Northland Strong: Queen Jean

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Rain or shine, Jean Yelle never skips a work out. The last gym-day she missed was her birthday last year, October 11th.

She wasn’t always this committed to exercising. After 52 years of being in the workforce, she started her fitness journey after retirement.

"After sitting in a cubicle all those years, I knew that I needed to get out and move," Jean said. "Plus, I’ve got some family history of Alzheimer’s, specifically. And I know one of the things that you can do to help prevent that onset of Alzheimer’s is to stay physically active and keep yourself in the best shape possible."

And that’s exactly what she’s doing. At the Anytime Fitness in Hermantown she frequents, she’s better known as Queen Jean – or everyone’s Gym Grandma.

"I know so many people here and everybody is very accepting of me as a senior citizen and I really appreciate that."

Her dedication is denoted on the ‘top users’ wall right when you walk into the gym. It’s a leaderboard she’s been sitting at the top of for weeks.

Trainer Will Halloran says it’s not hard to see how passionate Jean is about her fitness.

"I tell everybody that that’s who you should aspire to be someday," said Halloran. "You could be brand new to the gym, you could be the same age as Jean, you could be 15 – it doesn’t matter. She’s going to take you in and make sure that you know that you’re welcomed here."

Jean’s daily dedication to fitness is an accomplishment for any age, but she says one of the things she loves most is setting an example for people who think they can’t do it themselves.

"I try and get 10,000 steps a day. I cross-country ski in the winter. I do a total body workout," said Jean. "People see that and they’re like, wow. If she can do it, I can too. I like to motivate people."

Jean says that her friend got her started on her fitness journey by introducing her to trail running groups and she now runs 5ks.

When she’s not at the gym, that is.