Why I started pumping iron at 43 and won’t stop

Jul 31, 2015
Ashley Ann Lawrie

parallel bar dips

By Leo Valiquette

It’s been two years, four months and uncounted buckets of sweat since I first started training at Free Form Fitness.

When I began, my body fat percentage was 27.5. At 43 years of age, I was already on blood pressure meds and counting the days until my elevated cholesterol levels would warrant meds, too.

I needed to make a change that would last. And I wanted to, but I just didn’t know where to start. Over the years, I had worked out for a few months at a time here and there, but I would inevitably fall off the routine and lose whatever progress I’d made.

The problem was, I didn’t really know what I was doing in the gym. I understood even less about proper nutrition, and what you put in your mouth is three-quarters of the battle.

Then I met FFF’s Ashley Lawrie at an Ottawa Chamber of Commerce networking reception in March 2013 and agreed to a 10-week fitness challenge.

Before the end of that 10 weeks, I was hooked. The combination of personalized workouts three times a week, a new nutrition program, and the knowledge to understand what I should eat and why, yielded fast results.

By the end of that 10 weeks, I had lost 20 pounds. By the end of that summer, I had lost almost 30 and cut my waistline from 36-38 to 32 inches.

Best of all, I freed myself of the need for those blood pressure meds. My cholesterol dropped to the lowest level it had ever been in my adult life.

I felt better. I looked better. I never thought I could ever claim to have “chiselled” features, but the joke was that half the weight I’d lost had come off my face. My sleep improved. The difference in my energy levels and focus throughout the day was nothing short of incredible.

But the true test was yet to come.

It’s one thing to commit yourself to a new routine for a short period of time. The challenge is to make that change habitual for the long-term. As my own past experience had shown, it’s easy to make some noticeable progress, get complacent and revert back to the same bad habits.

But I wasn’t willing to let that happen. I’d seen the light, as it were, and was determined to keep pushing forward.

That’s where the constant support and personalized coaching of the FFF team made all the difference. Having that accountability, by committing to a regular schedule of sessions, helped me turn a new routine into a comfortable old habit.

For me, I just don’t see the point in sabotaging my efforts in the gym with poor nutrition. Sure I enjoy treats once in a while and regular “refuelling” days. But I’ve struck a balance where I am not going to see that body fat percentage creep back up.

The key is to keep it fresh and new. These days, I am training at the Kanata location with Mike Robichaud and Nick Antal. Every few months, we sit down to set new goals that will dictate a different training program. Maybe it’s building sheer strength, or cardio endurance, or catching that elusive six-pack.

Whatever the case, I can rely on them to give me the expert counsel, support and helping hands (literally) that will keep me motivated and ensure I get the most out of my time at the gym.

Today, I am 45 years old and in my the best shape of my life. My hands have permanent calluses and I wear them proudly. That six-pack is still rather hard to spot, but I’ve kept off the fat and added slabs of new muscle. I can backsquat 270 lbs. and deadlift 275 lbs. My plan is to crack 300 on both before the snow falls. That’s pretty damned good, considering I’d never done either exercise before FFF.

But these are my goals. Yours may be quite different. Even so, you can trust the team at FFF to work with you and create a personalized program that will give you the results you want.

You just have to make the commitment and keep up your end.

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