Fit for Life: CrossFit gives Tommy and Gina Lance a better quality of life

By Catherine Godbey | Living 50 Plus

As Tommy Lance deadlifted a kettlebell, Gina Lance lay on the gym floor in front of a fan catching her breath.

“After a workout, we usually lay here for 15 minutes and talk about our life choices,” Gina said with a laugh.

Three days a week, many times before the sun rises, the husband-and-wife duo arrive at Golden Ape CrossFit in Trinity for one-on-one workout sessions with fitness instructors Scott and April Shirley.

For 54-year-old Tommy and 50-year-old Gina, the fitness journey, which started in 2020 for Gina and in January 2023 for Tommy, has transformed their lives.

“I am way more active now, I’m not as sleepy and I can breathe better. I’m not on hormones anymore because everything has balanced out,” Gina said. “We have grandbabies, who are 3 and 1, they keep us up and going. We get to do stuff with them instead of saying, ‘Y’all go play.’”

“We wear them out,” Tommy added.

Since the Lances started working out, Gina has lost 67 pounds and Tommy has dropped 46 pounds. They serve as inspiration for individuals setting fitness resolutions to start the new year.

“They are the most consistent. They always show up and are committed to getting healthier,” April Shirley said.

Responsibility for the couple’s physical transformation rests with Gina, who, after gaining weight during COVID, signed up for Golden Ape CrossFit.

“Honestly, when I started, it didn’t go well. I was in group classes and I wasn’t very consistent. Then I started one-on-one sessions with April,” Gina said.

The personal training sessions provided the accountability Gina needed.

“If they held a class and I didn’t show up, they didn’t say, ‘Gina isn’t here, we aren’t having a class.’ But when I started one-on-one with April, that changed. Knowing that April is meeting me here means I am going to be here. We are better stewards of other people’s time than we are of our own.”

Gina’s early workouts included push-ups and up-downs from a bench.

“It was even hard for her to get up and off the ground so I would keep a bench nearby she could pull up on,” April Shirley said. “Now she doesn’t need a bench to pull up on or for push-ups.”

Push-ups, which Gina once loathed, are now one of her favorite workouts.

“I really love push-ups because I used to not be able to do them. Now I can. It’s one of my proud moments,” Gina said.

In January 2023, Tommy, after knee and hernia surgery, joined Gina at the gym.

“Seeing Gina’s results, I finally let go of my stubbornness and started coming,” Tommy said.

“He had always told me that he wasn’t going to go flip tires. The first week he was out here, what was he doing? He was flipping tires,” Gina said. “I was really proud of him when he started coming.”

During a typical week, Tommy arrives at the gym at 6 a.m. and Gina arrives at 6 or 8 a.m. The workouts specifically designed for Tommy and Gina by the Shirleys change daily, but include a variety of moves from bear crawls to kettlebell swings to wall balls to front squats to thrusters.

“I feel the most proud when I am able to walk out of the gym after a workout,” Tommy said jokingly. “Really, every move I am able to do makes me proud.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults ages 65 and older need at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity, such as brisk walking, or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity activity, such as hiking or running, and at least two days a week of activities to strengthen muscles and activities to improve balance. Less than 15% of Americans meet those recommendations, according to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

“Gina was frustrated her first year because she really didn’t see the changes she wanted. Sometimes, especially when you are older, it takes your body a little bit of time to catch up with your new fitness routine and start showing results. The second year, though, Gina’s weight just started falling off,” April Shirley said.

This fitness journey not only impacted the Lances physically, it impacted them mentally.

“I am so glad I started. I have an overall better quality of life. It is easier to get up and go. And I have a better mindset. I feel good about myself,” Tommy said.

“Instead of running and trying to hide behind someone when a camera comes out, we feel good about having our picture taken. We feel good about ourselves,” Gina said.

For individuals beginning a fitness journey, Gina offered this advice:

“Don’t quit. Even if it doesn’t look good, even if it’s ugly when you do your workout, even if you cry and it takes you 15 minutes to do one move, don’t quit. Do it anyway. Just keep going.”