Athlete Bio – Terri VandeVegte

Terri V Deadlift

Terri VandeVegte
59, 60 in April 2020
Weight Class
198+ lbs
Where do you live?
Lowell, Michigan, USA
Squat PR:
Bench PR:
200 lbs (unofficial)
Deadlift PR:
430 lbs (unofficial)
Years lifting?
How did you come to powerlifting or Olympic lifting?
Started training in December 2012 for a March 2013 meet. I’ve always loved competition, but the last time I was able to do anything competitive was company softball teams in my 20’s. Once I “retired” from that, my weight started creeping up and soon I was feeling too fat and tired to do much of anything. At age 51, I opened my eyes and decided something needed to change, began working out with a trainer and over the next couple years lost over 100 pounds! He often runs friendly competitions at the gym, and while I did pretty badly at the jumping, agility and running events, we discovered I could really move the weights, so he encouraged me to see if I could find some type of outlet for that. Came across powerlifting, had never really even considered it before but it caught my interest, especially when I saw there are so many women getting into it…and all ages! I knew I had found my passion! Looked at a few different federations and their meet locations/dates, but even though I knew nothing about any of the federations, good or bad, I kept feeling drawn to NASA, partly because they offered the option to compete in Power Sports (Strict Curl, Bench, Deadlift). Got up my nerve and signed up for my first meet, 3 hours away in Kokomo, Indiana.
Do you have any previous athletic or lifting experience?
I played a lot of softball and volleyball in high school through my 20’s, and was quite the gym rat (lifting a couple hours a day, six days a week) back in my early-to-mid 20’s. I guess you’d call it bodybuilding although I had no intention of competing. I had gotten pretty strong/muscular at one point, but never lifted anywhere near what I can now at almost 60!
Do you compete? Why or why not? If you compete, what do you like most about the competitions?
YES! I love it. Competing gives me a solid goal to work toward 3 or 4 times a year and push myself much harder than I would without those goals. The camaraderie and support at a meet is just amazing – everyone in that room wants every lifter to succeed. Some of the bigger national meets, there’s a palpable electricity in the air. Pretty exciting!
Equipped or Raw?
Raw, tested
Do you have a coach or trainer? In person or online? How did you find your trainer/program? Do you have any advice for women looking for a trainer?
I work in person with my coach twice a week, and that’s the extent of my lifting training. He has many years of education and experience with strength training and his workouts are brutal but very efficient, with plenty of recovery time built in between sessions. At my age, I need it! He’s the 5th lifting coach I’ve had, and they’ve all been male…for heavy lifting. I love their type of tough, hardcore motivation as opposed to many female trainers that seem more like cheerleaders. My coach also has a lot of experience working with older athletes and cultivating potential in us that we never dreamed was still in there! He always says powerlifting found ME. I was 53 at the time, but better late than never, and I feel now like I’ve got many good years of training and competing left in me.
Where do you train? Gym, garage?
My coach is also my chiropractor, and he has a small but very well-equipped private gym right there in his chiro office. We train one-on-one with no one else around, and I love the focus and intensity we can achieve without the constant distractions.
What is the hardest part about beginning lifting as an older woman?
For me it’s my pre-existing degenerative disk issues (mostly from sitting at a desk all day) and arthritic shoulders and knees. Really hampers the mobility, and the constant low-grade pain tends to sap my energy. I’ve really had no actual injuries, though, and I just keep after it because if I was sedentary I’d be a lot worse off! I did have to take a couple of long breaks from lifting and competing to recover from a total knee replacement in 2014 and rotator cuff surgery in 2015. Then in summer of 2016, I was feeling so beat up I was about ready to throw in the towel. Also had a few undiagnosed health issues brewing. That’s when I found my current coach, and he’s helped me get to the bottom of all that and got me lifting again, now with much better and more consistent gains than ever before. He keeps me pretty well tuned-up thru weekly chiro appointments, so nothing is really bothering me badly enough any more to give it up. Outside of his gym, I try to keep most complaints to myself because most people my age don’t understand why anyone my age would want to do this, and are quick to blame every ache or pain I might have on my lifting. So that kinda isolates me a bit in some ways, but I’ve found so many new friends in powerlifting that totally get it and I finally feel like I fit in somewhere!
How has lifting affected your health?
For the better, by far! When I lost all that weight a few years ago and started taking some basic strength training classes offered at work, I felt pretty empowered by the weight loss and the steady strength increases. I did that for three years or so before discovering powerlifting. I seldom get sick anymore and feel so much better at nearly 60 than I did through my 30’s and 40’s.
What would you tell women just beginning this journey?
Do it! Don’t be nervous about getting into it – you’ll find lifters to be very supportive and friendly crowd. Just be very careful with form and get a trainer if at all possible, and work up gradually – this will minimize your chances of injury and setback. Done right, this is an amazing journey and so very rewarding on many different levels!!