It’s 8 pm and Audrey Donellan has just arrived home from the gym. She’s never been particularly athletic, but now finds herself, in her seventies, pumping iron and lifting serious weights. The New Jersey retiree left her job as a school secretary three years ago, not coincidentally, right around the time she got interested in weightlifting. “A friend introduced me to her trainer, Ludwight Rigueur, just so I could get evaluated. I told him I wanted to be stronger, gain flexibility and balance,” she says. “It wasn’t about losing weight – although I did end up losing 40 pounds.”

Rigueur crafted a series of strength building exercises for Donellan that she could do at home and at the gym. “He also introduced me to power lifting,” she explains. “I had seen those big guys do it and I was never really that interested. I went to one of the meets and it looked fun. I tried it and really enjoyed it.”

In January, Donnelan competed in her first meet. She was 71 years old. She lifted 270 pounds. “The meets aren’t cut-throat,” she says. “Everyone is very supportive of everyone else. They want you to do your best.”

How does she do it? “I’m pretty old but I feel better now than I did when I was 44. It’s about quality of life. I belong to two gyms and have friends at both. It’s a whole community there for me.”