She had to be in her 70’s.
All these grey-haired ladies did—all four of them in their matching white t-shirts at this women’s deadlifting meet. They huddled together at one side of the rough-and-tumble gym in this little seaside town, chuckling and smiling those megawatt smiles like grannies do.
Who were they cheering for? Granddaughters? Daughters? Maybe a neighbor’s child? And were those Mardi Gras beads around their necks?
The announcer made a muffled call. People shifted in the crowd and created a corridor clear to the platform.
“Lifter coming through.“
As she got closer, I saw the letters on her shirt were “S.A.S.” (I would later find out that meant “Serious About Strength”) and I realized this little old lady was not here to cheer as much as she was to compete.
Then, Granny walked up to the barbell … and deadlifted.
The crowd went nuts.
Her compadres hooted and clapped. We all cheered. Everyone in that gym smiled. You couldn’t help it. As the grannies each went to deadlift, the crowd got louder. The energy of the Deadlifting Grannies was contagious. Here were these women who could have just stayed home, sat on their couches, watched the “Ellen” show, and ate macaroons. No one would have faulted them for anything. But they didn’t. These women trained and came to throw down. Holy moly.
Why is this important? Not just because those grannies could be you or me one day. Sure, we all age and we would like to think that we will remain as vital and strong as possible. No, the Deadlifting Grannies are important on an entirely different level: they are a physical representation of what is possible with the right mindset. They are grandmothers and they’re not afraid of deadlifting.
For many of us who work out, it seems we spend half our lives trying to explain to the world what we do:
- “I lift weights.”
- “I CrossFit.”
- “I _________.”
And then we try to explain why we do it, and why we wish others would join us.
See, in a world that seems to reward inaction, we find benefit in action, we find respite, we find peace. But it’s hard to explain that to anyone else. We find ourselves trying to enumerate logically why we take the time to exercise, why we like to lift weights, why we think others should take the time to sprint or clean or deadlift. And none of the words ever seem adequate, not even the scientific-sounding ones. (“Triglycerides. Dopamine. Mitochondria.”) Often, it doesn’t seem stable to admit that, simply put, our time in the gym seriously contributes to us not feeling unstable.
Besides, when you tell people they should try deadlifting or clean and jerking or anything with the barbell—just try—you are often met with an incredulity, a doubt, a shrinking back or head shaking: “Oh no. I could never do that.” (Read “You Can Do This, You Can Do Anything.”)
But the crazy thing is that you know they could. You know what it was like to start on the path you’re on. You know how inexperienced and scared you felt in the beginning (or how inexperienced and scared you feel most days, even now). You know how much you learned along the way, and you know how much you would like to have more company. But you also know that even if every woman in the world picked up a barbell tomorrow, it still wouldn’t be enough or soon enough.
You want everyone to know the strength and the power and the supreme sense of being alive you have when you lift the bar and bumpers and then put them down and walk away. This act, this effort, this thing: it floors you in its power and beauty and grace even as you do it, no matter how many times you do it. This sense of taking on your burdens, raising them, and then putting them back down and leaving them where they land: it’s a physical and a mental high. The weights don’t own you. Your burdens don’t own you. Every time you do your best and walk away from the barbell you are practicing doing your best in other areas and then walking away from it. You are practicing being attached to process, not outcome, and this is so very important. Let the chips fall where they may. Let the bumpers fall where they may. Let life fall where it may. You’ll be okay. You are getting stronger, even when you fail.
You know this like you know the freckles on your knees or that scar on your finger, the one where the screen door caught you running when you were 7. But you can never convey the life-giving, mind-saving, body-rejuvenating effects of lifting as much as a deadlifting granny. You can never explain the tremendous accessibility and welcoming nature of the weights as well as a deadlifting granny. Many people have to see to believe, see to try, see to improve. Many people need to see the grannies.
And that’s why we love deadlifting grannies: they are visual proof without peer.
Deadlifting grannies remind us that age is not an excuse, age is not a free pass, and age is not necessarily the time to move to the right lane on the highway and stay there. You are still alive!
Deadlifting grannies also remind us that age can be:
- A time to rejoice in your wisdom
- A time to try
- A time to celebrate
- A time to say “Why the heck not?”
- A time to get strong and stay strong
So, the next time you see a deadlifting granny (or grandpa!) in person or on social media, give them a hug or a re-tweet or a share. These folks not only inspire us all, their very presence conveys a message of hope and fun that we all need. You go, deadlifting grannies! And thank you!
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