Photo Credit: Bruce Beaton (instagram.com/beats1010)
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Every year at the CrossFit Games, spectators that watch the 50 and 60-plus competitors marvel at what they’re witnessing.
- “I can’t believe she’s 55. Her muscle-ups are better than mine,” and, “How is he 60? He’s jacked,” will overtake the crowd.
- But many of the masters athletes competing next week insist that the CrossFit Games isn’t why they do CrossFit. Sure, it’s a celebration of their hard-earned fitness, but it’s so much bigger than that, they say.
P.S. Here’s how you can watch the masters compete live at the CrossFit Games.
Their message: It’s time to recognize that you can continue to be strong, fit, healthy, and even gain strength and fitness, well after 50. In fact, the older you get, the more you need to double down and work on your fitness.
- “Most people in their 50s, 60s and 70s are likely capable of much more than they would believe…We are led to believe that these are the ages where we are expected to see a slow and steady decline in strength, health and fitness, and everything else, it seems. (But) those of us at those ages, who have been into fitness for a good period of time, know that doesn’t have to be the case since many of us are fitter (and) stronger now than a decade ago,” said 51-year-old masters athlete, Darius Boockholdt.
- “Don’t buy into the wholesale BS that says because you hit a certain age you have to give up on getting better physically. It’s harder, sure, but I feel it is well worth the cost. I don’t have aches and pains when I get out of bed in the morning,” said Tom Muhlbeier, competing in the men’s 60-65 year-old division.
- “I really believe that as we get older we can get stronger and fitter than ever before and can lead a much more active life than maybe the general population accepts as possible,” said Bruce Beaton, competing in the Men’s 55-59 year-old division. “Don’t let long held myths about limitations based on age deter all of us mature folks from finding our own ways to get fitter and stronger.”
- “Everyone doesn’t need to be a competitive athlete, but they should pursue some form of fitness that keeps them healthy and active. Anything that keeps us healthy…is beneficial and worth pursuing,” said 60 year-old Donna Murren, who has a tattoo on her arm that says, ‘Keep going.’
- And for 57 year-old Laurie Meschishnick, the potential gain from physical fitness goes well beyond the physical realm. “I believe we cannot separate our physical health from our emotional, mental and spiritual health…There is much more at work in a human than physiology and chemistry. There is the unseen part of us: our thoughts, our beliefs about ourselves, our faith, our dreams….The road to being fit and strong demands our mental strength, allows us to experience emotions in new ways that many call spiritual.”
One big thing: It’s widely accepted that the more fit you are, and the longer your training age, the harder it is to improve, especially as you age biologically. However, we recently reported about how even the fittest masters athletes in the world are seeing fitness gains after 50.
- “Ninety nine percent of the population has a current fitness level that can dramatically be improved, especially since most are void of any functional fitness. Even though we will never out run the aging process, there will always be room for improvement. Not only have I experienced it myself, but I’ve also had the pleasure of seeing my 81-year-old father improve his fitness and strength since he started CrossFit four years ago,” said 50-year-old Matt Cia.
- Boockholdt added: The general population are the ones “who have the most to gain from starting,” he said. They are “guaranteed to see impressive improvements in strength and fitness by just starting.”
Staying realistic: As much as this group of athletes look like well-oiled machines half their biological age, they also emphasized the importance of training smarter, not harder, as you age.
- “At my age, 64, I think recovery is the most important thing we can work on….Recover, recover, recover. I feel better today than I have felt in the past couple years and I give credit to that change in focus,” Muhlbeier said.
- Murren added: “Start slow and gradually build up. Listen to your body and be careful with any movements that hurt. Slow and steady will win this race.”
The big picture: For the average person, getting older often involves less emphasis on physical activity in favor of becoming more reliant on medication. These masters athletes want to change that way of thinking.
- “Medical science has done a lot of things to improve our quality of life, but also gets many things wrong…I am shocked by the emphasis on drugs and lack of encouragement of diet and exercise,” said Rob Bernet, a 57-year-old competitor.
- He added: “Myself and my masters buddies are proving wrong many of their beliefs about aging…In fact, I am stronger and fitter than most of the people I interact with no matter their age.”
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