When put to the test, CrossFit training pays off—in unexpected ways

By Maureen O'Hagan Susie Davis has been a member of CrossFit Seattle for over six years. Maybe you’ve seen her around the gym.  She’s tall, blond and energetic, and is ready for whatever the trainers throw at her.

She’s also 73 years old. Which is just part of the reason her tale of fighting off muggers in Argentina is so impressive.

Last year, she and a friend arrived in Buenos Aires, game for exploration. Her friend, Pat, is strong and fit—a yoga instructor—who’s two years Susie’s junior. The two of them spent one day with a guide, then the next day decided to set off on their own, walking about 2 miles to a lively neighborhood known as La Boca.

They were getting their bearings at a busy intersection when suddenly, Susie noticed a big guy, running in the crosswalk. “I thought, I don’t know hat’s going to happen, but he’s coming at me,” she recalled. A guy on a bike was heading towards Pat. And he had a gun. “There was no time to think or anything,” Susie said. When the man on foot grabbed Susie’s backpack, instinct took over. She just held on. “I ended up on the ground,” she recalled. “He was wheeling me around and I was screaming my head off. I was kicking. I didn’t know where he was but I just kept trying to kick him.” When the man on the bike approached Pat, she dropped her backpack. “He got so excited he dropped and gun--and it was plastic,” Susie said. The two men took off empty-handed, and a half-dozen women and children came to Susie and Pat’s aid, making a circle around them. They were safe.

As Susie reflected on the incident, she realized a few things. Despite the falling and flailing, she wasn’t hurt.  Despite the initial shock, there was no lasting trauma. And despite her age, she didn’t back down.

“I just thought, I’m a fighter. I feel fit and nobody’s going to mess with me. “And that’s because I’ve been to CrossFit,” she said. “Dave talks about the fight-or-flight response, and how he was taught to respond almost without thinking. “

Susie is quick to say that it wasn’t strength, per se, that got her through this incident.  It’s how strength plays into the way you see yourself, the way you see the world. “The mental part is really important,” she said. “I feel confident.”

Last year, when she went to Tibet, she carried her own pack. That’s something she wouldn’t have done before. And she could whip it on and off her shoulders, no problem.  She had neither the muscle nor flexibility to do that before. When she started, she couldn’t lift her arms over her head. She couldn’t squat. Now, she’s able to press and squat and lift like never before.

Susie’s son, who convinced her to see Dave in the first place, has made her a promise: if she deadlifts her bodyweight, he’ll throw her a party.

The festivities are imminent.