77: The Story of the South East's Oldest Competitor

Published on Thu, 2014-03-06 16:15
Amanda Greaver

"Being retired, I needed something to stimulate me, to keep me interested in life, to keep me learning and active. I found that in CrossFit."

Photos courtesy of Justin Newell.

Ellie Davis has the honor of being the South East’s oldest participant in the Open. At age 77, she has been doing CrossFit for more than a year at her grandson’s gym, CrossFit Savior, in Jefferson, Ga.

When 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games Open Workout 14.1 was released, Ellie Davis had the same goal as thousands of CrossFitters around the world: to get her first double-under. Although she failed on her first attempt, she went to the local sporting goods store and bought a new speed rope. On her second attempt at 14.1, with a class in full force behind her, Davis got her first double-under and was able to record a score of one rep.

“I felt like I contributed to the Open,” she said, “and it was rewarding.”

Davis, who has two children, two grandchildren and three great grandchildren, travels 35 miles each way to train at her box. She began under the supervision of her grandson, Justin Newell, in order to lose weight. When she started, she needed help up the stairs to
the back door of the gym. Now, she goes in and out without a problem.

“I was getting more and more stiff and not able to get around like I wanted,” Davis said. “I had problems getting out of a chair, my car, problems with steps and lifting things. I could no longer get out of the bathtub.”

One year later, Davis has a Fran time of 10:57, using a 15-lb. bar and ring rows. She deadlifts 125 lb. (watch her deadlift 120), rows 500 meters in 2:58, and can do 100 single-unders in 38 seconds. Her squats are much deeper due to an increase in her hip mobility, and she can get the top off a bottle of water “like nobody’s business.”  
“It’s so important when you are getting older to move,” Davis said. “CrossFit may be a little out of the ordinary, but I had been an exerciser all of my life, and I let it go. I paid for it. It was hard to get around, and I had no stamina. I feel 10 to 15 years younger.”
Davis was the inspiration for a seniors-only class now held three times a week at CrossFit Savior. Five other seniors, all 62 and older, have joined the class.
“They work harder than some of the other classes because of their work ethic and dedication,” Newell said. “Grandma was being chased in the beginning, but now the group is chasing another one of the ladies. All of them challenge each other in a different way.”
“We laugh and we work hard. It’s such a great experience,” Davis said.
In addition to standard CrossFit movements scaled to the seniors’ abilities, the class focuses on balance and mobility.
“They practice balancing on one foot for 30 seconds with the opposite foot being out front, to the side, or to the back,” Newell explained. “Step-ups and getting better being on one foot at a time to improve balance is a big part of their program. We spend 80 percent of our time balancing while we are walking, and we are using functional movement to combat the trips and falls that seniors sometimes encounter.”
The seniors are also active in their gym’s community, and some of them have even traveled more than an hour to cheer on their fellow CrossFit athletes at local competitions. 
"The CrossFit community is wonderful,” Davis said. “Not only are the seniors outgoing, friendly and caring, so are the younger people. They do things away from the gym together and they love to compete. When I'm around, I'm one of them, and they all call me ‘Grammie.’ They are the friendliest group of young people I have ever been associated with. I'm just as much at home with this group of people at a social event as I am in the gym.” 
Davis looks forward to the challenges that the rest of the Open will bring.
“CrossFit stretches you,” Davis said. “It’s a friendly, caring, supportive group. Being retired, I needed something to stimulate me, to keep me interested in life, to keep me learning and active. I found that in CrossFit. It not only benefits my mental state, it benefits my physical state.” 


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