Edith Traina stood in line at a church banquet hall, dressed in a black singlet with white piping. When her turn came, she stepped onto a bathroom scale. That would determine her weight class, though it didn’t really matter, as she was the only participant in her age group: 95-99 years old.
Traina, who is 97, may seem an unlikely weightlifter, but she was one of seven elderly women who traveled from Tampa Bay to compete in the Polk County Senior Games in Lakeland recently. They wore matching T-shirts that read, "Bill Beekley Academy of Powerlifting Senior Division."
The group attends about six competitions each year, including the Hillsborough County Senior Games in the fall.
Traina likes the challenge of competing, to demonstrate what she’s capable of, and because "you’re also proving to yourself that you’re able to do something you probably never thought you could do."
At the senior games, she took gold with a 60-pound bench press and a 130-pound deadlift.
Dr. Tanya Gold, a family physician who practices holistic medicine, says she initially told older patients not to weightlift, that it was too dangerous. But seeing the ladies "in action" changed her mind. She started lifting with the group after meeting them while researching a book.
Gold said the health benefits are significant. It can improve your balance, strength and bone density, she said, and that can help you maintain independence as you age.
The gym where the women come together to train is closing soon. But the senior powerlifting program will continue in a smaller space at Crossfit Jaguar, on North Trask Street in Tampa.
The size of the group typically fluctuates, depending on illness and injuries, doctor’s appointments and family visits. Beekley corrects the women on their form and praises good lifts with fist bumps.
He has been impressed – and inspired – by his students.
"They don’t take the time that they have on the Earth for granted," Beekley said. "They are out enjoying their lives."
Traina has no plans to stop lifting. She expects to do it for her hundredth birthday and beyond.
To see the women in action, attend the Edith Traina Inspirational Open at Strong Life Tampa Bay, 5115 Knox St. in Tampa, on Saturday. Lifting starts at 10 a.m. Contact Bill Beekley with questions about the program: [email protected] or 813-362-1908