Chances are Coach Janet was the person you met when you walked into Alchemy CrossFit for the very first time. This is no accident: CrossFit is an intimidating sport, and while I believe none of our staff would do anything to increase a new member’s anxieties — we are all pretty nice, I think – Janet is by far the kindest, most patient and gentle ambassador for what we do here.
Or she is all of those things until you see her throw down during a WoD. Because it’s only when Janet is in full beast mode, swinging a cannon-sized kettle bell like it’s a novelty keychain, that you see the lion within the lamb. Janet is stronger, more fit, and definitely more intense than anyone in the gym. She is an inspiration to coaches and members alike, and represents the core message at the heart of CrossFit and that’s increasing your functionality within the world throughout your lifetime. Functional fitness is not about how much weight can you snatch – it’s about living life beyond your 30’s and still feeling as energetic and strong as you did a decade earlier (if not even better!).
Janet started doing CrossFit at age 45, initially because she looked around at what was happening in her peer group and was concerned by what she saw.
“I had begun to notice a physical decline in my group of friends and peers. A few memories stick in my mind, such as seeing other mom’s reach out and help each other up a two-foot step to get up into their seats at our son’s basketball practice or going to a waterpark and running around with my children while other parents were too worn out to climb the stairs to the water slides. It worried me.”
Fast-forward 11 years and Janet has gone beyond simple maintenance of her physical strength to kickass strength well beyond her original goals.
“I notice that my physical abilities are far beyond what is expected of a woman my age. Recently I helped my parents move out of their home. I was told a few times, “Janet put that heavy box down!” It did not feel heavy to me. When going for a hike with friends we had to stop frequently while they caught their breath. What seemed like a short walk for me was a long walk for others.”
“Fitness is so very important to a good quality of life! It is wonderful to be 56 years old and able to run for a bus, climb high ladders with ease, move furniture, and just generally have the strength and agility to feel safe.”
Janet is also very modest. Not only has she lifted more in her 50’s than during any other time in her life (300lb deadlift!), on any given day of the week she is one of the fittest women in her age in the world. This is no exaggeration: Janet ranked 44th out of 2,800 athletes in her age group during 2017 CrossFit Open.
While it feels great to be strong at any age, maintaining strength and agility as you grow older is one of the most significant things you can do to increase your longevity.
The Harvard Alumni Study, which followed more than 17,000 male alumni for 22 years, found a powerful correlation between chronic vigorous exercise and a positive reduction in mortality from all causes.
So, seek out role models who challenge your perceptions — not just of yourself, but of the limits of human potential — and you’ll go a long way. You won’t kick Janet’s ass in a WoD, but you’ll enjoy trying.
Duncan McNeill is a coach/co-owner at Alchemy CrossFit.