The following article is by Carrie Dungan and is from The News & Advance:
Phyllis Workman’s jump rope whirred through the air, barely gracing the padded floor before it was back above her head. Clad in a hot-pink tank top and black weightlifting gloves, Workman stared straight ahead, a look of focused determination in her eyes.
After completing her repetitions, she moved on to her next exercise without pausing. Workman, 80, pushed herself through the final set of moves as part of a recent CrossFit class at the Jamerson Family YMCA.
“Yay!” she said with a smile on her face after completing her final repetition.
Workman began the strenuous workout classes over three years ago after watching a class and thinking it looked interesting. CrossFit is a high-intensity fitness regimen that incorporates various functional movements, such as box jumping and rowing, based on those used in sports.
“The nice thing is if you just have the will to do it, it doesn’t matter your age, it doesn’t matter your ability, the coaches will work with you and modify things — they always have a modification to work every muscle you’re supposed to be working,” Workman explained.
For her 80th birthday last month, she wanted to deadlift 160 pounds, or twice her age. When Oct. 29 rolled around, Workman did that — and more.
“I did the 160 pounds and then I told [my coach] ‘I think I can do more weight,’ so I did 170 pounds,” she laughed.
The whole class celebrated with a “special Phyllis birthday workout” that included 80 repetitions of each exercise and rowing 1,938 meters, which is Workman’s birth year.
Workman said the one thing that keeps her going is the family she’s gained in the class, who all love and support each other. Although everyone participating in the YMCA’s CrossFit classes is younger than Workman, she said they welcomed her immediately.
Faith Bartley, who has participated in classes with Workman since the beginning, said her friend is “very motivating.”
“If she can do it, it makes us push harder,” Bartley continued. “I use her as an example to other people who complain about aches and pains and say they can’t do it. I tell them, ‘Here’s Phyllis — she just turned 80 and she can do a 170-pound deadlift.’”
Her coach agrees. Tai McCray said Workman motivates others in every class she attends thanks to her contagious, won’t-quit attitude.
“When she gets the opportunity to ring that bell because she [got a personal record] at 80 years old, if she’s still hitting her all-time best numbers, then you probably need to put a little bit more weight on your bar,” he said. “That’s the type of drive she brings and she’s by far our most supportive athlete.”
Workman said she has always enjoyed working out, and was a runner for most of her life before lost cartilage in her knee sidelined her. Now, she said participating in CrossFit workouts and weightlifting on her own gives her an energy boost that propels her through the day.
A sense of well-being and increased self-confidence are other benefits to working out, Workman said. She encourages her peers to get and stay active as well.
“People my age, a lot of them tend to say ‘I can’t do that,’” she said. “Well you can. You just start. One step at a time, you start, and …at our age it’s so important to do strength, weights and resistance training because of bone loss and just health in general.”
Outside of working out, Workman is a hospice volunteer and teaches bible study and Sunday school at Rivermont Evangelical Presbyterian Church. She has a seminary degree and said she enjoys studying and reading scripture.
Luke 2:52 holds a special place in her heart and serves as a guideline for her life, according to Workman.
“‘And Jesus grew in wisdom,’ so I study and teach; ‘in stature,’ so I work out; ‘and in favor with God and man,’” she said. “It’s such a well-rounded life and that means a lot to me.”