May 28, 2017
Grandma Betty Is Watching
By Andréa Maria Cecil
Four-time Regional competitor Kirsten Pedri talks about training her 97-year-old grandmother.
Four-time Regional competitor Kirsten Pedri talks about training her 97-year-old grandmother.

Ask Kirsten Pedri about her grandmother and watch her face light up.

“I would love to talk to you about my grandma,” she said excitedly before she prepared for Event 1 on Friday afternoon at the California Regional in Del Mar.

Roughly nine months ago, Pedri began training her grandmother, now-97-year-old Betty Anderson.

“I was getting older and I got to the point where I had to use a cane to walk,” Anderson explained on Saturday night from her home in Davis. “I mentioned to Kirsten that I wished I could do her exercises and get strong again.”

Anderson added: “She got very serious about it.”

Pedri began picking up Anderson from her home at 10:15 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. At her affiliate, CrossFit Davis, Pedri started simply with Grandma Betty, as she’s come to be known on social media. The 34-year-old first considered Anderson’s daily activities.

“She needs to walk around the house, sit down, lay down, grab things, walk around the house with them,” Pedri started. “It’s real-life functional fitness to the core.”

Pedri started with having Anderson simply sit down and stand up, and a PVC would suffice for any weighted movements that would ordinarily call for a barbell. At that time, Anderson was not only using a cane to walk but also to help her stand up.

Over the weeks and months, Anderson began to show significant improvement. From kneeling, she could pull herself up to standing without anyone’s help, and she also was doing ring rows from a seated position.

“I very quickly was able to get rid of the cane,” Anderson said.

Today, Pedri said her grandmother has “crazy mobility.” Anderson can now do shoulder pass-throughs with a PVC pipe—a movement previously impossible.

“Not even close,” Pedri said.

And Anderson can notch up to 6 reps at a time of overhead presses with the 5-lb. barbell Pedri bought her for her birthday in May. She also can do push-ups on a barbell positioned in a low squat rack and on a plyometric box.

Grandma Betty and her barbell

“Huge strength improvements,” Pedri said. “Mentally she’s different, too. She’s bright and shiny. She’s full of life.”

Pedri added: “It’s unbelievable to her—and unbelievable to me—as far as what exercise can do.”

For her part, Anderson said the experience has been wonderful.

“I feel so much better since I started doing that—more alive and more healthy.”

She said she also feels more independent, has more mental energy and never thinks about her age anymore.

“I feel like doing more things. It sort of turned back the clock, really, for me. When I think of it, it’s amazing,” Anderson said. “I can’t really say how much it’s changed my life. It really did. My whole attitude is different. I just enjoy life much more than I used to. I’m very thankful for Kirsten and for CrossFit, too.”

And, unbeknownst to Anderson, she’s inspiring thousands in the process.

“She’s so cool,” said Ryan Williams, a California Regional rookie who trains at CrossFit Davis with Pedri.

“It’s fantastic,” he continued with an uncontainable smile. “At 97 years old. It’s crazy.”

Pedri has been documenting her training of Anderson via Instagram. The videos and photos regularly get upwards of 3,000 likes.

“It’s a really neat way to connect with people and to sort of remind me why I’m doing all this—the reason behind all of it,” Pedri said. “It feels like a real celebration of the life I get to live.”

Although Anderson doesn’t keep tabs on Instagram herself, she said she knows other older people could benefit from CrossFit simply to “keep functioning.”

“I think of people my age whom I know that I’m pretty sure could operate on a much higher physical level if they just tried a little harder,” she said. “Maybe they’re doing the best they can, but I was so impressed and surprised by what happened to me that I can’t help but think it can help everyone.”

Pedri is of a similar mindset.

“I really do believe that CrossFit is for anyone,” she said. “Anyone can make improvements. … There’s no reason to ever stop doing that.”

Plus, Anderson gets to be part of a community.

“She’s just wonderful,” she said of Pedri. “And she likes older people, which doesn’t always happen with young ones. And she just makes me feel like I’m an equal part of the group. Lots of older people get to feeling isolated, and I don’t know what that feels like. So, I’m very lucky.”

*          *          *

This year’s Regional—Pedri’s fourth—is the first one Anderson has watched. From her home, she’s keeping tabs on her granddaughter’s performance via the CrossFit Games live feed. There, she can see that Pedri has remained in the top spot since Friday.

“I’m so thrilled,” she said Saturday night. “She’s worked so hard. She’s been faithfully doing everything she can, and she’s been rewarded a little.”

Pedri, meanwhile, knows Grandma Betty is watching.

“I’m thinking about her every time I go out there,” she said after a second-place finish in Event 3 on Saturday afternoon. “I have a really firm grasp on why I’m doing this.”

 

Men

1. Christian Lucero (375)

2. Josh Bridges (365)

3. Jason Carroll (310)

4. Julian Alcaraz (288)

5. Garret Fisher (282)

 

Women

1. Kirsten Pedri (360)

2. Chyna Cho (343)

3. Valerie Voboril (342)

4. Lauren Fisher (325)

5. Alessandra Pichelli (324)

 

Teams

1. Invictus (390)

2. NorCal (385)

3. Bear Republic CrossFit (298)

4. EndGame Athletics (295)

5. CrossFit ASAP (293)

 

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