Over 40 Amateur Of The Week: Kelly Needle Lives To Lift!

Kelly's stellar physical condition saved her life in a horrible car accident. Now she lifts like her life depends on it. See why this 46-year-old fighter refuses to quit!


How did your fitness journey begin?

I was uncomfortable in my own skin as a teenager. At age 12, I tipped the scale at more than 200 pounds. At age 15, I got the nerve to ask the group of guys at the local gym for some pointers. They took me under their wing and I started working out daily.

During one of my workouts, the guys threw a few hundred pounds on the leg press and I did 40 reps without much effort. They thought it would be good for me to train as a powerlifter. I didn't have a clue what they were talking about, but I went along with it. After a year, I was lifting crazy numbers and noticed a flyer at the gym about Olympic powerlifting that had a junior division. I thought I found my niche.

In March 1984, at age 17, my life came to a crashing stop when I was involved in a near fatal car accident that ended my lifting career. I was resuscitated, intubated, suffered a broken neck and three skull fractures, broke my jaw in five places, crushed my right orbital bone, broke my nose, fractured my right hip, lost hearing in one ear, had a torn oblique, and suffered memory loss.

I spent 33 days in the hospital and a year in rehab. The doctors said my peak condition saved my life. They told me never to lift weights again. For the next 10 years, I was in constant pain to the point where I couldn't get out of bed for days on end. The pain brought me to the brink of actually thinking about ending my life. I was on so much medication that I couldn't think straight.

At age 30, I suffered another setback when I had a minor stroke. I finally had enough and threw away my meds against every doctor's advice and went back to the gym. It was brutal for the first year. I didn't touch a weight but worked to achieve perfect form by going through the motions as if the weights were in my hands. I also educated myself in every aspect of weight training and wellbeing for my spirit. Several other avenues opened for me and I started doing yoga, meditation, acupuncture, swimming, and under water weight training.

"Training literally saved my life."

As the years passed, I started incorporating weights into my program. In 2010, I saw a transformation challenge in a fitness magazine and decided to give it a try. I followed the plan and became unbelievably skinny ripped but felt weak even though I looked strong. Looking back at the pictures, I looked sickly and emaciated.

In the past four years, I transformed my body. My journey has been long and this is only one of the many chapters in my life. I still have days when I'm in pain. My injuries left me with osteoarthritis and my body swells occasionally, but I keep pushing through. I'm back to lifting and do field work and conditioning daily. Training literally saved my life. I can honestly say death came knocking on my door and when I answered it knew it was no match for me and went running.

I listen to lots of motivational speeches and one sticks out in my mind from University of Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban who said, "Sometimes will, heart, and desire have a funny way of trumping logic." I finally feel comfortable in my own skin. I don't need any trophy to determine my self worth. I've been blessed with tragedy and triumph. Without despair or tragedy, one will never know the feeling of being truly triumphant. My name is Kelly and I'm a warrior!

How did your passion for fitness emerge?

What drives me to get better and keep going is the ability to live each day pain free.

What/Who motivated you?

Being a positive role model for my children and grandchildren motivates me. I love when my children look at pictures from my accident or when I was obese and they say "wow!" They can see that hard work and determination makes all things possible.

Where did you go for inspiration?

I look no further than the mirror.

What are your future fitness plans?

I would love to educate through writing articles. I have lots of knowledge in this area and would love to share it. I want to work with women age 40 and older and young girls concerned about body image. I also want to work with people who have injuries and help them break through physical and mental barriers.

"Master your form before you add substantial weight. Good form is key."

What is the most important fitness tip?

Master your form before you add substantial weight. Good form is key.

Who is your favorite bodybuilder/fitness athlete?

I used to watch Jack LaLanne every morning on television as a kid, but I have lots of admiration and respect for several athletes.

How did Bodybuilding.com help you reach your goals?

Bodybuilding.com gives me a connection to others who have similar goals. The site contains a massive collection of exercises and stellar articles.

Kelly's Top 5 Gym Tracks

  1. "Stranglehold" by Ted Nuggent
  2. "Release Me" by Pearl Jam
  3. "Lightning Crashes" by Live
  4. "What's This Life For" by Creed
  5. "Lose Yourself" by Eminem