Growing older, stronger and wiser. If you thought growing old meant saying goodbye to fitness, one Launceston woman has proven that's not always the case.
Having skyrocketed to local stardom in 2017 after breaking four Australian powerlifting titles at the 2017 Tasmanian championships, Mary Dash continues to prove that age is but a number and that you shouldn't be afraid of working out just because you're getting on.
From professional property manager to senior fitness icon, Mary is a proud member of Competitive Edge Training, a local powerlifting team that operates out of KFM Fitness, Launceston. For Mary, retirement has meant the freedom to prioritise her passions.
"Since retiring my life has changed, I enjoy what I am doing more," Mary said.
"It's hard work, but it is a lot more relaxing. And fitting in my training has been a lot easier."
Developing a passion for powerlifting after being introduced to the practice by her personal trainer, Mary now works on her fitness four days a week, a routine she says has made all the difference to her overall wellbeing.
"Physical activity certainly does improve your physical and mental health. I can relate to having horrible days and then going to the gym and coming away feeling like a different person," Mary said.
Contrary to some opinions on the inevitable restrictions of growing older, Mary believes that the transformative power of physical activity need not be reserved for people of a particular age, so long as you incorporate exercises that best-suit your level of fitness, and with the right mindset.
To ensure your regime is right for you, Mary advises working with a personal trainer-if only short term to get you started-who can design a personalised program to keep you on track.
"[In retirement] you want to live, you want to be around to enjoy life. So I think physical activity is essential, but start off doing it properly.
"You need to be trained on how to do things correctly, so that you are not [just] going to the gym and injuring yourself," Mary said.
For those who may feel that they may not be able to keep up at their local gym, more and more facilities are beginning to accommodate more mature members with differing levels of fitness, a shift that Mary says is reflected in the number of personal trainers who are now more adept at working with the needs of older clients.
"The personal trainers that are coming through now seem to be a lot more aware and more knowledgeable of the older generation.
"Once upon a time, I don't think a trainer would have even contemplated training an older person, anyone over the age of 40 was, I think, felt to be maybe a bit beyond it.
"Whereas at my gym all trainers have at least one older person [on their books]," Mary said.
With countless powerlifting awards under her belt and no plans to slow down anytime soon, Mary says one of the best things about staying fit as a senior is definitely the feeling of striving towards a goal that keeps you driven and focused.
"It's the challenge I love.
"The challenge of where I can go with it with my limitations, age-wise, with muscle reduction as you get older, that sort of thing. In the Competitive Edge family, there is also a great camaraderie, particularly during competitions.
"Everyone is behind everybody else, and it's just all about you the individual and what you can achieve, which is [very] inspiring," Mary said.
What each person can achieve will, of course, depend upon their body, but with the right training and supervision keeping fit can remain a key part of your daily routine well past retirement, something Mary says is evident in the diverse range of age groups she sees at her gym on a daily basis, who each arrive with their own sets of challenges to face and overcome with the support and encouragement of fellow members.
When it comes to fitness it's not always the end result that matters most, it's the thrill of participating in your passion, which is something Mary encourages all retirees to try.
"Be a little bit selfish and do the things you weren't able to do while you had other commitments," Mary said.
"Be active and healthy, rather than just sitting around thinking that you are old. Think young; age is just a number."