Into the Story
The #1 podcast to learn English with true stories
Episode 44: Becoming an Olympic weightlifting champion at 63
Accent: United States
Our storyteller is Laura Eiman from Boston, Massachusetts, in the United States. She tells us about her amazing journey to become a champion in Olympic Weightlifting when she was 63 years old. Want to know her secret? It all began when Laura started studying the Navy SEAL Training Program and developed a strong interest in being tough (strong and positive).
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[00:00:00] Bree: Hi there. It’s your host Bree here. And I have a question for you. Have you ever made an excuse? Maybe a reason why you can’t go to the gym or a reason why you can’t change your job. Of course you have, we all have, but today’s storyteller asks us. When was the last time that you won anything by saying I can’t? By the end of today’s story, I think that you are going to believe that you can do anything that you put your mind to.
[00:00:56] Now on this season of Into the Story, we’re bringing you lots of inspirational stories, but I have to say that today’s is perhaps the most unique. Our storyteller is Laura Eiman from Boston, Massachusetts in the United States. And today she’ll tell us about her journey to Olympic Weightlifting at the age of 63 years old.
[00:01:20] Laura: Are you gonna now go off and join the Navy Seals? And I said, that’s exactly what I’m going to do. And I got up and I threw the bag of cookies in his lap and I went home and I cried very, very hard.
[00:01:36] Bree: At 48, Laura had hit her bottom mentally, emotionally, physically. But one day she decided that she was ready for a change. And today we’re going to hear her extraordinary story.
[00:01:52] If you like this episode, will you do me a favor and follow into the story on your podcast app it’s free and it means that you’ll never miss a new episode and thanks.
[00:02:03] Okay. Now it’s time to look at five words and expressions that Laura uses in today’s story. First to wander over. W A N D E R. To wander over means to walk casually somewhere. Sometimes without a specific location or a clear purpose. It means that you’re walking relaxed and you’re not in a hurry. For example, after lunch on Sunday, we decided to wander over to the park and enjoy the sunshine. Now, I just want to point out to you. That wander is different than wonder. I know, they sound really similar but wonder. W O N D E R is about feeling curiosity and amazement. For example, I wonder why the sky is blue. Or I looked up at the stars and wondered about the universe. So wander is about walking casually somewhere. While wonder is about feeling curious and thinking about something.
[00:03:25] And next we have mental toughness. T O U G H N E S S. So mental toughness is a very important concept in today’s story. And it means being able to stay strong and positive even when things are difficult. Mental toughness is about believing in yourself, even when things don’t go the way you want them to. For example, athletes need mental toughness to push through physical exhaustion. And keep performing at their best. And during exams, students with mental toughness can stay calm and focused. Even when they’re under pressure. Mental toughness.
[00:04:18] Next to binge on. B I N G E. To binge on means to consume something . Or to do something excessively or in large quantities. Within a really short period of time. To binge on is often used when talking about food TV shows or activities. For example. I love to binge on my favorite TV series during the weekends. Or after the diet, he couldn’t resist and binged on a whole bag of chips. To binge on.
[00:05:01] Next. A barbell. A barbell is a piece of weightlifting equipment. And it consists of a long metal bar with weights attached to each end. It’s commonly used for strength training. For example, Arnold lifted a lot of barbells during his career as a bodybuilder. Or the gym instructor taught me the proper technique for using the barbell during my workout.
[00:05:34] And finally to blow an opportunity. So to blow an opportunity means to miss a chance or a possibility to achieve something or to be successful because of our own actions or mistakes. For example, he blew the opportunity to get a promotion by always arriving late to work. Or she regretted blowing the opportunity to study abroad by not submitting her application on time.
[00:06:04] You can also use the expression to blow it. For example, he blew it and didn’t get the promotion because he always arrived late. Or she blew it and she didn’t submit her application on time. To blow an opportunity.
[00:06:21] Okay. That’s all for the new vocabulary and expressions, and now comes the fun part. Let’s get into the story.
[00:06:34] Laura: I had really hit my bottom when I was 48 years old. I had been a sugar addict my whole life, I was newly divorced. I had two young kids at home.
[00:06:48] I hated my job. Frankly. I hated myself and my life. The only thing I really loved were my two children, until one day I wandered over to my neighbor’s house to Dan and Linda’s, of course, with a bag of Oreos, cookies in my hand, saying, Dan, what are you doing?
[00:07:08] And Dan was in the den watching tv. So I plopped down on the chair next to him and started to eat some Oreo cookies. And watched the TV with him. I said, Dan, what’s on tv? He said, shh. I’m watching a documentary on the Navy Seals. . They were fit. They had a strategy for their day. They were committed. They took care of each other. They took care of themselves. They went to bed early, they ate well. These guys were mentally tough. I wanna be like them. I wanna join the Navy Seals. And Dan looked at me and laughed. He said, are you on some kind of a sugar high. At the age of 48? Are you gonna now go off and join the Navy Seals? And I said, that’s exactly what I’m going to do. And I got up and I threw the bag of cookies in his lap and I went home and I cried very, very hard, , I hit my bottom again for the 1000th time, and I finally said to myself, I’m done.
[00:08:16] Bree: Laura had reached her bottom. She had been feeling bad for so many years, both mentally and physically. And so she went to the library. And started to study the Navy SEALs. She wanted to know. How did these people get so mentally tough?
[00:08:37] Laura: What are they thinking when they’re going through their two years of incredibly grueling training? I wanted to think like that just so I could get through my morning without binging on coffee cake and buns and sugar. All morning, , I studied their mindsets. I even went to bed when they did. I ate what they did.
[00:08:58] Bree: Laura became very disciplined and she was living like a Navy SEAL. She was eating well for the first time in her life. And then she got the opportunity to do CrossFit. CrossFit is a very challenging exercise program that combines different types of exercises like running jumping and lifting weights.
[00:09:26] Laura: And I started to CrossFit three times a week for three years, and one day there was an Olympic weightlifting coach who came to the gym and said, I’m offering free lessons for anybody who wants to perfect some of their weightlifting moves that we do in CrossFit Well, I was intrigued, So I started doing Olympic weightlifting. I left CrossFit behind and three weeks into my weightlifting classes, one of the teenagers in class threw me her old Olympic weightlifting sneakers. Here, Laura, you’re gonna need these.
[00:10:03] If you’re gonna get serious about Olympic weightlifting so with my pair of secondhand Olympic weightlifting sneakers, I start taking lessons on Saturday mornings and one of the coaches comes up to me, Jenny, and says, Laura, why don’t you come with the group to Jacksonville, Florida, where we’re gonna have a weightlifting competition.
[00:10:28] Would you like to come? And I said, Jenny, I would love to come. I’ll cheer your the team on, I’ll cheer my gym on. She said, no, no, you could compete. I said, Jenny, I’ve been lifting this barbell in your class for three, four weeks. She said, you got the secondhand lifting shoes. You know how to lift it up over your head.
[00:10:48] Join the competition, your age group, your weight bracket, let’s sign you up. And I said, well, okay, why not? So sure enough, six weeks later, I’m off with the team to Jacksonville, Florida in the gym’s van, I’m the oldest one in that van by about 35 years, and I am the only one in the entire sport that does not have a tattoo. And sitting in the van with teenagers, and guys in their thirties. I thought, this is really kind of fun.
[00:11:20] . I’m on an adventure. This is weird. This is weird, fun stuff.
[00:11:23] Bree: Laura arrives to the gym with her teammates and she competes. She doesn’t come home with a metal. But she does come home feeling very proud of herself. And she decided that she was going to start to take this seriously. She would compete in more competitions. So she hired a private coach and started training regularly.
[00:11:48] Laura: I hired a personal coach to program for me to create a program specifically for me, a very calculated schedule of how much I’m gonna lift three days a week, what I was going to eat, how much sleep I needed, and we would select competitions in the area to go to.
[00:12:11] So I ended up competing in about eight or nine local competitions. And then my coaches, they were saying, well, Laura, we’ve got Florida State Championships coming up.
[00:12:24] How about that one? And I said, sure, why not?
[00:12:29] This was a big one. It was a three day competition. People from all over the country. I had never done anything like this before,
[00:12:39] Bree: and then the day arrives, Florida state championships. Laura arrives early at a huge gymnasium. There are 15 platforms about a meter and a half apart from each other. . And all of the weightlifters are warming up. She’s feeling nervous. But Laura’s coach instructs her exactly how she needs to warm up.
[00:13:06] Laura: And then she says, okay, three seconds. You’re on up. I go out, she gives me a pat on my shoulder. She says, you got this, Laura? And I go out and I know exactly what I need to do.
[00:13:20] I go out and I lift one lift and it’s three seconds. Then I have two more lifts in front of the judges, so I’m really out there competing for a, a minute, and then I’m done and I received my score
[00:13:38] Bree: that day, Laura placed fourth. She was feeling really happy and excited about her accomplishment. And she was ready for more competitions.
[00:13:48] Laura: The coaches said to me on the way home, Laura, would you like to compete in the World Championships? And I said, sure. Why not?
[00:14:04] So the training continued and I qualified for New Zealand. I was unable to go because of of death in the family. I competed locally some more. My coach said, would you like to qualify and go to the World Championships in Barcelona, Spain? And I said, sure. But unfortunately I could not go because I got an injury my body was really taking a beating and I did everything I could to preserve my body and to lift safely.
[00:14:49] But I would still get injuries and my neck was beginning to really, really bother me. And for seven months I lifted with neck pain and finally I said to my coach, I’ve qualified for world championships twice. I can’t go, but I’m satisfied. So a few months later, my neck was getting much better and I was light training.
[00:15:20] Doing light training sessions. And she said, Laura, would you like to compete in the Dominican Republic at the PanAm games? And I said, sure. my neck was okay. So we did five months of grueling training, and every day I went into practice, my coach had a specific plan for how much I would lift Everyone was extremely excited.
[00:15:54] Bree: But the trip was going to be expensive. She needed to raise some money. So she went on to go fund me.
[00:16:03] The platform loved her story so much that they donated money.
[00:16:08] At the end of five months of training, she was ready. And she wanted to win gold this time.
[00:16:16] Laura: So off we went to the Dominican Republic. My coaches did everything because my job was to rest and to do exactly what they told me to do leading up to the very minute I would get on the platform and lift my barbells over my head.
[00:16:34] Bree: Laura and her coaches arrived to a huge abandoned school that has been turned into the venue for the PanAm games. It is one of the most humid, hottest environments that Laura has ever been in. Nevermind had to compete in. There’s lots of energy in the room. A huge crowd of people and a lot of people competing.
[00:17:00] Laura: So my coaches look at their watch and say, Laura, you’re on in 10 seconds. And I go out onto the platform and I nod to the three judges that are sitting in chairs right in front of me. Beyond them is the auditorium full of people.
[00:17:21] I look down at the barbell, I take a couple of deep breaths and I say to myself, I know what to do. I’ve done this thousands of times before.
[00:17:34] And I lift the barbell over my head. Now in Olympic weightlifting, you have three lifts. , so I lift it.
[00:17:41] Once I drop it, I sit in a chair, and my coaches come out and they decide how much more weight they’re gonna put on the barbell .
[00:17:51] The second lift, they’re gonna add some plates. Laura, ready for your second lift? I lift the second lift and it’s nice and strong. Drop the barbell. I go sit down. The third lift is gonna be even heavier.
[00:18:06] This is where the coaches will push me and say, okay, we really wanna win a gold medal. Either you lift it and you do it, or you blow it, whatever. We’re gonna go for gold, so we have to go a little bit outside your comfort zone.
[00:18:18] I lift the barbell over my head and I had three excellent lifts and I dropped the barbell, it bangs against the platform, and I walked away and bowed at the judges and left and gave my coaches a big hug and said, I nailed this.
[00:18:36] Bree: Laura knows that she did really well. So now she just has to sit down and wait for everybody else to finish competing. She’s watching the digital scoreboard. And then the competition ends.
[00:18:51] Laura: The competition ends, and I was in first place. I got my gold and I was very happy. I think my coaches were more excited than I was because I’m exhausted. That night over a beer in the bar, I felt pretty good.
[00:19:08] Bree: Laura has won her gold medal.
[00:19:14] It’s just crazy to think that before the age of 60, she had never even lifted a barbell. She’s been in the news on the cover of magazines. And today she specializes in coaching women in her four step mental toughness program. The key to success she says is to stay calm and confident in our minds. And to go outside of our comfort zone. Here are three things that Laura recommends when we need mental toughness. The first:
[00:19:49] Laura: breathing techniques save the day every time. When you breathe properly, you regulate your central nervous system. And you become calm and stable again physically.
[00:20:04] Bree: Laura second piece of advice is to not focus on the scoreboard.
[00:20:10] Laura: We never look at the scoreboard. I always wanna win first, but I always know that the way to win first is to focus on what I’m doing at the very moment I’m doing it, not the end result.
[00:20:29] Bree: And her third and final piece of advice for us today, is to ask for help.
[00:20:34] Laura: All successful people, no matter how much money they’ve made or how they define their success, no matter how mentally tough they are. They will tell you, yes, I have a successful team or a successful person behind me who believes in me. We all need that no matter who we are. So when you’re ever doing anything really hard, make sure you align yourself with somebody who can support you and believe in you.
[00:21:06] Bree: If you want to see some photos of Laura training and winning medals and Olympic weightlifting, you can find them on our website. And if you want to know more about Laura and sign up for her newsletter, visit lauraeiman.com. You’ll find a link in the show notes.
[00:21:25] I really hope that you enjoyed this story as much as I did. And if you want to show your love, then please share this podcast with your English learning friends. You can just press the share button, it’s usually at the top of your app, and send it on over and thanks.
[00:21:40] Okay. And till next time, we hope that you have a good time or at least a good story to share.
Quote of the episode
“I finally said to myself, ‘I’m done.'”
– Laura Eiman
Words & expressions in chronological order
* words mentioned by Bree in the podcast episode
* WANDER OVER: To casually walk or move towards a specific place without a clear purpose or in a relaxed manner. Example: After finishing his meal, he decided to wander over to the nearby park and enjoy the fresh air.
NOTE: wander different from WONDER. “Wonder” is about feeling curiosity or amazement, and it involves thinking or questioning about something. Example: “I wonder why the sky is blue. “
PLOP DOWN: To sit or drop down onto a surface or seat heavily or suddenly. Example: Feeling tired, she plopped down on the couch and started watching her favorite TV show.
NAVY SEAL: A member of an elite special operations force of the United States Navy, known for their rigorous training and highly skilled abilities. Example: Mark aspires to become a Navy SEAL one day and serve his country with bravery and dedication.
* MENTAL TOUGHNESS: This is an important concept in today’s story. Mental toughness means being able to stay strong and positive even when things are difficult. It’s about not giving up easily and believing in yourself, even when things don’t go the way you want them to. For example: “Athletes need mental toughness to push through physical exhaustion and keep performing at their best.”
A SUGAR HIGH: A temporary burst of energy or hyperactivity caused by consuming a large amount of sugar. Example: After eating several candies, the children were bouncing off the walls with a sugar high.
LAP: The upper part of the thighs when a person is sitting down, specifically the area between the knees and the waist. Example: The little girl sat on her father’s lap and listened to him read a bedtime story.
GRUELING: Extremely tiring, demanding, or physically and mentally exhausting. Example: The hikers faced a grueling climb to reach the mountain’s summit, but the breathtaking view made it all worth it.
* TO BINGE ON: “To binge on” means to consume —eat or drink— or do something excessively or in large quantities within a short period of time. It is often used when referring to food, TV shows, or activities. For example: “I love to binge on my favorite TV series during the weekends.”
KNOCKED DOWN: To be forcefully or unexpectedly pushed or hit to the ground or a lower position. Example: The strong wind knocked down the trees, causing a lot of damage in the area.
*BARBELL: A long metal bar with weights attached to each end, commonly used for weightlifting and strength training exercises. Example: The fitness trainer showed him the proper technique for lifting the barbell during his workout at the gym.
WEIGHT BRACKET: A specific range or category based on body weight used for competitions or classifications in sports. Example: In boxing, fighters are divided into different weight brackets to ensure fair matches based on their body weight.
TO TAKE A BEATING: To endure or suffer a lot of physical or emotional hardship or challenges. Example: The old car had taken a beating over the years, but it still managed to keep running.
TO NOD (TO SOMEONE): To make a small downward or forward movement of the head as a way to acknowledge or greet someone. Example: When their eyes met across the room, she smiled and nodded to him in a friendly manner.
* TO BLOW AN OPPORTUNITY: Means to miss or squander a chance or possibility to achieve something or be successful because of your own actions or mistakes. For example: He blew the opportunity to get a promotion by always arriving late to work.
Listening Comprehension Exercise
How much of the episode did you understand? Take this quizz to find out! Choose the right answer and press the arrow to move to the next question. At the end you’ll see your results. Listen again to the episode if you need to. It’s an amazing eazy practice to take your English to the next level.
Laura Eiman in competition mode
Laura Eiman posing for her website and press, promoting her coaching for business women.
Laura Eiman is an extraordinary individual who overcame sugar addiction, transformed her mindset, and achieved remarkable success. At 69 years old, she’s been sugar-free for 23 years, won a gold medal in Olympic Weightlifting at 64, and launched a successful business as a mental toughness coach for business women. Laura’s workshops and coaching receive consistent 5-star reviews and if you’d like to know more about her and sign up for her newsletter, visit lauraeiman.com