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73-Year-Old Shares Incredible Fitness Saga

Linda Wood-Hoyte stopped plane hijacker, outran an Olympic track star and is now defying her age in the gym.

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73-Year-Old Grandma Gets Super Fit
73-Year-Old Grandma Gets Super Fit

At 73 years old, Linda Wood-Hoyte isn’t your typical septuagenarian. Instead of using her age as an excuse to slow down, the NPC and IFBB judge and pro bodybuilder has opted to ramp up the intensity as she looks into entering Guinness World Records as the oldest woman to execute a 100-pound one-arm dumbbell row or a 500-pound leg press.

Such a prestigious achievement would complement some of Wood-Hoyte’s other incredible stories, namely the time she outran an Olympic track star and when she stopped a lunatic from hijacking an airplane. The first took place in 1956 at a New York Police Athletic League meet, where Wood-Hoyte and her team dethroned the reigning champs in a head-to-head 440-meter relay race. Wood-Hoyte took on Wilma Rudolph—and won. Rudolph had earned a bronze medal at the 1956 Olympic Games and was known as the “fastest woman on earth.” (She went on to win three gold medals at the 1960 Summer Olympics.)

SEE ALSO: Dolph Lundgren’s Age-Defying Workouts

For Wood-Hoyte, pursuing track and field at the collegiate level seemed like the obvious next step, but she found herself at Trans World Airlines, where she became an in-flight supervisor in charge of flight-quality management. The job was mostly routine, except for one transatlantic flight.

It was the early 1980s and Wood-Hoyte was on board flight No. 700 from New York to London—as was one unruly passenger who, disgusted with his meal, dumped it onto the floor. A few hours later, the Federal Aviation Administration informed her that the same (presumably hungry) passenger was holding a flight attendant at knifepoint and claimed to be carrying a grenade. The attacker wanted to land in Nairobi, but that wasn’t going to happen on Wood-Hoyte’s watch. She persuaded the unhinged man to go to the plane’s upper deck for a cocktail. While he was distracted, she recruited the five biggest men on board. When the time was right, she sent them in.

“I was standing on the stairs and heard such a rumble; you could see people getting thrown around,” Wood-Hoyte recalls. “When I walked in, I said, ‘Holy crap!’ [The aggressor] beat the living heck out of them before they finally pinned him down.”

They cuffed the assailant and kept an eye on him until the plane touched down, where the CIA, FAA, and FBI were all on hand to greet the perp. “It was like a scene out of a movie,” she adds.

Despite her heroics, the modest Wood-Hoyte could think only about how the crazy ordeal was going to hold up her mother, who was babysitting Wood-Hoyte’s son.

She would break her decades-long hiatus from working out at age 39, and it was “instantaneous love” from the first time she picked up a dumbbell. Having good genetics and previous training as a sprinter provided a solid base to work with, and it wasn’t long before her training partners began to notice her rapid progression.

SEE ALSO: The 8 Oldest, Most Jacked Men in the Gym

“One day they said, ‘Would you like to compete?’” Confused, Wood-Hoyte asked, “Compete, what is that? They showed me a few poses, got me a suit, and took me over to a local high school. I won [the contest] and thought it was pretty cool.”

Since that first show 34 years ago, Wood-Hoyte went on to place first in more than 10 amateur shows, even winning back-to-back NPC Team Universe Championships in 1994 and 1995 as a heavyweight—in her 50s! While she never officially won an IFBB pro card, Wood-Hoyte was granted pro status because every show she had won at that time was a pro qualifier.

Nowadays, Wood-Hoyte stays involved in the sport by judging NPC and IFBB competitions and as a personal trainer and health coach. Outside the fitness industry, she serves as the president of the Mid-Island Club—a branch of the National Association of Negro Business & Professional Women’s Clubs, located in Suffolk County, NY. The nonprofit organization has granted more than $150,000 in scholarships over the years, works with the AARP on health issues, and looks for many other ways to improve the community.

Even with all her projects—her job, helping raise her grandson, and her passion for pets (she owns two cats, two dogs, and two birds), Wood-Hoyte still makes time for the gym. On back days, she’ll knock out 24 sets as she works toward boosting her 1RM on the dumbbell row. It’s a grueling task, but a lot easier than stopping hijackers.


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Wood-Hoyte's Back Workout

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One-arm Dumbbell Row

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