Kelly Nelson – Bodybuilding role model, passes away at age 84

July 9, 2012 by  

Daughter Colleen Fisher speaks about Kelly, a multi-time Parrillo  Performance Press athlete who championed the bodybuilding lifestyle

By Marty Gallagher

In the Pacific Northwest Kelly Nelson and daughter Colleen Fisher were a mother-daughter bodybuilder duo that were so unique and so inspirational that they garnered national and international attention. The reason for their uniqueness largely lay on Kelly’s lean and muscular shoulders; Colleen was a fantastic bodybuilder in her own right; with uber-feminine good looks and loads of stage charisma, she was (and is) a champion bodybuilder and quite formidable – however when her mother strode onstage bodybuilding audiences went wild – everywhere, every time.

When they both strode onstage together and began one of their patented dual posing routines, the synergy was palpable and the reception earsplitting. Kelly passed away recently after

Kelly Nelson

having lived a rich, full and complete life. Colleen recalled her mother from her own unique perspective. “Each and every day my mother lived life to its fullest; she was always looking forward to life’s next adventure.  We continually enjoyed conversations about training, nutrition, books, posing, shopping and what the next chapter in our respective lives would be or might be.  She was not your average mother and our mother/daughter relationship was unique in every way.”

Kelly wrung every last ounce of living out of life up until the very end. “Mom went to the gym up until the last month before her death at age 84.  She was determined to go on no matter what.  Unfortunately her childhood disease of Rheumatic Fever finally caught up to her.  Her heart suffered damage from her disease and it was determined that she would not be able to live without being on oxygen twenty four hours a day. It was at that time that she made the decision to start taking medically prescribed morphine. This made her more comfortable, but was her own way of admitting she was tired and wanted some peace.  She took her first and only dose of morphine, went to sleep and died 32 hours later with my brother and me by her side.  It was as she wanted it, done her way.  That is the kind of woman she was.  She was always calling the shots on her own terms.” Kelly kept the grim reaper at arm’s length until she decided it was time for her to rest; if there is such a thing as a perfect passing, this would have to be the benchmark. Live an active life into your mid-eighties, fit, healthy, hitting the weights, riding the bike until the deadly bug that had lain dormant for 80 years finally was able to escape Pandora’s Box. When Kelly decided it was time to rest, 32 hours later she passed into oblivion, painlessly, with family at her side.

Iron Origins: So how did this amazing lady attain, retain and maintain her youthful appearance, attitude and capacity? How did she manage to build a body that appeared decades younger than her chronological reality? It would be appropriate to take a long look at the training and nutritional strategies that allowed her to stay so young for so long. One amazing fact: Kelly didn’t begin her fitness odyssey until she hit the half century mark. “My mother did not pick up her first weight until she was 50 years old. Despite her late in life start, she went on to win more bodybuilding competitions than I can count and in 90% of those competitions she competed against women half her age.” Science has shown that resistance training combined with cardio and underpinned with sound nutrition is the finest system for maintaining quality of life late into life. This three-pronged approach
literally holds back the hands of time. Resistance training alone enables oldsters to resist and reverse the bane of older women: osteoporosis. Bones that are not stressed eventually become brittle and susceptible to easy breakage. Even minor falls are problematic. Parrillo-style resistance training, taken up after a life of total inactivity, causes light and porous bones to thicken and acquire density needed to avoid breakage. Science indicates weight training could cut broken hips by 70%. Kelly took to weight training like the proverbial duck to water; she loved to lift and used “straight Parrillo” hardcore lifting to mold and shape her petite musculature. “Mom worked out with weights four or five days a week for decades. This was not ‘old person’ compromise weight training; she trained hard and heavy and always sought to equal, exceed or extend her personal bests in the various lifts.” Even late in life Kelly pumped iron three times a week.

Kelly Cardio: Kelly loved cardio and her favorite form of aerobic exercise was bike riding – not stationary indoor bike riding on the stationary bike, but biking on the street. Colleen recalled how this amazing lady could always be seen riding her 21-speed racing bike in her Washington State neighborhood. “My mother always rode her bike to and from the gym when she was living in Wenatchee. She consistently logged at least 50 miles per week. She rode her bike up until age 80 and periodically joined other serious bikers on long distance rides; she would regularly join the local bikers on 100 mile, single day, long distance bike rides. In the winter she would cross country ski. She did this until her late 70’s.” Wow. Imagine the cardio capacity of this elderly mighty-mite. This type of aerobic activity would be impressive and praise worthy for a 25 year old female – for a 78 year old it was and is mind-blowing. “My mom loved being outdoors, riding hard and breathing in clean fresh air while taking in the magnificent natural scenery.” Treadmills and stationary bikes and stair-steppers and gym cardio bored her to tears. She and Colleen used a specific Parrillo aerobic strategy to burn body fat. “Our philosophy was to engage in intense cardio in the morning before breakfast on an empty stomach. We would also ‘springboard’ into cardio after a high-intensity weight training session.” During intense weight training, glycogen is burned at a furious rate; by depleting glycogen and performing cardio after weight training, the body, deprived of its beloved glycogen (emulsified carbohydrates) is forced to use body fat to power the cardio session. Thus the body is “maneuvered” into using body fat as fuel to power cardio activity. This decades old Parrillo tactic is a continual favorite of hardcore elite bodybuilders.

Nutrition – straight Parrillo: So how did Kelly stay tight and lean and strong and capable when her age contemporaries were falling apart and gaining more fat and more immobility with each successive year? Colleen related that Kelly was a vegetarian most of her adult life.  “From about age 55 onward, she existed mostly on eggs, plants, fruits and vegetables – though she would eat fish on occasion.” Kelly used Parrillo Performance powerful supplements every day to provide the protein and core amino acids she knew she needed in order to recover, heal and grow after her hardcore lifting sessions. “Mom would always start her day with a bowl of oatmeal topped with a few poached organic eggs. She loved Parrillo Creatine Monohydrate™ and took the first of her 3-5 daily doses with her breakfast. Mid-morning she would have a Parrillo Bar and some nuts.  Lunch was usually brown rice with beans and some assorted vegetables. Mid-afternoon she would have grapes or whatever fruit was in season (always organic) or perhaps a sweet potato. She loved Parrillo 50/50 Plus™ shakes and she took lots and lots of Parrillo Muscle Amino Formula™ capsules. Her dinner would typically consist of a salad with lots of assorted vegetables augmented with some type of beans or perhaps another sweet potato or some nutty brown rice. Once a week she would have a nice portion of fresh fish.  Sometimes for a snack she would have oatmeal mixed with Parrillo Hi-Protein Powder™. She often would mix in walnuts and raisins with her oatmeal/Hi-Protein™

Bodybuilding’s competitive tigress: “My mother loved competing. She amazed and inspired me with her enthusiasm when getting ready for a contest. She loved seeing the changes in her physique in those final frantic weeks leading up to a competition. She was always setting the bar a little higher for herself each time she competed. Mom was outgoing and loved being onstage. She looked so young for her age that people were continually incredulous and in disbelief.” Kelly credited her youthful look, attitude and demeanor to the bodybuilding lifestyle. “She loved hard work and when it was time for her to gear up for a looming competition, you could see the fire in her eyes. She would attack each subsequent training session. Her posing routines were not what you might expect: My mother was far more flamboyant in her routines than I was; she was continually honing and refining her posing routines.” Asked what competitive memories stood out, Colleen said, “My strongest show memories of her were our annual participation in the Emerald Cup, the top show in Washington State. At the Oregon State bodybuilding championships in 1998 we both competed and we both won our classes and ended up onstage together in the final pose down for the overall title. It was just the two of us. She won the Grand Master title while I won the Master title and the overall title.  This was extremely special and obviously a rare, once in a lifetime experience for us.  Very emotional and beyond words! We went on to compete nationally in 1998 and won the Master’s and Grand Master’s National title. 1998 was her peak competitive year: I will never forget 1998. After our series of wins in 1998, different media outlets called us almost daily.  We did TV appearances, a ton of joint photo shoots; we produced a DVD and were featured in many magazines.  Most of the specifics about which TV shows we were on and what national magazines we were featured in can be found on my web site. Anyone that would like to purchase a copy of our 1998 DVD can
do so.”

Timeless, ageless legacy: My mother left behind many life lessons for people in general and particularly women over 50. No one should feel that it’s too late for fitness. Keep in mind she didn’t commence her fitness journey until age 50 and the first lesson she taught is that the bodybuilding lifestyle – resistance training combined with consistent aerobic training and underpinned with rock solid nutrition (rounded out with potent Parrillo supplements) can and will have a dramatic effect on the shape of your physique – no matter how out of shape you might be or how late in life you start. You don’t have to be a competitive bodybuilder to embrace the bodybuilding lifestyle and reap the health benefits. She would say, ‘Live life fully and live life healthily and live life with sanity and balance.  Don’t let the negative people get you down and try not to be judgmental. Do your own thing; even if it means being different. I am forever grateful to the woman who brought me into this world and changed my life.  I will continue to live the lifestyle of health and fitness and hopefully continue to inspire people along the way. There are no words to describe all that she taught me and how much she inspired me and how she inspired so many people. She was my mentor, confidant, my best friend and trusted advisor. Mom was the one and only person I know who completely immersed herself in the bodybuilding lifestyle. She loved every minute of it and I think that perhaps her late start allowed her to exert what seemed to be effortless discipline.  Thank you Mom – I love you and miss you!


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