I started CrossFit about eight years ago, and for quite a while, I couldn’t get enough. Five times a week was great! Six times? Even better! But times change, and people change.
Now, I’m a 3x/week gal, and that’s perfect for me. On the other days, I hike with my dog, or I ride one of my bikes. Maybe I’ll clean or deadlift in my garage. But usually it’s something low impact and low intensity. And I’ve never felt better. My fitness may not be as great, but I don’t care. I can now put on a shirt without discomfort, I can sleep through the night, and I don’t fear certain movements during the day because they’ll ratchet up my pain index. I still get in the gym and toss around barbells, but just not as often.
What happened? Did I get injured? Did I get tired? Did I lose my love?
None of these answers would be true or false. I just learned to adjust and find what makes me happiest and healthiest at the age of 49. And, for me, that’s doing CrossFit only three times per week. And no, I didn’t get injured doing CrossFit. Life just added up on me. All it took was some softball to do damage to my shoulder and several years of hard WODs and other fitness pursuits to accelerate the unhappiness in my spine.
And my story does not seem unique. All around me, I see folks past the age of 40 starting to hop off the CrossFit train because they feel broken. And that’s a shame, because it doesn’t have to be that way. I think there is a way to enjoy high-intensity workouts all of your life, but you have to be very smart about what you do, you have to seriously and continuously educate yourself, and you simply must have the support of your trainer and affiliate owner.
So when I read articles or see discussions online where affiliate owners talk about only offering unlimited memberships (or 2x/week and unlimited) in an attempt to get members to go more/pay more, I get a little concerned. Not all of us are cut from the same cloth. There are many athletes in their forties/fifties/sixties/seventies who either can’t or don’t want to do CrossFit five times a week. 3 days on/1 day off is a nightmare for some of us, not a dream. But we do want more than 2x/week. And, honestly, why should we pay for unlimited when you’re not going to see us on 4 of those 7 days?
When this grand CrossFit experiment was getting underway years ago, I understood the need to sell only unlimited memberships. I owned an early CrossFit affiliate in CT and we only offered unlimited at one point. Why? Because CrossFit was a new methodology and people didn’t understand it. We knew that folks were unlikely to see drastic changes to their bodies by going 3x/week. If they came to class more often, we could help them get fit faster.
But we’re not in the early days anymore, and we’re learning about the toll that high intensity workouts can take on people past their twenties and thirties. And before anybody says “Show me a study!” I’m going to say this: all I have is anecdotal evidence. But isn’t that usually what we have in life? We know how we feel, and we listen to what our neighbors and friends tell us. But I’m not saying “Don’t do CrossFit” — what I’m saying is do CrossFit, but if you’re not the youngest chicken in the barnyard, be smart about what you do and how often you do it. And if you have the opportunity, maybe find a spot like I have.
I go to an affiliate in Santa Cruz (CrossFit Up) that is co-located with a physical therapy clinic. It’s the smartest damn combo. Our warm-ups and workouts are beyond thoroughly considered and integrated in regards to human movement. Plus if you’re undergoing therapy, these folks speak your language. Heck, sometimes half of my PT session was IN the gym.
I’ve always been a huge fan of PTs who CrossFit. The first coach I ever hired was a PT (Melissa Reed, who owns CrossFit 203 in CT, and recently became a member of the CrossFit L1 staff). Her help in programming and warm-up design was invaluable back then, and it still shows when I visit her gym. Can regular non-PT trainers do this? Certainly, but it takes a special person. Not every trainer is special. Sorry if that hurts, but it’s the truth. I do see amazing trainers and affiliates who are not PT-connected. All I’m saying is that if you have the option to combine or to hire a trainer with a a PT background? Fantastic. I wish there were 100x as many of these combos in the CrossFit world. If we’re going to go hard, we also need to go smart.
But I digress. My point to all this is that it is up to each of us to know our bodies and our minds, to know when we need more gym time and when we need less. Not all of us want to compete. Not all of us are in our 20’s or 30’s. Not all of us want to go 3 on/1 off. Some of us are really happy going 3x/week. Because we’re not solely interested in this one hour of our day, but we’re also interested in being pain-free the other 23 hours of the day — and to accomplish that, sometimes we need to not do so much CrossFit. And maybe because we remember that the original purpose of getting fit was to use that fitness for other things, not just to be the best at fitness.
So, all I ask is that in your planning, please don’t forget us. We’re here. Thanks.