Barbara Garmon began working out with her personal trainer Chad Landers when she was in her early 50s – and even though she’s now in her 70s she hasn’t stopped since.
“I love being strong,” Garmon tells PEOPLE. “I love feeling powerful. I love the fact that I’m 73, and most women my age have trouble walking up steps. If there’s an elevator and steps, I always take the steps because I can do it. I feel terrific.”
Her dedication to fitness has seen her through some very challenging times. Garmon shattered her left arm and wrist after a gardening accident and was told she’d never have use of her hand again; she survived breast cancer and the chemo and surgery that went with it; and she spent time recovering after donating a kidney to her sister.
“I was weak and I was frail,” says the business owner of her time spent in recovery. “But I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in right now.”
Garmon decided to enter the world of competitive weight lifting at the recommendation of Landers.
“I looked up the records and I realized no one had competed in her age group and weight class [in California], so I just threw it out there,” Landers tells PEOPLE.
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After winning the state title, Garmon went on to compete in the National Bench Press Championships. She won for her age group, and qualified to compete in the IPF World Bench Press Championships in Prague. Garmon took home the gold medal for her age group after lifting an astonishing 72 lbs.
“It’s lots of fun,” Garmon says of competing. “It’s very encouraging. I have 23 gold medals now including the World Championship. I was a little shy at first, but Chad just encouraged me to do it, and I love it.”
Garmon works out three days a week, and plans to continue competing in power lifting competitions.
“I keep bettering myself, I keep breaking more records,” she says. “I’m slimmer than I’ve ever been. I like feeling healthy and able. I just don’t want to get old!”
Plus she has an extra incentive to stay in shape.
“My husband is seven years younger than I am, and he’s good looking and in shape and I want to keep up!” says Garmon.
“She looks great and is really vibrant,” adds Landers. “Seventy-three is really a number with her. It’s amazing to see.”