In with the old – in with the new!

How many of you wish you’d found CrossFit, or your favourite training programme, years ago? Go on, confess, you look at the youngsters at the gym with envy and wonder how you would be now if you’d started it when you were their age.  But hey, that’s life and I guess we just should be grateful that we can do it now and still mix with the young ones.

At one end of the spectrum is CrossFit Kids – thankfully these classes are starting up all over the place.  If you wonder how good you could have been if you’d started in your 20’s, just imagine what life would have had in store for you if you’d started when you were as young as 5!  In fact Ellie Steadman is 20 months and she can cut it with a kettle bell!

CrossFit 3D is Ellie’s playground and she is so equally at home on a rower as she is picking up a light kettle bell (with incredible form!) or watching Peppa Pig on DVD.  It’s all she knows – look out for Ellie in the future guys, there is definitely a CrossFit Games winner in the making there.

“The needs of an 80 year old Grandparent, Firefighter and professional Athlete will differ by degree and not kind.”

At the other end of the spectrum  are amazing people like Ann McAllister, who at 70 years of age was one of the oldest competitors in last year’s CrossFit Games Open.

This is what she has to say about keeping fit!

“At age 70, I am proud to say I train at Crossfit Dental, based in Symington in the West of Scotland. Before I discovered the CrossFit approach to functional fitness I thought weight training was for the men and certainly NOT for the older female.

“During my working life and bringing up my family fitness was not high on the agenda. When I retired I had a choice of joining a local bowling club or exploring what was available in a gym. The coin dropped for a gym and I started off in a dance class, lurking in the very back row, doing Hip Hop. Upstairs was the “real gym” where all the fit people hung out – I never even looked at this part of the building as I had mentally noted this was not for me! The beat of the music was my adrenaline.

“When the instructor was poached for TV work my wonderful dance class was replaced by step  I went through the motions but found little satisfaction in this form of exercise.

“It was at this time that my long standing back problems became so bad that I was hobbling along and doing the simplest tasks became unbearable. My back surgeon suggested a FUNCTIONAL training programme to ensure I would be able to stand, sit and undertake everyday tasks. I was told that nothing more could be done as the degeneration of my spine was non-recoverable.

“FUNCTIONAL FITNESS…..I Googled this and up came CrossFit! ….The first time I entered Basix Gym in Irvine I thought, no TV ‘S, no fluffy towels and no smelly soaps….instead I viewed with apprehension bars, weights, boxes, a strange contraption called a pull up station and wooden poles. Everyone talked about WOD ‘S, snatches, jerks, cleans, WBS, a different world, a different language!  Once I discovered the benefits of CrossFit I loved it. I couldn’t wait to get to the box. The results on the board were not important; it was that wonderful feeling of personal achievement, challenging yourself to go where you never thought possible and coming back for more! For the first time in ages I felt I was standing up straight and I felt STRONG! The fluffy towels became a distant memory as I learned to grunt and groan with the best. I was now a CrossFitter and proud of it.

“No one treated me differently because of my age. I was always accepted as an athlete taking part in a WOD. The trainers encouraged me, the other members yelled me on when I was looking for the sick bucket and soon the stiff person that was me started to move without as much pain and discomfort.

“Gradually I made inroads into the CrossFit approach to training but in May of 2010 my back problems re-surfaced and I was told to stop training….just gentle exercise was the prescription. How I missed my training could not be put into words… nothing gave me that feeling of exhausted joy that I had experienced at CrossFit.  Then, on a cold January day in 2011, tramping through local woodland, I met the two people who brought the sunshine back into my life. Graham and Lorraine Leck co-owners of CrossFit Dental based in the village where I lived. They agreed to help me back to fitness and have nurtured, supported and given me back my love of training.

“For the older athlete who embraces the CrossFit approach to health and fitness the benefits are enormous. I am stronger in mind and body, I can think quickly as I have to make adjustments to weights. I need accurate recall of the technical points for the lifts. I have to record my times, weights used, and reps completed… This keeps my brain active and sharp. For me the key to training an older athlete is in understanding that there may be physical restrictions to be considered and adapting accordingly. Skilled, informed coaches have the patience to wait for that GOLDEN moment when it all becomes right. Through sensitive coaching the older athlete gains the confidence to try, in order to progress. .My coaches praise me when I get things correct and this in turn encourages me to push a little harder and lift heavier than I ever thought possible. I am under no illusion that certain moves prove challenging as the body ages but through functional training age related characteristics can be overcome.

“I personally was not prepared to sit around stagnating, watching TV and becoming a world leading expert on the Soaps I wanted something much more…I wanted a quality LIFE!   CrossFit has given me hope for the future, something to get up for, unknown challenges to be met and overcome, interaction with well informed coaches that are prepared to show  sensitivity and care and  a wonderful Community of friends that enrich my world and my spirit. What more could a 70 year old ask for?

“What next for me? I aim to try the open qualifiers but realise a decade in age difference will prove a big challenge. My next target is to achieve my Level 1 coaching qualifications so that I can support and encourage other older athletes to take the CrossFit journey that will ultimately improve their quality of life  Finally, my thanks go to my coaches for their patience and support and  to all the many friends I have made in the  CrossFit Community. You are the BEST!“


About Jane Holgate

This is me! I am 56 years old and have been a CrossFit Masters athlete since 2007. I have never been particularly sporty although I was hooked on scuba diving for over 15 years and am a BSAC Advanced Diver, Open Water Instructor. However, I was introduced to CrossFit over 5 years ago and was instantly hooked, discovering that I was strong and keen to develop and improve other skills. I am a member of Reebok CrossFit 3D in Manchester.
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3 Responses to In with the old – in with the new!

  1. sue hollis says:


  2. Karen H. says:

    I loved this story! What a great attitude!

  3. what a wonderful story with excellent insights! If you are on Facebook I would encourage you to join the CF Masters group: I’m not sure how old our oldest member is, but definitely over 70!

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