This article appeared in the Winter 2023 issue of 3rd Act magazine.

BY MIKE HARMS, Winter, 2023.

Mary, who is 77, knew that strength training was important. It meant being able to spend more quality time with her two grandchildren. Also, maintaining her balance was becoming a concern.

Strength training seemed intimidating at first. “I felt old,” Mary says. “I didn’t know if I would be overwhelmed or unable to do the exercises.”

When Mary started strength training with me in my gym, we emphasized fundamental movements like pushing, pulling, squatting, and hinging at the hips. Performing exercises with proper form was the top priority.

“Progressive overload” is a principle of strength training. It means that when we train consistently and increase resistance incrementally over time, we get stronger. Mary put this principle into action. Six years later, she continues to enjoy the benefits.

“I’m feeling confident in my movements” she says. “My posture is straighter. I have more energy. My walks are longer and faster. Friends have commented on my increased energy.”

There’s more. “l have a prescription for an anxiety medicine that I take as needed,” Mary says. “I haven’t felt the need for a pill since I began training.”

Secrets of Giants

Alyssa Ages competes in Strongman athletics. She lifts and moves very heavy things—like kegs, boulders, and automobiles—for sport. She weighs about 120 pounds, but possesses the raw strength to pull a 50-ton truck.

She felt “invincible,” until the day her body “betrayed” her: She suffered a miscarriage.

The process of rebuilding her body inspired Ages to explore how the pursuit of strength can transform us. She shares her findings in her book, Secrets of Giants: A Journey to Uncover the True Meaning of Strength.

“Lifting weights didn’t erase the burden of my trauma, but it reminded me again that I could endure hard things,” she says.

Getting Started

I advise my clients to speak with a doctor prior to starting a strength-building program. Also, if someone has an injury or recurring pain, I recommend seeing a physical therapist (PT). A PT will provide rehabilitative exercises, which I then integrate into a client’s strength program.

As a personal trainer who’s certified in training older adults, I recommend making the investment in 1:1 training. The right coach will personalize a strength training regimen for you and will help you maintain proper exercise form.

Alternatively, or additionally, you can join a small-group class. Check out Enhance Fitness, a low-cost, evidence-based group exercise program that started in Washington state.

One of my favorite strength-building exercises is the Farmer’s Carry. Hold a weight in each hand at your sides and walk for a set distance or time. When performed correctly with the core engaged, shoulder blades down and back, and upright posture, this exercise strengthens shoulders, legs, core, forearms, and grip.

Whatever path to strength you choose, remember that progress takes time and consistency. Enjoy your journey to a stronger self!

Mike Harms is a personal trainer and gym owner in Edmonds, Wash. He is certified in personal training and group training for older adults.