(OTTOWA, Ontario) — Natalie Allport, a 28-year-old CrossFit athlete, stays in shape with an unlikely workout partner, her 84-year-old grandmother.
Allport, of Ottawa, Canada, said she started bringing her grandmother, Juanita Arteaga, to her workouts at a local CrossFit gym when Arteaga moved from Venezuela to Ottawa to be closer to family.
“I like to spend days with her, but my day-to-day is training,” Allport told Good Morning America. “She used to come with me to the gym and watch me weightlift and she’d cheer for me. She said she could see people look at me and see that I was strong, and she got interested.”
Artega began to take exercise classes designed for senior citizens, Allport said, but those classes were soon canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In response, Allport began working out with her grandmother every day via FaceTime.
“It stemmed from me wanting to spend more time with her, that I would get her to do workouts with me, and I knew this would help with her staying moving and her balance,” said Allport. “Especially during the pandemic … she was really stuck at home, she couldn’t do anything and I could see her mood really declining.”
Allport said because she loves to exercise, she saw exercising as a way to help, adding, “I thought the way I could help my family was to spend some time with her every single day through exercise.
For the past two years, Allport and Artega, have exercised together every weekday.
“It’s the same time so she always knows and can remember,” Allport said of their workouts. “She’s always excited when I call.”
Allport said she focuses on doing functional exercises with Artega, like lifting up and putting down weights so that she can pick things up off the floor, and increasing her grandmother’s mobility so she can get up and down off the floor.
“We can do the same workout. I can do squats with more weights and I can do a deadlift while she’s doing a variation, which I think is kind of cool,” said Allport. “She’ll see I’m doing squats fast and will try to beat me. She’s very competitive.”
The grandmother-granddaughter workouts typically last around 30 minutes, followed by 30 minutes on the stationary bike for Artega, according to Allport.
Over time, according to Allport, Artega’s ability to do the exercises has improved, as have some of the health conditions she faces. But Allport noted that not every workout is easy and fun for the duo.
“Some days are frustrating as I’m watching her struggle to do an exercise. It’s always tough to watch someone that we love age,” said Allport. “But we hold each other accountable.”
As pandemic restrictions have loosened, Allport and Artegay, who will turn 85 in May, are able to train together in person again.
“Through shared time together and love, you can really change mindsets,” said Allport. “She didn’t always believe that it’s normal for women to lift weights and be strong. Through spending time with me, she was able to open her mind to the possibilities.”
Explaining what she has learned from her grandmother, Allport added, “It’s not too late to change your mind and change your habits.”
Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.