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Rapid City woman turns to powerlifting after heart attack

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RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — Two years ago, Kat Colson, then 63, went for a hike that turned out to be more than a few hours on the trail, but rather the beginning of a new and totally unexpected journey in her life.

"My arms got kind of heavy, which alarmed me, and it turned out that I had suffered a mild heart attack," Colson, of Rapid City, said. "It wasn't that severe, I guess, just a blocked artery requiring a stent, but nonetheless, the occurrence came as a complete surprise to me. I had always eaten healthily and thought I was relatively fit, though apparently my arteries weren't, so yeah, it scared me quite a bit."

Just two years after that heart attack, and less than a year after she started serious weight training, she competed in an American Powerlifting Federation meet in Omaha, Nebraska, on April 11 and set national records for her age group.

She got into weightlifting more by happenstance than design, the Rapid City Journal ( ) reported.

About a year after recovering from the heart attack, she went to Hurricane Fitness to work out with a personal trainer to get her fitness level up.

"And about three or four months into the fitness training," Colson said, "Will Hayford, my trainer at Hurricane Fitness, introduced me to weightlifting. I fell in love with the sport, and last September I started training for powerlifting."

After watching Hayford perform in a powerlifting meet, Colson took the leap into competition on her 65th birthday at the meet in Omaha. She set three American powerlifting records in her age group in the squat (188 pounds), bench (99), and dead lift (232).

"I did it just to do it, I guess, and really didn't know what to expect, though I knew what the records were and hoped that I would break them," said Colson, a Douglas High School graduate, former law enforcement officer in California, and current investigator with the South Dakota Department of Social Services. She beat the records by between 10 and 58 pounds.

What she did after just six months of training amazed her coach.

"Definitely a unique accomplishment," Hayford said. "Kat has been with us less than a year, but she has great will and determination and always makes her sessions and always pushes hard and works out to the extent of her abilities. Actually, sometimes, we have to pull the reins back and slow her down a bit."

Hayford emphasized that Colson's gains in physical strength have come because of her own will and determination.

"One of the cool things about powerlifting is you are really competing against yourself," Hayford said. "And Kat did that constantly, competing against herself, and in the process ended up better than other ladies her age have ever been."

As for her quick journey to the top of the powerlifting record books, Colson credits good luck, an excellent trainer and workout environment at Hurricane Fitness. She also acknowledges a certain restlessness in her personality may have made a difference.

"I work out three days a week, (and) actually I'm going to start going on Sundays, too," Colson said. "... I can't sit still, and I have to do something. And so I will continue to lift and hopefully be able to improve and beat my own records."

In her rehab program after her heart attack, she had done some lifting and liked it.

"I liked the feeling of the power and the feeling of getting my strength back and keeping my bone density up, which is very important for women as they get older," Colson said.

While setting national records might not be in reach of everyone, Colson doesn't see age as an obstacle. She is a strong believer that health benefits abound for those willing to push themselves and a little iron.

"And I'm 100 percent behind lifting, especially for women," she said.

"What can I say?" she added. "It's fun, too."

This is an AP Member Exchange shared by the Rapid City Journal

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