Readers Share Their Fitness Transformations: ‘It Has Changed My Life’

A Wall Street Journal article about reporter Anne Marie Chaker’s journey into midlife bodybuilding described a physical transformation that led to an emotional one as well. Readers wrote in to share their own experiences in setting fitness goals that helped them overcome challenges. Below is a selection of reader responses, which have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Bodybuilding changed my life. I discovered it late myself; I was 48 for my first competition. I competed again at 50. Even though I placed second through fourth, it was never about placing for me but about feeling strong and putting in the effort day in and day out. It’s hard physical training and the mental work is even more difficult. Success is staying the course and just doing it.

—Jerri Henry

Meridian, Idaho

At the beginning of March, I discovered strength training and it has changed my life. I feel more confident in my mind/body/skin than I have ever experienced in my 37 years. As a working wife and mom, I always exercised but I never imagined it being something I would be so passionate about.

—Lamees Kelley

Sherborn, Mass.

At 66 I’ve been lifting weights most of my life but I could never build muscle mass. But I still work out hard. While many people think this is a narcissistic adventure, people like us know it is something different altogether. And if nothing else, it means we are in control of our bodies and health.

—Joseph DeRose

Bel Air, Md.

I recently underwent 10 rounds of chemo and started lifting weights to get back in shape after six months of just sleeping, getting poison in my veins and throwing up. I never thought about bodybuilding. But your story planted a seed.

—Orest Mandzy

Doylestown, Pa.

As a professional bodybuilder myself, I can relate to the regimen. We are often forced to find our way in the most turbulent times of our lives. Some of us step up and into making ourselves better people in all aspects. Many decide not to act.

—KJ Lavan

Houston, Texas

I am myself on a new workout routine; I know the sacrifices of counting calories, watching your three macronutrients, taking progress pictures, and challenging yourself every day. Not easy.

I am 53 years old and my goal is to regain the muscle mass that I lost over time by focusing too much on my career. I don’t want to be that guy getting old, seeing his body decline and say, “If only I had done something.” After 12 weeks of intense efforts I see the first subtle benefits of my hard work. It keeps me going.

—Gilles Georges

Mason, Ohio

Reminded me of the importance of right motivation, a settled confidence in one’s path, and the importance of navigating through the “tyranny of others’ expectations.” We all have the seeds of wrong motive within us; pushing past the shiny objects of “cheap and easy” to reach for the worthy goals is a rare accomplishment. Many people don’t get the quality of joy that comes with weight training success/lifestyle.

—Stephen Dennis

Miami, Fla.

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