Retirement does not mean the end. For Jim Mingle, it was just the beginning.
Mingle, a Westminster native and Air Force veteran, retired from the Baltimore City Police Department in 2014 after a 20-year career.
“I felt like it was halftime in my life,” Mingle said. “I retired, but I wasn’t done.”
An athlete most of his life, Mingle fell back into a former pastime. At 53-years-young, he reached world-class levels.
At the United States Powerlifting Association National Championships May 27-31 in Atlanta, Mingle set a world record for his age group and weight class with a 601-pound deadlift. He also set a Maryland record with a 551-pound squat.
“It just all started with me saying ‘I think I can do this,’” Mingle said. “I looked at some of the totals guys my age were putting up at the time and I was behind by several hundred pounds, way behind. But I just kept going.”
Mingle says he’s always been an athlete, participating in football and martial arts, and “always enjoyed staying in shape.” He got out of the military at Fort Meade in 1992. Two years later, he joined the Baltimore City Police Department. Mingle said he previously was involved in powerlifting, but never took it to a competitive level.
Toward the end of his time with the police department, Mingle said he become out of shape and wasn’t happy with his fitness level.
“In 2012, I found myself extremely overweight, just not feeling well,” he said. “I started to lose some weight. Eventually, I got down. Back then, I was a heavy 275, and I got down to 207. And I felt good, but I wanted to get involved again.”
Mingle went back to the gym, and his affection for powerlifting rekindled. But this time, he wanted to take it to another level. The competitive fire from his athletic days lit again.
“I retired in 2014 and I remember telling somebody, I just wanted to get back into shape and be competitive. And I wanted to be competitive on a world scale,” he said. “I wanted to be strong enough to compete against the top guys my age in the world.
“Before I knew it I was getting stronger and better, and I just fell in love with the sport again.”
Mingle read books, went to seminars and learned what was needed to develop a program to get him where he wanted to be. He set a goal but ran into his share of doubters. Among them, himself.
“In early stages, when I was lifting by myself, looking at these far-off weights, it was very, very intimidating,” Mingle said. “You have to ask yourself, ‘You’re older now.’ At the time I was 47, 48. I’m 53 now. But you have to say to yourself, is this crazy? Who does this? ... I had plenty of doubts.”
He continued to work, and soon those weight levels he saw far in the distance began to come into view.
In 2020, he set a world squat record that has since been broken. He currently holds state records in squat and bench press, in addition to his world record deadlift.
Mingle is also the USPA Maryland meet director. He recently ran the Muscle Mine Classic III on May 21 in Westminster. He has another meet in July in Columbia and on the Eastern Shore in September.
He also trains up-and-coming powerlifters for competitions and general well-being out of his company, Kingdom Power and Strength.
“There was one girl, Reanna Nguyen, she just walked up to me in the gym and said to me, ‘Will you train me?’ I said, ‘I’m not a trainer, but you can work out with us if you want.’ And it lit a fire,” Mingle said. “She’s been training with me, alongside me for going on a year now. She is the Maryland state champ in her age and weight group, and she’s a little thing, but she’s lifting and squatting and benching and deadlifting huge numbers. And she loves it.”
Mingle hopes his late entry into the competitive nature of the sport can show others age is irrelevant when it comes to athletics and accomplishing their goals.
“What I really hope people come to learn is No. 1, you’re not done being an athlete,” he said. “Right now I’m training a couple, both in their last 70s, and they’re powerlifters. It’s amazing. At that age, you just hope you’re able to bend down and tie your shoes — they’re pulling 200-plus pounds off the ground in a deadlift.
“I want people to know that it’s not too late to be an athlete if you’ve never been one. And if you were an athlete, it’s not too late to get that back.”