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You've Got to Be the Best You Can

Leslea Eilenberg

Local woman Leslea Eilenberg has always been one to challenge herself. Avid elocal readers will remember her last achievements competing in world triathlons including Kona Ironman and Hawaii. Now, she has gone even further! Breaking all records for her age and weight at the International Oceania Powerlifting Championships and a Silver Medal in the Worlds Masters Games Triathlon.

It all started when a gorgeous friend and patient Rachael was preparing for a body building competition in her late forties, Leslea, then aged 57 who had never lifted weights was inspired. And a new journey began.

The appreciation of “artistry” and “cutting” and developing muscles and disposing of body fat gaining you an amazing transformation was exciting for Leslea. Focused on nutrition and a relentless training regime, she began to compete regularly in regional and New Zealand competitions both as an individual and with her husband Richard.

“Its actually insane but anyone can do this through routinely exercising and targeting muscle groups with weights and having a very strict diet. I love the individual challenge it gives me, but having someone to do it with makes it all the more fun!” Leslea smiles.

Leslea competed in back to back competitions but the strain of the effort required to maintain continuous peak performance with little rest and with significant diet restrictions took its toll. Her trademark long blond locks simply fell out after the competitions and she was diagnosed with telogen effluvium – a reversible condition in which all your hair falls out from the follicle after a stressful experience.

“It would have been ok if they were hair extensions, but it was my real hair. It was freakish as it was so dramatic, one day I had a pony tail the next few weeks nothing. It was radical.”

Leslea competed back to back in competitions Recognising nutrition was 70% of BodyBuilding. She has an appetite for success in whatever she does, and wants to do the best she can in everything she tries, however with success there is sacrifices that may occur in maintaining continuous peak performance without rest and a very restricted diet for long periods of time.

It didn’t stop her for long however as she was still intent on competing at the Masters Games in Japan later this year. Combined with turning 60, Leslea saw it as a chance to alter her training from lifting lighter weights and higher reps that are required for Body Building to heavier weights and less reps in order to generate increased strength for POWERLIFTING.

While Body Building relies on muscle definition achieved with low body fat, Powerlifting is three lifts, the back Squat, the Bench lift and the Deadlift. It requires extra nutrition and very specific technique due to high risk of injury from lifting heavy weights. Leslea loves the strength and posture it gives her and in your aging years, you stay strong and are not compromised by pain and breakage.

“Powerlifting is an extreme sport both mentally and physically challenging. Its TOUGH, you feel every part of your body is used for your compound lifts and your CNS (central nervous system) is stimulated continuously. It’s not for the light-hearted athlete.”

It’s obvious to see that Leslea loves it and with the expertise of her super tenacious coach Ali Gascoine who herself holds International World Powerlifter titles, and has her own gym. Leslea has gained a number of NZ Records in World Powerlifiting NZ, in all three disciplines Squat, Bench and Deadlift. Richard also competed for a year and gained a National title so also helps to train Leslea in their home gym early mornings.

In January 2021, she competed in the International Oceania Powerlifting Championships held in Auckland. Competitors from around the world took part, albeit on live stream due to COVID restricted travel and gatherings.

Leslea managed to break all 4 NZ Records for her age and weight over 60 years. Squat, Bench and Deadlift 53-58kg class. The deadlift weight was 120kg over double her body weight. It was an incredible performance and one she feels privileged to have achieved.

It is well documented that fitness goals and regular exercise are exceptionally important for our mental and physical health and Leslea has inspired others to improve their own situations through her training and nutrition regimes, something she says is a great motivator for her to keep challenging herself.

“I am always encouraging to the people I work with, one of my staff recently lost over 22kg and feels fabulous. She also looks amazing! We have regular huddles about exercise, nutrition and work and life balances. With everyone taking time to ensure they are doing things to improve their mental health it has created a great working environment for the team. I have great support from a wide circle of friends, and a great family. I know how lucky I am, and my hair has grown back!”

It doesn’t stop there, even though the Master Games in Japan have been cancelled due to COVID. Her training remains intense, 5x plus a week, early mornings and she combines this with work, running a business, more study in nutrition, and family life with Richard, her beautiful daughters Nikkita and Scarlett and spending time with her Mum 88 and Dad 91 who all do think she is a little crazy but are also incredibly proud! The question remains, what is next!