No one wants to get old. Unfortunately, it happens to the best of us.
If you are young I would doubt that the simple act of getting out of bed means anything to you. As you age this task can become something you have to think about and you physically feel while doing it.
When I asked the mostly young people at CrossFit why they came there was a powerful sense of wanting to be physically strong and to be challenged. For me, and I am sure other seniors who happen to wander into the program, it is regaining the ability to do what young people do and take for granted. Getting strong is the result of CrossFit but for seniors getting strong has an entirely different meaning.
Because I wasn’t doing CrossFit or any core strengthening exercise my body was aging in what I would say in a typical way. I gained weight, my joints hurt from what I was told was arthritis, my back hurt and my general mobility was getting more and more limited. Things such as getting out of bed, bending over to pick up items off the floor and getting up from the toilet were all becoming tasks, not just something I did unconsciously.
As a person who is not athletic I accepted these issues as a sign of normal aging. Keep in mind I was walking a few miles everyday and doing yoga several times a week. Still, I wasn’t moving away from aches and pains, I was definitely moving towards them. Rapidly.
When I started CrossFit in Grass Valley, CA at the CrossFit Gold Rush gym I had no idea how the program was going to directly affect and reverse the issues of aging in ten different and significant areas of my life. CrossFit coaches have what I call “a knowing.” They know how to move you through the exercises in steps that give you the strength and the ability to perfect your technique. As I was moving from very primitive techniques in doing things like burpees, push ups, weighted bars, I was discovering things were getting better in other non-gym areas of my life.
Here are ten tasks that significantly improved since joining CrossFit.
1) Stairs. Stairs were always a cause for dread. Having to hoist yourself up each one and holding onto the railing for dear life while rapidly getting out of breath. Six months into CrossFit I noticed I was walking up the middle of the stairs, pain free and had my breath at the top. Wow.
2) Chairs and couches. I always had to assess the height of the chair or couch before deciding to sit down. In many circumstances I had no choice but to sit and if the couch or chair was particularly low to the ground, I would dread the act of getting up off of them. It was painful and difficult to pull up from a lowered seat and it hurt my joints. Today I don’t even think about it. I am able, without assistance from my arms or anyone pulling me up, to stand up from a seated position directly.
3) Toilets. It probably sounds crazy to younger and fit people but it was often difficult to get up and down from the toilet. At home I would need to push off the toilet with my arms to help get me up and if a public restroom it might be a nightmare if the toilet was very low to the ground as it is in most cases. Today this is just another mindless task as I stand up directly without thought or assistance.
4) Picking up items from the floor. It may not seem like a big deal to bend over and pick something up but for someone without core strength or mobility it is painful and difficult often resulting in light headedness and breathlessness. Today I like to say it feels like gliding when I reach down to pick something up. There is no pain and I have a lightness I hadn’t felt in a long time.
5) Getting in and out of cars, especially the backseat. Getting out of a car has the same challenges as getting up from couches and toilets. You simply do not realize how important core strength is to move from a sitting to standing position until you gain core strength and you are able to move up and down without effort.
6) Stumbling. When you lack core strength falling down is the usual thing that happens when you stumble or trip. Since joining CrossFit I have seen a significant difference in my body’s ability to regain balance if I stumble or trip simply from having stronger muscles. This is a real gift for seniors who can highly injure themselves when falling.
7) Opening jars. CrossFit has made me stronger in general. I can lift, move, and reposition many objects and pieces of furniture that would have been a sweat producing exercise otherwise. One of the key rewards is being able to open jars with ease as before they were often too hard and I did not have the strength to open them.
8) Shopping carts. Next time you are at the store watch how many overweight and out of shape seniors lean on the carts as they walk. I was getting in the same habit. Today I often grab a basket instead of a cart as I don’t need it for assistance.
9) Endurance. Having more body strength has given me the ability to stay longer, do more, and enjoy life more than ever before. Where I might have stayed 2 hours at an event before feeling fatigued I often stay much longer without a thought of my body getting tired.
10) A can do it attitude. Often I am faced with a task that I would rather not finish. I cannot tell you how doing CrossFit lifts ones spirit and gives you a “can do” attitude that spills over to everyday life.
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