Caroline Calver qualifies for national powerlifting competition at 59
- Credit: Archant
Two years ago, fifty-something music teacher and mum-of-three Caroline Calver had never really tried any sport more strenuous than walking.
But later this year she will travel to Belfast to compete in the British Masters Powerlifting Championships after qualifying for the national event in her first ever competition - at the age of 59.
Caroline’s metamorphosis is all the more incredible because she only really only stumbled across powerlifting when she signed up for personal training sessions with Norwich-based Dominic Hills after deciding she needed to address her lack of fitness and have some ‘me time’.
“There was so much going on in my life,” she says. “My husband and mother hadn’t been particularly well, I was working full time and I just wanted something for me. I had a friend who was working with Dom and I thought: ‘She looks well; maybe I could do that too’, but I didn’t really know what was involved.”
After several months of general fitness work Caroline saw another one of Dom’s clients doing some powerlifting and asked if she could try it.
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And from that moment Caroline, who teaches a year five class at Woods Loke Primary School, Lowestoft, knew there was no going back. She’s even had a dumbbell tattooed on her wrist, such is her love for the sport.
“When I first started training with Dom my goals were to feel better about myself and live a healthier lifestyle,” she says. “The love for powerlifting has developed steadily from the first time Dom asked me to deadlift. I was hooked. It was just so good.
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“If you saw me, I am the last person you would think was the powerlifter on the staff at school. I’m only 5ft two-and-a-half and not big and full of muscle. It proves that it doesn’t matter how old you are, you can try something different. It might not work out but if you don’t ever have a go you’ll never know. It’s something I tell the children at school.
“I do love the challenge and training is so good - I’ve lost over three stone since taking it up. I’d recommend anybody to have a go, especially for women of my age it is so good for your bones to do strength training. You can access it at whatever level you want.”
Caroline, who lives in the village of Norton Subcourse, trains with Dominic three times a week but it wasn’t until relatively recently that she considered competing.
“I thought it might be fun to experience a competition,” she says. “I’ve been working hard on the training and thought I had nothing to lose, I’d go along and see what happened.”
Earlier this month she travelled to Milton Keynes to compete in the East Midlands Ladies Classic and lifted an 80kg (12.5st) top lift in her squat, 42.5kg (6.7st) in the bench press and a 110kg (17.3st) deadlift - a total of 232.5kg - to qualify in the Masters 3, 59-plus age group for the British Masters Nationals in Belfast.
But more importantly, the training has changed her life for the better.
“My knee pain is gone, my posture has improved and I feel great,” she says. “Dom has helped me in so many ways; feeling better about myself, more confident and being careful about my diet. I love my training sessions. When one finishes I am looking forward to the next. Dom has turned my life around at the age of 59 and without him I couldn’t imagine where I would be.
“My family are behind me all the way too. My husband and three daughters, Victoria, Natasha and Phoebe, are wonderful in their support and encouragement and Phoebe also trains with Dom. Our dream would be to compete together.”
Dominic, who owns and works from Evolution Gym in Norwich, says Caroline has come a long way in a short space of time and he is proud of what she has achieved.
“Ten months ago she couldn’t squat at all and now she squats more than her own body weight. When we were at the Milton Keynes competition there were a lot of people on the day asking: ‘Who is this woman coming through at 59 years old to qualify for the nationals?’.”
“It is unusual to get someone come into the gym for the first time at Caroline’s age. She was nervous at first but after a few sessions she loved the way she was getting stronger while losing weight at the same time. Her joint pain disappeared, her mobility increased, and her strength went up, only through weight training. It just shows that you’re never too late to get into fitness and exercise and you never know where it could take you. Age is just a number.”