Fashlete™ of the Month

Forever Young : CrossFit at 70

September 2013

Name: Kathy Hawkins
Age: 70
Occupation: Retired Nurse, Future CrossFit Coach

Considering all the talk lately of the dangers associated with CrossFit - the talk of Rhabdo, injury, and excessive intensity - I was fascinated by what I was hearing from Kathy - a 70 year old retired nurse whose hobbies range from quilting to CrossFit.

"I have never once in my life considered myself an athlete in any sport.  I think it's funny how well I like CrossFit."

So how does a self-described "couch potato" end up being such a huge proponent of CrossFit? Kathy's story starts with her husband (age 75) and his very bad knees.  About five years ago it was getting harder and harder for him to walk.  Coincidentally, Kathy's daughter Amelia had just started CrossFitting.  She encouraged Kathy to give it a try.  Kathy made a deal with her husband:

“I am a very sweet and devoted wife. I told him, if you do everything you can do to get your knees better and you end up in a wheelchair, I will take care of you. If you are not willing to do do anything, I won’t take care of you. We’re going to go with Amelia for 6 weeks to try it out.”

Now that's my kind of woman.  Five years later, she and her husband are still CrossFitting.  In fact, she likes it so much that she recently got her L1 Certification.

"I am a registered nurse and I understand the absolute necessity of the importance of exercise when you are 70 years old, if you want to stay out of the nursing home. Yes, there are awful diseases, but the majority of people are in there because they can't move."  

This is the key point that stuck with Kathy when she attended her CrossFit Certification course.

"The whole premise (of CrossFit) is functional movement so you can do what you need to do for life. The instructors kept saying 'This is what keeps you out of a nursing home'.  And I thought, YES."

Kathy has adapted her approach to fitness and to CrossFit according to her age, her current physical ability, and her goals. 

"I am not convinced it will add days to my life, but I want to be able to move as long as I’m alive."

Her goals are simple: 1. Get to the class. 2. Be alive when it's done. 3. Go home. Even though she is not trying to get the fastest time of lift heavier weights, she says she is still stronger than she has ever been in her life.  Five years ago Kathy could not run or jump higher than 2".  Now she's running and jumping up on a 12" box.

"I have muscles in my arms that I can see. I never had muscles I could see before!"

I asked Kathy why more people her age have not had the same revelation in terms of the importance of being able to move. Why did she find herself at her 50th reunion surrounded by friends who could not get up if they were to fall? Why didn't they take action before getting to that point?

"They don't know what to do. They don't know what they can do to see results."

A membership to the YMCA is useless if you do not know how to effectively exercise.

"What I like about CrossFit is, you walk in the door, they tell you what to do, show you how to do it, and tell you you can’t go home until you’ve done it."

When she says it like that, it sounds so simple.  If you were to speak with Kathy, you would be convinced that CrossFit is the absolute prefect fitness regime for people in their 70's.  This is extremely contrary to a lot of the bad ink that CrossFit gets.  As Kathy and I continued talking, she explained that it really just comes down to the coaching and the perspective of the athlete.

Kathy's perspective is key.  She has managed to improve her fitness and stay injury free even while participating in a program that gets a lot of flack for being "too intense".  She has had some amazing coaching, but she has also seen the flip side.  She has seen trainers that show no modifications.  She has been in classes where participants half her age dropped out before it was over.  Luckily, in these situations Kathy already knew what she was doing, she knew her limitations, and she knew how to make her own modifications. 

Kathy explained that walking into a gym with white hair pretty much guaranteed that she would get special attention or modifications. She also pointed out that everyone should get this kind of attention regardless of age (or hair color).

"If you don’t know what someone is capable of, modify.  Many think they can do way more than they can.  Older people tend to think they can’t do as much as they can do."

"Different gyms have different goals. Go to one where you feel comfortable and the trainers can meet you where you are. If they are not giving you what you need, go to a different gym. Some gyms are interested in building elite CrossFitters. Ameila’s gym (AKP CrossFit) is growing so well and she meets clients where they are."

Now that she is a certified coach, Kathy plans on starting class for men and women age 55+ at AKP CrossFit in January.  Reluctant at first to make the commitment, she asked her husband "Why should we do this?"  He replied "Because they need it!"

And that was exactly what Kathy needed to hear.  She will be busy quilting throughout the upcoming holiday season, but come January 1st, Kathy will be recruiting the parents of current members, and men and women from her church and local Senior Citizens center to join her at AKP. 

Even thought she will be leading the 55+ class, coaches and athletes of all ages and skill levels could learn a thing or two from Kathy's approach.

Finally, I asked Kathy how she plans on marketing the class.  What will she say to convince Seniors to try CrossFit?

"I have a cartoon on my refrigerator that I read every single day."

Without skipping a beat, Kathy took her no-nonsense tone with me and recited the following line:

Like I said before... that's my kinda woman.

Kathy, we wish you the best of luck on your fitness journey and with your new career as a CrossFit coach!  Congratulations on being selected as our Fashlete of the Month, we are proud to welcome you to the Fashletics family!



  • Author avatar
    Sarah Wilson
  • CoachingCrossFitWomen's Fitness

Comments on this post (5)

  • May 18, 2016

    69 years old and been doing CF for 8 months now. have made gains I never would have believed and have been in the fitness realm for decades. much like the writer, my goals are simple…
    1. follow my own pace
    2. leave my ego at the door
    3. celebrate as often as possible (improved WOD, increased
    lift maximum)

    — John Slavich

  • Feb 24, 2015

    My daughter has been doing crossfit for 2 years+. I attended a few of her competitions and was impressed. I signed up and I will admit that it is hard but even though i can’t do double unders,pull ups ,or a lot of
    burpees, I give it my best effort.I am improving and getting stronger every week. I am going to be 73 years old this year and am enjoying good health because of cross fit.

    — Paul grimes

  • Nov 17, 2013

    I like her style! On the ski slopes of Washington state, I often admired seniors that had the all-around well-being and attitude to still be on the slopes. I set a written goal to follow in their footsteps. Kaboom!

    — Mike Bacino

  • Oct 24, 2013

    Truly inspirational,Thanks

    — Jenny

  • Oct 12, 2013

    Great article—thanks! (And you typo’d rhabdo in the first paragraph.)

    — Dan

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