Friday, 31 March 2017

CrossFit for the Oldies but Goodies.

If you're over 40 and you do CrossFit, chances are you're not a million miles behind the youngsters and you give them a good run for their money during some wods and you can lift just as heavy, often heavier.  
But I bet sometimes it takes you days to recover from a grueling wod.  I bet your shoulders are a little shot and your ankles and hips could do with a spot of oiling.  A lot of the time it feels like you've been hit by a bus. Sometimes it feels like you're going backwards and all you can see is the 20 year old PBing every session....

Once you're over 40, things change a bit but it doesn't mean you can't still PB regularly with the rest of them  - it's just a little harder going than it was in your twenties.

A lot of masters athletes in a CrossFit gym have well over 30 years of learnt bad behaviour and ingrained movement patterns to get over that CrossFit just can't fix in a couple of months or even a couple of years. We need to realise we are a work in progress - like painting the Forth Bridge - we just manage to sort out our hip mobility and it's time to move onto the shoulders.  We fix them and the hips need revisiting.  Just as CrossFit itself is like spinning plates - you need to keep on top of all the movements all the time - it's the same with mobility.

The trouble is, when you're an over 40s athlete and you do pretty well in a wod, you start to think you're 20 again.  You train with those younger guys - you're not a million miles away in terms of strength and fitness, you might even have the edge on them mentally but I tell you what you are unlikely to have over them and that is flexibility and mobility.  You have had more years to develop tight pecs, weak lats, tight hip flexors, weak glutes.  In short, you are stiff and creaky and a little bit knackered!  Unless you're an ex gymnast, dancer or spend more than 2 hours a day with a lax ball shoved up your piriformis, it's going to show.  And the trouble with mobility issues is they will lead to injury.

As an over 40s athlete you need to spend much, much, much more time looking after yourself and recovering!

So how do we do this?

Recovery starts with sleep.  

If you aren't sleeping well, your body just can't repair muscle.  If your body doesn't have time to repair the muscle, you are just adding more and more damage with every workout that your poor old body doesn't have time to repair.  You will end up working really hard but not seeing any gains in strength or muscle because you aren't sleeping well enough to allow that to happen.


  • Make sure your room is dark - NO lights from anything charging or on standby.
  • Drink something warming before bed, chamomile tea, warm vanilla coconut milk, whatever - obviously not coffee or caffeinated tea.
  • Try to eliminate all screens at least half an hour before lights out.
  • Get rid of your worries. List them into two columns, on paper or in your head: those you can do something about and those you cannot.  If you can do something about it, do - and then you can stop worrying.  If there is nothing to be done, don't waste your energy worrying - it will change nothing for the better.

Recovery doesn't just require full-on sleep, it requires rest time.

If you are knackered, take a break!  

If you are ill, don't train - especially if you are sick or have a chest infection!  You will delay your recovery by training.  Add in the occasional day dedicated to mobility - spend your training time rolling your quads or hamstrings, stretching and twisting that T-spine - get more mobile!
Realise that even a week or two off training completely just isn't going to turn you into a useless blob!

Recovery needs fuel.  

If you aren't eating right, your body is going to struggle to repair itself.  If you do resistance training, which CrossFit is, your body is repairing muscle (and burning calories) for around 48 hours after you stop training. Therefore, you don't only have only a 45 minute window of gains, you have 48 hours in which to make good food choices.  You need protein - around a palm sized amount of meat per meal - some fat (11 almonds.....) and the rest of your plate should be carbohydrate - vegetables - not bread and pasta necessarily - green leafy vegetables, colourful peppers and carrots, berries....
Straight after a workout, get some carbs into you to replenish your energy stores - a banana or an apple is good - I like those little pouches of fruit baby food - they get into you quickly.

We oldies also need A LOT of mobility.

We are old and broken and we need to mend our broken ways. We need to spend more time than the younger guys warming up and getting those stiff joints oiled. To get those joints through their FULL range of motion, we need a lot of maintenance - Mobility Wod is great for this as is just taking some time with a foam roller and a lax ball to smooth out those old, knotted muscles. Watching the TV of an evening?  You're a captive audience - do some mobility!

Get regular massages - a sports massage with a physical therapist is essential if you know you are in trouble - if you know your squat needs fixing or your overhead position sucks or something hurts and won't stop hurting.  If you just need to keep it ticking over, just get a back and shoulder massage every few weeks.  It's an investment in your future mobility.

Recovery also needs mental space.  

Keep your training in perspective.  

If you are stressing over missing a session because life has got in the way - you need a bit of perspective. Remember why you are training in the first place. Very, very few over 40s make it to the CrossFit Games each year - work out your reasons for doing CrossFit and remind yourself regularly that while it is fun to give those 20 year-olds a run for their money, it is still just a workout!

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