European Powerlifting Championship – Me against myself!

The European Powerlifting Championship took place in Dublin, from 21 to 23 September. It was a fantastic event, with over one hundred athletes from all over Europe competing in squat, bench press and deadlift. The age categories ranged from 14 to 74 years of age.

I competed in four categories, squat and deadlift both raw and equipped and I came first in all in my categories. I achieved two new world records in the equipped categories of squat (100kg) and deadlift (125 kg). It wasn’t easy to compete in four categories, two each day, as I had to conserve energy over a long day, and do my maximum best twice a day for the same lift. I had to stay calm but focused, relaxed, but watch what’s going on around me, be mindful of my fluid and nutrition intake. I did not beat my personal best and was a tiny bit disappointed. No matter what I achieve, the real competition goes on in my own head – it’s me against myself, hoping to do better every time I go out on that platform. The present me trying to do better than the past me.
Needless to say that I enjoyed breaking records. But as at every competition the highlight was meeting my fellow powerlifters, sharing stories of struggles and successes, what it took to get here and compete on European level. It was a great weekend overall.At the competition, I learned what I could do to get stronger. But for now I’m looking forward to a week of rest, indulging and eating all the chocolate I want 🙂

The “felt” age may reflect the true age of your brain +++ Das “gefühlte” Alter kann das wahre Alter des Gehirns widerspiegeln

New research shows that people who feel younger have the structural characteristics of a younger brain

Recent research by a team of researchers of the Seoul National University in Korea demonstrates that people’s “subjective age” — rather than their objective age — accurately predicts how young a brain really looks.

As people get older, their bodies will go through many changes. As for the brain, it also has a range of specific age-related signs that show that mental agility may start to decline.

The researchers Seyul Kwak, Hairin Kim, Jeanyung Chey and Yoosik Youm used MRI to detect signs of aging in the brains of 68 healthy people aged 59–84. They also used age-prediction modeling techniques to examine the changes in the participants’ gray matter volume. All study participants filled in a survey that asked them to answer questions about how young they felt.

The scientists conclude: “Our findings suggest that subjective experience of aging is closely related to the process of brain aging and underscores the neurobiological mechanisms of [subjective age] as an important marker of late-life neurocognitive health.”

In short: People who feel younger have the structural characteristics of a younger brain.

The researchers explain that this difference remains robust even when other possible factors, including personality, subjective health, depressive symptoms, or cognitive functions, are accounted for.

However, the processes behind this surprising link remain largely unexplained. The scientists suggest that, in what seems like a positive “self-fulfilling prophecy,” people who feel younger tend to engage in more physically and intellectually stimulating activities. On the other hand, if this is true, the opposite might happen to those who feel older.

Neue Studien zeigen, dass Menschen, die sich jünger fühlen, strukturelle Merkmale eines jüngeren Gehirns haben

Jüngste Forschungen eines Teams von Forschern der Seoul National University in Korea zeigen, dass das “subjektive Alter” der Menschen – und nicht ihr objektives Alter – genau vorhersagt, wie jung ein Gehirn wirklich aussieht.

Wenn Menschen älter werden, durchlaufen ihre Körper viele Veränderungen. Was das Gehirn betrifft, so gibt es auch eine Reihe spezifischer altersbezogener Anzeichen, die zeigen, dass die geistige Beweglichkeit abzunehmen beginnt.

Die Forscher Seyul Kwak, Hairin Kim, Jeanyung Chey und Yoosik Youm nutzten MRT, um Anzeichen von Alterung in den Gehirnen von 68 gesunden Menschen im Alter von 59 bis 84 Jahren zu erkennen. Sie verwendeten auch Altersprädiktions-Modellierungsverfahren, um die Veränderungen im Volumen der grauen Substanz der Teilnehmer zu untersuchen. Alle Studienteilnehmer füllten einen Fragebogen aus, der sie aufforderte, Fragen darüber zu beantworten, wie jung sie sich fühlten.

Die Wissenschaftler schließen daraus: “Unsere Ergebnisse legen nahe, dass die subjektive Erfahrung des Alterns eng mit dem Prozess des Alterns des Gehirns verbunden ist und die neurobiologischen Mechanismen des [subjektiven Alters] als wichtigen Marker der neurokognitiven Gesundheit des späten Lebens unterstreicht.”

Kurz gesagt: Menschen, die sich jünger fühlen, haben die strukturellen Merkmale eines jüngeren Gehirns.

Die Forscher erklären, dass dieser Unterschied robust bleibt, auch wenn andere mögliche Faktoren wie Persönlichkeit, subjektive Gesundheit, depressive Symptome oder kognitive Funktionen berücksichtigt werden.

Die Prozesse hinter dieser überraschenden Verbindung bleiben jedoch weitgehend ungeklärt. Die Wissenschaftler vermuten, dass Menschen, die sich jünger fühlen, in einer scheinbar positiven “sich selbst erfüllenden Prophezeiung” körperlich und intellektuell stimulierende Aktivitäten ausüben. Wenn das stimmt könnte das Gegenteil passieren, wenn Menschen sich älter fühlen.

Original Research Article published by:

Kwak, S., Kim, H., Chey, J., & Youm, Y. (2018). Feeling How Old I Am: Subjective Age Is Associated With Estimated Brain Age. Frontiers in aging neuroscience, 10, 168.

Keeping fit at all ages – yesterday in Malahide/Gestern in Malahide

Yesterday I took a rest from my powerlifting training and went for a morning walk in Malahide, a small town in North County Dublin, Ireland. Within one hour of walking I was able to visit the Malahide Marina, Malahide Castle and the Malahide Village. I also noticed the many people being active, either jogging, running, walking or cycling. There was a park run on, organised by parkrun.ie and sponsored among others by Healthy Ireland.  About a hundred people participated, young and old. Great to see so many people of all ages being active, and all that at 9.30 in the morning!

Meanwhile my son Christian was playing golf in Malahide Golfclub. To his surprise he noticed number of non-golfers – a family of foxes, as shown in his video!

Gestern nahm ich eine Auszeit von meinem Powerlifting-Training und machte stattdessen einen Morgenspaziergang in Malahide, einer kleinen Stadt in North County Dublin, Irland. Innerhalb einer Stunde konnte ich den Malahide Yachthafen, das Malahide Schloss und das Malahide Village besuchen. Ich bemerkte auch, dass viele Leute aktiv waren, entweder Joggen, Laufen oder Radfahren. Es gab einen Park Run, der von parkrun.ie organisiert und unter anderem von Healthy Ireland gesponsert wurde. Ungefähr hundert Leute nahmen teil, jung und alt. Toll, so viele Menschen jeden Alters aktiv zu sehen, und das alles um 9.30 Uhr morgens!

Inzwischen spielte mein Sohn Christian Golf im Malahide Golfclub. Zu seiner Überraschung bemerkte er einige Nicht-Golfer, eine Familie von Füchsen, wie sein Video zeigt!

 

My Powerlifting Journey

Yesterday a colleague asked me how I got into powerlifting – at my age. This is a question I was asked many times before, so I thought I write a blog about it, to describe the beginning of the journey, the painful lessons, the successes, the benefits and what powerlifting does for me.

 

The Beginning of the Journey

I started lifting heavy weights in summer 2015 at the tender age of 54. As I had a month of work I thought it would be nice to get really fit and in shape, see what I achieve with exercise and good nutrition.
I had been a member of a lovely hotel health and fitness club for 20 years. However, none of the fitness routines such as treadmill, stepper and bike aerobics had improved my body, perhaps just kept me in reasonable shape.
I asked one of the fitness staff in the gym to tell me what else I could do “to get rid of the wobbly bits”. I was lucky as the guy I asked was also a strength coach in another gym. He advised me that I should start lifting weights.
I told him that I did not want to get bulky, look like a bodybuilder, but he said that there is “not a chance” as I would not have enough testosterone in my body to build big muscles.
So I thought I’ll give it a try. After a few weeks I saw results, my clothes felt more comfortable, I felt more energetic and lifting heavier and heavier weights made me feel very good. I slowly changed my nutrition, mainly more protein, less sugar, more vegetables. I learned about the importance of sleep, as the whole strength building process happens while sleeping (I’m sure there is a scientific rationale).
Soon I noticed in the gym that I lifted heavier weights than the young guys working out beside me. I looked up the weights I lifted on the web and the world records in my weight/age category were not miles away, in fact, I had already beaten the standing world record in deadlift many times in the gym!

Painful Lessons

So, thinking that I may have a talent for weightlifting I went to get a few lessons in powerlifting. Powerlifting is a form of competitive weightlifting in which contestants attempt three types of lift in a set sequence, squat, bench press and deadlift, which is called “Full Power”. Competitions are also held that include just one of these lifts which are called “Single lifts”, or a competition of two lifts.
In August 2015 I joined the Irish Drug Free Powerlifting Federation and in September I took part in my first competition in Ballina, Co Mayo, a “push – pull” competition, meaning bench press and deadlift.
What a (painful) learning opportunity! Similar to boxing, powerlifters compete in weight category and I thought, and still think, the weigh-in in the early morning is the worst part of the competition. Then I made so many mistakes, wrong shows, wrong belt, wrong technique, nerves….
I was disqualified after not being able to get one successful bench press. I wanted to drive home and cry! What had I been thinking! However after many encouraging words from another female powerlifter, I partook in the deadlift part of the competition, even though none of the lifts would be counted. I achieved three successful lifts, got a lot of applause and again I got a lot of encouraging words. Even though I left Ballina empty-handed, I decided to try again in another competition.

Successes and further goals

By now I took part in four world championships, in Wales, Italy, Belgium and Boston, USA. I broke and set some World and European records. I met other powerlifters from many countries, also passionate about powerlifting. My next goal is to partake in the European full power championship in the UK in May and beat my personal records in all three categories.

Benefits of lifting heavy

So far, I am enjoying the sport. Other powerlifters have described the relaxation aspect of this sport and the reduction of anger, the emotional wellbeing. I agree with them. No matter how much is going on in my life, I can put it out of my head for a few hours every week, without taking drugs. When I am preparing for a big lift there is this intense concentration with one single purpose – to get that weight of the ground. This is a quiet and meditative moment, I notice nothing else but the bar.

What does it do for me?

I think that my competitive sport enables me to manage the other aspects of my life – my hectic personal life, my managerial role in Trinity College as well as my scholarly work. Thanks to my sport I can completely switch off for a few hours a week.
I am now in better shape than ever. I am stronger, feel calmer, the best is really that the training, the discipline and determination gives me the ability to face better everything that life might throw at me!

The greatest achievement – choosing training over couch and TV! *** Der größte Erfolg, die Entscheidung für Training, gegen Couch und Fernsehen!

 

Yesterday I was asked if I am still doing the bodybuilding. I quickly corrected the person that I am not doing bodybuilding, but powerlifting. I am training for strength, not physique, even though there are similarities in the training  method. And yes, I am still powerlifting, even though I have already won many trophies and medals, broke many records.

So, what keeps me motivated? Why am I not resting on my laurels and enjoy looking back on my achievements?

After a week’s rest while on holidays I found it hard to get back to the gym. But I went and  was immediately rewarded by the great atmosphere,  support from the other powerlifters, and most of all, the feeling of having achieved something:

Choosing training over sitting on the couch and watching TV!

Every time I choose something that helps me to be successful in powerlifting – be it going training or making healthy food choices – is an achievement and  these (daily) achievements keep me motivated, not past successes.

Gestern wurde ich gefragt ob ich noch Bodybuilding mache. Ich korrigierte schnell die Person, daß ich nicht Bodybuilding, aber Powerlifting mache. Ich trainiere für Kraft, nicht für Körperbau, auch wenn es bei der Trainingsmethode Ähnlichkeiten gibt. Und ja, ich bin immer noch im Powerlifting, obwohl ich schon viele Pokale und Medaillen gewonnen, viele Rekorde gebrochen habe.

Also, was hält mich motiviert? Warum ruhe ich mich nicht auf meinen Lorbeeren aus und genieße es, auf meine Leistungen zurückzublicken?

Nach einer Woche Ferien fiel es mir schwer ins Fitnessstudio zurückzugehen. Aber ich ging und wurde sofort belohnt von der großartigen Atmosphäre, der Unterstützung durch die anderen Powerlifter und vor allem dem Gefühl, etwas erreicht zu haben:

Die Entscheidung für Training über das Sitzen auf der Couch und Fernsehen!

Also, jedes Mal, wenn ich eine Entscheidung treffe, die mir hilft, im Powerlifting erfolgreich zu sein – sei es für Training oder eine gesunde Ernährung, ist ein Erfolg und dieser (tägliche) Erfolg hält mich motiviert, nicht in was ich in der Vergangenheit erreicht habe.

How did I get into Powerlifting?

I started lifting heavy weights in summer 2015 at the tender age of 54. As I had a month of work I thought it would be nice to get really fit and in shape, see what I achieve with exercise and a good diet. Read more