The bodybuilding grandma

DOING HER THING: Janice competing in 2013 (left) and 2009 (right).
DOING HER THING: Janice competing in 2013 (left) and 2009 (right).

As you contemplate missing your morning workout, spare a thought for 71-year-old bodybuilder Janice Lorraine, who by the time you've finished your Weet-Bix is most likely midway through a three-hour gym session or an eight kilometre power walk.

Since taking to the sport at age 55, Janice has earned an impressive collection of awards including 10 world natural bodybuilding titles. As well as busting PB's in the gym, Janice is focused on busting the stereotypes of life post-retirement and promoting positive, active ageing.

Janice spent her 20s and 30s forging a career as a school teacher and raising her three children; dedicating time to exercise wasn't even on her radar. At 40, Janice was cajoled into playing some casual games of soccer with a friend and later joined a gym, but was so self-conscious about her "flappy arms" and "scrawny neck" she would wear a skivvy to classes.

Her light bulb moment came at age 55 after witnessing a frail elderly woman being aided out of her car. Janice knew she was on a path to the same fate, so she walked into the gym and told the trainer she wanted to be a bodybuilder.

Bodybuilding came along at the right time for Janice. "When I retired the whole fabric of my life disappeared. I trained like you wouldn't believe that first year," she says. The hard work paid off and in 1999 at age 56 she won her first competition, even beating others younger in her field.

The year 2005 was tough for Janice, spending 36 weeks out of the gym recovering from foot surgery. The experience only motivated her further to get back into shape post-recovery. "I lost all my strength and was reminded what I would be like if I didn't exercise. I never want to feel like that again," she recalls.

There's no secret trick or protein shake in sight. Hard work and a wholesome diet are her cornerstones. Even when not preparing for an event, Janice doesn't falter from her routine. "I spend three hours in the gym three days a week where I do weights as well as work on my balance and flexibility," she says. On days out of the gym Janice does her eight kilometre walk followed by a circuit of 30 push-ups (on her toes), 30 tricep push-ups , back leg raises and abdominal work.

Despite her success Janice isn't without her detractors. Even some of those closest to her are vocal about the "improperness" of a woman her age posing on stage in a bikini. Such negativity only fuels her motivation.

"If you have a dream you have to go after it. One of the greatest moments of my life was at 70 when I won in Greece. If I had given up when everyone wanted me to I would have missed out on that."

Janice believes that too often we are limited in what we can achieve by societies stereotypes. "After competing in America I made it my mission to present a much more exciting, in-shape vision of an older female. We have stereotypes in mind of what this should look like, and too often we end up becoming what we expect to become," she says.

"When I was 65, two young girls came up to me after a competition and said they didn't know a woman in her 60s could wear a bikini and felt relieved they didn't have to end up like their grandparents. In that moment I saw that the vision of their possible future had changed. Seeing someone that doesn't fit the stereotype showed them there is a different way to grow older."

Sydney Morning Herald