Albuquerque elderly couple up for national fitness award

Joe and Janet Williams
Joe and Janet Williams

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – An Albuquerque husband and wife are the only New Mexicans to make it to the top 10 in a nationwide fitness competition this year.

But you can’t measure their strength in the amount of weight they lift or how far they run. Their strength shows in a very different way and they need your votes to take home the award.

Joe and Janet Williams are both at least 65 years old.

“You have to be 65 plus to be in Silver Sneakers,” Joe Williams said. “We are and that’s all I can say because my wife says no way.”

It’s that sense of humor that may have helped the couple get nominated for a nationwide fitness competition.

At least three times a week the couple walks, stomps and sings their way to fitness inside a packed back room at Defined Fitness. Its part of the ‘Silver Sneakers’ program for those 65 and older.

Some might describe it as a fitness version of the hit TV show “Cheers.” Once you’re a member everyone knows your name.

Its apparent that Joe and Janet are familiar faces. The couple has been going there for 8 years now. But it wasn’t always that way.

Janet is now diagnosed with a rare bone marrow disease.

“Well I have a disease that I could have died from,” Janet Williams said. “I do have a medication that I take for treatment but it is not anything that will cure it.”

Janet said there was a time when it was difficult to even get off the sofa. The couple never dreamed that one day they would be a top 10 finalist for the program’s Richard L. Swanson Inspiration Award.

The award doesn’t measure how many reps the couple can tackle or how far they can run. It measures the how much they inspire others.

“We couldn’t believe it,” Joe said.

Joe said Janet inspires him everyday. Their instructor, Jackie Dugger, said they’re an inspirational team.

Dugger said Joe is Janet’s backbone when she’s weak and tired. The two never leave each other’s side.

“He wouldn’t come without her,” Dugger said. “So, she went and sat at the back of the room while he exercised.”

Dugger said despite everything the couple is going through it rarely shows in class.

Joe often races around the room grabbing chairs for those who can’t and jokes with others to lighten up the mood. Janet’s determination to beat the pain is written all over her face. Dugger said the pair deserves to not only be nominated for the inspiration award but they deserve to win.

The public decides who will take the award this year by voting on Silver Sneakers Facebook page until August 7th. You can vote once every 24 hours. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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