Stop being defined by others’ expectations
I am super excited to bring you this first interview with a total bass ass, queen, beast, wolf, camp mother (and mother), grandma, partner, and academic: Dr. Lesley Procter.
She was the first woman I have met walking into the gym to learn weightlifting, and is still one of my role models in the sport. She is a record holder in both powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting, and does awesome dancing when lifting goes well.
From Lesley you can learn about the mental benefits of doing weight training, and how she dealt with meniscal injury and Covid-19 lockdown. She has also graciously shared some nitty-gritty of her day-to-day. Enjoy!
Weight training gives you confidence. I often think when dealing with a particularly difficult colleague, "well I could deadlift you!". Weight training also helps manage anger issues I think - so I am "safer" when I am training daily.
Did you grow up with sports, if yes what were they?
I was a competitive swimmer from age 7 until 16. I also played rugby at primary school, unheard of in the 1960s but we had an ex All Black as a headmaster :)
When, why, and how did you start your journey to strength sports?
I did weight training for swimming, then returned to it when playing rugby as an adult in my 30s. I had a period of sedentary lifestyle in my 40s and put on far too much weight so when my son opened a Crossfit box in 2013 he dragged me back in to fitness and I remembered my love of strength training. I started competitive Powerlifting and Olympic lifting in my late 50s as a result of Crossfit.
What has changed in your life since then?
My job is pretty stressful (academic in a teaching post) and I battle with depression. Weightlifting and training helps me manage both the stress and the depression.
How strength training influenced your health, personality, and other aspects of your life?
I think that weight training and competition suits my personality. I am not naturally talented physically and have to work for what I achieve. The daily grind in the weights room is a good match for the discipline and grunt side of my personality :)
Weight training also gives you confidence. I often think when dealing with a particularly difficult colleague, “well I could deadlift you!“. Weight training also helps manage anger issues I think - so I am “safer” when I am training daily. During the Covid-19 lockdown I got to day 3 of our lockdown before my partner said “For god’s sake get back in to the gym!” and I was lucky enough that walking and cycling was allowed by our lockdown regulations and so I was able to.
It is important to address the continued lack of permission for women to put themselves first, to do what is right for them, and to manage anger and depression in constructive ways. Society never makes any of that easy.
How does your typical week look like?
I train powerlifting Monday, Thursday and Friday, and Olympic lifting Tuesday and Wednesday. Typically, each powerlifting session contains my primary lift and up to 4 other accessory lift exercises - for example, squats, leg presses, weighted box step ups, lunges and a core exercise would be a squat day session. Total reps in a session are running currently at about 200-250 for powerlifting but much less for Olympic lifting. I walk daily (I have a dog) and track my steps, aiming for 10,000 to 15,000. Saturday and Sunday are “active rest” days working on our lifestyle block which is hilly, so I get plenty of weight carrying up and down hills as well. I also manage my diet using MyFitnessPal.
I use MyFitnessPal for tracking macros (getting enough protein is a constant battle) and to make sure that I keep to 2200 cal per day. I weigh myself daily to ensure that I stay within a couple of kg of my required competition weight categories (under 71 for Olympic and under 72 for powerlifting).
What was the proudest moment in your strength journey and why?
My proudest moment was becoming a double international representative for NZ (Olympic and Powerlifting) but most especially competing with my son (who is also my coach) as he and I both lifted for NZ in Masters Olympic lifting.
I am also proud of the national and international records I hold in both strength sports.
What else do you do outside of strength training?
I no longer do Crossfit, but will return to that when I retire from competitive weightlifting. I walk, I work on our lifestyle block, I still swim when I can. I will always be active, I think.
Did you have any setbacks in your training, any injuries, conflicts, dilemmas? How did you overcome them?
I had a knee operation (meniscus) that was actually a blessing because it forced me to work on bilateral weaknesses. I am lucky enough to be very healthy so have no real setbacks to speak of. My partner is immune compromised so for me now a dilemma will be how to manage covid exposure for international competition.
What are your future plans in your strength sport and life?
My sport goals for 2021 are to break a world record in both strength sports. My life goals are to continue to be strong for as long as possible and keep doing all the things I love.
What would be your message to your younger self (or younger women or girls in general)?
In both cases it would be to stop being defined by others’ expectations. Track your own path.
What would you advice to a girl/woman who wants to start strength training but does not know where to start?
To find a gym and a coach who knows what they are doing and just start.
Who influenced you on your strength journey?
My son! He dragged me back from the brink of post menopause deterioration, kicked my ass, helped me lose 20 kg and reminded me that I was a bad ass.
Who are your role-models?
My grandmother who raised 6 children during the Great Depression while supporting a brilliant but alcoholic husband, and who loved me for who I am not who I was expected to be. I feel her presence often.
My partner continues to support and inspire me.
My son is my coach, my reality check and my constant support.
My 4 grandchildren give me reasons every day to remain strong and healthy!!
Is there a thing I did not ask about, but you think is important to talk about?
I think it is important to address the continued lack of permission for women to put themselves first, to do what is right for them, and to manage anger and depression in constructive ways. Society never makes any of that easy. While it is becoming more acceptable for women to have muscles, it remains widespread that those muscles shouldn’t be too big or “manly”.
There are some inspirational movements addressing these issues such as GirlsWhoPowerlift and I would love to see these promoted more in schools.