5 Fit Women Whose Stories Inspire Us
These five inspirational women share the various hurdles they've overcame to be named the future of fitness.
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If you’re a regular Oxygen reader, you know we love to highlight inspirational women from our badass community of fitness fanatics. Here are five women who take fitness to the next level.
Grassie, Ontario, Canada
Stats: 51 • 140 lb • 5’9”
Gig: Housecleaner and model
Medical Scare. In 2011, Charlene Farnsworth found a lump on her throat. Thankfully, it wasn’t cancer, but doctors diagnosed her with Hashimoto’s disease, a condition in which the immune system attacks the thyroid. At age 40, she had her thyroid surgically removed and did a 180 on her then-healthy lifestyle: She wanted to indulge.
Overdoing It. Farnsworth ditched her workout routine and abandoned clean eating in favor of junk food like poutine and pizza. Seven years into her binge and a few months before her 48th birthday, she stepped onto the scale. The number confirmed what she had been feeling: She was overweight and in the worst shape of her life.
Promises and Progress. Farnsworth vowed to flip the script by the time she turned 50. She adopted an 80:20 approach to nutrition — 80 percent of the time she ate clean and healthy, and 20 percent of the time she allowed herself some treats. She also hired a personal trainer and worked out five to six days a week with a focus on strength training.
Model Behavior. Now 51, Farnsworth is back on track and has been able to showcase her physique as a fitness model. In an effort to inspire others looking to start a fitness journey later in life, she has taken to social media to share tips and tricks she has learned along the way. “Start small, one day at a time, and go for incremental gains,” she says.
Stats: 40 • 145 lb • 5’11”
Kicking the Bucket. Jacqueline Duke began dancing as soon as she could walk, and she also played volleyball. At age 14, she began lifting weights as part of her team training. However, lifting didn’t become a serious passion until recently. “My husband and I wanted to get into the best shape of our lives before our 40th birthdays and compete in the NPC as a bucket-list goal,” she says. And they succeeded: In 2020, Duke crushed her bikini debut, taking first at a local show, and in 2021, she won the Overall Masters Bikini title at the NPC/IFBB Pittsburgh Pro Championships. Now she’s gunning for her pro card.
Words of the Wise. Duke is living proof that age is just a number. “The human body is miraculous,” she says. “Never did I think I would be on the verge of being a professional athlete at age 40! It is never too late to start.”
100 Percent. Balancing training, a career and a family isn’t easy, but Duke’s secret sauce is simple. “At the gym, I am 100 percent there; at work, I am 100 percent present and focused on my patient; and at home, my daughter and husband get 100 percent of my attention,” she says.
Why Weight? Duke is an ectomorph and has to work harder than the average Jane to make progress. “I have seen an incredible transformation from heavy lifting using low reps and pushing to failure,” she says. And though she doesn’t regularly do cardio, Duke still dances for fun.
Queens, New York
Stats: 34 • 127 lb • 5’4”
Gig: Coach, strength & conditioning specialist
Reining It In. At age 25, Aja Campbell was unhappy and overweight. She had been diagnosed with depression and anxiety disorder and had just gone through a difficult breakup. During a therapy session, the topic of fitness came up, and Campbell remembered her former self: a high-school tennis player who made team captain her junior and senior years. But she veered off track in college and gained a lot of weight. “I decided that day to take the reins back on my life,” she says.
From Crushed to Crushing It. Campbell initially tried yoga, but it wasn’t a fit. Then she tried CrossFit — and never looked back. “I learned not to focus on the number on the scale but rather on what my body was capable of,” she says. Through consistent work, Campbell lost 60 pounds. She became certified as a CrossFit coach, earned her CSCS and started her own online coaching business called AttaGirl. “Now I want to make fitness more accessible to women from all socioeconomic backgrounds,” she says.
The Path of an Empath. From pro athletes to cancer survivors, Campbell has touched the lives of many. She approaches each client with empathy, remembering the hardships she herself had to overcome at the start of her fitness journey. “I was once a woman who just needed a plan, and I can relate to the struggle of those trying to find consistency and balance,” she says. “I think of myself as a little girl who is watching me from afar. I can’t let her see me quit. She needs to know that [success] is possible.”
Highlands Ranch, Colorado
Stats: 43 • 124 lb • 5’
Gig: Mom and model
Fighting Genetics. Karina Rabin was never athletic and growing up was overweight, but after her 40th birthday, she decided to change. “I have genetic kidney and liver disease, and I watched my mother and two brothers pass away from this condition,” she says. “I wanted to live longer and get healthy for my family.” She also desperately wanted to avoid dialysis, so she started to work out.
Physique: Found. At first, Rabin focused on cardio. She lost a little weight but wasn’t really satisfied — until she began resistance training. “Lifting weights helped me create a completely different body,” Rabin says. “Now I see [in the mirror] what I had been wanting to see for the last 25 years.” Her favorite physical feature is her abs, which she’s managed to keep rock hard despite two cesarean sections.
Livin’ Live. Rabin became a certified trainer and started a community of women on Facebook who share the same goals. “Seven days a week, the Eat Your Way to Fit group meets and works out live with me,” she says. “My dream is to offer more live classes so women can join any time of day, based on their availability.”
Family First. Outside the gym, Rabin is dedicated to her family and cites her husband as her biggest ally. “I have been married to my blind date for nearly 13 years,” she says. “We meal-prep together, joined a gym together and have two young boys together. My husband has supported me the most throughout this journey.”
Stats: 29 • 125 lb • 5’4”
Gig: Gym owner
Davis Digs. Noel Davis always wanted to be an archaeologist. She earned her archaeology degree at Manchester University. In 2014, Davis was asked to be part of an excavation project, a dream come true. But a traumatic car accident put the brakes on her dream. She incurred a terrible back injury and had to undergo a year of physical therapy.
Back on Track. Davis lost strength and stability in her back and asked her doctors what she could do to speed the healing process. They suggested focusing on building her core, which in turn would strengthen her back. She took their suggestion and fell in love with exercise. Davis was so excited about her success that she became a certified trainer.
Boss Lady. Today, Davis owns Paris Fit Studios and offers up to 70 workouts a week, both online and in person. “Eventually, I’d like to franchise my gym and bring affordable fitness to local neighborhoods to bring down the obesity rate,” she says.
Alexa, Meditate. When it comes to her own training, Davis loves to work out in the morning. “That’s when I have the most energy, and it’s therapeutic listening to the birds chirp,” she says. Once she’s done, she zones in on her Zen. “I do guided meditations using Alexa,” Davis says. “Afterward, I am super relaxed and able to enjoy the rest of my day.”