Back to All Stories

At 61, Cancer Survivor Deborah Galletti Can Deadlift More Than Her Adult Children

This lawyer and fitfluencer talks about aging gracefully and being able to lift more than her kids can.

Fitness influencer Deborah Galletti poses with Tonal.

When 61-year-old Pilates instructor and yoga teacher Deborah Galletti was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015, she could have easily scrapped her workout schedule. There would be challenging days ahead, but she’s not built like that. 

“I was already feeling so strong,” she recalled during a sit-down interview with Tonal. “I was running the fastest I had ever run, and then, boom, out of nowhere, this diagnosis. I was like, you can feel sorry for yourself, or you can take the bull by the horns and fight it.”

She opted for the latter. Two days after Galletti underwent surgery to remove the cancerous lump in her breast, she was back in indoor cycling class with one arm pinned to her waist to protect the surgery site and the other on the handlebar. 

“I wanted to live,” she explained. “I was determined to get back on that bike. I couldn’t run for a while, but I was definitely going to do everything but run. My doctors were asking what planet I was from, but for me, it worked.”

With that determination, it’s no wonder that Galletti, who also works as an international intellectual property lawyer, has been training most of her life. She started out as a ballet dancer, attending The Washington School of Ballet. Dance required a level of discipline that then provided Galletti the foundation and structure for consistent exercise through the years, but now, training isn’t about performance or aesthetics. Galletti works out because it makes her a happier person. 

“I started realizing as I matured that I just want to be me, my best me,” she said. “I want to look the way I am. But it’s not just about the look; it’s about how I feel and what I can do.”

And she can do plenty. Her Instagram, which is now over 100,000 followers, showcases Galletti pushing and pulling weight, practicing a variety of handstand holds, cranking out pull-ups, and performing aerial Lyra and boxing—all things she said she couldn’t dream of doing even in her 20s. “I flipped a 220-pound tire last week,” she said. “That is empowering.” She’s on a mission to share that power and inspire other women to stay active at any age

Pull quote: "I don't want to be 20. My kids are in their 20s, but I can deadlift more than my kids. I can do more pull-ups than my kids. And that's incredible."

The fitness pro loves to mix up her workouts, but there’s always a strength element to her program. That’s what made Tonal a perfect addition to her routine. Galletti said she likes to program her own workouts in the morning, then she can hit an extra pump session on-trainer in the evening at home where she only needs to tap a few buttons to choose a class. Galletti was working through Coach Liz’s three-week Lean In program at the time of this interview.

Seeing the real-time stats on the screen, measuring her power output, and monitoring her range of motion also adds another layer of motivation. Galletti remembered being shocked when she completed a session and learned she had lifted over 7,000 pounds. “How many cars is that?” she asked. “It’s got to be at least one.” (For the record, it’s about two.) 

The heavy lifting doesn’t happen every day, but there aren’t many days that pass without Galletti joining some kind of training session. “Some people would probably say I don’t recover enough,” she said while being sure to mention she emphasizes sleep. But she has found what works best for her, and that may not work for everyone.

Whether she adds in active recovery, a different training modality, scales intensity, or simply hits different body parts, Galletti isn’t exactly interested in skipping training days.“I’m doing what I find makes me happy,” she said. “Fitness, strength training—I love it, so I’m a happier person.”

Galletti might seem like an anomaly, but her goal is to encourage others to join her so she isn’t an outlier. Now cancer-free for seven years, Galletti preaches that anyone, of any age or gender can and should embrace strength training in whatever way feels accessible. 

“You need to find your path,” she said. “You want to age gracefully. I don’t want to be 20. My kids are in their 20s, but I can deadlift more than my kids. I can do more pull-ups than my kids. And that’s incredible.”

The information provided in this article is for educational and informational purposes only. Individuals with pre-existing health conditions, injuries, or concerns should consult with their healthcare provider before trying a new exercise or nutrition regimen.

More Strength Stories