When Laurie Nelson was in high school, there were no women’s sports. It wasn’t until she graduated from college that college sports started for women. Once at Pepperdine University, where the 67-year-old is an associate professor of sports medicine, Nelson started the women’s athletic program there.
This year, she finished 10th at the CrossFit Games in the Masters Women 60-Plus Division.
For about a year before she started the program, “she knew that CrossFit was not for her,” says Mike Anderson, owner of CrossFit Malibu, where Nelson trains. Anderson explains that Nelson thought CrossFit was only for elite athletes, so while she encouraged others to go, she stayed away herself.
She was 64 at the time and had a “bad knee” and a “bad foot,” Nelson explains.
"I really, really had no experience with this,” she adds.
When she started, she couldn’t do push-ups, sit-ups or proper air squats. But Nelson quickly realized CrossFit can be scaled for athletes at any level, and she turned a slow start into outstanding performances in the 2012 Open and CrossFit Games. She’s proof that you can improve your fitness at any age no matter what your goals are.
“It’s just absolutely fantastic. I can, first of all, just carry anything I want to carry: the groceries, the luggage, the rocks—I happen to like working in the garden. Whatever it is, I can do it,” she says. “Now I get a chance to be a bit of a role model for other older adults, and I really, really like that because I want them to know where I started and how you can do it.”
Nelson is part of a team at Pepperdine conducting metabolic analysis on CrossFit athletes. Watch the series here.