This article is aimed at people over the age of 35 who have recently started the fun journey of Olympic weightlifting. Throughout this, I’m going to give you some insight and tips to help you out on your pursuit of starting a sport where—let’s be honest—by the time most people have hit your age, they’ve retired from it all ready. As much as you don’t want to admit it, you’re old and this sport isn’t exactly set up for aging athletes.
So already I’ve pissed off a bunch of masters lifters, but before you start drafting your nasty response about how you feel so good and age is just a number and all of that crap, be honest with yourself and admit the fact that weightlifting would be a little easier if you were 20 rather than 40. I’m sorry, but it’s true. It’s called aging, and not many things do it well. In the end, everybody breaks... IT’S BIOLOGY.
I’m going to tell you my story about how I started (I apologize to the eight people who actually read my stuff for making you hear it again). Then I’m going to tell you what you have working against you, what you have working for you, and how to exploit those things, because you honestly are going to need to—you should know time isn’t on your side.
I started weightlifting about a month out from turning 34. I had always been in a gym before that, but I honestly didn’t know much about the Olympic Lifts because there was about 5% on the internet about them then as there is now, and crazy enough, that was in 2006. Fortunately for me, I lived about 15 minutes away from Mike Burgener, found him on the internet in that 5%, and have been thankful ever since.
In the 11 years since, I only started to compete as a master in 2016. Prior to that I stayed as a senior lifter—I figured if I stayed with the younger guys it would push me harder. I feel it did, but it also came with a price. I qualified and lifted in three American Opens—one as a 94 and two as a 105. My goal when I started was to qualify for one of the two National meets, and I was able to accomplish that. Aiming my sights high I believe kept me going through the lean years, and trust me, there were plenty of those starting out. In 2016 the totals climbed up even higher and with the challenges of working my full time job, running a barbell club and having a wife and kids, I felt moving over to the Masters class was the right move… well that and the fact I was 44.
Okay enough about me and my nonsense. Here is what you are actually reading the article for.
What you have working against you:
What you have going for you:
- You don’t recover as well as you did when you were younger. Okay sure, there may be a few of you who were heroin addicts in your 20s and pulled yourself out of that, so yes, you are the exception to the rule. Thye majority of us don’t.
- You are a bit more injury prone than a younger lifter. Again, it’s just a fact of life. Not many 20-year-olds will trash their backs picking up a child, but if you’re over the age of 40, that percentage goes up a bit.
- Time commitments. You most likely have a job, kids and a spouse, and those kids and spouses have obligations as well that you may have to be a part of. All of these can suck up your time and derail training.
- Stress. Listen, I’m not saying younger people don’t have it because I know they do, but it’s not likely near that of a mother of three with a job and a husband.
- Tough: you have to be, because if you’re 40 and the idea of doing cleans on the minute seems like fun or if you think most people over 40 will be doing them without a bit of pain, you are probably day drunk. Again, I know younger people hurt as well, but they just don’t have the mileage an older lifter does.
- You can actually afford to get massages, chiropractic care, cryotherapy or whatever turns your screw. Your 22-year-old training partner is probably the guy who is scooping other people’s protein powder out of their lockers when no one is looking because he is broke as hell, but you might actually have the cash for a 90-minute massage. Exploit that ability—find what works for you and use it when you can. Buy the good mattress and eat the good food—let him sleep on the same mattress he’s had since high school and eat Costco pizza (not that it isn’t delicious and a fair price). Don’t feel bad—treat yourself.
- Your head is on a bit straighter than your typical young lifter. Here is what I mean by this: I coach people from the ages of 20 to 50, and I see them every day. While I understand this is definitely a case by case thing, older lifters tend to not let little things distract them as much and can push them to the side to allow themselves to train for a couple of hours. They rarely get upset about how many likes their Instagram post has, and use their time training as a way to escape their outside stressors.
So in summary, you found weightlifting at an age that isn’t ideal for this sport, but who cares? Do what you can with what you’ve got, and just make sure you train the way you
can, not the way someone else can. You have many advantages to help you along the way, but you do have limitations that you need to acknowledge.