From Unfit to CrossFit: Being an Athlete in My 50’s

by Shellie Edington [1st place finisher at CrossFit Games (female 50-54 age bracket), RP Client] | Sep 09, 2016


Super jacked, beastmode, diesel, all those things have been used to describe me, however I don’t think of myself in that way. I’m at heart just a fit momma that was once just as intimidated by CrossFit as you may be.

My road to my number one finish at the CrossFit Games in 2016 started way back in my teen years. I was a competitive gymnast. I trained and competed with Olympic Gold medalist Mary Lou Retton, and in college moved onto cheerleading. I had a strong fitness foundation, but once I got married and had kids, my fitness fell to the wayside.

I have three girls, who are all now in their 20’s. When they were little, I volunteered with our church preschool program and realized that young kids often weren’t getting that basic fitness foundation. To meet that need, I developed a mobile gymnastics program called Tumblin4Kids. It’s still very much in business today and through Tumblin4Kids, I heard of CrossFit Kids. Wanting to learn more I connected with Mitch Potterf. We swapped classes: he came to one of my Tumblin4Kids classes and I in turn went to one of his CrossFit training sessions.

Words can’t adequately express what it was like walking into a CrossFit gym for the first time. It was a mixture between intimidation and a feeling of being home. The gym itself was a seemingly abandoned building that was dark, a little dirty, and had minimal equipment – just some dumbbells and a set of rings. Oddly it felt very much like the gym of my youth, it almost felt like home. The workout however was intimidating to say the least. To my dismay I realized I could no longer do even one push up. Forget a pull up, and I couldn’t run. I, in short just could not keep up. That first workout ended in a puddle of sweat and misery. It was heavily modified, and I still struggled immensely.

But as I peeled myself off the floor to leave I realized that I needed this. At 46, after years of being a mom and a wife, I needed to work on myself. I needed to get in shape to benefit my business (I would not be able to continue coaching and spotting children at my age, with the way my body was going), but most importantly I needed this for my mental and physical health. I needed to feel good about myself, and to have something just for me.

I returned and stuck with it. Fast forward five months and I was approached by Mitch to start competing. At the age of 49 I took 3rd place in the World CrossFit Games and this year at the age of 51 I made it to the top of the podium, I placed 1st. Trust me when I say that if I can start where I was and place first just five years later, you can start CrossFit today and benefit from it. You can do this.

Being an athlete in your 50’s is much different than when you’re young, and surprisingly it’s better. For starters, I’m smarter about my body. After all these years I finally know exactly what to do to keep myself strong, in shape, and healthy. I understand food thanks to RP and how if can benefit me. The RP templates helped me to dial in my diet so that I could be leaner and faster for the 2016 Crossfit Games but not sacrifice strength. I lost 10lbs which made a huge difference in my running. I understand recovery and relaxation. And I understand that I need to invest in myself. I choose to channel my energies into being stronger both mentally and physically.

There are also some logistical benefits when you’re an athlete in your 50’s. I no longer have young children and their schedule to follow. I now have the privilege of choosing what to do with my own schedule and time. And my family, they work out with me. My girls are all physically active. Kelsey is a personal trainer. Kallie and my husband Chris do CrossFit with me at Fit Club, and Kayla runs and cycles. We bond over workouts. And in return, I stay connected with my family, but also have an increased energy level, strength in functional everyday movement, an increased range of motion and flexibility, endorphins, and a great body to show for it.

Now, it’s not all fun and games. To be an athlete at this age I have to focus a lot on recovery and staying injury free. I know I have to be disciplined and get good, quality sleep. I have to eat real food. I have to stretch and move my muscles before and after each workout. All of it is worth it to me, and I promise if you give CrossFit a chance no matter your age, you’ll see benefits too.

I invite you to follow along on my journey as I continue training into 2017. I have several Master Team Competitions coming up this year and I plan to return to defend my first place finish at the World CrossFit Games next summer. I would love for you to join in with me at any level. Join me at Fit Club here in Columbus, Ohio, follow along with a workout at home, cheer me on as I compete, learn a little bit about CrossFit, and maybe even learn a little bit about yourself.