So, this is me. I was a social worker, director of children’s social care for a big local authority,
funeral celebrant and now, since lockdown, a personal trainer.
Or rather that was me, on the left. The photo on the right is from June 2021. Like most people in lockdown, we walked when we could, we stayed at home, worked from computers, ate and drank.
The dog loved our new life… the rest of us struggled.
And in the midst of all the fear, illness and loss that we were experiencing, to different degrees, I am probably not the only one to say something changed in me.
It started playfully enough as we – my partner, Elaine, and I at home with our son – connected as a family with our grown-up kids and grandchildren by all doing “PE with Joe (Wicks)” each morning. And my body and mind responded in a way that it never did with any previous exercise or PE when I was at school. I felt energised, better – and wanted more. I made it harder. I introduced dumbbells – really difficult to buy through lockdown and mine were like great lumps of cement – and I saw gains quickly. It honestly wasn’t about the weight, it was about getting stronger and fitter and being able to move easily – and being healthy for me, for my partner and for our family.
I’ve always done things a different way. I have three ‘children’: Alex, 41 (from a straight relationship); Leah, 31 (donor dad); Isaac, 16 (Elaine and I were one of the first lesbian couples to use her eggs and my body – and a donor – all through the NHS); and four grandchildren.
I changed my eating habits, always building every meal and snack around protein, and I cut right back on alcohol, and my muscles responded kindly. My body changed, my weight fell and I could see muscle replace it. It gave me the reward I needed to keep going and get stronger, able to lift heavier and heavier weights – it’s all relative – I weigh 53kgs (now).
I knew I wanted more – the fitness gains from your living room can be good, but I loved the
feeling of pushing weights about. At all ages you need to make sure that you avoid injuries,
so I got a personal trainer to teach me to lift – and I haven’t looked back.
I love it. I love it so much I retrained as a PT because I wanted to use my skills and to support others if they wanted to give it a go. And it felt important to me to reach people who may feel these goals were out of reach for whatever reason… that they don’t look like the women or men in the gym pics, they are too old, or too big, or too whatever, concerns that the gyms are not gay or trans-friendly. And that’s all before the world of self-doubt that may start with wondering how to lift that
So I am a 62-year-old lesbian mother and grandmother. I am a lifter – and now a trainer, which I get so much from. I will now lift until I really can’t lift anything anymore, and if clients decide it’s not cool to be trained by a fit, strong old lezzer – even then I shall lift.
While all exercise is good for everyone, strength training (exercise using body weight or additional weights) in particular comes into its own for women during and after menopause as women lose significant amounts of oestrogen, which is needed for bone strength and growth. Strength training is particularly beneficial in strengthening muscles and through that, building denser, stronger bones.
The NHS recognises the benefits of strength training and these are some:
• It can help us to retain functional fitness, so carries over benefits into daily living – think of
the carrying of shopping, of children, shifting furniture, decorating. Stronger arms, back and legs helps to stave off niggles and aches.
• It can make us feel happy. It is well documented that exercise releases endorphins that help to make us feel good.
• Strength training can help us to sleep.
• It can help with keeping us a healthy weight. By strength training you build lean muscle, which is more productive at burning the fat that the body doesn’t require (our bodies definitely do need fat, though!). Strength training uses lots of energy, and although we should all do as much walking as we can, a good strength session can use as much energy and has less impact injuries than pounding the pavement.
• Strength training can help us to regain the strength to do the things we used to do, to play like we did as children – remember trampolines, handstands and cartwheels?
The combination of strength training and healthy eating can do wondrous things for us, bringing benefits that would truly amaze you. Trust me – I know from experience.
Catherine’s personal training service is Seabird Strength and Fitness. Find them on Instagram @seabirdstrengthandfitness. She trains people of all ages and stages on a 1:1 basis in her private studio in Seven Dials. For more info, call 07803765239.