CrossFit is a workout regimen based on "functional" movement -- meaning it trains muscles to perform real-life challenges -- with an emphasis on high intensity. That's all well and good if you're a strapping young buck with muscle fibers that regenerate almost instantly -- and you have yet to have physical break downs, such as blown out shoulder sockets and herniated lumbar disks. If, however, you're a mature fellow who is increasingly sprouting a beard growth of silver-haired wisdom, you may wonder if CrossFit is for you.
According to John Van Every, owner of CrossFit Longevity in Santa Cruz, California, it's all a matter of tailoring your workout to a level that's suitable to your current condition. Van Every's CrossFit "box" caters to a clientele that's mostly over 50, the oldest member being 74. Van Every had a front row seat to CrossFit's creation: its founder, Greg Glassman, rented a room in his mother's house while developing the program. And he's got some advice for older dudes looking to take up the CrossFit challenge.
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Choose the Right Box
For starters, keep in mind that CrossFit gyms -- in CrossFit-speak they're called "boxes" -- aren't all alike. "There is quite a range of styles among CrossFit boxes," says Van Every. "You might walk into one that's dominated by gnarly 20-year-olds who're all about power workouts and competition, then down the street another box is more mature, more communal and supportive. So you want to investigate and find a place that suits your needs."
Find the Right Trainer
While no one can say categorically that the aforementioned gnarly 20-year-old wouldn't be totally in tune with your graying eminence, chances are you're going to want to link arms with a trainer who's got some mileage himself. Somebody who understands the damage that can be done to a guy's musculoskeletal system after five or more decades walking the planet.
"You want a trainer who's going to screen you for mobility issues and knows how to modify and adjust the program around your particular limitations," says Van Every. "A good CrossFit owner will tell you the truth about whether you're in the right box for your needs and expectations."
Take it Easy
"You're not 20 and you're not going to do squats with 400 pounds on your back," notes Van Every, himself a youngster of 43. Hopefully, you've found a trainer who will have a good sense of just how much to challenge you, but take it easy with the weight.
For men over 50, overhead lifts like the military press should be approached cautiously if at all -- unless or until your shoulder mobility is well-established. In the meantime, push-ups and dips are a good place to start.
"Correct form is the most important thing of all," says Van Every. "If it's bad to begin with, it's going to get worse as you go." Resistance training is important but the amount of weight isn't, he adds. "I might have a guy doing a basic squat without a barbell for a month before I add on any weight."
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