Why haven’t you tried a cross fit workout yet?
Admit it. We all love great excuses. Especially the ones that keep us from exercising and getting sweaty. Great excuses also save us a lot of money, which we would otherwise spend on laundry detergent, shampoo and conditioner or new running shoes. Excuses are awesome. And if we lack creativity to come up with great excuses, we simply pick the easiest sustainable argument, which is also well accepted by society: age.
Well, after 25 you have clearly passed the skateboard riding years. After 35 you might start thinking about joining the veteran soccer team. After 45 your membership at the gym turns automatically into a passive membership. And after 55 you simply have to retire from physical activity, suffer from back pain and get in line at the doctors office so you can discuss and compare your aches and pains with others. That is how life goes.
Let’s take our cat for instance. The first records from her existence at the vet date back to 1998, which makes her about 16 human years old. Converted into cat years, that would translate into a 112-year old senior lady. However, the number 112 or the word senior means nothing to a feline.
Okay, yes. Sometimes she reminds me of my grandmother. I never was sure if she simply didn’t want to hear what I had to say or actually could not hear what I did say. But I guess that is a common problem with aging.
However, our “112”-year old cat does randomly sprints around the house preferable in the middle of the night when everyone else is asleep and human obstacles are cleared from the racetrack. She jumps onto the couch, which is twice her height to get her evening full body massage. She naps when she is tired and enjoys her crunchies when she is hungry, not bored. And she stretches her spine and limbs at least once every hour. What a role model to achieve great balance of a relaxed mind, exercise, proper nutrition and rest! Exercise and aging comes naturally to her.
So yes. Age doesn’t matter. The only limit is our mind. Remember the beautiful quote from Henry Ford. “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you are right.” Limitations are set in our mind not by our aging body.
That’s why I was so excited to read a blog post written by Bärbel. She did her first cross fit workout when she was 58 years old.
And of course, first she stated all the obstacles that would prevent her from taking on that challenge, but read on and find out what happened after she pushed her mind-set a little bit out of her comfort zone.
What a cross fit workout can teach us about exercise and aging
The monolog in my head sounds like this: „What where you thinking? You are 58 years old? There is no way you can do this exercise within the given time!“
You can find me standing between a bunch of young people in the “box”, glancing at today’s “WOD” written down on the “board”.
When I started cross fit about a year ago, all these words meant nothing to me. Back in my younger days a “box” was called a workout room, a “WOD” was called “Zirkeltraining”* and a “board” was a “Tafel”*.
I wouldn’t call myself a sportive person. I never was. My last 13 years dealing with a guilty conscious telling me “You got to do something” drove the pen when I signed up for memberships at various fitness centers. But it turned out to be a boring routine. Warming up on the treadmill, then jiggling different weight-training machines for a number of repetitions, three sets, one hour passed – done.
This is not exactly the workout you have in mind when you are looking for a break of the dull routine of everyday life. And no wonder, that at some point you simply stop working out hard.
And then our son André planted the seed to try cross fit in my mind. My first thoughts where total denial: “No, thanks. This is silly. I’m too old for that. It doesn’t sound something my body could cope with.” But over a period of time I was intrigued by the idea and I convinced my brain that it might at least deserve one fair shot.
Sit- ups? Squats? Push-ups? Pull-ups? These English words are all Greek to me. I leave my first cross fit class rather frustrated then full of enthusiasm. Squats, which are “Kniebeugen”*, are arduous. Push-ups, which are “Liegestützen”*, were never a skill of mine. I wrestle with the rings while performing pull-ups and a dumbbell keeps my feet clued to the floor while struggling with sit-ups.
At the end I’m totally exhausted. Muscles that I didn’t know I had ache terribly the next day. But strangely the agony I went through makes me feel good at the same time. Did I catch the cross fit bug? Because now I want more of this.
What can I say? Not the sky is the limit, our mind is. One year has passed and I’m still doing it. With cross fit every exercise can be adapted to my skill level. There is no left behind. By now I manage 200 single-unders at one WOD. As a child I used to jump rope everyday, so imagine my anger when I discovered that with 58 years none of this talent had remained.
However, my biggest challenge was box-jumps. I balked like a horse at a show jumping event. Bit by bit the coaches took my awe away by making me jump first on one weight disk (10 to 15 cm high), then on two stacked disks, then onto three disks…
Imagine my face of joy and proudness, when eventually the disk tower had reached the height of the box. I announced my victory and PR (personal record) with a strong pull on the cross fit bell celebrated and cheered on by my comrade-in-arms.
There are exercise apparatuses I didn’t know exist. Take the kettlebell for instance. I never would have thought that a cast-iron cannonball with a handle would become my favorite exercise tool.
For me cross fit has become a wonderful form of physical education. It’s extremely challenging and pushes me towards the end of my comfort zone. Surprisingly this boarder keeps expanding with every workout. Whatever it is, deadlifts, overhead squats or push press I can literally feel that I’m getting stronger every time I do them. And you can see it too. My body has changed. Jiggling arms as an indicator for an advanced age above 55 years? Nope, not me.
I feel fully accepted by the young and wild. And every time when my mind is ready to quit they keep motivating me and there you go, my body is able to finish the exercise. I also join the challenges (called “Wettkämpfe”* in earlier days) and I must admit I experience a feeling of pleasure “fighting” and comparing my strength with others.
When I leave the “box” at 8 am after an hour of intensive exercise, I’m agonized. I’m breathless. I’m terribly sweaty. But I’m incredible energized and happy at the same time. My thoughts are sharp, which I guess is a side effect from focusing on my body and the exercise regime for one hour. There is no room for distracting thoughts.
One year of cross fit turned me into a fitter person. I’ve learned how to properly bent down, pick things up or how to get up easier (Google Turkish get-up).
Thank you cross fit-Limburg.
I hope I will be a part of this amazing community for many years to come. After all there are PR’s to break.
For all the blog readers out there that consider themselves as too old, I hope this post will encourage you to give new things a shot. Check out a free trail session. I can promise you this; cross fit is addictive – in a positive way of course.
In this spirit „Happy Birthday“ cross fit-Limburg
This post is a free translation of the original post published in German.
* In her German post Bärbel uses the English words that are now commonly used in Crossfit in Germany. Not only had her body to attune to a new workout but also her brain to a new language.
Pushing our bodies to its physical limits could be the secret to a long life.
So what do you think? Awesome, isn’t she? Bärbel is one of many role models and proofs that there is no “exercise-stopping-line” once we’ve reached a certain age. I know, it is so much easier to blame a number (aka your age) for hurting knees and joints instead of admitting that our own laziness brought us to this point, where we have to deal with pain and disease like diabetes. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Resistance training reverses the aging process
It is essential to stay active especially in advanced years. Aging adults, women even more so than men, experience a natural decrease in lean muscle mass and bone mineral density. The nervous system also changes over time. And if you never exercise you will even lose more muscle mass, strength, and muscle function.
There are more benefits of building up some muscle mass. Strength training improves the quality of life. It has shown to prevent conditions like arthritis, obesity, back pain, diabetes and osteoporosis. Find here an overview from Harvard Health Publications about effects of exercise and aging.
Harriet Anderson. Ironman with 79? Why not?
Track star with 94? No problem. Olga Kotelko held over 30 world records.
Recent studies show that older people were able to improve their muscle strength by 50 percent after they implemented regular resistance training into their lives. Sorry! I guess we just destroyed the age excuse forever.
It doesn’t have to be cross fit.
Cross fit might not be for everyone. After all we all have different health concerns and preferences. Do you like to engage in a community or are you a lone wolf when working out? Do you need flexibility or scheduled appointments? You should talk to a health practitioner or personal trainer before you get started and find out what suits you. Sign up for free demonstration classes at yoga, Pilates, core line or fitness studios. How about a water gymnastic class, bar fitness or a bodybuilding club? There are many ways to exercise and healthy aging. Here are some simple tips from an earlier blogpost “22 Things you can do to get your butt moving.”
A membership is too expensive? You don’t have to become a lifetime member at the gym. Once you’re familiar and manage the moves you can follow a workout at home by DVD or YouTube or find some guidance at the National Institute of Aging.
If you are interested in independent living and preventing falls throughout the golden years, it is extremely important to do everything to preserve muscle strength. Therefore strength training is a must.
Healthy aging and lasting happiness go together.
Happy exercising everyone!
PS: Once a week there will be a new story about healthy and happy living. Put your role model forward so we can publish their stories. Register your email address in the box on the right, if you want to be notified when the weekly post is up. Thank you for being here.
Cross fit workout with 58? Why age is no excuse. by Tanja Knapp