I started CrossFit in 2009, when I was 40, and nine years later I’m still loving it. Although I’ve had to adjust my workouts over the years to accommodate my injuries and aging body, no form of exercise makes me feel happier or healthier than CrossFit.
Many people consider CrossFit an extreme sport reserved only for the elite and I can see why if one’s only exposure to it is the CrossFit Games on television. I’ll let you in on a secret: most people who CrossFit will never make it to the Games. It does not require you to be an elite athlete or any type of athlete to participate. The reality is that CrossFit is for everyone.
If you are contemplating CrossFit as part of your fitness plan or if you already CrossFit and are wondering how to keep enjoying it as you age, consider these seven guidelines that promote thriving not just surviving at the gym (Collette, 2015):
- Always do your best. In The Four Agreements (1997), Don Miguel Ruiz teaches always do your best. If you are always doing your best, then you have no reason to judge yourself. Your best will vary from day to day. Do what you can and what you can’t, scale. Simple, easy, non-judgment.
- Scaling is your friend. If you can’t perform a movement, ask a coach for an alternative. It will protect you from injury while still providing a way to exercise the same muscle groups. Scaling will challenge you while never making you feel less than anyone else. It makes it possible for you to thrive not just survive (Collette, 2015).
- Keep your squats above parallel. If you have knee issues, it’s okay to keep your squats above parallel. Maintaining good squat form while keeping your knees from going over your toes is challenging. Combine that with the focus required to stay above parallel versus bouncing out of the bottom of a below-parallel squat, and you’ve got the secret combo to a tight butt and happy knees.
- Embrace your knee sleeves. Don’t let pride get in the way of protecting your knees. Knee sleeves not only provide support for heavy lifting but also help stabilize during box jumps, squatting, burpees, push press, etc. They’re also excellent shin cushions for rope climbs. They come in a wide variety of styles and colors and all of the cool kids wear them. You want to be cool, don’t you?
- Protect your shoulders. Before beginning a shoulder workout, thoroughly warm up your shoulders with light weights or Crossover Symmetry. Never perform a lift, a pullup, a pushup, a muscle up, or chest press beyond your skill or ability level. There is no Rx workout or PR (personal record) worth an injury to your shoulders. Trust me, I know.
- Avoid comparison. Avoid comparing yourself to other people at the gym, especially your peers. We’re all skilled at different things. I can deadlift like a boss but I suck at running. I can butterfly kip but I can only snatch 45 pounds. It’s all relative. Stop worrying about what you can’t do and instead celebrate all of the super amazing things you can do. After all, how many people even attempt to try the things you do?
- Laugh at yourself. By celebrating your strengths and accepting your limitations, you enter a state of self-acceptance and non-judgment. When you acknowledge your imperfections at the gym, you can laugh at yourself rather than criticize when you have an epic fail.
By always doing your best and allowing accommodations for your limitations, you honor yourself, your body, and all of the amazing things it can do!
Collette, M. (2015). CrossFit Prototype. Retrieved from http://www.crossfitprototype.com/daily-wod/fitness-over-50/
Ruiz, M. A. (1997). The four agreements: A practical guide to personal freedom. San Rafael, CA: Amber-Allen Publishing, Inc.