79-Year-Old Weightlifter: “Throw Away That Walker!”

At nearly 79, Winifred Pristell, grandmother of two and great-grandmother of three, is a testament to living healthy at any age. Winifred is currently a World Association of Benchers and Dead Lifers (WABDL) champion.

In fact, Winifred currently holds the World, National and State records for single lift bench press for her age group and weight class.

Born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and athletic in her youth, Pristell’s lifestyle eventually slowed down. Before she knew it, she was obese. But with the encouragement of her daughter, she became re-interested in fitness at 48.

 
At 47, the 5-foot-5-inch-tall woman was dangerously obese, weighing 235 pounds — a body mass index of about 40. A body mass index of 25 is considered overweight; obesity starts at 30.

Since then, she’s dropped five dress sizes and is a comparatively nice 180 pounds.

The weight just crept up on her, she says. She was working long hours, eating poorly and drinking and smoking too much.

One day while taking a bath, Pristell remembers feeling as though she was dying.

She asked daughter, Cynthia, if she would walk with her.

“I couldn’t walk but a block that first time,” she said.

Every morning the two walked together, a little farther each day. Within a year, Pristell was up to three miles, five days a week, she said.

That’s about the point she walked into a gym for the first time in her life. She tried aerobic exercises, stationary bikes, and other machines and contraptions.

Years would pass before she tried free weights and more than a decade before she began lifting weights competitively at the age of 60.

After meeting her mentor, Jim Schall, a former coach and teacher, who himself has held dead lift records for his age and weight class for over 10 years, that’s when everything changed. With his help, Winifred won her first competition, becoming state champion at the 10th Annual Alki Beach Bench Press and Deadlifting Championship. One month later, she broke the world record for her age and weight category.

(photo credit: winifredpristell.com)

Surprisingly, Winifred has arthritis in the soles of her feet, her back and legs, and before she made that drastic change to her current lifestyle, she was barely mobile. She advises any senior in a walker or a wheelchair that with the “proper exercise, nutrition and fitness regimen, anyone can get up out of that wheelchair or throw away that walker. If you want to accomplish that, you can!” She adds: “Find something that you love and keep on doing it, be consistent and never give up. I’m never going to stop!”

Her motto: “Look at me! I did it, and so can you!”

Winifred’s formula for staying fit is exercising on a regular basis and eating healthy – no junk food! In fact, in her spare time, Winifred loves to cook, and only eats out when coerced by family and friends.

When asked why she loves weightlifting so much, the triple-crown title holder just smiles and says, “I don’t like dead weight. If it’s dead weight, then get it off me.”

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