My First Year in CrossFit

I'm 50 years old this year. After a year of CrossFit, I feel like I have dialed back my biological age by five years. No exaggeration.

I‘ve been doing CrossFit for a little over a year. I thought I’d report on my experience in the hope of encouraging other folks who are thinking about getting into shape. Before I joined CrossFit I was going to LA Fitness three times a week. It was a chore and it was hard to stay motivated. I knew I wasn’t pushing myself. I really wanted to get stronger and improve my cardio so I could do more aggressive adventures in the mountains, so I joined CrossFit.

Going into it without any experience, I was a bit nervous. I perceived CrossFitters as crazy, insane people who operate at some kind of superhuman level of performance that I could never attain. This was not the case. In fact, although the workouts are hard, they are always tailored to your level of ability, so you can progress at your own pace. At Centric Athletics, where I go, we have folks who span the gamut of fitness levels – all training together.

What a Typical CrossFit Class is Like

Warm Up

I want to take the mystery out of what happens in a CrossFit class. Where I train, there is a warm-up that lasts for 15 minutes. It’s a low-intensity workout designed to get you flexible and activate your muscles for the weight conditioning that follows.

Weight Training

Next, we lift weights. We don’t use machines. We do traditional Olympic style lifts like squats, cleans, and deadlifts. The focus is on whole body movement. I trained on machines at LA Fitness and when I started lifting at CrossFit I realized how ineffective my LA Fitness workouts had been. I shied away from traditional lifting because I didn’t want to injure myself doing it incorrectly and I never really trusted the competence of the trainers at LA Fitness to coach me.

Workout of the Day (WOD)

The last part of the workout is a combination of weight training and cardio designed to max out your heart rate. It’s all about intensity – but for a very short period of time. CrossFit WODs are named after people, like “Fran,” “Annie,” and “Murph.” Here are some examples of what a WOD might look like…

  • “Fran” – Using a barbell weight you can handle, do 21 thrusters, then 21 pull-ups (with a band to assist), then 15 thrusters and 15 pull-ups, then 9 thrusters and 9 pull-ups. Try and beat your time.
  • On Monday of this week, we did this one: One wall-walk (do a pushup by the wall and walk up into a handstand position), then 2 front squats using a weight you can manage. Then another wall-walk adding two reps to the front squats each time. I got up to 16 reps of front squats by the time the clock reached the 14 minute limit for the WOD.
  • On Tuesday of this week, we did this one: 200 jump ropes, 60 wall balls (squat, thrust up and throw the medicine ball up to a red line above you), then 60 pull-ups (with a band to assist), then 200 more jump ropes for time.

Every WOD can be dialed down to the fitness level of practically anyone. This means a world-class athlete can push herself and so can a 70-year-old who has not been in shape for a while. Everyone gets better at their own pace.

This part of the workout has its basis in the science of High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). There is now a vast body of research that shows how short workouts that max out your heart rate have a dramatic impact on your level of cardiovascular fitness. The WOD is always tough, but only for 10-15 minutes. Anybody can suffer for that long.

My Results

Last year I did an average of 3 sessions a week, plus hiking on the weekends. This year, I am pushing to 5 days a week because the benefits have been so dramatic. Here are the results I’ve seen.

Motivation

LA Fitness was a boring, isolating experience. Everyone is in their own world watching a TV or wearing a headset. It’s like being in a bad sci-fi movie where everyone has an empty, glassy-eyed stare because they’ve been taken over by aliens.

At CrossFit, I’m motivated because there is a community of people all working out together – pushing and encouraging one another. This is a big part of the magic of CrossFit. The blaring Eminem, Metallica, and the occasional pop diva is also pretty motivating.

The blaring Eminem, Metallica, and the occasional pop diva is also pretty motivating.

Strength Gains

I’ve made huge gains in muscle mass and strength in the past year. As an example, I was deadlifting 100 lbs. when I started, and now I am deadlifting 205 lbs. Now in the big scheme of things, this is not all that impressive. There are many lovely ladies in CrossFit who can lift 205 lbs. over their head. It’s a big deal for me because I have had a back injury since I was 16 that has put me in and out of chiropractors’ offices my whole life. I have literally thrown my back out picking up a pencil! Today, I have no signs of a back injury.

I have literally thrown my back out picking up a pencil! Today, I have no signs of a back injury.

For me, deadlifting 205 lbs. is nothing short of a miracle – and I’m not even close to what I will be lifting in the coming years.

Olympic style lifts are complicated movements. If you are new to these movements like I am, you need a coach that really knows what they are doing. At Centric Athletics where I train, Jennifer and Beau are fantastic coaches. Under their direction, I have had the confidence to continually push myself.

Cardio Gains

My cardio has improved in a big way. I found that I had broken my personal speed record for hiking to th summit of Mount Baldy last year – 2 hours 18 minutes to the summit. I also took on some more aggressive high peaks in the Sierras and noticed I had the energy to spare. I couldn’t do the kinds of adventures I’ve been doing in the mountains on the weekends if I wasn’t doing CrossFit during the week.

Getting Younger

I’m 50 years old this year. After a year of CrossFit, I feel like I have dialed back my biological age by five years. No exaggeration. I feel that much younger. If you are moving toward or passing middle age, I believe CrossFit can be a huge factor in extending a healthy active life. Don’t be afraid of it. It may be outside your comfort zone, but you won’t regret it. Getting old hurts, so why not hurt pushing your biological age back as far as you can instead of letting nature take its course too early?

Getting old hurts, so why not hurt pushing your biological age back as far as you can instead of letting nature take its course too early?

If you are still not convinced that you should go join a CrossFit, here are some people older than you who are doing CrossFit. No excuses.


If You Live in Riverside, Join Us at Centric Athletics

Bec and I, our son Wes, his wife Liz, our daughter Courtney, and her fiance Rudy, all work out at Centric Athletics. Jennifer and Beau are fantastic trainers. If you live in the area, join us for a workout session and see how you like it. You get the first 3 sessions for free. And for the record, I don’t get paid to endorse Centric Athletics, I just love it that much 🙂