Saturday, April 12, 2014

Exercising hard as an old person - one year of CrossFit

Dave Foley, who is 67 to my 55, describes what it’s like to run hard as a senior citizen …

Silent Sports: Getting along with getting old Part II

… Age tends to level the competitive playing field. Guys who trained fanatically 20 years ago, logging 100 miles a week, may not be able to run 50 miles over a seven day period now. Years of hard running does take a toll.

However, if you put in 40 miles weekly at a comfortable pace in the 1980s, it is quite likely you can still log about the same weekly mileage.

Those tortoises, who routinely got bested by the hares they faced in their youth, may now find themselves shooting past those one-time speedsters. And those newcomers, who didn’t even start running until they were in their 40s, they’ve got fresh legs and may now be racing past the ancient tortoises and hares.

… Stretching is optional, but the first steps of a run must be gentle ones. If timing a run is important, then slowly jog a half mile before clicking the watch on…

… No running at all for the last two or three days before a competition. In this way you actually may arrive at a race site with absolutely no muscle stiffness. Don’t be deceived. No matter what your brain tells you, you are still as old as the Rolling Stones…

… Banish all thoughts of “No woman is gonna beat me” because they can and they will.

… the leg muscles of senior runners fatigue before their lungs. That means that when your aching quads won’t push you any faster, you’re likely still able to easily converse with other runners….

… The race to the finish is no longer a venue for heroic sprints. If you haven’t been practicing sprinting, don’t try or your hamstring is apt to split open like the skin of bratwurst on a hot grill…

… Seconds after crossing the finish line, expect to have a race official hovering next to you saying, “Are you O.K.?” Apparently old guys who race hard look awful….

… we can avoid most injuries by listening to our bodies. And since those daily runs burn up calories, we can eat more than our sedentary peers and still stay trim. Although our bodies may ache a little, most days it feels good to be out running. And if the science is correct, we are going to enjoy longer, healthier lives as runners.

… sone days I feel young and my feet seem to fly down the road. A nine-minute mile on these days feels no different then the sixes I once ran…

I suspect Dave still felt kind of middle-aged at 55. Me, my kids tell me I’m already ancient. Even so, my routine exercise intensity has never been higher. Sure, I’ve been stronger and faster — but even at my most active I didn’t do CrossFit level intensity week after week. Unlike Dave, because I was less active previously,  I can keep setting “personal bests” even as I get older. It’s not that time is running backwards, it’s that I’m getting closer to my biological potential even as it declines. I’ll probably hit the limit this coming year, but  think I can manage that. For now it’s good to be stronger and faster than I was 10 years ago. I’m even learning to run - an activity I avoided in favor of everything else.

I can’t speak for the incredibles who compete in CrossFit Masters (starts at 45, 60+ is all one group), but there are a few rules that I follow to try to stay out of trouble. For exercises that specify “Rx" weights, I aim for 70-80% of the women’s Rx. Years ago I had a bad back, so I’m careful with technique and deadliest; I’ll add reps if I feel too strong. I’m not embarrassed to use the women’s bar when that makes sense, and “no woman is gonna beat me” is laughable. I’m regularly beaten by some women who are themselves over 40.

Most of all I pay attention to what hurts. I’ve been nursing a right medial tendon ache for a couple of months, so I go easy on that one. On chin-ups I’ll “band up” and do more with my left arm - go for more reps with more bands.

There are some things I can’t dodge. I’m lucky to have good knees, but when those go I’ll have to pass on to something else. It’s  hard to do CrossFit without squats (it should be called SquatFit).

Not yet though. Maybe I’ll get another year …

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