Gays Mills area resident Ray Anderson gave himself a nice birthday present on Saturday, Sept. 6 this year. The local weightlifter earned two silver medals in the Wisconsin Senior Olympics on the day he turned 63 years old.
Anderson lifted 370 pounds in the dead lift event this year for a second place silver medal. Ironically, that was 30 pounds more than the 340 pounds he lifted in the event last year to win a first place gold medal. This year, the gold medal in the dead lift went to a competitor who lifted 405 pounds.
In the squat lift, Anderson lifted 250 pounds to earn a silver medal—the same as he had the year before.
In the Wisconsin Senior Olympics, winning is based on a few more factors than just the weight the competitors lift. The competition also considers how much they weigh and their age.
The event last month was the third year of lifting in the Wisconsin Senior Olympics for Anderson. Despite some good-natured ribbing from friends and competitors about “getting too old” to continue lifting, the local lifter has some mighty big plans for next year. With the help of personal trainers at the Vernon Memorial Healthcare Fitness Center, Anderson embarked on a yearlong training regime last Thursday that is designed to get him to lift 450 pounds in next year’s competition. Yes, Ray Anderson wants to lift 450 pounds in the deadlift next year—that’s 80 pounds more than he lifted this year.
The Wisconsin Senior Olympics’ weightlifting event, held in Milwaukee at the Brickyard Gym, often brings out the best effort of the year for the competitors. That’s definitely the case for Anderson, who lifted more in the competition than he had in the gym prior to that point.
“It’s the atmosphere,” Anderson explained, as he got ready to do a little lifting in his daughter’s garage in Gays Mills last week. The gym and the other competitors get the adrenalin going. Then, there’s the family. On hand for this year’s competition were grandkids Trinity and Thaedyn Torres and their dad Nelson Torres, as well daughter Kristin Anderson and son Cody Anderson. Also cheering on their grandfather were grandkids Heather Hanson and Kenyon Hayes.
While the excitement of competition can help you lift a little more than you had in the gym, it’s really the work in the gym that prepares the lifter. Lots of work, months and months of work are involved. Going into next year’s competition, it will be a detailed plan of lifting for an entire year that is aimed at culminating with lifting 450 pounds and quite possibly earning a gold medal.
The lifting plan is developed by VMH Personal Trainers Josh Brown and Sam Franke. Anderson said the trainers provide a tremendous amount of help with his form and everything else.
“They don’t just talk it, they do it,” Anderson said of the trainers, who are also lifters.
Ray’s wife, Ann Anderson, works as an EMT in the Emergency Room of Vernon Memorial Hospital and is impressed by what the weightlifting has done for her husband.
“Working out at the gym significantly improved his health,” she noted.
For his part, Anderson, who never lifted weights competitively until three years ago, readily acknowledged that learning a little more about it makes lifting easier.
For Anderson, the lifting has a special place is his life. A recovering alcoholic, he is quick to tell you he lost more than 36 years of his life to drinking and drugs. He credits God with helping him to stay away from drugs and alcohol. He often drives to Viroqua to train at the gym and attend an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting on the same day.
Although Anderson’s target is lifting 450 pounds in the Wisconsin Senior Olympics next year, he concedes if he only gets to 425 pounds that will be okay as well.
Anderson and his trainers are very aware of the possibility of injuries in the extreme weight-training regime. The techniques Anderson has learned at the fitness center help to minimize the risk of injuries and so does the weightlifting plan designed by the trainers.
“It’s important you don’t go over the amount of repetitions called for in the plan,” Anderson said. “Injuries will come in, if you overdo it.”
In addition to the work of the personal trainers, Anderson is quick to thank Angie Dahl, who runs the fitness center for VMH and has been very supportive of Anderson’s weight training and competition.
In his three years of competing in the deadlift in the Wisconsin Senior Olympics, Anderson began by winning the bronze medal for lifting 325 pounds; then, received a gold medal last year for lifting 340 pounds, and most recently, he earned the silver medal for lifting 370 pounds.
“I’m doing this and it’s something I always wanted to do,” the 63-year-old weightlifter said. “I enjoy it. It can be important to have something like this for somebody with a drinking problem.”
It’s been eight years of sobriety for Anderson and he works in drug and alcohol counseling now. After 36 years of drinking everyday, he said he spent the first five years concentrating on breaking the habit with a lot of help and support from others. Now, he tries to be there to help others.
Recently, weightlifting has become a positive outlet for the recovering alcoholic that gives him something to do and provides a focus for his activity.
When the interview wound down and it was time for a photo, the 63-year-old weightlifter picked up a bar with 340 pounds on it and held it for more than a few seconds. It wasn’t the lift from the ground required in competition, Anderson explained, because he wasn’t sufficiently warmed up to attempt that. However, it was 340 pounds and for the average person to see someone hold 340 pounds off the ground and think about what that meant, it truly was an impressive feat.
Perhaps next year, it will be time to take a trip to Milwaukee to watch Anderson lift 450 pounds in the Wisconsin Senior Olympics.