Older, Fitter: You’re Not As Old As You’re Gonna Be

📸: Inside CrossFit South Brooklyn – Episode 4: Fit 55+

This new series comes to us from Christian Fox, Head Coach and Programmer at CrossFit South Brooklyn in Brooklyn, NY. Christian has been a CrossFit trainer for 10+ years and has pioneered the Fit 55+ program at CFSBK, a class geared specifically towards “Master’s” age athletes. In this series, Christian shares what he’s learned from both his personal experience as a CrossFitter who has “matured” with the sport, and as someone with extensive training knowledge regarding older athletes.

As an “older” CrossFit athlete, I’ve learned a few things along the way. When I say older, I mean both in terms of how many years I’ve been around the sun (that’d be 45 times now), and also how long I’ve been doing CrossFit. CrossFit showed up on my radar during it’s first wave, the Stone Age if you will, in the summer of 2007. I found it stumbling across the internet on an unscrupulous website that rhymes pretty well with “best roster bone Haitian”, while working in the fitness industry as a personal trainer at a globo gym and also overseeing interns in the Exercise Science program at the college where I’d graduated from. I was stoked to be working in an industry that made me (and the people I worked with) happy, and was consuming information like Joey Chestnut at a Nathan’s in efforts to better myself better personally and professionally.

Anyway, you might say I had developed a pretty well rounded level of fitness and knowledge of how to attain it by that point in my life, at least that’s what I thought. My clients were happy, I did okay for my size on the “Big 3”, aka Squat, bench, and Deadlift, could run half marathons, take a yoga class, and do basic gymnastics movements without embarrassing myself, and I looked like I worked out (which was really the point of all of my efforts). I cherry picked from the Main Site to begin and my first WOD was “Fran”, and boy she humbled me… like 8+ minutes with the barbell taken from a squat rack and what the hell is this kipping pull-up sort of humbled.

My second choice, “Helen”, done with dumbbell swings in between sprints to and from the treadmill and the pull-up station, confirmed the holes on my fitness were real. Then I tried “Nancy”…and f*ck Nancy, I could barely overhead squat the empty bar. All of this is to say I was decently fit and still needed to be humble in the process of trying to become fitter because CrossFit demands much more of you.

Why does any of this matter to you? Well if you’re reading this you probably fall into one of two categories. A) You were fit and athletic for a period (usually High School and/or College) at some point in your life, found CrossFit and are now doing it to revive and relive that fitness, or B) You’re someone who hasn’t stuck with (or even tried) exercise programs for long enough to see results and develop fitness, found your local CrossFit community and actually like going to the gym now. The initial path often looks like this:

  • Girl/Boy searches for gym.
  • Girl/Boy finds CrossFit gym!
  • Girl/Boy drinks the Kool-Aid, comes to the gym with consistency for the first time in a long time, possibly ever, and gets results.

So far we’re golden, we’re living the dream, we’re liking what we see and what we can do. We’re looking good and feeling good, Louis! What happens next depends a lot on the level of coaching you’re getting (not just movement wise but lifestyle wise), and your own level of stubbornness. Becoming fit doesn’t happen as fast as we would like it to. The rapid improvement in all things CrossFit slows down within a few months to a year, and you might think (or worse, your coach tells you) that you need to do more. More volume. More frequency. More intensity. When you’re young, you can get away with doing a lot of crap to your body until you can’t. I won’t say that there’s a magic number where you can’t, like “It’s all downhill after 30/40/50…etc”, but at some point you have to pay attention to balancing the training/recovery equation more than you used to. Put another way, you might benefit more from less time spent training and more time spent recovering. Assuming that The Rich doesn’t quit doing CrossFit in the next decade and begin doing step aerobics for fitness, even he will have to reckon with a need for less volume, frequency, and intensity and will no doubt place even more emphasis on recovery to remain Fit AF for the long haul. And Rich was super freaking fit already when he first began CrossFit. You and I? We ain’t Rich and we need all the help we can get.

Get Out Of Your Own Way

Let’s get this out of the way: There is no glory in being the athlete who always has an excuse why they didn’t do as well on a WOD as they would or could have and I’m sure you don’t want to be the person who everyone turns and rolls there eyes at when they proclaim it. If you’re constantly bragging how you would have done better if you weren’t “Dude, soooo hungover”, take an honest look in the mirror. If you regularly stay up all night binge watching television and only get 5 hours of sleep before hitting the 6:00AM class, ask yourself why you make that choice. If you prep meals and eat clean Monday morning through Friday afternoon, then live like a Belushi brother from Friday night through Sunday night, what direction are you taking yourself?

In other words, consider that it may be time to quit treating yourself like shit. I’m not talking about occasional transgressions here. The occasional few tequilas, sleepless evenings, or Meat and Ice Cream Lovers Pizzas won’t derail you if they only happen occasionally. Where are your regular actions and habits taking you?

“With regard to excellence, it is not enough to know, but we must try to have and use it.”

Most people know what’s holding them back, know what they could do be a little bit better, and yet still don’t change. It’s the trying and doing that’s tough. There’s no easy way around that one my friend, but don’t put the pressure of an entire lifestyle overhaul on yourself. Make an honest evaluation of your lifestyle and find one thing that you could do better right now. Make it simple, like:

  • Spend 2 minutes stretching.
  • Search a healthy, simple recipe and make the shopping list for it, then put it in your wallet and pick up the ingredients up tomorrow.
  • If it’s 11pm and you have to wake up at 5am, stop reading this and go to bed.
  • Drink a glass of water.
  • Download a meditation app and use it! Headspace has “mini meditations” as short as 3 minutes.

Small changes in habits eventually add up if you practice them consistently. Just like how you improved at power cleans because you did them regularly, you too can improve your nutrition/sleep/recovery habits if you practice them. For now, find your one small thing that seems too easy of a task and do it. Next up we’ll give some specific recommendations in a few categories.

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