Grandma, how big your muscles are

This time a couple of years ago, Nicola Atwool was struggling to pick up a bag of groceries.

Now the 70-year-old is benchpressing up to 42kg, and on Saturday she competed in her first weightlifting competition — the Southern Powerlifting Provincial Championships, in Dunedin.

Her appearance attracted a lot of attention among the competing lifters — not because of her bulging biceps, but because she was the oldest competitor there.

"I got into doing some strength and fitness because I was getting older, and it made me realise I had to use it or lose it.

Nicola Atwool (70) warms up for her first weightlifting competition, spotted by partner Lesley...
Nicola Atwool (70) warms up for her first weightlifting competition, spotted by partner Lesley Procter (67), in Dunedin on Saturday. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
"My partner persuaded me to give powerlifting a go and I’ve discovered that I really like the benchpress."

Dr Atwool said she had never been very good at sport, but she had taken to powerlifting like a bee to pollen.

"I love it because it gives you a bit of a sense of achievement and I always feel better at the end of a workout.

"When I first started, I realised it was the only time when work stress didn’t intrude, because you’re too busy concentrating on what you’re doing.

"It’s a really good stress management tool for me — it’s really addictive.

"Since I started this, my balance has improved, I’m stronger obviously, and my overall physical wellbeing is better.

"I’m also a type-1 diabetic, so the exercise really helps with the management of my condition."

The semi-retired social work contractor said her grandchildren took great interest in her weightlifting and marvelled at how strong she had become.

"We’re not like other nannies, I don’t think.

"Sometimes I joke with them when they’re misbehaving, and I tell them that I’ll bench press them if they don’t settle."

Dr Atwool was one of 37 people from across Otago and Southland competing in the Southern Powerlifting Provincial Championships at Strength Metrics Gym.