I know all the reasons why old people lift. For the personal satisfaction of reaching goals. To keep aging at bay. To feel powerful.
But you know what I think is one of the most important reasons you lift?
To inspire the next generation.
Let’s face it. Other than Melanie Roach, us oldies are unlikely to see an olympic platform as a participant. But what we can do is lead by example. And the people we’re leading are the youngsters who see us every day.
I had a friend who told me this story thinking it was hysterical but it’s actually kind of sad. She was getting ready to put on a nice silk dress for an evening out. She was wearing a thong to avoid panty lines in the fitted dress. Her then 8 year old daughter looked up at her and said, “Mom! It’s not that your butt is too big. It’s that your panties are too small!”
Yeah, it’s kind of funny. But what does this say about how many times her daughter had heard her critique her (very slim) backside? And how likely is it that her daughter will absorb that kind of negative self talk as being normal behavior?
Contrast that with the parent who lifts. My kids see me head out to our home gym almost every day. Lately, after a summer of Kids Crossfit, they’ve been asking to come along. They like squatting and deadlifting, they like clean and jerks (snatching is still a harder sell). The girl in the video is my daughter Ariel, who spontaneously decided she wanted to max out her clean and jerk this week just so we could spend some time together.
Just like my friend’s little girl, they subconsciously absorb the message I send them. That strength sports are fun. That commitment to a goal is important. That competing means challenging yourself and that it’s ok to do things that make you nervous or uncomfortable in the pursuit of being a better person.
Maybe it’s not your kid that you’re going to inspire to try weightlifting. Maybe it’s some teenager at the gym where you train. Maybe it’s the neighbor’s kid who sees you with the garage door open, dropping heavy weights from overhead.
Maybe that kid could be the next CJ Cummings.
Or maybe it’s not a kid. Maybe it’s your mom who starts lifting in her 60’s and builds better bone density as a result. Don’t laugh – I have a friend who competes at the national level in masters events who was inspired by her daughter in just this way.
Who will you inspire today?