Tales from the gym: Renee Williams


Cottage Grove resident, Rene Williams, is 66 years old. She can deadlift 200 pounds as well as bench 115 pounds. “I love it, and I’m addicted to it,” Williams says of her fitness journey. “It’s been forty-plus years, and I’ve never quit. 

“I take absolutely no medicine, none. That’s something my doctor is kind of surprised at because usually women my age have a list of medications, and I have none. The only thing I take every now and again is Ibuprofen for a head ache. I have good blood pressure; my joints don’t hurt, and I have a little arthritis. But it does not keep me from the gym because if you get the blood flowing, you’re okay.”  

Williams is a member at Emerald Fitness Club, located in Cottage Grove. She lifts four to five times a week. She also spends time in the pool to occasionally add cardio to her workout routine. 

Said Williams, “Anybody can [lift weights]. Just start light and work your way up. Swimming is a great one to add in there, too. We have a great swimming pool [at the Warren H. Daugherty Aquatic Center in Cottage Grove]. The water provides good resistance.” 

Through the years, Williams has witnessed a transformation in gym culture: Early on in her journey, she found that weights were not a popular exercising outlet for women. “Some days [now], there are more women in that gym then there are men,” she said. “I remember going into the gym when I first started lifting in 1979. I had put on weight after I had a child – women in those days would go sit in the steam room, and they gossiped — I sat in the steam room one time, and I just didn’t like it.  
“In the back, I heard this noise: it was [the sound of weights clinking]. I peeked around the corner, and there were all these guys [working out]. There wasn’t one woman back there. I wasn’t aware of [what weightlifting was all about], so I sat back there for a half an hour and watched. I was hooked. [The men] never looked at me funny when I would ask questions. I got books; so, I read up on how to lift, and the rest is history,” Williams recalled.  

Now, Williams tries to help other weightlifters in any way she can. Said the 66-year-old, “I also make sure to make time in the gym to exercise my jaws, I’m a talker and I love to help people. If I see somebody struggling, I’ll go over and approach them. Guys are really bad about that; they don’t like women approaching them like that. There are some that find it acceptable, but most don’t like it. I have to be really careful, but I tell them if they are doing something wrong, because I would not want them to hurt themselves.”  

According to a New York Times study, statistics show that about 17 percent of older Americans regularly lift weights.  

While a weakness for her, Williams tries to stay away from sweets, but overall, she says she can pretty much eat whatever she wants. Said Williams, “I eat three meals a day, and I try to eat a lot of vegetables. If you are lifting heavy, you need to get a lot of protein, at least a pound to a pound and a half per pound of your body weight.” 

As for what Williams would say to somebody who is struggling in their fitness journey or just getting started: “I would say be consistent. If you’re starting with weightlifting, start three times a week. Maybe take a day off in between [each workout session]. If you get the diet under control, you have to be consistent with your exercise. Take it slow; you are going to hurt. It’s a soreness, but it is a good soreness.  

 While Williams has integrated fitness into most of her life, she also encourages older women to begin their own fitness journey as soon as possible: “Women my age, we need to worry about Osteoporosis. Weights are the best thing for bones. I have stressed that to some of the women I have seen there [at the gym].” 

 “They just get on the treadmill and work themselves into a frenzy for an hour. They could be spending a half an hour on the treadmill and a half an hour lifting. Their bones could just snap and break. How many older women do you know that are breaking bones? It’s because their bone density is really bad, lifting will help that,” Williams concluded.