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Seniors feel 'stong and flexible' after CrossFit classes

CrossFit Rebels in Clearwater sees athletes up to 92 years old

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Anne Unger was in the hospital for a month after a terrible motorcycle accident on February 21, 2017. She nearly died.

She had a broken pelvis, broken ribs, broken neck, vertebrae and head trauma.

"The whole nine yards,” she said.

After leaving the hospital, she checked out a program at CrossFit Rebels in Clearwater that's designed to keep seniors active. Sixteen months later, she said she's a new woman.

“When I started, I was lucky to do a squat. If fell on the ground, call 911. It’s the only way you’re getting me up,” she said. “My strength is incredible now and so is my flexibility.”

Her story is similar to many athletes at CrossFit Rebels, which sees athletes in their 60s all the way up to 92. Owners Samantha and Ed Farina started a “Legends” program a few years ago to encourage senior members of the community to push themselves athletically.

At 90, Charlotte Whitley is the oldest participant in the 9 a.m. class Friday morning. Over the hour-long session, she did planks, pull-ups and tossed a medicine ball against the concrete wall decorated with ‘CROSSFIT’ graffiti.

“They are all amazed at the way I’m still going,” said Charlotte, who suffered a stroke four years ago. “My favorite part is the push-ups.”

The oldest Legends participant is 92. One woman, in her late-80s and affectionately referred to as “Dr. Carter”, comes to work out despite having limited feeling in her feet because of neuropathy issues. 

Many of the older athletes are noticing breakthroughs in their health thanks to the cross fit activities. 

Monica, who participated in the 10 a.m. class, is a triple bypass survivor. Jim Whisnant, who played softball for 17 years, has become increasingly cardiovascular since joining the Legends program.

“I don’t want to get any older,” joked the soon-to-be 84-year-old with sweat dripping off his brow. “You don’t always feel good about coming but you always feel good about leaving.”

The objective of the program is the keep seniors moving. Many older athletes no longer need medicines they were reliant upon for years after this exercise routine. The adage that ‘if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it’ rings true for people like Unger. The woman who could barely sit without pain 16 months ago let out a shriek after completing 40 consecutive jumps with a jump rope Friday.

“It’s crazy inspiring,” said Samantha.

Success has become her motivation.

“It’s a work in progress,” she said. “It’s really an awesome program.”

Legends classes are Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at Rebels CrossFit. To join a class, call 727-253-4971.

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