I was 64 years old, overweight, and seriously out of shape. My husband and I had lost three parents in a short period of time and so I was too familiar with nursing homes, end of life decisions, and quality of life issues.
Since turning 60, I had become more aware of my own decline in abilities. I had more aches and pains, and getting up and going in the morning took longer. I watched my friends getting older and dealing with serious health issues like diabetes and heart disease.
I was ready to make a commitment to my health, but I wasn’t sure that Crossfit was the right choice for me. My kids had experienced success with Crossfit, but they were 20 years younger and more typical of the 20 to 40-something “fire-breathers” that seemed to dominate the Crossfit gyms. How would I fit in? What if I hurt myself? Or worse, what if I made a complete fool of myself? It wasn’t an easy decision, but my kids gave me a lot of encouragement and I decided to “just do it”.
There were many things I couldn’t do in the beginning. Due to shoulder issues, I couldn’t do weight bearing exercises above my head. I couldn’t do a push-up, couldn’t jump, and didn’t have much cardiac capacity. But the coaches never focused on what I couldn’t do. Instead, they focused on what I could do. I could squat, I could do step-ups, I could run/walk and I practiced with a PVC pipe to improve mobility and form. I was amazed at how fast my progress was.
At the end of my first month, I deadlifted 100 lbs., a feat which a few weeks before I would never have believed I could accomplish. I was doing ½ pood kettle bell swings, about 18 lbs. I managed a 45 lb. shoulder press, and a 45 lb. back squat. And although at times I felt clumsy and unskilled, I never felt like I didn’t fit in. Crossfit, it turns out, is made up of people of all ages, sizes, and abilities.
Fast forward to the present:
My body is in better condition now than it has been for 20 years. For starters, I have more flexibility and range of motion. Getting in and out of the car, reaching the top shelf of the cupboard, and even getting out of bed are all things that we take for granted when young, but become more difficult as we age.
Until I started Crossfit I didn’t fully understand the value of core muscles. Working on those muscles has improved my posture and my balance. I feel like I have a foundation again to support my bones, my organs, and whatever else that needs support. My midsection has shrunk 4” and I can see muscle definition.
When I started Crossfit I could barely hang on the bar, and now I’m doing pull-ups with a band. I’ve progressed from doing weight lifts with a PVC pipe to doing a 70 lb. bench press and 155 lb. deadlift. Having more muscle puts less strain on my joints, decreasing joint pain. I have less stiffness in the morning because my muscles are used to being put to work at a moment’s notice. I learned more about nutrition and giving my body what it needs to build muscle. Giving up processed foods and sugary sweets has increased my energy level, and eliminated the bloated, drugged feeling and cravings I used to experience at the end of the day. A decrease in body fat along with muscle gain has made my skin smoother and tighter.
Life is full of surprises and for me Crossfit is one of them. I’m an introvert and was worried that I wouldn’t feel comfortable in its type of environment. But everyone has been so supportive and outright encouraging, that I thrive there.
At the beginning, I remember thinking there are a lot of workouts I might never be able to do, but not any more. At Crossfit there’s always a way, and if I don’t have the muscle to do it today, I will next month or maybe the following month. I am really looking forward to what I’m going to accomplish during the next year. If one of my concerns about aging was maintaining independence (and it was), I’m moving in the right direction.
A few days ago, I read a quote on my Caribou coffee cup that totally sums it up for me: Life is where “What if?” runs away with “Why not?”