Since its official incorporation in 2000, Crossfit has gained a significant amount of attention for a variety of things.

Known for their high-intensity workouts, high injury rates, and controversial training techniques, the question is posed: Is this really something your grandma should be doing to stay fit? The answer is: maybe.

When it comes to working out, seniors bring with them a lifetime of either good or bad habits. There are a few things to consider before participating in or starting a Crossfit program.

Things to Consider

There are a few things you should think about before diving into a training program of this type. First and foremost is your lifestyle and health history:

  • Have you worked out before?
  • Do you have any major medical conditions, including joint issues?
  • Are you taking any medications that may impact your participation?

These are standard questions that should be asked by your new training facility or Crossfit instructor. They are your first indication as to whether or not you’re in the right place.

The second most important thing is being screened for your quality of movement. Can you walk, sit, stand, and bend over with minimal physical limitations? In a society that is predominately sedentary, many people have physical limitations. This is even more true for someone who is over 65.

The screening process should be completed before the first workout, and should be done by a professional with knowledge and experience in anatomy, physiology, or biomechanics.

I’ve had the opportunity to train at a variety of Crossfit boxes across the country. I have seen a small number of facilities do these two things really well. The best coaches I’ve met carry multiple certifications across a variety of disciplines and have multiple years of experience. They often come from backgrounds that include:

  • National Strength and Conditioning Association’s certified strength and conditioning specialist
  • functional movement expertise
  • physical therapy
  • chiropractic care
  • Olympic weightlifting

Like most things in life, few people are truly great at anything when they first start. Mastery comes with time, and the minimum of 10,000 hours of experience is a great rule of thumb. It’s relatively easy to obtain a Crossfit instructor certification, and the prerequisites needed to carry the title are to pay a fee and attend a weekend workshop. How would you feel if this was all that was required by your doctor, dentist, or surgeon?

Two things that Crossfit does a great job of are creating systematized protocols for progressing exercises and establishing a strong community of support. Helping clients gradually build up the skills necessary to accomplish the foundation movements is what all instructors are taught.

Clapping, cheering, and motivating others is also something that is paramount to the success of the sport. Here, community is everything, no one is left out, and everyone is made to feel like part of a team. However, sometimes this social support can cause people to push past their safety limits, which could lead to injury.

If You’re Ready to Get Started

If you’re a senior and have been cleared by a doctor or other healthcare professional to dive into Crossfit, here are some beginner’s moves.

The Burpee

  1. Start in a standing position with feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Lower yourself into a squat.
  3. Take the squat deeper, place your hands on the ground, and jump your legs back into a pushup position.
  4. Complete 1 pushup.
  5. Jump your legs back into a squat position.
  6. From squatting, jump into the air and land back in a squat position.
  7. Start again!

The Box Jump

  1. Stand in front of a stable box or platform, with heels shoulder-width apart and toes pointing slightly outward.
  2. Move down into a squat position, with your knees tracking over our toes.
  3. When you reach the bottom of the squat, jump upwards, using your arms for momentum.
  4. Land with both feet on the box, either standing or squatting.
  5. Step or hop off, and repeat.

The Kettlebell Swing

  1. Stand over the kettlebell with your feet hip-width apart, back straight, and chest up.
  2. Squat with your knees tracking over your toes, and grab the kettlebell with palms facing toward you.
  3. Move up into a standing position, shifting weight into your heels, bending your knees, while pushing your butt out behind you.
  4. As you do this, swing the kettlebell back between your legs.
  5. In a continuous and smooth movement, swing the kettlebell forward and raise it to just below shoulder height in front of you.
  6. Repeat!

The Takeaway

As with everything, there are positives and negatives to starting a Crossfit workout as a senior. Having the right coach and the right environment make all the difference in the world.

If you have minimal physical limitations, a history of regular exercise, and a desire to be part of something that will really push your limits, Crossfit can be a fresh change of pace from the aerobics class at the local YMCA.

If you are over 65, new to working out, have medical or physical limitations, don’t like feeling uncomfortable, or can’t stand loud music, it might not be the right option. In the end, fitness should be enjoyable to you, make you feel better, and above all else, help increase your quality of life.

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