December 23, 2023 3 min read
Debbie Bookman completing her deadlift of 259 pounds December 9 at The Florida Senior Games. Photo by Stu Bookman.
By Ray Glier
Debbie Bookman, 65, is determined not to be hollowed-out by age before her time. So she lifts weights.
And a surprising thing happened, Debbie said. As she has gotten older, she has gotten stronger. It's not supposed to work like that.
“Muscle is the key to longevity,” she said.
It is simple. Lift. It is not seasoning on your health plan. It’s not just part of the fitness assembly line. It is orthodoxy, a core creed.
Debbie the gardener can toss a 40-pound bag of top soil over her shoulder. Debbie the shopper can tote grocery bags filled to the brim. And Debbie the grandmother can carry a grandson up and down stairs.
“I really thought about my strength while I was there (Illinois) visiting my son and daughter-in-law and thinking how important weight training is,” Bookman said of a visit back to her home state to share the joy of a newborn.
“They wanted me there because they knew that I'm young at heart.”
Indeed, in her mind, Debbie has not crossed that threshold of young and not young. Lifting can do that for your confidence, or your personal culture.
Why don’t more of us recognize this portal to bigger health? Less than 20 percent of older Americans take a chance on weightlifting.
Perhaps we fear ineptitude, but we shouldn’t because we build mobility and mental health, as well as muscle when we lift. The benefits out-weigh the risks. The science of strength is clear.
Of course, we may not get as strong as Debbie Bookman. In the Florida Senior Games on December 9, Bookman took 259 pounds off the ground in a deadlift, which was a state record for women in her age group and weight class and good for a gold medal.
“I knew I had it all the way,” she said. “Mind over matter.”
Debbie, who lives in The Villages in central Florida, also took a gold medal in the
bench/deadlift and silver in full power and bench. She also won for best overall female deadlifter.
In 2022, in Nevada, at the U.S. Powerlifting Bench Nationals, Bookman finished first in Raw Masters 3 in her weight class. Muscle travels. She also has national rankings in Powerlifting America.
Bookman started lifting five years ago when she squeezed into workouts with her husband, Stu Bookman, and a coach. Almost immediately, she didn't see just a functional benefit. Debbie saw a fun benefit. Weight training was not a get-it-over-with chore.
"I just fell in love with doing all of it, the deadlift and bench press and the squat," Bookman said. "And we ended up continuing to train together. So it was just one of those things that I fell into."
"I never envisioned this," she said of a Florida record and national ranking. "Never."
Here is a last memo on lifting.
Bookman says she has done bone scans the last several years.
"My bone scan improved from having osteopenia to no longer having it," Debbie said. "My bone scan is now normal. Weight bearing exercises have improved my overall bone health."
We can argue for the benefits of lifting until we are blue in the face. Or, you can go get blue in the face with a little straining while picking up a bar. Get a coach, to be safe, and make it a routine for the grandchild you might have to tote around.
Please support Geezer Jock®. I have been a sportswriter for 45 years with major outlets. This is good storytelling about the fitness journeys of older athletes, or older people who just move for the fun of it.
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