Right around Wednesday, I start to get anxiety about putting together another blog post. After throwing out a request for blog fodder, Rich came back with the idea of discussing challenges for older members. At first thought you might say “what older members?” Our gym is pretty chock full with athletes in their mid twenties to mid forties. Our Fifty plus membership, although small, seems to be on the rise. My mom and a friend (both in their mid 60’s) will be doing their intro’s next week. Sadly, Rage Against the Machine will have to take the back burner…. HA! Never!
But seriously the challenges that are presented with older members are exactly the same as the challenges with any member, just a bit more pronounced. The most obvious to me would be previous or nagging injuries, lack of mobility/balance, apprehension/lack of confidence & lack of strength. Its safe to say that any newbie crossfitter may suffer from any one of these symptoms. But generally with older crossfitters, you get the full monty and heavy dose of apprehension.
So how do I deal with it? One word- Slowly! oh and another word…Sympathetically
Other than that there really isn’t a difference between the approach to an elite athlete and an elder. I want to make sure the environment is as comfortable and fun as possible (with the exception of the WOD) and I want you guys to progress at a pace that feels right to you…(with the occasional prod from me). In general I try to listen well and remember any injuries or issues that may need special attention. Probably the single most important factor is to know the member. What their tolerances are, who bites off more than they can chew, who underestimates his/her ability, who needs work on the overhead squat, who has shoulder mobility issues, who does/doesn’t listen well, who learns by watching..and on and on.
Most of you know I’m not the drill sargent/hate your way through the WOD Coach. You’ll never hear me say “get the F%Ck back on the Bar” because that shit doesn’t work for me. I know my tolerances and I manage my rest in such a way that I know when I’m ready to get back on it. I trust that you guys know that too and I respect you enough to believe that you are giving it your all. Every once in a while, I’ll let you know the run is not social hour and I try always give you positive encouragement. If you have a catchphrase like “wedding” or “bikini” let me know and I’ll come by and I’ll softly whisper it in your ear when your about to implode. Really for any aged crossfitter.. just do the work as consistently and as best you can and the rest will fall into place over time.
Recently, I have been ending our fundamentals classes by discussing dialogue. As a crossfitter you will develop a dialogue not only with the coaches but also within yourself. Pay attention to it. At times be humble and know when to back off but also at times be inspired and test yourself and your limits. Just be intuitive and honest in the process of maintaining health. That process is just that…maintenance..in that it’s an ongoing long term deal. And by long term I mean for the rest of your life. I want to be an active part of your long term quest for not only health but a better life in general. Remember that post “How Free Am I?” I want to help/watch you grow from a flailing newbie at the fundamentals to super proficient… I want to facilitate “increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains” This may take months, years or decades..but it will happen.
Getting off track here but as you age, your goals as a crossfitter will change. Eventually you will have to modify movements further and further but they still can be done and the importance of doing them is probably at its peak. I remember at my level 1 cert, the trainers would always say that CF is about “fighting decrepitude”. Sounds pretty bleak…like if you don’t do it you may end up transforming into a zombie from Michael Jackson’s thriller video. Wait, those zombies actually have pretty amazing mobility and coordination so that was a bad example..but you get the picture. Fighting decrepitude just means maintaining strength, mobility, cardio-respitory endurance…or at least not letting it all go to shit cause your “old”. I’m super inspired by older crossfitters. Hopefully our gym will continue to grow with all ages but especially with the more mature crowd. That would be a good thing!
*Side-note -Lately, I’ve been interested in getting back to the fundamentals. We’ve had a massive influx of new members lately and the need to stress the fundamentals for both newbies and vets is priority #1. Probably, like most new Crossfit gym owners, I initially let things slide a bit in the quest to get CFCA up and running…meaning that I let people try things that in retrospect they probably were not ready for. This has been one of the hardest aspects of being a coach. It took me a long time to figured out that my capacity as a 3 year crossfitter was actually better than someone who was a couch potato…duh! Anyway I used to just assume that most people can do most things…and that’s not to say that they can’t but some just need a bit more time.. lesson learned…patience.