Bay Area woman overcomes rare auto-immune disorder to set push-up world record


Holly Reese is no amateur when it comes to push-ups. She can crank them out like clockwork, all while keeping perfect form — And she has the proof to back it up.

Her love for push-ups began decades ago, back when she was a kid taking martial arts classes.

“I was the only girl in that class for a long time, and I was keeping up with the guys,” said Reese.

She said her instructor encouraged her to keep going with her push-ups and she did. As an adult she kept up on her training, becoming a health coach, always staying in peak shape, but then in her 40s, the unexpected happened.

“It hit me in 2001,” said Reese.

Reese was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disorder. Her days went from hitting the gym to barely being able to get out of bed.

“In pain all the time. Every cell,” said Reese.

It took over a decade for her to recover, and she spent the next decade getting back into shape. But then last year she got a hip replacement.

“I waited until I could handle the pain no more and then I was like I’ve got to do this,” said Reese.

The surgery went well but she knew the recovery process was going to take time. She needed something to keep her motivated.

That’s when she came up with an idea.

“I was like of course, fitness, duh. What’s your favorite exercise? Push-ups. Whose favorite exercise is push-ups? Mine. So, I was like, ‘OK, let’s look it up.’ I checked Guinness,” said Reese.

She reached out to Guinness World Records and told them her plan. She was going to try to set the record for the highest number of push-ups done by a woman in an hour. Guinness gave her the green flag and off to the races she went.

“This is my log book. Actually, from the time that I started training, it goes all the way through,” said Reese.

For the next year, she trained in her studio, doing hundreds of push-ups every session. The date was set for Sept. 30 and a practice run for Aug. 19. But then during the practice run, she actually did it.

“And I sent it all to them and they came back with, ‘You did it. You got 1,036 push-ups,'” said Reese.

The official certificate is now hanging on her studio wall. But just because she set the record during her practice run doesn’t mean she’s scrapping her big event on Sept. 30. Now, her goal for that day is to break her own record.

“The number that’s in my head is 1,060,” said Reese.

And not only does she feel confident she can hit that number, she’s also confident those who come to watch will be thoroughly entertained.

“Lavender Legend is my stage name. Lavender Legend, I love it because I love anything lavender,” said Reese.

It’s a night she hopes not only has her accomplishing a goal she’s worked a lifetime for but a night that also inspires others to reach for their own goals.

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