An Uplifting Hobby
Sara Mecomber Meeks í62 has been a physical therapist for 38 years. Her special interest is in helping people with osteoporosis and osteopenia, and six years ago she became an American Physical Therapy AssociationĖcertified geriatric clinical specialist. In June 1997 she opened a private physical therapy practice in Gainesville, Florida, in which she specializes in the treatment of the frail elderly and the mature athlete. Meeks conducts osteoporosis seminars for PTs across the country, and she is currently chair of the APTA geriatric sectionís Osteoporosis Special Interest Group. She was a consultant for the second edition of Morris Notelovitzís book Stand Tall: Every Woman's Guide to the Prevention and Treatment of Osteoporosis and authored her own book, Walk Tall: An Exercise Program for the Prevention and Treatment of Osteoporosis ("Alumni & Faculty Publications," ICQ 2000/no. 2). And she has developed guidelines for exercise, gym, and physical therapy programs that promote lifelong flexibility.
Her patients have a great role model, because Meeks is also a professional weight lifter. She started lifting 12 years ago at age 48 when she met her husband, John Harrison, who has lifted since his teens. "I started him running," she says, "and he started me lifting." He must have given her a good start, because she is now the 10-time national masters weight lifting champion ó winning her age and weight category every year from 1990 to 2000 except 1994, when she did not compete. She is also one-time world masters champion and one of only three women to be enshrined in the National Masters Weightlifting Hall of Fame in York, Pennsylvania.
When asked what is the most difficult aspect of the sport, she says, "Being recognized as a veritable athlete, although I have had my moments. Being a woman, because this is definitely a manís sport. But womenís lifting is coming into its own ó the year 2000 is the first year women will lift in the Olympic Games."
Weight lifting is a demanding sport, requiring flexibility, speed, and endurance. Meeks offers advice to other women who might think of entering the sport: "You could start at any age; however, there should be a period of time of breaking in, with general flexibility, strengthening, and endurance exercises. Find a coach who is familiar with Olympic weight lifting, preferably one who has coached women athletes. Donít try to improve too fast ó muscles, ligaments, and joints have to be conditioned. I have found this to be one of the most intellectually stimulating sports; it requires attention to technique and lots of concentration. Just when I think I have it all figured out, I discover that I havenít. It is an individual sport, just you and the barbell out there alone on a platform with the judges and audience watching."
Meeks works out on a continuous basis. She has run four marathons and competed in triathlons. "I have found that participation in athletic events keeps me young and vital. I look forward to my birthdays, especially those at which I enter a new age group, which I have just done. Being an athlete keeps me in shape for my work. I met a man in his 90s who told me to plan what Iíll be doing in my 90s. I plan to still be teaching and competing."