Sam and Ed Farina are dedicating their lives to helping others extend theirs. The Legends program at CrossFit Rebels in Clearwater, Florida, is home to 60 athletes, ages 60+. The program focuses daily on improved health, wellness, and longevity.
Sam’s passion shines through like a beacon when she talks about the program she and her husband have spent the last six years growing.
“The rewards (of coaching the Legends) are amazing,” she said. “The health side of it, improving bone density, improving major blood-health markers … . Why wouldn’t we want to do that for the rest of our lives?”
In fact, the ultimate goal for Sam and Ed is to open the first-ever 60+ CrossFit affiliate where they will train seniors in functional fitness in their later years of life.
The clientele in the Legends program have come in with ailments such as balance disorders, range-of-motion and mobility limitations, and severe knee and hip issues. They’ve seen improvement in their athletes across the board with careful coaching and an individualized approach.
“All of those things that happen later in life — maybe they don’t have to happen,” Sam said. “Maybe if they were CrossFitting, they never would’ve happened.”
Since its inception, the Legends program has doubled in size, and even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Farinas are ecstatic to see steady growth.
And now, the Legends are doing the 2021 CrossFit Open.
“The Open has invigorated me because (the Legends) are all talking about next year already,” Sam said. “They’re talking about what they need to get better at.”
Meet the Legends
Carl Darnall, 73
Carl Darnall, 73, has been doing CrossFit for four years. He and his wife met a member of the Legends program at a Zumba class, and she encouraged them to check it out.
“Before we knew it, we were ramping up to be in the program,” Darnall said.
Before starting CrossFit, Darnall was dealing with back pain and was advised by his orthopedic surgeon to avoid lifting anything over his head or squatting with weight.
“They gave me some real mamby pamby PT exercises to do and I quickly stopped that,” he laughed. “CrossFit has been so much better.”
Darnall remembers his ability level when he started CrossFit and said it’s a stark contrast to where he is now.
“CrossFit has made an unbelievable difference in my life,” Darnall said. “When I first started the program, I couldn’t do a squat without falling over … . Now I think my squat is pretty good. I can do back squats with heavy weights.”
He continued, “My blood pressure is lower, my weight is down, I have more energy. I just have a whole different outlook on life.”
Darnall is doing the Open this year for the second time.
“The Open is great,” he said. “I don’t compete against other people. I compete against myself.”
Although Open Workout 21.1 threw him for a loop, Darnall was up for the challenge.
“This year, you threw us a curve with that wall-walking thing,” he said.
When Darnall first tried to do a wall walk, he was unable to. He planned to do the foundations version of the workout in which bear crawls were substituted for wall walks.
“But I figured I ought to be able to do at least one of these things,” he said.
With the encouragement of two coaches — one to judge, and one to help strategize and ensure he was moving safely — Darnall achieved three wall walks in the scaled version of the workout.
Darnall felt a huge sense of accomplishment after overcoming the challenge of 21.1, but more important than the competition is the longevity that comes from training the CrossFit methodology, he said.
“We’re trying to stay mobile, to be able to function, and to prolong our lives. And that's what's really important with the Legends program.”
Bev Sturtevant, 78, has been doing CrossFit for six months and is already singing its praises to all her friends.
“I came in scrawny,” she said. “I’ve now got some muscle. I’ve got more stamina. I can’t recommend it enough. We tell all our friends: ‘You need to do this!’”
Sturtevant is an avid horseback rider and works with the Pasco County Sheriff's Department’s Mounted Posse. She said CrossFit has improved her stamina.
“I can go from CrossFit to my horse and work all afternoon,” she said.
Sturtevant said she’s been pleasantly surprised with her performance as she navigates her first CrossFit Open.
“We did the bear crawl this week,” she said of the foundations version of Open Workout 21.1. “I had no trouble. The bear crawl was really easy for me because my hips move. I can get my hands and feet pretty close together, and I can turn rather than having to stand up in between.”
“I really shocked myself when I was doing (21.1),” she added.
She’s also enjoying the community aspect of the Open.
“Everybody encourages everybody else,” she said. “I had people from my class cheering for me. It really meant a lot.”
Sturtevant’s husband Bill (pictured above) also recently joined the Legends program. At age 82, Bill was hit by a car and died on scene. Miraculously, doctors were able to revive him, and he’s continuing to recover from his injuries at CrossFit Rebels, where Sam and Ed are helping him work on straightening his legs and standing up again.
“I can’t imagine doing anything more beneficial than CrossFit,” Bev said. “It’s beneficial in every way I can think of.”
Suzette Cook is a retired emergency room nurse and former dog agility competitor. When a fellow dog trainer recommended she try CrossFit, Cook was reluctant.
“I’m not a gym rat,” she said.
But once she experienced the variation of CrossFit workouts and the accountability that comes from having trained coaches who are passionate about what they do, she changed her tune.
“The thought of missing a day kinda bothers me now,” she said. “I need accountability. I need Ed yelling in my ear. That accountability is really one of the factors.”
She said CrossFit has had an incredibly positive impact on her quality of life. As someone who’s always been active, CrossFit provided her with something more than a regular gym could, she said.
“I actually have a sense of accomplishment. I have more energy. I’m able to pick up things. My balance is better,” she said. “CrossFit becomes part of your life.”
Despite not feeling “ready” for the CrossFit Open, Cook is competing for the first time.
“I chisel out this time for me,” Cook said. “I’m so thankful that Sam bullied and badgered me into doing the Open. I really didn’t feel ready.”
She conquered Open Workout 21.1 last week and said she felt a huge sense of accomplishment when it was over.
“I really taxed myself,” she said. “It was a challenge. It was a feeling of accomplishment. It was like a hurdle leading up to it, and then you make it over that hurdle. One down, two to go.”