Maria Woolgar-Blacutt is the embodiment of strength and grit. At 54, this Bolivian weightlifter inspires women of all ages who follow her on Instagram and Tiktok, to push themselves to be the best they can be, physically, but also mentally, and emotionally.
Maria, based in Houston, Texas, where she moved from Holland four years ago with her family, is transitioning from her lifelong activity of being a personal fitness coach to working with brands as a digital influencer and paid public speaker for the wellness industry.
She is bilingual in English and Spanish, and able to create content and coach in both languages. Inspired by her daily check-in videos, we interviewed her in order to share her story and valuable tips for midlife women who may want to follow in her footsteps.
Maria Woolgar-Blacutt’s secret: grit in the face of adversity
Maria did not achieve her fitness level overnight. Her journey started at 15 in the early 1980s, when she began working as an instructor at her mother’s gym in La Paz, Bolivia.
“It was a Jane Fonda type of gym, nothing fancy, but it was the only place women at that time could exercise to music and learn about nutrition,” Maria said.
When Maria was 19, her mother had a stroke caused by a brain aneurysm, which left her physically and mentally disabled.
“I fell into a deep depression and stopped exercising for a couple of years. It was horrible,” Maria recalled.
Her boyfriend at the time admired her physical strength and stamina and suggested she go to a gym to work out.
“I was the only woman in the gym,” she said, explaining that the gym was a dark dungeon. “But I loved it! I had not realized until the first day I stepped into a weight-lifting gym that I have a genetic ability to lift heavy weights.”
She never stopped lifting after that. For ten years, she was the only woman at the gym she trained at. However, that was not met with praise from family and friends.
“I was criticized to shreds. People told me I would look like a man and that it was inappropriate for me to train at a bodybuilder’s gym filled with men (there was no other option available). Lifting weights was a man’s sport and I was out of line. Meanwhile, I felt confident and strong for the first time in my life. I was lean, chiseled, and incredibly strong. I took on a coach who pushed me to compete,” she said.
As Maria prepared for competition, people did not let up in their criticism. The snide comments received at a vulnerable moment ended her competitive endeavors.
“I can’t believe I succumbed to peer pressure,” she said. “I have a strong personality, and yet comments about my big legs and looking like a man did me in.”
Maria went on to marry and have three children. She kept on training hard, but looking back, she remembers those days with regret.
“The lesson I can share is that you have to live your dream, no matter how crazy it seems to others,” she said. “The world has changed from those days, and everyone wants a strong, toned body, killer legs, and six-pack abs – the body I was so bitterly criticized for in the ’80s and early ’90s.”
From fitness coach to online wellness influencer
When Maria moved from Holland, where she had her own training business, to the U.S., she had to rebuild her fitness clientele here. Maria decided to use Instagram as a way of both promoting her services and sharing her expertise.
“At first I was shy about talking about my age. I thought no one would follow me! I could pass for ten years younger, so I just didn’t mention it,” Maria explained. However, she wasn’t reaching as many women as she would have liked to. Her daughter was the one who suggested she share herself authentically, including revealing her age.
“I wondered why anyone would follow an older woman, but I gave it a try. And sure enough, a lot of people started following me online. And they are really loyal,” she said.
Maria typically only trains women over the age of 40, because older bodies have different needs when it comes to fitness. Being a 54-year old mother of three, Maria understands the challenges of being a mom, of reaching middle age, and of going through menopause. But she won’t train just anyone who wants to hire her.
“I only work with clients who want the results badly enough, who are willing to put in the time and effort required. Good things come at a price – and you need to be willing to put in the work with my guidance and support,” she said.
After a lifetime of training clients one on one, Maria is ready to expand her scope of work by working closely with brand partners in order to reach more midlife fitness enthusiasts online.
Maria’s tips for midlife women who want to lift weights
The myth that weight training will make women look bulky is exactly that: a myth. Bodybuilders follow extreme weight lifting and dieting regimes that the regular fitness buff doesn’t go through.
Weight training is in fact beneficial for mature bodies, helping them increase muscle mass and bone density, and promote fat loss. “Bodies that train with weights preferentially use fat as fuel, therefore strength training is amazing if you want to lose fat,” Maria explained.
“Fitness is a mindset at any age,” Maria said. “If you begin putting resistance on your body, you will grow muscle. Not bulky muscles, but strong, toned muscles.“ She told us that the biggest mistake people make is that they do too much too soon, then they get overwhelmed and fall off the wagon.
“Instead, begin working out 3 times a week for 40-60 minutes. This is a sustainable goal. Remember that adherence is the main driver of success,” Maria suggested.
Her best-kept beauty secret? An unwavering belief in herself.
“Feeling sexy is a state of mind,” Maria affirmed. “It’s not a size, not a weight, not a look, and definitely not an age. Sexiness is closely linked to a ‘this is me, take it or leave it’ attitude. Sexiness comes from within. If you feel sexy, you look sexy, you BECOME sexy,” she said.
“Sexiness is a certain intangible air that surrounds a person. Have you ever met a person who is zero good looking but has this crazy power of attraction? Is it the smile? the eyes? the mesmerizing tingly feeling they give you? It’s the way they feel about themselves that is projected outwardly,” Maria concluded.