Contrary to popular belief, age is not an obstacle to gaining muscle. With help from resistance exercises, fitness professionals, a healthy high-protein diet, and discipline, it is possible for women to get fit and confident in midlife and beyond.
Why you’re never too old to start bodybuilding
The transformative nature of bodybuilding, in particular, seems to appeal to those ladies already going through a transition period. Whether menopausal, empty nesters, divorcees or retired, this sport’s very emphasis on structure brings them not only muscles but also order to life’s chaos, and the following female bodybuilders over 60 are proving it.
Setting an example for other women their age, they are defying stereotypes inviting them to do whatever they want at whatever age, showing to everyone the more you lift, the better you feel as long as you know your “why”.
The Over 60 Sexy Badass: Renee Landers, 71 years old
A businesswoman and grandmother from Texas, Renee Landers – who works out five days a week and has a fabulous bikini figure- has revealed she feels better now than she did in her 20s after taking up bodybuilding following back surgery. Bodybuilding has helped her to reboot her life and the key to her ripped physique.
“I was terrified to put on a skimpy and sparkly bikini, as I was nearly 70 and at least 20 years older than the next oldest person there“, she says recalling that moment when she entered her first competition at the age of 69. “But now I know that 70 and sexy can go together, as I’m living proof. I am definitely not slowing down. This is my life and this is how I want to live“.
Having no plans to stop flexing her muscles any time soon she believes midlife women have a choice. “Working out and just moving is so important, it can extend your life“, she explains. “Never limit yourself because of your birth year. Forget about it. It doesn’t matter. To me, 70 is just a number. My granddaughter calls me a ‘badass,’ and I want to inspire people to realize they can be badass at any age. Grab the bull by the horns and live life to the max“.
The Guinness World Record: Ernestine Shepherd, 86 years old
Ernestine Sheperd entered her first bodybuilding competition at 71 after she retired. Having trained with a former Mr Universe, Yohnnie Shambourger, she soon became the oldest living bodybuilder in the world, as declared by the Guinness Book of World Records in 2010 and 2011.
Albeit no longer competing, she continues to set an example as a personal trainer and teacher who inspires others with her amazing story. A frequent public speaker who gives classes on Zoom and in person, she especially enjoys working with seniors and has written a memoir about her life, “Determined, Dedicated, Disciplined To Be Fit“.
Her secret to successful ageing? “Keep that body in motion. Exercise is the fountain of youth. It boosts not only your body but your brain“, she says. “I’m also an advocate for healthy eating and drinking plenty of water. I eat baked chicken, turkey and tuna, potatoes and brown rice—nothing fried“.
The Muscle Wonder: Joan Macdonald, 76 years old
Joan Macdonald has not always looked like a bodybuilder. Being overweight and with rising blood pressure, she started her transformation journey after 70 and today continues to inspire women with her incredible dedication and transformation.
“I was sick, tired and had lost myself until I began lifting weights at 71“, she says. “Women need to change their mindset. We are not finished at 40, definitely not finished at 50 or 60 or 70. We can go on and on until the day there is no more”.
Thanks to her daughter, Michelle, who is a fitness coach, she was able to transform her body and her mind in terms of muscles and strength, as well as get amazing toned arms. On Instagram, Joan – who has always liked a challenge and “building something“, doesn’t have any problems posting photos of herself in sports tops, or jumping waves in beachwear.
“When busy with family, it happens to forget about yourself“, she explains. “I wish I’d known what I know now. I would have been a healthier me most of my life. Now, I’m building me instead.”
The Powerful Maui Lawyer: Ilene Block, 63 years old
Ilene Block, who is now 63, had struggled with dieting and keeping weight off for her entire life. Inspired by Joan MacDonald, she then decided to turn things around getting serious in the gym.
“Within a year I lost 40 pounds and felt great,” she says. “I’d always wanted to do a bodybuilding show, but because of my busy career as a lawyer and bringing up my kids, I could never commit to doing it during my 30s, as the preparation is intense.”
It was only when she turned 60 and reached out to a coach that she started to get trained to compete in bodybuilding shows.
“Even though I am older and post-menopausal, it is so fascinating to see how my body responds to training and my diet, and I can’t wait to see what I can achieve for the next show,” she said. “I still can’t believe I have managed to do this. When I walked onstage, in my bikini, posing and feeling confident, I was just thinking to myself, am I really doing this?”.
“Granny Guns” Marlene Flowers, 67 years old
Marlene Flowers is setting an example of achieving goals regardless of age. Popular as “Granny Guns“, she hopes to inspire older people to start training. Her mantra? “Don’t let fear stop you.”
Having started working out at 58, she soon inspired people of all ages, reaching more than 251K followers on Instagram. Her journey to fitness began after a few medical scares. “I had eating disorders and health issues,” she says to The Sun USA. “When I was 58, I had to get surgery. After that experience, I knew that I needed to make a change“.
To kick off her new fitness journey, Marlene relied on family and friends, which she said are the most important thing to her. “My son is my trainer, and he is the one that got me into weightlifting. The people at my gym also encouraged me to enter competitions.“, she adds.
Marlene encourages anyone seeking a healthier lifestyle to follow her path. “You do not need to have an amazing body to exercise. The goal is to feel good not look good. Exercising may be tough but once you do it, you will feel better,” she adds.
Building muscle in midlife is possible. It’s not only important for a great-looking physique, but it’s also essential if you look forward to a long life of healthy ageing in a strong body. Marlene says training also doesn’t just apply to exercise. “When you fail at something get up and try again,” she continues. “It is within us to achieve what was destined for us.”
The sooner you start, the better. So, get yourself away from the TV or computer and start. Just make sure you are not exceeding your personal weight limits and are going at your own pace. As with anything worth it in life, it will take time to build up strength and gain muscle mass.