I am a member of the CF Masters group on Facebook. The group started as a place for masters aged CrossFitters (45+) to share training experiences. I check the group page every now and then and have posted or commented several times. Mostly though, I scan through the posts of others. I started to notice a trend. The thread seemed to be a place where everyone posted about their injuries. Are they all CrossFit injuries? Not necessarily. I think a lot of injuries with older people stem from prior injuries or conditions that now flare up or get even worse due to the repetitive/overuse nature that stems from high intensity interval training.
I was at the first Affiliate Gathering a few years back. Greg Glassman, the founder of CrossFit introduced his new philosophy that the goal of CrossFit was to “increase work capacity across broad time, modal, AND AGE domains.” Glassman went on to talk about trying to constantly increase your work capacity into old age by using CrossFit. Glassman was sure that CrossFit would lead all of us into old age with our health and being able to live independently. I remember him saying that they were gathering data to prove his theory.
I know it’s only been a few years, but I would love to see this data that is being collected. Is CrossFit proving to be good for older people or is it hurting them? Many older people will read this and say, “Freddy, CrossFit has been the best thing that has ever happened to me. I feel better. I look better. Plus, I am seeing improvement everyday.” I don’t doubt you for a second, but I think you need to ponder a few things before you keep trying to get a new PR for the Filthy Fifty.
When you dedicate yourself to a new exercise regimen, you can achieve positive results in 1-2 weeks. You can continue to make improvements over the next few weeks, but at some point, unless you make adjustments (variety) to your training, you will hit a plateau. There is a ton of variety in CrossFit, thus, the point at which you hit the plateau comes later, BUT SOONER OR LATER YOU WILL HIT A PLATEAU. For me, it was about the two year mark. New PR’s came real hard after that.
Another thing to consider is the fact that you are training in an exercise regimen that is in an competitive environment. You tend to push yourself harder than when you were walking through the machine circuit at 24HR Fitness. It was once said that men will die for points. Older folks are at CrossFit gyms hanging and banging with younger people. They aren’t necessarily the best athletes, but they keep trying. They push themselves harder than they really should. I’ve lost several good 40+ athletes at One World because they couldn’t turn off the ego and the price they paid was injury.
CrossFit has been around since 2001, but it has really only been the last two years that it has taken off thanks to the CrossFit Games. Now there is a Master’s Division in the CrossFit Games. Lots of older athletes are competing in local competitions and doing well. The master’s division is so small still, that you can be an okay athlete and do pretty good. All of a sudden, doing something that you started to get healthier and feel better is something you want to do make it to the Home Depot Center in July. Your training steps up. You may or may not have a coach who is smart enough to program for an older aged person and thinks that getting to the Games means CrossFit workouts 5 to 6 days a week. Is this really healthy for a person 40, 50 or 60+ years old? Not even considering the CrossFit Games, is a gym’s regular CrossFit programming good for older people at your local CrossFit gym?
We don’t have to many older folks at One World. The majority of our athletes are in their 20’s and 30’s. We’ve seen a lot of older folks come and go. The fact of the matter is CrossFit is hard and it hurts. Recovery is an issue as you get older, thus making consistency in training hard. If you don’t eat smart, sleep lots, and take some good supplements, trying to keep up with the youngsters or even trying to keep up with your own goals can bite you in the ass.
So to all you old farts out there in CrossFit land, do yourself a favor. Turn off your ego. Train smart with more emphasis in strength training (strong does an old body good). I would avoid gluten as you get older to increase gut health and decrease inflammation. Sleep more, it's great for recovery. Don’t work “through” an injury or pain, work “around” them. Avoid high rep workouts and overuse of the joints. Even when scaled down, workouts with multiple reps at high intensity can be doing more damage to tendons and ligaments than they do good.
For those of you older folks who are thinking about starting CrossFit, but you have bad knees, or shoulders, or back pain, or whatever.... please consider a different training program.
For those of you competing and are fairly new to training, search out someone to program for you who understands all the things I mentioned in the previous paragraph, but who also knows you personally. I’m fortunate that my girlfriend is a smart programmer, and she knows my weaknesses, strengths, and physical capabilities/injuries. My whole program is based on those three things.
10 years from now, we will know a lot. Will old people be superhuman compared to old people of the past, or will we all be hobbling around with walkers and unable to reach the dishes on the top shelf in the kitchen? Will the youngsters of today still be crushing CrossFit as they hit their 30’s, 40’s, and 50+? CrossFit really can’t make us promises about the future. The fact is that we are all lab rats right now.
Welcome to the experiment.
I really like this weeks upcoming programming. It's Monday, and we are opening the week with a "chipper" style workout. It will be interesting to see how everyone does.
Complete the following for time:
- 10 handstand push-ups
- 20 power cleans (M:155#/W:105#)
- 30 burpees
- 40 pull-ups
- 50 air squats
- 400m run
POWER HOUR 12/12/2011
- Perform 1 power clean every 30 seconds for 10 minutes (as heavy as possible)
- As many rounds as possible in ten minutees of 5 burpees/5 pull-ups