Mercedes Dickerson: Finding Pace & Perspective

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Record setter: In the categories of her weight (75+ kg) and age group (55), Mercedes set records by snatching 55 kilograms (121 lbs.), surpassing the record of 51 kilograms, and clean and jerking 67 kilograms (147.4 lbs.), surpassing the record of 63 kilograms.
Mercedes Dickerson, CEO of Hitechplates and champion Olympic weightlifter, proves that being a Master’s athlete is something to embrace. Not only was Mercedes a Gold medalist at the 1998 World Masters Games, but last October 2011 she set seven International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) Masters world records in Limassol, Cyprus.

She shares her words of wisdom about what it takes to continue challenging yourself to be better each day and what perspective she takes on her training as a Master’s athlete.

Many athletes have commented that your body at 40 or 50 will not be the same as your body at 20; you need to accept that and adapt accordingly. As a competitive Master’s athlete and Olympic lifter, what are the changes that you have seen in yourself as well as in other Master’s athletes, and how have you adapted your training as a result?

Mercedes: Change is unavoidable — my quest is to make the most of it. Blend that into a life of weightlifting and you progress gradually with scheduled rest and milestones. The main objective is to eliminate injury. If seasonal nutrition and peace of mind are optimized, performance is maintained or even enhanced.

I remind younger lifters that aging gracefully is not a coincidence. To be able to lift at age 50+ will require “life” technique!
My body is constantly reminding me that I must be active. Flexibility, for example, is an on-going issue. Warm-up time may increase, but it cannot be compromised. I also change my stretching routines.

I have experienced a change in self-awareness around movement. I think, ”Am I dipping forward?” I don’t feel like I am, but posture and body mechanics is high on the scale of consequence.

So you see it’s a simultaneous equation: you are changing with change.

The classes I attend typically have a lot of twenty-something, very strong and in-shape athletes (male and female) in them. It can be a little intimidating and discouraging just watching them warm-up before a workout! How do I need to adjust my mental game as a Master’s athlete to achieve my goals when I know that I will normally be at the back of the pack on most workouts?
Personally, I shed anything that takes from my enrichment and adopt everything that builds it.
Mercedes: Besides being referred to as “ma’am” these days, it does not bother me to be humbly at the back. In the end I have nothing to prove, and I compete only with myself.

I remind younger lifters that aging gracefully is not a coincidence. To be able to lift at age 50+ will require “life” technique!

What are some other tips for Master’s athletes to maintain longevity as a lifter and strength athlete?

Mercedes: To live to be 50+ and still be able to train, to be athletic, and to compete at a world class level (and WIN!!), you must first give yourself a chance… develop a pace…

In mid-life you have the perspective of having as much life behind you as you have in front of you, so your values are clearer and your lines are more defined.

Do not rely on a training partner; rather be independently consistent.
Health has a position of prominence. Just being alive is not enough; you want happiness embedded in your being, with spirit and body matched as much as you dream it to be. Weightlifting has been my joy. Find your joy, and focus around it.

Personally, I shed anything that takes from my enrichment and adopt everything that builds it. I change my lifestyle(s) and adjust my day-to-day schedule(s) as needed for optimal exposure and experiences with health. Just recently, I changed gyms to reduce commute time and energy. It has made for more time to relax, decompress, and devote to my personal projects.

Flip things around and approach it from the coach’s perspective: What do coaches need to know about Masters athletes in order to help them improve?

Mercedes: Master’s athletes, while they may be “humbly at the back” or not show it, do need a “coach’s eye” and attention. Not like an Olympic hopeful, of course, but believe me the passion is there!

After all, it is not fame, fortune, and the public eye they are seeking; it is only the passion that keeps them in the gym or on the platform.
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