Getting into the best shape of their lives after 50 and competing nationally and internationally!
Stephen and Kim Wilson began their Healthy Adventures about 10 years ago. In the education and construction fields for most of their lives, they started with running endurance races, and their journey has taken them all the way to international weight lifting competitions. Kim is a part of the United States Powerlifting team, was the 2016 US Powerlifting Association’s National Champion Powerlifter, and holds two national powerlifting records. Stephen participates in Strongman competitions and Highland Games. Read about where the path to being healthier and fit has taken them.
Fresh Paths: Tell us a little about yourselves.
Stephen: I'm from Hattiesburg MS and am married to Kim. We have one daughter and one granddaughter. I was in construction in one form or another my whole life until last year when I started as a trainer full time. I started in endurance sports about 10 years ago to lose a few pounds. After completing 5, 50k races and 2, 50-mile races I became interested in Crossfit and started competing in that. (I tend to make everything a competition) While Crossfit training, I also started backpacking and rock climbing.
Kim: I grew up in Raleigh, MS. I graduated from Mississippi College and received my masters from William Carey. I taught mainly Algebra 1 and 7/8th grade math for 27 years. I have been married to Stephen for almost 17 years. I have one daughter, Andee and one granddaughter, Chandler. I retired last year and work part-time as a trainer now.
Fresh Paths: How and when did you become interested in weightlifting?
Stephen: Long distance running and Crossfit are high-impact sports that are hard on the body when performed at a competitive level. Since I really enjoyed the weightlifting element, I started focusing more on that.
Kim: We started out about 10 years ago as long distance trail runners. A few years later we decided to do some cross training to try and prevent injuries. I loved the running but kept suffering stress fractures which was very frustrating. We decided at that time to focus more on Functional fitness training and competitions ( Cross Fit Style). This training included the Olympic lifts as well as the three lifts that comprise Powerlifting. When I ended up with another stress fracture, Stephen convinced me to try only Powerlifting in 2015.
Fresh Paths: At what point did this move from just being a hobby, to becoming something you are serious about?
Stephen: In every thing I've done I always tried to "coach" other people. I found more enjoyment in helping others do well than I did in my personal accomplishments.
Kim: My first meet was the last week of May in 2015. It was a lot of fun and everyone was so supportive. That June, I watched International Powerlifting Federation (IPF) Classic World Championship via livestream. At that point, I decided if I worked really hard and focused on this, I MIGHT make a team in the future.
Fresh Paths: What obstacles have you faced in this pursuit? What was the reaction from family and friends?
Stephen: The amount of time it takes to train to be competitive at any sport is difficult when you have a job and family. I was fortunate that my wife also trained or I could have never dedicated that amount of time to anything. All of your close friends are gym friends because that's who you see everyday. Your life revolves around training whether it's gym time or when and what you eat. It's truly a lifestyle. Becoming a full-time trainer has helped in some ways and hurt in others. Money has certainly been an issue. It's hard building any new business and training is no different. If it's between me training or training someone else. I'll pick them every single time.
Kim: The main obstacle now is loss of family time. My coach works out of town during the week, so I work with him on Saturdays and Sundays. Because of this, I don’t see my granddaughter as much as I’d like. Before I retired from teaching, I would get to school before anyone else in order to get all of my work done so I could leave immediately after school to go and train. I trained ( and still do) 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hrs a day, 5 days a week. My granddaughter was due the week of my first USA Powerlifting (USAPL) Raw National Championship. My daughter had to ask to be induced so I could for sure be there for the birth. That shows how supportive she and her husband are. All of my family have been supportive. My parents and brothers found it hard to believe at first since I had never been an athlete. I was always a bookworm. I also have an awesome best friend that has gone to two US Powerlifting Association and two USAPL National meets to help us. She actually was our substitute with our clients when we were in Canada. Stephen has given up a lot to help me train. I couldn’t ask for a better husband.
Fresh Paths: Describe your training. What sacrifices have you made to continue to improve?
Stephen: I'm in the gym seven days a week. Training usually lasts two hours, sometimes more. Any sport you do at a competitive level comes with nagging injuries and a certain amount of normal discomfort. Our life revolves around gym whether it's skipping a party or coming home early because you have to train tomorrow. A lot of the meets require travel so that's usually our vacation.
Kim: Training involves more than just lifting weights. I have to eat correctly so I have enough energy, but, at the same time, I have to weigh under a certain amount for my weight class (63 kg / 138.75 LB ) I have to get enough sleep and need at least 8 hours a night. I work out 5 days a week. Since I work out on Saturday and Sunday, I’m definitely not the life of the party on Friday and Saturday nights. I retired a little earlier than I would have liked, but I knew this year would be my best shot at making The USA National Team. We have made a lot of financial sacrifices in order to be able to travel and go to these meets. We don’t have extra money for vacations or just about any splurge.
Fresh Paths: Describe your weightlifting meets.
Stephen: An Olympic meet will start with weigh-ins at 7:00. I start warming up at 8:30 and the meet starts at 9:00. I'll have three attempts to reach my max snatch and three attempts to reach my max clean/jerk. There are three judges that call good or bad lift, and you need a majority decision. The environment is pretty awesome. Almost everyone is very encouraging and helpful. For the most part, everyone wants to win because they did well not because you didn't.
Kim: In three years, I’ve competed in 18 meets. Most were local meets. We have traveled to Alabama, Texas, Florida, Georgia, and Canada. A powerlifting meet consists of three attempts on each of the three lifts. Squat (or back squat) is always first. Bench press is always second. Deadlift, which is my favorite, is last. There are three judges. You either receive a white (good) or a red (which is no good). Two white lights out of three is a good lift. You get credit for the highest attempt made in each of the three lifts. The three combined make up your total.
Fresh Paths: Have you ever become discouraged and thought about quitting? What has kept you going?
Stephen: Sure, I've been discouraged and I guess I have quit some types of competition. but I always find something else to do. I think Olympic, Strongman and Highland games are sports I'll compete in as long as I'm physically able. Being able to compete in anything for me is addictive. I love everything about meet day. The butterflies, the other people, the shared excitement or disappointment. There's a community you're automatically a member of when you compete.
Kim: I’ve never thought about quitting. When you make a National Team, part of your uniform is a red jacket. My husband and friends have heard me say over and over, I want to earn that red jacket. Now that I have a red jacket, wanting a gold medal at Worlds will keep me going. I love this sport and don’t know what I’d do without it.
Fresh Paths: What’s it like training with your spouse?
Stephen: The only way I can do this is with Kim. The time required would probably ruin a relationship if we both weren't on board. There's really not a downside. We mostly compete in different sports now, so I'm there to help her, and she's there to help me.
Kim: Stephen has always been better at everything...running, the different movements in Cross Fit etc. At first, I didn’t let him help me. I was too embarrassed After awhile, I realized what a good coach he was with others and started listening to him. I looked at everything like it was a competition when we were doing functional fitness and was thrilled if I ever beat him at a Crossfit Workout of the Day. That rarely happened. When we entered official competitions, I always competed as an individual. I never wanted to let anyone down. He usually competed with a partner. He has a completely different mindset. We did compete as a team once and came in second. Guess who was the weak link? He doesn’t Powerlift so we don’t have that to worry about now.
Fresh Paths: Has the time and effort been worth it?
Stephen: I think so. It's opened up a lot of opportunities we wouldn't have had otherwise. I've finished everywhere from last place to first place, and I loved them all. We've had some incredible experiences and met some great people living this life.
Kim: Checking your email and finding an invitation to Worlds makes everything worth it. Winning a Bronze in the All Around and a Silver in the Deadlift made every second worth it. Getting that red jacket was pretty special, too. Right now, I hold two American records in Total and Deadlift. Those happened in March and it was just incredible. I’m not satisfied yet but it has definitely been worth it.
Fresh Paths: What advice would you give to someone who has a “crazy idea” they want to pursue?
Stephen: Everyone should have the opportunity to live their dream. It's never exactly what you think it is. It's usually a lot more work and sacrifice than you think it will be, but that doesn't mean it's not worth it.
Kim: My advice to anyone is go for it, What do you have to lose? If you don’t try, all you will have are regrets!