What is CrossFit and Can “Old Guys” Try it?

What is CrossFit and Can “Old Guys” Try it?


Elizabeth Yarlett, M.S. 

The cult of CrossFit has spread across the US and the world, leaving fanatics in its wake.  More than just antics practiced by some crazy kids, CrossFit is an intentional fitness regimen aimed at increasing work capacity across functional domains at high intensity. This means that CrossFit makes you work hard to be able to do a variety of real life (useful!) activities well.

The benefit of functional movement is that you will see positive effects in the things you do everyday; for example, everyone who has ever picked up a child has accomplished a dead lift, but perhaps not safely or effectively.  The benefit of a high intensity activity is that you can complete a thorough and exhausting full body workout in 20 minutes or less.  While most people cannot justify squeezing three hours of gym time in every day, they can hopefully muster 45 minutes or an hour to do a CrossFit regimen.

CF is an excellent fitness option across all age ranges, as long as you apply common sense and good technique.  There are remarkable and healthy athletes in their sixties and seventies in CF boxes (gyms) across the country who are happily and successfully competing with “kids” half their age!  Even better, the CF community is passionate and strong–a huge part of its appeal and popularity.  Everyone can be challenged and encouraged in any given workout, so CrossFit is a very positive option for someone who is looking to start or re-start exercising.  Competition and accountability are foundational in every close-knit box.

While athletes across generations can benefit from CF, not everyone can apply the same level of intensity immediately; age, injury, and experience influence every workout.

First and foremost, every potential CrossFitter should be cleared by a doctor: make sure the heart and that trick knee are up for robust activity.  If you have physical therapy for an injury, make certain you’ve been fully rehabilitated before starting CF.

Next, find a gym and coach that actually care about you.  Any good coach should be concerned with your experience level and past injuries you’ve had.  As a result, they should be able to scale every workout and activity to you. If your arm feels like it’s going to pop off when you do a push up, they should move you to a box or a wall until you’ve built some strength.  Furthermore, a good coach will be passionate about proper form.

Injuries are significantly more likely when athletes (new or experienced) ignore safe form and then try to incorrectly apply weight or intensity.  Worthwhile coaches will actually coach and stop athletes from performing unsafe movements.  Find a box with coaches who can provide the attention you need to teach what you need.

With common sense and good coaching, CrossFit is an excellent option for young, old, new, and experienced athletes.

Elizabeth Yarlett, M.S., is certified personal trainer through the International Sports Sciences Association and a CrossFit Level One trainer.

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