June 12, 2021

INDAC

Keep Fit & Healthy

‘I look better at 59 than I did at 30’

5 min read

Veronique Georg: ‘When you start to see and feel all those benefits from the gym in everyday life, it makes you feel confident, powerful and more independent’

Veronique Georg: ‘When you start to see and feel all those benefits from the gym in everyday life, it makes you feel confident, powerful and more independent’

The benefits of weight training have been well documented. Decades of research have shown strength training can reduce your body fat, improve your posture, protect your bones and heart, make you happier, and even help you to live longer.

Yet for years, women in particular have presumed that cardio – such as running, cycling and endless steps on the crosstrainer – is the only way to stay in shape, while lifting weights conjured up images of muscled men dominating the weights section of the gym.

But lifting weights isn’t just a man’s game. Nor is it limited to spritely 20-somethings. By our early 40s, most of us are starting to lose muscle mass at a rate of about five percent a decade, and without intervention, the decline in skeletal muscle gets increasingly worse. Use it or lose it, as the saying goes.

Midlifers who strength train, which involves putting stress on the muscles, can actually slow or reverse muscle loss and restore strength. Various experiments have shown that older people who start to lift weights gain both muscle mass and strength – highlighting that the key to lifelong fitness after 40 really is strength, as these two women prove.

‘I’m nearly 60 – I don’t lift to be strong; I do it so I can walk up five flights of stairs’

Veronique Georg, 59, is trained by personal trainer Luke Worthington

“I was born in France where sports at school wasn’t really a priority. The little sport that was required of me, I even managed to fail at. They’d ask us to jump in the swimming pool and grab something from the bottom, but I never reached that far. But, genetically, I’m lucky – I’m 5’7” and 8st 1lbs – and I’ve always been very slender. But not having a sporty upbringing, being naturally slim, and being able to eat what I want all came spiralling down when I was 42.

“I had a rare condition in my knee, which required three operations, but the surgery couldn’t fix it. I suffered from early menopause, slipped three discs in my neck and two in my back, all in the space of 18 months.

“By the time I was 43, I was limping and in lots of physical pain to the point where I couldn’t walk more than 200 metres. My body was a complete wreck and mentally I wasn’t doing that great either.

“I told my surgeon that I wanted some help with rehab, and he referred me to a fantastic physio. But I needed to feel alive again.

“I started strength training with Luke 10 years ago, aged 49, and the sessions started improving the pain, and I started to feel better. That’s how you get hooked – you feel better physically, your appetite is better, your energy levels are better, so your whole appetite for life is better.

“I remember two very specific exercises Luke asked me to do right at the beginning. The first was sitting on the floor and trying to lift my poorly leg. I just couldn’t summon up the muscle power to lift it off the floor. The second, I call the pink flamingo, where you stand on one leg and you bend down, outstretching both arms. But I didn’t have the balance. That was how weak I was.

“Now, I’m so strong. I can deadlift 35kgs five times, for six reps. I can squat the same amount. I can swing a kettlebell. I’m very disciplined in the gym, but I’m nearly 60 – I’m not there for the competition or to see how heavy I can lift. The benchmark is whether I can walk up the five flights of stairs in my building.

“Before Covid, I commuted quite a lot between London and Paris and the first time I could put my 8kg hand luggage in the overhead rack on the Eurostar I was over the moon. I could lift something! When you start to see and feel all those benefits from the gym in everyday life, it makes you feel confident, powerful and more independent.

“Strength training has given me back more than just my body; it has given me back my life. The physical side effect is that I look better now than when I was 30.”

‘It’s made me fall back in love with exercise’

Kati Spalding, 42, trains with personal trainer Nicole Chapman on her Power of Mum programme

“For years, I was the girl on the treadmill or stepper at the gym, but I never lifted weights or even visited the weights corner.

“I think it was probably a sign of the time I grew up in. As a teenager of the 90s, all the film stars and supermodels of the day were straight up, straight down, and if they were photographed exercising it was a cardio-based activity.

“I am very new to strength training, but it’s already transformed how I view exercise, and already in a short period of time, I’m loving it again.

“I had my children in my 30s and like a lot of mums, I stopped exercising. I have friends who are mad keen runners, but I hate running. So I had this attitude to exercise where I would force myself to do it, but I never got that buzz of endorphins I’d heard about.

“When I signed up to do Nicole Chapman’s Power of Mum programme, I didn’t realise it would involve strength training, but it has been transformational, both physically and mentally. I’m moving better, and my muscles, my niggly shoulder and knees, don’t hurt any more. I’m not as out of breath doing day-to-day activities, I feel healthier, leaner, stronger than I have done in many years. And I know I’ll go into the menopause in a few years time on the front foot.

“There are so many options with strength training – it’s not just lifting a dumbbell up and down – and it’s that variety that keeps it fresh and motivating. It’s made me fall back in love with exercise and it’s transformed my life.”

​Have you seen the benefits of strength training? Tell us in the comments section below

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