Plymouth women discover strength training, making them strong inside and out

PLYMOUTH, Mich. – In the driveway, playing basketball with her grandchildren, is exactly where Kerry Hutto wants to be at this stage in her life. 

"That's really important to me that I can keep chasing after them," Hutto said. 

The Northville native's weekly exercise routine -- lifting weights at the gym at least twice a week, two barre classes and a yoga class -- helps her build strength.

Hutto is modest about what she has achieved over the past six years while taking strength training classes at Hale Strength and Shape in Plymouth, but she holds the state dead lift record for her age and weight class. 

"It feels really good when you can pick up more weight than you weigh," Hutto said. 

At 73 years old, Kerry can dead lift 204 pounds. 

She never expected the workouts she started six years ago would lead her to powerlifting competitions. 

"It's amazing. You just don't picture women doing this or, if they do it, you think they're in their 20s or maybe 30s, but not in the Senior Olympics," Hutto said. 

Margot Hibbitts, of Belleville, also works out at Hale Strength and Shape and says she feels better at 59 than she did at 40. 

"It gives me confidence to keep doing the things I love to do -- to travel, to play hockey, to be with younger women and not be intimidated," Hibbitts said. "I feel like I can go out and mow the lawn, lift bags of sand and work on the roof. And I work at the dog shelter. I'm one of the few who can walk the big dogs, so that helps me with that." 


Hibbitts, Hutto and eight other women from the all-women gym in Plymouth competed in the Senior Olympics in Rochester in August. In the powerlifting event, they competed in both bench press and dead lift. 

"Competition tries to push you a little bit farther than you think you can go. It makes you a little uncomfortable, which is really good. Being uncomfortable is a good challenge. It makes you try harder," Hibbitts said. 

"I think it's great. It's a great outlet," said Kurt Hessenbruch, owner and strength and conditioning trainer at Hale Strength and Shape. "There is nothing wrong with being strong just to be strong but to take that and put it into some sort of goal-setting system and have some ultimate event down the line they're kind of pushing for is awesome too. It's not for everyone, but it kind of leaves you with a sense of pride when you can walk off a platform and say, 'I just set a state record.'"

Hutto credits her strength and conditioning training for how good she feels today. It motivates her to keep going. 

"I watched my father in law and my father and quite a few other family members fall break a hip and pass away and it’s not a good way to go. So by doing this I’m hoping to avoid that," Hutto said.

Everyone loses muscle as they age, starting as early as our 20s. 

"Resistance training is a way to combat that and keep your muscle and, of course, the muscle is going to help you stay healthy the older you get, with balance and strength and everyday activities and that sort of thing," Hessenbruch said.  "It helps with all sorts of other areas of life. Diabetes numbers are lower when you strength train. Blood glucose levels are kept in check. You know, weight gain is kept in check. Osteoporosis, the bone density, is a huge one because anything where you're loading your body structurally is going to help improve your bone density and can kind of offset all of those things that are going to happen down the road if you don't take care of yourself."

He said arthritis pains can be minimized because ligaments and tendons are being exercised. 

"I don't like to take pills, so when they suggest that maybe your cholesterol is too high or whatever, I look for a different way to handle it," Hutto said. "All of my numbers are right where they should be and my last EKG, the doctor showed me the strip and she said, 'This is what a perfect EKG should look like,' so that felt good." 

Hibbitts said being strong means to be healthy on the inside and all those numbers that your doctors take on the inside -- those are what count now to give you quality of life for the rest of your life. 

"I don't take any prescriptions drugs at all. And my numbers are wonderful, so, yes, I have this place to thank for keeping me there," Hibbitts said.  

"There is so many benefits to doing strength training at any age but, really, as you get older, because that's when your body just naturally wants to start to degrade like anything else. You're basically a machine and, you, know a car gets old and it wears down, but if you take care of it, it will stay running for a long time," Hessenbruch said. 

Feeling strong inside and out keeps the women coming back. 

"I like that, when it's over, I feel really good, like I've done something," Hutto said. 

Hale Strength and Shape is for women of all ages. Hessenbruch said everyone starts at their own level and slowly builds. Some women compete, but he said dozens and dozens of women come to the gym who have never touched a weight in their lives.   

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