Drag racing, powerlifting and marathons

Forget the idea of ​​slowing down as you age — research shows that midlife women are becoming more active than ever. Corresponding
According to a recent national survey, 43 percent of women aged 40 to 54 are active five times a week, rising to 47 percent for those aged 55 to 64.
It’s not just regular exercise that they embrace, either. Many women face tougher challenges. “Taking up an endurance sport, which is much more taxing on the body than regular exercise, after the age of 40 is a great way to build confidence and confidence as you strive over the weeks and months to reach your goals. says Patrea O’Donoghue, a Brisbane-based sport and exercise psychologist.

“On a physical level, you develop that sense of power that comes from lifting heavier weights, doing more reps, building speed, and changing your body for the better,” she adds. “But it also allows you to build resilience to deal effectively with challenging life situations, including feeling more visible as you age.”

Three women share their stories of how new athletic challenges have brought benefits to the body, mind and spirit.

“I beat cancer to become a drag racer”

Andy Kahle, 53, is a drag racer who first had to undergo treatment for breast cancer in order to compete.

Andy Bald, 53.

Andy Bald, 53.

“In 2010, after many years of crewing a friend’s drag racing team, my husband Mick and I decided it was time to buy our own drag racing car with me at the wheel. I used to ride motorcycles so I was confident in my riding and with a mentor to show me the ropes I was ready to compete in this male dominated sport. And being one of the very few women in my category made me even more determined to succeed.

But just before the day I was supposed to start getting my racing license and just a few months before my 41st birthday, I discovered a lump in my right breast. Within a month I was operated and treated for aggressive breast cancer. Running wasn’t an option.


Some days I would go to the shop and just sit in my race car, absorbing the lingering smells of the race and imagining speeding across the finish line. Just being in that atmosphere of enthusiasm and in the midst of a community of unyielding support was great for cheering up both my husband and I and giving us both that extra energy to get through the tough moments.

Finally, in October 2011, with most of the surgery and all the chemotherapy and radiation done – my hair still short and curly after chemotherapy – we loaded up my little Torana and headed to the race track to get my driver’s license could.

“If you want to try something new, don't let age be an obstacle. It's all about your headspace.”

“If you want to try something new, don’t let age be an obstacle. It’s all about your headspace.”

In my first race I was nervous. I felt I had just cheated death and wondered why I was trying something dangerous. However, when I reached the finish line I had the biggest smile on my face. It really was everything I expected. To make it to the finals in my first race and finish second and win a trophy meant that all the hard work paid off.

I continued to race and at the age of 53 I still love the experience. I’m proud to say that the mature female racers throughout the sport are a great example for the younger generation and in recent years I’ve seen many more getting behind the wheel of their own cars.

If you want to try something new, don’t let age be an obstacle. It’s all about your headspace.”

“Powerlifting helps me switch off”

Ainslee Hooper, 44, is a lifelong wheelchair user who has found
power in powerlifting.

Ainslee Hooper, 44.

Ainslee Hooper, 44.

“After quitting my job in 2019 after years of being bullied at work, which led to a nervous breakdown, my powerlifting-enthusiastic friend suggested I start training with him. I laughed because I couldn’t imagine going to the gym. I pictured all those tattooed meatheads who would just scoff at a chick in a wheelchair.

But I decided to give powerlifting a try and when I saw that I could do something independent of my wheelchair I started exercising daily. I stopped being that person who wanted to sit in the car and wait for their partner to finish their session. Instead, I couldn’t wait to hit the gym and be with these fitness fans — who, surprisingly, were an encouraging, friendly bunch of people. It has done wonders for my social health, confidence and sense of belonging.

What I also loved about powerlifting was that it turned my brain off. When you sit on the bench and lift two-thirds of your body weight, your brain can’t think about anything. You have to concentrate or you could hurt yourself, so it gave me a break from the fear.

I started to see my potential and in 2018 I took it a step further and started competing professionally and winning gold medals.

In late 2021, I was approached by Kerryn Taylor, 2017 Strongwoman winner and trainer, to join Strongwoman. Under her tutelage, I became the only disabled athlete at the All Skills Competition held in Geelong this January. I felt like I was just competing against myself, so I managed to lift twice as much weight as I could ever lift in a workout.


“I stopped being that person who wanted to sit in the car and wait for their partner to finish their session. Instead, I couldn’t wait to hit the gym and be with these fitness fans.”

The weightlifting community is a tight-knit, inclusive space devoid of sexism or ableism, where negative opinions are left at the door. Hearing other people speak openly about their mental health issues and how their involvement in the sport has really helped them, also made me feel safe to start exploring my own history of mental health issues.

When I realized that fear had been prevalent my entire life, it brought residual anger to the surface, which I now channel through training and competition—much healthier than repressing it. Sport has thus become a form of therapy on a large scale.

It has also made me a much more talkative person and inspired me to communicate openly and share my story with others. I’m still learning, but I’ve come a long way and I feel like the more I get involved in the sport, the more it gives back to me.”

“I went from couch lover to marathon runner”

Andrea Doney, 50, ran her first full marathon last year to help overcome emotional trauma.

Andrea Doney, 50.

Andrea Doney, 50.

“I’ve always preferred the couch and TV to exercise during the day. I used to actually pretend to be sick to get out of the track carnival at school.

But when we moved to Perth in 2011, I was raising two young children and was overcoming the post-traumatic stress surrounding my husband’s health, our long battle with infertility, the death of two friends with cancer, a poor pregnancy and a very early birth. In a new friendless town, I needed an outlet for my growing anxiety.

My husband has always been a runner so he encouraged me to give it a go
before. My first few 5k runs were physically tough, but almost immediately I discovered it was an unbeatable way to untangle the tangled knots in my head. I always loved who I was after a run – calmer, happier and more patient.

The distances grew from there as I realized how successful I felt on every morning run. There is something about running at sunrise that allowed me to connect to myself and the world in an almost spiritual way, and it became my “me time”. It made me proud of myself, and that’s a rare and amazing thing.

As my strength and endurance grew, I began running 13 mile half marathons. After about a dozen, at age 49, I began to wonder if I could run an entire marathon.

I trained for four months, with two or three shorter weekday runs, one long weekend run, including strength training twice a week, until I was able to run about 30 kilometers fairly comfortably.


“I’ve spent most of my life thinking I could never run a marathon. I will now spend the rest of my life knowing that I did it.”

In April 2021 I ran my first full marathon in Canberra. I had no illusions about how tough the race would be and the physical exertion it would require, and I was right. It was long and painful, but the feeling of crossing the finish line was absolutely unforgettable. I spent most of my life thinking that I could never run a marathon. I will now spend the rest of my life knowing that I did it. Ultimately I decided to qualify as a running coach and target slower, older, bigger and injured runners in an area where running is often talked about in terms of speed, physicality and strength.

The slow coach [her online running forum] encourages everyone to overcome the intimidation of starting long-distance running because it’s about mindset, training and persistence, not just what your body looks like.


My physique is nothing like what mainstream runners would see
look. I have a mummy paunch, I’m a bit fatter and I wear thick glasses, but my running achievements have given me the confidence to stop caring about how I look and stop caring about what other people think , and that’s because of my very deep understanding that my imperfect body is still capable of some remarkable things.

I feel like running showed me what imperfection can do and it was liberating.”

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https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/life-and-relationships/i-overcame-cancer-to-be-a-drag-racer-20220712-p5b11v.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_lifestyle Drag racing, powerlifting and marathons

Sarah Y. Kim

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