It all began on a hot August day in 2010. Shellie Edington, then 46, was attempting to peel her sweaty, sticky body off of a black exercise mat that was curling up at the corners and causing other gym goers to trip over the edges. “I’m going to die here,” she thought, as she struggled to push off the ground.
The former competitive gymnast, who once trained with Olympic gold medalist Mary Lou Retton, could no longer do a single push-up.
An extremely humbled Edington looked around the abandoned warehouse. It was a bare-boned CrossFit gym, the newly opened Fit Club in Columbus, Ohio. It had a few barbells in the corner and pull-up bars made out of pipes hanging from the ceiling. When they drove up that first day, her daughter had taken one look at the building and decided she’d be safer sitting in the car in the parking lot.
Yet Edington wasn’t intimidated. While she may not have been launching into cartwheels and backbends anymore, she was in her element. It wouldn’t be easy—and sometimes she’d feel like it was impossible—but the former athlete believed that if she persevered, she’d get back into fighting shape. And that’s just what she did.
Fast-forward more than six years. The powerhouse mom of three can now easily bang out 21 handstand pushups (which are as hard as they sound) and 28 pull-ups at a time. She still trains at Fit Club, which has since moved locations and now has all of the bells and whistles of a more sophisticated facility. At 52, she’s preparing to return to the CrossFit Games for the fifth year in a row, to defend her championship in the Masters Women 50-54 Division.
So how did this former athlete get her competitive fire back later in life? Here’s her story.