Photo Illustration by Savana Ogburn; Photos by Anja Riedman and Karima Adi

Meet the Seniors Who Do CrossFit

Building strength and grit to live better, longer

Jessica Furseth
Published in
7 min readJul 17, 2019

“I“I think you can handle this,” says Karima Adi, holding out a 20-pound dumbbell. The weight is thankfully not for me — I’m still using a six-pound kettlebell — but for my workout buddy Bill Cox, a 70-year-old retiree living in London. We’re at CrossFit Shapesmiths in Clapham, where I’ve been invited to join the CrossFit Masters class for people over 60. Adi, a certified CrossFit trainer and the driving force behind the Masters class, assures me we won’t be doing any of the handstand pushups I saw people completing on my way in — at least not yet.

As Bill Cox and I make our way around our parallel workouts, doing snatches, push-ups, and ring-pulls, Adi explains that the movements are similar to daily life activities: bending down to pick something off the floor, taking things off high shelves, and pulling yourself out of bed. “This is about functional movement,” she says. “My aim is to help people maintain, or restore, their natural movement,” she says. “You have to sit down and stand up for the rest of your life, and you want to make sure that you never struggle in that.”

Cox, a tall man with salt and pepper hair and glasses, has been doing CrossFit for three months and he’s already advancing to lifting heavier dumbells. Like the other seniors in his Masters class, he’s here to keep his body moving so that he can live independently into old age. For Cox, CrossFit is foremost about managing the symptoms of his Parkinson’s Disease. “It’s very important to me to keep my strength up,” he says, his voicing occasionally slipping into a slight stammer due to his condition. “The physiotherapists at the hospital said I couldn’t hope to get stronger, only slow the rate that I got weaker. But that’s proven to be untrue.”

Cox says he was initially apprehensive about joining CrossFit when he saw all the people lifting massive weights. But he says the group does the same exercises with smaller, more approachable weights and fewer repetitions. “That’s attractive to me, and then it builds up from where you start,” he says. “I got hooked.”

“Aging is inevitable, but loss of movement, faculties, balance, agility, coordination, power and strength…



Jessica Furseth

Journalist and Londoner. I write about culture, food, and places.

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