78-Year-Old John Ford Loses Wife, Finds Comfort in CrossFit

December 10, 2020 by
Courtesy of John Ford
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When his wife climbed into bed complaining of a headache, 78-year-old John Ford wasn’t too concerned. “I asked her if we needed to go to the hospital, and she said she didn’t. Then she laid down, and that was it,” Ford said of how his wife of 27 years, Mary Ann Ford, died at the age of 69 at the end of May 2020. “I tried to roll her over but she was non-responsive…the doctors said there wasn’t anything they could have done. She had a massive brain bleed probably from a blood pressure spike,” he said. 

  • Six months later, Ford continues to grieve. “I still have my moments when I’m alone at home in the evenings. Sometimes something can set me off and I’ll start bawling like a baby,” said Ford, who still works as a Real Estate appraiser. 

One big thing: Though he misses his wife “immensely,” joining CrossFit Xtra Mile in Fenton, MO in July — a gym owned by his granddaughter’s fiance Corey Lewis — has helped his emotional state in a big way, Ford said. 

  • “Sometimes when an elderly person’s spouse dies they have problems emotionally, and I didn’t want that to happen to me. I needed something to fill that void,” said Ford, who has been doing CrossFit workouts three or four days a week for the last six months.
  • “It helps me fill the time in my day. The less time I’m sitting around the better, and the atmosphere is just so positive and that’s exactly what I needed to be healthy mentally and physically,” he added. 
Courtesy of John Ford

The big picture: While CrossFit, for Ford, started as a way to cope with his grief, it has become a way of life, and something he intends to continue. He urges others his age to do the same.  

  • “ I think everyone is inclined to feel proud when they achieve something. There’s a sense of achievement when you’re improving yourself…even if it’s just fitting into those pants that you haven’t worn in 10 years. To me, that’s a big thing. So if you can get yourself on a path to better physical health, your mental health will also improve,” he said. 
  • Ford’s accomplishments so far have included improving his balance and flexibility, especially in his legs and hips, and losing eight pounds. “I have noticed my flexibility has improved so much. I can get into certain positions I never could before. It’s incredible,” Ford said. “And I was always hesitant to walk down stairs carrying things because of my balance. Now I’m not,” he said.

Notable: Ford is also a cancer survivor — he battled prostate cancer in 2006 — and recently found out some of the cancer has come back. He will go through radiation in January and February 2021, but said he isn’t too concerned, as he knows his fitness will help him get through it unscathed. 

  • “The doctor said sometimes there’s fatigue with radiation, but he said to me, ‘With the shape you’re in, you probably won’t even experience that’…I talked to Corey last night and I’m going to keep coming to the gym every day (through radiation treatments), and if there’s some fatigue then he said we can just adapt what I do,” Ford said.

Ford’s next step: To improve his upper body strength. “I’d like to take that to the next level…Other than that, CrossFit has just become a part of my life. I don’t have any really specific goals, except, I guess just to stay as healthy as possible,” he said.

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