Saturday, February 18, 2023

Tips for the geriatric CrossFit addict (Update: a parallel essay by ChatGPT 4)

My 10 year CrossFit anniversary is two months away. A few months after I started as an old man of 53 I wrote:
... I now do CrossFit twice a week; that's about as much as I have been able to safely handle ... physically I perform and feel more like I did at 44 than at 54. That's a big difference; if I feel at 62 the way I was at 52 I'll be content...  At 54 I'm into managed-decline rather than improvement ... Will I still be doing CrossFit at 64? It seems unlikely, but it's not impossible ... I  rather doubt I'll be doing "Murph" in this life ...
Almost 10 years later I don't go twice a week, I go four or five times a week. I am better and stronger at all CrossFit things now than I was at 53. I didn't do "managed decline", I improved in most things until I was about 60 to 61; I set a lifetime record for my front squat at 63. Barring a surprising injury I'll probably be doing CrossFit at 64. I've done Murph many times, albeit not with a weighted vest.

I've run into a few issues along the way. I inherited my mother's arthritis; my left wrist now limits my bench press and I now do pushups off a dumbbell rather than the floor (aka "true pushups").  I squashed a lumbar disc and even though the minor foot drop went away (took 2 years but they aren't supposed to resolve so I'm happy) I now limit my lifts to under 250 lbs. I've seen a physical therapist a few times over the years and I developed a somewhat extreme back maintenance program. On the other hand my body has bounced up from a few mountain bike crashes and my back has been much better than it was from 1980 to 2009.

In other words, I've been successful so far at geriatric CrossFit. Here's what I do to get by: (I'm a puny guy by the way, my lifetime best lifts are warmups for many men and women in their 40s and well beyond.)
  1. I lift 10 lb weights carefully. That's because I once injured my back carelessly lifting a 10 lb weight! Olds get hurt taking plates off the barbell -- because they don't pay attention to such a small weight.
  2. I substitute reps for weight. My current weight cap is about 250 lbs, so rather than try a 300 lb deadlift I'll do several reps at 245. If my arthritic wrist is limiting my bench press I'll find a weight I can lift with wrist comfort and stability and then do reps until I fail. I miss the fun of the 1 rep max but they don't build functional strength so subbing reps isn't all bad.
  3. I've become an amateur physical therapist (it helps to be a physician). With my experience and some online resources I can treat most overuse issues myself. If I'm not succeeding I see a professional.
  4. I generally follow a blend of the Rx (elite) women's and men's standard but if I'm on my third day in a row I've beaten my ego back enough to super-scale. That gives me 80% of the benefit and 5% of the overuse risk.
  5. I start my personal warmup 30-40 minutes before the class warmup starts. It helps to be retired. If we're doing a power lift I'll work up to 80% of my target weight during the warmup.
  6. I rarely do more than 3 consecutive days of CrossFit. I like to do two days on, one day off. During my off days I do other things - bicycling, hockey, inline, skiing, etc.
  7. I do protein drinks and morning eggs and the usual protein things. Olds need more protein. It seems to help. (I exercise enough that I usually eat 4 meals a day.)
  8. This isn't really a geriatric CrossFit thing but it's probably worth mentioning that puny guys like me should never try to out-lift an elite woman CrossFitter. That way lies humiliation and broken bits.
  9. It takes a while for my cardio system to engage. In cardio workouts I usually start slow and finish better. I do 90% of my capacity rather than 100% -- I don't like having my blood pressure drop out when my heart can't keep up.
  10. Don't laugh when the super-fit 40yo next to you complains about being old (a small ironic smile is ok). In general don't talk about age unless asked. Your younger colleagues don't need to know and Oldness is kind of a downer. Also, whether you like it or not, you are often their model for what they want to be in 20 or 30 years. They may talk about you. So suck it up.
That's my list of tips for now, I'll update this post if I think of some others. Please note I'm not actually recommending CrossFit as a great activity for 60+. I enjoy CrossFit, but there are less extreme group exercise programs that are probably safer. Just a lot less fun and a lot less effective.

UPDATE 3/28/2023. I asked ChatGPT to create something like this blog post. Damn but it's not bad. It's more generic than my tips, but it didn't actually have my blog post (knowledge base is 2021). It had to have 10 items on the list of course.


Write a list of tips for persons over 60 years old doing CrossFit to maximize benefit and minimize injury. Write in the style of the blog at

Result (ChatGPT 4, March 28, 2023)

CrossFit for the Golden Generation - Maximize Benefits and Minimize Injuries After 60

CrossFit is an excellent way for individuals of all ages to stay active and maintain their fitness. For those in their golden years, taking up CrossFit can be an empowering and effective way to promote overall well-being. However, it's important to be aware of certain precautions and modifications to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. Here are some tips for those over 60 years old embarking on their CrossFit journey:
  1. Consult your doctor: Before you jump into a CrossFit routine, consult your physician to determine whether you have any health conditions or physical limitations that may require modifications.
  2. Choose a suitable CrossFit gym: Look for a CrossFit gym (or "box") that is known for catering to a diverse range of ages and abilities. A good gym will have experienced coaches who understand the unique needs of older adults.
  3. Start slow and steady: Don't rush into high-intensity workouts. Begin with lower intensity exercises to build up your strength, endurance, and flexibility gradually.
  4. Prioritize form over intensity: As an older adult, it's essential to focus on proper form and technique to reduce the risk of injury. Don't hesitate to ask for guidance from your coach.
  5. Modify exercises when needed: Be mindful of your limitations and work with your coach to modify or scale exercises as needed. There's no shame in scaling back to protect your body.
  6. Emphasize mobility and flexibility: Incorporate stretching and mobility exercises into your routine to improve your range of motion and decrease the risk of injury.
  7. Listen to your body: Pay attention to any pain or discomfort you experience during your workouts. If something doesn't feel right, stop and consult your coach or a medical professional.
  8. Stay hydrated and nourished: As you age, your body may require more time to recover from strenuous activities. Ensure you're staying hydrated and consuming a balanced diet to aid in recovery and overall health.
  9. Rest and recover: Give your body ample time to recover between workouts. Schedule rest days and prioritize sleep to allow your body to repair itself and avoid overtraining.
  10. Build a supportive community: Surround yourself with like-minded individuals who share your fitness goals and can offer encouragement, camaraderie, and motivation.
By following these tips, you can maximize the benefits of CrossFit while minimizing the risk of injury. Embrace this new challenge and enjoy the journey to better health and fitness in your golden years!


Nitin said...

You're sixty-what??? The way I've seen you talk about life, I thought you're not a day over 50!

Ok, maybe my perception of life and age is a little warped. I'm not good with those. Plus maybe I've missed all your talk (if there is any) of your age and its related issues.

But wow. Kudos to you! Keep on crossfitting and breaking your own records!

JGF said...

Thank you Nitin! I don't think I'll be breaking many more records, but still having fun.