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I'm fitter than ever at 70 – and I'm insanely proud

70-year-old Celia Duff shares why functional fitness and endurance training help her feel better than ever

Melanie Macleod
Wellness Editor
15 May 2024
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At 70 years old, this week saw Celia Duff lift her heaviest-ever weight in the gym. "I felt insanely proud," Celia tells HELLO! of her achievement "It proved to me that I am getting stronger and stronger."

While she has always been fit and was a keen rower during her university years, Celia feels stronger and fitter than ever at 70, crediting her energy to functional fitness.

"Functional fitness is based on movements that we need for everyday life and mobility, which is really important for older people," Celia explains of her newfound passion.

What is functional fitness?

Put simply, functional fitness is working out using the movements we need in daily life. "As a young person, you take it in your stride. You can squat, lunge and jump and it's relatively easy. When you get older, it becomes more difficult because you're fighting against deterioration.

 

"I have various complaints of old age, but the more mobile, supple and fit I can be, the easier it will be for me as I get older to climb out of the bath, get up out of my chair, and carry the watering cans.

"I would encourage everyone who can, to do exercises based on functional fitness," Celia enthuses. "It replicates and strengthens the actions needed as you get older to live safely, comfortably and healthily rather than closing into your body and becoming immobile."

Woman running with her arms outstretched
Celia is proud of her achievements

Taking on a challenge

There's no chance of Celia becoming immobile – far from becoming sedentary, 2021 saw Celia take up Hyrox, the super-challenging workout that combines running and functional workout stations, seeing participants run one KM, followed by one functional workout station, repeated eight times – we're tired just thinking about it!

Celia, however, is a Hyrox pro, signing up after her daughter encouraged her to take part.

 INSPIRATION: I look better at 70 than I did at 30 – here's how 

"I regained a level of fitness in lockdown by taking up running," she explains of her journey back to exercise. "I did it very gently, mixing walking and jogging before I found I could run again at 65."

Not content with just running, Celia also began lifting weights. "This is the first time in my life that I've done proper training with weights and I can really feel the effects on my body," she says.

 READ: What midlife women want you to know about exercise 

That said, after signing up blindly to Hyrox and discovering what it entailed, Celia admits she was overwhelmed. "I looked into it and realised just how tough it is, but by that point, I was committed.

"I'm not one to be beaten once I've committed myself to something, Although I may get very anxious about it, for me it is better to be chucked in, and it motivated me to take training seriously."

The importance of training

"In old age, it's important not to rush prep and training," Celia cautions. "You're more likely to get injured if you're older and you will need longer to recover.

Celia recommends building two types of slow prep into your routine if you’re getting into fitness when you're older. "I recommend long, slow runs that build up your endurance and the slow, heavy weight lifting for strength," she says.

"It's important to take your time with strength training," Celia continues. "It might feel like a waste of time to do two or three lifts and then rest for a few minutes, but as an older person you need to be realistic about how long it takes you to prepare and build your endurance – and don't be daunted. Don't be impatient and always have your eyes on your goal."

Woman running in orange leggings
Celia is fitter than ever at 70

Life improvements

Celia says that training and taking part in Hyrox has allowed her to walk taller physically and mentally.

"My body is strong and carries me through daily activities. I have an allotment and I need to carry heavy things and I can manage that much more easily now. Activities that were hard two years ago no longer leave me tired, despite the fact that I'm now two years older."

DISCOVER: Over 60? Add this strengthening exercise to your daily routine 

Taking part in Hyrox has made Celia mentally stronger, too. "Exercise is about friendships, purpose and community. I've met a lot of new that I would never have met otherwise.

"That feeling of belonging is terribly important socially. I leave my session with a sense of satisfaction, knowing I have improved my physical and mental health considerably."

On her advice for other older people looking to get into fitness, Celia has a few words of wisdom. "We can't escape from the fact that our muscle strength and mobility decreases with age, but we can reduce the speed of that reduction - through exercise. It's incredibly important so that we don't become sedentary."

 

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