Saturday, August 02, 2014

Exercise and 55 - still CrossFit

When I would lose weight at 35 friends might say I looked well. At 55 friends say nothing, but they look worried. Like they’re wondering who Emily will marry after the cancer gets me. It’s different.

I think the skinniness is the CrossFit though. I’m still doing it, 17 months now, still at CrossFit St Paul. I used to need 3 days to heal after the workouts, but I went to 3 times a week last January. When my bike season ends I’ll go to every other day until spring.

I’m not addicted. Ok, a bit.

Doing this has put an unexpected spin on aging. My hair gets whiter, my brain gets crappier [1], but my body gets stronger and faster. I ran my best lifetime mile a week ago. I finally started doing “double unders” - just took a year and a half of failure. (Ten year old girls do these routinely. I blame it on a 55yo cerebellum and my aspie genes.) I suck at snatchs and handstand pushups, but they don’t scare me any more. I’m doing the chin-ups with the smallest band assist - or none at all.

The pounding music and tattoos have become familiar. You see something every week and pretty soon it’s just background. (I told my daughter if she gets a tattoo I’ll get one too, but I’m bluffing.) Now I see all the levels at CrossFit — on-ramp, newbie, beginner, regular, “Rx”, specialty classes, competitive and beyond. I’m basically somewhere between newbie and regular. Rx, at least Rx for men, is beyond this life.

We have terrific coaches and classmates, times that work no matter my schedule, great location for my commute, no contracts, and great return on time spent exercising. I like the “risky crazy” reputation, though I am positive my bicycle commute is a higher risk for serious injury.

Yeah, it doesn’t go on forever. I know what 80 looks like. Long before that I’ll be doing something gentler, and if I’m lucky I’ll one day be pedaling a electric-assist trike for exercise. Until then, I pay a month at a time.

If you want to try CrossFit and your 40 year warranty has expired I can share what’s worked for me — so far. 

I’m careful. I keep my deadlift under 210 - which is ridiculously low for a guy. I’ve got some history with backs and I respect that. Deadlift aside I aim for 80-90% of “Women’s Rx” on the weight, where Women’s Rx is what a competitive CrossFit woman would do. (Men’s Rx for olympic weights is way beyond me.) When my technique gets poor I slow down — even when time is running out. I like to ride my bike to the gym to loosen up, and a few hours of bicycling on off days is balm for a sore body. In the winter XC skiing works the same way — but this winter I think I’m taking up skate skiing. It’s good for the squats.

There’s some etiquette with being old in a relatively young person’s activity. There’s always something on the body that’s trying to break — don’t whine. It’s just entropy at work.

That’s it. If you want to try I recommend starting twice a week, abandon any idea that you’re stronger or faster than the CrossFit women, respect the body (never push, it will break), be persistent and be patient.

[1] One of the reasons, maybe the main reason, that I started doing CrossFit was that the only damned thing we can do to slow our inevitable brain mushification is to do serious regular physical exercise. If it’s really working for that then I hate to think what my brain would be like otherwise.

Update: This 2012 review of CrossFit is well done.


Unknown said...

Great post. I'm at a similar age and am taking a similar approach to Crossfit. A big key for me is the emphasis on mobility. Good on you for getting DU's! I'm still not there after 5 years.

John Gordon said...

Did you know after age 55 the CrossFit competition standards drop? If we stick around to 80 there's hope...