Vibrant, energetic and glowing with good health, Coach Colleen Cortez is a poster child for fitness after 50. At 58, the former Ms. Olympia bodybuilding champion shows no sign of slowing down.
An inspiration and role model for Welcyon-Henderson members, you’d never guess that her childhood was consumed by a life-threatening disease. And if not for a chance encounter on a Canadian beach, she might have never overcome it.
Colleen was only 10 when the awful stomach pains began. Pale and gaunt, she lost weight and had little energy for play and sport. Eventually, she was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, a debilitating intestinal disorder.
Growing up among the lakes and rolling hills of the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, she dreamed of a life free from doctors and prescriptions; a life where she could be strong and vital like the women in the sports magazines she read. But as she got older, things only seemed to get worse.
I was only 23 and I felt like a 98-year-old woman.
“I was only 23 and I felt like a 98-year-old woman,” Colleen recalled. “I had gout—every joint was inflamed. I was on Prednisone, cortisone, a whole pharmacy of meds.”
One day, while sun bathing on the shores of Lake Okanagan, she was approached by a tanned and muscular young man. He looked like someone out of a magazine, she remembered. They talked about body building, and he encouraged her to try it.
“He said I had the ‘right build’ for it, which seemed like a joke at the time,” she said. Intrigued, Colleen visited the gym that week and started working out. After a few months of training her life was transformed. “I started getting strong and healthy. I was beginning to look and feel really good.”
It doesn’t matter how old you are, or what physical challenges you’re facing. You can improve, and get stronger and healthier in every way.
At 25 Colleen competed in her first body-building competition. She never looked back.
Since then, she has earned a long string of body-building achievements, including the prestigious Ms. Olympia Championship. Competing against 25 other women—all of them years younger—Colleen won the title when she was 47 years old. If disease was no longer a limiting factor, neither was age.
Realizing she had a knack for helping others learn their way around the gym, Colleen became a certified trainer.
After moving to Las Vegas in 2000, she focused on training elite athletes. But a stint as a trainer at Curves opened her eyes to a whole other clientele—and a level of need that was deeply familiar.
“These women weren’t athletes. Many of them had never even been to a gym. A lot of them were older and facing health challenges. I know what it’s like to feel unhealthy—to feel hopeless. But I knew I could help them.”
Inspired by the determination and bravery of her clients, Colleen shifted her focus to working with people over 50. When she learned about Welcyon, it seemed like a natural match for her passion.
“It doesn’t matter how old you are, or what physical challenges you’re facing,” she said. “You can improve, and get stronger and healthier in every way. I’ve lived that, and watched a lot of other people live it, too. That’s why I chose to work at Welcyon. It’s our mission, and we’re bringing it to more people than ever.”
From the illness of her early years to her triumphs as a body builder, and now in her role as Welcyon coach, Colleen is an inspiration to all who know her.
If you haven’t had a chance to visit with Colleen yet, make a point of dropping by the club. She’ll be happy to take you on a tour, and guide you through a few complimentary workouts.
She’ll show you how the Welcyon program can help you with your own health challenges, improving your fitness and getting you twice as strong within a year.