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Creating the Good: The 83-Year-Old “Weightlifting Grandma”

When she turned 76, Shirley Webb noticed that everyday trips up the stairs in her home were becoming more difficult. So when her granddaughter offered to sign her up for a local gym membership, she took her up on it. At the time, Webb had no idea that this ordinary event would take her on an extraordinary journey to becoming a national and world champion power lifter.

“Our trainer immediately noticed that my granddaughter was really strong,” says Webb, who is from East Alton, Illinois. “From there he figured it must run in the family, so he started training me and real soon, he got me up to lifting 215 pounds.”

Fast forward to today and at 83, Webb has broken 88 records and won 18 medals, which have truly earned her the nickname, “HERcules” and international recognition.

“When I’m at competitions, the young competitors come up to me and want me to have their picture taken with me,” says Webb. “They say ‘I want to be like you when I grow up’ — it’s heartwarming.”

Webb’s specialty is deadlifting.

“Deadlifting is when you lift a heavy bar with weights on each end, squat down and pop back up,” says Webb — and she’s competed lifting 265 pounds!

When she’s not lifting weights, Webb has found another passion — encouraging older adults to get into working out.

“I want people to know they can start small and start slow – whether it’s working out with small weights at the gym or going on walks,” says Webb. “Anything you do that’s a physical activity can really make you feel so much better and I want others to feel this great, too.”

To see videos of Webb competing or to follow her journey as she prepares for her next competition, visit www.facebook.com/TeamShirleyWebb and to find volunteer opportunities in your community, visit www.createthegood.org.

To hear Shirley Webb’s story and more stories like this, subscribe to the “Creating the Good with AARP Illinois” podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher or anywhere you listen to podcasts.