I met Linda Elstun a little over four and a half years ago. From the first time I worked on her I knew she was one of a kind. Strong, driven, humorous, and humble. When I heard I was going to get my first Cross Fit client I had no idea what I was in for. I had never heard of Cross Fit. I thought I was gonna get someone who was a cross trainer, and in walked this woman in her late forties with arms as big as mine, and the thighs of an NFL running back. I was instantly amazed at the power she possessed. After four years that strength has never ceased to amaze me. I felt her story needed sharing.
Linda grew up competing in gymnastics, beginning at age eight and continuing throughout college. After graduation, she participated in triathlons but then began to focus more on cycling. Five years ago, a friend introduced her to CrossFit*, a community-based exercise and fitness program. “I thought my competitive days were over, but I qualified for the CrossFit Games Master Competition in 2012 [where she placed 13th]. There is a certain satisfaction that comes from putting yourself on the line. It is scary, but being able to overcome fear and perform at your best really contributes to a feeling of accomplishment,” explains Linda.
Then the unthinkable happened. In 2014, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had just returned from her second Cross Fit Games, where she had placed 4th a mere 26 points out of 3rd place. She was already implementing plans to improve her athletic performance, but instead, found herself formulating a plan to beat her cancer. After a a few months of Chemotherapy, Linda chose to undergo a bilateral mastectomy due to complications with the chemotherapy. She followed this with three months of daily radiation. “[I] thought it would be easier to deal with no boobs rather than just one!” She explains with that trademark humor. In July of 2015 her treatment was complete.
Linda is now in remission and she recently returned from competing in the 2016 Cross Fit Games where she placed 17th, (with a smile on her face) exactly one year after finishing radiation treatment! She says that trying to recover her fitness level was extremely difficult and frustrating. “ My family and friends are super-supportive, and my training partner really helped me stay motivated,” she says. “I am still working on getting back to my top level of competition but I am happy with my progress.” Her goals for for next season is to strengthen her weaknesses, particularly running.
As a competitive athlete, busy wife and grandmother, how does she take care of herself? Linda says that eating a proper diet, getting plenty of sleep and receiving massage are keys to maintaining her health, especially as an older athlete. “Massage therapy is an indispensable tool in my recovery arsenal. Nick is able to apply techniques that reduce my recovery time and soreness, while improving my muscle function and efficiency. In combination with stretching, I believe that a well-timed massage can cut recovery time in half. Less recovery means more time for quality training and sustained daily exertion.”
Linda’s advice to older adults just starting an exercise program is, “Be patient. Be consistent. Don’t give up.” Regarding her cancer, she hesitates to call herself “cancer-free.” She knows there are no guarantees. But, she reminds us that no one has any guarantees. Thanks, Linda, for sharing your story and inspiration.
Thank you to Linda Elstun for always being an inspiration to me and those you have daily contact with!
(Linda is a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist who lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan)
*CrossFit is a unique exercise/fitness program developed by Greg Glassman. It consists of constantly varied functional movements performed at relatively high intensity. The community that spontaneously arises when people do these workouts together is a key component of why CrossFit is so popular and effective. CrossFit is customized to fit every individual’s ability and goals and sponsors regional and national competitions. For more information, check out www.crossfit.com."
Nicholas Garman, LMT NSCA-CPT