands, which I hadn’t done since I was probably 10 years old. There were so many new exercises, and a lot of the people that I was learning alongside were all so much younger than me—probably around half my age. But it was a lovely atmosphere, and I really enjoyed the new gym, which felt like a family.

These four factors were key to my strength transformation:

1. I stopped trying to go after my goals alone

I’m a firm believer in having a good coach that can teach you how to lift weights properly, safely, progressively for your body. In addition to this, gather as much knowledge and information as you can on strength training through videos and tutorials so that you can perfect each exercise and minimise injury.

2. I always have a programme to work off of

Never just walk in the gym and not have a programme, because you'll never make progress. You'll just go from machine to machine, doing random things, and you'll not make the progressions that you want to make. (Which is another great reason to have a coach!)

3. I stay mindful about nutrition, but not obsessive

I go by the 80-20 rule. Around 80 percent of the time I eat wholesome, homemade foods, and another 20 percent of whatever I fancy. In that 80 percent, a priority for me is getting enough protein and fibre to avoid an osteoporotic break, which can be common for ladies over 60.

Ladies my age can feel like strength training isn’t accessible, but I want to show them it’s possible no matter where you’re at

A lot of people can be quite intimidated by what I do, especially ladies my age, in their 50s. A lot of them put up a big barrier and say, 'I can’t do that' because they’re scared, and they don’t know where to start, since it feels like there’s not many people our age doing this type of sport. But I like to remind people that I didn’t start lifting until I was 45. You can start at any age. There should never be a barrier, and there’s always a different way of doing any of the exercises in an easier way to help you start.

Since leaving the police, I currently do personal training for women within a local gym. I teach them exercise and nutrition, a positive mindset, mindfulness, and menopause management. For menopausal ladies, I want to help get them back into movement and eat nutritious foods that will help them improve their bone health and muscles.

Menopause isn’t something that’s spoken about in the mainstream, and I want to teach other women that what they’re going through is normal. They don’t have to suffer in silence. I want to help them understand that proper sleep, exercise, and nutrition can help you manage your menopause symptoms holistically, in conjunction a medical practitioner guidance.

Now I'm 52 and I prioritise longevity over any other fitness goal

At 52, I still workout around four times a week, and when I do, I ask myself this: What can I do to live my longest, more independent life? For example, when coaching, I give athletes reasons why we’re doing different exercises.

If we’re squatting, I tell them to think of it like they’re getting up and down off the toilet, or out of the bath. When we’re doing above the head movements, I tell them to think about putting stuff in the cupboard. It’s all about transferring the movements to everyday life.

2024-02-15T13:21:00Z dg43tfdfdgfd