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How to do CrossFit (and love it!) if you’re over 50

BY Anna Gardiner

26th Feb 2024 Wellbeing

4 min read

How to do CrossFit (and love it!) if you’re over 50
If you’re older but still want to push yourself and keep your strength and fitness levels up, this is your guide to doing CrossFit over the age of 50
You’d be forgiven for thinking that CrossFit is only for those at the peak of fitness and physical prowess. It has a reputation for producing athletes that are often billed as “the fittest on earth” and its exercises are high impact, high intensity, sometimes complicated, and completing as many reps of them as possible in a certain timeframe.
"It’s easy to see why many older would be completely put off from thinking CrossFit is for them"
As well as that, it takes place in a bespoke gym (known as a “Box”) using equipment such as gym rings and bars—not commonly found in a normal gym. With jargon such as WOD (Workout of the Day) and AMRAP (As Many Rounds as Possible), it’s easy to see why many older would be completely put off from thinking it’s for them. 

Fighting sarcopenia through strengthening

However it’s really important as we age to strengthen to limit sarcopenia—the involuntary loss of muscle mass, strength and function. Studies estimate that muscle mass decreases approximately three to eight per cent per decade after the age of 30, and this rate of decline is even higher after the age of 60.
Man doing a pull up
Jane Clarke, chartered physiotherapist and clinical director of Pickwick Physiotherapy advises, “In order to limit the effects of the natural ageing process and to be able to continue to enjoy those everyday activities that help with our physical and mental health, it’s vital that we make strengthening part of our lives.” 

Misconceptions about CrossFit

CrossFit Monarch Borough Parade in Wiltshire is doing all it can to break down the misconceptions CrossFit has by running hugely popular classes that accommodate everyone, no matter age and ability.
"LIFE (Low Impact Functional Exercise) classes are designed to be accessible for everyone"
“LIFE (Low Impact Functional Exercise) classes are designed to be accessible for everyone, while pushing the individuals in the class at the same time,” explains Dec Flood, senior coach there. “A massive part of the CrossFit world is that every exercise is scalable, meaning we can bring it down so the person will be able to perform it to the level of intensity we want the session to be at.”

How CrossFit classes work

“We explain the workout, demonstrate the movements and ensure everyone has the proper form to prevent injury. I walk the floor, watching closely and calling out cues to adjust positioning if needed. If it’s looking like an injury may occur, I will talk to the individual and swap the exercise or adapt it further. It’s not just a ‘here’s the workout, off you go’ class,” says Dec.
Man doing a deadlift
“Here, we pride ourselves on our coaching and improving our members. One of the main things for the older members is they don’t want to be treated like older members. They want to do what the CrossFit classes are doing just at a level they can.”
Indeed, Gilly, 62, has just competed at her first competition, and gained a personal best in a hugely impressive deadlift of 90kg—surpassing her daughter’s best!

Achievements and CrossFit community

It’s not just the physical benefits that the classes are known for. Dec explains, “The community it creates is what keeps our members coming week in week out.”
For the LIFE attendees, the community is what it’s become about. Vic Orchard, 82, has found his strength, fitness, confidence and friendship group have all grown hugely since starting last year.
"Kate (at 55, she’s known as the baby of the group) is a wheelchair user and enthuses about the CrossFit gym"
“My daughter encouraged me to join and I can honestly say it’s been life-changing. I can lift weights and perform movements I never thought I’d be able to—and still have ambitions of what I’d like to achieve in that respect. The coach is so supportive and all the other members are always encouraging of each other. There’s no ego—everyone does what they can to the best of their ability, and no judgement. We’re all just concentrating on getting through the class and heading for coffee and cake to celebrate our efforts!”
Kate (at 55, she’s known as the baby of the group) is a wheelchair user and enthuses about the CrossFit gym. “I’ve tried many other gyms but none are as inclusive, I’ve felt they’re ableist, but here, I’m able to participate alongside everyone else, and have the exercises adapted to suit me. The people and classes are fantastic. Friendship groups are particularly important as we get older and this class has been invaluable for that. We’re always socialising and laughing—CrossFit has become so important for us all for our physical and mental health.”

How can you get involved in CrossFit if you’re older?

Not every CrossFit gym has LIFE classes but it’s worth contacting your local one as it may well be happy to adapt its classes to create a more inclusive feel.
This group in Wiltshire have proved no one is too old to start strengthening with friends.* 
*Always check with your doctor before starting exercise.
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