Years to our Life and Life to our Years! 7 reasons CrossFit is the perfect workout for the 50+ aged population
This article originally started out as “Twenty Reasons CrossFit is the PERFECT workout for those aged 50+”. Granted, twenty reasons are a convincing number but, as it goes, the research regarding bone density among seniors & the latest studies regarding the efficacy of high intensity workouts to combat dementia and memory loss as we age are really not that interesting of a read. All of them very important and convincing, but as an individual piece, it got to be a little too long. I did find however that several of the reasons were more important and could really stand on their own. Therefore, for brevity sake, I’ve decided that the top 7 reasons were sufficient to make my point. After coaching this age group for over a year now, it is easy for me to conclude that the hardest part of my job is not in the actual coaching, but in convincing this group that they can indeed do CrossFit. More importantly, that CrossFit is overwhelmingly, the most effective and efficient way for our age group to recover, rebuild & maintain a youthful and vibrant level of fitness in body, mind and spirit. Regardless of our age and in spite of the effects of the relentless passing of years, there is, hands down, no program on this planet that better prepares us for what life can bring in our later phases of life.
Reason #1 – CrossFit really is for everyone at any fitness level.
CrossFit is probably the most versatile, scalable and modifiable fitness regimen on the planet! Our functional movements are a perfect exercise recipe to keep us oiled, sharpened and ready for the decades of quality life ahead of us.
While the most recognized aspect of CrossFit is for the chiseled hard body ladies and gentlemen who are the fittest of the fit, that aspect is just the tip of the iceberg. The real secret of CrossFit is what it means to the rest of us. When you walk into any CrossFit gym for a session, you will be heartily welcomed and encouraged to start at whatever level you’re comfortable with.
Generally speaking, your coach will then focus on what you CAN do. You will then be taught and encouraged to do what you can do BETTER. You’ll then ultimately be coached to help you do MORE than you were capable of doing when you first arrived. The great thing about this model is that you are most likely to be surprised by what you are able to accomplish after a relatively short period of time.
You can also rest assured that there will NEVER be judgment for your present fitness level and only enormous respect for wanting to change for the better. You’ll probably NEVER find a more encouraging environment!
Reason #2 – CrossFit PERFECTLY addresses our diminishing flexibility.
As we get older it becomes obvious that we begin to lose the overall flexibility and range of motion that we once had.
Being that CrossFit is designed around multi joint, compound movements commonly referred to as “Functional Movements”, we will call into play a wider range of demands to discover and rectify ANY limitations we might uncover. Since we all age differently, CrossFit is the PERFECT tool to not only discover our own unique areas of reduced capacity, but to utilize these real life, functional movements, to keep us supple and flexible from here on out.
It is also worth noting here that in addressing our mobility issues in the gym, we are doing it in a safe, deliberate, systematic and controlled manner… (as opposed to finding them while changing a tire or working in the yard!)…
Reason #3 - CrossFit will reintroduce us to our basic, inherent & childlike sense of fun!
How many of us in the 50+ age bracket would associate the concept of working out as fun? Unfortunately, many of us have lost our very basic sense of what it means to play! Let’s face it, running, jumping, climbing, swinging, flipping large tires & climbing walls is playground type fun that I’m certain the most of us thought was gone forever.
Jumping rope is a prime example of what you’ll learn when walk in the door… Whether you pick it up without “skipping a beat” as it were, or struggle to get two in a row, you’re certain to have FUN working at it.
George Bernard Shaw made the keen observation that “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing”. Guess what everyone.. CrossFit again has the perfect solution to the problem. Come and join us. The playground is open!
Reason #4 – The CrossFit approach to strength training ideally addresses our individual needs.
While strength training is only one component in CrossFit, it is a MAJOR component. Many CrossFit programs (including ours) dedicate a specific time during every session to a controlled, coached, systematic approach to making us stronger. While there are probably dozens of specific benefits to weightlifting for the Masters age group, I can say in general that the evidence we’ve gleaned in the last few years indicate that strength training is over all, a bedrock foundation of health and wellness. ESPECIALLY as we get older.
All experts also seem to agree that there is no group that will benefit more from including weights with our fitness regimens than the 50+ age group. And guess what? Almost every study I see recommends we specifically utilize a coached, controlled and systematic approach that would most closely resemble what you’ll see when you visit your local CrossFit gym. Again, it appears that CrossFit nicely provides the perfect prescription for the masters aged athletes.
Reason #5 – CrossFit presents us with significant challenges.
Let’s face it, those of us who have achieved the 50 year milestone in our lives have pretty much spent our years to ensure that our lives could be lived without considerable challenge when we get here. What we’d probably not recognized however is the role that challenge plays in a meaningful existence.
To live a life that is full and meaningful it is imperative that we are continually challenged. I’m not talking “Crossword Puzzle Challenge” here… I’m talking about a level of challenge that truly tests our mental and physical makeup. A challenge that will tempt us to want to quit and to wonder if we can really finish what we’ve started.
CrossFit will never be a piece of cake and will always be a dragon to slay or a challenge to conquer. Be it a personal record, an impressive amount of work over a short period of time or a long and grueling set of tasks to work through one by one… At the end of each workout we’re presented with a genuine opportunity to be proud of a significant accomplishment.
Reason #6 – Misery Loves Company.
A basic and important aspect of CrossFit revolves around the group exercise model. No one can deny that a group element can help to motivate any of us to push on when things get tough. As we age it becomes significantly harder to do the simplest of movements… We can certainly still do them, but it’s never easy. For years the warm up for a simple squat would take an extra 5 minutes just to get me limber enough to reach the bottom of a deep squat. As aches and pains conspire to keep us from performing, the group camaraderie can help us to realize that we’re all in the same boat and will certainly continue to motivate us as we progress. We certainly aren’t alone in this and the group environment will help us to push on despite the difficulty.
Reason #7 – We all age differently and no matter what our specific need is, we’ve got you covered!
The very heart of the CrossFit methodology is that we work within a model of fitness that is comprised of ten specific and generally accepted skills. It is fascinating to me that as we age, we all suffer a loss of each of these skills or attributes in very unique and individual ways. Consider these skills as defined by Jim Cawley, the inventor of the Dynamax medicine ball and set forth in the ground breaking article “What is Fitness” by CrossFit founder Greg Glassman:
- Cardiovascular/respiratory endurance – The ability of body systems to gather, process, and deliver oxygen.
- Stamina – The ability of body systems to process, deliver, store, and utilize energy.
- Strength – The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply force.
- Flexibility – the ability to maximize the range of motion at a given joint.
- Power – The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply maximum force in minimum time.
- Speed – The ability to minimize the time cycle of a repeated movement.
- Coordination – The ability to com- bine several distinct movement patterns into a singular distinct movement.
- Agility – The ability to minimize transition time from one movement pattern to another.
- Balance – The ability to control the placement of the bodies center of gravity in relation to its support base.
- Accuracy – The ability to control movement in a given direction or at a given intensity.]
What other fitness regimen regularly includes and addresses each of these attributes? Regularly visiting each of these facets provides us with ample opportunity to identify weaknesses and through training & practice empower us to correct and individually improve (and as we age maintain) our collective, overall fitness.
But this again is nothing new. Rather than continue to explain what I’ve personally discovered, I’d like to quote yet another original tenet of CrossFit from 2002 in an article entitled “Foundations” which states (Italics mine):
“Your needs and the Olympic athlete’s differ by degree not kind. Increased power, strength, cardiovascular and respiratory endurance, ﬂexibility, stamina, coordination, agility, balance, and coordination are each important to the world’s best athletes and to our grandparents. The amazing truth is that the very same methods that elicit optimal response in the Olympic or professional athlete will optimize the same response in the elderly. Of course, we can’t load your grandmother with the same squatting weight that we’d assign an Olympic skier, but they both need to squat. In fact, squatting is essential to maintaining functional independence and improving ﬁtness. Squatting is just one example of a movement that is universally valuable and essential yet rarely taught to any but the most advanced of athletes. This is a tragedy. Through painstakingly thorough coaching and incremental load assignment CrossFit has been able to teach anyone who can care for themselves to perform safely and with maximum efﬁcacy the same movements typically utilized by professional coaches in elite and certainly exclusive environments.”
It is indeed amazing that the same program that enables the fittest of the fit to achieve amazing feats of fitness can also enable an average individual to not only add years to their life…but also to add life to their years!
After a health scare involving blocked arteries in 2004, Daryll Krivanos lost 100lbs & discovered a love for physical fitness in the process! Daryll started doing CrossFit in 2009 at the age of 56. Daryll is a Personal Trainer, a Weight Watchers leader and uses his CrossFit Level 1 training certificate to coach at “CrossFit Independence” near Cleveland, Ohio and is especially committed to his “Masters” class.
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