Thursday, February 05, 2015

Crossfit for Old People

Carol and I are just into our fourth year of Crossfit ("XF") training.  Our goal is to go to the Crossfit gym ("the box" in the XF argot) three times a week, and we usually achieve that goal.  Now and then we will do four.  My conservative approach to XF training, however, includes the practice of allowing at least a day's rest between each session.  I take a conservative approach because Carol and I are two and a half to three times the age of most of the other people at the box, including the coaches, and workout routines are designed by and for those younger people, many of whom go to the box almost every day that it is open.  (I will be 69 this year.  Carol, my child bride, is much younger.) We simply don't have the time to attend so often and I don't believe we should push ourselves that far.  In many ways, we are on our own in this journey, but it is great fun - especially with Carol and me on that journey together - and the results thus far have been remarkable.

For one thing, we have had no respiratory problems of any significance during the XF period.  It is true that we are six years into a whole food/plant based diet and that has surely helped.  But we simply do not get colds anymore.  I can remember that for many years and at least once a year - usually during the winter months - I would get some sort of respiratory illness that would linger for weeks, even to the fourth week, when I would finally break down and beg the doctor for antibiotics.  I have nothing like that anymore.  Perhaps our respiratory health is related to how "out of breath" we get during the XF workouts.  We will work so hard that we will have to stop what we are doing for a few seconds to "catch our breath," that is to recover a bit, before going back to the routine.  During a given exercise component, I will get to a point where I must breathe very, very deeply; I am consciously and deliberately breathing in and breathing out at a pace that I measure but that I must purposefully increase until I just have to stop what I am doing and rest for a few seconds.  My theory is that if there is anything lurking down there in my lungs, it is being expelled or neutralized by the way that I am challenging my respiratory system.

Our strength has increased very significantly.  I regret that I have not kept a journal since we started XF, but the fact is that, even with our conservative approach we have gradually increased what we can pick up off the floor and how often during a set we can do so.  I dead-lifted 145 pounds on a 2 - rep basis the other day, which is not much for a 25 year old - male or female -  who has been doing it for as long as we have, but is still a lot of weight for an old guy I think.  I did a clean at 125 pounds two days ago.  I think that's pretty good.

I couldn't do a single push up when we started.  I now can do 20 at a time, and with a few seconds of rest, can do another ten, then a few seconds, then five.  Then I drop from a full push up to one where I leave my knees on the ground and do several more sets.

I couldn't do a sit up.  Now I can do 50 or more - even 100 if I can catch a few seconds of rest at 50 and spot another few seconds of rest every so often as I go up to 100.

I couldn't jump rope.  Then I learned, but had to stop after ten reps.  Now I can go to 50, even 60, before I have to stop for a few seconds and catch my breath.  If my life depended on it, I could go to 100 without stopping.  However, I can't do more than one "double-under" at a time.  I need to work on that.

I still can't do a pull up.  I don't know if a pull up is in my future, but I would like to do one.  (In the meanwhile I do "ring-rows.")  I can't do a hand stand push up either, but I can do a wall walk up to a hand stand and hold it for several seconds.  I don't know if a hand-stand push up is in my future. I hope it is.  I would also like to be able to walk a couple of paces on my hands, just to show other old people like me what they can do - as an encouragement.  But I'm not there yet.

Box jumps scare me.  I have fallen twice from the 18 inch boxes, and so I put a couple of plates down and jump up on them.  Maybe I'll improve, but I am definitely not pushing it with those boxes.

I never have been very flexible.  My mother could touch her toes.  I still can't.  But I'm working on it, but not at all sure I will get there.

I have a waist now, as one of younger women at our office noticed a year or two ago and remarked upon it.  That made me feel good.  When people see me after not seeing me for a couple of years, they often remark, "How good you look. What are you doing?"  I wear slim cut dress-shirts.  On the other hand, I still have a paunch.  It is not big, but it is there.  Now and then I think about having the surgery that removes that layer of fat - but its just a fantasy and of course I won't do it.  But getting rid of it would be nice.

When I was doing Weight Watchers 10 years ago, my goal weight was 155, and I actually achieved it.  People who saw me were alarmed.  They thought I was sick, and one lady at church told me to stop what I was doing.  Now I am between 165 and 170, and a good bit of that, I think, is muscle and not fat.  I feel good.  I stand up straight.  The slump that I had developed over the years is nearly gone.  This is great stuff.

I could not have done all this without the encouragement of others.  The XF box is full of encouragement.  Encouragement is a very high XF value.  The young people there are so good to Carol and me, once they get over their concern that we are going to drop dead during one of the XF sessions (called "WODs").  Then there is my family: all of my children and children-in-law do XF and they think its neat that we are doing it.  Finally there is Carol.  Every XF session is a date, and it is so much fun.

(Here's a link to the testimony of a 91-year old to the advantages of strength training.)

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