Fitness – or not…
I spend a great deal of my time surrounded by people much younger than myself, in the gym and in coffee shops. So I often lose sight of how much CrossFit has had such a positive affect on my life. Fitness is just what I do for fun.
Today, after the noontime WOD, I wandered home and cleaned myself up and changed my clothes to attend a wake for one of the beloved old timers of my Dad’s generation. Most of the people paying their respects were my generation – people I grew up with in this little New England town.
I was shocked how much older they looked. So many people in their mid-sixties, with the countenance of someone in mid-to-late seventies. I observed people dealing with a myriad of health issues that affected their gait, posture and even their ability to stand for extended periods. Many of my contemporaries are exhibiting the effects of consuming overly processed and overly abundant food, compounded by a very sedentary lifestyle. The result? They grew old before their time.
Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. – Ferris Bueller
Comfort Will Kill You
I did not sit down to write this essay to be condescending. These are the very things that I witnessed, slowly killing my own parents two decades ago. These are the very things that drove me to discover CrossFit.
Yet our culture seems to accept obesity, diabetes, arthritis and heart disease as a normal part of aging. With genetic predispositions, some of it is, but much of it is avoidable, or reversible by lifestyle.
My friends ask why I spend so much time at the gym, I tell them it is simply to “Delay the Decay”. I may not add a single day to my life. But if my last ten years are on my feet living, instead of circling the drain, it will have been a worthwhile use of my time.
Some people die at 25 and aren’t buried until 75. – Benjamin Franklin
After the wake, I went to Barbell Club. Tonight was simple, work to a 1 rep max of my Snatch. I succeeded up to 95%, but I repeatedly failed getting my 1RM Snatch PR. One time I bailed from the lift and catapulted myself back about 8 feet, onto my butt. I laughed at the spectacle, as did all my friends.
Why did I laugh? Because I am having fun. I lift and workout with kids and grandkids of the people I grew up with. Like many of my peers, I will wake up sore tomorrow. But I will KNOW why I am sore, I earned it, and I’ll do it again.
Though I make light of falling, for most people my age it is not funny at all. We know many people our age who fall and break hips, arms, legs and more. These people have lost their agility, strength, balance and proprioception. A quick shift in direction, and down they go.
“One in four Americans aged 65+ falls each year. Every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall; every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall. Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults.” – National Council on Aging
I drop and fall frequently, mostly on purpose in the gym. But I am stronger and my bones are denser, so I don’t break. That’s directly attributable to the past five years of fitness with CrossFit.
CrossFit isn’t all Elite
CrossFit HQ has turned up the heat in 2017, with an awareness that though we have the cure for “the world’s most vexing problem” (that is chronic lifestyle induced disease), people of my generation are slow to receive the news.
As an old timer, I have many opinions why this is so. I need look no further than my own wife of 46 years, who refuses to step foot into a CrossFit affiliate. She thinks it looks dangerous, she sees a lot of tattoos and sweaty half-naked bodies, and the music is obnoxious. And she thinks every woman who steps into a box looks like Brooke Ence. And she has no desire to look like Brooke Ence. I have grown very wise and I say nothing, because from here I can only get myself into a world of trouble.
She also says what many 66 year old people say, “That is impressive, but I could never, ever do that!” This is one of the most frustrating things I hear from friends, even younger friends.
I am a mediocre CrossFit Athlete, but friends who follow my page are in awe of what I do, because they have never done it and they cannot imagine themselves ever doing it.
When I laugh at failing a snatch, it’s not because I like failure. It’s because I find so much joy in that movement. Why? Because I remember five years ago, when I could not perform a single air squat. I could not raise a PVC pipe over my head, let alone do an overhead squat with it. So to get 100 pounds overhead with a snatch is a very big deal to me. It is also my personal example for people about progressions and scaling.
It has taken me five years to get reasonably proficient with the Snatch. But with time, patience and perseverance, I have experienced progress and the joy that comes with every successful lift.
Fitness is about Life
But it isn’t just the pursuit of excellence, it is the remarkable benefit of being strong, fit and healthy. It is the ability to function well in life, and all it throws your way. CrossFit gives a person confidence to overcome obstacles every day, and this carries over into every aspect of your life.
Events such as my visit to the funeral home today, are reminders of how ephemeral life is. Seeing so many unhealthy people in a single building was also a reminder of how blessed I am to have found a culture of health and fitness like CrossFit.