‘I started strength training at the age of 62 after a double organ transplant, now I am stronger than ever’

As a child I was always athletic and enjoyed swimming, cheerleading and track and field. When I was 11, I was diagnosed with diabetes and developed neuropathy, blindness, heart disease and failing kidneys, all of which made exercising a lot more difficult.

I walked in and out of the hospital. There were many close calls where I didn’t know if I would survive the night. I did everything I could to take care of myself, but nothing worked. My body wasn’t responding and it was so demoralizing.

When my kidneys officially failed at age 34, the doctors gave me a choice: I could start dialysis, but probably not live past age 40, or I could have an experimental double-organ transplant to get a new kidney and a new pancreas to possibly cure diabetes. Surgery was risky, but I wanted to have my whole life ahead of me and not live with diabetes anymore.

Fortunately, the operation was successful. In my 40s, my heart disease worsened and I developed a dysfunctional thyroid. I had triple bypass surgery and had my thyroid removed.

By the time I was 62, I was so grateful to be alive. To celebrate my body and resilience, I decided to get as fit as possible.

After a lifetime of battling chronic illness, I started strength training at age 62 and began to realize my potential.

I was living in Mexico at the time and came across a three-month online strength challenge for people over 40. The focus was on lifting weights and maximizing nutrition, while taking stress off the joints. I signed up for the program and committed to working hard. I didn’t know there would be a winner, but after three months I made the most progress and won the challenge.

I had never lifted weights before, but I was hooked. My body was finally responding to the good care after all it had been through, and I felt great. I felt empowered that I could push myself to new limits and I didn’t want to stop.

A year later, I moved back to the United States and hired a personal trainer. My goal was to achieve optimal well-being. I didn’t care at all about losing weight or about the number on the scale. I wanted to lift heavier weights with proper form, learn more about my body, and maximize my potential.

Now I train five days a week with a personal trainer.

I still work with the same personal trainer and we do 45 minute sessions with an upper and lower body split. I usually do 4 sets of 10 to 15 reps of eight different exercises. Technically they are supersets because I only rest for 30 seconds in between. I get a lot done in a short time.

The upper body is my favorite and I love anything to do with shoulders and arms. Hamstrings are my weakest link, but I especially work hard on training my quads and glutes. I recently conquered eight 450-pound leg presses (a new PR!).

I never deprive myself, but I focus on balanced nutrition and tracking macros to maximize my training.

I’ve always known the importance of a balanced diet, especially with my health issues, but I started tracking macros to maximize nutrition and support my training. I use the My Macros+ app to stay organized and eat five small meals a day. I focus on adding color to my plate and prioritizing lean proteins, complex carbs and healthy fats. I always have chopped vegetables in my refrigerator. Salmon, chicken, tuna, Greek yogurt, egg whites, and purple sweet potato are some of my favorites to fill my plate.

That said, I never deprive myself or limit myself. If I want dessert, I have it. It’s all about balance and I’ve found what works for me.

When I discovered bodybuilding, I took my strength to the next level to set an example for women of all ages.

My coach saw how hard I worked in the gym and how much I loved it, and suggested I enter a Masters Bikini Bodybuilding competition. I thought no one wants to see me in a bikini, but I decided to go for it and celebrate my body. At the age of 64 and in the same month of the 30th anniversary of my organ transplant, I competed in my first championship. I won and I was hooked.

Getting strong and confident in my body is hard to beat. To prepare for the competition, I focused on building muscle with heavy strength training and a calorie surplus. Just before the show, I started my “cut” and reduced total calorie intake to lose body fat and reveal muscle mass. Training for competitions became my new lifestyle, and I thrived thanks to the system of discipline and motivation I had built. Exercising and providing my body with healthy nutrients became second nature.

The icing on the cake? I can be an example for other women, young and older, and inspire them to do the same.

    These three things were key to the success of my strength transformation.

    1. I have built a community of like-minded women to support and inspire my journey.

      Menopause is confusing and your body goes through a lot of changes, but finding a community of women who can relate made a huge difference to me and what I could do physically. Giving and receiving support from others in my age group is so inspiring. I really believe in the power of connection. I have found so much gold in my community, both online and in person, and growing with other strong women is a recipe for success.

      2. I realized that my body is resilient and that I am capable of doing difficult things.

        I’ve had my fair share of health issues and I’m so proud of my body for overcoming the challenges. Despite all the hospitalizations and complications, here I am at the age of 66, not only lifting heavy weights, but also winning competitions. Going to the gym and hitting new PRs is proof that my body is resilient. I’m just so grateful to be alive.

        3. I understand that confidence is the key to my success.

          My goal is to continually take care of my health and treat my body with compassion. I have left all the negative self-talk behind and replaced it with complete confidence. I am strong, proud and capable, and I show up as my authentic self every day.

          After decades of being sick, I’m finally feeling good and I’m going to do everything I can to continue on this path.

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